Friday, 4 June 2010
♫ Hello again and welcome to another ‘News, Views and Music’. We’ve spun the karmic wheel of life for another week and come up with a solo spin-off album from Lindisfarne, a documentary on The Hollies and gone all sophisticated for a look at art in the world of AAA. Our website counter suddenly leapt from 1180 to 1203 yesterday so thanks to all those who’ve been reading – we reached the last hundred views a lot more quickly than any of the previous 11 so it looks like success might be at hand at last! Either that or the stat counter is on the blink again anyway...
♫ Hollies News: I have to say I was quite impressed by the first of a two-part documentary on the third best-selling act of the 1960s. Despite the horrendous title, ‘They Aren’t Heavy They’re The Hollies’ managed to cover a lot of ground in its first 60 minutes without leaving much out – and without simply playing all the hit singles over and over again. Full marks for persuading drummer Bobby Elliott and bassist Bernie Calvert to speak about the band at length for the first time since the 70s – although it’s a shame the band glossed over Eric Haydock’s role in the band before they ousted him in 1965 (the only Hollies to have died so far, it’s a shame we never heard more of his side of the story – especially given that The Hollies were his band originally!) Even so there’s lots of interview gems we fans had not heard before, including more detail about working with the Everly Brothers for the ‘Two Yanks In England’ project (although the doc glossed over the fact that the Everly siblings came to England expecting The Beatles to drop everything and work for them and The Hollies were actually second choice!) and the early years of the band, with Graham Nash and Allan Clarke as a pair of 14-year olds singing in clubs under the name ‘Rick and Dane’. We also head a rare alternate take of classic B-side ‘So Lonely’ – and I don’t mean the demo on the box set but a fully unheard (to me anyway) version of the song! More of the same in part two please – which will be on Wednesday night June 2nd at 10pm.
♫ Oasis News: Hot on the heels of last week’s Oasis compilation comes news of a new Gallagher project – Liam is recording a new album with fellow Oasis members Gem Archer and Andy Bell under the name ‘Beady Eye’. As yet Liam hasn’t mentioned what his choice of material will be – presumably his own material after his strong run on the last three Oasis albums – or who the drummer is: will it be Ringo’s son Zak Starkey who left midway through sessions of the last Oasis LP ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ or someone else entirely? More news if and when
♫ Pink Floyd News: The band came close to a reunion after the three surviving members of the band – Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason – were asked to perform ‘The Wall’ by the owner of the New York ‘Yankee Stadium’. However, guitarist Gilmour has declined, leaving bassist Waters to perform the show with his own touring band. A tour of the album (AAA classic no 76 remember) will follow in Europe in March next year and in North America in September, the first time any of the band will have played ‘The Wall’ in its entirety since Waters played at the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In his launch for the tour Roger said that he was still up for reforming the band for another one-off gig like ‘Live 8’ a few years ago, but acknowledged that with keyboardist Rick Wright’s death in 2008 the Live 8 shows were a good way for the Floyd to bow out: ‘if that’s the way we draw a line under the band then so be it. I won’t be unhappy about that’.
Happy hopping birthdays to these old friends (June 7th-13th): Clarence White (guitarist with The Byrds 1969-72) who would have been 66 on June 7th and Billy Kreutzmann (drummer with The Grateful Dead 1965-95) who turns 64 on June 7th. Anniversaries of events include: The Rolling Stones release their debut single ‘C’mon’ and make their first British TV appearance on Thank Your Lucky Stars on the same day (June 7th 1963); John and Yoko appear on David Frost’s TV show (June 7th 1969); Brian Jones officially leaves The Rolling Stones less than a month before his death (June 8th 1969); Oz Magazine release their ‘school kids’ magazine and get charged under obscenity laws – John Lennon is among celebrities who help out with the fine (June 8th 1969); The Beatles’ legend reaches a new level when the band play their first post-Hamburg gig in Liverpool – just weeks before the band looked finished with three of the four members deported from Germany (and amazingly John Lennon is the one who stayed legal!; June 9th 1962); The Rolling Stones visit Chess Records where many of their favourite blues records were made – they add to the long list of hits with ‘It’s All Over Now’ (recorded June 10th 1964); The Beatles release a single and an LP with the same name – A Hard Day’s Night – and both make #1 (June 10th 1964); Janis Joplin plays her first gig with Big Brother and the Holding Company (June 10th 1966); The Rolling Stones, taking a break from recording ‘Beggars Banquet’ at London’s Olympic Studios, return to find the building on fire! (June 11th 1968); The Beatles receive their MBEs from the Queen at her ‘keen pad’ Buckingham Palace (June 12th 1965) and finally, Mick Taylor officially joins the Rolling Stones (June 13th 1969).
♫ Is music really art? Of course! Are album covers art? Erm, sometimes, at least they are when they’re painted by famous artists. And for the purposes of this top five we mean famous outside painting album covers – otherwise this list would be full of Hipgnosis album covers for Pink Floyd, 10cc and The Hollies! After all that hard work trying to get hold of a Magritte painting for the cover, it’s perhaps not that surprising that relatively few famous paintings or works by famous painters have ever made their way onto record covers.But we have (just about) been able to find enough to make up a top five for you:
1) Alan Hull “Phantoms” (1979): This album is even rarer than ‘Pipedream’ and suffered a similar contractual problem after another Magritte painting, ‘Le Musee De Roi’, was chosen for the cover and was thus equally unable to secure a CD re-issue until quite late in the day (2006 in this case). (You might know the album better as an album by the short-lived Alan Hull band ‘Radiator’ called ‘Isn’t It Strange’ from two years before that because, despite the billing, this album is almost completely the same – it was re-issued with the former name (and Magritte painting) to capitalise on the re-united Lindisfarne and their hit with ‘Run For Home’ in 1978). Alas this second Magritte choice isn’t quite as fitting as the first – while the spooky eyes staring out from the distance and the dark background with face in the middle sums up the title ‘Phantoms’ well, it doesn’t really fit with the slightly harsher and more aggressive mood of the album.
2) The Who “Face Dances” (1979): My, what a good year for art on album covers! This penultimate Who album of the original run featured a quite striking cover with paintings of all four band members (with Small Faces drummer Kenney Jones replacing Keith Moon for the first time) as drawn by 16 different painters. The project was masterminded by our old friend Peter Blake – designer of the ‘Sgt Peppers’ cover and Oasis’ ‘Be Here Now’ – who also drew the first drawing of Kenny Jones on the bottom left-hand corner. The remaining artists are a complete mix of those who were big at the time and forgotten now, those who were unknown at the time and big now and those who are still quite obscure, although a young David Hockney (who drew the far right illustration of Roger Daltrey) is most notable. The best paintings for my part are the highly realistic one of Roger (third across) by David Inshaw, the striking silhouette of John Entwistle (far right) by Patrick Caulfield and best of all the inner-workings-of-Pete-Townshend’s-mind (third across) by ‘Colin Self Of Norwich’ as he bills himself on the sleeve. The painting theme is rounded off by the back cover where each song title is listed on a tube of paint.
3) Paul Simon “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War”, a track on the ‘Hearts and Bones’ album (1983): OK, so the album cover is terrible – one of the worst instances of slapped-together cover art in the AAA canon (a thermal shot of Paul Simon out of focus). But one album track is a suitably impressionistic and surreal take on our old friend Magritte. Paul, suffering uncharacteristic writer’s block (see review no 85 for the full story), turned to everything he could get his hands on to get him writing again – including a caption for a photograph in a book he was reading about the painter. Inspired by the very factual way the caption writer had captured a moment in time, despite Magritte’s penchant for painting surrealistic and non-linear moments, Paul came up with an intriguing (if rather boring!) song that marries several different snapshots of the painter’s imagined time with his wife. The most controversial part of the song is the list of 1950s rock and roll and doo-wop records so beloved of Paul Simon in his youth – although quite what they’re doing in a song about a painter who was in his old age by then has never been fully explained!
4) The Beach Boys “Surf’s Up” (1971): Technically this isn’t a painting by a famous artist at all, but it is at least based on a famous sculpture called ‘The End Of The Trail’ by early 20th century artist James Earle Fraser. Ironically this famous American painting of a tired and weary traveller slowly making his way home on a horse is now probably better known in Europe for being a Beach Boys album cover! The cover was well recived by the music press of the time who saw it as one of the reasons the album was a ‘return to form’ – but, like the album, it’s actually a great deal less distinguished than predecessor ‘Sunflower’, being dark and murky and hard to see in detail. Still, the idea of a tired and bedraggled band trying to get back to where they once belonged does suit the suite of songs in some way.
5) Neil Young “The Painter”, a track on the ‘Prairie Wind’ album (2005): Erm, Err, Um, Oh alright then. Neil Young, he’s famous. And he did write a song about painting. At least it’s sort of about painting – there’s a list of colours and a painter standing back to look at her work in full rather than gazing at the small detail – a neat adjective for looking back at her life and realizing that ‘if you follow every dream you might get lost’. What a shame Neil didn’t use some of those ideas to spruce up what must be one of the most boring album covers of any AAA release: a sheet blowing in the wind against a prairie backdrop.
So, that’s that for another issue. See you next time for thrills, spills, chills and mandrills – oh no, sorry, that’s a line for our Dr Who issue someday. Err see you next time for new, views, reviews, blue suede shoes and music. See you then!