Saturday 8 October 2011

Bert Jansch Obituary (News, Views and Music Issue 117)

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Bert Jansch Obituary 1943-2011

On a rare appearance to the UK in 2008, a group of reporters eagerly asked AAA star Neil Young to name his favourite guitarist of all time. The troupe of media present expected the great one to name Jimi Hendrix, perhaps Eric Clapton, certainly Robert Page – maybe even old partner Stephen Stills. Instead the guitar legend plumped without hesitation for Bert Jansch, leaving all but the most musically-knowledged reporters to scratch their heads and make a note to look up this obvious superstar of gargantuan talent weird-sounding name as soon as they got back to their desks (bear in mind too that Neil added Bert was the one guitarist he’d be afraid to play on stage with because he’d be ‘blown off it’). That anecdote would have tickled Bert, who died of cancer in the early hours of Wednesday, October 5th, aged 67, and remained to the end one of the shyest, humblest, least likely looking musical legends of our times, a musician in the truest sense, more content playing to a handful of people down his local than playing stadiums and doing Top Of The Pops. A hero to anyone who’d ever heard his distinctive expressive playing and a nobody to anyone who isn’t deeply into the folk scene of the 1960s and 70s, you sense that was the way Bert liked it, content to give his all  – whether solo, with close friend and asscoiate John Renbourn or together with Pentangle –to whoever was listening to his art, without the distractions of sales, publicity or TV appearances getting in his way. In his time Bert re-shaped the way we thought about music, adding a dose of tradition and rememberance to an exploding 60s scene that was exciting and brand-spankingly new as well as breaking more rules in a single solo that most guitarists know how to flaunt in a lifetime and becoming a founding member of a group who fused more musical styles together than anyone before or since. You might not be able to find his records in your local CD hypermarket but keep an eye out for the hopeful collector rummaging through the ‘P’ or ‘J’ sections of the ‘folk’ racks of our disappearing second hand shops, the one with misty eyes and hopeful grin still searching in the hope that he’s found some long lost Jansch rarity – because Bert was very good at creating rarities. And fans so dedicated to his music that they only lived from one purchase to the next. Bert would have hated to have been remembered with a lot of fuss, but to his many fans how coulkd we possibly remember our hero with anything less?

Glaswegian Bert was arguably the biggest star of five when he formed Pentangle with a group of close friends he’d met playing London’s folk groups, an assorted bunch who recognised Jansch’s talent and experience, playing clubs likeEdinburgh'’s ‘Howff’ from the moment he left school at 16. Bert wasn’t actually there as a guitarist – he snuck his way in by signing up to the pub as ‘caretaker’, borrowing guitars off friends to play between concerts because he couldn’t afford one himself and often spent the night sleeping on the club’s floor without anywhere else to go. That fascination with the guitar had gone right back to the start of Bert’s stint at Ainslie Park Secondary school and even Bert’s oldest friends nearly all have their memories filled of Bert practising, polishing or playing his guitar or one he just happened to have ‘borrowed’ from a friend. His interest accelerated when the teenage Jansch met local singer Archie Fisher at the Howff, who agreed to teach the self-taught Bert a few extra tips.

Desperate to broaden his horizons, Jansch set off on a half-organised, half-slumming it trip across Europe, successfully building up a name for himself before a trip to Tangiers went badly wrong and Bert fell ill with dysentry. Sent back to London to recuperate, the musical dream seemed to have gone wrong – but like The Beatles deported from Hamburg, out of troubled times came a lucky escape. A producer named Bill Leader came across Jansch, recognised his obvious talents and persuaded him to record his live set of the day onto a rented tape recorder – even lending his living room to the guitarist for the day. Leader hawked the tape around record company offices fgor a while before getting an interest from Transatlantic Records, Bert’s musical home with and without Pentangle for the next eight years or so. The record was eventually released asa ‘Bert Jansch’ in 1965, when the guitarist was 21, and quickly became alegendary album around Briaton’s folk circuit.    

None of Bert’s solo records had set the charts alight, but then they weren’t meant to – what they did succeed in doing was convincing many of the leading guitarists of the day that what this simple, humble man was playing on guitar just was not possible. There was even a rumour at the time that Bert and already close friend and comrade in arms John Renbourn just weren’t human that there was no way any guitarist, let alone unknowns, should be able to bend the rules and create sounds like they did. Thankfully someone had the sense to sit the two men down in front of a microphone, both together and apart, and the results somehow manage to sound like one of the most fruitful and rounded listening experiences you can have, despite having just one or two voices and one or two guitars as accompaniment. Already Bert’s setting out his fashion – or rather non-fashion statements, appearing in a worn and faded jacket Columbo would have rejected and sporting unkempt yet unfashionably short hair for the time; Bert cared more for his music than his appearance throughout this career, something that helped with the ‘honesty’ and integrity of his records, refusing to play the pop or folk star game even this early on in his career. 

Most of Bert’s early run of albums are hard to find nowadays – even with a second re-issue on CD for most of them a couple of years ago – but all are worth seeking out for lovers of the acoustic guitar and epic folk tunes. Thankfully enough word of mouth has trickled down for albums like Bert’s debut, ‘Bert Jansch’ (1965), ‘It Don’t Bother Me’ (1965) and ‘Jack Orion’ (1966) to become celebrated classics. Compare against anything the folk scene in Britain had to offer in the mid 60s – Peter Paul and Mary, The Seekers, even Dylan – and the sound is tougher and harsher than anything else around and far more original to boot. Pentangle will go on to become most famous for revitalising traditional music for a far more contemporary setting, making current music sound old and old sound contemprary as we put it in our review for ‘Basket Of Light’, although it’s Bert’s early originals that are probably the most famous from these albums, whose highlights include the endearing ‘The Gardener’, the chilling ‘Blackwater Slide’ (a forgotten traditiobnal folk song later covered by Led Zeppelin – Jimmy Page was another huge Jansch fan), an early cover that helped to popularise the Davy Graham hit ‘Anji’ (Paul Simon learnt his version from the Jansch recording) and the first attempt at ‘Jack Orion’, here a three minute folk wonder but later transformed by Pentangle into a 20 minute jazz-blues-folk-pop-rock-psychedelic epic! The most famous songs, though, were the Dylanesque protest of ‘Do You Hear Me Now?’, which became a #1 hit in a much watered-down cover version from Donovan (today, many fans still think the hippied one wrote it) and the first real anti-drugs folk song ever written ‘Needle Of Death’, about a friend who died of a drugs overdose. Both remain among the most chilling songs written by anyone of the time, while like Dylan Jansch’s work was to get considerably lighter the older he got.

Personally, however, my favourite Bert Jansch albums are the ones he made during ‘time off’ from Pentangle, during an impressive work shcedule that saw the guitarist release three albums with or without the group for much of the late 60s and early 70s. ‘Birthday Blues’ (1969), released when Bert turned 25, almost never gets talked about in the same breath as the earlier LPs but it’s the missing link between folk and flower power, with the song for Bert’s second wife ‘Miss Heather Rosemary Sewell’ and the poignant ‘I Am Lonely’ two of Bert’s long lost classics. The two albums recorded either side of ‘Birthday Blues’ aren’t bad either – ‘Nicola’ (1967), Bert’s last album before founding Pentangle is more traditional and similar to his work with the band whilst 1971’s ‘Rosemary Lane’ takes Bert’s work to its next logical step, adding a touch of early 70s singer-songwriter appeal as was the vogue at the time.

It’s for Pentangle, however, that Bert will always be best remembered. The first real hint of the band comes in the ‘Bert and John’ album of 1966, one that cements the two founding members’ distinctive but complementary styles, weaving together a familiar musical tapestry although there’s no double-bass, drums or singers to go other the top. Alas this album too is rarer than a decent Spice Girl single and in desperate need of a re-issue sometime soon (a tribute one would be nice!) The band really took off in 1969, however, when Bert and John got together with singer Jacqui McShee, double-bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox, all five of them pioneers on their respective instruments and willing to take the oldest material they could find and re-invent it with the fire and fizzle that only the 1960s could bring.

In retrospect ‘Pentangle’ is a perfect name for a group made up of five distinctive ‘stars’, all well regarded in their chosen fields, coming together to celebrate Britain’s heritage with a hint of ‘magic’ and ‘mystery’ that made even the biggest folk standard sound new and enticing. In fact so new and enticing that it took a while for any record label to touch the band: a well received gig at the Royal Festival Hall in 1967 helped Pentangle’s stock among their peer group, but it took a further year shaping their act for the band to sign with Transatlantic Records. The choice of producer for the first few albums was a strange choice though: Shel Talmy, a man most famous in AAA circles for being fired by The Kinks and The Who in quick succession in the mid-60s, was better known for his best-selling pop records than folk albums and yet the partnership was a successful one, with Talmy approving of an act who seemed much more ‘professional’ and together with most he’d work with – and Pentangle approving of a producer who understood them enough to let them get their live act down on tape without too many changes. 

The first record to use the band name is ‘The Pentangle’ (1968), a widely admired fusion of folk and jazz which is quite unique in their canon because of it’s wild, daring, furious improvising, the long running time of much of the contents and the amount of instrumentals used. Whilst folk was always the band’s biggest influence (and the genre they’re most often filed under in record shops these days), ‘Pentangle’ is their jazziest album, one that stretches songs as far – and sometimes further – than they will go. Bert’s darting acoustic guitar, sometimes in partnershiop and sometimes in competition with John Renbourn’s, drives much of this album forward and charts yet more unchartered territory for acoutsic guitar players. The follow-up, the half-live half-studio album ‘Sweet Child’ (1968) was more subdued and less risky, but still features some terribly daring instrumentals which feature Bert taking the band out on a limb further than most rock or folk albums dare to go.

Third album ‘Basket Of Light’ (1969, see review no 31) is where it all came together for most fans, a classic of its genre – whichever one of its many genres you choose to put it in – and the band’s best-selling album by some margin, with a toned down instrumental battle and much more emphasis on Jacqui McShee singing folk songs from the past. It’s often Bert’s earthy drawl that catches the ear, though, and this album starts a fine trend of vocal cameos from the guitarist that sound like they’re coming from a darker, deeper place than Jacqui’s naïve innocent narrator and give Pentangle a much more sinister edge. You can’t hear that edge on the band’s most famous moment, though, when the band scored the first of only two charting singles with ‘Light Flight’, a charming pop rocker driven by Bert’s almost paranoid flashes on guitar and appeared as the theme to well-regarded 70s sitcom ‘Take Three Girls’.

Most of the band’s new fans and critics expected the band to follow up their highly successful record with more of the same – but the band weren’t yet finished developing their style. ‘Cruel Sister’ (1970) is seen by most fans as an experiemnt too far, including an acapella track sung by McShee alone and ending with that epic version of ‘Jack Orion’ first purloined By Bert for his solo stage set in 1966. Here this new version, with Bert very much in control, shows how much the band have developed – all group members have the space to show off their skills and instead of fusing hundreds of styles into one instead we get a new style with nearly every verse. Some fans actively dislike this record and especially ‘Orion’, but the sudden switch from tin-whistle folk to no-holds-barred rock is one of the most exciting in Pentangle’s canon, driven by Bert’s voice and restless guitar.

From hereon in most fans seemed to give up on Pentangle, whose sales were slow from here to their end in 1973 but that’s a shame because their final two albums, ‘Reflection’ (1971) and ‘Solomon’s Seal’ (1973) contain some of their best loved material. Transatlantic passed on the band for the last album – but if the band thought Warners were going to take more interest they were sadly mistaken when the label actually ‘lost’ their master tape copy of the ‘Seal’ album, making it one of the rarest AAA albums of all until John Renbourn found a copy of it propping up an organ in his home studio and it finally appeared on CD for the first time in 2003. Unsurprisingly, the prolific Jansch is reponsible for much of these final album’s best material, including the title track of the former LP, another multi-layered epic based on an early unreleased Jansch guitar piece ‘Joint Control’ that the others added parts and lyrics too. The best loved Jansch Pentangle tracks though are ‘When I Get Home’ and the fond band farewell ‘People On The Highway’ (see our top five below), the perfect summation of five very different people going their separate ways almost against their will.

Pentangle were too gentlemanly to break up the way most bands do, sniping in the press and vowing never to work together again – instead their split was more the result of a slow and growing divide between the band that saw them become progressively less and less interested in recording together. Fractious recordings in a barely built studio for ‘Reflections’ didn’t help matters much (bassist Danny Thompson had to listen to playbacks with his ear to the floor in order to hear whether he’d played his parts correctly or not, the speakers were so bad) and the band disagreed about what time of day to record, meaning few of the band were ever together in the same place for long enough to play together live (Bert was often the last to amble in, often at night, ‘depending how much alcohol he’d had the night before’ according to onlookers). Matters weren’t helped too by the fact that Bert’s - and John’s - solo releases had sold less than even the last Pentangle albums and yet were being held up as masterpieces by a musica press who for some reason wanted to see the band fail. The band were also becoming reluctant to tour, especially Jansch, who was losing heart at trying to play to larger crowds who weren’t as ‘into’ the music as on the band’s early club dates.

Perhaps the final reason for the band’s split was that the band just weren’t good enough at playing the political games needed to stay strong sellers in the charts – and without the publicity and with a mix of epic and adventurous songs they just didn’t have a regular enough audience to keep buying their records. That’s a shame because few other bands had the breadth of past, present and future that Pentangle had at their peak, that ability to show how timeless certain themes and subjects are across time and how important it is to us in the present to know where we’ve been before, to avoid making the same mistakes all over again.At their best Pentangle proved how amazing the human race can and has been – at their worst they proved to be as human as the rest of us.

After the split in 1973 Bert moved to Wales, taking some time off to re-charge his batteries before returning to making solo records, occasionally with other members of Pentangle guesting. His first post-band release ‘L A Turnaround’ is generally reckoned to his biggest crowning glory of all, but even this record is hard to find nowadays (so here is yet another plea to see Bert’s solo albums put back into the shops on CD!) A softening approach to touring and a need for money after a split with his second wife saw Jansch back on the road for most of the 70s, with his first recording for some years being a collaboration with Martin Jenkins on ‘Avocet’ (1979), which is a loose concept album about birds (of the ornithology kind!)

Perhaps surprisingly, Bert was one of only two original members to be involved with Pentangle again in the 1980s. Along with Jacqui, Bert continued to add his distinctive acoustic playing and gruff vocals to a series of albums including the under-rated ‘Open The Door’ (1982) which may well be Jacqui McShee’s finest hour, ‘In The Round’ (1988), ‘So Early In The Spring’ (1989), featuring Lindisfarne’s Rod Clements on bass, ‘Think Of Tomorrow’ (1991) and finally ‘One More Road’ (1993). While there’s little on these albums to compare with the glory days and they do take the slightly safer road of stright folk without Pentangle’s many other influences, it would be unfair to write them all off and (less surprisingly) Bert’s contributions are often among the best they have to offer.

Bert also continued his solo career on the side, including a warmly received collaboration with Lindisfarne’s Rod Clements ‘Leather Laundrette’ (1988). Unfortunately, it was while working on this album that Bert first became seriously ill, to the point where doctors told the 45-year-old guitarist he was likely to die unless he agreed to give up alcohol straight away, to ‘give it up or give up’ as he himself recounted the advice later. It’s to Bert’s credit that he managed to give up what had become something of an almost life-long prop, despite suffering a further setback with heart trouble that saw him have a serious operation in the late 1980s. Most fans generally regard Jansch’s first albums (solo and Pentangle) following this decision in the late 80s and 90s as the best of Bert’s output in many years and a timely CD re-issue for Bert’s first few solo albums helped encourage younger guitarists to check out his music.As a result, for the first time since 1969, Bert Jansch was ‘hip’ again. A ‘comeback’ album, ‘When The Circus Comes To Town’ (1995) was his biggest seller in ages and features a moving song dedicated to the surgeon who saved his life – a 1992 TV documentary ‘Acoustic Routes’ also did much to further the legend. 

The last we heard of Bert solo was a record called ‘Black Swan’ in 2005 that again turned out to be one of the best selling and best received of his career, thanks to collaborations with Pete Docherty (then still in the Babyshambles) and Beth Orton and a final tour playing as warm-up act to none other than Neil Young on the memorably-titled ‘Twisted Road’ tour. Jansch was also one of the better award winners of the Radio 2 Folk Awards in recent years, taking the prize in 2001.    

Jacqui McShee reformed Pentangle yet again – without Bert or indeed any other original members – performing as McShee’s Pentangle from 1995 onwards. However the whole band did get together for what turned out to be their final performances with the original line-up in 2009, for a handful of well received gigs that brought the band full circle – and even had them appearing on BBC Radio Sessions for the first time in nearly 40 years! They might well have done more, finaly ending with a ‘follow-up’ show at the Royal Albert Hall earlier this year some 42 years after their last gig there, featured on the cover of ‘Basket Of Light’ - but Bert had to have another heart operation in 2005 and spent the last two years of his life fighting throat cancer, pulling out of some tours for the first time in his career and saddneing other fans by having to stop frequently mid-song in those nhe did perform, due to the pain in his throat. Bert never stopped, though, right to the end and his death at the age of 67, still with plans for recordings and tours in mind before fibnallky succumbing to his illness in a London Hospice last week. The world has lost a trouper, a hero, a superman, a leading light and a legend – but Bert himself was too humble to think himself any of these things, shrugging off media attention and fan praise throughout his prolific career. Only we fans know what a masterful musician this humble man was and how much the music scene will miss him and his regular, always reliable output which did so much to change the worlds of folk, jazz, blues, pop, rock and all sorts of genres in-between that Bert probably invented somnewhere along the line!


Five Classic Bert Jansch Songs/Arrangements For Pentangle:

5) Jack Orion (‘Cruel Sister’ 1970): This side-long traditional song – re-discovered and first recorded by Bert in 1965 – is a good example of just what a range of styles and talents Bert had at his disposal. It starts as pure whimsical folk with one of Bert’s career best vocals, clear and airy, on a tale of a fiddler player who ends up in a duel over a lady. There’s a bit of everything in this piece, as first Terry’s support vocal, then his drums, then Danny’s bass, then John’s electric guitar and finally Jacqui arrive to flesh out a tune that builds verse by verse and minute by minute. Evwerything is thrown into this melting pot and I swear there’s even a bit of psychedelia at the start of the second half when John’s electric guitar clashes with the double bass head on. Few folk bands ever played it as dangerous and as bravely as Pentangle do on this track – and even if ‘Jack Orion’ isn’t a track you want to hear too often too masny times in a row, you have to applaud it for its audacity, it’s daring and its belief that the band can keep the audience interested to the bitter end. Chosen and masterminded by Bert, it’s a typical Jansch mix of the old and the new, all mangled together to sound like nothing else ever made.

4) O’er The Lonely Mountain (‘Think Of Tomorrow’ 1991): Not many of the Pentangle reunion songs were up to old standards and those that were were often old traditional; folk songs starring Jacqui’s undimmed magical voice. But this group-written opening track to Bert’s last album with the band uses the old Pentangle trick of juxtaposing Jacqui’s innocence against Bert’s gruffness on one of the better ecological songs around, with an urgency and emotion missing from many of these later tracks. The song is based around a classy acoustic riff from Jansch that sets the scene for a world that could be so bright – but mankind keeps getting in the way, with Bert’s vocal pitched just right between curt dimissal and angry emotion. Peter Kirkley’s electric guitar, much underused on the reunion albums, soars over the top for an anguished outpouring of grief and anger that somehow manages to sound old and then-contemporary all at the same time, in true Pentangle style. A wonderful, forgotten song in the Pentangle back catalogue.

3) Train Song (‘Basket Of Light’ 1969): Bert doesn’t have much to do on ‘Basket Of Light’, Pentangle’s best-selling and arguably most consistent album.His one shining moment of glory comes at the end of side one, with a noisy lament to the loss of the steam train during Dr Beeching’s cuts to the rail network. The opening 30 seconds alone features some of the most extraordinary acoutsic guitar playing on record, with Jansch improvising his way round a slower inverted version of the song’s main riff before jumping off a musical cliff and entering a pounding, angular song quite different to anything else on this largely traditional album. The next section of the song sounds like a train running off the rails, pushing its luck with how fast it can go, before a lovely litling reflective and wordless middle section sounds almost hymnal. The link between this and a repeat of the first section, with Jansch and Renbourn pushing each other to the limits, is one of the utter highlights of the Pentangle canon, caught somewhere between misery and celebration. An eerie overdub ofThompson's double bass, that sounds awfully like a train screeching off the rails, sets the icing on the cake on a song that sounds quite unlike anything else ever made by anybody.

2) When I Get Home (‘Reflections’ 1971): Like the next song on our list, this is a troubled song about needing a rest, dreaming of all the things to do when the narrator finally gets off tour and wondering what his wife will say when he finally arrives back home. For the most part this is a laidback lovely song with plenty of space for the band to stretch out and a typically Pentangle mix of restful verses and energetic choruses. The chorus finds the narrator trying to talk himself out of a prior meeting because he needs to be ready early the next morning – but oh how enticing the offer sounds! Home wins out over all, though, despite a fiery duel guitar battle between Jansch and Renbourn that’s the pair’s last great sparking moment in Pentangle before the split. An impressive song and one quite different to the band’s usual tradition or folk influences, this is an impressive rumination on what it means to have a ‘home’ – especially given that the narrator spends most of his life living in hotel rooms in separate cities.

1) People On The Highway (‘Solomon’s Seal’ 1973): Pentangle’s final album before their split is very much Bert’s album with the band – he gets five lead vocals and shares a sixth with everyobne else – despite it being Bert’s bordem with touring that effectively nailed the lid in Pentangle’s coffin. Much of the album is upbeat, with traditional folk figures finding happiness in love or realising that they can overcome obstacles, but this most personal song on the record is a teary farewell to the band that’s among the most moving autobiographical songs you can hear. The first verse is a grumpy reaction to the many hangers-on trying to get a piece of the band and the narrator desperate to escape even if it reluctantly means losing the band, searching for somewhere to ‘rest my uneasy mind’. The second puts the history of the band in context, how ‘its better to be going, better to be moving than clinging to your past’ and that the whole band badly needs a rest after six uncomfortable rollercoaster years together, needing ‘dreams’ and challenges to face to go along with the ‘resting’ from pure tiredness. A third verse deals with Bert’s mariage troubles of the time, with a wife who never sees him because he’s always on the road and who is no longer impressed by what he’s achieved with recordings or touring. A fourth verse looks hopefully towards a ‘new task, one that I understand’ because the Pentangle dream has been so filled with hangers-on, managers and agents and publicity agents and ‘friends’ so, movingly, ‘my life won’t be in vain’ and Bert the songwriter can get himself out of a rut and back to following his muse. A fifth verse deals with bittersweet status of the band, with Bert ‘mixed up inside’, both proud of the achievements and fed-up with the restrictions of the band where ‘every day brings rain’ and the narrator ends everyday ‘alone’. A sixth and final verse pondering his next move, how to tell the rest of the band when ‘sunny days roll by’ and ‘time ceases to run’, caught wondering what life would be like without the band as a millstone around his neck. As moving a song as you can come across, the whole band loved and identified with this song, turning in the last great group performance of Pentangle’s career and waving Jansch goodbye with piognancy and subtelty. If only all band split-ups were this concerned with what the others are thinking and could end in ways this beautiful. 

A Now Complete List Of Pentangle Related Articles At Alan’s Album Archives:

Surviving TV Appearances 1968-2000 and The Best Unreleased Recordings

Friday 7 October 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 115 (Intro)

October 7th:

Dear all, why is when we finally have one slight small consoling bit of news to give you in amongst the problems, it then gets cancelled by something else nasty happening? Yet again our original web hosts T35 (that contain our original articles) has wiped our files and looks like it may have been closed down forever to boot (just after upgrading to a paid plan as well, typical!) As a result, all of our links are obsolete and we’ll have to start again – on top of filling in a 500 page form and trying to cope with one of the worst chronic fatigue weeks in my history. Sometimes people up there really don’t you want to succeed do they?! Anyway, bear with us and it’ll get fixed – again – very soon. I hope. In the meantime, here’s a shorter-than-expected review so that I can sort this mess out next week.  Wgxdbgvdcbskbksbl!”%^*((^%$%&*(()(__)!!!! STOP PRESS: The EU has just issued Britain with a two month deadline for changing the benefits system because it ‘acts against human rights laws’! You won’t read about it anywhere on the BBC – and you certainly won’t see it covered by the Daily Mail – but the ATOS team responsible for running the ‘employment support programme’ have broken so many rules they actually breach regulations! Ostensibly the story is about non-UK based workers who have to apply for benefits, but that surely is just a short-term method of raising the issue in the EU and making it clear that they have a right to be involved. And they have the nerve to make ‘us’, the sick and poorly, out to be the criminals...Cameron, you’re going down! STOP STOP PRESS AND RE-START IT AGAIN: News just in, the Coalition are seeking to abolish the human rights act, the only decent contemporary law we have! What’s wrong with these people?...More news if and when...


Belle and Sebastian News: Stevie Jacksons wonderfully titled spin-off solo album I Cant Get No Stevie Jackson is out now, containing 12 new tracks recorded with many of the B+S team such as Mick Cooke and Chris Geddes. The songs date back to B+S interim period in-between The Life Pursuit and Write About Love and Stevie is promoting the album with a short tour. See the B+S website for more details!

CSN/Hollies News: Congratulations Graham Nash! The Salford-born singer has just been granted an honorary doctorate from Salford University for his services to music, with both CSNY and The Hollies. The singer, who was brought up round the corner, actually studied engineering there for a term before his career with The Hollies took off in 1963 and Nash hadnt been back since. He said it was a shock to go through the same doors into the same rooms where I was more than 50 years ago...

ANNIVERSARIES: Birthday blessings are in order for AAA musicians born between October 4th and 10th: Kevin Godley (drummer with 10cc 1972-76) who turns 66 on October 7th and two very different John  legends John Lennon and John Entwistle (Bassist with The Who 1965-82) who would have been 71 and 67 respectively on October 9th. Anniversaries of events include: The release of the fab four’s first ‘proper’ single ‘Love Me Do’ (October 5th 1962); Jefferson Airplane add a new member, making his debut with a band after time as a solo performer – step forward Papa John Creach, a violinist in his 50s! (October 5th 1970); Art Garfunkel releases his first solo single, the moody ballad ‘All I Know’ (October 6th 1973); the same day Ringo scores his first #1 with the George co-write ‘Photograph’ (October 6th 1973); The Rolling Stones are in trouble again when the Rev Jesse Jackson (close supporter of the late, great Martin Luther King, the most important figure of the 20th century that wasn’t a musician) takes umbridge at lines in the Stones song ‘Some Girls’ (which, to be fair, pick on everybody!) (October 6th 1978); John Lennon wins his ‘green card’ (which, ironically enough, is blue) just in time for his 35th birthday, allowing him to stay in America despite his 1968 drugs bust (October 7th 1975); John and Yoko meet for the first time at the latter’s exhibition at London’s Indica Gallery on John’s 26th birthday (October 9th 1966) and finally, Sean Lennon, John and Yoko’s son, is also born on this date in 1975 – John’s 35th birthday! Bet October 9th was a busy day in that household!


News, Views and Music Issue 115 (Top Five): The AAA Cookbook

MMM Wild Honey. What taste! As a result, here’s a tie-in quickie for you this week – and just as well because you’re guaranteed to grown at some of these (heh heh heh). There are cookbooks for everything these days, often full of awful puns as names for recipes and boring anecdotes from celebrities that are actually made up by their ghost-writers. So, we’ve been thinking – why not an AAA cookbook? Why there’s even a Dr Who one – although alas its more a collection of recipes by members of the cast than, say silurian sultana cakes or sontaron potatoes. Despite the fact that I know nothing about food (except how to eat it, and even then sometimes I forget – but hey I still have more qualifications than Jamie Oliver and he’s a saint nowadays, apparently) here is our AAA recipe, full of seven mouth-watering dishes (and no, the spice girls might taste nice but I’m still refusing to add them to this list. Just remember to heat them in the oven at10c(c). Any publishers interested? No? Thought not...

The Peach Boys (Wouldn’t this dish be nice, eh? Especially with some Bun Bun Buns! God only knows how you make it though – perhaps with a mixer giving your ingredients some ‘Good Vibrations’!)

Long John Lemon and the Silver Bagels (because ‘The Bagels’ just sounds boring doesn’t it? Sprinkle with liberal helpings of Sgt Pepper and lots of nice Apples. Because I want to hold your hams. Hmm, actually after looking at those ingredients you might want to shout for ‘Help!’)

Crosby, Bangers and Mash (Not sure what a Crosby is but you can’t go wrong with the other ingredients, surely? Erm, perhaps...For Suite: Judy Blue Eggs. Serve with a Marrikesh Expresso. And an Immigration Flan – OK, OK, that last one needed work...)

Dire Cakes (Exactly what it would have said on the tin had we provided you with one to put your ‘dire cakes’ in. Alongside the slogan ‘money for nothing and chips for free!’ Oh and don’t forget to add the sultanas of swing!)

The Grapefruit Dead (A little American Beauty this one, even with A Touch Of Gray around the edges. To finish, try some Cherry Garcia ice cream from Ben and Jerrys!)

The Mouldy Blues (Cheeses that is! You’ll all be riding your ‘cheese’ saws after this – either that or waving your chainsaws I’m not quite sure. After all, they’re just chefs in a butter and roll band aren’t they? Erm, Question: won’t all that taste horrible? Why, yes it would!)

Otis Breadpudding (Respect! What else conjures up Otis the gentle giant than a breadpudding packed with sole! Lemon sole! Oh dear,that sounds horrid actually. All together now: ‘I’ve been cooking you too long for me to stop now...’)

The Rolling Scones (To finish, would sir or madam care for this pudding?, one that’s sure to give Satisfaction! Especially with some Goat’s Head Soup! Why, maybe it’ll even be a Beggar’s Banquet!)

OK, OK, that’s enough now I promise. All complaints to our forum please, I’ll read them later. See you next week (if you’re very forgiving!)

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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This week’s top ten honours the humble motor car. The death trap on wheels, the metaphor for freedom, the put-down of capitalism, a source of...

This week we’re going to have a look at the 10 AAA singles that spent the most weeks at number on the American chart ‘Billboard’ – and it makes for...

Following on from last issue’s study of the American Billboard charts, here’s a look at which AAA albums spent the most weeks on the chart. The...

There are many dying arts in our modern world: incorruptible politicians, faith that things are going to get better and the ability to make decent...

This week we’ve decided to dedicate our top ten to those unsung heroes of music, the session musicians, whose playing often brings AAA artists (and...

Naturally we hold our AAA bands in high esteem in these articles: after all, without their good taste, intelligence and humanity we’d have nothing to...

What do you do when you’ve left a multi-million selling band and yet you still feel the pull of the road and the tours and the playing to audiences...

‘The ATOS Song’ (You’re Not Fit To Live)’ (Mini-Review) Dear readers, we don’t often feature reviews of singles over albums or musicians who aren’t...

In honour of this week’s review of an album released to cash in on a movie soundtrack (only one of these songs actually appears in ‘Easy Rider’...and...

Hic! Everyone raise a glass to the rock stars of the past and to this week’s feature...songs about alcolholic beverages! Yes that’s right, everything...

154) The human singing voice carries with it a vast array of emotions, thoughts that cannot be expressed in any other way except opening the lungs and...

Everyone has a spiritual home, even if they don’t actually live there. Mine is in a windy, rainy city where the weather is always awful but the...

Having a family does funny things to some musicians, as we’ve already seen in this week’s review (surely the only AAA album actually written around...

Some artists just have no idea what their best work really is. One thing that amazes me as a collector is how consistently excellent many of the...

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