Thursday, June 30, 2016

Everybody Up! 11 - In Which We Say "Piss" An Awful Lot

5. BRYAN FERRY "The 'In' Crowd"

Byron Ferrari is BACK!  Shorn temporarily of Roxy Music, this is Bryan committing full-on, all-out, balls to the wall to his lounge lizard persona - a bit of an odd jump for the undeniably working class miner's son, and therefore one that needs this level of absolute commitment; living the gimmick, like a suave, sophisticated Undertaker.

Once again this is a cover, which shows how many of the iconic songs of this era were repurposed from older days, but it's made so much the artist's own that I find it impossible to associate it with anyone else.  Mind you, Ferry was really pumping out the covers at this stage; indeed, his first two solo albums are entirely composed of covers, which would be an unusual step nowadays.  Back then?  Not so much.

The only further thing I would say is that it's an odd inclusion given we could have had another Roxy Music one on here instead - "Love Is The Drug", anyone?  Or do I just like that because Kylie covered it? - but by odd, by no means do I mean unwelcome.

6. PATTI SMITH "Piss Factory"

Get down and get with it, for this uptempo toe-tapper about...  Erm...  A urine manufacturing plant?  OK, whatever.

Given that this is piss-weak performance poetry - hey, maybe that's what the factory was manufacturing?  I mean, she *did* work there and all - I nodded off a couple of times throughout and thought it best to have a read of the lyrics.  And my interpretation thereof comes down, in essence, to this:

* Patti has a job;
* Patti does not like the job;
* Patti wishes to tell her superiors to stick said job;
* Patti is moving to New York to be a star.

Well, good for Patti.  Fingers crossed for Patti.  Patti can also fuck right off.  I'm bloody sick of hearing creative types banging on about escaping the nine to five - Sleater-Kinney were the last band to annoy me with that behaviour, and their records have been banished to the 'Never Play' list.

Because whilst some may hear this as a clarion call, an example to impressionable young minds to jack it all in, move to a now-unsustainable life in a huge urban sprawl and try desperately to be noticed, an ant in a pile of identical ants, I only see the intense patronisation of the 'normal' human life in a capitalist society; the idea that they're all squares, wage slaves, salarymen and women, propping up the machine, maaan.

Some of us don't have the opportunity to leave the piss factory, Patti.  Still more only get as far as the piss office or the piss shop.  A few of us run our own piss businesses, some get stuck on the piss dole, a lucky few might get enough piss qualifications to go and work at the piss hospital or fly a piss plane.  And none of them are any better or worse than you, in your piss band with your pretentious poetry and your eventual pop sellout.

And the song?  Well, that's the only thing that isn't piss in this whole affair.  It's shit. 

Ahem.  Rant over.  Time to get off my piss soapbox and back to the music.

7. COCKNEY REBEL "Tumbling Down"

A much more engaging and heartfelt entry than when last we joined them just two short posts ago (keep up, slowpokes!), "Tumbling Down" is sonically much closer to the one Cockney Rebel song everyone remembers, "Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)", although by the time that was recorded the band was shorn of most personnel aside from Steve Harley.

I thought I had heard this light, dramatic, mournful offering before, but couldn't place where.  Turns out it's one of the songs they used in flop glam retrospective drama "Velvet Goldmine", for the 'Bowie' character who isn't Bowie because he refused to let them use his name or songs.  Nice to know someone profited from that particular opportunity!

8. THE GLITTER BAND "Angel Face"

"#Gary Glitter, he's a bad bad man/ruining the reputation of The Glitter Band..." - Luke Haines, "Bad Reputation"

Ah.  It seems, both inevitably and unfortunately, that we have reached the point where we can no longer avoid dredging up that name.  A bold choice by the compiler then, though we must bear in mind that The Glitter Band (formerly The Glittermen, latterly The G Band) were the person in question's live backing band only, with the records being handled separately to all members save occasional interjections from the horn section.

And you know what, this song isn't bad at all.  It's very glam-by-numbers, but in doing so it hits all the right places - it may be overtly familiar as a genre piece, but it's a superior offering, clearly made by more-than-competent musicians, so it's never a chore to listen to.

But let this be a lesson to all of us to choose your friends, and where possible your collaborators and colleagues, very carefully - lest you be caught in the fallout of fatally toxic reputational damage.  Still, "Goodbye My Love": it's a hell of a record...

Join us next time for some foxy goings-on, a ton of greasepaint and an example of the Japanese getting it very, very wrong.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Everybody Up! 10 - The Jook's On You


1. SPARKS "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us"

Now, THIS is music.  Genuinely startlingly fantastic - although some of that startling comes from the gunshot sound effect right near the start, that after so many listens as to count as near-infinite, I still for some reason am not ever expecting, causing me to leap out of my skin in public on a regular basis, to my eternal embarrassment.

The music twists, turns and trills through a number of genuinely unexpected and compelling episodes, with Russell Mael's voice soaring majestically above it, conveying the snowballing desperation of the protagonist.

Anyone who thinks pop music cannot be ambitious, intelligent or challenging needs to have this injected into their brain as abruptly as possible; for that is exactly what this is: pop with a brain, heart and balls, streets ahead of today's non-stop parade of hyper-sexualised R and/or B.

There's every risk our children's children will never experience the rush of hearing new music with this heady combination.  Surely, we can't let things go this way?  Surely better heads must prevail, and turn back the tide of disposable pop?

In short: won't somebody please think of the children?

2. HELLO "Tell Him"

Is there a less imaginative band name than this?  (Yes: "The Band", you fucking idiot - Ed)

Heralded by about the most identikit glam rock intro ever, this is a cover of a 1963 song by a band by the name of The Exciters.  And...  It's OK.  It's a good song, but maybe the performance and the sideways shift into a very regimented glam rhythm has damaged it a little, as the original song is actually pretty damn good, but really suits the more spacious arrangement, and this just doesn't work quite as well.

In fact, why not just listen to the original.  You can thank me later:

Here's one for you, though: we'll be hearing another Hello song later, but not their version thereof.  See if you can spot it.

3. MUD "Tiger Feet"

Now here's a track you'll often find on glam/70's/classic rock/dad compilations, so it's only appropriate that I type this on Father's Day.  Hello, Paul, if you're reading this.  I'm going to wager that you don't like this song.

If I'm rambling on about things other than the song, you'll already know that I have naff all to say about this one.  I think it's due to the repeated inclusion on compilations, and television programmes about the best and worst of the 70's, that I'm suffering from Tiger Feet apathy, unable to add anything of interest about it - we all surely know there was a special dance, for instance.

So I'm going to rip off the fact from the (very nice, classy) book that accompanies the compilation, as it's quite an interesting one: the song was written by glam rock writers de jour Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, keeping another of their songs (The Sweet's "Teenage Rampage") off the top spot, and eventually being replaced by "Devil Gate Drive" - performed by Suzi Fruit-Flavoured Carbonated Drink, but written by, you guessed it, Chinn and Chapman.  There's nice for them.

4. THE JOOK "Bish Bash Bosh"

I'm not familiar with the kind of thing I just typed; I don't even know those words, but in a different order...  Well, maybe "bash".  So I've experienced something new today.  Usually good when that happens.

OK, let's dive in with both feet...  "#She's sweet sixteen"?  Well that's a bit of a bad first line, particularly in context of later events.  That the ensuing song appears to be about "easy" girls really doesn't help its case, and the sub-Status Quo racket that accompanies it fails to snap, crackle and pop in any meaningful way.

This does appear to be considered a 'proto-punk' record in hindsight, but it fails to chime with me I fear; however, to give us an excellently odd full circle moment, it appears that two members of this band went on to join - wait for it - Sparks!  So that town really wasn't big enough for both of them...  (cymbal crash, groans)

Join us next time when, having executed our closing joke-writers, we will meet Byron Ferrari once again, visit a piss factory and try not to mention you-know-who.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Everybody Up! 9 - In Which Bowie Is Covered, Yet Again

16. ALVIN STARDUST "My Coo Ca Choo"

Now here's a name you never see anymore.  Dare I say that, as one of the people most synonymous with the genre, he may have been a victim of the public's extremely justified horror around the actions of a fellow high-profile glam rocker.

It is a shame really, as Mr Stardust - not that one - was a magnetic figure at the time, and actually did good business on the nostalgia circuit up until his inevitable end.  Ignoring for a second that this record isn't actually performed by him (apparently he wasn't the first Alvin Stardust OR the first Shane Fenton), it is an iconic hit that will forever be associated with the man himself, whoever in fact he is.

I am therefore happy to report that this is a cracking tune.  A great little groove here, admittedly repetitive, but when you have bare bones this good there's no point in shoving extraneous sections in to make it more 'interesting' - it's interesting enough as it is.  More like this, please!

17. LULU "The Man Who Sold The World"

Alright, let's be as fair as we can be about this: this version was about as Bowie-endorsed as it possibly could be, so there was some quality control going on.  The public certainly liked it, the single peaking at number 3 in the UK.  And - importantly - it's better and less disposable than Dana Gillespie's "Andy Warhol" from two entries ago.

The main problem isn't even that the Bowie version is better, although at the time arguably not better known, than this one; it's those bloody Nirvana scamps who retrospectively made a rock for this version's back.

For when a certain blue-eyed, charmingly vulnerable, unwilling poster boy for a somewhat greasy-haired generation gazed up into the camera, acoustic guitar on lap (though it was creating a suspiciously fuzzbox-ish sound at the time), and a hundred thousand hearts broke for the tragic creature for whom fame was just too cruel, Lulu's version was pinned with a 3rd place ribbon and handed its metaphorical coat.

Does the job, though.  And it's better than Midge Ure's version.

18. MICK RONSON "Growing Up And I'm Fine"

In recent documentaries about the end of the Spiders From Mars, it was said that Mick Ronson was, if not in on it, then at least aware of Bowie's planned announcement of the end of the band that fateful night at the Hammersmith Odeon.  He was allegedly asked to keep quiet on a promise that his career would get the Bowie treatment next - the sky's the limit, fame and fortune, and so forth.

For whatever reason that didn't quite work out, to the point where even a Bowie obsessive such as myself had not found his output high-profile enough to have a listen to.  Reader: based on this evidence, I was a fool.  A fully justified, extremely handsome fool.

It's brilliant, to the point where my jaw legitimately dropped on first listen.  From the low-key piano intro, through Ronson's tale of moving on from his years as a teenage ne'er-do-well with the power of love, into a stomping chorus worthy of the closing titles of...  Something.  Anything, surely - this is sheer, unadulterated class.  Seek it out.

19. COCKNEY REBEL "Judy Teen"

In an odd phenomenon that often happens when I listen to music of a certain vintage, I spent a fair while wondering what this had ripped off that I already knew, and realised it was two songs that were released after this one!  Bloody time, eh?  Flexing like a whore... 

(Hang on, that's not on this album.  Damn.  It should be.)

The verse of this song that is essentially Adam And The Ants' "Prince Charming" with a slight calypso lilt, and there are shades of the vocal delivery in These Animal Men's "New Wave Girl", probably my least favourite song by that particular combo.

It's a bit of a whimper to end a disk on, and one that's been pretty damn solid all in all.  However we will be hearing from Cockney Rebel again soon, one of only two complete acts to make two appearances (T. Rex being the other), so they will have a chance to atone for their mediocrity.  Otherwise I can think of a certain Rock 'n' Roll Hall that will be accepting them very soon.

End of Disk Two! At this point we're largely through the "pure glam" section, and with approximately 60% of the collection left, we've doubtlessly got a few surprises coming up.  So please join us, why not, for the next instalment!

Disk two is in the books!  Join us next time for the start to disk three, which features "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us" by Sparks.  And nothing else it contains can possibly matter, as it features "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us" by Sparks.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Looks Unfamiliar - Hear Me Speak!

Looks Unfamiliar is the new podcast from writer and broadcaster Tim Worthington, where he discusses things that his guests think are obscure enough that only they have experienced them.  He was nice enough to ask me to do one, and lo and behold, Episode 2 duly features me. 

So like an Action Man with a pulled string, I can be found making noise here.  Amongst other things I discuss a unfairly-shelved crisp flavour, an insensitive wrestling faction and a range of toys with absolutely terrifying implications.

Despite me showing my control of the internet by linking straight to the source, you should also go to the index of The Benatical, TV's Ben Baker's home of quality audio produce, because you might just see other things you like on there. 

And you will - New Chart Riot with Ben and Phil Catterall is a...  Well, a riot, for a start.  And whilst not (currently) seasonally appropriate, Ben and Tim's Advent Calendar is a similar rush.

So get over there, and have a look.  Go on, it won't kill you!*

* = not a guarantee.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Everybody Up! 8 - You Can Miss This One Out If You Want

11. COZY POWELL "Dance With The Devil"

I'll level with you, I am not looking forward to this little run.  There will be a LOT of Wikipedia'ing required here, and the result will look every bit as half-arsed as it actually is.  I'm happy for you to wait this one out and tune back in next week - seriously.  I'll wait for everyone to file out...





Right, here goes nothing.

Featuring an intro that always annoys me, as if I'm only half listening I think it's "Rasputin" by Boney M, which is a song that is better than this song by an amount that the English language simply doesn't have a word for, this also contains huge chunks of Jimi Hendrix's majestic "Third Stone From The Sun".  Oh, and apparently Suzi Fruit-Flavoured Carbonated Drink is the bass player on this track, but that might be Wikipedia pulling my leg again.

The problem with this is that it's all utterly, utterly unnecessary - if I wanted to listen to something that had the riff from "Third Stone From The Sun" on it, I'd listen to "Third Stone From The Sun".  Actually, I do.  I do want that.  So that's exactly what I'm going to do.  See you in seven minutes.

12. DAVID ESSEX "Rock On"

Rock off.  I'm still listening to Hendrix.

13. WIZZARD "Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad)"

Ah-ha!  The classic sound of Christmas.  Yule logs, turkey with all the trimmings, hanging up your stockings on the wall - hang on, that's the other one - Meccano under the tree, rationing, the three-day week, Apple Macs, the workhouse, "here's Hurst, he might make it three. He has! He has - so that's it.  That is IT!", Australia's stolen generations, Hungry Hungry Hippos, "Beneath The Valley Of The Ultravixens"... (NOTE: your childhood Christmases may vary)

What do you mean, it's not that one?  What do you mean, it's a classic example of how pop culture was already riffing on the fifties when it had only just finished?  What do you mean, it appears to contain several bars of the theme tune from "Red Dwarf", years before "Loving The Alien" did the same?  And it was replaced at number one by "Eye Level" - the theme from "Van Der Valk"?

Ah, nuts.  I can't catch a break today.

14. ELTON JOHN "Bennie And The Jets"

FINALLY!  A track I'm more than familiar with (cheers, mum), and more importantly, an artist I don't bloody have to research!  Right, the gloves are off - here we go with a classic piece of writing.

The artist known as Elton John was born Harry Rodger Webb in India on 14 October 1940. 
In 1948, the Webb family moved to Carshalton, where young Elton became interested in skiffle music.

He entered the Vienna Music Conservatory in 1977, but left after one semester to "become a real musician", joining a jazz-rock group in West Berlin, and playing in the Austrian bands Spinning Wheel and Hallucination Company.

In 2003 he was given a race seat at Jaguar, but after disappointing in the role he lost his seat to Justin Wilson and returned to Williams as a test driver.  Here he would find his greatest success, whilst filling in for injured drivers Ralf Schumacher and Nick Heidfeld over the course of the next two seasons, gaining a career total of eight points.

Since then he has found some success as a comedy actor, most natbly in two seasons of "Hyperdrive", and was most recently seen by cinema audiences in 2016's "The Huntsman: Winter's War".  And somewhere in the middle of all that he released "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "Crocodile Rock" and "I'm Still Standing", all of which are better than this over-long piece.

(And I mean both the song and this awful attempt at comedy.  A point to anyone who can identify all of the people I'm actually talking about.)

15. BARRY BLUE "Dancin' (On A Saturday Night)"

I'm sure Barry Blue was the name of a novelty elephant-themed dessert available at Masterchef on Renshaw Street, Liverpool.  Anyone else remember that incredibly specific reference? 


Well you can all fuck off, then. 

Seriously, can you not just pretend to take an interest in my life?  It's always you, you, you (and also some glam rock reviews).  I have feelings!  I am a man!  I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does!

Actually, that gives me a great idea - I'll listen to "How Soon Is Now" instead of this garbage.

Our apologies for this frankly substandard instalment of "Everybody Up!".  By way of compensation, we present this picture of a weasel:

Please don't be discouraged from joining us next time when, after a heavy dose of happy pills, your esteemed writer will return to plunge a dagger into the heart of disk two.  This will feature a great track by one of music's greatest lieutenants, and... Some other stuff.  Peace out!

Friday, June 03, 2016

Everybody Up! 7 - Of The Can, And How To Can It

6. DANA GILLESPIE "Andy Warhol"

Jesus.  I came back for this?

Now, you may think I'm calling automatic Bowie Blasphemy on this one.  It's not the case that I criticise Bowie covers without prejudice - I've just had my head blown off by Girl In A Coma's version of "As The World Falls Down", for instance, and I don't even like that song when Bowie does it - but this one adds many, many bells and whistles, which only serve to take away from the beautiful simplicity of the original. 

In other words, the very worst kind of cover version.  Mind you, Bowie himself is producing and Mick Ronson (more on him very soon) is playing guitar, so they must have approved on some level.  Perhaps the contrast between the two versions would be found interesting and admirable, but... 

Ah, I just don't get it.  That's probably the kindest way to put it.  I think knowing that the song was in some way an expression of Bowie's disappointment at meeting someone he admired very much and having a poor experience means that dressing this in the gaudy baubles of pop just leaves me a bit cold.

7. SUZI QUATRO "Can The Can"

Not to be confused with the 1980's mixed fruit flavoured carbonated drink of (half) the same name - yes, we all enjoyed a tin of Suzi back in the day oh my God did I really just crack that joke that was utterly pathetic - this is arguably Ms Fruit-Flavoured Carbonated Drink's best remembered offering.  Well, this or "Devil Gate Drive".

Leaving aside for a minute whether the song is good or not, it does raise the question of how one cans a can, and whether it is, in fact, advantageous to do so.  "Canning" foods in a metal vessel that, in the UK anyway, is usually made of tin, helps to preserve the freshness and edibility of the contents.  So we have two possible interpretations here:

1) that to "can the can", one must place a tin can inside another tin can;
2) that to "can the can", one must place a tin can full of food inside another tin can.

I think option 2 is more is more plausible, given that there's little point in preserving an empty tin can - unless goats took over the Earth, and wanted to keep the metal that they would be eating fresh by encasing it in other metal.  Though being goats, they'd probably just eat both.  And anyway, goats haven't taken over the Earth.  Goats taking over the Earth?  We're trying to have an intellectual conversation here.  Stop being silly.

Now, what would the motivation behind double-canning an already-canned foodstuff be?  One has to think that there could only be two of these as well:

1) a boost in preservation power;
2) increased security.

Again, we can rule one of these out immediately.  Anybody that can get into one can possesses the technology to get into two; unless someone's invented some kind of super security can, with lasers or something.  And that's a stupid idea.  Why did you come up with that idea, idiot?  We're having a serious conversation here about canning cans, and you're bogging me down with some nonsense about security cans?  Just...  Just drop it, OK?

So there you have it: by a process of elimination, canning the can involves boosting the preservative power of a tin can of food by placing it into another can.  Perfectly sensible; no goats, no security cans (security cans - pah!), nothing but the very sensible idea of canning canned food.  And by a scientific process of elimination, that's what this song must be all about!

Oh yeah, it's quite good as well.  But "Devil Gate Drive" is better, so they should have put that one on instead.  Then we wouldn't have had to have that whole business about what canning the can is.

8. THE NEW YORK DOLLS "Looking For A Kiss"

Unlike my excoriations of Lou Reed, my criticisms of The New York Dolls are underpinned with a certain melancholy.  I should like this band - why don't I?  When I heard their reputation and read of their antics, I felt certain I would like them; I feel like I've failed myself in some way by not doing so.

I like plenty of image-over-music, ramshackle, arguably tone deaf, confrontational and heavily made-up bands.  If I didn't like those qualities, I'd be unable to appreciate such of my heroes as These Animal Men, Billy Childish, Guitar Wolf, S*M*A*S*H or Manic Street Preachers - and that's clearly not the case.

Maybe it's because I know what came next - that they were about to be beaten at their own game of spectacle and establishment-baiting by the original UK punk scene, and even some of their US counterparts.  For whatever reason though, they have failed to get under my skin.

Which means the only question I can really answer is: where does this stand in the huge category of The Three Songs I Know By The New York Dolls?  And the answer is: second.  Worse than "Trash", better than "Jet Boy".

9. NAZARETH "This Flight Tonight"

Scottish band Nazareth may not be quintessentially glam, but you can't deny there are sections of this offering that definitely show the hallmarks thereof; the chugging, insistent rhythm, the breakdown with handclaps, the talk of falling stars and starlight and whatnot.

Therefore what we have here is not so much a glam artefact per se, then, but a driving piece of classic rock, and one which fits in surprisingly well.  It's also a Joni Mitchell cover, which is a bit of a surprise, as it's certainly up to rockin' speed here.  My only complaint?  It's a bit anonymous in this company, suffering by association with better suited and realised pieces nearby. 

Which brings us nicely up to...

10. SWEET "Ballroom Blitz"

Or Tia Carrere's best song from "Wayne's World", for people of my ever advancing age...  On a slight tangent, a recent rewatch of said film showed me that the band The Jolly Green Giants can be spotted leaving the stage at the club, actually dressed as the outsized sweetcorn-shilling mascot.

See, who needs new things?  Old things are best.

Anyway: what a tune.  Approaching - but not matching, for what could - the sheer mania of "Crazy Horses" with its tale of a concert audience turning horrendously savage, it has a great combination of shoutability and a feeling of it being very barely controlled itself, making the music a great match for the message.

And what of Tia Carrere?  She managed to piggyback on Lara Croft-mania by playing a suspiciously familiar stereotype of a female action archaeologist in a show called "Relic Hunter", which if you were jobless in the early 2000s you may have seen far too much of on Sky.  If you take anything away from this review let it be this: it's really frustrating when you enjoy a song but have little or nothing to say about it.

So far, nearly all good for disk two so far then; much cause for optimism which I'm sure is well founded.  Goodnight, America!  Great to be back!

Join us next time for...  What?...  Who?...  (sigh).  This won't be a good one.  I don't mind if you skip it.  The one after's got Alvin Stardust though, so don't miss that!