Saturday, 3 March 2012
News, Views and Music Issue 135 (Intro)
Hello again dear readers. As I write to you we edge ever closer to our April Fool’s Day issue (we’ve successfully managed to retrieve it from 1996, when it accidentally slid down a portal) and, well, we’re sorry. You see the Mayan prophecy of time coming to a standstill seems to be our fault. Just thought you ought to know in case you were planning on going anywhere this year and suddenly found yourself back in the 15th century (either that or you’ve just visited Ormskirk by mistake!) In the meantime we’ve got a cracker of an issue lined up for you this time around dedicated to a parallel time dimension of our very own. We spend our main review discussing what might have happened to the ‘Milk and Honey’ album had Lennon lived and then look at the six albums that might have been had the Beatles stayed together in the 1970s (but still written the songs they end up recording for their solo albums).
In other news, I wish I could report that what the Coalition are up to was an April Fool, but sadly it isn’t. The Government’s long discussed ‘Workfare’ projects seem to have started up, despite comment from just about anybody that they aren’t fair or workable. Predictably it’s the biggest companies like Tescos that have fallen for the promise of extra pay to give jobs out to the unemployed first, despite the fact that the taxpayer is effectively paying for a wage and the worker is seeing nothing good come of the situation (except not having his benefits cut). This is a terrible crime and already we’re hearing of people being forced into work at a moment’s notice, given all the worst jobs to do that no one else wants and then having to suffer in silence because no one from the media takes their problems seriously. Well, we do. Workfare is what used to be promised in Communist Russia (in the Stalin days when it amounted to a dictatorship, not the glory days under Lenin which, we still argue, could have worked) and, believe or not, in the workcamps at Auschwitz andf Bergen-Belsen and beyond. It’s what unfair rich people do when they think they can get away with treating the poor and downtrodden how they like because they’ve drilled it into people’s heads that it’s fair to make them do the dirty jobs for no return just because they say so. And before we hear that hoary chestnut about living off the state let me remind you that it’s the rich that live off the state – if not ours currently then in times gone by, given land and money for nothing except their name. This is slave labour under any other name and like all unfair and unjust laws we expect people to fight it – sadly it will just take time to coerce people into taking a stand. Of course I can’t even pay myself with this site never mind any-one else but let me tell you – there is no way we would ever resort to expecting the taxpayer to fund a wage which is procured through hard, honest labour and if I can say that on a pittance then these major multinational companies with a gadzillion pounds profit every year can easily do the same.
Erm, where was I? Oh yes, our site has now reached 14,400 hits which ain’t bad and I see my twitter followers have gone up to 198 (actually they were up to 199 the other night – where did that last one go?!) A big welcome to all our new readers and a big salute to all our old readers who are still with us! An especially big hello to my new twitter friend Frank Jay Gruber who shares the same good taste in Monkees and Dr Who and may well indeed be the brother I never knew I had (hmm New Jersey, America twinned with Ormskirk, Lancashire though – can’t see many links there!) Happy reading and hope you find some good things to enjoy! Now that all that is out the way it’s on with the news...
♫ Byrds News: You wait for a Gene Clark album on CD and then two come along, almost at once – but not quite close enough to be a part of the same re-issue programme. ‘Roadmaster’, an uncompleted album from 1972 and originally issued in 1977 (though only in Holland), is the next on our shelves and I only mentioned it last issue as possibly my favourite Clark album (along with January’s re-issue for ‘Two Sides To Every Story’. It features two full Byrds reunions from before the official reunion in 1972 on ‘Here Tonight’ and the first version of ‘Circle Song’, two great songs beloved by fans and missing from the records for far too long. Wow, the power of the album archives! What else can we mention here that we want to see released soon? Hmm how about ‘The Paul McCartney Outtakes Box Set Part One: The Seventies’ ‘Hollies Rarities 2’ or ‘The Monkees Missing Links 4’, that should keep me happy for a while longer...
♫ Hollies News: Less essential is yet another Hollies best-of from EMI (I make this 70-something now for Hollies compilations!) Sensibly ‘The Very Best Of’ 2 CD set concentrates on the 1960s material and features lots of album tracks this time around whilst avoiding the pit-falls of the recent past by sticking to only the material issued in The Hollies’ lifetime. On the downside, what’s the point of spending £12-15 for a 2 CD set when for £17 you can own the whole bang lot of the band’s material with Graham Nash still in the band (ie 1963-69) on six shiny discs? The Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years box set is well worth buying with hardly a duff track included.
♫ Jefferson Airplane News: A rather more surprising re-issue is the Airplane’s self-titled reunion and farewell LP from 1989. Unavailable since the early 90s, it’s gone down in some quarters as some sort of lost classic, featuring the last time we heard those famous band harmonies and the last album before Grace Slick’s retirement. Trust me, it isn’t – there are a few good moments such as Marty Balin’s wistful song of nostalgia ‘Summer of Love’, Paul Kantner’s last great piece of eccentric writing on ‘Planes’ and Grace’s lovely poem set to awful music about pandas. But why wasn’t original drummer Spencer Dryden invited back to the fold? And why, after so many years away (even the last Starship album featuring Grace was three years old) is the band so stretched for material that they have to rely on outside writers and left-overs from old sessions? Also, hearing the world’s greatest psychedelic band in such a sterile 80s setting is even more upsetting than hearing sterile 80s groups in a sterile 80s setting. What were they thinking?! No bonus tracks by the way, which is a shame – or a relief, depending how you feel. Still, nice to have it out on CD again.
ANNIVERSARIES: As it’s a leap year, this time we’re featuring birthdays between February 28th and March 5th: Brian Jones (multi-instrumentalist with The Rolling Stones 1962-68) who would have been 69 on February 28th and Roger Daltrey (singer with The Who 1964-82 and various re-unions) who turns 67 on March 1st. Anniversaries of events include: John and Paul write ‘From Me To You’ in the back of a tour bus after reading the quote in that week’s letter column of the NME (February 28th 1963); The Cavern Club closes its doors for the final time after raking up debts of £70,000 (February 28th 1966); The Beatles start filming for their first film ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ – amazingly the film will premiere in the summer of the same year (March 2nd 1964); Stephen Stills takes part in the fondly if hazily remembered ‘Havana Jam’ festival, an event held to strengthen American-Cuban relations (March 2nd 1979); John Lennon’s quote about The Beatles being bigger than Jesus first appears in print in the Evening Standard where it doesn’t even make a headline – it won’t be till American journalists get hold of the story a few months later that it becomes front page news (March 4th 1966); The Rolling Stones record their ‘Love You Live’ album at Toronto’s low capacity and intimate El Macombo Club – with Keith Richards’ latest drug bust hanging over the band (see last week’s column) there are fears that this will be the last record the bad will ever do (March 4th 1977) and finally, The Rolling Stones and The Hollies begin a tour together, creating a friendship that lasts throughout most of the 1960s (March 5th 1965 – and contrary to most books on the subject they are joint headliners, generally switching billing depending on the venue).