Sunday, 23 August 2015

Archive interview - Duke Special, April 2015

I was lucky enough recently to chat to Duke Special in the middle of his tour of Ireland and I asked him what we can expect from his imminent album and his forthcoming tour when it hits our shores later this month.
“The album is called Look Out Machines! and it’s a little bit of venturing into new territory for me, there’s a lot of synthetic drums and synthetic strings and a lot of beats; it’s a very rhythmic album. Kind of tipping the hat to 80s influences like Depeche Mode and The Blue Nile so there’s influences on there that haven’t really featured so much on previous records. The songs are very direct on this record, it’s not as concept-based an album, the songs are there to be whatever they want to be. The tour is primarily solo on this occasion, with collaborations with guest artists. There’ll be still plenty happening, I’ll be mixing it up a lot.
The production on the album is by Dave Izumi and Phil Wilkinson, both are people I’ve worked with many times before, Phil drums live with me a lot. There’ll be a full band in London, Dublin and Belfast, the other dates in March and April will be solo with three different guests at various points, there’s Paul Cook and The Chronicles, She Makes War and the inventor Thomas Truax.
I’ve worked with Gary Clark on this album on the song ‘Look Out Machines!’ He was someone I wanted to write with and it was like a blind date, just going round to his house and meeting him and hoping that there was something we’d have in common that he’d want to talk about. He just started playing keyboard and I started scribbling down lyrics and we came up with ‘Look Out Machines!’ And another song actually, which may see the light of day sometime called ‘Tennessee Williams is Breaking my Heart’.”
I then quizzed Duke about his well-known love of old audio equipment and his involvement with the Shellac Collective.
“Shellac Collective is an umbrella of enthusiasts of all things gramophone and 78 rpm. It’s headed up by a guy called Greg Butler, ‘Greg’s Greats’ is his website and he’s an amazing man, the most knowledgeable person I know, and has the biggest knowledge of recorded music and he’s probably got the biggest record collection I’ve ever seen. He has about 150,000 78s and The Collective is basically just like-minded people who come together for different events such as Camp Bestival and I met DJ 78 probably around 7 or 8 years ago. He’s from Norwich and I know he’s been using a gramophone on stage and he offered to come and spin some shellacs in the foyer of the arts centre I was playing in before I went on stage. That’s where we first met and then gradually we’ve got to know each other and then I’ve been roped in to playing the festivals, DJing with him and I’ve set up a gramophone club in Belfast.
I think that there’s something about the aesthetic, the attitude, the passion.”
When I turned to the inevitable question of musical heroes there was none of the hesitation I’ve grown used to with most artists, just a swift delivery of a very impressive list.
“The Beatles, Elliott Smith, Magnetic Fields, Tom Waits, Ivor Cutler. I wanna be him when I grow up!” When I point out that this seems to be a fine ambition my comment is met with a prompt reply “I could do worse!”
Duke continued to tell me that Look Out Machines! will also be available on wax cylinder.
“Yes, it’s a very, very limited run we’re doing. It’s released obviously digitally, on CD, vinyl and wax cylinder. It’s pretty expensive just because the process is quite expensive; it’s available on Pledge, through Pledge Music. There’s only a couple available, I’d say the demand is going to be quite limited. I’ve made 78s before and vinyl and sometimes people buy stuff like that even if they haven’t got a player, but it’s definitely easier finding a record player than a wax cylinder player these days. Maybe this will encourage a renaissance!”
First published by NE:MM (now at and reproduced with kind permission.
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Archive interview - Nils Lofgren, November 2014

Nils Lofgren is genuine musical royalty. A member of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a 46 year career, both as a solo artist and with various bands alongside, amongst others, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Ringo Starr and Jerry Lee Lewis, Nils has recently issued a career-spanning ten disc, 189 track box set, Face the Music. On Friday 23 January 2015, Nils and his band bring their 16 date UK tour to Sage Gateshead.

I interviewed Nils earlier this month and I started by asking him about the box set and whether, 46 years ago, he’d had any idea that he’d have such a successful career.

“Err, no.” he replied with succinct honesty. “I was a classical accordion player from age 5 to 15 doing Beatles medleys at the ninth grade variety show and I really just picked up the guitar as a hobby. It was through The Beatles and Stones that I discovered Stax, Volt, Motown, the old blues, the whole floodgates of music. My brother Tommy was playing guitar and showed me a few chords. In Middle America nobody thought you could do what The Beatles or Jimi Hendrix did. When I was 16 I saw The Who and then later that same night in a different venue saw The Jimi Hendrix Experience and that night I was possessed with the notion of being a professional rock musician and a year later at 17 I hit the road with my band Grin. Of course at that time I was just worried about finding a few gigs on the weekend and making a few bucks to pay rent. I certainly wasn’t greedy enough to envision a 46 year run with some of the great bands of all time and be sitting here putting out a 189 track box set of 10 discs and a 136 page book illustrated by Dave Marsh. I’ve worked fairly hard but I didn’t create the gift of music, I got it from my folks and some higher power, God’s fine with me, I’m not religious at all but I like to think I’m spiritual and believe in some higher power.”

I was possessed with the notion of being a professional rock musician

I continued by asking Nils if he’d rediscovered any tracks when putting together Face the Music, and whether any of them would be played on his forthcoming tour.

“Yeah, many of them. I never really listen to my old music, so here I was presented with a wonderful project where I had to listen to all of it! There were hundreds of basement tapes and demos to plough through. There were unreleased tapes that we found that I’d forgotten about and it was really a great stroll down memory lane. My goal was figuratively to not have to get off the couch and move the needle on the record; I didn’t want to have to skip tracks and I spent months and months and months assembling not only the songs but a running order. Of course some albums I might take three songs from, some you might take six from; you wanted them to flow with each other and then from album to album and that was no easy task. I had a great mastering engineer, Billy Wolf, who I’ve worked with for years, who put all five decades of sounds together. Shockingly I can say that I could listen to this thing front to back and basically enjoy it, which really surprised me because I’m always thinking about the next chapter – at this point of course it’s a tour of the UK then my plan is to come home and start writing and see what comes up to make another record next year, a solo album. Looking back to this level for a year and a half was something I would have never done without the gift of a company willing to go find these tracks, which are mostly out of print, and allow me to share them in this box set.”

Nils continued by telling me what we can expect to see at the gigs next year.

“Well I’m with my buddy Greg Varlotta who was with me for the last three or four runs in the UK. Of course we’ve got the many acoustic guitars, electric guitars, keyboards, piano, synth, tap-dancing, trumpet playing, singing, harmonies but we’re going to change the set a bit especially Face the Music. I’ll be going back and playing some songs I don’t usually play, some of my favourites that I’ve forgotten about, and certainly do a selection of the bonus disc tracks, there’s 40 of them there, songs that I never play. So we’ll be playing a different selection of songs amongst hopefully the classics that people expect to hear and change up the shows and, of course, my improv guitar playing is always there. I love playing a lot of soloing and just taking chances to see where it leads. We were out of the Face the Music box set but we’ve got more and you can get them at and they come with a special pin that Amy, my wife, made, reflecting the cover shot which is me with my frizzy Jimi Hendrix hair at 16 in a band called The Shot when all we did was the Cream catalogue and the Hendrix catalogue. It was a power trio of teenagers in Bethesda Maryland.”

Sadly, however, Nils’ famous trampoline won’t make a tour appearance.

“My whole life I played basketball and of course I’ve been doing that trampoline flip since 1969 and I destroyed my hips, they were bone on bone for many years. I was in agony and six years ago I had both hips replaced and the surgeon assured me that if the trampoline didn’t go in the closet I’d be a cripple within weeks. So now I’m just happy to jump around and walk with no pain and I’ve taken up, of all things, tap-dancing. My buddy Greg Varlotta is a master tap-dancer and he gave me lessons. He taps in our show more like a percussion instrument and a couple of times we’ll have a little ‘tap off’ where we play against each other. I don’t overstay my welcome because I’m not very good but it’s kinda fun.”

Nils explained why playing in the North East of England holds special memories.

“I’ve been coming there for 40 years since the Tonight’s the Night tour with Neil Young in ’73. I flew there from London in the ‘80s to play a TV show of all things and jumping on an 11 o’clock flight back to London I bumped into Ralph Steadman, the historic illustrator for Hunter Thompson, and we’ve been friends ever since. As a very big fan of Ralph’s art it was a very historic meeting and it led to a great friendship and he’s done a couple of album covers for me, Breakaway Angel and Crooked Line. We’ve had some great gigs all over the UK and Newcastle is certainly no exception.”

I asked Nils to tell me about his first trip to the UK.

“I’d been there in ’69 to take a field trip to the historic rock town of London, England. Graham Nash was kind enough, from my connections with Neil Young, to let me come into the studio and hang out with them and have some tea here and there and just have a chat and kind of spend some time with him and also Greg Reeves, bass player on After the Gold Rush. Greg and I got together on a project he had that I don’t think was ever released. I just wanted to get to London and I had a great couple of weeks there and thanks to Graham Nash and Greg Reeves had some friends to hang out with.”

I continued by asking Nils about The Loner his well received album of Neil Young covers and whether he had any plans to repeat the formula with other artists.

“I don’t. It was not really something I’d ever thought of. Somebody mentioned it and I thought ‘why would I do that?’ Out of respect to Neil’s writing, and I think he’s as great a writer as we’ve ever had, I took about 30 songs and sang them to my dogs and cats for about 3 weeks. I didn’t go to the studio, I didn’t record anything, I wasn’t committed to the project, I just sang ‘em. And, you know, they sounded like karaoke for about a week or two and then all of a sudden there was a batch of about a dozen or so that sounded like I might have something and I decided that if it was all live, with no production at all and no fixes and they were just live tapes of these beautiful songs in the barest form with one guitar and one piano there might be something special there. I’ll probably sing one or two in my upcoming tour of course.”

With the forthcoming gig firmly in mind, I rounded off by asking whether the crowd-pleasing ‘Mud in Your Eye’ was based on true events.

“Way back in the ‘70s my brother Tommy and I were on the road together in my band and we were playing down south and I think Tommy started dating a girl that we met on the road. I took a lot of liberties; it’s kind of vague at this point as it’s so long ago. But it was loosely based and inspired by my brother and a liaison he had down south and it led to the song with upright bass by Scotty Ball, a classical bassist at the time and one of my first guitar teachers after my brother Tommy. Scotty went on to become a classical, extraordinary musician and now he’s a professor and teaches but he played that beautiful upright on ‘Mud in Your Eye’. It’s one we still do in the show. And of course it’s on the box set.”

Finally Nils, polite throughout, finishes with a ‘thank you.’

“Thanks for letting people know what I’m up to and spreading the word. I really appreciate it, we’re very excited to get back there and our intent is to do some inspired shows for everyone who shows up.”It was very much my pleasure, Nils, and there are very many people here who are equally excited by the prospect of seeing a legend in our very own back yard.

Originally published by NE:MM (now to be found at on 30th November 2014 and reproduced with kind permission.
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Monday, 20 April 2015

Archive interview - Matthew Healy of The 1975, September 2013

On a cool September night in Newcastle a vibrant young band take to the stage at The University. The venue was booked and tickets were released, it’s probably not unfair to say, before The 1975 were famous. By the time the concert comes around they’re the proud possessors of a number 1 album. It's the first night of a 3 month tour that will see the boys play dates across the UK, America and Europe. Suffice it to say that the sheer energy and swagger of the band on stage and the infectious enthusiasm of the amassed crowd, buoyed by their understandable smugness that they'd had the foresight to get their tickets months ago, are reflected in a memorable, soaring performance.

I chatted to Matthew Healy on the tour bus before the gig last September and asked him the rather too obvious question I'd never had the chance to ask another living soul; “how does it feel to have a number 1 album?” “We spent 10 years of people telling us we’d never even get a record deal, it’s really surreal, very humbling” Matthew replied, slightly hesitantly, as if he still can’t quite believe all of this is really happening.

When asked about musical heroes Matthew reels off an incredibly eclectic, genre-jumping, and somewhat daring I feel bound to add, list of musical heroes, as befits a band who defy easy categorisation. From classic soul artists like Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Al Green and The Supremes to 1990’s R&B acts like Boyz II Men, D’Angelo and Toni Braxton, from acts “who were at their peak in the 1980s” Michael Jackson, Prince and Peter Gabriel to Talking Heads, Primal Scream and the Jesus and Mary Chain, Matthew runs through this list of musical and cultural icons with abandon. When I raise an eyebrow at the mention of Phil Collins, Curtis Stigers and Michael Bolton, Matthew gently but firmly chastises me about the musical snobbery of my own generation which is refreshingly missing in his own. “Not so over-encumbered with irony and cynicism” were his exact words. He's right of course. So we chat about the concept of the lazily named guilty pleasure for a while, with specific reference to our shared admiration of Supertramp, and Matthew tells me about his Dad’s mates who just happened to be in a band named Dire Straits.

Inevitably too, as we're on the tour bus (their 6th or 7th bus this year, Matthew tells me, matter-of-factly) my thoughts turn to the gnarly old question of tour bus film consumption. For a band who take their music seriously the response is, with the exception of Gangs of New York, light-hearted and escapist. “The Office, Alan Partridge, South Park'. I sense a very special fondness for Team America: World Police too.Songwriting, Matthew tells me, is an organic process undertaken, for this hectic year at least, while on the road. He finds it slightly puzzling when bands take themselves away somewhere specifically to write material for a new album and tells me at this point that they’re “well into the second album, we make music because it makes us happy.”
Interview originally published in NEMM (North East Music Monthly).
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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

500 Singles - Numbers 1,2 and 3 - ABBA - Knowing me, knowing you, Summer night city, The name of the game

It’s more than fitting that the first single I ever bought should appear on page 1 of the 500 Singles list.

From what now seems like a dangerously young age I used to walk one mile from our house close to Sunderland General Hospital (now known as Sunderland Royal Hospital) into Sunderland town centre, to meet up with friends and spend Saturday looking around the shops of the fine metropolis of Sunderland.
Sometimes I even had money to spend, and of course as everyone knows that was the only way to ensure admittance to Josephs’ toy shop. If you didn’t have any money to spend you simply weren’t allowed to idly browse the wonders on the first floor (it was boring sportswear on the ground floor) regardless of the amount you’d spent last week on a new Subbuteo team or a John Player Special in black and gold for your small oval of Scalextric track.
Then, one particular Saturday in 1977, something significant happened. We wandered down windswept Walworth Way (the bleakest environment outside the Arctic Circle) and instead of spending my pocket money on sweets or toys I made a bee-line for that most independent and cutting edge of music retailers, WH Smith and handed over my hard-earned for a copy of ABBA’s ‘The Name Of The Game’. My first single. Orange Epic label, orange paper sleeve. My second single was ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, but there are no prizes for second place. By the time I bought ‘Summer night city’ in 1978 I’d already shifted my musical affections in the direction of The Boomtown Rats. I guess that’s just the way life goes.
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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

500 Singles - Number 189 - Havana Let's Go!! - Spanish Cabaret

Some of the most interesting tales to emerge from the artists on this list come from those that merit little more than a footnote in other accounts and the story of Havana Let’s Go is one such tale.

In 1981 they released two singles, which turned out to be the sum total of their recorded output. One was one of the greatest forgotten pop singles of the early 1980s, the catchy and quirky ‘Torpedoes’, and the other was the much less impressive ‘Spanish Cabaret’, reviewed by Smash Hits Magazine’s Dave Rimmer in less than glowing terms as follows ‘This does indeed sound like something you might hear in a cabaret while on a package holiday in Benidorm Nice sax, but this is really just another plastic salsa record with nothing to recommend it’. Ouch. To provide some context, Dave also reviewed Bucks Fizz’s ‘The land of make believe’ and Imagination’s ‘Flashback’ in the same edition, commenting on the former (which subsequently became a Number One single) with ‘The rot starts here’ and the latter, surprisingly, as ‘a slick slice of strutting, soulful disco pitched somewhere between Smokey Robinson and The Bee Gees’.

Some reports have Havana Let’s Go’s potential for world domination as being scuppered by a BBC ban on ‘Torpedoes’ as a result of the Falklands conflict and, while it’s difficult to prove this either way after over 30 years, it seems unlikely as a year had passed between the release of the single and the UK Government’s desire to protect a few islands (and associated Islanders) on the other side of the planet.

There’s very little in the way of solid facts to be found about Havana Let’s Go, except to say that their lead singer was called Joanna Havana, drummer Mark Tanner had been a member of Punk group of legend, Bazooka Joe, who numbered Stuart Goddard (or Adam Ant if you prefer) within their ranks and were the group that The Sex Pistols supported at their first public appearance. And guitarist Andrew Morahan went on to become an award winning director of music videos for Wham, George Michael (including the banned video for ‘I Want Your Sex’) and Guns ‘n’ Roses and the film ‘Highlander III: The Sorcerer’. More recently Morahan directed the video for Band Aid 30. He does have pedigree though; his Dad, Christopher Morahan, Directed episodes of the 1980s TV classic ‘The Jewel in The Crown’ and cult comedy film ‘Clockwise’.
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Monday, 9 March 2015

500 Singles - Numbers 4 and 5 - Adam & The Ants - Stand and deliver, Young Parisians

You have to have some sympathy for Adam Ant, the punk upstart who sought guidance from punk’s best known svengali, Malcolm McClaren, who promptly conspired with his group, The Ants, to sack their lead singer and become, essentially, Bow Wow Wow. Adam and his new Ants came out fighting though and for a brief period during the early 1980s became an act that were simultaneously mainstream and potentially disturbing at the same time. (Imagine 1 Direction being painfully open about their love of S&M and including tracks like ‘Mile High Club’ and ‘S.E.X.’ on their albums and you’ve got some idea of the balance of acceptability and danger that Adam had at the time). Adam’s rise was stratospheric, but his time at the top of pop’s tree was reasonably brief with not much to write home about outside his releases (and re-releases) in 1980 and 1981; Adam and the boys’ Christmas single in 1981 is one of the most excruciating ‘white people rapping’ songs you’re ever likely to hear, but if you were around at the time you’re highly unlikely to forget, courtesy of this single, that the group at the time consisted of ‘Marco, Merrick, Terry Lee, Gary Tibbs and Yours Truly’.

Andrew and I saw the ‘Prince Charming Revue’ at Newcastle City Hall and it was a memorable spectacle, walking the plank between punk, glam rock, theatre and pantomime. Sometimes it fell off.
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Saturday, 7 March 2015

500 Singles - Number 320 - Otway & Barrett – DK 50/80

John and Wild Willy are perhaps best known for their 1977 hit single ‘Really Free’, popular at a time when Punk principles were as important as Punk musical styles. It’s a unique piece of hippy folk rock (influenced by: Dylan from ‘The Magic Roundabout’ / Influence on: Neil from ‘The Young Ones’). Three years later the boys came very close top having a second hit single with a ‘tune’ only similar to ‘Really Free’ in its absolute uniqueness. ‘DK 50/80’ combines bits of another record played backwards with repeated lyrics sung at breakneck speed and rendered almost completely unintelligible by two artists whose only regard for mainstream music seems to have been as a boundary to steer firmly clear of. In short, it’s a lost masterpiece that never fails to cheer the heart of anyone lucky enough to hear it.

Just at the point at which it was about to storm into the popular music charts (on the back of a series of gigs targeting towns and cities with chart return shops where admission could only be gained with a copy of the single) the much sought out invitation arrived to be on next week’s Top Of The Pops. So far so good. Until The Musician’s Union called a strike and the filming of Britain’s best loved weekly chart music show was cancelled leaving ‘DK 50/80’ stranded at the heady heights of Number 45.

Both men continue to work in music, Otway’s own website describes him, rather harshly I think as there are many more qualified candidates, as ‘Rock and Roll’s greatest failure’ and pictures him recumbent in a Sinclair C5. In 2002 John graced the charts again with ‘Bunsen Burner’ which reached all the way to Number 9 and therefore becoming his ‘Greatest Hit. It’s almost certainly the only song ever written with lyrics designed to help the singer’s daughter with her chemistry homework.

Barrett is also a talented woodworker. You can see some of his pieces, many with a musical theme, at, a website which comes with the veiled warning that ‘The novelty and sheer ebullience of his work cannot fail to provoke a reaction’. I'm the first in a long line of talented joiners and woodworkers to have absolutely no talent whatsoever in that department, but they look pretty good to me. Although it’s probably fair to say that if you bought one and popped it in your living room or kitchenette it would be unlikely to go unnoticed by visitors.

Otway and Barrett’s ‘Best of’ glories in the appropriate title of ’40 Odd Years: 1971-2011’ and if you’ve got nothing to do this afternoon can I respectfully suggest that you rummage within this wonderful collection to check out the equally magnificently titled (and downright magnificent) cold war themed ‘Natasha You’re a Smasha (But You’re Working For Russia)’. I’d steer away from their version of the American Civil War tune ‘Two Little Boys’, made equally famous by those unlikely bedfellows of Scottish Music Hall star Harry Lauder and shamed antipodean dauber Rolf Harris for a few good reasons though.

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Friday, 6 March 2015

500 Singles - Numbers 53 to 57 - The Boomtown Rats – I don’t like Mondays, Like Clockwork, Mary of the 4th form, Rat Trap, Someone's looking at you

As we’ve already established, the first single I ever bought was ABBA’s ‘The name of the game’, but pretty soon, like most spotty boys at the time I fell prey to the lure of Punk. My first punk obsession were The Boomtown Rats and pretty soon I’d turned to the dark side, purchasing in swift succession the powerful anthem to schoolroom obsession ‘Mary of the 4th form’, the staccato delivery classic ‘Like clockwork’. Soon to follow was the claustrophobic ‘Rat trap’, the number one single that delivered the UK from the monotony of endless weeks of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Summer nights’ (and eventually gave way to the potentially worse chart-topping prospect of Rod Stewart’s ‘Do Ya think I’m sexy’) and then ‘I don’t like Mondays’, to the best of my knowledge the only single ever to reach the top of the charts to take a school massacre as its subject matter. Eventually, an inexplicably German copy of ‘Someone’s looking at you’ was added to the collection.

At some point along the line, The Rats stopped being punk. In fact I even have some nagging doubts now that they were ever musically a punk band, but they certainly had a Punk attitude – Johnnie Fingers always wore his Pyjamas for goodness sake, it doesn’t get much more punk than that. And of course Bob Geldof could always strip the paint from a whole houseful of doors with one cutting phrase. Great chunks of the first three albums now sound like they were made by a tight band with a Bruce Springsteen and Shangri-Las obsession (if you can’t see the Springsteen comparisons (and now that I’ve made it I find it difficult to see anything else!) then just have a nifty listen to ‘Joey’s on the streets again’ from the first album (it’s even got exactly the right saxophone solo) or ‘When the night comes’ from ‘The fine art of surfacing’ you may be a little more convinced). The Rats fell out of fashion as rapidly as they’d somehow found themselves in it but as my Punk first love they’ll always have a little piece of my heart.

As a footnote, ‘Tonic for the troops’ was one of the first albums that I owned, ordered from the Amazon of 1978, my Mam’s Grattans catalogue along with Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Equinoxe’ and Darts’ ‘Everyone plays Darts’. What a bizarre mixture of musical tastes I had.
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Thursday, 5 March 2015

500 Singles - Number 137 - Ian Dury & The Blockheads – Reasons to be cheerful pt. 3

‘The more I listen to ‘Reasons to be cheerful’, the more it sounds like the best kind of national anthem, one capable of inspiring pride in those of us who spend too much time feeling embarrassed by our country’. Not my words, obviously (they’re too poetic to be me for a start), but the words of Nick Hornby, hero of list makers across the globe, from Highbury to Hollywood.

I can see where Nick is coming from as Mr Dury can swell even the least patriotic of chests, although if you’ve read my book, the excellent ‘The Great Cassette Experiment – The Joy Of Cassettes’  (gratuitous link at the foot of this post!) you’ll know that my own colours are very firmly nailed to the mast of The Lilac Time’s ‘Let Our Land Be The One’ alternative national anthem-wise.

Ian’s famously chirpy list song, sees him in typically playful mood. Too often lazily categorised as ‘Punk’ (listen to the sleazy Spyro Gyra Saxophone section here and you’ll soon realise that there was much more to Ian and The Blockheads than that), Ian was really an uncategorisable trailblazer, a musical John the Baptist if you like, without whom much of the quirkier side of the music of the late 1970s and early 1980s would never have found an audience. Unfortunately he may also have paved the way for the awful ‘Toast’ by The Street Band, but you can’t have everything.

‘Reasons to be cheerful pt. 3’ (don’t go looking for pts. 1 and 2, because like the films Oceans 1 to 10, they don’t exist) is, as the title suggests, a list of reasons to be cheerful, and includes, but is not limited to, Buddy Holly, nanny goats, yellow socks, cheddar cheese and pickle, and actor, circus boy and contortionist’s son, Bonar Colleano.

It also features, at one point, a naughty Ian ‘being in his nuddy’, but, luckily, there’s no reference to his ‘rhythm stick’.

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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

500 Singles - Numbers 243 & 244 - Kid Creole & The Coconuts – Annie, I’m not your daddy & Dear Addy

In 1982, The Face magazine called Ze Records “The most fashionable label in the world” and it was largely due to the likes of Kid Creole and the Coconuts and label-mates as diverse and unusual as Suicide, Material, Nona Hendryx, Alan Vega and Was (not Was) that the reputation of this record label, founded by Frenchman Michel Esteban and Brit Michael Zilka was held in such high regard. That and the fact that they weren’t frightened to take chances.

In common with many other bands of the era, Kid Creole and The Coconuts seemed to be as pre-occupied with style as they did with music, but their style was that of the dance band era, brightly coloured suits, big hats, risqué lyrics in a Cab Calloway meets Disco-Tex and The Sex-O-Lettes style.

In later years Kid went through quite a few Coconuts, but in their glory years, the lineup included August Darnell (as Kid was really known), his wife Adriana Kaegi (aka ‘Addy’) and musical director and collaborator Andy Hernandez (aka ‘Coati Mundi’ and they were a bright and cheerful diversion. ‘Dear Addy’ is actually the lead track on their 1982 ‘Christmas in B’Dilli Bay’ EP, entertaining in a low-key ‘out-take from South Pacific’ kind of way. ‘Annie, I’m not your Daddy’ was more successful, and, of the two is the one you’re more likely to catch on the radio from time to time, with its controversial tale of a disputed paternity suit (this is still 1982, remember!)
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Sunday, 1 March 2015

500 singles - Number 297 - Anthony Newley – Lifetime of happiness

Like many of the singles on the 500 singles list, how I happen to be in possession of this particular gem by actor, songwriter, crooner, raconteur, former husband of Joan Collins and role model for the young David Bowie is an absolute and total mystery. But here it is.

Now better known as an actor (he was the Artful Dodger in David Lean’s definitive film version of Oliver Twist and Matthew Mugg in Richard Fleischer’s equally definitive film version of Doctor Dolittle) and songwriter (writing the theme from the James Bond film ‘Goldfinger’ with John Barry and the soundtrack to the film ‘Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory’ with co-writer Leslie Bricusse, which proved to have a life far beyond the garishly coloured film). Most surprisingly, in a revelation as shocking as the news that Michael Nesmith’s mother invented Tipp-Ex or that Hedy Lamarr invented the fore-runner to Bluetooth, Newley and Bricusse also penned the Nina Simone classic ‘Feeling good’. Although if you have a listen to Newley’s own version you’ll hear it has none of Nina’s balls.

Released by Decca in 1960, hot on the heels of two consecutive Number 1 hit singles for the 28 year old from Hackney with the cheeky smile (‘Why’ in January 1960 and ‘Do you mind’ in March 1960) the single, whose actual A side is ‘If she should come to you (La Montana)’ is a double sided croony gem of the kind that was damned to imminent extinction by the looming sounds coming out of Detroit and, ultimately, Liverpool.

If you have any doubts about the Newley/Bowie comparisons can I suggest that you listen to Anthony’s ‘Pop goes the weasel’ and David’s ‘The laughing gnome’ back to back if you can manage it.

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The Great Cassette Experiment - The Joy Of Cassettes