Monday, 20 October 2008

News, Views and Music Issue 9 (Intro)

October 20th:

Not much to report this week on the new releases front after the Christmas rush that was last week. On the AAA front, though, hopefully this will be the last newsletter written before we get published on our fine new free hosting site T35!!!More on our new home next issue…

In fact, the only real news in the world of AAA groups is that Ringo Starr has blotted his copybook with fans yet again this week. From today, Ringo has said via his website that he will no longer be signing autographs for anyone who asks him to as he has too much to do. Peace and love, Ringo—but spare a thought for all the Thomas the Tank Engine toddler fans who won’t get their pictures signed anymore and never had a chance to meet you!

Anniversaries This Week: Bill Wyman (bassist with the Rolling Stones 1962-1989) turns 67 on October 24th and singer Helen Reddy turns 66 on October 25th . Events this week: the 42nd anniversary of the release of the Beach Boys’ record-breaking single ‘Good Vibrations’ (October 22), it’s 38 years since Pink Floyd scored their first UK #1 album with ’Atom Heart Mother’ (October 24th) and the Beatles received their MBEs at Buckingham Palace this week in 1964 (October 26th).

News, Views and Music Issue 9 (Top Five) Self-Puncturing Classics

And the latest in our series of top fives: in honour of Ringo’s latest PR teeth-grinding gaffe, here are the five greatest self-puncturing star-killing moments from AAA artists, all dating at a time when they were worried that their big heads were getting in the way of their sales...:

5) “Ditty Diego–War Chant” (The Monkees/ HEAD, 1968): ’A manufactured image with no philosophies’ runs this ditty, but its blatantly not true. By 1968 and their sole feature film, the Monkees have one over-riding philosophy—puncturing their image in as many ways as possible and celebrating breaking out from the teeny bopper prison of their first handful of records. (See review number 27 for more). 

4) “The Fame” (Oasis/ B-side to ‘All Around The World’, 1997): A rare but typically glittering Noel Gallagher-sung B-side which, unheralded, started the elder brother’s penchant for writing songs that asked whether fame was all it was cracked up to be. The narrator may think he’s famous, but not two minutes later everyone around him has forgotten his name and the realisation ‘hits you like a hurricane’. Cue classic Oasis harmonies and a welcome glimpse into Noel’s real feelings on a song that accompanied one of Oasis’ perfectly crafted but rather formulaic A-sides. 

3) Starstruck (Kinks/ Village Green Preserrvation Society, 1968): Ray Davies had problems with fame from the beginning—there’ shardly a Kinks album that doesn’t touch on the theme somewhere (1973’s ‘A Soap Opera’ takes a whole record to ask why some ‘ordinary’ people become stars and not others). This flop single warns against being seduced by ‘bright city lights’ that dazzle with their glare and, like many other tracks on Village Green, sounds like a lesson learned the hard way.

2) Mr Soul (Buffalo Springfield/ Buffalo Springfield Again, 1968): Neil Young’s first milestone in composing terms, this self-deprecating song lays down the guitarist’s career-long anti-fame mantra even though Neil wasn’t actually that famous at the time—the only Springfielder anyone had taken notice of was ’For What It’s Worth’ creator Stephen Stills. Ironically, this caustic song, about being ‘raised by the praise of a fan who said I upset her’, played a big part in creating Neil’s soon-to-be-famous sound. (See review number 17 for more).

1) Star (Hollies/ Write On, 1976): This late-period Hollies album is full of side-swipes at a fickle music business and sober reflections on how one day you’re up and the next you’re down. Best of all, however, is the bouncy opening track which has singer Allan Clarke as a rock star used to getting his own way trying to seduce a girl at a party with talk of his fame—only to discover that she’s a celebrity more famous than he is.

Jethro Tull "War Child" (1974) (News, Views and Music 9)

An Old Favourite I’m Currently Grooving To: “Warchild” (Jethro Tull, 1974) “Skating away on the thin ice of a new day”...:

Not the best of Tull albums by a long shot, but one of the most impressive from an experimental point of view. The story goes that following the homeless epic ‘Aqualung’, an album that only became seen as a concept album after the release despite the fact that most of the tracks feature some poor down and out soul, lead singer, writer and one-legged flautist Ian Anderson decided to make the mother of all concept albums and duly delivered two of the strangest albums ever made; ‘Thick As A Brick’ (with a 42-minute track about a poem submitted by a 12-year-old into a national poetry competition which was then censored) and ‘A Passion Play’ (for which your guess is as good as mine as to what on earth is going on!) Getting slightly bored with the format, next album ‘Warchild’ isn’t really a ‘concept’ album either—it certainly doesn’t have much to do with war or children as its title suggests—but it sounds like it should be. Most of the tracks are linked by sound effects, mainly tinkling cutlery and glasses as if the songs are being overheard at some dinner party, which arguably gives the tracks surrounding them a feeling of unity that they don’t deserve.

It’s a patchy album this, but well worth getting for one well renowned classic and two forgotten gems. ’Skating away on the thin ice of a new day’ is as beautiful as it sounds and is easily the best of Tull’s occasional pastoral songs. The feeling of renewal and of each day giving us a new chance to better ourselves has never sounded lovelier or more enticing and Anderson’s flute-playing is at its complicated breathy best here. Elsewhere, there are two fine and impressively peculiar rockers to enjoy. ‘Sealion’ starts off like one of the heaviest rockers in the Tull back catalogue but somehow loops it’s lopsided riff back into the childlike carnival chorus every so often as if the whole thing is a game and not as serious as the narrator makes it sound. The strange juxtaposition really wouldn’t work for most tracks—but here the idea is very clever, mirroring the angry, controlling narrator’s desperate attempts to make something of himself only to end up back in exactly the same laughable position, like a sealion performing tricks for others to see in some bizarre carnival. ‘Two Fingers’ is just as good but just as strange, mixing peaceful and nosy sections together because the narrator of this one seems to be unsure whether to work with the system or send it up. A bit like the record itself, which is one of the politest rebel-rousing albums of the turbulent early 1970s! Most reviled moment: annoyingly, the best known track —how often does that seem to happen on this list? - is easily the worst, as the semi-hit single ‘Bungle in the Jungle’ is a one-joke line in search of a song and a decent tune. Ah well, that’s what CD skip buttons were invented for! Overall rating: ♫♫♫♫♫ (5/10).