Monday 28 July 2008

News, Views and Music Issue 13 (Intro)

♫ Well, the days of future have passed over us again for another week and so here we are again with our 13th newsletter. Not much AAA related news to tell you this time around, except to say that the music we added a fortnight ago (in the ‘website songs’ section of our site) now seems to have stopped working and – in common with most things relating to computers – the fact that it’s gone missing makes no sense ♫ Well, the days of future have passed over us again for another week and so here we are again with our 13th newsletter. Not much AAA related news to tell you this time around, except to say that the music we added a fortnight ago (in the ‘website songs’ section of our site) now seems to have stopped working and – in common with most things relating to computers – the fact that it’s gone missing makes no sense whatsoever. Apologies if you’ve been trying to play my songs (all comments gratefully received – preferably nice ones!) and all you get are squiggly lines – hopefully the problem will be fixed soon. We’ll let you know in a future newsletter when (and if) it is! That’s it on the AAA front, but there’s a tonne of new releases on the music front this week, so without further ado here it is… ♫ Beach Boys News: The first appearance of the Beach Boys on this list since our first issue, the good news is that there’s yet another new documentary of the band out on DVD in time for Christmas. The bad news is that a) it’s a German import documentary that’s not likely to find it’s way into any shop that isn’t a true music specialist and b) it’s yet another look Dennis Wilson’s association with convicted murderer Charles Manson, a subject already overdone in my opinion (spookily, the DVD came out the same week the Beatles’ White Album was celebrating it’s 40th anniversary: the album Charles Manson quoted several times during his killings, claiming it was telling him what to do). The DVD is called ‘The Beach Boys and Satan’ and, no, that isn’t referring to yet another line-up change for the band (!), it’s just a rather lurid title for a look at how Dennis found himself in the Manson ‘family’ clutches, how Charlie tried to get a record deal on the back of his friendship with him and how the Los Angeles scene in general went from blissful hippiedom to shocked horror overnight. Apparently there’s lots of rare and generally unseen Beach Boys music clips as well though so I’d better not be too dismissive, plus there’s apparently the most revealing interview yet with Brian Wilson and a rare interview-come-song from 60s svengali Kim Fowley. ♫ Beatles News: There’s been so much Beatle news this week it’s hard to know where to start. Perhaps we’d better start at the top, with the rather curious news that the Vatican has finally got around to clearing John Lennon’s name after blacklisting the Beatles for his ‘the Beatles are bigger than Christ’ comments. Well, better late than never I suppose, though I can’t imagine Lennon’s ghost has been turning too much in his grave about that one. The all-seeing Pope got something badly wrong in his comments to the press, however, telling the assembled news reporters that Lennon’s comments – originally given to his close friend Maureen Cleave in the Evening Standard back in 1965 – were as a result of ‘stardom going to his head’. Err, no, sorry Mr Pope, that’s a big insult to Lennon’s memory – as all good Beatle fans know, if you read the full article it seems clear that Lennon is puzzled as to the huge social changes in the 1960s where, in a very big generalisation, youngsters seemed to start respecting celebrity figures more than religious figures, musicians included. Lennon never meant to say that he wanted the Beatles to be ‘bigger than Jesus’, just that he was surprised that they were. Oh and, contrary to general knowledge that Lennon was stirring up trouble, Lennon’s comments were largely ignored when they were first published in Britain, until a dirt-kicking American journalist got hold of them nearly a full year later and sensationalised the story to sell some extra copies. So there. What the Pope really should have got annoyed about – and this is something that might get Lennon blacklisted all over again now I’ve pointed it out – is the line ‘the Pope smokes dope every day’, part of the song ‘New York City’ on the ‘Somewhere in New York City’ album. Macca news: The fuss about the Fireman is hotting up, thanks to an entertaining appearance by Macca on Radio Four’s ‘Front Row’ on Thursday – his best for a while, dear AAA readers. Revealing that he made up most of his new work ‘on the spot’ based on a handful of different chord choices and keys offered him by producer Youth, Macca added that most of the lyrics came from words randomly joined together to create a more trance-like mood (we’ve been assuming he worked like that anyway given his last four largely terrible albums…). This third ‘Fireman’ album, titled ‘Electric Arguments’, should be out as soon as we go to press, complete with a 50 page (!) booklet (or as soon as we upload the document online, to be more accurate!) Ringo news: Poor Ringo’s in trouble again, allegedly causing minor injuries to a female fan who tried to hug him while Ringo was out on his own one day – in defence to Ritchie, he thought he was being attacked which is why he fought back. After the attacks on Lennon in 1980, George Harrison in 1999 and with Noel Gallagher’s on-stage fracas with a fan this September still in the minds of many, you can see why any musician would be cautious these days. But this behaviour is not like our dear old gentlemanly peace-and-love Ringo at all, one of the few ‘starrs’ who always seemed to have time for his fans, even in the post-Lennon days when George stepped up his home security 10-fold and Macca hired loads of bodyguards. What’s happened to create such a change in one of our AAA favourites? We hope Ringo’s OK and send peace and love to him all the same (we wouldn’t mind a hug from him ourselves). Look out too for a new coffee-table book, ‘Beatles Singles and EPs from around the world’, including rare pictures of the fab four as featured on sleeves from, to name a few countries at random, Bolivia, Iran, Nigeria, Costa Rica, India and Uruguay. The book has been compiled by Beatles collectors Samuel Coomans and Azing Moltmaker and is the first book on this format for many years (Record Collector magazine used to liaise on a few in the 80s/ early 90s but don’t seem to anymore these days). Finally, apologies for not letting you know last week, but there was a special programme celebrating 40 years since the release of the White Album on Saturday. It might still be around on BBC I-player or something or other technical that I don’t know how to work, so look out for it if you missed it – it was one of the better radio documentaries we’ve had this year and – shock horror – the interviewees had all actually heard the album (not like, say the Janis Joplin documentary last Christmas when clearly none of the trendy young singers had a clue who she was). ♫ Belle and Sebastian news: The first appearance of B and S on our newsletter breaks a wall of silence that seems to have existed since their last commercially successful but poorly received album ‘The Life Pursuit’ in 2006. Sadly there isn’t a new album as such coming out this Christmas, but there is a limited-edition 2-CD set full of vintage BBC sessions and live recordings out this week. Titled, err, ‘The BBC Sessions’, none of these songs have been available commercially since being aired on a range of BBC radio shows from 1995 onwards and – thankfully – the older material here outweighs the new. The track listing is a mixture of friends well known and new, including four songs that – to the best of my knowledge – have never appeared anywhere before, alongside versions of classic tracks like ‘Legal Man’ and ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’. Let’s hope Santa’s in a good mood this year and I might be able to review it for you come a January newsletter! ♫ Byrds news: Welcome also to the Byrds, the second of this week’s groups making their first appearance on this newsletter. And they’re certainly making up for lost time, because there’s oodles of stuff to tell you about. First up, record label Rhino continue their sterling work with a new imprint, ‘Encore’, offering up CDs by mainstream artists that have either been off-catalogue for many years or never actually made it to CD at all. One of the CDs listed in the catalogue is the Byrds’ re-union album of 1972 (titled simply ‘The Byrds’) which is something of a rarity these days, although truth be told it’s a pretty awful album, livened only by an on-form Gene Clark and a cover of what was back than an unreleased Neil Young song. Buy it (or download it) anyway for the classic track ‘Full Circle’ (arguably the best single Byrds track since Gene Clark’s leaving present 8 Miles High) and then - unless you’re a truly committed Byrds fanatic – you can probably skip the rest. Secondly, Roger McGuinn continues his on-off solo career with ‘Live From Spain’, a quick acoustic jog through his back catalogue including all the old Byrds favourites he’d never be allowed to leave the stage without singing. This is the first ‘mainstream’ release we’ve had from Roger since the early 90s, following McGuinn’s sterling work reviving old folk songs in danger of dying out and we haven’t had any news songs from him since 1992, so this is quite big news, actually. Finally, there is a new Byrds ‘diary’ book out titled ‘So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star?’ written by Christopher Hjart. The book is in the style of the superlative ‘Beatles: Off The Record’ and ‘Monkees Day By Day’, one which looks at the career of the band from their early 60s folk club beginnings to their demise in 1972, with an entry for each significant and sometimes not so significant) event in their lives in chronological order. List-lovers like me will find it fascinating – although, like most of these books – it’s blooming expensive in hardback. ♫ Byrds/CSN news: These two AAA bands are among a handful of California rock luminaries appearing in the BBC 2 repeat of ‘Hotel California – From The Byrds To The Eagles’ this Saturday, November 29th (it’s the same documentary that’s already been shown on BBC4 three times though, despite not having a ‘repeat’ symbol in most TV guides). I never thought I would say this but there is actually too much CSN material in this documentary, which is basically 50 minutes of the trio’s back story with a few branches out to the Eagles, the Band and Joni Mitchell along the way. Treat it as a CSN documentary, however, and you won’t be disappointed, as there is tonnes of rare footage sprinkled with current interviews with Crosby and Nash. ♫ CSN news: ….And the other Rhino/ Encore CD AAA readers might be interested in is Graham Nash’s fourth solo album ‘Innocent Eyes’ from 1986. I’d only ever seen this album once before in all my 20 years as a Hollies/ CSN collector (when I bought it, naturally!) so it gave me quite a turn to see this album innocently sitting in a £5 HMV sale, sandwiched between Take That and (shudder) The Spice Girls. Sad to say, this album is hardly a long lost classic, being the weakest of Nash’s five albums and full of such strained 80s bombastic production that it doesn’t sound much like Graham at all. However, it’s a pretty interesting curio, given that much of the album was recorded with the line-up that worked on Graham Nash’s reunion with the Hollies on ‘What Goes Around’ from 1983 (notably keyboardist Paul Bliss, who wrote 6 songs for the Hollies set and the title track for Nash’s album and, incidentally, now tours with the Moody Blues). Committed CSN fans also need to own it for two tracks: ‘Glass and Steel’, Nash’s pained song about David Crosby’s drug problems which reeks of all the helplessness and frustrated concern you’d expect and ‘Sad Eyes’, one of Nash’s typically glorious love songs for his wife Susan with one of his loveliest melodies of all – both these songs are long overdue for an in-concert revival and I hope they both appear on the forthcoming Nash retrospective! ♫ Dire Straits news: Mark Knopfler is among a handful of rock guitarists taking part in the BBC 2 programme ‘Guitar heroes At the BBC’ this Saturday November 29th. More news when the show has been on the air! ♫ Kinks news: More on that Kinks box-set discussed in last week’s issue. It will be called ‘Picture Book’, will run to 6 CDs, cover all Kinks eras from their first demos in 1963 to their last release the live album ‘To The Bone’ in 1995 and features a total of 18 unreleased tracks. The most historically important of these will be a handful of demos recorded by the band when they were still known as ‘The Ravens’ back in 1963 (including ‘I’m A Hog For You, Baby’, a bootleggers favourite and a klassik kover which secures its first official release on a Kinks disc). The most musically important song is the unheard first version of klassik single ‘Dead End Street’, the version produced by Shel Talmy that was all set for release until Ray Davies pulled it at the last minute to put out what he felt was a ‘superior’ version (a watershed moment in the Kinks career, where Ray finally got full control of ‘his’ band three years into the band’s recording career). The biggest news of all, however, is that this set is actually here and in the shops as we speak – the band have been trying to compile some sort of a box set with varying degrees of success since the early 90s, but squabbles about the track listing and problems liaising between the Kinks’ four record labels have scuppered all attempts until now, so hurrah for them finally getting it together. ♫ Lulu news: Lulu, Cilla and a few other old friends will be taking part in Channel Five’s ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll: The 60s Revealed’ this Monday, December 1 at 9pm (such a Channel Five title that). Apparently the celebs taking part are being shown previously unseen footage of themselves and asked what on earth they were thinking in terms of dress sense, etc. Ah well, at least its not ‘celebrity mud wrestlers born with three knees dieting’ like it usually is with channel five. ♫ Oasis news: Well, it’s news to me but apparently our favourite mad-fer-it Mancunians did a documentary called ‘Standing On The Edge Of the Noise’ for Channel Four a few years ago. And now, with ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ just about hanging onto the top 10 of the British charts, channel four are repeating it in the early hours of Monday, December 1 (at 12.10am to be exact). Yay! More news when I’ve seen it as I know nothing about this documentary except the clue in the title – does it date from the ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ era perhaps? ♫ Neil Young News: The long-awaited third release in Neil’s series of ‘archive’ recordings dates back to his very earliest solo days, with a CD and DVD set featuring the complete show taped at Canterbury House in 1968. The album is titled ‘Sugar Mountain’ in honour of the only performance that did make it to an official release at the time, as this perennial B-side (which also appeared on the most famous Neil Young retrospective ‘Decade’) was taped during the show. Neil plays solo throughout the concert – recorded the year before his first eponymous solo album came out – and mixes then-unreleased songs from that record with Neil’s Buffalo Springfield material. Besides ‘Sugar Mountain’, other tracks are said to include a stunning version of ‘The Old Laughing Lady’ and an exquisite ‘Expecting To Fly’ which – if it’s the version I think it is – is regularly voted one of Neil’s best live recordings by bootleggers. There are also some early Young songs that most of us have never heard live before and are rarely played in concert, like ‘Out Of My Mind’, ‘Last Trip To Tulsa’ ‘Birds’ (amazing to think this lovely song was kicking around three years before appearing on the ‘After The Goldrush’ LP) and ‘Broken Arrow’. Considering that Neil has to date released six live CDs (if you include MTV ‘Unplugged’), two previous archive live sets (Massey Hall 1971 and Filmore East 1970), two further live sets exclusive to DVD (‘Silver and Gold’ and ‘Heart Of Gold’) plus two live sets with CSNY, it’s pretty stunning to think that we’re still getting new stuff even now (though sadly, none of Neil’s 40-plus performed-live but officially unreleased songs were sung at this concert!) ♫ Anniversaries This Week: Err, surprisingly nobody from the AAA crowd was born this week (or none that I can find at least!), but an honorary mention for Jimi Hendrix who would have been 66 on November 27th. Events this week: A busy time for John Lennon in various years who a) with the other Beatles released the 2EP ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ set in 1967 b) released the first unfinished music album ‘Two Virgins’ in 1968, with the help of Yoko Ono and a brown paper bag c) on the same day receives his first criminal conviction – a £150 fine for possessing cannabis which will later see him come close to deportation when he tries to move to the USA d) in 1969 returned his MBE to Buckingham palace in protest at the Government’s involvement in Biafra and Vietnam and, err, his single ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts (did he want the Queen to buy more copies?!) and finally e) Lennon performed his last ever concert, appearing on-stage with Elton John at Madison Square Gardens in 1974 (and, so legend has it, re-uniting with Yoko Ono after the show – an event which kicks off his house-husband stage). In other news, the Who begin their first stint at London’s Marquee Club, a venue that will become synonymous with their name to this day (November 24th 1964), 10cc unexpectedly broke up this week in 1976 with Godley and Crème breaking away to become a duo (November 26th) and in 1969 the Rolling Stones play for four nights at Madison Square Gardens, a show later released as the ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out’ album (November 27th-30th).