Happy new year! Yes it really is that time already when we get to look back on another year, prepare for another one, remember all those new year’s resolutions we promised ourselves so faithfully 12 months ago and get ready set go for another year full of news, views and music. If the world doesn’t blow itself up first of course – remember according to the Mayan calendar we have until December 21st to prepare for the threat. That still means we can fit in a quick 48 issues or so of news, views and music so and hopefully a future alien race will be able to revive the internet and find this site so all that work isn’t wasted. Perhaps it’ll be one of our friendly clanduspords from Zigorous 3 as mentioned in our april fool’s day editions?!
Having a quick look back at the first issue of 2011 (news and views no 86) I see that – against all odds – some of the things that we wanted to happen last year did indeed come true. Two whole black and white lost episodes of Dr Who were returned to the BBC last month, a tiny footage of TOTP was recovered (albeit not featuring any AAA artists), our stat counter really did bulge much more than we ever thought possible, there were indeed a few decent additions to the AAA canon (see our review of the year last issue) and thankfully the planned Spice Girls reunion never happened – meaning that, to all intents and purposes, the scary five did indeed retire! Wa-hoo! Alas a lot of our ‘worst fears’ from that issue seemed to happen too: David Cameron got ever nearer to world domination and undoing the few good things Labour ever actually managed to achieve, the highest profile AAA star of 2011 by far really was Lulu and only because of a reality TV show (though on Strictly Come Dancing rather than X factor as we predicted) and I very nearly did end up in the monkeynuts home for retired music reviewers several times over the course of the year after harassments from chronic fatigue, three computer breakdowns and continual harassment from the department of work and pensions. Worst of all, in 2011 we lost two AAA luminaries: Pentangle guitarist Bert Jansch and Monkees co-creator Bert Schneider, sad losses both that didn’t make anything like the splash in the newspapers that either man deserved.
So what are our hopes for this year?: Well, more music, more reviewing and a much bigger presence of AAA in all shapes and forms I reckon, a bit like 2011 but more so (remember that thrill when The Hollies made #1 in the Amazon box set best-seller lists? Or was that just me?!) Our fears for this year: more pointless and mismanaged Coalition cuts, more misunderstanding of our economic situation, an even greater cutback in our democratic values and humanitarian policies and a return to the dark class wars we thought were long behind us. The fact that the first AAA member to announce an album this year so far is Ringo (whose last album released less than a year ago was awfulness personified) doesn’t bode well for 2012, but then again things can only get better from here. Let’s hope 2012 finds a way to bridge that gap between poor and rich, war and peace, anger and kindness, trust and betrayal and The Beatles versus The Spice Girls.
In happier news, I’ve come across a terrific new gadget from the makers of Youtube that will enable you to convert all of their precious soundtracks into mp3 downloads for your i-pod/cd players: you can visit it yourselves at http://www.youtube-mp3.org/ With it I’ve been able to track down many a rare and lost gem entirely legally (with the promise that I’d be first in the queue to buy this stuff were the artists to ever release things officially) – and you can too, without having to pay for any of those silly subscriptions or monthly charges over sites make. Remember, there’s a treasure trove of unavailable AAA rarities on Youtube, as listed on our very pages (see news and views 119-121) so if your xmas presents were disappointing and you still want to add something new to your listening devices for the new year, it’s not too late. I’m currently grooving to a whole batch of Hollies BBC sessions which, like most everything by The Hollies, are absolutely fantastic (get a move on and release them now, EMI!)
♫ Beatles News: Oh dear. There’s a new Ringo album out, ‘Ringo 2012’, in February and the signs aren’t good. For the record, I really admired the Ringo of the 1990s, who made two really good albums (‘Time Takes Time’ and ‘Vertical Man’) with people who really believed in his talent and got the best out of him – the fact that Ringo made both albums after overcoming so many personal problems and battles with alcohol and had the courage to write about his demons impressed me greatly. He re-learnt the knack of writing a clever tune, too. But since then Ringo’s dropped the people who cared for him to work with any old geezer whose ever wanted to know a Beatle and rushing his albums out in the space of a few weeks when they really do need time spent on them as before. Last year’s album ‘Y Not?’ may well be the nadir of my record collection: lots of angry shouting about nothing subjects that have obviously been rankling in Ringo’s mind for 50 odd years with only empty peace-and-love epithets to break up the mood. It was embarrassing, frankly, perhaps the first time since Lennon’s ‘lost weekend’ that a Beatle had something so serious to be embarrassed about. I don’t really think Ringo’s changed that much in just eight months, especially having read two new interviews with him where he’s still unusually spiky and defensive for no reason(he’s surprised people still want to talk about his past? When he was in The Beatles?!And there are only two of them left?!?!), nor do I think the world needs another Ringo record so soon quite honestly. Things don’t bode well either because Ringo is following up his witty but quite frankly nasty song about his hometown ‘The Other Side Of Liverpool’ with a second song (‘In Liverpool’) about Ringo’s down-and-out teenage years when he hated the city even more. If Ringo had written these songs at the time he was suffering I’d have supported him, but banging on about your miserable childhood a half-century on while writing from a mansion in Monaco that your Liverpool fans helped pay for when no one else believed in you is quite another. If you’d have told any Beatles fan in the 1960s that in 50 years time Ringo is going to be making albums slagging off his birthplace and Paul was going to do a whole album of crooner cover versions I think they’d all have been bitterly disappointed. Let’s hope for better things from the fab two in 2012...
♫ Lulu News: ‘Champagne for Lulu!’ Local lass and Edge Hill graduate Jennifer Saunders’ comedy was back on over Christmas with two specials of her 1990s comedy ‘Absolutely Fabulous’. New Year’s Day’s episode saw a return of Lulu as a guest on the show sparring against – of all people – a spice girl! To be fair Emma ‘Baby’ Bunton was a good sport, there was even a gag about being a ‘sort of’ singer, but Lulu seemed a bit out of sorts, being prevented from doing her trademark ‘Shout!’ mid-breath. The plot, generally irrelevant to the series, was about a famous fashion designer wanting to become singer but one who had no voice whatsoever that anybody could hear, hence the presence of the two ‘singers’ as ‘coaches’. The end result? A great postmodern joke when secretary Bubbles (played by Jane Horrocks) sang off-stage to great applause (she did a similar thing in the hit film ‘Little Voice’ a few years back). For my money, though, I don’t know why anyone else turns up to a show where the great Julia Swahala and Joanna Lumley upstage everybody every time, often without saying a word...
♫ Pentangle: BBC6 are repeating an ‘in session’ performance by Bert Jansch, in tribute to the guitarist who died last year. The session takes place on Thursday, January 5th at 4am as part of the ‘live music hour’, following a set from Pink Floyd collaborator Roy Harper.
ANNIVERSARIES: Birthday bonanzas for the busiest week of AAA musicians we’ve had for some time (between January 3rd and 9th): George Martin (producer of The Beatles 1962-69 and various solo albums) turns 86 on January 3rd, Van Dyke Parks (lyricist on The Beach Boys’ ‘Smile’) turns 71 on January 3rd, Stephen Stills (guitarist with Buffalo Springfield 1965-68 and Crosby, Stills and Nash 1969-present) turns 67 on January 3rd, Syd Barratt (guitarist and so much more with Pink Floyd 1967-68) who would be 66 on January 6th, Jerry Garcia (guitarist with the Grateful Dead 1965-95) who would be 69 on January 8th and Terry Sylvester (guitarist with The Hollies 1969-80) who turns 65 on January 8th. Anniversaries of events include: Beach Boy Carl Wilson refuses to join the Army ranks after being drafted (January 3rd 1967); JohnandYoko’s ‘Two Virgin’s record is released – in brown paper bags after distributors object to the ‘pornographic’ front sleeve (January 3rd 1969); The last ever Beatles recording – and even then minus John Lennon – takes place for the George Harrison song ‘I Me Mine’ which had just been added to edits of the ‘Let It Be’ film (January 4th 1970), Performance – the film that all but split the Stones after Mick Jagger was cast in the lead alongside first Brian Jones and then Keith Richards’ partner Anita Pallberg - is first shown (January 4th 1971); The release of The Beatles’ first record – well, sort of, the release is the German-only small label single ‘My Bonnie’ credited to Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers (January 5th 1962); The sad death of ‘fifth Beatle’ and unsung hero Mal Evans, who is shot by police in America after threatening suicide (January 5th 1976); The Rolling Stones headline their first tour with The Ronettes in support (January 6th 1964); The first new John Lennon song since his death in December 1980, ‘Nobody Told Me’, is released as a single (January 6th 1984); Max Yasgur is sued for $20,000 of damage to properties following the Woodstock concert the previous August (January 7th 1970) and finally, Crosby, Stills and Nash release their last (to date) platinum-selling album ‘Daylight Again’ (January 7th 1983).