Sunday, April 05, 2015

Everybody Up! 3 - Danny Dyer's World's Hardest Equations

1-8. T-REX "Jeepster"

Finally, we've hit the glam years!  Bolan and his daring ringlets ushered in the era with a number of bombastic, high-profile singles and intriguing long players, with the able support of producer Tony Visconti and a colourful cast of backing musicians, including spectacular ne'er-do-well Steve Pereguine-Took, whose name would not look of place on Kula Shaker's roster.

Released as a single without Bolan's knowledge by a record label he'd just left, "Jeepster" peaked at...  Hang on, we've got here a bit quickly haven't we?  Unless - let me just check - ah, that's it.  This isn't "Jeepster" - it's:

1-8. HOWLIN' WOLF "You'll Be Mine"

Which is basically exactly the same song.  Glad we cleared that up.

...Sorry, what's that?  What does it sound like?  Well, "Jeepster", obviously.  Duh.

1-9. JACQUES BREL "Amsterdam"

Now we go back to the box marked "Miscellaneous Bowie Influences" for a jaunty-sounding track (which is probably about either clattery, back-firing vans, death or an old man having sex with a young woman, as all things expressed in French invariably are) with a vaguely nautical lilt.

As with much Gallic artistry, Mr Brel has passed me by to date, so I was forced to look him up.  I definitely seem to be right on the death prediction, as mortality was often at the forefront of his subject matter; it also seems to have taken him most of a decade to die of incurable cancer, which I'm pretty sure will do that for you.

He was also responsible for "Seasons In The Sun", as covered by Nirvana and Black Box Recorder, and "Jacky", which Marc Almond did a cracking version of, and numerous tracks that Scott Walker seems to have taken a swing at, amongst many other things.  It's a shame that all of Bowie's influences couldn't have produced such an enviable body of work...

1-10. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND "I'm Waiting For The Man"

...And right on cue, here's ol' painty-can Lou Reed to ruin everything, with his cohorts in the cooler-than-thou act described liberally by this very writer as the most overrated band ever to stalk the Earth - yes, it's the oft-bought, oft-displayed, rarely-listened-to Velvet Underground, here to tell us chattering classes about the mean streets of the most artistic, left-wing and middle-class bits of New York.

As the more astute amongst you will have guessed from that rather 'handbags' first paragraph, I'm not especially fond of them, this song included.  But rather than a painful excoriation, I instead have two things to raise about the lyrical content:

1. Drug dealers are described, both here and in other media as "always late".  It makes me wonder how much more a punctual drug dealer could make.  They always have the best watches, too; what a waste.

2. Exactly how much heroin does $26 buy one?  More pertinently, with inflation and the relative weakening of street level drugs over the decades, has that deal got better or worse?

Did YOU purchase heroin on the streets of Harlem in the mid to late 1960's?  If so, Atomic Sourpuss would like to hear from YOU!  Contact us by post at Atomic Sourpuss, C/O An Airship, International Airspace.

1-11. DAVID BOWIE "London Bye Ta-Ta"

"Idea for a television series: London by Tata.  Barbara Windsor drinks in the sights of the capital, whilst travelling in a mid-range Tata Zest sedan.  May be picked up by Sky - possible double bill with Danny Dyer's World's Hardest Equations."

Yes, it's Bowie, pre-Bowie, as it were.  This is from the highly Anthony Newley-influenced period that predated...  Well, everything you and I think of as being David Bowie, essentially.  I spoke about this period and the accompanying album during A Godawful Small Affair (so for more of my thoughts on this period of Bowie's career, if for some unknown reason you find that an attractive proposition, see A Godawful Small Affair, entry 24 at, and I whilst I wasn't keen, I did think there was important historical perspective to be taken from it.

For if Bowie had got big doing this lighter, more knockabout - though often quite acidly belyric'd - material, we may never have had Ziggy, the Thin White Duke and Nathan Adler; we may never have had "Starman" on 'Top of the Pops'; and glam, whilst it would doubtlessly still have existed thanks to the efforts of Howlin' Wolf, would have been a very different beast.

Join us next time for the start of punk, an unfortunate misunderstanding, cavemen, all of Malcolm McLaren's idea(s) and some Back Street Luv - fnarr!

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.