Saturday, 31 December 2016

These are the dead

It sure seems to have been a bumper year for daisies being pushed up by those who have mattered to us, musically.  Here are a few, and no, not all because I'm not that kind of obsessive.

1) Bowie
  • The year began with Blackstar and the end of Bowie.
  • Suddenly, the buskers of London, who for as long as I had been here had played House of the Rising Sun, began playing Starman. Not as well as Bowie but what the hey!.
  • We had a gig early in January and we'd already planned tributes to Lemmy, namely Silver Machine and 1916 so there was no room for a Bowie tribute song so what did we do?
  • Instead I inserted Future Legend into Abyss and we played a chorus of Jean Genie in the middle of our version of Sympathy for the Devil.
  • I never got Bowie when he first came out.  I saw Space Oddity on Top of the Pops as a child and liked the SF theme because that was my specialist subject at age nine but I never understood Bowie after that until Heroes came out and I saw the blessed Nico doing it.
  • Around the same time, I saw Christiane F and understood Christiane's obsession with him as he stood above the adoring Berlin crowds and sang Station to Station.
  • So then I looked at Bowie's back catalogue and discovered such brilliant gems as Running Gun Blues, Panic in Detroit, John I'm Only Dancing and Rebel Rebel.
  • And I'd forgotten how good Mick Ronson was!
2) Prince
  • Prince too, what is the world coming to?
  • Not much of his work is available out there on the Internet.
  • I love 1999, and When Doves Cry and Sign O the Times
  • But here's Purple Rain!
  • Of course, another artist associated with Prince, namely Vanity also died this year.
3) Viola Beach
  •  But this was the year that we were reminded that you don't need to be a celebrity for your death to be heard worldwide.  When Viola Beach plunged into a Swedish Canal and died along with their manager in February, their songs Boys That Sing and Swings and Waterslides went straight into the charts.
  • In August their debut (and only) album "Viola Beach" reached number 1 in the Album Charts.
 4) Vi Subversa
  • Vi Subversa aka Frances Sokolov died in February aged 80.
  • Not only was she a punk icon in her own right in Poison Girls, but she was also the mother of Pete Fender and Gem Stone of Fatal Microbes and later Rubella Ballet.  
5) Leonard Cohen 

Friday, 8 April 2016

Chinn and Chapman top 5

Chinn and Chapman were powerhouses in seventies pop. I for one, think I might have enjoyed the seventies more than I did if they had composed more of the music that formed the soundtrack to what I experienced as an horrific decade. These are my top five.

1. Can the Can by Suzi Quatro was the song that had everything. Starting with those lovely drums. And then Suzi's voice, and the clapping in time, and the words and the images it invokes. This to me was beautiful. Suzi was beautiful. Hell, she still is!

2. Heart of Glass by Blondie brought delicious irony to disco. Or rather, it made explicit the irony that had already been there. I love this. It's my karaoke party piece.

3. Teenage Rampage by Sweet well what can I say? From the start with the sinister sounds of the Sweet fans, calling for them as if they were fascist dictators, Sweet wanted to do hard rock but Chinn and Chapman made them do pop. Yeah but it was magnificent pop. Hard pop. Dirty, rocky pop. Love it? Not 'arf!

4. Mickey by Toni Basil! Oh Mickey you so fine, you so fine you blow my mind! Toni may have been a one hit wonder but Chapman definitely was not.

5. Love is a Battlefield by Pat Benatar is more lovely pop. I first saw it on a mixtape sent by a dear friend just after she went home to St Paul Mn. (glad to say she lives in Portland Or. now). And then it was used in 13 going on 30. It reminded me of the adolescence of the girl I never was but longed to be.

Hurts to leave out. Devil Gate Drive, Living Next Door to Alice, Ballroom Blitz, Fox on the Run. Probably more but I got distracted and listening to Queen and smiling and remembering good times.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Pogues Top Five

The Pogues.  What can I say.  Not my favourite band of Irish musicians but they WERE the band that got me listening again as an adult to music I'd only listened to as a kid because I had no choice because it was part of my heritage.  I borrowed my brother's cassette copy of Rum Sodomy and the Lash and in the year I kept it, I damn near wore it out.  These are my favourites, probably, although this is subject to change.

1) A Pair of Brown Eyes
My folks, those who came from Ireland, had, I believe I've said before, left before Wolfe Tone was a hop in his father's beer.  This song speaks to me in clear tones with ancestors speaking to a transplanted son in another bog with forty different shades of green.  We're drunk we are, so many of us and everything is as everything should be, and we should have fought but we never did.  And the shame of it could have killed us, or it could have been the making of us.  And the only thing that I could see was a pair of brown eyes that were looking at me, but when we got back, labelled 'parts one to three' there was no pair of brown eyes looking for me.

2) Thousands Are Sailing
To leave home and become an immigrant.  That's the thing that happened to so many.  And it happens still.  I could have been an economic migrant myself and many of my ancestors were.  That is why in my mind, refugees are always welcome here even if we hadn't cause them all ourselves.  A song like this, so beautiful, so brave.  I wonder how it would sound in Arabic, or Syriac or Pashto?

3) Body of An American
A song my feet won't sit still for and words that are poetry to stir my heart.  There's many a wake from my time as a child.  I remember them as better than weddings because at weddings the whole clan was on its so-called best behaviour.  Not for a wake though.  No not for a wake. Come on lads, "I'm a free-born man of the U S A".

4)           If I should Fall From Grace With God
These tinker feet were made to dance to this.  A perfect dance tune oh yes it is, and the lyrics are so damned good, a prayer to a god who isn't listening.  What's not to like? A scream a scream and a rebel yell.

5) The Boys From The County Hell
Traditional this one so it is, and there has to be something traditional with a band that worked so hard to keep the old traditions even as they screamed the rage of PUNK! at the city in which they found themselves. London Irish at its best.

Hurts to leave out...  Sally MacLennane, Sick Bed of Cu'chullain, London Lullaby, Dirty Old Town, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, The Leaving of Liverpool, The Irish Rover and yes, of COURSE A Fairytale of New York.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

5 de Brel et 5 PAR Brel

I first came across Jacques Brel in my teens when I saw the film Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris directed by French-Canadian wunderkind, Denis Héroux.  The film was released to universal critical disacclaim (or whatever the opposite of acclaim is) but to pretty, fifteen year old unreconstructed Emily (my good self), it was marvellous.

I'm going to begin with my favourite covers of Brel because that means, I get to listen again to my favourites from Héroux's film, and dear old Joe Masiell and Mort Shuman. Alors!

1) The Port of Amsterdam by Dresden Dolls.
It's the Dresden Dolls, the fucking Dresden Dolls.  Brel was invented for Amanda Palmer, and she was invented for Brel.  This is my favourite song by Brel and this is my second favourite version (and my favourite by anybody whose name is not Brel)

2) The Bulls by Nastascia Diaz  
Now I can't find the version by Joe Masiell from the film (obviously) Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. I could see why the bull was pissed off that day.  I was snorting and growling along with him and with Joe Masiell's Marine.  And so, here's one from a live version of the film. Ms Diaz brings different qualities to the song, and yet, I am just as delighted by this version.

3) The Statue by Joe Masiell
When I first watched THAT film, I barely noticed this one, but now, listening through.  I come to this and think, yeah.  They make statues of the assholes, and even the assholes weep. I love it, and so...

4) The Old Folks by Elly Stone
I loved Brecht's September Song, which ploughs a similar furrow, but this is horribly beautiful.  You always live too far away when you've lived lived so long.  Elly's voice is clear as a bell and the words pierce straight into the centre of the brain, and that barb carries Brel's delicious venom.  The old folks never die, they just go to sleep one day.

5) Jackie by Camille O'Sullivan
I first heard Camille covering Nick Cave's the Mercy Seat.  I once dragged my wife to Edinburgh JUST because Camille was playing at the festival.  Still never saw her then though.  And so, this too makes the cut.

And so, without any of Marc Almond's fabulous oeuvre.  Without Mort Shuman's version of Amsterdam.  Without Bowie.  Without Piaf. Yes, it hurts to leave all those out but you know what?  It is Brel himself that matters most.

And so let's carry on to see my top five numbers by Brel himself.

1) Le Port d'Amsterdam
Time was, my favourite would have been les Taureau until a Greek friend sent me a link to the video in which Brel sings so passionately the song which has become my favourite.  Brel is so deliciously ugly that Emily pines for him and so filled with passion that when Brel sings this, I too want to sing.  Marvellous.

2) Ne Me Quitte Pas!
There are so many cover versions of this that I could take or leave, but this, the original with Brel himself singing.  Mois je ne lui JAMAIS quitterai.  Never would, never could.  How could anyone.

3) Les Bourgeois
I love it when Brel sings these vicious little pieces in such a jolly voice.  It sounds like a song you could sing along to... and yet, listening to the words, we are reminded that Brel was a punk and a beautiful punk at that.

4) Jef
There is always that we have lost.  There are always times we wish to smile and show we have no regrets.  This is sharky for me.  A trigger but I love it. Et moi je ne regrette rien!

5 Les Désespérés
I heard this for the first time today.  A song of broken hope.  Of course I'm going to love it and listen until the blood comes out of the dansette.  And some time from now, this may become my favourite.

And it hurts to leave out every song I mentioned in the covers, plus Quand Maman Reviendra, and Seul, L'Amour et Mort,  Fernand, Jojo, Mathilde, Marieke, Ces Gens La, A Suivre and so on and on.