Friday 21 October 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 118 (Intro)

October 21st:

Well, well, well, dear readers, what a mixed week it’s been. First up, as you may have noticed, we’ve hit the magic number of 10,000 hits. Yippee!!!! As we posted in a note to all our regular readers/fans/family friends, thank-you all for reading and supporting us – whoever you, wherever you are, whatever species you may be, whatever time stream you may be in. Please keep those comments coming – not many of you have used our new blog page yet after all – and we’ll do our best to get back to you. Because –oh yes – we now have broadband, after several delays, numerous technical hitches and an 8am appointment. That means 1) we’ve now overcome all the issues we had with our old hosts giving up the ghost (and a big hello to SkyLinks for their new services) which took 15 hours to upload and re-link and 2) we’re planning a follow-up YouTube special top five next issue (which might well be a top 50 by the time we’re finished!) On the less happy news I feel blooming awful after a month of pushing hard to keep this website going and fill in god knows how many pages of jobcentre forms so I may well be slower posting these issues than I’d hoped (hence also the fact that this week’s review is only a seven-track album). On the really less happy news we have, as I hope you’ve read, lost another of our leading lights, Pentangle guitarist Bert Jansch who will be much missed – have a look at our special edition News and Views last week if you want to know more about his incredible life. For now, though, here’s this week’s heavier-than-usual news column....


Beach Boys News: Following up Smile might well have been impossible for Brian Wilson in 1966/67. Certainly, its well on nigh for him to follow up in the 00s and beyond: in order weve had That Lucky Old Sun (a fine new album with Van Dyke Parks that only seemed disappointing next to the greatest album ever made), Sings Gershwin (a puzzled and lost re-working of songs finished and unfinished by a writer who never matched Wilsons creative or original talents), a xmas record (full of false jollility in a way that only bad Xmas records can be) and now possibly the nadir of The Beach Boys canon In The Key Of Disney. To be fair, I havent heard any of Brians cover versions of Walt Disney songs yet and for all I know they could be superb (theres a Donald Duck Beach Party album featuring spoof of early Beach Boys songs thats pretty good well for £1 in a Woolworths sale its good at least), but why is Brian wasting his time covering the likes of Elton John (The Lion King features more than any other Disney film) when he should be creating his own timeless works of art? And why no When You Wish Upon A Star (which Brian himself acknowledged was the source of early Beach Boys hit Surfer Girl). Perhaps Im just jealous: why should five-year-olds be getting all the fun? The album, if you wish to buy it, is due out on October 31st, the same date as the new Smile box set though on the plus side as least its a lot cheaper. Belated congrats to Uncut magazine too, by the way, who in their exhalted wisdom gave the Smile bootleg CD thats been doing the rounds since the 1980s the coveted #1 slot on its top recordings of unofficial origin. A better choice Ive yet to hear and thankfully most of the same recordings will be available on the new official Smile set. Yay! (Neil Youngs Chrome Dreams came 3rd, by the way, in a good run for AAA bands). 

Beatles News: Our congratulations to Sir Paul McCartney, who after much speculation married third wife Nancy Shevell in a quiet ceremony at Marleybone Registry Office on Sunday, October 9th (the same registry office where he married Linda Eastman in 1969!) Macca posted his banns a few weeks ago, sparking speculation that the marriage was imminent, but in the end only The Sun worked out the day of the wedding before time. In contrast to the media fuelled extravaganza that was Maccas second wedding to Heather Mills only 30 people were in attendance this time around. Beatleologists however were pleased to see Ringo and Barbara Bach amongst the guests and the fact that the wedding reception was held at Maccas London house, just a few metres away from Abbey Road. Alas Macca also made the news the next door when the neighbours got the police involved because the happy couple were making too much noise thankfully the situation was resolved when they agree to turn the music down! Theres no honeymoon just yet, by the way, because the Maccas are off on an 11 date world tour. Many congratulations to the happy couple from the AAA and may Macca, a musician whose given us so much joy and happiness over the years, find happiness himself at last.

Lulu News: BBC2 have used every trick in the book to make the most out of this years Strictly Come Dancing line-up. By far the most interesting of these is new Lulu documentary Something To Shout About which, like its two predecessors, features 80 mins of Lulu moaning about having no control over her career and being turned into a brand and 10 mins of how shes the luckiest person on the planet to get to do what she wants to do. Not a patch on the doc of a few years ago, this only differed from past versions of Lulus life story by way of talking heads (the most interesting being with Lulus brother and co-writer Billy Lawrie) and behind-the-scenes film of Lulus hip-hop act on this years Comic Relief and sadly neither of these are patches on who weve lost since the last documentary: Bee Gee and first husband Maurice Gibb and Lulus manager/discoverer. The clips are great but few and far between as ever, whilst Lulus cringing at Im A Tiger and moaning at what Mickie Most made her do seems odd when played back-to-back with Lulus best and funkiest recordings (also by Most) Love Loves To Love and Boat That I Row. As for Lulu having a soul voice, her version of Otis Reddings Respect sadly shows up how wrong this fallacy is. Lulu should have stuck to rock and roll in the 60s Shout being a bit of a clue as to how her voice should go or her folky songwriting burst in the 90s with Independence I Dont Wanna Fight and Take Me Where The Poor Boys Dance and desperately needs someone to tell her that. Certainly the hip hop crowd on her last tour dont get her, as their apathetic, almost angry expressions to the camera showed. And Strictly is a bad lapse in judgement for a performer whos spent the past 80 minutes moaning about wanting to be taken seriously as first a singer and then a writer. No wonder no one else knew what to do with Lulu or her voice she hasnt got a clue either and still hasnt at the age of 62. But shes still got one hell of a voice, a unique emotional, angry, sparky wonderful voice that means fans like me will forgive her everything else. Well, everything except Boom-Bang-A-Bang and Relight My Fire anyway! (Whod have thought that Take That are now the same age Lulu was when she appeared on their #1 in 1993 and are still popular? No, I dont get that one either...)   

Pink Floyd News: So, Pink Floyd night on BBC6 last Friday then? Wish You Were Here or Unleash The Dogs Of War? Actually, a little of both. The evening certainly got off to a bad start, with hours of wading through interminable playlist shows which seemed to have been picked at random from the bands back catalogue (San Tropez? See-Saw? Take Up Thy Stethescope And Walk? The best Pink Floyd have to offer? I dont think so!), plus spurious Floyd influences (have the Chemical Brothers ever actually heard a Floyd track?) and truly gutless cover versions (David Bowie should have been shot for turning the magnificent See Emily Play into an untuneful synth-filled hell) not to mention the get-out clause of playing the whole 23 minutes of Echoes to fill up the show because the audience requested it. In addition, the amount of mistakes I heard on air were excruciating, even on the more researched shows that should know better (Echoes a track from More: wrong album, wrong year, wrong style) and the excuse I last heard that track 42 years ago doesnt cut it. However, even these shows (6Music Now Playing Producers Playlist and even the later Stuart Marconies Freak Zone) had their moments, thanks to a guest appearance by a very lucid Nick Mason down a phone line and rare playings for Roger Waters rare solo track Give Birth To A Smile (with the Floyd guesting) from his The Body album with Ron Geesin and no less than two outings for the obscure Summer 68 track that always get missed off best Floyd song lists for some reason (till now at any rate). (Personally Id have gone with Remember A Day Wearing The Inside Out or the Roger Waters solo Perfect Sense, all three of which dont get played anywhere near enough to match their brilliance). Id have sent this lot in as my contribution   but, well, Im still having difficulties with the broadband. Whats the betting the 6 music playlist will be something awful next week when I get it say The Best Spice Girls Songs or something like that!

The highlights, though, were the two new (ish) programmes: Live At The BBC and The Producers. Firstly, the BBC set featured no less than an hour of unreleased Floyd recordings (they should have been released on CD in the early 00s, an idea that got nixed by the band), unavailable except on bootleg. And even the bootleggers never got their hands on the first two tracks: Syd Barrett era Floyd playing The Gnome and Scarecrow, plus two 1968 Gilmour-era recordings that eclipsed the finished versions: a marvellous Let There Be More Light played at almost double time compared to the record and a superb Point Me At The Sky that dropped much of the twee single cuteness in favour of a scary instrumental section that kept coming back to haunt the song before exploding back into snappy pop. The later recordings, from a John Peel sessions in 1970, are also stupendous if slightly better known among Floydists, including a powerful One Of These Days recorded before the version on Meddle, a glorious 15 minute Fat Old Sun (actually heard tagged onto the end of next programme, David Gilmours Desert Island Discs) and Embryo, the best outtake in Floyd history. Superb. Thanks again BBC6!

The Producers was pretty special too: featuring new interviews with Gilmour and Mason, this looked back at how the Floyd created their recordings by going back to the mastertapes and is overall a superb series even if only one AAA group (10cc) has been included till now. The show examined Arnold Layne , See Emily Play, Echoes, Breathe, The Great Gig In The Sky, Money, Wish You Were Here and Shine On You Crazy Diamond, revealing such legendary missing sections (many of them included on the new Floyd box sets) such as Stephane Grapellis Violin improv and Gilmours fumbled count-in lining up to the radio effects on WYWH, an all too brief excerpt from a discarded experiment for Echoes putting the vocals as well as instruments through a revolving Leslie Speaker cabinet, Roger Waters demo for Money, the individual backwards loops for SOYCD and countless bits of overdubs and count-ins masked in the final recording. Its a real shame that Waters wasnt interviewed to add his part of the story and that the programme left it too late to interview Wright and Barrett but no matter, this was a superb revealing programme that came closer to being there in the studio than ever before. Oh and for true AAA fans that wasnt even the best bit: the programme branched out to take in Gilmours fascination with the West Coast and included a mind-boggling section from the guitarists solo work On An Island featuring a guesting David Crosby and Graham Nash. Hearing all three mens parts, separated in the mix, was spine-tingling; I said after the 10cc episode a few years back that CSN should be next in the series lets hope the producers bear it in mind for the future! Overall, then, Pink Floyd night was a mixed blessing but at least it gathered up a few chosen repeats for newcomers that havent been on for a while (The Syd Barrett story, Waters and Gilmours Desert Island Discs, etc though sadly the planned repeat of the 2006 doc Wish You Were Here? was taken off at the last minute in favour of, erm, Soft Cell!) and offered two new programmes that even made this long-term collector weep with joy. Well done all concerned and could we have another themed night please, preferably using one of the other AAA bands?!

Rolling Stones News: A quickie this one. Remember The Rolling Stones Story doc we told you about a few months ago? Well its on BBC6 again, with the sixth and final part this Friday in the 3am classic documentary slot. Old fashioned and slow this may be, with tracks played in full throughout, but you learn much more than you do from any of the bands TV documentaries so catch it if you can and havent heard it already.

Paul Simon News: 25 years on from Graceland Paul is set to celebrate his most famous (and weakest) solo album with a new tour, featuring all the past musicians in that line up. Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and countless others will revive several songs from the Graceland record, although its not clear whether Paul will also do other hits or the other cover songs featured on the Graceland tour (Whspering Bells is better than much of the album so lets hope he revives that one!) More news if and when!and when!

ANNIVERSARIES: Bring on the birthday feeling for the following AAA members born between October 18th and 24th: Bill Wyman (bassist with the Rolling Stones 1962-89) who turns an amazing 70 on October 24th. Anniversaries of events include: The Dick Lester film ‘How I Won The War’ starring John Lennon receives its premiere at London Pavilion (October 18th 1967); An early riot at a Stones gig in France where 150 people are arrested for causing £1400 of damage to the stadium and nearby buildings (October 20th 1964); The Who – then still gigging under the name ‘High Numbers’ – are rejected after an audition at EMI (October 22nd 1964) and finally, Paul McCartney is given a special ‘rhodium’ disc by the Guiness Book Of World Records in honour of his long list of achievements with the Beatles, Wings and solo (October 24th 1980).