Friday 1 October 2010

News, Views and Music Issue 77 (Intro)

October 1st:

♫ Hello and welcome to our first ‘normal’ newsletter for - gosh - three weeks. How time flies, even on a site dedicated to music that’s 40 or 50 years old!  Sorry about the delay – it’s a combination of changes made to our website (which may yet become a business after all), a request for last week’s ‘live album’ special that took longer to write than expected and the usual chronic fatigue aches, pains and memory losses (this is at least the third top five planned for you this month – I can’t for the life of me remember what I was meant to be writing this week!) This week will mark the 70th birthday of John Lennon on October 9th and like many other publications we’ve chosen to honour the Beatle’s life this issue with a special edition dedicated to his under-rated ‘Mind Games’ a top five of tribute songs from other AAA stars and news of those Lennon rematsers coming out to celebrate his birthday. Apologies too that this might be our last issue a for a little while as we’re going away in mid October – hopefully there’s enough info here and on last week’s special to keep you safely entertained until our return! In the meantime a big hello to all our new readers joining us courtesy of Twitter, Amazon, Youtube and Facebook, a fond ‘welcome back’ to all our old readers who’ve been with us through thick and thin, a big happy birthday to John Lennon and finally greetings to our future downloaders reading this website in the years to come. Happy reading all of you!


Beatles News: Happy birthday Johnny Rhythm! As you’d expect with an anniversary as big as Lennon’s 70th birthday (and in the 30th anniversary year of his death in December) there’s oodles of new releases in the works. First of all, Uncut magazine have put together a mighty impressive anniversary special dedicated solely to The Beatle’s solo career which includes rare re-printings of old NME and Melody Maker stories plus unseen photographs that even Beatle monkeynut obsessives like me haven’t seen before. Even the album reviews are very much in tandem with Alan’s Album Archives – dismissing ‘Imagine’ ‘Double Fantasy’ and ‘Rock and Roll’ for instance and praising ‘Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’ and ‘Walls and Bridges’ to the hilt (as for this issue’s review of ‘Mind games’ both of us find it a mixed blessing but still one of the most under-rated albums of the whole Beatles canon).

The Lennon estate isn’t slow off the mark to celebrate Lennon’s birthday either. We’ve already mentioned on these pages that all the ‘mainstream’ Lennon albums are getting a re-mastering on October 9th (Lennon’s Birthday), from ‘Live Peace In Toronto’ through to ‘Milk and Honey’ with bonus tracks (full marks for adding both of these hard-to-find albums back to the record racks, although yet more pressings of ‘Imagine’ and ‘Sometime In New York City’ so soon after the last seems a bit unnecessary). The album that seems to be getting the biggest overhaul, though, is ‘Double Fantasy’ which is coming out as a two CD set with a re-mastering of the original album and a new ‘stripped’ down’ version in the mould of ‘Let It Be Naked’. Curiously, Yoko suggests that this new version is to get rid of the ‘1980s trappings’ which seems odd given that there aren’t actually that many on the original album (it’s not as ruined by production as, say, Paul McCartney’s ‘Pipes Of Peace’ or CSN’s ‘Live It Up’). However, hearing Lennon more or less alone is always a treat – as a listen to any Lennon rarities set, Lost Lennon radio show or bootleg will testify – and most reviewers who’ve heard a copy reckon ‘Double Fantasy’ is now a much tougher, meatier listening experience. Son Sean Lennon drew the front cover for the new edition, which is a pen-and-ink illustration of the original cover.

As for Paul McCartney, there are no less than four versions of ‘Band On The Run’ coming out on November 2nd, the first of his eagerly awaited reissue series. Firstly, there’s a standard 9-track version of the album in remastered sound.  A second 2 CD 1 DVD version contains the full hour-long documentary heard as part of the ‘25th anniversary’ set in 1999 which is interesting, true, but hardly something you’re likely to play very often (and alas most of the music comes from rehearsals of ‘Band On The Run’ songs taken from Macca’s World Tour of 1989 and an annoyingly short extract of a lovely ‘Bluebird’ from Wings in the mid-70s). There’s also the tie-in single ‘Helen Wheels’ which was added to the American version of the album and two under-rated Macca B-sides from the period ‘Country Dreamer’ and ‘Zoo Gang’. The gem of the package, though, should be a long awaited issue of the unseen ‘One Hand Clapping’ documentary film (as well as a CD of the soundtrack at long last although alas some of the better tracks are missing!), a fascinating documentary that finds Wings back in London from their Lagos trip and testing out new drummer Geoff Britton (the documentary was dropped partly because the karate-loving drummer dropped out of the band soon after following several clashes with Macca). Look out especially for a great studio version of the live favourite ‘Soilly’, a track otherwise only available as te last encore on the ‘Wings Over America’ set and a track we’ve applauded here several times as being one of Macca’s best ever rockers. A final 4 disc (3 CD, 1 DVD) version adds a new interview with Paul, ‘hi-res’ versions of the album and bonus tracks (whatever that means – presumably the remaster is fairly hi-res anyway!) and best of all a 120-page book. This hard-back tome, exclusive to this fuller version, sounds very interesting: lots of unreleased photographs of the three-piece Wings recording the album in Lagos and shooting the album cover with a pack of celebrities, as taken by Clive Arrowsmith and Linda McCartney. There will also be a double vinyl reissue (although it’s not clear which bonus tracks would be added to it from the fuller sets) and an MP3 download. More news if and when we hear it.

 A reminder too that ‘Apple Remasters’  is due out on October 26th comprising all the early non-Beatles albums by artists as varied as Badfinger, James Taylor, Mary Hopkin, Jackie Lomax, Billy Preston, The Radha Krishna Temple and John Tavener. All 17 albums are available separately (at an average cost of £12) or as part of one big box (priced at £140 at the moment, though likely to fall).

Buffalo Springfield News: Wow. I mean wow. I mean wowowowow. Buffalo Springfield are getting back together again, with Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay all taking part in an acoustic concert for Neil’s latest Bridge School Benefit gig in November – the first time all three Springfield mainstays will have been on the same stage since 1968! We’ve been here before of course – the band should have reformed several times in the 70s, 80s and 90s but the closest they ever came was a meeting at Neil’s house in 1986 that ended up in an informal and sadly unrecorded jam session. The way may have been paved by the sad death of drummer Dewy Martin last year (see news and views no 21) who, along with fellow deceased bass player Bruce Palmer, had been touring under the name ‘Buffalo Springfield Revisited’.  The pair will be replaced for the gig by longtime Young bassist Rick Rosas and longstanding Stills sidekick Joe Vitale. While CSNY fans are used to seeing Stills and Young butting heads on stage, its been a long while since the pair worked together with Furay, who formed Poco upon leaving the band in 1968 and now lives a very different life as a pastor in Colarado. Like many a Neil Young news item we view the news with a healthy scepticism but, then again, when Neil announces something for his beloved Bridge School concerts (organised by Neil’s wife Pegi to raise funds for disabled children) they usually happen, giving us lots of unexpected CSNY reunions over the years. More news if and when we hear it!

Janis Joplin News: BBC6 are repeating the two-part documentary Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue in the early hours of Sunday and Monday at 3am, October 3rd and 4th. The doc is one of the better ones on Janis around, with access to some more interesting if not exactly rare songs and the usual talking heads (or talking voices, seeing as its on radio). 

Pink Floyd News: David Gilmour continues his run of weird and wacky guest spots by appearing on the new Orb album Metallic Spheres out in early October. Gilmour follows past Orb collaborators Steve Hillage and Robert Fripp, although this pairing makes more sense as YouTube has been flooded lately with Pink Floyd remixes by members of the Orb.

In other news, EMI have taken the rather odd step of creating a new Syd Barrett compilation less than five years after the old one (if they need the money this badly then put out some more Hollies sets!) The selling point this time around is that Barretts solo work can be heard alongside  selections from his one true Floyd album Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, although plus points for adding the semi-rare single Apples and Oranges. Really, though, I dont see the point of this album the two sides of Syds work pre and post 1967 are two completely different animals and hearing them together is just a sad mournful experience, watching all the energy and inspiration of the first half turning into a lethargic outburst on the second. The cover by Hipgnosis is the best thing about this set, with lots of Syd-like images Floyd fans will have hours trying to spot!

The Who News: Alas we missed it but BBC6 repeated the excellent guitar great documentaries from 1979, including one with a very thoughtful Pete Townshend right after Keith Moons death. It may still be available on I-player so keep an eye out for it! 

Neil Young News: ‘Le Noise’ is the new Neil Young album which was released on September 27th. Err, at least that’s what Young and record company Reprise want you to think – actually it’s a more weird release than that, a sort of cross between Neil’s avent garde ‘ARC’ album of feedback noises and Paul McCartney’s ‘Fireman’ projects. On the plus side, this eight song set finds Neil back to playing his acoustic guitar for any real length of time for the first time since, ooh, 10 years by our reckoning and features a long lost late-70s relic ‘Hitchhiker’ to boot. Alas those who’ve heard the album pretty much unanimously find it dull and repetitive, with Neil’s ‘first thought, last thought’ motto taken to the extreme by having him make up songs on the spot to match certain riffs and guitar effects. Movingly, Neil claims that he’s made the record  a completely solo one because he can’t face forming a band since the sad death of longtime friend Ben Keith, whose death last month robbed us all of the sometime Stray Gator, International Harvester, Transband, Duck, Crazy Horse and Shocking Pink. 

ANNIVERSARIES: A few columns extra for you this week to make up for the fact that we’ve been busy and missed a few out: For the week September 13-20th, happy birthday to AAA members Bernie Calvert (bassist with The Hollies 1965-80) who turned 66 on September 16th, Kenney Jones (drummer with The Small Faces 1965-68 and The Who 1979-82) who turned 62 on the same day, Lawrence Creme (guitarist and pianist with 10cc 1972-76) who turned 63 on September 17th, Jo Catherall (singer with The Human League 1981-present) who turned 48 on September 18th and Brian Epstein (Beatles manager 1960-67) who would have been 76 opn September 19th. Anniversaries of events include: The Plastic Ono Band play their one and only gig at the Toronto Peace Festival (September 13th 1969); Rhythm guitarist David Knopfler gets kicked out of Dire Straits by his brother Mark (September 13th 1980); Pete Townshend talks about his ideas for ‘Tommy’ for the first time in public during an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine (September 14th 1968); ‘She Loves You’ becomes the first ‘proper’ Beatles single in the US where it is released by the tiny Swann Records label and flops badly (September 16th 1963); The Grateful Dead become the first – and so far only – band allowed to play in front of the Egyptian Pyramids in Cairo, although the gig is surprisingly not a musical success (September 16th 1978); Pink Floyd become the first rock group to play at Montreaux’s Classical Music Festival (and what the crowd thought of 25 mins of ‘Atom Heart Mother’ is anybody’s guess!; September 18th 1971); Simon and Garfunkel reunite on stage in New York’s Central Park for the first time since their 1980 split although, alas, it does not turn into a full reunion as planned (September 19th 1981) and finally, Paul McCartney receives his first (of many) drugs busts after police find cannabis plants growing in the greenhouse of his Scottish home – alas this will have major implications later in the decade as it stops Macca flying out to Lennon and a possible Beatles reunion in 1974 (September 20th 1972).

For the week September 21st-27th: Happy birthdays dear AAA men and women Linda McCartney (a member of husband Paul’s group Wings from 1972-79 and various solo tours) who would have been 69 on September 24th and Craig Chaquico (guitarist with Jefferson Starship 1973-86) who turned 56 on September 26th. Anniversaries of events include: Grace Slick makes her stage debut when singing for the Great Society, a full two years before3 she becomes a Jefferson (September 21st 1965); The Rolling Stones score their last #1 LP for 27 years with ‘Goat’s Head Soup’ (September 21st 1973); John Lennon and Geffen Records announce that the Beatle is to return after four years of being a ‘house husband’ (September 22nd 1980); the infamous ‘Paul Is Dead’ rumour is first mooted in print by an Illinois University journalist (September 23rd 1969); 10cc release their debut single ‘Donna’, a #2 hit (September 23rd 1972); The Hollies score their second #1 single with an advert-promoted re-issue of ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’, entering the band in the record books for the longest gap between #1 records (25 years and 65 days – ‘I’m Alive’ from July 1965 was the other, September 24th 1988); Wings play a forgotten charity gig where the money goes to a very unlikely cause – the restoration of water-damaged artwork in Venice! (September 25th 1976); The Beatles release their swansong album ‘Abbey Road’ (September 26th 1969); Jimmy McCulloch – Wings guitarist between 1976 and 1978 – dies of a drugs overdose a year after leaving the band for work with Small Face singer Steve Marriott (September 27th 1979) and finally, much loved Hollies single ‘King Midas In Reverse’ is released (September 27th 1967).

Anniversaries for week three (September 28th-October 4th) include Dewey Martin (drummer with Buffalo Springfield 1965-68) who would have been 68 on September 30th and Phil Oakey (singer and synthesiserist with the Human League 1978-present) who turns 55 on October 2nd. Anniversaries of events include: Janis Joplin announces that she is to split with backing band Big Brother and the Holding Company (September 28th 1968); Record label A and M sue George Harrison for late delivery of his debut album for the label ’33 and a Third’ despite the fact the guitarist is ill with Hepatitis C! (September 28th 1976); The Rolling Stones begin their first ever tour, supporting The Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley who are both playing a rare UK tour (September 29th 1963); The first CSN album goes gold, the first of four straight albums for the trio with and without Neil Young on board (September 30th 1969); Meanwhile the Grateful Dead receive their first ever platinum disc a full 22 years after their debut! (It’s for ‘In The Dark’, September 30th 1987); 63 Stones fans are arrested after more than 2000 storm the Sports Palace in Milan in revenge after failing to get a ticket, the last of the band’s big riots (October 1st 1970) and finally, Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ album becomes the first of his solo records to go gold (October 1st 1971).

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