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KARAOKE KLASSICS

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I’ve never hidden my love for cover versions having featured many hundreds of them over the years at this and the old blog. Here’s three of the more unusual examples of the genre that I’m fond of:-

mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Uptown Top Ranking

Yup, it is a cover of the #1 single by Althea & Donna back in February 1978…..one that takes what was a perfect pop/reggae single and turns it something quite disturbing and haunting. Not sure how many of you will actually like it, but there’s something quite erotic about the vocal delivery by Sarah Nixey ‘see me in my halter back, see me give you heart attack, give me little bass, let me wind up my waist…’

mp3 : Martin Gore – Loverman

Yup, it’s the fella out of a band that I was never that keen on after Vince Clarke left them….this takes something that was quite disturbing and haunting and turns into something quite poppy and disposable. Not sure how many of you will actually like it….I mean where Nick Cave sounded menacing and a danger to society, this could almost pass as a version you’d hear on Pop Idol or X-Factor.

mp3 : Cake – I Will Survive

The best cover versions are by those bands and singers that take something incredibly well-known and turn into something that something that sounds like one of their own originals (see The Wedding Present on just about every occasion). If you like the sort of stuff churned-out over the years by Californian alt-rock act Cake, then you’ll adore this. If you consider the disco-classic to be sacred, you’ll hate it. For the record, I adore the original, but I want to be counted in, if not quite a loverman of the cover, then an admirer.

Enjoy.

READ IT IN BOOKS : LUKE HAINES (1)

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LHBadVibes

A bit pressed for time just now, but no apologies for this re-posting from January 2009. It follows-on nicely from yesterday’s effort:-

There’s been a substantial number of good reviews about this book…..and here’s another one coming.

For those of you who don’t know, Luke Haines first came to fame as a member of The Autuers, before later making records under his own name, as well as a member of Baader Meinhoff and Black Box Recorder. The fact that first chart success coincided with the rise of a few other UK bands at a time when American bands and grunge was the dominant force. This led to Mr Haines, along with the likes of Brett Anderson of Suede, to be christened as the founding-fathers of Britpop….

But this bio, which covers 1992 -1997, makes it quite clear that Luke Haines had very no time or most of his peers. Indeed, an anecdote that pre-dates The Autuers has the author admitting and illustrating that he has always had an arrogant and cocky attitude, an astounding sense of self-importance and a massive ego. But he argues that he had the talent which justified all of this and therefore has every right to be so dismissive of those in the music industry whom he felt had little or no ability.

There’s a very long roll-call of folk who really do get it with both barrels within the 243 pages, some of them being heroes of mine that I have long loved and admired (e.g. Matt Johnson of The The). Sometimes I was wincing as I read a particularly barbed paragraph, but mostly I was nodding in agreement, or indeed laughing out loud.

By the end of the book, I had no doubt in my mind that Luke Haines is someone who cares passionately about music, but has no time not for the music industry or those who service it. Some of his best passages are about journalists, and he takes great pleasure in some of the things said about him over the years. For instance, one scathing reviewer in Melody Maker thought they were insulting him by describing him as the new Nick Lowe, little realising that for Luke Haines, that was just about as big a compliment he could be given.

One of the other things the book reminded me of was how few Britpop singles went to #1 and how the very highest echelons of the pop charts were as rank rotten during this so-called golden era as they are now – Mr Blobby, 2 Unlimited, Take That, Mariah Carey, East 17 and Robson & Jerome are among the acts that hit the top spot. And what Luke Haines has written has got me thinking just how much of Britpop will be truly remembered in 20 or 30 years time outwith Blur, Pulp, Suede and Oasis (and of course, the first two of these bands had been around for a few years before the actual movement).

I don’t agree with every word that is in the book as I reckon a number of the acts that Luke rails against had some talent. In the introduction, our esteemed author makes it quite clear that he wishes things had turned out differently, and while there’s a lot of bitterness, the vitriol and poison is laced with too much humour, much of it self-deprecating, for the book to leave any lingering bad taste. Indeed in his intro, the author makes it clear the he didn’t set out on an exercise in score settling – although he also acknowledges that the casual reader may have every reason to beg differ – and that what he has written is very much what he thought at the time, not necessarily what he thinks now. Nor does he bear any ill towards the people and characters in the book…..although I think that might just be stretching things a bit far.

I’m guessing that most folk who pop into TVV consider themselves fairly serious music fans. Well, I reckon every serious music fan would enjoy devouring Bad Vibes on first reading, and then a few weeks later will be more than happy to read it again….it’s a real early highlight of 2009.

Oh and it also made me want to go back and listen to some of the great music he’s made over the years:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – How Could I Be Wrong (1993)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Lenny Valentino (single version) (1994)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Unsolved Child Murder (live on French Radio) (1996)
mp3 : Black Box Recorder – England Made Me (1998)
mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Andrew Ridgeley (2003)
mp3 : Luke Haines – Leeds United (2007)

Enjoy

GIVE ME MOORE

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MooreLexweb

(A Guest Posting……from Jacques the Kipper)

Pete Astor has always been a favorite of mine.  As far as I’m concerned much of what the Loft produced and most of the Weather Prophets‘ output was criminally under-rated at the time. Since then though I have to be honest and say that I’ve heard little of him or his music.  That’s not to say he hasn’t been issuing stuff, mind. Something I discovered when I noticed that coincidentally he was playing the Lexington when I was down in London for work.

Even better he was supporting John Moore, erstwhile of the Jesus and Mary Chain, John Moore and the Expressway, Black Box Recorder and Art Brut.   Again, a quick bit of research suggested that he hadn’t been resting on his musical laurels either, though possibly, if at all, he’s better known to non-indie fans for his role as a leading light during the 1990s importing what was at the time an almost fabled drink, absinthe, to the UK. Basically, absinthe had never actually been banned as was the accepted wisdom at the time. I’ll leave you to decide whether the country has been morally corrupted since its arrival.

Back to the gig. I turned up expecting a decent crowd of indie pensioners.   In fact, when I got to the bar downstairs us ‘civilians’ were outnumbered by the musical entertainment and their posse, more of whom later.   At least the bar bantering meant there was no chance of Pete hitting the stage upstairs without me knowing.

When he did take that stage, there were about 12 of us in the audience not obviously related to the musicians. Still criminally under-rated then.   Fair play, there were a pair of Japanese presumably C86 loving tourists there to pray at the Astor altar.  Perhaps they’d never forgiven John for leaving the Mary Chain or perhaps they preferred the Gillespie period. Maybe they’d been corrupted by absinthe. Whatever, they jumped ship after Pete’s set.

And what a set it was.  Did I recognise any of the songs?  No.   Were there any joyous proclamations of life?   No.  As he himself admitted, several times, miserable songs are where he’s at.   He also likes to include a name or three in his tunes.  Don’t let any of that put you off though.   He remains one of England’s finest songwriters, even if no-one (me included on recent evidence) is listening to his work.   I’ll happily (ironic smile) go see him again. And buy his recent stuff.   And you should too.

For those that want to track down his musical output, check in your local record shop under the Loft, the Weather Prophets, or Pete(r) Astor, or if you really must then there’s the internet. This page on Creation Records website gives you a flavour of what you might find

http://www.creation-records.com/weatherprophets/ from his earlier musical life.

You’ll find some recent musings here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gyh-uvlUtgY&list=PLBA49AAC5E526AFCD

Just start with Dead Trumpets, lay back, enjoy. Then go purchase.

Back to the gig (2).

And then John Moore.  Sitting by him on a seat throughout was a ventriloquist’s dummy, who had his own ventriloquist’s dummy.  But this was no horror show.

John opened by throwing yet to be inflated balloons into the audience. There was no mention of why. He then started the show itself by reading from his book to be, Bad Light. You can help fund it through http://unbound.co.uk/books/bad-light . On the basis of what we heard, it’s well worth a punt, and for those who follow the link – who could refuse the chance to visit John’s shed for as little as £10.

Discarding the book, he began the musical entertainment with Smoking on the Cancer Ward, from his album Floral Tributes. A truly brilliant start. His second song lasted a mere couple of verses before he got bored with it and stopped.  A couple more followed in full. Lo-fi lullabies indeed. Amongst the songs he extolled the virtues of Hampstead Heath and amazed us with a tale based on his namesake. He then treated us to a couple of poems. Before he dedicated a couple of songs to the demise of Soho and Madame Jojo’s in particular.

There was then some more banter with us audience. And who should be amongst that audience and part of that posse in the bar I mentioned earlier – in fact, who was the biggest heckler in the room – none other than Luke Haines. Not to mention Sarah Nixey. They joined John on stage to ‘reform’ Black Box Recorder for an astonishingly good England Made Me.

As Luke and Sarah returned to the audience, rather worryingly John got out his saw. Yes, a saw. Which he proceeded to play with a bow. His request for requests was met with ‘tunes’ that left a lot to the imagination. Though I doubt that God Save The Queen has ever sounded so good.

The audience, including Romeo Stodart of Magic Numbers and I think Louis Eliot (now of Louis Eliot and the Embers, but previously Kinky Machine), was now probably up to about 40 in total. For such a great show this was criminal.  Which was highly appropriate as John introduced us to his planned musical on the Kray Twins – the Blind Beggars Opera, I think.  He battered out a couple of songs which suggested that lyrically this particular musical won’t be the subject of any Lloyd Weber style find-a-lead-singer Saturday evening reality show. No holds barred, guvnor. (And rather bizarre to wake up the next day to hear that Frankie Fraser had died.)

He ended with a singular look back to his days of ridiculously big hair. Then a desperate attempt to get us to blow up those balloons to complement his last song. To be honest, it was chaos by now. It truly was like having a good pal round playing songs in your living room as everyone got merry. One encore and a rousing response from us to what had been a truly memorable night.

Speaking to him afterwards I said that he really needs to find someone who will put him on in the Edinburgh Fringe. He’s up for it if someone has the wherewithal. Honestly, an hour or so of entertainment from John Moore is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face. Never a dull moment, and I suspect, never the same show twice. Brilliant.

Jacques

JC adds

It was down to me to select the mp3s to do with this piece….I hope they do Jacques’ words justice:-

mp3 : Peter Astor and the Holy Road – Almost Falling In Love
mp3 : Peter Astor – Take This Longing

(the former from the LP Paradise while the latter is from a Leonard Cohen tribute LP)

mp3 : Black Box Recorder – England Made Me

THE ART OF GREAT VALUE ON A CD SINGLE

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R-463435-1173553475

Black Box Recorder consisted of Sarah Nixey, Luke Haines (of The Auteurs), and John Moore (formerly of The Jesus and Mary Chain).

Debut LP, England Made Me, got a fair bit of critical acclaim upon its release in 1998 but didn’t sell all that well, perhaps because it was a very downbeat take on the struggles of everyday life where the gap between the haves and have-nots was ever-increasing and life for many seemed to be mundane and not worth bothering about.

By 2000, the band had come to the conclusion that sex sells, and so while the music itself on the follow-up LP The Facts of Life was little different from the debut, many of the lyrics were a bitter commentary on the peculiar attitude us Brits – or more precisely the demograph referred to as Middle England – have to sex and pornography.

The band enjoyed a Top 20 hit single with the lead track off the LP and as follow-up they selected LP opener The Art of Driving, a song which is not really so much about moving a motor vehicle from point A to point B as ironic advice on how best to ensure a developing relationship goes along at the right pace.

There was little radio play for the single and it stalled at #53.  Black Box Recorder never threatened the charts again.

I thought I’d feature the single as the 2 x CDs made up a great little package.  You got a radio edit of the track, the album version and you could also access the promo video.  There were also two cover versions of hit singles from the 70s, both of them delivered in ways that would make you believe they were Black Box Recorder originals.

And then there was a very interesting, funny and occasionally perverted remix of the band’s hit single – a remix by the Chocolate Layers, aka Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey of Pulp.

mp3 : Black Box Recorder – The Art of Driving (radio edit)
mp3 : Black Box Recorder – The Facts of Life (remixed by the Chocolate Layers)
mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Rock’n’Roll Suicide
mp3 : Black Box Recorder – The Art of Driving (album version)
mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Uptown Top Ranking

Not long after this, Nixey and Moore got married and had a child, much to the chagrin of Haines.  His bitter take on how it affected him and the band can be enjoyed within the pages of his second volume of memoirs, Post Everything.

PENSIONER POP

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As has been widely reported this past week, 66 year old David Bowie has made the twelve-strong shortlist for the 2013 Mercury Prize.  It would therefore seem, as far as the critics and others who make up the Mercury judging panel that his latest LP, The Next Day, is one of the best 12 albums released in the UK this past year.

I can’t say whether this is the case, although I strongly suspect not.  I’m more inclined to think that his inclusion is more to do with giving a high media profile to this year’s award than the merits of what was his 26th studio LP.  The reason that I can’t say for sure is that I’ve given the LP a total bodyswerve, as I have all his new material ever since the travesty that was Tin Machine in the late 80s and early 90s.  If any of you have remained loyal and faithful to his output in recent years, please let me know if in fact the latest LP is worth investing in….after all, I’m going to be bombarded with it on displays any time I venture into any High Street music store between now and the awards ceremony at the end of October.

Bowie is a performer who I’ve long felt ran his course in the mid 80s.  Just about all of his albums from the 70s  have more than stood the test of time  – it should also be recognised just how prolific he was in that decade with an an album in every year except 1978 – but then again there had been two absolute classics in 1977 in the shape of Low and Heroes.  I also remain fond of parts of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) from 1980.  The worldwide phenomena of Let’s Dance in 1983 was truly something to behold with the production and sound capturing the popular music of the era quite perfectly, albeit it was a long long way away from the music I was listening to.  It’s a recod which made Bowie the #1 box office attraction for a few years – the royalties from the classic rock stations playing the hit singles from that era must still be mega given how often I stumbled upon them during my recent few weeks in Canada.

My admiration for Bowie began to fall away around the time of Live Aid.  Many have said that he was one of the outstanding performers that day but I was disturbed by the fact that out of all his back catalogue he chose to perform Heroes and in a way that seemed congratulatory to all the rock stars who had shown up that day in London and Philadelphia.

What I find interesting about his career, which now spans a jaw-dropping 46 years, is that so many modern musicians cite him as a huge influence and have covered his songs, either in concert or as b-sides or album tracks.  But almost inevitably, these covers are of songs from the 60s and 70s with scant regard to the later material.  And instead of me posting some great songs from the 70s which I’m sure are well-known to all readers of this blog, I thought I’d share some of the covers I’ve most enjoyed:-

mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

mp3 : Vivian Girls – John, I’m Only Dancing

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie – Secret Life of Arabia

mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Sound & Vision

mp3 : Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust

Actually, the only reason I’ve included that FF cover is that the dooh-doohs at the start are supplied by Girls Aloud…..very bizarre!

And here’s a cracking acoustic C&W version from Mr Bowie himself:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (live and acoustic)

Enjoy.