Friday, 18 June 2010
♫ Hello and welcome to the 65th issue of News, Views and Music. Wow, if we were a person we’d be retired by now (or at least we would be until the latest ridiculous money making scheme by the Coalition government who still insist on paying over the odds for nuclear missiles pointed at Russia). Incidentally, we’ve just read in the paper that Britain now has an economic AAA rating: yes, that’s right, we have to throw our expensive manuals aside, stay in all night and wallow in the free luxury of Alan’s Album Archives for hours, while continuing to boost the economy by buying records! What do you mean that isn’t what it stands for?! Oh yes, in other news, we’re well on our way to making 1300 views so please keep that stat-counter ticking over for us. There’s no issue next week by the way due to a rather heavy of weeks coming up, but rest assured that there’ll be another issue soon (and what’s more there’ll be two anniversary columns this week to make up for it). Happy reading!
♫ Beatles News: A few years ago Paul McCartney had never played a festival: The Beatles had given up touring by the days of Monterey and Woodstock and alas huge outdoor festivals were out of vogue by the time Wings came along (who would have aced them all in their middle incarnation). But Macca’s latest band goes hand in hand with festivals: on the back of appearances at Glastonbury and V Festival comes The Isle Of Wight 2010. From the half an hour or so footage shown on ITV 2 last week Macca’s voice is fading somewhat after a lengthy European tour but made up for it by adding some twists and turns to the set-list, performing Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da for the first time since 1968 and adding lots of the Beatles songs made popular with the younger festival audience via Beatles RockBand (Back In The USSR, Helter Skelter, etc).
♫/♫ CSN/Hollies News: Former Hollie and CSN man Graham Nash is now an OBE!!! In a good year for Graham, who became a twice inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame earlier this year, his name was announced in the Queen’s birthday honours list –although interestingly it’s in the ‘diplomatic and overseas’ category rather than ‘entertainment’ that Graham’s been given the award. Graham was born in Blackpool (‘by the side of the Northern sea’) although he became an American citizen after joining CSN in 1969. Presumably that means Graham has been awarded as much for his charity work (the No Nukes concert, the Berlin Wall, various environmental campaigns, etc) as much as for his songwriting. Congratulations Graham – now how about giving Allan Clarke and Tony Hicks an award?!
♫ The Who News : I’m still in shock from the results of the ‘I’m In A Rock and Roll Band!’ poll on BBC 2 last week. Led Zeppelin best band? Jon Bonham best drummer? Robert Plant best frontman? Who the heck was voting for this – the Led Zep fan club?! Whilst I disagree with practically all the top 10 choices we had to vote from (no George Harrison or Neil Young in guitarists? No Liam Gallagher or Roger Daltrey in frontmen? Only the Beatles and Stones eligible out of the whole of our AAA list for best band? What’s going on???) the only good news of the night was a top three placing for the Beatles (who lost out to – Led Zep? What?!?) and that Keith Moon made it through to the last three in best drummers. A very worthy choice and well argued for by, err, TV chef Lloyd Grossman that well known animal of rock and roll, a fact which seemed to rubbish Moony’s credibility in the eyes of the panel however good the speech. We demand a recount!!!!
♫ ANNIVERSARIES: Happy birthdays to the following members of the AAA crew (June 21st-27th): Ray Davies (lead singer, rhythm guitarist and songwriter with The Kinks 1963-93) who turns 66 on June 21st; Clint Warwick (bassist with the original Moody Blues 1964-66) who would have been 61 on June 25th; John Illsey (bassist with Dire Straits 1983-93) who turns 61 on June 26th and Bruce Johnston (keyboardist and bassist with The Beach Boys 1965-71 and 1979-present) who turns 66 on June 27th. Anniversaries of events include: The rather grandly named Celebration of Light Festival takes place featuring AAA bands enjoying their time back in the spotlight after their respective ‘wilderness years’: The Beach Boys and Pink Floyd (June 21st 1971); Mick Taylor releases his first (and only true) solo record five years after leaving The Rolling Stones (June 22nd 1979); Mark Chapman pleads guilty to murdering John Lennon the previous year (June 22nd 1981); John Entwistle marries Alison Wise during time off between Who tours (June 23rd 1967); Ringo travels to Nashville to record his second and decidedly country-orientated album ‘Beaucoups Of Blues’ (June 23rd 1970); A good fortnight for ex-Beatles as George Harrison’s second album ‘Living In The Material World’ dislodges Paul McCartney’s fourth album ‘Red Rose Speedway’ at the top of the US album charts (June 23rd 1973) – the same day 10cc score their first #1 UK single with ‘Rubber Bullets’; John Lennon publishes his second book ‘A Spaniard In the Works’ (it was the usual rubbish, but it didn’t cost much according to the rear sleeve) (June 24th 1965); Jefferson Airplane score their biggest hit for the next 20 years when ‘White Rabbit’ is released in America (June 24th 1967); It’s the start of an era with the first really big rock show on America’s West Coast at the Hollywood Bowl. AAA stars taking part include The Beach Boys and The Byrds (June 25th 1966); The Beatles take part in the ‘One World’ satellite link-up – the first time ever that Britain had seen live footage of different countries in their living rooms. The fab four, representing the UK, wrote their latest single ‘All You Need Is Love’ specially for the event (June 25th 1967); The Rolling Stones play their first gig with Mick Taylor in Rome, just eight days before his predecessor Brian Jones drowns (June 25th 1969);Arguably the most successful EP of all time – The Beatles’ ‘Twist And Shout’ made up of songs from 1st album ‘Please Please Me’ – is released (June 26th 1963); The Rolling Stones score their first of many UK #1s with ‘It’s All Over Now’ (June 26th 1964); The Stones are also busy the next day, June 25th 1964, filling up the whole panel of Juke Box Jury – the TV company receives several complaints for their ‘monosyllabic’ responses (just as well they never saw Big Brother in the 1960s!); The Denver Pop Festival – a largely forgotten precursor to Woodstock – takes place on June 27th 1969 featuring CSNY and finally, The Fillmore East – home to the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane among others – closes its doors on June 27th 1971.
And for the second week (June 28th-July 4th): We send our happy birthday messages out to Adrian Wright (synthesiser with The Human League 1981-86) who turns 54 on June 30th. Anniversaries of events include: four rather special #1s on June 28th in various years – CSN’s 1st eponymous record is #1 in America in 1969, Wings are at #1 with their ‘Venus and Mars’ record in 1976, 10cc are at #1 in the singles chart in 1975 with ‘I’m Not In Love’ and Paul McCartney is #1 with ‘Coming Up’ in 1980; the first ever Lennon/McCartney song to enter the US charts peaks at #77: Del Shannon’s cover of ‘From Me To You’ (June 29th 1963); Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are in Brixton Prison on drug possession charges and are facing three months and a year respectively (June 29th 1967); The first Hyde Park concert takes place starring Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull (June 29th 1968); The Beatles record ‘She Loves You’ (July 1st 1963); three years later on that date The Beatles play a memorable set in Tokyo’s Budokan – now re-created for the middle of the ‘Beatles Rock Band’ game (July 1st 1966); John and Yoko’s first joint project – an art exhibition – takes place in London (July 1st 1968); original Stones guitarist Brian Jones drowns in his swimming pool at the age of 28 (July 3rd 1969); Brian Wilson sits in at a Beach Boys gig for the first time since his breakdown led to him quitting touring in 1964 (July 3rd 1976); The Beach Boys play their first free ‘Independence Day’ concerts (July 4th 1980) and finally, Dire Straits begin a record 10-day run at Wembley Stadium (July 4th 1985).
♫ Doggone it, those canine songs just keep coming up on my mp3 player – ever since Elvis Presley scored big with ‘Hounddog’ every musical pooch seems to want to get in on the act of an AAA album. So this week in a specially extended version of the top five, we celebrate the groups and artists who went to the dogs...with some added commentary by the AAA resident canine Bingo (with a big hello to Max The Singing Dog).
6) Neil Young: “Old King”, a track from “Harvest Moon” (1992): Other than rock and roll, the genre with the biggest canine count is surely country, with that my-little-ol’-dog-just-died genre that proved so successful/awful depending on your taste. Neil adds his own take on the genre for his ‘country’ album, recounting the story of his genuine pet Elvis, who faithfully guarded Neil’s many ranches for him while he was away and died suddenly while out walking with his master. Neil changed the name of his pet to ‘King’ , just in case furious Elvis fanatics got the wrong end of the stick about the death scene in the song. No Bingo, you’re not old, just sleepy. Key line: “I had a dog and his name was King, I told the dog about everything”
5) Belle and Sebastian: “Dog On Wheels”, a track from “Push Barman To Heal Old Wounds” (1996): A song about a childhood toy from B and S, pictured on the cover of the original ‘Dog On Wheels’ EP from which this song was taken. Somewhere the dog on wheels confident to the narrator’s childhood’s angst and woes gets muddled with the present day narrator’s latest troubles in his love life. A typical yearning and nostalgic melody from Stuart Murdoch is matched by a typically weird set of lyrics that nevertheless conjures up perfectly the idea of man’s best friend always being there for his master. Come back Bingo, where have you gone now?! Key lyric: “When I was a kid I was astounded by you, now I’m still a kid I am indebted to you”
4) The Monkees: “Gonna Buy Me A Dog”, a track from “The Monkees” (1966): We’ve had the death scene and the childhood companion, now the theme that the narrator’s pet loves him more than his girlfriend. At least, I think that’s what’s going on in this song, it’s really hard to tell what with Micky and Davy giggling over the top of it and making jokes. Not that ‘Dog’ could ever be anything other than hilarious in its very nature, what with lines like ‘she used to keep me so contented, but I can teach a dog to do that!’, although writers Boyce and Hart swear they wrote it as a genuine ‘straight’ song. How this song ever ended up being released given the ridiculous amount of originally unreleased gems in The Monkees’ canon is anybody’s guess, although true to the spirit of the TV series the outtakes were used instead of the ‘proper’ version. Stop making me laugh Bingo! Key line: “I’m gonna buy me a dog because I need a friend now”
3) Cat Stevens: “I Love My Dog”, a track from “Matthew and Son” (1967): A dog song on similar lines, written by a Cat, err, Cat Stevens (hang on....) Cat’s first single, released when he was all of 17, is a rather sweet and naive song in stark contrast to what’s to come later although its idea that the narrator’s love may fade for his girl but never for his dog is quite cute. A classic catchy chorus and a typically (for this era) lush arrangement gets this song out of the dog house. Ahh Bingo, I love you too! Key line: “All he needs is love and that he knows he’ll get”
2) The Beatles/Paul McCartney: “Martha My Dear” from “The White Album” (1968)/”Hey Bulldog” from “Yellow Submarine” (1969)/”Jet” from “Band On The Run” (1974): Macca was well known for his love of animals, even in the days before he met Linda. Many Beatle interviews have recalled since how Paul’s pet sheepdog Martha often broke the ice between the Beatle and ordinary mortals, becoming as popular within the Beatles fan club as her master. ‘Martha, My Dear’ is the canine’s only real appearance in song, although her name is just an excuse for a typically breathless piece of made-up Macca nonsense. Cracking tune though. John Lennon was less well known for his love of pets (although he did keep cats in later life) and his take on the subject ‘Hey Bulldog’ is a much more acerbic and possibly self-hating diatribe set to a pounding beat and nonsense lyrics. To be honest, title aside, it has very little to do with dogs at all, but we couldn’t avoid including it on this list given Paul’s quite simply amazing dog impression on the fade-out! Finally, Macca moved on to owning a group of black Labradors after Martha died and the eldest – named Jet – became the subject matter of one of Wings’ better rockers in the 70s. Another confused lyric, involving a suffragette and apparently a diatribe against the media attacking his wife (and this was before Heather Mills!), means you probably wouldn’t call this a ‘dog’ song, but you can imagine Macca calling his dog in with the chorus of this song (‘Jet!...oohooooh ooohooooh...Jet!’) Stop doing that Bingo, you silly dog!
1) Pink Floyd “Seamus”, a track from “Meddle” (1971)/”Dogs”, a track from “Animals” (1977)/The Dogs Of War”, a track from “A Momentary Lapse OF Reason” (1987): Even that long list can’t compete with the most dog-loving band of all however. Pink Floyd don’t strike you as natural dog owners (most of them infamously owned cats as ‘political statements’ about being ‘apart from the pack’) but the idea of a dog-eat-dog world still inspired quite a few tracks from the band. ‘Seamus’ is the joker in the pack, a bluesy instrumental starring fellow AAA member and Small face Steve Marriott’s dog howling his way through the song. Seamus was apparently taught by his master to howl whenever music was being played and although Steve never got round to including Howling Dog-Wolf on his records, David Gilmour decided he’d ‘borrow’ the dog one day when he was house and dog sitting for Steve, his near-neighbour and a star was born. That’s a different dog you can see in the ‘Live At Pompeii’ film, by the way, the one and only time the band tried doing the song live. The second song on our list, ‘Dogs’ is an 18-minute opus from an album that divided all of humanity into dogs, pigs and sheep: dogs were the loners, a slightly crazy lunatic bunch that didn’t believe what the ‘pigs’ were telling the ‘sheep’, but it never did them any good, what with their dying alone and being ‘dragged down by the stone’. Finally, ‘Dogs Of War’ is a far less convincing stab at the same idea, with unseen military commanders unleashing their ‘pack’ of lies onto us all. What are you doing in the pub, Bingo! Put down that glass!
So, as the doggedly determined canine tries to sing ‘New York New York’ to annoy The Face Of Bo one last time, we say good bye for another issue. We’ll return next time, when David Cameron’s budget will be out and he’ll yet again be in the dog house with us...