Saturday, February 11, 2017

Is she really going out with him?

In the summer of 1977 BBC Radio One broadcast a series of programmes called ' Happenings ten years time ago', the series was presented by Pete Drummond, using The Yardbirds first single as its theme, comparing the musical changes that were taking place during 1977 with those of 1967.

Not sure if the choice of record was ironic, simply because the single featuring Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and John Paul Jones (a sort of Fantasy Band line-up if ever there was one) had actually been released in October 1966. There's no doubt that the song, often cited as one of the first precursors of 'heavy metal' sounded different to  its fellow chartmates: Ken Dodd, Cilla Black and The Seekers although to be fair while the Yardbirds languished near the mid-forties of the Top 50  the top selling single was 'Good Vibrations' which is probably a musical genre all of its own.

Whilst those born in 1950 might consider themselves to have been born at the perfect moment to witness rock's golden years, the coming of age party being held in 1971, those of us born between 1958 and 1961 didn't do too badly either. I was too young to fully appreciate the 'summer of love' first hand but I was the right age (11), to enjoy the first fruits of Glam in 1971 with the release of 'Jeepster', 'Hot Love' and 'Get It On' by T.Rex, the right age when Big Star released their seminal album #1 Record in 1972 and puberty had just set in as 'Krautrock' replaced 'Prog' in 1974 as the choice of music for teenage boys who struggled to make eye contact with members of the opposite sex.

And so when Punk broke in 1976 I was off an age when I could compare and contrast the old guard of the sixties (most of whom were only in their late thirties by this point) with bands who seem to consist of members whose age was a rough approximation to mine, there were of course exceptions to the rule, The Stranglers seemed to be a group of dirty old men who simply encouraged anti-social activity (wanking on the beach anybody) whilst playing tunes that seemed to have been 'borrowed' from the sixties with too much in the way of disguise. Paul, Mick and Topper of The Clash were all five years older than me, John Lydon (Rotten at the time) was four years older than me and the most musically talented of that initial break through, The Buzzcocks, were five years older than I was.  Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy and Joey Ramone were all a further five years older, in fact the gap in days between Johnny Ramone and George Harrison was far less than any gap between any of the members of the first flush of punk and myself.

The band that led the way, at least in terms of being the first band to release a UK punk single and album, were The Damned. 'New Rose' was released on 22 October 1976, the b-side was a cover of the Fabulous Fours 'Help!' which at 1:43 managed to convey the new urgency that was supposed to replace the plodding old guard. 'New Rose' was written by Brian James, a man far too good looking to be in a punk band, his look however was offset by the gurning Captain Sensible, the scary Rat Scabies and Dave Vanian, a much underrated singer whose range could vary between pop perfection, pathos and humour.

And so, in the spirit of Pete Drummond in 1977, let's go back just over forty years to where it all began for one of the most important musical years of my life.

The single was produced by Nick Lowe, at the time Lowe was well known in musical circles for being the guitarist in Brinsley Schwarz, a band I saw twice in concert, including their support for an up and coming artist from Liverpool called Paul McCartney and his band Wings. Not only did Lowe produce 'New Rose' and the album it would subsequently appear on 'Damned Damned Damned' he would also produce Elvis Costello's first five albums (from 'My Aim Is True' through to 'Trust') and then a variety of bands from Dr. Feelgood to the Pretenders and John Hiatt, another, in my humble opinion, criminally overlooked artist.

From Dave Vanian's  opening spoken line, 'Is she really going out with him?' the first UK punk single is two minutes and forty one seconds of pure excitement. Vanian's quote from the Shangri-La's 'Leader of the pack' was apparently to test mic. levels and yet forty odd years on its impossible to imagine the song without it, the final ten second are dominated by Scabies furious drumming, and two iconic moments of British rock music bookend its most iconic.

Of course just as The Yardbirds hadn't removed Ken Dodd, Cilla Black and Lethal Humperdink from the pop charts so The Damned wouldn't rid us of Abba, Pussycat and Dr Hook but at least, just as The Yardbirds had done ten years previously it would open the ears of a generation who were getting restless with the music that was being presented on daytime radio and television as supposedly representing them.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Kosheen - All In My Head

If pop music is meant to be three minutes of fun, melody, jangly guitars and the perfect pop voice then Kosheen are one of those acts missing in action for too long. These days with the over proliferation of choice you have to sift through an awful lot of oysters to find that pearl.  This track is over thirteen years old yet to my old ears still sounds as great as the day I discovered it on Napster and downloaded it. Sian Evans must be one of the great overlooked Welsh pop voices, apparently, according to the comments on You Tube she's a good person as well.

Strange video

Play loud!

Oh and kids - music and electricity don't usually make a good mix, make sure you consult a qualified electrician before trying to re-enact the video in your bedroom.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Goodbye Frank

So Frank Lampard has announced his retirement. To be honest I thought he had retired when he left Chelsea but apparently the brief spells at Manchester City and then some little league outfit in the States weren't part of his testimonial tour they were part of his career.

Anyway, Frank was one of the outstanding players of the Premier League era, one of the 'golden generation', his self-belief, determination and sheer hard work brought their rewards as they should do for anybody possessing those three traits. His personal quest to be regarded as a good footballer in his own right rather than just another lucky bastard whose Dad happened to be a half decent professional and on the staff of his local club saw him win every possible team award and only miss out on the two big personal awards in world football thanks to some bloke called Ronaldinho.

You don't have to be partisan to marvel at the player who holds the records for most Premier League goals from outside of the penalty area, who scored two goals in one match to secure his teams first title in fifty years and who also 'scored' one of the best 'non-goals' in World Cup history.

Frank might not have lit up the international pitch in the way that contemporaries Xavi, Iniesta or Pirlo did but in England and across Europe he was one of those players who you knew would annoy the hell out of you by simply being good for the opposition.

Frank has always said that he would like to be the manager of a Premier League club one day rather than learning his trade lower down the leagues. That may seem a touch arrogant but there are certain players who you know can communicate their ideas to lesser talented mortals (Stuart Pearce being the most obvious) whilst those quiet thinkers about the game (Mourinho and Wenger) can exploit those natural talents that the best footballers possess and Frank is more in the mould of the latter than the former when it comes to talking about the game.

Football fans are often quick to dismiss players who play for their club, at least domestically, but Frank was a player who I would have loved to have stayed at Upton Park as part of the group of home grown players that would include Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe and then Glen Johnson and Mark Noble but he left for a better club and the chance to prove that he was more than just the son of Frank Lampard snr.

So congratulations to the fourth highest goal scorer in Premier League history, to the record goalscorer for Chelsea, the record penalty goalscorer for England, the third most appearances his Premier League history, the second player on the list of assists in Premier League history and tenth on the list of all-time England international scorers. Those are just the personal highlights.