Well, it’s that time of year again when our voting system promises much but fails to deliver, when we look back on all the cliques that have formed over the past year, try to sum up where we feel our country is going and who can put it right and try to put up with the experts gurning to the cameras about how it will all turn out. But this year’s Eurovision Song Contest (what did you think I meant?) looks pretty good if the footage I’ve seen is anything to go by. And it’s set me thinking – how about another competition dear readers? Simply email me at email@example.com or write on our forum about what you think our best article is from the (gulp) 208 currently out there in the ether (it may even be this one!) I promise that I’ll make the marking system a bit easier to follow than the usual Eurovision and I won’t draw things out with two semi-finals but I think it’ll be interesting to see how our readership has changed since our beginnings: will it be the oh so sad obits that win the most votes? The deadly earnest reviews of obscure reviews? My slightly more reluctant reviews of known LPs? Our deeply unserious April Fool’s Day pastiches? Just drop us a line and let us know! Oh and in the meantime nobody’s taken me up on my competition to order you any AAA album on CD off Amazon (barring boxed sets and flipping rare and pricey releases!) to the first person who drops us an email about why they want a particular album. C’mon people, surely you can’t have bought everything out there! Especially as there’s been 6000 hits on our website as of this week! Yahey! In the meantime, here’s the news views and other musings in blue suede shoes and we’re up in the skies, so to speak, for our review and top ten...
First up, we have to report the sad news that John Maus aka John Walker, guitarist with the Walker Brothers has died of liver cancer aged 67. Whilst we usually reserve this space for AAA members John was crucial to the lives of two AAA men: Beach Boy Carl Wilson, who was in part taught guitar by John during the Beach Boys’ earliest days and Hollie/CSN-man Graham Nash, who used his first bit of spare time after leaving The Hollies to co-write ‘Annabella’, John’s first solo single after the band split. Those who want to know more should look out for the excellent book ‘Our Story’ by John and Gary Leeds which came out a few years ago – thankfully John was in time to write down his tales and memories of the 1960s. He will be missed.
♫ Beach Boys News: Brian Wilson is the latest AAA superstar whose had to put with the ignominy of appearing with the world’s most irritating music presenter, Jools Holland. On Friday May 13th at 10pm and again at 11.50pm in an extended version of the live programme (?!) you can see Brian performing snatches from the soon-to-be-released-we-hope archive set of Beach Boys era Smile recordings – if the producers can fit in enough time to show the musical genius in between bouts of Jools Holland waving his arms around the room and pointing while forgetting people’s names, conducting inane interviews about what a musician has eaten for breakfast, telling everyone their new LP is his ‘favourite of all time’ or insisting on playing hopeless boogie woogie piano behind his guests. Also appearing on the show are Brian’s big inspiration Randy Newman (during his bed-bound days Brian reportedly spent months on end listening to Newman’s single ‘Sail Away’), Alison Krauss (who?!) and the Later’s idea of an up and coming live act The Arctic Monkeys. With all that lot Brian will be lucky to get a quick ‘Good Vibrations’ in!
♫ Beatles News: At last, a marriage proposal I can be interested in! Yes move over Prince and Princess Kills and Weight (well, he is in the army and that’s all people seem to be saying about her) Paul McCartney announced on Friday, May 6th that he had become engaged to his girlfriend of four years Nancy Shevell. Macca has been notably reluctant to be seen with miss Shevell in public following the press hoot that was the Heather Milles era (I still don’t think we’re anywhere near to the truth of learning what went on between those pair) and most fans are probably rather puzzled at the news, but we say good on Sir Macca for managing to keep his private life private. There are no more details as yet and the happy couple haven’t set a date for the wedding yet – nor, one suspects, will Macca reveal whether there’ll be a pre- nuptial this time around. And unlike other music journals who’ll talk about nothing else that’s all we’ll say on the matter, honest!
More Macca news for you now as we return to the tracklisting for issues two and three in the ‘McCartney Archives’ series (‘Band On the Run’ came out for Xmas). Further to the news featured in last week’s issue, both ‘McCartney’ and ‘McCartney II’ are being re-released in multi 2CD or 3CD/1 DVD formats although in truth the DVD tracklistings are a little bit disappointing (music promo videos already available on the ‘McCartney Collection’ plus clips from ‘Unplugged’ ‘One Hand Clapping’ and Wings’ Kampuchea benefit in 1979 – which oddly aren’t included on 1980’s ‘Macca II’ but 1970’s ‘Macca One’!) In fact the track selection for McCartney is poor all round: the second CD features no real new recordings (if you own the Kampuchea film from 1979 at least) and is mainly filled with re-recordings from 1974, 1979 and 1992 rather than period outtakes, barring the first full issue of the unreleased song ‘Suicide’ (heard briefly at the end of the album’s ‘Hot As Sun-Glasses’ medley) – a McCartney song so bad that not even the awful and song-blind Frank Sinatra refused to sing it (he did George Harrison’s ‘Something’ instead – crediting it as the best song ‘Lennon and McCartney ever wrote’ – always worth a quick snigger that bit of trivia!)
‘McCartney II’ looks better, featuring all of the alternate versions we mentioned last issue which have been available on bootleg for years, back when the set was meant to be a double-vinyl Wings spin-off set rather than a single solo career rebranding purchase. Highlights include no less than five unreleased tracks: ‘Blue Sway’ ‘All You Horseriders’ ‘Bogey Wobble’ ‘You Know I’ll Get You Baby’ and ‘Mr H Atom’, although only the first and last of these are in anyway interesting. Better still many of the ‘Macca II’ songs are transformed – an unedited ‘Coming Up’ runs nearly six minutes, there’s an instrumental version of ‘Summer’s Day Song’ I prefer to the original, there’s an unedited ‘Check My Machine’ that makes more sense running to eight minutes than four, a much improved extended ‘Darkroom’ and slightly longer edits of quirky instrumentals ‘Frozen Jap’ and ‘Front Parlour’. Alas ‘Bogey Music’ sounds just as dire as ever! The track listing also mentions a rehearsal of ‘Coming Up’ – which is odd given that it’s such a one-take multi-overdub type song but sounds promising. The DVD though has little new to add bar the usual ‘Coming Up’ and ‘Waterfalls’ vids, although there is at least some more Kampuchea footage and a documentary on how the ‘Plastic Macs’ band for the former project was formed (ie how McCartney played with himself several times over!) Alas there’s still no release for the rare audio-only ‘The McCartney Interview’ released to DJs in 1980 to promote the album and now among the rarer McCartney records of all!
♫ Hollies News: Maybe it’s because we keep plugging it on our pages, maybe because it’s so brilliant, maybe it’s because it’s so cheap or maybe its because finally EMI have done the decent thing and issued a Hollies set properly, but the new Hollies six disc box set ‘The Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years’ is at #1 on the Amazon music box set lists and is now sold out! On the very day of release! Wow! To be honest I should be really cross because I haven’t got around to ordering myself a copy yet but who cares – The Hollies are back at #1 where they rightfully belong! Yippee! Let’s hope this unexpected success means a Clarke-Sylvester-Hicks years box set will be out soon!
ANNIVERSARIES: Happy interstellar birthdays to the following AAA members born between May 14th and 20th: Pete Townshend (guitarist with The Who 1965-82 and various reunions) turns 66 on May 19th. Anniversaries of events include: The Beatles cause consternation up and down the country by – shock horror – refusing an invitation to play for The Queen at the London Palladium (does the silly woman not read the news for crying out loud? The Beatles hadn’t played a gig in two years by then! May 14th 1968); Pink Floyd get into serious trouble with the organisers after a gig at London’s Crystal Palace when, due to a combination of their blistering sound system and use of a 50-foot inflatable octopus, half the fish in the lake nearby die (May 15th 1970); Pete Townshend will have bad memories of a who gig at the Fillmore East – tired of seeing fans climbing onto the stage, Pete kicks one off during the middle of the set only to find out it is a policeman! He spends a night in prison on assault charges (May 16th 1969); The Beatles headline their first ever concert in the exotic location of Slough following the success of ‘Please Please Me’ during a Helen Shapiro tour (May 18th 1963); Dire Straits release their debut single ‘Sultans Of Swing’ (May 19th 1979); Three Beatles get back together for an impromptu jam session to celebrate Eric Clapton’s wedding to George Harrison’s ex Patti Boyd, the first time more than two moptops have been seen in public since 1970 (May 19th 1979); The BBC bans a Beatles track for the first time – no, not the drugs-referenced ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ or the subversive ‘Revolution’ but ‘A Day In The Life’ (and its not even the ‘love to turn you on’ postscript but the line about ‘4000 holes’ relating to drug injections) (May 20th 1967) and finally Our AAA classic no 50 – the first Stephen Stills/Manassas album – is released (May 20th 1972).