Friday, 29 October 2010
♫ Hello again our faithful readers. You have been faithful while we’ve been away haven’t you? You haven’t been visiting any (shudder) Spice Girls fan sites or anything?!?!? Sorry we’ve been away so long. Whenever I go away I seem to catch something and yes, this time it was a stomach bug that laid me low (not fun on top of chronic fatigue syndrome with its own digestive difficulties!) That was a shame in more ways than one because there’s been a treasure trove of news items to tell you about, including no less than three Beatles-related boxes, a cornucopia of radio programmes and a long line-up of AAA members appearing on Jools Holland’s latest series. In the meantime, our website hits have now reached a mind blowing 2200 (in just a little under a year!), our Youtube videos have become talking points of the nation (well, in two homes dotted around the UK!), the last episode of the Rob Brydon show clearly stole its ideas from our time travelling April Fool’s day editions (someone on the production team must be a fan – and we loved their joke about ‘punk opera’ being big in 22120!) and we are due to start trading at the end of next month. We’ve said it before (dozens of times!) and we’ll no doubt end up saying it another few hundred, but things really do seem to be taking off here at the AAA! In the meantime, here’s a large helping of news releases from the past month...
♫ Beatles News: A whole bundle of Beatles news for you this week. Let’s start at the point where most of the post-1970 fans came in – the ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ sets (or ‘Beatles 1962-66’ and ‘1967-70’ to give them their official names). Both sets have been reissued using the remastered sounds taken from last year’s Beatles re-issue frenzy, although is it just me or have Apple missed a trick by leaving the tracklisting unaltered? The biggest market for these Beatle comps currently is the Beatles RockBand market – and curiously hardly any of these songs are actually featured in the game. And there’s still the small matter of the hour and a half of space between the four discs where new material could have been added (although at least the price tag has come down a bit from the £20 plus of the old CDs thank goodness...)
Next up, the Lennon ‘Signature’ box set did come out in time for the Beatles’ birthday at the beginning of the month as revealed on these pages, although sadly early reports that ‘Live Peace In Toronto’ and ‘Menlove Avenue’ would be included on the set were wrong (darn it Yoko, have a heart on Lennon collectors who are still spending a fortune tracking down these two rarest official Lennon releases!) The price tag of £130 for the box seems a bit on the ungenerous side too, especially given that the eight CDs are retailing at £11 in most shops, making it cheaper to buy them individually....
Although if you did you would be missing out on what is rather an interesting little addition to the Lennon Anthology box, a 50-minute CD of home demos and outtakes, well known to collectors of the radio series The Lost Lennon Tapes but never given an official release until now. The highlights include a sumptuous version of ‘Beautiful Boy’ with Lennon’s entourage in Bermuda wishing him ‘goodnight!’ and John showing concern over his son’s cold plus the rare and never finished 1980 songwriting demo ‘One Of The Boys’ and the Rishikesh-era White Album demo ‘India’, on which Lennon sounds far more excited and pleased with his time with the Maharishi than on his later, scathing songs.
The best release of all in the box, however, might well be the ‘Double Fantasy Stripped Down’ album studied in detail in our last newsletter. All I can say is fantastic: my least favourite Lennon album of all is now slowly becoming my favourite, thanks to the new production which strips away most of the double-tracking (lennon hated the sound of his own voice and nearly always added lots of overdubs that I, for one, don’t think matches up to the rugged honesty of Lennon’s lone voice), that awful anonymous choir that warbles through most of the record and some truly awful then-contemporary 1980s synthesiser sounds. There’s also some fascinating snippets of Lennon dialogue, buried so badly in the mix of the original I’ve never been able to work them out, and a much snappier, bare-bones production that suits this album of a house-husband revelling in family life a million miles away from his screaming beatlemania-filed youth. I still have some quibbles – why replace Yoko’s excellent piece of new wave ‘Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him’ with an awful dirge of synth-strings and sickly vocals? And why take out the sterling percussion middle-eight on Yoko’s ‘Kiss, Kiss, Kiss’ and replace it with some noisy guitar? Yuk! Still, very interesting and let’s hope they repeat the experiment with some of Lennon’s other albums (last week’s review ‘Mind Games’ would sound great without the cold and detached production values and ‘Walls and Bridges’ would benefit too!)
Elsewhere, Paul McCartney and Wings’ seminal set ‘Band On The Run’ is being reissued in a fortnight’s time (2nd November) as revealed in-depth in our last newsletter and to promote it Paul is making a rare appearance on Jools Holland’s ‘Later’ programme this week, only playing songs from that album (Tuesday 26th October, with an extended version of this live programme – no, we can’t work that one out either! – on Friday, October 29th, BBC2). So that’s ‘Jet’ and the title track taken care of – but will Macca get a chance to add in an extra rarity perhaps, such as the single ‘Helen Wheels’ (surprisingly never played live by Wings or any of Macca’s bands), ‘Bluebird’ (last heard live in 1976) or ‘Mrs Vanderbilt’ (a surprise entry to his concert setlist last year)?
And for any remaining Beatlemaniacs who still have some money left, the George Harrison and Ravi Shankar box set ‘Collaborations’ was a surprise release this week, made up of three CDs and a DVD. To be honest, there’s more things Ravi than George about this box which contains a CD and DVD of the George-sponsored ‘Music Festival From India’ (1976) and CDs of the rare records ‘Shankar Family and Friends’ (also featuring Ringo, 1974) and George’s last release before his death ‘Chants Of India’ (1997). Ravi has overseen the new product but the driving force behind it is apparently George’s widow Olivia, who also contributes sleevenotes detailing the two men’s close friendship, whilst Hollie Tony Hicks’ son Paul (a key engineer on many of the recent Beatles and Hollies reissue frenzies done at Abbey Road) is somewhere on there too.
Poor Ringo doesn’t get his own box this Christmas, although he is one of the key figures on the ‘Apple’ box set due for release next week, producing the most out-there and unexpected CD of the bunch: classical pieces by John Taverner! We covered the set in detail in our last newsletter if you want more detail, suffice to say for now it features all the earliest non-Beatles LPs issued on the label featuring James Taylor, Mary Hopkin, Billy Preston and best of all the first four Badfinger records as well as oddities and obscurities from other lesser known bands. The new information we have for you is that Peter Asher made a rare TV appearance on Jools Holland last week promoting it (along with the reformed Heaven 17, a note for all Human League fans reading this!) For those who don’t know, Peter Asher was pretty high up in Apple at the time – he’d spent most of the 60s as half of the duo Peter and Gordon, scoring big with unreleased Lennon/McCartney songs and back when Apple was launched was all set to be Paul’s brother-in-law, so was in the perfect position to help the Beatles’ vision of mixing business with pleasure and helping young struggling artists ‘without them having to go down on their knees in some man’s office’. We haven’t seen Jane Asher’s brother make a public appearance in years, perhaps even decades, so this unbilled appearance was a rare treat, even with Jools Holland asking all the inane questions he usually does. Nice footage of a moody John and Paul and a young James Taylor too – well worth catching from I-player if you missed it!
Finally, there’s been a plethora of Beatles-related radio programmes while we’ve been away. BBC6 have just finished repeating the rare 12-part ‘Beatles Story’ made in 1972 – the first real retrospective on the fab four – which makes for fascinating listening simply to see how the various stories we know backwards have changed over the years since the band and friends first told them (and how much the band are treated as a ‘unit’, rather than most of the documentaries post-Lennon which all but make the others out to be his backing band). Hearing each programme begin with a full five minutes of non-Beatles music (representing what else was in fashion at the time, such as The Byrds’ ‘Mr Tambourine Man’) and ending with a full five minutes of a classical music-inspired arrangement of a Beatles song is an unsettling experience fort modern listeners, however. Still, quite a coup for BBC6 and it’s unfortunate they hid this show away in a 3am ‘archive’ slot (although to be fair their 3 and 4am shows are the only listenable thing on the station at the moment which still concentrates too much on daft modern music that won’t be remembered at all a year from now). STOP PRESS: BBC6 have got their dates wrong, not for the first or last time, and The Beatles Story actually runs one day out from the way it is billed on everyone’s set top boxes. So make sure you download the first ‘Mancunian Way’ doc as well (see Hollies/10cc below) or you’ll miss finding out what George and Ringo were up to in 1970 and 71!
Radio 4 also broadcast an odd but intriguing little programme to celebrate Johnny Rhythm’s birthday, ‘The Lennon Visitors’. Comedian Alexei Sayle – best known in our house for appearing in a 1985 Dr Who story – took a recording unit to Lennon’s childhood house (now a National Trust property) in Liverpool and asked the many visitors and bemused live-in resident why they were there and what they thought about it (the most famous interviewee being Bob Dylan). Alas, I think it’s even disappeared from I-player now, but keep an eye on it being repeated (especially around December 8th, the 30th anniversary of Lennon’s death). Finally, BBC6 also repeated the fascinating 2004 documentary ‘When John Met Paul’ about the infamous Woolton village fete where the Quarrymen played live and an intrigued 14-year-old Paul met up with their 16-year-old lead singer. That should still be available if you missed it and is well worth hearing, although spending a full hour on just one day does lead to several rather odd and less than revealing comments from those who were there at the day (like most village fetes I know, most of the acts that day were as pointless and boring as a Cliff Richard promo video).
Oh and congratulations to Brian Pendreigh, the winner of Mastermind a fortnight ago who got the highest score of the round on the subject ‘The Beatles’ with 15 correct answers. Err, we got 11 (without research though, I might add).
♫The Byrds News: Congratulations too to Iwan Thomas, who scored 14 points on The Byrds the following week. We got 10!
♫The Hollies/10cc News: What on earth can these two very different groups possibly have in common? Well, as well as being AAA members, personnel in both groups came from Manchester – and both are being profiled in a repeat of the BBC’s ‘Mancunian Way’ documentary on BBC6 this week. If I remember rightly, there were two series originally, focussing on the 1950/60s and 1970s/80s, but they’re being repeated as one single six-part series. The parts AAA readers will want are part two (featuring Graham Nash) and part four (featuring Eric Stewart) talking about their past. The shows are in the 3am documentary repeat slot and are in the early hours of Saturday, October 23rd and Monday, October 25th (look out for BBC I-Player repeats!) STOP PRESS: not for the first time, BBC6 have got their numbers wrong and the programmes billed aren’t actually what they state, so for Saturday read Sunday and Monday read Tuesday! Grr....
♫ The Kinks News: After almost a month’s delay, the budget re-issues of the Kink’s 1970s discs (then made for either RCA or Arista and now both on Velvel) are here! All albums from ‘Muswell Hillbillies’ (1971) up to ‘Word Of Mouth’ (1985) are back on our shelves at £7 each (or at least, that’s the selling price I’ve seen) and for me personally its a great way to buy up the first half of The Kinks’ 1980s catalogue which were nigh on impossible to buy not so long ago. We’re especially pleased that AAA classic album no 81 ‘Give The People What They Want’ is easier to find nowadays, giving Kinks fans no excuse not to buy it!
The 1980s Kinks aren’t to everyone’s taste but nor is modern-day Ray Davies it seems: Ray’s latest work ‘Collaborations’ is due out next month but has already been slaughtered by the critics who question why the ender Davies brother would want to re-record some of the finest recordings of any generation with a bunch of mis-fit collaborators. Mojo for one has nothing good to say about the record, giving it one star and claiming that the likes of Metallica joining in on ‘You Really Got Me’ is truly dreadful. Hmm, perhaps not one for the Christmas stocking then...
♫ Oasis News: BBC6 are listing Oasis as part of their ‘live music hour’ at 4am on Wednesday, October 27th. We haven’t heard this programme at the time of going to press, but it seems likely that itrs a repeat of the 20-minute ‘filler’ session from a very early Oasis in 1994 that’s already been repeated a few times this year. Featuring ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Rock and Roll Star’ this is the band as we remember them best – loud, proud and full of fiery feedback (and by ‘feedback’ we mean both the chiming guitars and Liam mouthing off at Noel!)
♫ Pentangle News: Another rare archive live set in the 4am BBC6 slot takes place on Saturday, October 30th, when Pentangle are in the spotlight (along with Al Green and SE Roge – who on earth decided to put those three into one programme?!) I’m not entirely sure which BBC ‘session’ this will be, but it seems likely that it will be Pentangle from their ‘reunion’ years in the late 80s when the band released a series of sorely neglected albums that are much better than collectors give them credit for (if not quite up to their 1970s heyday!)
♫The Who News: Finally, the world’s greatest live album has just got bigger and better! The – gulp – fourth CD issue of ‘Live At Leeds’ (AAA classic album no 33 on the list) is now a four CD set containing an extra live recording from the same tour and featuring pretty much the same set list (although like every concert by 1970s Who the show is meant to differ wildly, especially with Pete Townshend’s improvised version of ‘My Generation’). The deluxe deluxe edition is due to be released in November, making it a very pricey Christmas once again for Who fans!
ANNIVERSARIES: We’ve missed a few weeks so here’s some of the birthdays celebrated this month. First up, happy happy happy birthday birthday birthday to those born October 5-11th: Kevin Godley (drummer with 10cc 1972-76) who turned 65 on October 7th and two very different John legends John Lennon and John Entwistle (Bassist with The Who 1965-82) who would have been 70 and 66 respectively on October 9th. Anniversaries of events include: The release of the fab four’s first ‘proper’ single ‘Love Me Do’ (October 5th 1962); Jefferson Airplane add a new member, making his debut with a band after time as a solo performer – step forward Papa John Creach, a violinist in his 50s! (October 5th 1970); Art Garfunkel releases his first solo single, the moody ballad ‘All I Know’ (October 6th 1973); the same day Ringo scores his first #1 with the George co-write ‘Photograph’ (October 6th 1973); The Rolling Stones are in trouble again when the Rev Jesse Jackson (close supporter of the late, great Martin Luther King, the most important figure of the 20th century that wasn’t a musician) takes umbridge at lines in the Stones song ‘Some Girls’ (which, to be fair, pick on everybody!) (October 6th 1978); John Lennon wins his ‘green card’ (which, ironically enough, is blue) just in time for his 35th birthday, allowing him to stay in America despite his 1968 drugs bust (October 7th 1975); John and Yoko meet for the first time at the latter’s exhibition at London’s Indica Gallery on John’s 26th birthday (October 9th 1966); Sean Lennon, John and Yoko’s son, is also born on this date in 1975 – John’s 35th birthday! And finally, The Beatles receive their first ever gold disc, for ‘She Loves You’ a year and a week after their first ‘proper’ release (October 11th 1963).
Next up, October 12-19th: Happy birthday Paul Simon (who turned 69 on October 13th), Justin Hayward (guitarist with The Moody Blues 1967-present) who turned 64 on October 14th and Bob Weir (guitarist with The Grateful Dead 1965-95) who turned 63 on October 16th. Anniversaries of events include: The Beatles’ prestigious TV gig on ‘Saturday Night At The London Palladium’ (October 13th 1963); The Who release their milestone single ‘I Can See For Miles’ (October 13th 1967); Janis Joplin’s ashes are scattered off the coast of California after nearly a year of legal hold-ups (October 13th 1971); Grace Slick, then still with her first band The Great Society, makes her first on-stage appearance with the Jefferson Airplane after their singer Signe Anderson leaves to have a baby (October 14th 1966); Pink Floyd play their first major gig at the launch party for underground newspaper International Times (October 15th 1966); The Kinks release their all important follow-up to ‘You Really Got Me’, ‘All Day And All Of The Night’ (October 16th 1964); The Beatles make their first TV appearance, singing ‘Some Other Guy’ at the Cavern Club for TV show ‘People And Places’ (October 17th 1962) and finally, The Dick Lester film ‘How I Won The War’ starring John Lennon receives its premiere at London Pavilion (October 18th 1967).
Moving on – October 20th-26th: have a good ‘un Bill Wyman (bassist with the Rolling Stones 1962-89) who turns 69 on October 24th. Anniversaries of events include: An early riot at a Stones gig in France where 150 people are arrested for causing £1400 of damage to the stadium and nearby buildings (October 20th 1964); The Who – then still gigging under the name ‘High Numbers’ – are rejected after an audition at EMI (October 22nd 1964); Paul McCartney is given a special ‘rhodium’ disc by the Guiness Book Of World Records in honour of his long list of achievements with the Beatles, Wings and solo (October 24th 1980); Dire Straits release their second album ‘Makin’ Movies’ (October 25th 1980) and finally, The Beatles sell out by accepting MBEs from the German-ancestor Queen Elizabeth II (October 26th 1964).
And finally, for October 27th-November 2nd: Happy birthday to Denny Laine (guitarist with The Moody Blues 1964-66 and Wings 1972-79) who turns 66 on October 29th. Anniversaries of events include: A young record buyer named Raymond Jones (who may or may not be our own columnist Nelson sent back in time from the future – see this year’s April fool’s day special) asks Brian Epstein for a record by The Beatles – My Bonnie – alerting the NEMS Liverpool store manager to his future career (October 28th 1961); The Who release their break-through single ‘My Generation’ a year after being rejected by EMI (October 28th 1965); John Lennon and wife Cynthia officially divorce (October 28th 1968); ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ breaks the record for longest stay on the album top 200 when it charts for a staggering 491st week! (October 29th 1983); Hotlegs – soon to become 10cc by adding Graham Gouldmann to the line-up the following year – make their live debut supporting The Moody Blues (October 30th 1970); The Beatles start their last stint at Hamburg’s Star Club (November 1st 1962) and finally, George Harrison releases the first solo Beatles LP which is also the first album to bear an ‘Apple’ catalogue number: his under-rated soundtrack to the ‘Wonderwall’ film (November 1st 1968).
♫ And so what better way to celebrate Halloween than with our top five celebrating all things ghostly, ghouly and downright scary? Apart from watching a Spice Girls video? (Those things give you nightmares!)
5) “Walpurgis Night” (Allan Clarke, ‘My Real Name Is ‘Arold’ 1972): Alright so those who know their German will recognise that this song isn’t about Halloween at all but the night of April 30th which is recognised in Germany as being the witches’ Sabbath and their equivalent of our rather Americanised version of Halloween on October 31st. Still, the images fit, what with Lucifer hailing (does he control the weather then?!) and evil prevailing. The Hollies singer is on his first sabbatical from the group and recorded this on his first and rarest solo LP in an American studio (still not available on CD, curses!) Intriguingly the band he left behind are busy recording their Halloween song at exactly the same time back in the UK and yet neither party will ever record a Halloween-themed song ever again. Spooky! All together on that chorus now: Ha ha ha ha!
4) “Witchy Woman” (The Hollies, song recorded during sessions for ‘Romany’ but unreleased until that album came out on CD 2004): What used to be one of the most obscure Hollies tracks of all time – never heard except on bootleg until five years ago – seems to have a life of it’s own. I recently saw a Halloween-themed disco CD featuring this song and heard it crop up on a film soundtrack too – could it be the world just wasn’t ready to hear The Hollies going ‘woo-hoo witchy woman’ but they’ve somehow been hypnotised into it in the past few years? Listen out on this track for Swedish singer Mickael Rickfors having perhaps his hardest day of having to decipher words from a foreign language (what is our Halloween ritual all about?!) and Tony Hicks’ metallic guitar parts that sound more like Led Zeppelin than The Hollies we know and love.
3) “Passing Ghosts” (Lindisfarne, ‘Fog On The Tyne’ 1971): This song about suddenly coming face to face with something from your past is perhaps the band’s finest example of their famous sweet-and-sour harmonies, giving this novelty song from Alan Hull and extra added weight. There’s some grave images here (literally so in the third verse when the narrator sees his own coffin), but the whole thing’s treated as a joke, as if time is playing some great game with us all and aging and killing us before we’ve had a chance to do the jobs on earth we were meant to do. Spooky.
2) “Ghost Town” (Cat Stevens, ‘Buddha And The Chocolate Box’ 1974): Come on, baby, let’s go down town. You see Cat’s just been telling me about a great town he’s come across where the Marx Brothers are still alive and up to mischief (picking on their more serious brother Karl in one of Catty’s funniest lines) and Walt Disney is there to greet us (he never really had his body put in a fridge when he died you know – that’s a modern myth!) With all those spooky goings on, it’s a wonder that Cat can actually hear the funky beat to sing along to.
1) “Wicked Annabella” (The Kinks, ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’ 1968): perhaps the definitive Halloweeny track, though, comes from The Kinks’ much heralded but poor selling masterpiece. In this collection of very English vignettes, there’s always a place for villains and Wicked Annabella, the village green’s resident witch, is given a terrific sneering quality courtesy of a terrific vocal from Dave Davies, rattling drums from Mick Avory on what sounds like cauldrons and Pete Quaife doing his best Bach impressions on the bass (no kidding – see our Pete Quaife special a few issues ago). It’s Ray Davies’ story-telling, though, that makes this song a two minute wonder, making this song sound quaintly middle-ages like and very 1960s all at the same time, suggesting perhaps how little our society have moved on from the days when we branded people as witches and tried to drown them (we just do so metaphorically nowadays – and no our campaign against the Spice Girls doesn’t count as all five are clearly witches).
Well, that’s it for another issue! Be sure to tune in next time – unless the goblins, ghouls and ghosts get to us first!