Monday 17 March 2014

Top Seven: Random Recent Purchases (News, Views and Music 237)

Dear all - yippee! The local library's had a re-fit and the music book section in particular has been much improved: the one lone biography of the Spice Girls has vanished to be replaced by a handful more AAA-related tomes. So without further ado here's another 'random recent purchases' top five containing three books that will also be added to our more comprehensive 'AAA Books' section ( along with a couple of CDs that need adding to our 'AAA solo albums' special ( 

1) "Paul McCartney: A Life" (Peter Ames Carlin, J R Books, 2009)
Does the world really need another Paul McCartney biography? Probably not, but Carlin's book at least does a good job of explaining why there's still such interest in his work. The book isn't perfect by any means - key albums like 'Venus and Mars' and 'London Town' get short shrift and a lot of the Beatles and Wings-era tales have been told better many millions of times over. But Carlin's book is the best yet at describing Paul's early years (the death of his mother and his early days with the Quarrymen especially) and the characters of his dad and brother Mike come across as three-dimensional characters at last. The book is also strong for Macca's post-Wings solo years in the 1980s, with far more detail about Paul's work with Eric Stewart and Elvis Costello than heard elsewhere (even if, like everyone else but me, Carlin doesn't rate 'Press To Play' very highly). Best of all, Carlin gets Paul's character and his difficult but still largely positive relationship with John Lennon spot-on: despite only getting the chance to meet the Beatle very late on in his career Carlin's description of Paul as a 'conservative rebel' is the most fitting yet, Paul wanting to do all the things his partner does without thinking but having too much sense and regard for the old ways to fully overthrow them. Kinder to Paul than most biographers of late, Carlin isn't blinded by love either and manages to turn in a book that's pretty neatly balanced between respect and frustration, as well as adoration and acknowledgement of Paul's occasionally shadowy self. 8/10

2) "The Making of Pink Floyd: The Wall" (Gerald Scarfe, Phoenix/Orion Books, 2010)
From what I can tell, illustrator Gerald Scarfe's always been keen to distance himself from his part in the Floyd story. While Scarfe always got on well with the band (especially Nick Mason and Roger Waters) he had an awful time during the making of 'The Wall' film, a case of too many cooks with too many ideas and with Scarfe's opinions often the ones over-ridden and ignored. So not only is a whole book about Scarfe's time with the band (starting with his illustrations for their 'Wish You Were Here' tour, projected on a screen while the band are playing) completely unexpected but so is the fact that he kept so much: film cell after film cell of the drawings used in the film, pen-and-ink storyboards that reveal how much of an input Scarfe had into the film 'script' (as much as a film without much dialogue has a 'script per se), unused sketches and ideas and most interestingly of all polaroids of Scarfe with various members of the band (who are never together, note). Roger, Nick and David Gilmour were all 'interviewed' for the book - most of which tend to be them leafing through the early pressing of the book and talking about their memories - and the affection all three feel for their colleague is clear. How nice that the 'wall' around Scarfe has come down after all these years. Some of Scarfe's illustrations are remarkable even now - falling leaves turning into humans, brittle teachers dominated by their fat wives, the age-old man-woman battle related in terms of two flowers and best of all doomed bomber planes slowly turning into crosses stained with blood (is there a more chilling image of the Second World War?) Some of the pictures are just odd - metal beasts, men carryuing 'burdens' on their backs, city towers marked with blood and an aborted attempt to draw Pink and his un-named wife as Punch and Judy. The best bit, though, is by another artist working on the film who was 'hired' by alienated director Alan Marshall (whose also interviewed for the book and surprisingly kind about it all) which shows 'school bully Roger and his pal Gerald Inky' - which says more about the state the makers of the film were in than any number of reminiscences and photographs. A nice collection, although you have to be a fan of the film rather than the Floyd to get the most of the book. 7/10

3) "Every Night's A Saturday Night" (Bobby Keys, Omnibus Press, 2012)
We've stuck this book under the 'Rolling Stones' section because that's the band Bobby is most 'linked' with (he was born on the exact same day as Keith Richards albeit across the pond and plays on a majority of the Stones albums since 1971) although he played on quite a few other AAA albums too (there are mentions of work with Graham Nash, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and a particularly memorable encounter with John Lennon during his 'lost weekend'). It's the Stones stories that are the most exciting though, revealing quite a bit we didn't know before. Long seen as Keef's big 'ally' within the band (and almost as hedonistic as the guitarist), Bobby actually started off as Mick Jagger's big friend, even staying rent-free at his Stargroves house for months on end, even though the pair barely speak anymore apparently (Keys did rather leave the band in the lurch, his alcoholism getting the better of him mid-tour, something that comes across as entirely reasonable in his re-telling of the story). The photographs with this book are a delight, showing just how much a part of the action is and his own personal voice comes over loud and clear throughout the book. Unfortunately, though, it's all too clear that this autobiography is one dashed off into a dictaphone between gigs and written by a secretary rather than a ghost-writer: the dates jump around, memories get stuck together and the whole book sounds more like a semi-celebrity chatting about their story down the pub than a collection of the man's true status within rock music. 5/10 

4) Eric Stewart "Frooty Rooties" (1979)
The only 10cc solo album released while the band were still 'together', I was expecting more from this album, which isn't up to the standards of even 10cc's worst records. Eric recorded it quickly during his recovery from a life-threatening car-crash, which explains both why he gets so few songs on the next 'proper' 10cc album 'Look, Hear, Are You Normal?' and why he sounds rather less than himself here. Too often the album takes the easy way out, interesting ideas getting buried under silly retro-rock riffs and track titles like 'guitaaaaaarghs' that sound like pastiche 10cc rather than genuinely funny. There are highlights though: the opening song 'The Ritual' is a 10 minute mini-masterpiece of frustration at all the nonsense meaningless things humans do when they could be doing something bigger and clearly a key development in Eric's writing (it'll end up with what I consider his best work in a few years on 'Windows In The Jungle'). 'Doris The Florist' is a fun 10cc-ish story that doesn't go where you think it does that's funnier than most of 'Look Hear' to boot. Everything else, though, sounds a bit tired and unsure of itself - understandably, really, given the circumstances - with the title downwards rather too far a throwback to the 1950s: the horrid 'Night and Day' might well be the worst thing the guitarist ever wrote and even gets an unwelcome reprise! 3/10

5) Eric Stewart "Girl" (1980)
After his car-crash Eric became ridiculously prolific, as if making up for lost time. This film soundtrack, however, isn't one of his better ideas: most of the songs are full of the sort of soft 'lift music' instrumentals every film from the 1980s seems to be full of and there are only four actual 'songs'. To be fair, these aren't bad: despite the generic titles 'Warm Warm Warm' 'Tonight' and the title track 'Girls' are real character songs, Stewart doing well to get into the mindset of an ambitious female blocked not by talent but by sexism (it may be that the 1983 10cc song 'Working Girls' started life here too - the date seems wrong but it sounds like a good fit at least). I couldn't tell you how the music fits the film sadly - like the soundtrack album it seems to have died a very quiet death and even Film4 have never repeated it to date. One for the committed fan only really, although you'll be pleasantly surprised once you get past the instrumentals. 4/10

6) Eric Stewart "Do Not Bend" (2001)
Apart from two underwhelming 10cc reunions and his work with Paul McCartney, this was the first 'proper' Eric Stewart release in 18 years and hopes were high. A clever 10cc-ish title and some 10cc-ish song titles (sample: 'Set In Blancmange') set those hopes higher. But as a whole 'Do Not Bend' is even worse than Eric's 'Frooty Rooties' record, an embarrassing collection of white reggae and soul-less soul music without Eric's usual character and cleverness. Only closing track 'You Are Not Me' has any real emotion to offer - and then it's of the 'stop pigeon-holing me' type which seems a rather odd statement to make after so many poor re-makes of 'Dreadlock Holiday'. Eric is a terrific team-player - one of the best in fact, with harmonies to die for and an ability to put guitar to anything - but he really struggles to front a whole album, especially one as low budget as this done on the cheap. Give it a miss. 2/10

7) Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriott "Majic Mijits" (2003)
The last recordings made by the two chief songwriters in the Small Faces were never finished - Steve Marriott left temporarily for another Humble Pie reunion and then died in a house fire - so what we have here is a compilation of a CD of largely 'finished' material and a second CD of 'outtakes'. Most fans are disappointed by it and certainly this album doesn't compare to the band's 1960s material (not least because Ronnie's MS is giving him a real battle recording the vocals). But treat this album as a fascinating 'extra' and it certainly has its moments - lots more than the two 1970s Small Faces reunions anyway. Marriott is on particularly blistering vocal form and comes up with his single greatest song since the early 70s 'Lonely No More', on which he finally sounds happy (his 'Toe Rag', celebrating family life and his own 'Artful Dodger' like offspring, is pretty sweet too). Ronnie Lane's songs - his first recordings for nearly a decade after illness and record company problems - still sound like they've always done, gorgeous pieces of folk-rock that might suffer from the tinny 1980s recording productions and Ronnie's increasing problems with his once smooth vocals but beneath the surface are still as wonderful as ever (the autobiographical 'Son Of Stanley Lane' especially). Whenever any of the Small Faces got together post-split they invariably spent their time slagging off their early managers who cost them so much money and the way the Immediate record label went bust without warning. As a result there's a couple of really bitter songs here you might not be expecting from the pair's 1960s songs, but far from being off-putting these are amongst the best on the album, Ronnie taunting everyone whose ever stood in his way for being 'chick chick chicken!' Best of all are the chats between Steve and Ronnie mid-song and thankfully left intact, goading each other on and showing how much affection is in the room and that they've got together for reasons bigger than financial ones. A clever title, showing the duo are 'still' the Small Faces and then not quite the same after all, is the icing on the cake. 'Majic Mijits' isn't classic Marriott or Lane but it did deserve to come out at the time and would surely have boosted both men's popular standing in a way that the later Humble Pie and Lane's Slim Chance records hadn't quite managed. 6/10

And that's it for another week. Join us next issue for more news, views and music!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock

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