Saturday, 12 November 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 122A: New Band 'Skelmersdale Heretics'

This mini-newsletter is a special one dedicated to all of those of you living in the Ormskirk-Skelmerdale area. You all have my condolences and I hope you get the chance to move out soon. In the meantime there’s one good thing to enjoy: The Heretics. No, not the Lib Dems, but a brand new patent pending super duper new band playing their own magical mix of The Hives and The Doors. I’ve had the good fortune to hear some of their songs – you can hear them too on YouTube (just have a look for ‘Skelmersdale Heretics’ and you’ll soon find them). Those of you who are regular readers to my site will know that my musical taste runs out of steam round about 1990, but when my friend Mike ‘The Face Of Bo’ has a recommendation for me I trust his musical taste enough to listen. And I’m glad I did. For a new band the Heretics sound mighty good, full of fire and intelligence and a real voodoo groove that’s all too often lacking in the modern world.

The band are made up of:

Dylan Cassin - Lead Vocals and Guitar
Mike Jones - Guitar and Backing Vocals.
Danny Nind - Bass.
Scott Wilson – Drums.

If you live nearby, check them out – there’ll be performing at The Tanner and The Polo regularly – and if you don’t live anywhere nearby then get in your car and drive there! (If you’re really lucky you’ll also get to se the famous Skelmersdale sights of people in their pyjamas at the Asda!)  The song of theirs I’ve just been grooving away to is named ‘Lollygags’ and it’s a driving rocker that thankfully has nothing to do with Lady Lollygags Gaga. I’m especially taken with all the psychedelic lighting they used on their video and pleased to see they quote 60s psychedelia as an influence – I heard quite a few overtones of Hendrix in there as well. Alan’s Album Archives wishes them well – and if you make it big in the future guys, remember we helped make you who you are!

Friday, 11 November 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 121 (Intro)

November 11th:

Hello again, dear readers, and what a week its been! Firstly, thank you for the kind comments about the site – I see there’s more and more of you leaving posts for me on various sites around the internet where we’ve advertised Alan’s Album Archives and its lovely to hear positive feedback from people I’ve never actually met! We’ve also shot past 10,700 in record time which is very promising indeed so thank you for all the views – please carry on spreading the word if you think other people would like this site. Finally, I’ve also been able to seriously renovate the ‘Alan’s Songs’ section which has never worked properly till now. It’s still far from perfect and I’m in the middle of re-writing my song synopses and lyrics for you as I writew this – but you can now hear all 32 of my compositions alongside reading the articles (of course, I’d love to bring you full versions of the songs and albums up for discussion on this site – but as I don’t own the copyright, of course, I can’t at the present time so you’ll have to put up with my songs!) The only black cloud on the horizon is the Government messing things up again. I’ve just heard the sad story of a fellow fibromyalgia sufferer who committed suicide when their incapacity application was refused and I myself am being harassed something dreadful over the money I’m making from this site right in the middle of filling in the biggest form ever seen (it cost me £2.70 to print and another £2.70 to photocopy! Do they think I’m made of money? Presumably not since they cut my income in half ‘presuming’ that I‘m not going to pass their incapacity benefit rules!) I had to laugh though: because Britain isn’t officially a part of the latest G20 summit confernce on the EU (stop picking on Greece – its not their fault the international bankers wiped them out and we’ll be next) so the news had to report ‘gathered together here are some of the world’s most important leaders – plus David Cameron’. Says it all! Oh and another headlined ‘Cameron alarmed at UK’ (because of immigration figures). How about ‘UK alarmed at Cameron’?! (much closer to the truth!)


Beatles News: Ive finally seen the second half of the George Harrison Living In The Material World documentary and Im pleased to say this solo half was much better than the Beatles bit. The last half hour, taking in Georges battle against cancer, the intruder who broke into their Friar Park House in 1999 and Georges death in 2001 was superb and very, very moving: weve never heard widow Olivia or son Dhani talk at this length, ever, and I learnt more in George in that last part in one go than at any time since his death. Alas theres not really that much home footage in this section, barring the odd holiday footage, and sadly Georges always under-rated solo career seems to take a back seat in the documentary past the release of All Things Must Pass (the George Harrison album, for on e, is deeply under-rated). Theres some nice interviews with George that are either unseen or very rare, however, plus revealing and relevent interviews with all sorts of people including Paul McCartney, Michael Palin and Jackie Stewart, although unusually its Ringo recounting the last time he saw George alive whose the most moving (he was being his usual stroppy himself in the first half of the film). The film even ends with Long Long Long, my favourite of Georges many wonderful songs and all the more poignnat here for its talk about life, death band rebirth (even though they sadly cut it before the coda and leave us with a rather awkward silencve for the final minutes worth of credits). A success, although I still wish the first half had been better edited and that the break between the two halves had been better managed (having another 10 minutes worth of the Beatles break-up at the start of part two is a pain perhaps they should have started with All Things Must Pass?!)    

CSN News: David Crosby is the latest figure to do the Wall Street Shuffle to quote another band, visiting the protesters there this month (how typical Americans are actually allowed to protest outside the rtight buildings whilst in Britain we have to make do with St Pauls and even then are likely to be moved on). Alas, Crosby didnt get a chance to perform but he did chat to lots in the crowd apparently, looking very dapper in a bobble hat! Crosby-Nash bassist Kevin McCormack was with him on his walk.

Monkees News: The West End will be home to an extravaganza entitled Monkee Business sometime next year, with a plot loosely based on various Monkees TV epsiodes and all of the bands greatest hits. Alas, the musical isnt a re-telling of The Monkees story (which would make quite a good little story if told in a Jersey Boys Four Seasons kind of a way) and wont feature any input from our fab four but will at least make a change from the godawful lows of Mama Mia and We Will Rock You (whats the only thing worse than sitting through three hours of Queen? Sitting through three hours of poor Queen cover versions!) Thank goodness last years proposed Spice Girls musical seems to have gone all quiet!

Simon and Garfunkel News: Few albums get full documnetaries dedicated to them, but Simon and Garfunkels Bridge Over Troubled Water now has three! Alan Yentobs largely excellent series of Imagine programmes continues on Tuesday, November 8th on BBC One at 10.35pm with an hour full of S+G in 1970 rehearsing, recording and no doubt arguing, plus some newer interviews. The programme is likely to be simialr to the one included in the Bridge Over Troubled Water set earlier this year, which rather begs the question: why did no one celebrate the 40th anniversary of this album last year and why are two seperate companies celebrating its 41st this year?!

The Who News: Pete Townshends inaugural speech at what is planned to be a whole sderies of lecvtures in John Peels name was characteristically confusing, over the top, hackneyed, flamboyant, funny, piercing, to the point, flippant, emotional and revealing as youd expect. Pete decided to dedicate most of his speech broadcast on BBC6 and the BBC red button last week to the current musical climate and how the new bands of today are forced to usde the internet, rather than radio, to make themselves heard. Petes been criticised by Itunes and Apple for calling them vampires, sucking the blood of new musicians by giving them low pay and short screening time for fans to get to know their songs but the full speech shows Townshend being surprisngly respectful of the way the industry now works and the good things companies like Apple have done. Pete rightly adds that there is no one around to play the eclectic music that John Peel used to play, even though Peels programmes were less respected and had less followers anyway before he died thanks to the internet boom and his point about his masterpieces Tommy and Quadrophenia only taking off to radio stations open enough to play double albums back to back on radio stations was a good one: new artists simply dont have any second chances to make an impression anymore and have to make their impact within 30 seconds. Pete seemed to get a bit lost in his notes and made a few jokes that the selected audience didnt seem to get but, no matter, for the most part this first speech was a success and its a shame that Pete had to be cut off in his prime during the question-and-answer session because of the programmes slightly delayed start. Lets hope we get some similarly eloquent speakers in the future!    


ANNIVERSARIES: A big virtual reality birthday cake is on its way to AAA members born between November 15th and 21st: Gene Clark (Mr Tambourine Man with the Byrds 1965-66) would have been an amazing 70 on November 17th and Rod Clements (bassist with Lindisfarne 1970-72 and 1978-2002) who turns 64 on the same day (November 17th). Anniversaries of events include: The Rolling Stones make their US TV debut, singing ‘Get Off My Cloud’ on the ‘Hullabaloo’ show (November 15th 1965); Janis Joplin is arrested for using ‘vulgar’ language onstage during a gig in Tampa, Florida – the charges are later dropped; Dire Straits’ ‘Brothers In Arms’ breaks the then-record sales for Great Britain – three million sales – just two years after release (November 15th 1987); Small Face Ronnie Lane releases his first and most successful solo single ‘How Come?’ (November 16th 1973); The Beatles receive their first ‘silver’ disc – for high sales of only their second single ‘Please Please Me’ (November 18th 1963); Danny Whitten, guitarist with the first line-up of Crazy Horse, overdoses on drugs bought with the travel money band leader Neil Young has given him to fly back home, inspiring Neil’s ‘doom trilogy’ (November 18th 1972); The Rolling Stones enjoy their first UK #1 with ‘Little Red Rooster’ (November 19th 1964); Ray Davies interrupts a Kinks American tour for the second time to re-record a single line in one of the band’s singles to prevent it being banned from the airwaves (the ‘foggin’ line in ‘Apeman’, following a ban on the brand-name ‘coca-cola’ in ‘Lola’; November 19th 1970) and finally, Scott Haldin, a 19-year-old Who fan learning to play the drums, gets the shock of his life when Keith Moon collapses at a gig full of animal tranquilisers and the band sheepishly ask for any drummers in the audience to fill in for him – only Scott responds (November 20th 1973).

News, Views and Music Issue 121 (Top Twenty): AAA Youtube Clips Part #3

This week it’s the third of our three-part special delving into the magical world of YouTube. You may remember that we covered a top five YouTube clips on our site round about 100 issues ago. Well, since then I’ve discovered so much more (and users have posted so much more) so this week here’s an extended version of that original top 10 – to the extent that it’s now a top 60! Now it goes without saying that YouTube is endless and I dare say there are millions of things I’ve missed out – (so why not point them out on our forum?), but this is the best of what I’ver discovered so far. The only rules to be included on this list are that the videos have to be ‘exclusive’ to YouTube – ie not available officially in any form as of the time of writing (though a couple of Hollies clips only got in by the skin of their teeth – see above). The results below can be anything an AAA member has ever done, including TV appearances, music videos, chat show appearances, concerts (though they have to be rare performances or rare songs or we’d just be listing whole track listings for ‘Smile’), adverts, interviews, rare bits of audio accompanied by pictures, all sorts in fact. Some groups are here more than others of course – partly because some groups have released absolutely every shot of them ever taken already on DVD and there’s nothing there to find or perhaps partly because I haven’t found the right links to take me to them yet despite looking for every AAA member in turn every few months or so – perhaps we’ll be able to a ‘top 100’ list in another 100 issues time? To view these clips, click on the YouTube links we’ve included and they should take you straight there to the heart of the action (apologies to our readers in the future when some of these links may have been taken down, but as of October 2011 they are all present and correct). Oh and while you’re about it, if you’re a fellow YouTube member why not add me as a ‘friend’ on YouTube and you can have a look through my ‘playlists’ to see what was still interesting but not good enough to make the grade? (I’m Alansarchives if you hadn’t guessed!) We’ll return to our regular ‘top five’ column next week!:

20) George Harrison on Rutland Weekend Television 1978:

Before there were The Rutles there was Rutland Weekend Television, a loony comedy special by Eric Idle that was based around a fictional television station that only broadcast in Rutland, Britain’s smallest county. The idea was to have guests turning up to do something unusual while the hapless host (Idle, of course) tried to stop them. It was a bit like ‘The One Show’ but less excruciating to watch and with proper guests you’ve actually heard of too – witness Idle’s close friend George Harrison turning up and insisting that he wants to act the part of ‘Pirate Bob’ and has had it with singing. This clip isn’t complete alas but does feature all of the Harrison bits and pieces scattered throughout the one episode, trying to break into the action because he feels left out before a finale that looks as if George, at last, has given into his host’s demands and is about to sing a version of his biggest solo hit ‘My Sweet Lord’. However, it doesn’t quite turn out that way as you’ll soon see... All hail Pirate Bob! How this long lost ‘song’ never made it to an official album or even a B-side is anybody’s guess given the glint in George’s eye here...

19) CSNY “Down By The River” (Live at Big Sur, 1969):

Crazy Horse fans love this song done their way but me, I’m a CSNY fan and you can’t beat the full Stills versus Young guitar duels on this track, perhaps the greatest moment of all their regular four hour setlist back in 1969-70. This version, live in America, is perhaps the best of all, with Stills and Young halfway between an argument and a conversation on their duelling solos. The song gets through its many verses surprisingly quickly, leaving the way paved for some startling guitarwork that seems to go on and on, before somehow the band seem to sense their way back into the song for a last hurrah. No wonder Joan Baez, in the audience, is dancing her socks off – this is one of the greatest triumphs by one of our best ever bands. Now, why the hell wasn’t a CSNY version of ‘Down By The River’ included on the ‘4 Way Street’ CD?!

18) David Crosby and Venice “Guinnevere”:

Alas, this video seems to have been taken down so I can’t add a link for it, but I’m leaving space here in case it ever gets added again in the future. Venice are kind of an American King’s Singers who specialise in a capella covers of 60s/70s classics, mainly from the California singer-songwriter genre. Their version of ‘Guinnevere’, with the man himself on lead, is stunning, almost up there with the original ‘sacred’ CSN version for spine-chills and goosebumps and sounding much more like it comes from the ‘Camelot’ days in the lyrics. Let’s hope it gets re-instated sometime soon and it’s removal was just a mistake – I can’t see Crosby lobbying for its removal, what with all those Crosby-Nash concert bootlegs on YouTube and all!

17) Jack The Lad “Rockin’ Chair” (live on Old Grey Whistle Test 1975) and cinema advertisement for ‘The Old Straight Track’ 1974: (‘Rockin’ Chair’ aka ‘Sailed The Seven Seas’)

Lindisfarne off-shoot Jack The Lad are hard enough to find on CD never mind TV appearances, but luckily there is one and it’s a live performance of one of their very best tracks to boot, complete with a new arrangement that adds a lot more harmonies to the arrangement. It’s not up to the record perhaps (‘Jackpot’ is the album you want for this fine song about looking back in old age and wishing you hadn’t led such a boring ‘safe’ life) and it’s a later line-up of the group without the great Si Cowe on guitar but no matter – this is still a treat to see and almost impossible to find in any other form. As for the cinema advertisement, what’s even rarer than the Godley and Creme trailer? A trailer for a band that hardly anyone ever knew about! Here Jack The Lad (with Cowe still in the band) go on a series of adventures that include romancing a medieval lady until they find she’s wearing a chastity belt and doesn’t have the key (!), enjoying a medieval banquet (with Walter Fairburn’s head served as the main dish!!), becoming a ‘tough’ street gang a la West Side Story that suddenly end up maypole dancing for no reason at all (!!!) and ending up as football players for Newcastle United. I’m not sure if it actually made anybody want to buy the record (‘Straight Track’ didn’t exactly set the charts alight) but it made me chuckle.

16) Ringo and The Monkees order pizza (c.1986):

Poor Ringo. He’s been trying to get the ‘boys’ back together, so they can tell the whole world about the new exciting range of flavours at PizzaHut. He’s even travelled round the globe to reunite them. And they don’t seem to want to know, never mind show. But what’s this? They’ve actually agreed at last? We’re actually going to see a Beatles reunion?! Err, no, of course not – if they had then this clip would be number one in our list! But he does meet up with the recently reunited Monkees (‘wrong lads!’ gasps Ringo at the end, as if he’s only just noticed) who funnily enough are themselves a member short (Mike Nesmith must have preferred prairie chicken to pizza). Good fun for the collector, too, what with The Monkees doing a brief cover of ‘Twist and Shout’ and Ringo’s face appearing with the others, Monkees-style, at the end. Hmm Micky, Peter, Davy and Ringo – its got a nice ring to it...

15) Davy Jones “Gonna Buy Me A Dog” (from ‘Farmer’s Daughter’, 1965):

This is mind-blowing for Monkees fans. You know that Boyce and Hart song ‘Gonna Buy Me A Dog’ which Micky and Davy giggle their way through at the end of the first album? Here’s the straight version of it, recorded a full year before The Monkees took to the air and featuring none other than Davy Jones on lead vocals! This clip is from the fellow Colgems-run series ‘Farmer’s Daughter’ (if you know the Monkees episode with the audition tapes you may remember that The Monkees were grilled on the same set– much to Mike Nesmith’s amusement poking in all the drawers to ‘tell his friends about’ when he gets home!) As far as I can tell, Davy – as a ‘proper musician’ (miming to a guitar!) – is ‘helping out’ a couple who want to be stars but don’t know how to sing. Hmm a very Monkees plot that one. All we’re interested in, though, is how the song should have sounded on the first LP – and it sounds pretty daft anyway to be honest, even without the jokes and giggling. No wonder Micky and Davy goofed off on it when they had the chance as even these ‘professional’ actors seem to be struggling to keep a straight face!

14) Paul McCartney And Wings “Back To The Egg” mini-film (1979): (Intro/Getting Closer) (Again and Again and Again) (Arrow Through Me) (Winter Rose/Love Awake) (Goodnight Tonight) (Baby’s Request)

‘Back To The Egg’ was the one Wings album I never really got into (well, aside from the delightful ‘Winter Rose’) and yet I’ve always been fascinated by this series of film clips, which I first saw 20 odd years ago and which have stayed with me ever since. Basically it’s just Macca’s idea to do MTV a few years early and avoid having to appear on any more daytime TV, but there’s some fantastic imagery here too, especially the plain wooden flooring in a medieval castle (where the album was recorded) that pulls away to reveal...that we’re in space! Is this the past? Or the future?! Well, who knows, but it does make more sense of the curious album cover if nothing else! ‘Closer’ ‘Siam’ and ‘Arrow’ are performed in the studio, ‘Again’ in a field of flowers, ‘Spin’ in an aircraft hangar, ‘Baby’ on a fake WW2 military base (for god sake, why?), ‘Goodnight’ in a fake Edwardian radio studio and ‘Rose/Love’ in the castle grounds after a snowstorm. Most of these songs sound pretty good actually, better than I remember thanks to the loss of the hideous ‘Reception’ ‘Broadcast’ and ‘Rockestra’ tracks on the album that didn’t really work too well, although it’s a shame the barnstorming ‘So Glad To See You’ isn’t here. Do me favour, though, and give ‘Baby’s Request’ a miss – simply the worst McCartney song. Ever! Oh by the way, guess which one clip they chose to include in the ‘McCartney Years’ promos DVD set? Yep, got it in one!

13) Paul Simon TV Special (1977): (‘Something So Right’) (‘I Do It For Your Love’) (‘Loves Me Like A Rock’) (‘Still Crazy After All These Years’) (‘Old Friends’) (Paul talks to his psycho-analyst!) (‘The Boxer’)

To interrupt the then unprecedented five-year-gap between albums, Paul got together with producer Lorne Michaels and the Saturday Night live crew he’d been hanging around with to create this TV special. Charles Grodin co-stars as ‘Chuck’ the producer from hell, interrupting Paul’s flow, dismissing his music and making him spend more time writing inane introductions than he does rehearsing his performances. Paul suffers something of a nervous breakdown during the show but, thankfully, things all come right by the time of ‘The Boxer’ at the end. A wonderful spoof of what people come to expect from a TV show and the realities of what goes on behind-the-scenes away from the forced grins, it deserves to be so much better known. Most fans, though, will be more interested to learn that Art Garfunkel pops up on a version of ‘Old Friends’ for only the second time the pair worked together post-split and, even though we only get to see them during an interrupted ‘rehearsal’ (we never do get to see their long-promised performance), it’s both the funniest and most moving moment of the show. We also get a hilarious moment in the final minute, when the producer tells Paul the two of them to put their ‘petty differences’ aside for the sake of making it a better show – 45 minutes on from Paul proving he doesn’t need Arty at all. As for the other songs, I’ve never been a huge fan of the ‘Still Crazy’ record which - as Paul’s most recent offering - dominates proceedings here, but at least he chooses the best songs off it and a much more relaxed version of ‘I Do It For Your Love’ even improves on the original. Chevy Chase turns up at one point too, as himself, nine years before he works on the ‘You Can Call Me Al’ video with Paul, which is very similar in style to the humour on offer here.

12) The Byrds – TV clip for “Set You Free This Time” (1966)

Poor Gene Clark. There he is trying to sing arguably the greatest of his many bittersweet songs of love and heartbreak, pouring his soul into every word, only for McGuinn and Crosby to completely upstage him. I’m tempted not to tell you what they’re doing and let you see for yourself, so you can go see this clip first if you want...But in case you don’t want to wait that long or don’t get what’s happening let me explain. The two little scamps have swapped clothes for the occasion – that’s McGuinn in Crosby’s trademark tasselled cape on the left and Crosby peering down his nose through McGuinn’s trademark ‘granny specs’ on the right and trying not to laugh. So much for The Byrds not getting along in this period – this is the funniest thing I’ve seen since, well, some of the above clips! I doubt Gene was that amused though!

11) CSNY “Little Blind Fish” (Unreleased song from aborted 1974 sessions for ‘Human Highway’):

There aren’t many unreleased CSNY songs around, so it’s great to be able to report that the one I’ve found on YouTube is an absolute first class gem. It’s also the only song in the whole of the CSN/Y canon that features each member of the band taking a verse in turn (Crosby/Nash on the opening, then Stills, Crosby and Young with Nash underneath). For years fans didn’t even know who’d written this song, till Crosby resurrected it in jazzy form for his CPR band and showed that it was ‘his’– to be honest, I think I’d have guessed that the lyrics at least were by Cros anyway as they’re more of his characteristic soul-searching, looking-for-answers type of songs, with man as a ‘little blind fish’ lost on a raging stream of life. The third verse – the wordy one about ‘looking like a scarecrow’ that Neil sings – was dropped for the later CPR one, which is a shame because it’s quite unlike anything CSNY will ever do again (‘Whose in the cornfield looking all over?’ – sounds more like The Beach Boys and ‘Smile’!) Stills turns in a terrific guitar solo and in fact all four men rattle off their respective vocal parts with aplomb. I don’t think we’ve ever heard CSNY having this much fun with a song in any era – so its such a shame this little beauty never saw the light of day, even on the comprehensive CSN box set or Crosby’s own ‘Voyage’ set. Wonderful stuff.

10) Ray Davies in the BBC Play For Today “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Piano Player” (1970):

In which Ray Davies acts in a proper play for the only time in his career and does a magnificent job. He plays a pub piano player in a downbeat Music Hall convinced that he’ll solve all his many life problems if he breaks the record for the longest stretch of continual piano-playing and becomes a celebrity – much to the consternation of his family and friends who don’t really understand what he’s doing. This role really chimes with what we know about Ray and what he himself will go on to write about his life in ‘A Soap Opera’ and he really shines here as the humble, yet driven musician, so desperate for success he’ll do anything to get it – and then worry about it afterwards. If you remember ‘A Play For Today’, it was basically the BBC’s way of giving new writers their break back and follow the license fee remit of ‘doing something cultural’ (sadly we never did hear much from writer Alan Sharp – or indeed the ‘cultural’ idea again) and the ones I’ve seen tend to be the early ones in black and white (they never looked right in colour!), with poverty stricken souls with bad accents squabbling over everything, whilst leaving long gaping pauses where the dialogue should be. This play is typical of its genre and is heavy going at times, but is nevertheless one of the best I’ve seen, not least because of Ray’s great acting skills. Why on earth was he never asked to act again? As a bonus for fans, the beginning of part 5 features a rare and unreleased Ray Davies song ‘Marathon’, which isn’t great but is nevertheless a stepping stone for later things, whilst the complete play ends with a solo version of The Kinks song ‘I Gotta Be Free!’ from the ‘Powerman’ album – and very magnificent it is too!

9) George Harrison – demo for “It Don’t Come Easy” (1970):

I’ve always been suspicious about how much input Ringo had into easily his best solo song, given George’s name in the writing credits. In fact, ‘Easy’ sounds very much at one with the songs from his own ‘All Things Must Pass’ record the same year, a song about karma and only getting out of life what you put in. This early demo version, with George singing all the vocals, makes it clear just how close the song was to him – and the choruses’ shout of ‘Hare Krishna!’ (ducked in the mix but still there on the final master) does make more sense on a George song than a Ringo one, you have to say. There’s even a longer end to the song here too, thanks to George repeating the first verse again at the end and despite the sometimes ropey quality of the backing track (clearly a few overdubs away from magic) I still much prefer this version to the glossy finished one. George’s vocal is, of course, superb, despite wandering off the mike at times and, close as Ringo comes to ‘getting’ the song on the finished version, it sounds much more like George’s baby to me. Hmm, I wonder if any more ‘Ringo’ songs are out there with George’s vocal on? (‘Sail Away Raymond’ and ‘You and Me, Babe’ will do for starters!)

8) The Hollies – Assorted BBC Sessions 1963-72: (Nitty Gritty/Something’s Got A Hold On Me) (You Know He Did) (I Take What I Want) (That’s How Strong My Love Is) (I’ve Been Wrong (Before)) (Jennifer Eccles) (What A Life I’ve Led)

Or thirteen reasons to love YouTube and especially archivist CarrieAnne1967!! Let’s hope EMI is taking note of this article because last time I moaned about the lack of decent Hollies compilations from EMI we got the superlative ‘Clarke-Hicks-Nash’ box, which with its chronological order and unreleased songs was better than I could ever have hoped for. Anyway here goes...Why oh why oh why if EMI so badly need the money is there no ‘At The BBC’ sets from The Hollies to buy? Of all the BBC sessions I’ve heard by multiple AAA bands (and a few others) The Hollies offer the most altered, interesting and downright barnstorming versions of their songs every time and there’s easily enough of them around to fill a CD, if not 3 or 4 (just have a look at the above list!) And some of these versions are better than the originals: ‘Pegasus’ might be in ropey sound but it sounds more like The Hollies than the version on ‘Butterfly’ (no surprise really given that its ‘live’) and the band clearly relish rocking out on ‘Nitty Gritty’ and ‘Stay’. There’s even a song The Hollies never did on record to enjoy: ‘Shake’, another song made famous by Otis Redding and covered by an AAA artist; it’s not the best here but it’s better than, say, The Small Faces’ version. And we haven’t even mentioned the interviews yet which are highly revealing: Eric Haydock gets frozen out of his own interview spot less than a year before he gets booted out of the band and Graham Nash, during his last few months as a Hollie, talks about longing to get home after an American tour and is clearly still hurting after the lack of sales for ‘King Midas’(fascinating given that he leaves England for good in 1968!) Anyway, if you’re as much of a Holliesnut as me then this is like having a whole new Hollies album again – be like me and celebrate ‘Bank Hollies Day’ every day! And given the trouble EMI and Decca went to on their Beatles, Kinks and Who sets (legal nightmares all), surely The Hollies – on one label their whole recording life – wouldn’t give any more?

7) Crosby, Stills and Nash – outtakes from the first album (1969):

Flipping heck, don’t tell me these have all been taken down within the last month as well? I was hoping to bring you rare alternate versions of nearly all the first CSN album, including Stills swearing at the other two for interrupting him during a ‘cooking’ early take of ‘Suite:Judy Blue Eyes’, the backing track for ‘Marrakesh Express’ and a very different bluesy version of ’49 Bye Byes’, not to mention a hideous organ-based interpretation of Neil Young’s ‘Cinnamon Girl’ that doesn’t bear comparison to the Crazy Horse version at all. But sadly its 49 bye-byes until someone else uploads them all again. And record companies, if you really want to take these clips down then why don’t you release them properly – several thousands of hits must surely suggest to you that there’s enough of an audience for them out there! Peace and love, rant over.

6) Grateful Dead “Playboy After Dark” (1969) (‘Mountains Of The Moon’ and chat) (‘St Stephen’, ‘Turn Off Your Lovelight’ and chat)

What a meeting of minds this is! The very 1950s tuxedoed Playboy owner Hugh Heffner meets the tassled bearded hippie nutters head on for a surprisingly sympathetic discussion on both sides. Jerry Garcia is on absolute top form (as only Jerry can be!), telling Hugh the hippie scene has changed because ‘we’re all big people now!’, that Haight Ashbury is only a metaphor for something bigger and shouldn’t be revered as a place of worship and that the two drummers in the Dead represent ‘mutual annihilation’ and create ‘figure eights on their sides in your head’ (help, I even think I know what he means – this music’s obviously getting to me...). Jerry also jokes that the band want to play ‘absolutely...not!’, much to the incredulity and patent fear of Heffner, who still doesn’t quite know how to take these young upstarts. There then follows the most fragile version of ‘Mountains Of The Moon’ I’ve ever heard several bootlegs and official live albums down the road, back when keyboardist Tom Constanten was still in the band. There’s also a rollicking version of ‘St Stephen’, a highly apt song about generations wondering whether to make a clean break from the past or learn from their mistakes and take away the bad bits, which makes perfect sense in this context of inter-generational meeting. ‘Lovelight’ sadly gets caught short and fades under the credits midway through but no matter – the Dead have made their point very well. Legend has it that the Dead ‘doused’ the cameramens’ soft drink with acid during this shoot, which meant they were a bit ‘looser’ recording the show than normal... To borrow from my fellow YouTube poster GarfieldGoose ‘When I die, don’t bury me deep, lay two speakers at my feet, put two headphones on my head – and always play The Grateful Dead!’ Hilarious and moving in equal parts.

5) Pink Floyd – TV clips for “Apples and Oranges” and “Jugband Blues” (1967): (Apples and Oranges)

Talking of moving, here are Syd Barrett’s last two moments with the Floyd, both of which are captured for posterity by film crews across Europe, both of which were the videos we referred to for newsletter 118. In ‘Apples’ Syd begins to mime to the music and then stops, mid-line, leaving the camera crew to turn to an over-enunciating Roger Waters and Rick Wright, both going way OTT in an attempt to cover Syd’s latest break-down. In addition, I don’t think drummer Nick Mason has ever had so many close-ups as the camera tries desperately to keep away from Syd’s lost gaze and look anywhere but at the lead singer. ‘Jugband Blues’ is even more heartbreaking, sung live By Syd (I’m pretty sure this is the last ‘recording’ he ever did with the band, singing along to the backing tape), clutching his acoustic guitar like a safety blanket. As if the last appearance of Syd wasn’t enough, one of the Floyd’s best early songs is completely re-arranged in the middle, with the band playing a bunch of brass and woodwind to make up for the missing Salvation Army Band which goes on for much longer than the record too. The result, like the record, sounds like a madman’s take on ‘A Day In The Life’, but you can rfead so much emotion into that chaos. It’s that haunting coda that will stay in your head long after you turn the computer off though... ‘The sea isn’t green, and I love the green, and what exactly is a dream? And what exactly is a joke?’ (sung here by Syd with Rick’s harmonies, unlike the solo version on the record, which is particularly lovely). With that, Syd turns sharply away from the camera, to his left, walking away from the spotlight one last time, never to be seen with The Floyd again. A privilege to watch. 

4) Paul Simon – live at Queen’s College Hall, 1964: (Scarborough Fair/House Carpenter/The Old Gospel Ship/Pretty Boy Floyd) (A Church Is Burning/The Sound Of Silence/Leaves That Are Green/The Sun Is Burning) (Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound)

Alas the version I used to have in my ‘Favourites’ list has been deleted and the new version doesn’t have the fascinating last encore ‘Going To The Zoo’. Amazingly, this crazy Tom Paxton children’s song gets a better response from the audience than ‘The Sound Of Silence’ does! No matter though, you still get nine slices of joy that feature Paul Simon and his acoustic guitar the year – or arguably two years - before he became famous. All the ingredients for success are there already, but the audience haven’t quite caught on to Paul’s genius yet and he has to add several goofy song introductions which don’t really fit against the weight of the songs, the only times he sounds awkward and shy and a lad of just 22. The setlist includes remarkable versions of two originals, three cover versions that Simon and Garfunkel will do on their first two albums and three songs exclusive to this recording. All are fascinating, and it’s fun to hear Paul tackle ‘House Carpenter’ which is better known in AAA circles as a Pentangle song, but it’s the two originals that are clearly the best: ‘The Leaves That Are Green’ really is being sung when Paul was ‘22 now’ (but won’t be for long) and his impassioned vocal on ‘Silence’ might well make it the best recording ever of one of his most important songs, even without Art’s harmonies to make it palatable. Paul’s world will change forever within a year of this recording and it sounds like he knows it too, even if the audience don’t know it yet. Quite simply astonishing. How fantastic that this recording, featuring a then-little known singer playing bottom-of-the-bill, exists at all given how costly reel-to-reel tapes were back then. The sound quality is fabulous too – in fact, it sounds better than some Simon and Garfunkel albums!

3) Paul McCartney “James Paul McCartney” (TV Special 1973): (Big Barn Bed/Blackbird/Bluebird/Michelle/Heart Of The Country/Mary Had A Little Lamb/Little Woman Love/C Moon/My Love) (Uncle Albert-Admiral Halsey/April Showers (pub singalong)/Pack All Your Troubles (pub singalong)/You Are My Sunshine (pub singalong)/Gotta Sing Gotta Dance) (Live and Let Die/versions of ‘When I’m 64’ and ‘Yesterday’ sung by the public/The Mess) (Maybe I’m Amazed/Long Tall Sally/Yesterday)

Even for Paul McCartney and his large collection of unreleased films, this special had a chequered history. The only reason it exists at all is because of a legal dispute that saw TV executive Lew Grade (the boss of ATV songwriting which published the McCartneys music) challenge the fact that Linda (signed to a different company) ‘deserved’ half the songwriting royalties of his records, having never had a note published in the past. Time will show, of course, what a gifted songwriter Linda could be in her own right, but this was long before the likes of ‘Seaside Woman’ and ‘Oriental Nightfish’ came out. The courts unsurprisingly  found in Grade’s favour, but he agreed to let the court case drop if Macca allowed himself to appear in an hour TV special for ‘his’ network. He agreed, reluctantly, and that’s how ‘James Paul McCartney’ came about. A weird mix of live-in-the-studio footage, home movies of the McCartney clan at the pub, a song and dance tap number and some solo acoustic performances (plus some truly dreadful karaoke from the passers-by in the street), it’s such a heady, schizophrenic mix  it makes ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ seem normal! The Wings footage in particular, though, is great, with some rare songs you don’t often get to see such as ‘Big Barn Bed’ (overlaid with spoof questionnaires over the top that are actually quite funny: Paul likes ‘good’ music, has ‘two’ eyes and ‘many thousands’ of hairs!), the earliest live footage of Paul singing ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘C Moon’ back when they were brand new songs and the always-forgotten, nearly-best-ever-Wings-rocker ‘The Mess’. The song and dance number is a pain to sit through (Twiggy did it better, Macca writing the song for her the year previously) and the people on the street are awful, sure, but even the McCartneys down-the-pub clips are fascinating (and what a hammy lot the McCartney family are – see how many you can name from the lyrics to ‘Let ‘Em In’!) Not forgetting of course the big big big talking point of the time of the time: the first time any Beatles songs had been heard live from the band since the split (Wings only did ‘Long Tall Sally’ on their first tour, whilst John’s, George’s and Ringo’s first live dates weren’t till after this Easter Special!) – with the people at home hearing ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Michelle’ sung live by Macca for the first time since 1966 and ‘Blackbird’ for the first time ever! That alone makes this special worth it. Let’s hope Macca bungs this show on the back of his proposed ‘Red Rose Speedway’ deluxe re-issue this Christmas (‘Rose’ being the nearest album chronologically to this, even if Macca strangely only does two songs from it), just like he did with the unreleased ‘One Hand Clapping’ film on ‘Band On The Run’ last year.

2) Neil Young/Paul McCartney “A Day In The Life” (2009)

Worlds should have collided. Time should have stopped. Chaos should have reigned. Because there, on that stage, for one night only, was Paul McCartney singing ‘his’ part of one of the most celebrated Beatles songs for the first time since he recorded it for the Sgt Peppers album in 1967! Moreover this wasn’t just any cover version – it was Neil Young’s mesmerising version that substituted a whole orchestra with feedback and glowing harmonies that somehow managed to improve on perfection. OK so this video is of pretty grotty quality – if only they’d filmed it properly for posterity – so it’s hard to understand the magic from here, I agree. But if you get the chance see Neil’s Glastonbury performance of this song from the same year, occasionally repeated on BBC4 – amazing, with an ending that seems to go on forever but actually lasts about 10 minutes (still a long time for one single chord, even if it’s the most important and best known chord in music!) Never have Lennon’s lyrics sounded so weary and life so futile, never has Macca’s passage sounded like such light relief, never has feedback seemed so...right. Paul’s having the best time he’s had in years, Neil’s channelling the ‘spirit’ as only Neil can and that’s why this classic moment is no 2 on our list. Now come on Neil, put a version of your arrangement of this classic on an album (preferably with Macca) so we can hear it done properly!

1) The Kinks “A Soap Opera” aka “Starmaker” (Everybody’s A Star) (Ordinary People) (Rush Hour Blues) (Nine To Five/When Work Is Over/Have Another Drink) (You Make It All Worthwhile) (A Face In The Crowd/You Can’t Stop The Music)

On News and Views 111 we told you about perhaps the greatest hidden gem in the Kinks Katalogue (after ‘Arthur’ anyway. And ‘Face To Face’ isn’t that well known these days. And ‘Preservation’ needs reappraisal. And hardly anybody bought ‘UK Jive’...) OK, so it’s one of the many hidden gems in the Kinks Katalogue. Of all Ray Davies’ magnificent concept album follies of the 70s, though, ‘A Soap Opera’ is  the most revealing and moving, the story of a star who pretends to be an ordinary man only to find out that he has been an ordinary man the whole time, with such subtlety that the result catches the listener by surprise. Ray had been trying for years to get The Kinks on the telly, with ‘Arthur’ and ‘Preservation’ both planned as TV specials, but sadly when he succeeded with ‘A Soap Opera’ the show got stuck on at a funny hour late at night and died a death, to lie in a vault ever since. Goodness only knows why because it’s so good, much better than the album (and did I ever tell you how much I loved it as an album?!), partly thanks to the addition of two long speeches that gives real weight to the characters of ‘Normal’ Norman and The Starmaker and the slow blurring of the two parts that works far better than on the record. The loss of the irritating ‘Holiday Romance’ is something of a blessing too. The moving ending of the special, when Ray sings one of his all-time best songs ‘A Face In The Crowd’ and then runs off to actually physically sit in the audience as an ‘ordinary’ human being to watch ‘The Kinks’ (with Dave Davies on lead) as ‘an ordinary person’ once more is a masterstroke. No person is ordinary, of course, and this hymn to the achievements of all people, whoever they may be, whatever they may have done, is such a wonderfully Kinks moment, perhaps the defining image of their whole 30 year career. I think we ought to campaign for this show’s release on DVD by sitting outside Konk studios for the forseeable future, eating shepherd’s pie whilst waving our plastic ducks (both key images on the record) – or of course we could make these videos the most seen YouTube clips has ever had. So join with me, click that button and enjoy The Kinks at their zenith. Music collecting has never been so much fun!

And that’s that. We’ll return to our regular top five column next week. In the meantime, why not drop us a line about what you thought of our choices. Any obvious choices left out? Anything new you’ve just added and want to tell us about? Get in touch! See you next issue for more newsing, viewsing and music-ing!