Thursday, June 30, 2011

TOTP 17/06/1976

Dave Lee Travis is our host tonight, and he is wearing a medallion. The Wurzels are still at #1 too, incredibly. How on Earth did Britain survive the 1970s?

T.Rex - I love to boogie
Sort of rockabilly number by Marc Bolan. I like his earlier glam rock stuff though this just reminds me too much of Shakin' Stevens.

Gallagher & Lyle - heart on my sleeve
We have an accordion, chilled out bluesy guitar notes and a laid-back yet irresistible chorus. This is as close as you will get to pop heaven in the mid-1970s. Best song of the night, though some competition tonight for a change. DLT agrees, there is a lot of great music on the show tonight. Does he include the Wurzels in that? I bet he does.

Peter Frampton - show me the way
Some concert footage, i dig the massive "FRAMPTON" written in neon red letters in the background. Now that is cool. Its a great rock song too and there is plenty of long hair. Peter does an odd thing with a pipe tied to the microphone and his mouth to generate some strange but interesting noises. This is his talk box, it looks like something you use to do a stomach pump though when someone takes too many drugs.

Brotherhood of Man - my sweet Rosalie
Hot on the heels of their Eurovision success of "Save your kisses for me" they come up with a song that tries to be as close as possible to that #1 hit but at the same time tries to be different. Its just a cheesy mess though they do bring a cute dog onstage.

Mud - shake it down
Mud look like they have played this song a billion times and thus are totally bored with it. We have massive green collars and some bum bumping on stage. Those are the highlights.

Murray Head - somebody's rocking my dreamboat
You have to love the eclectic mix you get on TOTP, here we have some nice brass jazz though it does end up sounding a bit boozy and cabaret-esque.

Ruby Flipper turn up to express Candi Staton's "young hearts break free"  through the medium of dance dressed as 1930s washerwomen and Alf Garnett.

Liverpool Express - you are my love
Soft-prog/rock. This is apparently one of Paul McCartney's favourite songs, it must be true as i read it on Wikipedia. It is quite a good song indeed. The producer obviously likes it too, you can always tell when the producer does as he pulls out all the stops with special fx and special camera angles.
The Wurzels - i've got a brand new combine harvester
As they are still at #1 they are back to present their damning enditement of the agro-industry one more time.

DLT ends the show by doing the worst Tommy Cooper impression ever. See you next week!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Skittle Alley / Annemarie

I really do like Dufflecoat Records' multi-national split singles, bringing together twee pop bands from around the world, if you haven't got any of them yet then hurry and do so!

This one brings together 2 songs each by France's Skittle Alley and Indonesia's Annemarie. Skittle Alley first, a mellow and acoustic heavy indie pop on "Its hard to find love", sounds a bit Field Mice which is never a bad thing. "Out of breath" is a bit more jangly but is also good solid C86 indie pop. It reminds me of a NZ band though can't remember the name off-hand. Both songs are really good pop songs.

Annemarie is an ethereal indie pop group with female and male vocals. "Living in my dream" again has classic C86 tones and melodies in the song's DNA but like Skittle Alley its not a copycat but feels like it would not have been out-of-place on Sarah. "We do" has a bigger sound that the first song which is fairly stripped back. Its jingle-jangle pop perfection. Not all globalisation is a bad thing, the globalisation of twee indie pop is truly wonderful.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Toys - T.O.Y.S. EP

There is quite an old skool 80s indie/post punk feel to this debut EP, though add some lo-fi electronics and keyboards too and a smattering of feedback. And its great to dance to. The beat is synth and bass driven especially on the opening track "Poland". Its an eclectic mix of styles but really works. Released on the excellent Dufflecoat Records.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

TOTP 10/06/1976

Noel Edmonds, looking amazingly similar to how he does these days, is our host for this week's slice of late 70s pop action. The Wurzels are at #1, teh horror!

The Surprise Sisters - get you into my life

This is actually quite strange, 4 women dressed in pink and black dresses (which look like they were made in the dark) gyrate totally out of rhythm with a bog standard 70s pop song. I think the "surprise" element comes from the fact the 4 of them are so awkward on stage its like they've only just met.

The Real Thing - you to me are everything

Still the same great song and the singer wears the same wide brimmed hat he wore last time they played this song. I like the fact he also has the title of the song written with sequins on his top. Now that is class.

Dion - the wanderer

To save money the BBC have just 1 dancer this week instead of a whole troupe, and a gorgeous dancer she is too though she tries far too hard in trying to emote some meaning in this retro rock and roll track. Her choreography just doesn't make sense whatsoever, its like they originally filmed her dancing a totally different song and had some audio problems so changed the audio.

Alex Harvey Band - Boston tea party

Great lyrics which rhyme coffee with tea and a guitarist who looks a bit like the Baseball Furies in The Warriors. Overall though its a bit odd even for TOTP.

Archie Bell & The Drells - soul city walk

The BBC are saving money by showing the same film footage they showed a couple of weeks ago. Oddly uncoordinated dancing by 4 men in velvet suits, like the worst family party ever. Decent song though.

Flintlock - dawn

Its Flintlock's first appearance on TOTP, its not a bad song though the bass player has an odd stance that looks like he is constipated. Its maybe a bit anemic but passable and certainly better than the Surprise Sisters or the Wurzels.

Bryan Ferry - lets stick together

Some more film footage and this one is brilliant, top song by Mr Ferry and it includes a girl dressed as a tiger too. Bryan Ferry is dressed in the white suit of cool. The whole performance is just sex.

Osibisa - dance the body music

This is a bit of a soul and world music funk mix complete with plenty of bongo drums and some far out fashions. Its... OK.

The Wurzels - combine harvester

He wants to get his hands on her land. A thought so unpleasant as to render me a broken man and with that we have traveled through another 30 minutes slice of some of the best of the charts in June 1976. And somehow the Wurzels are the best of the lot. Amazing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Slowdive - just for a day

Lets go back to 1991 when shoegaze was at its peak, Slowdive released this their debut album following three well received EPs. Its release coincided with the UK media backlash against shoegazing natch. But who cares about that? The likes of the Melody Maker now exist forgotten underneath carpets in British suburban homes, the likes of this album still burn brightly.

We should care about what is on the disk and it is, in a word, fantastic. Multi-layered dream pop bought to you by an arsenal of effects pedals and ethereal vocals. I particularly love "Catch the breeze" especially when the heavier guitars grind in towards the end.

A great Slowdive track is like a long journey, a meander through a sonicscape and then towards the end you head uphill and you need to turn on the power! Sometimes the album does meander a bit too much but its like a day dream, you might forget what it was all about but it was still a worthwhile trip.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Comics : The Golden Age Of DC Comics - 365 Days

If you are not familiar with these kinds of books, 365 Days volumes, they have an entry for every day of the year (natch) on a specific subject, the daily subject often having a tie in with what the relevant date is. The Golden Age of DC Comics: 365 Days is on DC comics, home of the iconic Superman, Batman and a galaxy of other heroes, this book covers DC from its pre-costumed hero days (when it literally was Detective Comics) to the post-war when westerns and sci-fi periodically knocked the men (and women) in tights off their perches.

Most people will have heard of the main characters like Superman of course and they feature heavily here, though what is particularly enjoyable is some of the lesser-known and maybe forgotten heroes like Air Wave who apparently combated villains by roller-skating along telegraph wires and Fatman who wore a lampshade as his mask. To be honest i think some of these guys would make for better films than some of the recent subjects like the Green Lantern (but considering the rate of which Hollywood is plundering the comics universe i suspect films about Air Wave and the like are probably only a few years off).

Each entry has a subject reproduction from an old DC comic and a brief accompanying paragraph of text. Some of the images are quite surreal, especially some of the pre-war ones with elements of Art Deco. I also really love the start of this horror story, i'd love to read the rest of this!
In fact that is the only criticism of this excellent volume, i wish there was an easy way to read the rest of some of the stories featured in here! Its a huge thick volume you will be dipping into all the time, superb piece of work!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Live : The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (Birmingham HMV Institute June 14 2011)

Being a bit old i don't go to that many gigs these days and have not been to a proper gig in a sweaty crammed room as opposed to stadium rock in a giant arena or something (i jest i haven't been to any of them either!) for some time. I keep meaning to change this state of affairs but procrastination and laziness get in the way...

However when my current favourite band The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (which i'll shorten to POBPAH here after as i am lazy) came to town i decided to go and see them. I knew i would regret it if i didn't, just as i regret not going down to London to see The Orchids earlier in the year.

I've never actually seen my "favourite band" live before (though for some reason have seen The Farm), obviously that could never happen now with Nirvana and Brighter for various reasons, and as i said above i regret now not going to see The Orchids so the fact i was going to see POBPAH added to my anticipation. I did feel a bit nervous though. What if i was the only old person there in a sea of hipsters? What if they weren't quite as good as the uber-awesome they were going to be in my dreams?

Why did i worry? POBPAH exceeded any expectations, they are just brilliant in every way. There were quite a few people there my age and even a few old punks... and plenty of hipsters too natch.

As they played through the songs i love like "Come Saturday" i was overcome with a feeling of happiness and contentment, and left with joy... and tinnitus. Yes it a bit loud but i decided to refrain from asking them to turn it down a bit (would have been a bit of a faux pas). There was plenty of fuzz noise and distortion, Peggy's keyboards were a bit hard to hear as were Kip's vocals at times but the band were tight and full of energy.

The support acts were quite good, Rogue States are a local band and are promising, their singer needs to stop shaking his sweat everywhere though. I've not heard of Fanzine before but am a fan now for sure, great indie pop noise.

I so hope POBPAH come back again soon. I'll take a proper camera with me too, my camera phone could only manage the below:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Forever People - invisible

In the early 90s Tim Vass and Gregory Webster from the C86 legends Razorcuts reunited for a one-off benefit single for Friends Of The Earth (with an environmental theme natch) on Sarah Records, and here it is. Two fine indie pop songs "Invisible" and "Sometimes".

I have to admit when i first heard this single i was still fairly unknowledgable about indie pop (some might say nothing much has changed) and didn't know the Razorcuts link at the time (had barely heard of them, before my time Granddad) but thats good in hindsight as i was able to judge the songs for what they were not who did them. "Invisible" is a bit of a plodder but is perfectly decent. "Sometimes" ups the tempo a bit and feels a more complete song, it has a good chorus too and some pipe work in the mix.

You can find both songs on the excellent Razorcuts "the world keeps turning" compilation by the way.

Monday, June 13, 2011

TOTP 03/06/1976

Slightly delayed this week but here is Top Of The Pops from 3rd June 1976. This week hosted by Tony Blackboard! Woo! And JJ Barrie is at number 1! WOO!

The G Band - don't make promises you can't keep

Don't worry Gary Glitter has already retired so this is just his old backing band, thus he unwittingly solved the BBC a knotty problem some 35 years down the line. This is nice enough catchy guitar pop, actually not a bad song at all with a lovely chorus. There are totem poles and other strange figures at the back of the stage for some reason. Luckily no children.

Dolly Parton - Jolene

Well this song by Dolly has always been a true classic. Dolly has massive hair and of course a massive... voice.

Tony harasses two young ladies from the New Edition who appear to be a 70s version of Glee.

The New Edition - sunshine Saturday

A bunch of pretty fit young guys and girls sing (badly) and dance onstage in very tight t-shirts and then by the magic of film are dancing in a fair ground. Some clowns also wave. Obviously this bit is scary. For some reason which probably only made sense in 1976 we get some film of speedboats too. Ah apparently this is the theme tune to a TV show. Which no doubt features clowns and speedboats. Be afraid.

Ruby Flipper are here to do some bad dancing to Gallagher & Lyle's "heart on my sleeve". Two couples dancing on the cheapest desert island set ever basically. Lets have the actual band instead:

Thin Lizzy - the boys are back in town

Wow classic! They are playing in another studio somewhere so the TOTP audience can't be seen looking lost. One of the band is dressed like Carl Douglas in a kung fu shirt. Words can't express how cool this actually is.

Our Kid - you might just see me cry

Four kids in matching suits singing a sentimental ballad with their squeeky voices. That is as bad as it sounds. In a way this was the kind of thing that infests shows like Britain's Got Talent nowadays so nothing really changes in the world of popular music. Their Mums were probably really proud but everyone else died a little inside.

The Rolling Stones - fool to cry

Whoever wrote up the line-up for this edition of TOTP was obviously taking the piss. From a bunch of 12 year olds to the oldest band in rock. Well of course back then the Stones were just a little bit elderly not as ancient as they are now. This is typical of later 70s Stones, laid back and funky. I think its great personally but then again i played my copy of Emotional Rescue so many times it literally exploded.

JJ Barrie - no charge

And ABBA have been replaced at #1 by a sentimental spoken country & western novelty tune. As novelty songs go its not that bad but i hope it fades away quickly. Only in Britain could you have a music show with the Stones followed by this. And for this we should be eternally grateful.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pop Will Eat Itself - 92 degree boilerhouse

Ah true local heroes from the late 80s and early 90s. This single dates from their pre-Karmadrome days when they (as they said in a magazine i recall) "went hardcore" apparently. This is all very indie dance pop: dirty electronics, samples, proto-big beats, pop culture references, great chorus. Its a total indie dancefloor smash. Brilliant.

B-side "The incredible PWEI vs Dirty Harry" rocks as well, basically a sample-fest based on Dirty Harry's soundtrack, that of course sounds awesome and indeed is. Do you feel lucky, punk?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Sky Drops - bourgeois beat

I call this duo's music grunge-gaze and i think that is pretty self-explanatory. Its good rollicking stuff such as on the driving grunge of "Truth is". Its noisy and poppy in all the best traditions of American grunge. "Hang on" though is quite different but equally good, a shoegazy epic with jangly guitar reverberations echoing through the mix. "Stone white" brings in elements of classic rock and heavy psychedelic noise.

So they have plenty of influences but its not a copycat album, true genius is in knowing what should be stolen anyway and they bring it all together really well. The duo's male and female vocals working together well especially on a track like "Swimming with fishes". The guitars roar beautifully too. Its a really good album.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Comics : Pandora's Box 3 - Gluttony

The unenlightened and sneering type often deride comics as being only for children only or comprise only space battles and school hi-jinks. I'm not sure how they could handle a comic story about Mad Cow disease and factory farming but hopefully it would dent their incorrect world view a tad.

Thats exactly what we have here in Pandora's Box Vol.3: Gluttony, volume 3 in the Pandora's Box series (obviously). Each volume features a story based around one of the seven deadly sins and drawing inspiration on Greek myth. This story is on gluttony and how better to illustrate that story with modern agribusiness?

This beautifully illustrated story really engages with you and packs a powerful political punch. It targets not only the greed of agribusiness but also the consumers who want ever greater quantities of cheap meat. What is the true cost though, it could be deadly as this story points out.

Really this story needs to be read by everyone, i think it could bring home the message of the dangers and immorality of the likes of battery hens and modern factory farming more than a hundred dry editorials and newspaper articles could. Cinebook can only be applauded for translating and publishing quality pieces of work from the Continent for the British market, long may they continue!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

TOTP 27/05/1976

Since the BBC began repeating Top Of The Pops from 1976 i have thought about writing a weekly review and here is the first, finally got around to it. Its kind of like in the style of a live blog though written after its actually shown as writing it "live" would mean writing it on my iPad and i'd rather microwave my own head than have to write blog posts on a virtual keyboard...

Anyway first review, and its late May 1976 and tonight's host is Jimmy Saville in a horrific yellow vest with sequins. What i liked about TOTP back then was the no-nonsense approach to the chart... as in they listed the top 30 in the opening credits. So ABBA are still #1 anyway.

Heavy Metal Kids - shes no angel
We have some rock to start proceedings, they are called the Heavy Metal Kids though this song is about as heavy as a helium balloon. The singer prances around the stage with a black umbrella wearing a fur vest and a bow tie. You will find i mention the fashions a lot, i don't think you can really write about 70s pop culture without mentioning the styles... such as they are. Anyway "Shes no angel" is not a bad song but the singer is creeping the Hell out of me.

JJ Barrie - no charge
And from lite metal to hardcore country cheese. "No charge" is a pure novelty hit as was so often popular in the charts back then. JJ Barrie narrates (as in speaks) an ultra cheesy mortality tale over a country & western backing. Its awful but strangely compelling i think mainly because JJ Barrie looks like your uncle after he gets a bit drunk at a party and tries to sing.

Pausing only to let Jimmy harass a cute young girl from Birmingham with a hilarious trick where he makes her vanish we move onto...

The Wurzels - combine harvester
I feel sorry for the kids in the audience, they must have queued up for hours and have to suffer back-to-back novelty cheese. Mr Wurzel sings about some girl he fancies and wants to marry, pity its his sister and they won't allow him. There is a green tractor in the studio though which is cool. Jimmy makes the Wurzels vanish too but unfortunately not until after the song.

Archie Bell & The Drells - soul city walk
Apparently this is at #30 in the charts. Its a passable but rather generic bit of soul by 4 men in matching velvet suits. They try some dancing though it has a strange passage when they all bend down in unison like they've all lost their contact lenses.

Mac & Katie Kissoon - the two of us
Next up a brother and sister duo (i admit i read that on Wikipedia). Its more soul but not a bad song, actually the first half decent song of the night so far as it races along with plenty of pop sensibility. Mac has awesome sideboards and dresses in a black & white checkerboard outfit a bit like the aliens in Star Trek's "let this be your last battlefield" (yes i am so geek).

Jim meets American visitor Hank Mizzel who ends up bemused when Jimmy starts talking about Blackpool.

We haven't had the dancing yet, well lets fix that. I can't remember what this mixed-gender troupe are called but they perform some acrobatic moves to David Bowie's "TVC 15" in what looks to be a typical 70s living room except for the wall of TVs which all show the same girl. One of the dancers is dressed as a jockey, just thought you'd like to know that. For sure the music in the second half of the show is a lot better than the first and it continues with...

The Bellamy Brothers - let your love flow
They can't be in the studio tonight, would you want to be on the same bill as The Wurzels? Here is some handy film of them performing.

The Real Thing - you to me are everything
But we are back in the studio for this, another good song, see it was worth suffering the novelty crap earlier on wasn't it? The singer wears a wide white brimmed hat which he of course wears with a tan open to the chest tunic. Well it is 1976. He also has a thick metal choker rather like the exploding ones in Battle Royale. Luckily his head isn't blown off, but that hat would fly for miles if it did.

ABBA are still at #1 with "Fernando" so the same film thats been shown for a few weeks gets another airing. It isn't played for long as i guess everyone is bored with the song now. Roll the credits, and so ends 30 minutes of "classic performances" so the BBC claim. Actually it was 30 minutes of sometimes horrific cheese and the odd nugget of genius. At least you get the latter with TOTP compared to say, Britain's Got Talent. Apart from when the dogs are on, obviously.