Friday, April 03, 2015

Everybody Up! 2 - A Slade, But Not That One (Yet)

1-4. VINCE TAYLOR "Brand New Cadillac"

Hailed by Bowie as a major inspiration for Ziggy Stardust, covered by The Clash, beloved of rockabilly revivalists - why don't I know more about Vince Taylor? 

Well, there's two main reasons for that: number one, like a lot of artists at the time he was most well known for performing the same basic batch of rock 'n' roll songs that everyone else was doing at the time.  Say what you want about The Beatles - and I often do - but they did lead a shift to self writing that helped acts stamp a bit of personality on their acts.  Or these days, a lack of personality.  Am I right?

Number two, drug hell.  Well, it happens to the best of them.

Life factors set aside, as indeed they should be, what we have here is a superior slice of smouldering rock 'n' roll from a hell of a singer, and one that ushered in visual elements of performance and fashion that would have an influence on glam, punk and beyond.  More importantly for me, we have the first song I can recommend without reservation, so we're picking up some speed!

1-5. MAX HARRIS "Gurney Slade"

And now to a more tenuous inclusion: the theme tune from a surreal sitcom that David Bowie apparently liked, starring the gentleman we'll be hearing from on the next track.  It's by Max Harris, who also provided themes for "Porridge" and "Doomwatch" - so I've learned something today!

It's not bad; we have enough clicks and flute for me to wonder if Bentley Rhythm Ace got around to sampling this at any stage, some jaunty piano (or perhaps pianny, depending on your persuasion) and a bit where the whole orchestra strikes up for no apparent reason and to little effect, probably to justify their union rate for the session.  In short, it's a theme tune from a sixties sitcom.

Whilst I do agree with this set's mission to bring oft-ignored influences to people's ears, even I was thinking 'this could have been "Rebels Rule" instead'.  I promise I will try not to espouse that kind of opinion here, but given what we've got next it seems a largely irrelevant choice.


Christ, this isn't getting any easier is it?  This starts off very much like the previous track, which acts as further condemnation of its selection, before 'evolving' (if one can call it that) into the most insignificant, unchallenging piece of pop fluff this side of Take That's masterpiece of mediocrity, "Everything Changes".

It has occurred to me since that this may be entirely deliberate; Newley is clearly not a bad songwriter, having contributed to "Goldfinger" and the soundtrack to "Willy Wonka" (non-Depp version), or performer, being as he was in demand for both commercially and critically acclaimed productions throughout his lifetime.

In light of the previous sentence, we are forced to look at the nature of art itself, and whether an aggregate of quality across a career can lift even the worst parts of an act's output to a higher level, simply by being part of a largely high quality oeuvre. 

A thorny question, to be sure, but one simply answered with seven little words - Bowie's great, but "Kooks" is still shit.  Therefore, I shall be swerving "Bee-Bom" on subsequent playthroughs.  I thank you.

1-7. BILLY FURY "Jealousy"

But let's not end this entry on a low - here's a genuine superstar of his time, and a man past whose statue I am often found sauntering, over yonder by Liverpool's Albert Dock, but much like Vince Taylor, not someone who you hear mentioned in the same breath as some of his better-remembered peers.

That's a real shame on this evidence.  Taken from phase two of Billy's career, where he espoused more mainstream balladry after his having risen to the top as an edgier, Elvis-like character - which is, of course, the same basic path that The King himself would take - he is more than capable of carrying a tune, whilst showing a damn sight more personality than many of his contemporaries.

Lifelong heart problems put a very final full stop on things for him, which is a crying shame, as had he lived he would doubtlessly have drifted organically back into fashion to finally receive his dues, but as things stand and without a number one single to his name, time will continue to be cruel to his memory.  Nonetheless, I recommend you seek him out, as he does not disappoint.

Join us next time for Marc Bolan!...  Oh wait, no, plus a clattery, backfiring van, some old cans of paint and a great new reality TV concept. 

No comments: