All posts by adrian

My Record Collection 76

Lesley Duncan – She was an incredibly talented Singer-Songwriter from the Sixties and early Seventies.  She was however quite shy and didn’t like the spotlight.  I used to have all her albums on vinyl, but they are incredibly expensive now on CD…oh well.  She was a backing singer for Dusty (see D) and many others – even singing on Dark Side Of The Moon.  Her best known song ‘Love Song’ has been recorded by over 150 artists including Elton John.   So, we start with ‘Sing Lesley Sing’ a recent re-release of her first album (1971) plus a few demo tracks.  Lovely songs and great playing from Jimmy Horowitz on organ, Elton on Piano and Chris Spedding on guitar.  Best songs; ‘Love Song’ of course and ‘Mr. Rubin’ and my favourite ‘Chain of Love’.  Her voice is so soft and caressing, you instantly recognize it and fall back in love with her.  Her second album Earth Mother was always my very favourite of hers – after this she tended to go a bit too close to the middle of the road – but I will keep watching out for her albums.  Earth Mother is decades ahead of its time, with its critique of the music business and her ecological words.  I just love it.  Best songs – so hard to choose….but the title track obviously, and ‘Time’, ‘Fortieth Floor’ and ‘God Is Real’ still sound as fresh as the day they were recorded.   If I ever had to choose – and please don’t ever ask me, this could well be in my top – say 100, albums.  I had her three other albums on vinyl and cassette, but somehow that special magic seems to have been lost slightly – not that those records are bad at all – not just so special.  Anyway, she retired from the music business in the early 80s; with her husband to a Scottish farm and seems to have lived happily ever after – until her sad early death at 66.  One of the best girl singers…

Duran Duran – and so we skip from the sublime to the (almost ) ridiculous.  Only one record ‘Greatest Hits’  and that is all you will ever need.  Okay, but really….pretty unnecessary even so.

Ian Dury – the old rascal.  Not the greatest fan, but good for an occasional listen and chortle; a superb wordsmith and quite good tunes too.  Just have the one – a greatest hits – Reasons To Be Cheerful.  And very good it is too, all the old favourites and a few others too.

Dusty Springfield – not many artists can be recognized just by one name but Dusty was and will always remain one of them.  The only album I have is Dusty in Memphis; 1969, which at the time was a bit of a flop, as was Dusty at this point in her career.  She had a few hits in the 60’s but was looking decidedly old-fashioned as the Seventies approached.  But over the years this record has gained a cult status as her best.  Great musicians and a good choice of songs, many by Goffin, King – my favourites; ‘Son Of A Preacherman’, ‘Breakfast In Bed’ and ‘Windmills Of Your Mind’.  She was one of the great white soul voices, instantly recognisable – but apparently she had quite an unhappy personal life.

Love Song: Previously Unreleased 1977-1986

My Record Collection 75

Nick Drake – Another of the music business casualties, Nick was just too sensitive to survive.   He made just 3 albums in his short lifetime – and they are all classics.  At the time each barely sold a few thousand copies – but since he died they have become cult albums and are now in the millions.  He was an influence on many later artists who loved his weary, almost not there ethereal tunes.  In a way he drew the path for others to follow.  He was almost always depressed and his lack of success both re-enforced his depression and became a justification that he was right.  I do know just how he felt.  The brick wall that you hit as an artist becomes in itself a wall to keep out all the critics. He was a great friend of John Martyn (see M) and Richard Thompson (seeT), but even they could not persuade him to continue. First up is his debut Five Leaves Left; (1969) a gentle and relatively happy sounding album.  Best songs – ‘River Man’, ‘Time Has Told me’, and ‘Cello Song’.  Apparently Nick wanted the album to be just his voice and guitar but his producer put a sympathetic backing on it, much to his displeasure.  Two years later and he recorded Bryter Later – This is probably his best effort.  Two versions of ‘Hazy Jane’ which send you off into another world, and ‘Poor Boy’ and ‘Northern Sky’ are lovely and lyrical.   He almost sounds happy at times, but there is that deep melancholy vein through the album.  At times it just fits your mood, but I can understand how he never achieved a wider audience.  I only discovered him through an Island sampler ‘El Pea’ which had a track of his on.  His last album was ‘Pink Moon’.    Another downbeat record, less backing too – almost stark in places. The title track is quite good, and several other tracks just slip by nicely, but you get the feeling when the record stops that you haven’t really heard it.  As if it has sent you momentarily to sleep.  There have been many compilations since his death in 1974 (a suicide), I only have A Treasury – and no new tracks, but simply the better tracks.  One suspects that had he lived he would have struggled to be allowed to make any more albums, and that would have been that.  As it is, like many others, his early death has ensured him a following he never found in his brief life.

Duffy – broke through in 2008 with the number one album Rockferry.  She sounded so like the fatal Amy Whitehouse (see W) that her voice seems almost affected, a yearning voice similar to Adele too (see A).  this obviously hit the spot with a younger audience and she had incredible success for a couple of years.  The album is okay, and yet somehow it fails to satisfy me.  I am always on the lookout for new girl singers – but Duffy was not to be one.  No bad songs on the records; just nothing that sticks in my mind.  Ah…maybe I am just getting old.   Duffy has practically retired after her two albums brought her fame (which she apparently hated) and fortune (which I suspect she liked),

Nick Drake, August 1970 London

 

My Record Collection 74

Donovan – well, what can we say?  A peculiarly English ‘pop-star’; the English Bob Dylan….hahaha.  But actually in the 60’s we all loved him.  He wrote some great songs, and on the strength of that I picked up a compilation called Greatest Hits, a misnomer if ever there was one; only ‘Sunshine Superman’ and ‘Season of the Witch’ are in any way ‘Hits’.  But I always liked him, and had a vinyl copy of ‘Cosmic Wheels’ which is brilliant – but is now a rarity on CD – still I might just buy it anyway.  (I just have….hahaha)

Doobie Brothers – well, less said the better. Destined for the charity shop I am afraid.

Thomas Dolby – Now, here is a very interesting one.  Part mad professor, part brilliant musician, part serious producer.  A genius at the then (late 80’s) new technology of Synths and Sampling he released a few innovative ‘Hits’   -‘She Blinded Me With Science’ and ‘Hyperactive’.  In many ways he kick-started a new wave of techno and dance music.  But he has always been a reclusive artist; in fact after a handful of successful albums he concentrated on developing technology and became a University bound consultant.  He returned late in the 2000’s to music.  He also wrote a couple of film scores – so, quite a polymath.  Incidentally he helped produce Dog Eat Dog by Joni (the tracks he was involved with I really like).  Anyway I only had 2 CDs (just ordered a boxset of his) – The Flat Earth, which was I think his third album.  It is simply brilliant, of course -almost every track worth re-listening to.  Lots going on in the background but the melodies are lovely.  He sings very well too.  Hard to pick a favourite song but ‘Dissidents’ and ‘I Scare myself’ do stand out.  The only other of his I have is the incredible Astronauts and Heretics album.  Such a lovely record; full of life and great enthusiasm – best songs ‘Silk Pyjamas’ and ‘Close But No Cigar’ both of which I first got as CD singles.  For a while this album was never off my turntable…but I had almost forgotten Thomas; he went off and worked on sound technology for a while and became a hit producer for other artists.   And made no records for many years.  Have no fear though, I just ordered a box-set of first five albums for £10….

Image result for images of Thomas Dolby

 

 

 

 

My Record Collection 73

The Doors – I actually came to this band quite late.  I first really became aware of them in 1972. The Weeley ‘pop festival – and ‘Riders On The Storm’ was played a lot during changeovers of acts.  I think I had heard it before but loved it and bought the album L.A. Woman of the previous year when I got back to London.  Mind you I got into so many bands after Weeley – Edgar Broughton Band, Barclay James Harvest, Lindisfarne and Genesis to name just a few.  But for whatever reason I didn’t go further back into their 60’s music (or forward for that matter either) until the early Eighties.  I had a girlfriend then who loved the Doors and we would listen to their earlier stuff together.  Eventually I bought most of it too, And though never on my real favourites list, I still do quite like them.  Starting with their debut The Doors (1967).  And immediately you are into that distinctive Doors sound, a lot of bass and driving keyboards.  Of course the band became famous because of lead singer Jim Morrison and his stage antics including being constantly arrested for exposing himself – but it is really the sound of the band that is the key, especially Ray Manzarak on keyboards that created the pioneering sound; in fact they are constantly being sampled by rap artists of today.  So – the album – it is really good, and so different from everything else in that momentous year.  Best songs ‘Soul Kitchen’, ‘The Crystal Ship’ and ‘Light My Fire’.  It is almost spoiled by the excesses of the final track ‘The End’ – but it was 1967, the year of psychedelia.  And there is even a Kurt Weill song in there too…

It was busy days back then for bands…Strange Days came out later that same year.  If anything it is even better and spawned two big hits ‘People Are Strange’ and ‘Love Me Two Times’ – but the whole album is pretty good; the usual excesses on ‘Horse Latitudes’ which I doubt anyone understood (or even the title), but ‘You’re Lost Little Girl’ and ‘Moonlight Drive’ are excellent.  A year later and after month’s of touring the band attempted that difficult third album.  Lead singer Jim Morrison had used up most of his lyrics and the band struggled to write songs in the studio, the resulting record ‘Waiting For The Sun’ was a bit disappointing; however it did get to number 1 in the US album charts.  In my mind the only really decent song is ‘Hello, I Love You’ – The rest leave me flat and a bit bored.  A year later and The Soft Parade came out.  And, in my mind – no real improvement.  To tell the truth I recently bought the box set of 5 Doors albums; I had the Greatest Hits and once owned a couple of vinyl albums. But I was quite disappointed bu these two middle albums.  The title track is the usual excessive nonsense from Morrisson and only one other track really stands out  – ‘Tell All The People’.  The Doors were a strange mix; they had ‘Hit’ singles which were quite poppy, they had excessive ‘Weird scenes in the gold-mine’ long songs and a lot of bluesy stuff.   Anyway – the next record ‘Morrisson Hotel’ seemed much better to my ears.  Quite bluesy really – but the songs sound more focused as does Morrissson himself.  Best songs ‘Waiting for the Sun’, ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Ship Of Fools’.  But they really made a classic in 1971 with the majestic ‘L. A. Woman”.  And it was quite tragic really – just as they had found a remarkable streak of form, Jim Morrison died of an overdose in Paris.  I have visited his grave in Pere Lachaisse.  The band were never the same; they did release 2 more albums but without the strange chemistry of Jim Morrisson it never seemed to work,  anyway the album is simply sublme.  I love nearly every track – ‘Hyacinth House’, ‘L.A. Woman’ and of course ‘Riders On The Storm’ are standouts.  Riders still sends shivers down my neck,  And just to prove there is life after death a couple of years later they released what is almost my favourite Doors album American Prayer.  This is Jim reciting his poetry, some of which is familiar from earlier songs and the Doors in the background.  Simply sublime – there is something about Jim’s voice that is gentle, evocative and raging but that is compelling too – a great loss.  Well the album is exactly what the Doors should have become – intelligent and moody and brilliant.  Anyway, as a coda it is exactly appropriate.

An American Prayer

People Who Boast

Don’t you just hate boastful people.  I am not sure if it is a particularly modern disease, but I seem to come across them more and more often the older I get – and the more intolerant I become of them too.  You know the sort; they cook a meal and immediately declare that no-one else make a paella like them; isn’t that the best paella you ever tasted? They declare.  Being well brought up and not rude enough to declare “Well, actually no, it is okay, but I have tasted many better” you simply say “Yes, it is very good”.  Which of course simply re-enforces their self-worth.  And then there are those who tell you in great detail how they have rebuilt a motorbike form scratch, or done their own plumbing or re-wired their own house – all brilliantly of course.  I do sometimes wonder if they have omitted the inevitable floods and burnt junction boxes that must have ensued.

And these serial boasters never seem to have any conscience or consciousness that we, ordinary incompetents, are both unbelieving and bored, while simply amazed that anyone can have such a high opinion of themselves.  Then we have the name-droppers; not only did they go to school with famous people but worked with them too – and probably taught them all they know too.  There are also the boasters by proxy – who relate the achievements of their children, the gods of the new age, dripping in University degrees with huge salaries and mansions – as if their achievements somehow reflect on their equally brilliant parents.

No…Please no more.  Let us raise a very small flag for diffidence.  Let us praise the discreet ones, who may occasionally quietly reflect on their own very small achievements, rue their personal failings, but would never dream of broadcasting to the world how wonderful they are.  Because, we are the real achievers; we who simply carry on against the odds, who make very small waves, are not full of ourselves but try by small acts of kindness to leave the world a slightly better place.

 

 

 

Anywhere’s A Better Place to Be

March 1969.

My dear Jane,

So sorry I haven’t written for a while – letter writing was never my strength; besides, as sisters we have hardly ever been apart, so there was never any need before.  I still can’t get our parting out of my mind.  That windy railway platform, when you thought I was going back to Uni, to Leeds – but really, I had already decided to leave all that behind, and start a new life for myself here in London.  And I never got the chance to talk to you about it, or maybe I just felt that we had drifted apart a bit; what with me away and only coming back to Suffolk occasionally.  It felt, to me at least anyway, that what we once had – that special closeness – was slipping from our grasp.  Somehow our growing up that last year had also seen us growing apart.

Oh, I do hope not.  Our relationship was always more than just being sisters.  It was far more than that.  As you know our mother had always seemed, well – away with the fairies, I suppose.  She never seemed that interested in us, especially when we were little.  And I sort of filled the gap and became like a mother, if only two years older, to my little girl.  Do you remember how I used to read to you; I could just about read when I was only five, I can’t really remember who taught me – but I always picked things up easily.  And each week we would cut out the outfits for Bunty together, you cackhandedly hacking away with the scissors and me waiting patiently for you to finish.  Ah, how we loved those little outfits, dressing our cardboard backed Bunty with new clothes every week.

Seems a long time ago now Jane.  In fact, it all seems a long time ago; Suffolk, school, growing up – though so many happy memories, where I struggle to recall much of my one year at Leeds.  In some ways the less you know about Leeds the better.  I wish I’d never gone.  You see, I suddenly felt lost there.  Back in school I was kingpin, head girl, popular without really trying, top of the class at nearly everything – it all seemed to come so easily to me.  And then – suddenly I was nobody, surrounded by all these seemingly far cleverer people than me.  And I stupidly got in with a bad crowd and in my naivety thought that smoking dope and taking pills was so cool; what the groovy people were doing; and if I did it too, I would become one of them.  That I would be free of all convention, that I could escape the mundane life I had lived so far. I never realised until too late that it was never escaping, never freedom; it was just as much a trap as I thought I was slipping into in our back-water little town.

Listen, you may not have heard it – but there is a song by a guy called Harry Chapin.  “Anywhere’s a better place to be” and it’s about being so lonely that ‘anything’, ‘anywhere’ is better than the life you are leading.  Really, you have to hear it to truly understand.  But I felt, the more I listened to it, that Harry was singing directly to me – that the words were actually about me.  And I never felt so lonely, surrounded by all these so-called cool people, in my life.  Everything seemed to close in on me, and it was only drugs that lifted me out of that tunnel of loneliness.  When I was ‘high’ I couldn’t care less, nothing mattered except the music, drinking and having a good time.  But when the drugs wore off, I was far further down than before.

And I knew I had to escape.  The song was telling me – ‘Anywhere’s a better place to be’, and somewhere, anywhere, else seemed to be the answer. And really without a lot of thought I just ran away.  From home, from Uni, from the friends who weren’t really friends at all – and from the desperate need for dope, for pills and all that rubbish.  But sadly, I left you too Jane.  And that is what I regret most of all.

But just a few months ago London seemed to be the answer.  I felt I just had to get away from everyone I knew. I craved anonymity.  I was looking for oblivion really, sweet o-bloody-blivion.  You know, when you hear nothing and see nothing and best of all feel nothing.  I just had to find a way of blocking out all the bad things in my life.  I had thought that drugs were the answer, but of course they were just another wrong turn.  Maybe I had to make those wrong turns in order to find my true way; in order to find myself.  Who knows?  Anyway, I drew out all the money in my little Post Office Savings Account – you know all those Prince Charles stamps we had stuck in as children.  It was a few hundred pounds actually; lots of birthday gifts which Dad made me save rather than spend on sweets or toys.

I thought I would make it in London.  You know, become someone, a face maybe, get into a band, become a model or something.  But I had no idea where to start.  I went into shop after shop down the Kings Road, into Biba, into the crazy ‘boutiques’ in Carnaby Street – but no-one wanted to know me.  The shop girls seemed to be laughing at this gawky country girl.  They all looked down their long lashes at me.  And I gave up after a while.  I ended up just sitting in my little bedsit and letting the days drift by.  Listening to the radio, popping out to buy milk and bread and fish-fingers and cigarettes.  And I watched my little pile of money dwindle too.  And I sunk into a kind of stupor, for the first time in my life there was nothing to get up for, no lessons, no lectures, nobody wanting me for anything.  In fact, nothing at all.  And in that nothingness I discovered that that sweet oblivion I had sought was emptier than anything I could ever have imagined.   And then that song kept coming back into my head “Anywhere’s a better place to be.”

And slowly it began to dawn on me – that it wasn’t the place that was the problem.  It wasn’t the ‘anywhere’ I found myself; it was actually me that was the problem. And I was the one who had to find the calm place in my own head, nowhere else, that was the better place to be.

And so, I have decided to come back home.  In a week or two I expect.  And I want you to tell Mum and Dad, to prepare them, to try maybe to explain to them, ‘cos I know they are furious with me about giving up Uni.

Yes, I am coming home; to Suffolk.  Because on reflection it wasn’t that bad was it.  And I will get a job locally, maybe working in a bank – you know I was always brilliant at maths.  I have managed to kick the craving for drugs now too, and even the ciggies taste flat. I’ll try to stop those too. I miss all the old friends we used to have, and the Mikado coffee bar where we could sit for hours over a coffee and listen to the songs on the Jukebox together.  But most of all Jane – I miss you. I miss someone I could really talk to; you know, about stuff that matters – and stuff that doesn’t matter too.  And Jane, you never criticised me.  Ever.  I mean I can’t remember you ever saying ‘no’ to me.  Maybe you should have.  No, I don’t really mean that either.  I just need you.  I need you, my little sister, to help me, your big sister, finally grow up.  And even now I can hear that song in my head; ‘Anywhere’s a better place to be’ – even our crumby little town in Suffolk.

So, Jane – I’ll let you know the day and the train I’ll be coming home on.  Promise you will meet me on the platform and walk home with me.  I don’t think I could do it without you.

Love – and sorry for all the craziness – Harriet.

 

My Record Collection 72

Dire Straits – another biggie, in fact , they are the eighth biggest selling artists in UK so far.  Like nearly everyone, I was hooked from the start; that wonderful soft guitar sound and just as wonderful is Mark Knopfler’s voice.  The band appeared almost fully-formed – but it was all about Mark, who wrote almost all the songs too.  Debut album Dire Straits (1978) was a big hit, especially with hit single ‘Sultans of Swing’ on it.  And yet this was only two years after punk, which had threatened to sweep away all that wishy-washy lovey-dovey stuff – well, Dire Straits soon proved them wrong.  A lovely album – best songs ‘Sultans’ and ‘Down to the Waterline’ and ‘Wild West End’.   The follow-up Communique the following year was even better; the songs are just wonderful – favourites ‘Lady Writer’. ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ and the closer ‘Where Do You Think You’re Going?’.  Mark seemed perfectly at home singing soulful ballads as rocking out.  Next year and Making Movies was released; another excellent record.  Great single ‘Romeo and Juliet’ but also ‘Tunnel of Love’ and ‘Les Boys’ – but again not a poor song on it.  And they just kept getting better really, if slowing down on the albums, they were touring extensively – joining the rock elite as one of the latest really Big Bands.  In 1982 they released Love Over Gold, which at the time I thought could simply not get any better.  The superb 14 minute long opening track ‘Telegraph Road’ and ‘Private Investigations’ and rocking out on ‘Industrial Disease’.  A triumph of an album.

But the best was yet to come.  Three years later and one of the finest albums ever, emerged – Brothers In Arms.  If it took three years it was well worth the wait.  This album just happened to coincide with the success of CDs themselves, and it soon became the biggest selling disc on that format and has sold many millions since.  And deservedly so – it is one of a very few must-have albums, the Eighties equivalent of Tapestry or Sergeant Pepper.  There is not a weak song on it, and such a variety.  The sheer pop of ‘Walk of Life’, the brilliant satire and rockiness of ‘Money For Nothing’ and the sadness, the empathy of ‘Brothers in Arms’ itself.  Even minor tracks like ‘Why Worry’ are great.  A faultless record.  And of course the brilliant video for ‘Money For Nothing’ which seemed to be playing endlessly on MTV – and an appearance at Live Aid with Sting made that song (and it’s sentiment) almost the anthem of the Eighties – Thatcherism indeed, even if the song is satire of the first order.

Well, the band sort-of broke up for about five years while Mark went off and pursued other ides (see K).  They reformed in the early 90’s and had one more studio album, the slightly underwhelming ‘On Every Street’.  And almost universally it was seen as a disappointment, mind you after Brothers in Arms anything would be.  It isn’t a bad record – just unexciting.  In many ways I think Knopfler was quite content to draw the curtain and continue on his solo noodlings (see K).  I also have the obligatory couple of Greatest Hits  – Money for Nothing and Private Investigations, which latter does include some of Mark’s later solo work.  After just a year on the road Dire Straits sort of disbanded, although they have made rare appearances here and there.  Never say never….

 

 

 

My Record Collection 71

Dexys Midnight Runners (Dexys) – another strange one, this band is simply the nom de plume for Kevin Rowland (see R), lead singer and songwriter.  They emerged in the late Seventies and went through complete band changes in their first flush of success and three albums.  Kevin is absolutely sincere and bonkers in equal measure; dedicated to a form of English Soul Music and refusing any degree of compromise.  Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn’t.  Big Hit ‘Gino’ was followed two years later by even bigger ‘Come on Eileen’, both peaking at number one in the UK charts.  Anyway – I have a greatest hits Let’s keep This Precious – which is a mixed bag; all the hit singles are there and are pretty good, but a lot of the songs seem boring really.

Anyway I also bought a far more recent album 2012’s One Day I’m Going To Soar – mostly on the rave reviews in Uncut magazine.  The band had broken up in the early Nineties but Kevin reformed it as a trio in 2011 and renamed it Dexys – this album was the result.  And it is really quite good; Kevin has a habit of speaking in the intros of songs and I find this both charming and naïve – there is no doubting his sincerity and honesty.  But this bunch of songs are really good, and I am tempted to buy the follow-up which features songs about his homeland Ireland.   Bets songs on this one are ‘She Got A Wiggle’ and ‘I’m Always Gonna Love You’.   A minor star but a great talent.

Neil Diamond – is a colossus in the ‘Pop’ industry, and when he started it was literally that. He worked in the Brill Building in New York writing hit songs along with Carole King (and Goffin) and Neil Sedaka and many others.  But like those other two he ventured out ion his own in the mid-Sixties and had huge hits with ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Cracklin Rosie’.  And right through the Seventies and Eighties with ‘Song Sung Blue’, ‘I am I said’ and many others.  A prestigious talent – who stayed mostly in the ‘Pop’ realm.  So I start with his Greatest Hits – one of many I suspect -but not a disappointment here among the twenty or so songs.  Just great and finishing with Sweet Caroline – so good you have to play it two or three more times.  I also have a press give-away – Hot August Night, which is a live record, 10 songs; not bad really I suppose – a few hits and one or two I didn’t know.  I am never sure if I should really include these give-away’s in my collection – are they truly valid.  Anyway – there it is.  Far more important are practically the last two records he made a few years ago with Rick Rubin.  Inspired no doubt by the fabulous records made with Johnny Cash, Neil put himself at the mercy of this producer – who stripped back a collection of 12 Songs into almost just a guitar, piano and voice.  And what a revelation, not only are the songs brilliant – but so is Neil. Gentle sometimes, a bit rocky sometimes, but always honest. Barely a poor song on this – but ‘Oh Mary’,’ Delirious Love’, and ‘Hell Yeah’ really stand out; Neil’s voice seems as good as ever, and at last he seems to have moved out of the centre of the road and into the left-hand lane.  He followed this up a couple of years later with Home Before Dark. And yet somehow the magic seems to have faded.  The songs don’t have quite that feeling of honesty.  And after this Neil and Rick Rubin parted company.  Actually it’s not such a bad record at all – just compared with it’s predecessor it lacks something.  Best songs – ‘Act Like A Man’ and ‘Pretty Amazing Grace’

Image result for images of neil diamond now

My Record Collection 70

The Dear Janes – I bought this CD Sometimes I on the strength of a couple of CD singles bought back in the Nineties.  It features two girls singing quite pleasantly really, but it is the content that intrigued me; quite a few of the songs are about sex and sexuality – with titles like ‘My Guilty Hand’ ‘Brides of the Cross’ and ‘Jesus take me down’ – repressed Catholics I presume.  An oddity, but I quite like it really.

Del Amitri – another 80’s Scottish band; I first heard through their catchy singles.  I have only bought sporadically their albums starting with 1992’s Change Everything, which was their third album.   And a nice mix of songs it is too, I love lead singer Justin Currie’s voice.  I believe he wrote most of the songs too.  Best songs – ‘Just Like A Man’, ‘Be My Downfall’ and ‘The Last To know’.  Although there is a similarity about most of the songs on the record, not always a bad thing I suppose.  I seem to recall that I picked up the three studio albums of theirs in second-hand shops; I used to spend far too many lunchtimes browsing the racks in Soho record shops – Sister Ray and Reckless Records being my favourites.  Next up is Twisted from 1995.  Another excellent batch of songs – slightly rockier if anything.  Part of the trouble for Del Amitri was that they were categorized early on as a ‘Pop’ group and struggled to establish their credentials as a serious rock band.  Best songs – big hit ‘Roll With Me’, ‘It Might As Well Be You’ and best of all ‘Driving With The Brakes On’. My last original album was their last real record Can You Do Me Good. (2002), and it seems almost a last desperate throw of the dice.  It is practically a solo album – and no surprise Justin Currie went solo after this, though apparently the group is still going in some form.  A couple of good songs however – ‘I’m just A Drunk In A Band’ rocks along and ‘Cash and Prizes’ is pretty good.  It seems that bands in the Nineties and after don’t seem to be able to sustain themselves for that long.  Maybe it has always been that way except for a very few – the Stones limp on, as do the Who.  The Floyd are no more, and U2 barely exist at all these days.  Maybe money and age take their toll – though some artists like Neil Young and McCartney still seem to have an appetite.  I also have an excellent greatest hits Hatful of Rain, and it’s sister CD of B sides Lousy with Love.  And in a way these are all you need, all the hits and some great B sides are here; ‘Kiss This Thing Goodbye’, ‘Nothing Ever Happens’, ‘Spit in the Rain’, ‘Tell her This’ and of course the great Scottish world cup song ‘Don’t Come Home Too Soon’.

Sandy Denny – Ah, just one more rock casualty really.  A singer-songwriter she was in the Folk vein and never quite broke through to the mainstream.  Though back in the Sixties there was quite a bit of cross-over.  She was lead singer in Fairport Convention and a lesser known band Fotheringay before going solo.  She died of drink related problems in the late 70’s.   For some reason I bought her debut The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (1971) (probably because the cover took my eye).  It was quite different from my usual batch of West Coast inspired artists; very English, very low-key and sparse – in some ways she reminded me of Nick Drake (see D).  Listening again now and with the passing of time I realise it was quite a mixture of an album – some songs like ‘Late November’ and the title track are very folky – but she ventured into blues on a cover of Dylan’s ‘Down in the Flood’.  For whatever reason I didn’t buy any of her other three solo records – but a few years back I discovered a retrospective No More Sad Refrains which covers her entire career.  This is a double album; and aptly named, it really is quite dirgy – and this from a Leonard Cohen fan – but I must confess I don’t really like this at all.  This CD may well join a very small pile of rejects….oh dear.  Now I know why I never liked ‘folk’ that much.  Oh Well.

 

 

Five Go Mad In Brexitland

Little Nigel was playing with himself.  No, I mean really on his own, when he suddenly had an idea.  “I will invite my chums Boris, Liam and Michael to go on a trip to Brexitland”.  Now Nigel knew all along that Brexitland didn’t really exist, it was just an illusion, a dream that some mad kids in the private school down the road at Eton had dreamed up one day – but he thought it might be fun anyway.  Liam was keen right away as he had friends in America who told him Brexitland was THE place to be.  Boris had to be persuaded because he feared that Brexitland might be full of Bongo-bongos or slit-eyes – and Michael slithered along behind as he knew it might make him Leader of the gang one day.

Well, on their way they decided to allow little Theresa to join them, she had to wear an ill-fitting trouser suit or people might realise she was a girl after all.  Along the yellow brick road they danced.  One had no brains, one no courage and…oh, sorry that’s a different story -but true none the less,

They asked the man on the way how to get to Brexitland.  His name was Michel and he spoke in a funny accent like all foreigners.  He told them that all the wonderful things they had heard existed in Brexitland were here already, but they were still convinced that something better was just over there on the other side of that fence.  Arriving at the gate called Parliament, which they had to go through to get to Brexitland our five intrepid adventurers were stumped.  The bar of Parliament was too high.  It had a label on it which they could just read, it said.  “Common Sense”.  Try as they might they just couldn’t get through Parliament to Brexitland.  Looking round Theresa discovered she was on her own.  Nigel and Boris had run away, telling her she was on the wrong path to Brexitland.  Michael was playing games and plotting to be leader of the gang himself one day and Liam was in a world of his own trying to swap conkers and old toys with anyone – but no-one wanted them.

So Theresa had to ask that nasty Jeremy to help her get to Brexitland.  But try as they might they couldn’t find a way either.  You see children – Brexitland was always a silly idea.  The lesson we should learn is that things are never quite what they seem, and sometimes you have to ask the grown-ups like Yvette and Hilary and Oliver to help you see sense.