Beat ’66 Show #3 – The Blurb

Hello and welcome to Beat Sixty-Six, in which we play some of the sounds that were around back in the sanctified pop music year of 1966.

You can download Show #3 here

This show includes soul sounds from Fontella Bass and James Brown, R and B from Them, the Pretty Things, Chris Farlowe and the Spencer Davis Group, a film theme from Eliot Fisher,
Motown is represented by the Supremes and the Four Tops, garage sounds from the Groupies, reggae from Prince Buster, the last gasp of non-Beatles Mersey sounds appropriately enough from the Merseybeats, tracks from the Kinks and the Rolling Stones, French singer-songwriter Michel Polnareff, and Nigerian high-life superstar Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson

THE SORROWS “Take A Heart”

One of the most overlooked bands of the British Invasion, the Sorrows offered a tough brand of R&B-infused rock that recalled the Pretty Things (though not as R&B-oriented) and the Kinks (though not as pop-oriented).

Their biggest British hit, “Take a Heart,” stopped just outside the U.K. Top 20; several other fine mid-’60s singles met with either slim or a total lack of success.

With the rich, gritty vocals of Don Fardon, taut raunchy guitars, and good material (both self-penned and from outside writers), they rank as one of the better British bands of their era, and certainly among the very best never to achieve success of any kind in the U.S.

Don Fardon had a solo Top 20 hit with “Indian Reservation” in 1968

THE KINKS “Where Have All The Good Times Gone”

From late 1965 Kinks’ mainman Ray Davies’ dissatisfaction and frustations – in the wake of a nervous breakdown earlier in the year – had begun to surface in the Kinks’ records – Where Have All The Good Times Gone appeared on the B-side of the happier number “Till The End Of The Day”. This was a pattern the band would repeat throughout 1966.

THE SUPREMES “My World Is Empty Without You”

Their run of number one US hits had to come to an end somewhere but it seems a shame that it had to be with this gorgeous, poignant song of loss and woe. Diana Ross’s plaintive, vulnerable voice is perfect for this song.

The Afghan Whigs covered this magnificently in 1994, the guitar intro reminiscent of the Stones’ “Paint It,Black”

PRINCE BUSTER “Too Hot”

Too Hot by Prince Buster neither celebrating nor criticising the rude boys, just commenting.

The song was covered by The Specials on their first album

JAMES BROWN “I Got You (I Feel Good)”

James Brown’s big crossover breakthrough into the pop charts came with “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” followed by “I Got You(I Feel Good)” in late 1965 and it was still there come January 1966.
The B-side is this great slow burner, “I Can’t Help It (I Just Do-Do-Do)”

ELLIOTT FISHER “Theme from ‘Our Man Flint'”

Espionage was were big in the mid-sixties with James Bond and the Man from U.N.C.L.E. so inevitably there were parodies. One of the best was Our Man Flint starring James Coburn as special agent Derek Flint – and the instrumental theme tune by Elliot Fisher was arguably as good as any Bond theme. The trailer gives you some idea of where the film was coming from – check out the clearly-not-German “Dr Schneider”, always raises a smile.

ROLLING STONES “Get Off Of My Cloud”

Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s influence on the band is not always appreciated – it was he who persuaded Mick Jagger and Keith Richard to write songs in the first place, even locking them in a room on more than one occasion until they came up with a hit.

After I Cant Get No Satisfaction had become their biggest and most acclaimed record so far, they could have been forgiven for resting on their laurels but according to Keef that was never an option with Oldham, who cajoled them into writing what is arguably an even better record than Satisfaction.

According to Philip Norman’s Stones biography “Shout” :
“The follow up to (Satisfaction) was an upbeat dance record with chords cribbed unashamedly from Twist And Shout and a lyric – bawled purposefully by Jagger in double time – which must represent the earliest attempt to infiltrate the British Top Ten with marijuana smoke”

The B-side is a decent enough number called “The Singer Not The Song”, slightly marred by Richard’s 12-string guitar which is out of tune throughout. Without wishing to ignite once more the whole Stones / Beatles debate, there is no way Paul McCartney would have allowed that on a Beatles record.

PRETTY THINGS “Midnight To Six Man”

The Pretty Things with Midnight To Six Man, great song, great title, the band’s tough R&B sound only enhanced by the piano of Nicky Hopkins (who similarly graced records by The Who) and the organ of Margo Lewis of Goldie & The Gingerbreads – but it still barely skimmed the Top 50.

Arkansas’ “The Culls” did a more laid back version a year later, which is still pretty good.

FONTELLA BASS “Recovery”

Fontella Bass started out as a piano accompanist.

Her singing career began in 1961 when, as piano player with Little Milton’s band, she was asked to fill in for Milton at short notice.

“Recovery” was her follow-up to the hit for which she is best remembered, “Rescue Me” – this was the rarely-heard B-Side of that record, “The Soul Of A Man” which if anything showcases her vocal talents better than either of the aforementioned tunes.

SPENCER DAVIS GROUP “Let Me Down Easy”

Some lovely restrained electric piano and guitar work on this track.

Paolo Nutini has covered this recently – I can’t say I’m his biggest fan but he has a decent stab at it imho.

THE GROUPIES “Primitive”

Is it possible to make a slow garage record that still sounds exciting?

The main riff is a note-for-note copy of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin'” and props to them for NOT speeding it up. It works for me but others remain unconvinced.

The Cramps covered this years later.

FOUR TOPS “Just As Long As You Need Me”

A track from “The Four Tops second album” possibly named by the same person who named the Spencer Davis Group’s second album. I guess the record industry didn’t trust the public to recognise albums by name.

This was take to extremes by Chicago (whose albums I believe have always had numbers on them rather than titles, like a magazine) and of course Peter Gabriels’ first three albums were just called Peter Gabriel. Unimaginative bunch.

This is “I Like Everything About You”, another track from the album, its a little gem.

THE MERSEYBEATS “I Stand Accused”

By late 1965 The Merseybeats were ready to call it a day as most of their British Beat Boom compatriots had done, as the scene sputtered out, condemned by Motown, folk-rock and the British R&B boom to go the same way as surfing music.

The Merseybeats had one last great single in their locker though, a soulful cover of I Stand Accused (written by Jerry Butler, the original singer with The Impressions)

Isaac Hayes did an incredible eleven-minute version of this – described by the Youtube listeners as the perfect song to make love to.

Although you wouldn’t necessarily want to make sexy time with your special one to Elvis Costello’s version (2:21).

MICHEL POLNAREFF “La Poupee Qui Fait Non”

The first hit for French singer songwriter Michel Polnareff who recorded versions in German, Italian and Spanish – bet he regrets not recording an English language version cos I reckon that could have been huge in the USA and Britain, offering something slightly different …

The song was recorded in London so that he could use the best session musicians around, which in mid-sixties London meant Jimmy Page on guitar. John-Paul Jones also plays bass on this which means it could well be the first instance of future members of Led Zeppelin playing on the same record.

Michel Polnareff has completed his first album in sixteen years which will be released over the next few months, definitely worth a listen and if its any good you’ll doubtless hear tracks from it on the Beat City podcast (which does the same thing as Retro Beat ’66, only for the music of 2016)

St Etienne did a towering version of this in the nineties:

CHRIS FARLOWE “Think”

First chart placing for North Londoner Chris Farlowe on the Immediate label with “Think”, one of five Rolling Stones songs Farlowe covered – logical when you remember that Immediate was set up by the aforementioned Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham (who incidentally is well worth a follow)

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The B-side was pretty good too.

REX LAWSON “Bete Boire”

Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson was one of the best-known highlife musicians in Nigeria during the sixties.

This track comes from a session recorded in late 1965.

This recording session was held one afternoon in August of 1965 in a Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation studio in Lagos, and if you listen carefully you can hear cars honking on the streets outside.

Listening to this all these years on, you can’t help but marvel at how good Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson and the Majors sound loose, limber and focused, paying great attention to ensemble dynamics, tight horn choruses and flowing solos.

This is another track from the same session, “Osaba Koro”

“Osaba Koro” by Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson

THEM “I Can Only Give You Everything”

Them in full-on garage mode with I Can Only Give You Everything

This is Them in full-on Animals mode with “Call My Name” from the same album

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Queen Bitch – Beat City Bowie Special – Sleeve Notes

“The worst trick God can play is to make you an artist, but a mediocre one”

– David Bowie

I’ve always loved that quote from Bowie.

Medicority, however, is not something he would have ever had first-hand knowledge of, though, as I hope the tracks in Beat City Bowie Special demonstrate.

Bear in mind that we have not even begun to scratch the surface of the man’s body of work here.

David Bowie “Queen Bitch” (from the album “Hunky Dory”)

Bowie’s tribute to Lou Reed / Velvet Underground pastiche from the “Hunky Dory” album.

A year later Bowie and Mick Ronson produced Reeds ‘s “Transformer” album.

After Reed’s first solo album after leaving the Velvet Underground had tanked, despite featuring Bowie-collaborator Rick Wakeman of prog band Yes among the backing musicians, he turned to his new friend Bowie and Bowie’s guitarist Mick Ronson to co-produce and perform on his second LP. Ronno’s influence is all over the album – it was he who provided the now-famous arrangements for Walk On The Wild Side and Perfect Day. Note the trademark Ronson guitar riffage on “Satellite Of Love”, as well as some excellent Bowie backing vocals.

David Bowie “Born In A UFO” (from the EP “The Next Day Extra”)

Six months after David Bowie, suddenly and without warning, released “The Next Day” on the world, we were treated to that horror of horrors, the “Deluxe Edition” version of the album – never let it be said that Bowie was slow to pick up the prevailing winds, whether in music or in business.

However, in these days of digital purchases, fans had the option of just downloading the new tracks – and this one in particular is a little gem, a lot less tentative than the original “The Next Day” album, you get the idea that this was Bowie and producer Tony Visconti having a bit of a laugh.

“Born In a UFO” is a parody / homage to Bruce Springsteen – apart from the obvious Born In The USA echoes in the title, the verse sounds more than a bit like “Its Hard To Be A Saint In The City” (a song Bowie covered earlier in his career)

There’s a great Youtube clip going round of Bruce Springsteen saying nice things about Bowie and playing “Rebel Rebel” in Pittsburgh on the first date of his massive 2016 world tour, check the sleeve notes at tonythegigguy.com for the link and others.

David Bowie “Up The Hill Backwards” (from the album “Scary Monsters And Super Creeps”)

The “Scary Monsters” album almost comes across as Bowie drawing a line under his seventies albums by recreating / pastiching them all. “Up The Hill Backwards”, sonologically speaking, seems to mix a bit of Berlin-era guitar with “Station To Station”. “Fashion” sounds like its on “Young Americans”, the title track goes all “Diamond Dogs” on us and the “Ashes To Ashes” single is a dead giveaway as the lyrics reveal it to be a sequel to “Space Oddity” ten years on.

The famous “Ashes To Ashes” video is at the heart of the best of all the wonderful, touching stories I’ve read and heard since Bowie’s passing. This is courtesy of Michael Dignum – thank you so much, sir, this is just loverly.

“One part of my job is to keep the talent close while we make small changes to lighting and camera positions. While shooting the video for David Bowie’s Miracle goodnight we had a change that was gonna take 10-15 mins to complete. I decided to strike up a conversation to kill the time. Let face i was talking to my childhood hero. I asked Mr Bowie what was the biggest moment in his career. His reply was EPIC. and It went like this

Bowie…. Well let me tell you about it. I had quit the attitude as a young pop star, its easy to get caught up in the hype. It changes you. So i was on the set of the music video Ashes to ashes, do you know the one.”

Me………Yes i do. (thinking boy if only he knew)

Bowie… So we’re on the beach shooting this scene with a giant bulldozer. The camera was on a very long lens. (Camera is along way away, but the artist fills the frame) In this video i’m dressed from head to toe in a clown suit. Why not.I hear playback and the music starts. So off I go, I start singing and walking, but as soon as I do this old geezer with an old dog walk right between me and the camera.

Me………Laugh (seeing this video in my head and what that must have been like on the set)

Bowie….Well knowing this is gonna take a while I walked past the old guy and sat next to camera in my full costume waiting for him to pass. As he is walking by camera the director said, excuse me Mr do you know who this is? The old guy looks at me from bottom to top and looks back to the director and said….

Old Man……. Of course i do!!!! its some cunt in a clown suit

Bowie………. That was a huge moment for me, It put me back in my place and made me realize, yes i’m just a cunt in a clown suit. I think about that old guy all the time”

This was just one of the Stories Mr Bowie shared with me that day. I was so happy that my childhood Hero Stayed my hero as an adult.
RIP Mr Bowie..”

Now, try and watch this video without thinking “cunt in a clown suit” And smile.

David Bowie “Little Wonder” (from the album “Earthling”)

Opinions differ as to whether Bowie, taking on and shedding new personae at a whim, frequently changing musical styles, was a true innovator or simply a chameleon.

I’d lean towards a bit of both myself, while noting that his innovation generally came in partnership with carefully-selected others (Ronson, Eno, Fripp, Lulu) and also that when he jumped on a trend, it was usually one that was just around the corner, and always one that would last and not seem old-fashioned.

In 1997 Bowie was not seen as particularly relevant to anything at all. British music was firmly in he grip of Britpop, which while fun was hardly groundbeaking. The other major musical strand of the late 90s came from black music – jungle and trip-hop, which are the two genres that most inform the “Earthling” album.

“I guess …I can’t sell youth. ‘Cause I’m not a youth. So I’m selling whatever it is I am as a persona, which tends to be this kind of ironically enthusiastic old guy who’s still into this crazed sound”

Even in this he was ahead of the times – fast forward to 2016 and there has never been a better time to be a fifty-year old music enthusiast. Bowie was a pioneer in this, as in so much else.

If “Little Wonder” is more on the junglist / Prodigy side of things, this track is pure Tricky as far as I’m concerned.

David Bowie “Fascination” (from the album “Young Americans”)

“Fascination” is a reworking of a song called Funky Music Is A Part Of Me written by then-unknown Luther Vandross, given a new lyric by Bowie.

I’m not keen on the commonly-used term “plastic soul” for this part of Bowie’s career, even if the man himself did use it. It seems almost an apology for moulding soul into a Bowie-ised version of soul.

That said, its probably no coincidence that the most soulful song on the “Young Americans” album was originally written by Luther Vandross
(nitpickers note – yes, Luther’s version wasn’t released until 1976 but it was written well before then)

David Bowie “Yassassin” (from the album “Lodger”)

As far as I know, this is Bowie’s only attempt at reggae ever committed to record. Drummer Dennis Davis had a hard time learning the beat, since American musicians back then were generally unfamiliar with reggae – the music has never really gone mainstream in the USA. Going the other way, of course, American records brought back to Jamaica by migrant workers in the late fifties and early sixties certainly had a huge influence on reggae sound system culture.

And this song is about migrant workers, as it happens, written in Germany, inspired by the Turkish migrant workers Bowie encountered in the Neukolln district of Berlin.

Arcade Fire “Reflektor” (from the album “Reflektor”)

In 2013, shortly after “The Next Day” album had come out, Arcade Fire were recording what would become the title track of their magnum opus “Reflektor”.

According to the band’s multi-intrumentalist Richard Reed Parry:

“Bowie basically just came by the studio in New York while we were mixing, just to have a listen to the stuff we were doing. He offered to lend us his services because he really liked the song. In fact, he basically threatened us – he was like, ‘If you don’t hurry up and mix this song, I might just steal it from you!’ So we thought, well why don’t we go one better, why don’t you sing on our version? Thankfully he obliged, and we were really happy about that”

“Reflektor” has a Bowie-esque feel which seems to go well beyond the mere presence of the man himself singing backing vocals.

This wasn’t Arcade Fire’s first Bowie collaboration – that came in 2005 with this “Fashion Rocks” show in New York which saw them join forces on a selection of songs including AF’s “Wake Up” and Bowie’s “Five Years”.

David Bowie “It Ain’t Easy” (from the album “The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars”)

… and from the album that starts off with “Five Years”, this is an oddity. A throwback to his folkie years, it sounds out of place on “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars”.
“It Ain’t Easy” was written by American songwriter Ron Davies – and not, as many people think, Ray Davies of the Kinks. By the time Bowie got round to cutting his version of the song, it had already been covered by Three Dog Night and Long John Baldry.

Franz Ferdinand with Girls Aloud “Sound And Vision”

Franz Ferdinand with their take on Bowie’s 1977 smash hit single “Sound And Vision” featuring Girls Aloud From an intriguing, sometimes annoying and occasionally brilliant album put out by BBC Radio One in 2007 to commemorate 40 years of the station by commissioning 40 of the top stars of the day to cover various songs from the lifetime of the station.

Kylie Minogue’s excellent cover of Roxy Music’s “Love Is The Drug” was another highlight – produced by Calvin Harris, its pretty much the perfect cover version, retaining the feel of the original while adding to it, and crucially NOT changing the words from “I say go, she say yes” to “I say go, he say yes”.

Props to all concerned. Definitely going to feature this on Beat City’s tribute to Bryan Ferry in 2028.

David Bowie “Alabama Song” (Brecht/Weill cover)

In 1978 Bowie was considering an offer to star in a revival of Bertolt Brecht’s “Threepeny Opera”. This did not come to fruition although one legacy was that he decided to play Brecht’s “Alabama Song” live.

It can be seen as both a celebration and a self-criticism of Bowie’s recent Berlin-based output.

The song was (and is) best-known to rock fans from the cover by The Doors.

In the Doors’ cover, Morrison had put a soulful rasp into the verses, making them flow better into the choruses. Bowie instead is inspired by Lotte Lenya’s version (below), singing the verses flatly while smoking a cigarette, then suddenly, dramatically falling into the chorus, swooning and closing his eyes.

Pleased with how “Alabama Song” was working in his live sets, Bowie brought his touring band into Tony Visconti’s Good Earth studio in London, the day after the final Earl’s Court show, to cut a version of “Alabama Song” as a prospective single.

Bowie shelved “Alabama Song” until early 1980, when he finally issued it as a single.

I heard it first – as I did so many other songs – on the John Peel show. The old curmudgeon was unimpressed.

“I know we should all be grateful for David Bowie and all that, but he kicks that one well into the stands in my estimation”.

Great though my respect for Peel is (and at the time he was basically God to me), I remember that being the first time I thought “hang on, he’s got that wrong”.

David Bowie “Baal’s Hymn” (from the “Baal” EP of songs from the 1982 BBC TC production) (Brecht/Weill cover)

In 1981 Bowie took the lead role in the BBC TV BBC TV version of the Bertold Brecht play “Baal”.
He also sang the five songs Brecht wrote (with Kurt Weill) for the play.

Click here to see the full 90 minute production.

It’s well worth a look – check here although its been unavailable officially for years

David Bowie “I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spacecraft” (from the album “Heathen”)

Older Bowie fans who remember how jaw-dropping his records and indeed his every move was throughout the seventies tend to judge his post-“Scary Monsters” (or post-“Let’s Dance” if you’re feeling generous) output harshly but Tin Machine aside, it contains a couple of great albums – 1997’s “Earthling” being one and 2002’s “Heathen” being if anything even better.

This song is a cover of a 1968 song by The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. You can listen to it here but it isn’t to everyone’s taste, shall we say.

Bowie “We Are The Dead” (from the album “Diamond Dogs”)

David Bowie’s music has been there at the back of my head since I was about nine years old, in 1971. There have been some spectacular misheard lyrics along the way, of which the best example comes in this song – no he isn’t singing “I love you in your funky bumps” although twelve-year-old me decided that actually made perfect sense. He actually sings “I love you in your “fuck-me” pumps” which doesn’t really add up if you don’t know that “pumps” are a kind of shoes.

Now the album Diamond Dogs features a fantastic comic-book style illustration of Bowie on the cover as what can only be described as a sexy dog – and incidentally, definitely NOT a sexy bitch if you look closely. And we all did, believe me.

David Bowie “Boys Keep Swinging” (from the album “Lodger”)

This song is, to me, the quintessential Bowie song – not my favourite Bowie song (see a future blog post for that) but it just brings together a number of the things that made him such an icon in the seventies – the sassy delivery, the screeching guitar, the weird lyrics that hinted at other, more exciting worlds, and most of all, the dressing up as a woman in the video.
On a slightly dodgy television and without the benefit of video playback, my sisters and me couldn’t agree on whether all the backing singers were, in fact, Bowie. The third one to appear solo at the end of the video caused the most discussion, but its definitely him.

… I think …

Bowie-related links

There have been some excellent shows and pieces over the past couple of weeks. Here’s a few of the ones I’ve enjoyed most:

James Ward’s blog is really two in one – a takedown of the haters followed by a heartfelt and moving tribute to the man.

Takedown of the haters and a heartfelt tribute to the man

Marc Riley’s BBC 6 music show the day we all heard the news is something to be treasure (as is the whole of the station’s output for Monday 11th January, have a listen before the first week in February when it’ll disappear as far as I know) WARNING – he does play The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.

Terrific tribute from Frankie Boyle obviously not overwrittenor overprepared and all the better for it.

Alex Petridis’ measured and comprehensive Guardian lead article however, is hard to beat.

Let me know if you’ve got any more links I may have missed, or any blogs of your own or podcasts.

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Hope you’ve enjoyed this show.

The next regular Beat City show will be available to download from Sunday.

Thank you. Come again.

20 EVERYTHING SONGS

These are my #20EverythingSongs , in chronological order more-or-less. It was quite an emotional trip down memory lane compiling this list.

Not sure if you’ll like ’em all – there’s some here that I hardly ever play nowadays – but they’re all important songs in terms of introducing me to new kinds of music

1. DARK CITY SISTERS “Langa More”

My parents used to play this first track after church and dinner on a Sunday as it reminded them of home.

South African vocal girl group. Listen to the harmonies!

And if that sounds like I grew up in the Deep South, I did. The Deep South of London.

Herne Hill, specifically.

2. HARRY BELAFONTE “Jamaica Farewell”

Dad used to love the next song – the sentiments were familiar as he emigrated to England (from South Africa not Jamaica (although unlike the chap in the song, Dad didn’t leave his little girl in Kingston Town (or Durban, more accurately), he brought Mum with him!

3. JULIE ANDREWS “Feed The Birds”

We played the “Mary Poppins” soundtrack to death years before ever seeing the movie.
The song where one character talks about having dreams of walking with giants, heard out of context, used to give me nightmares, but this one is beautiful. Check out the bit where the church bells come in.

4. THE IRISH ROVERS “Black Velvet Band”

I was brought up as a mixed-race (mainly Indian but part Scottish!) Catholic in South London, went to a Catholic school, social life was based round the Catholic church.

So – and I swear I am not making this up – until the age of about 11 I thought every “full white” person in Britain had some kind of Irish blood in them.

The music rubbed off too. My parents had a few LPs of Irish rebel songs. I THINK it was because they just liked the tunes …

5. DAVE AND ANSELL COLLINS “Double Barrel”

The years from 1968 to 1972 was reggae’s best sales period in the UK with this one of the best-sellers, and one of the best.

I AM THE MAGNIFICENT!

6. DON McLEAN “Vincent”

The best teacher I ever had was Mr Stevenson in top juniors (that’s Year Six in new money). Innovative, interesting, fun and approachable.

Mr Stevenson introduced us to the idea you could treat song lyrics like they were poetry, using this as an example, which kicked off my interest in Listening To The Words.

Thank you Sir!

7. CHICORY TIP “Son Of My Father”

I bought this with the money I got for my 10th birthday – my first electronica record (did I but know it at the time). It sounded like nothing on earth.

Written and produced (again, did I but know it at the time) by Giorgio Moroder.

Loved the weird Dr Who-ness of it

8. SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND “The Tale Of The Giant Stone Eater”

Music and Marvel Comics were my joint passions around this time. So obviously I loved this.

Alex Harvey was a huge comics fan. Even named a song after Sgt Fury.

(other “out” comics fans of the 70s included Marc Bolan and Joan Armatrading)

9. JOHNNY CASH “Sunday Morning Coming Down”

1976. Heatwave. We went on holiday to Cornwall from London by car (pre-M5). It took ten hours. We had 4 cassettes.

Pink Floyd’s “Relics”,Beach Boys,Carpenters “Singles 69-73” and some old country singer who Dad liked so we indulged him .

“Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more for dessert”

10. DONNA SUMMER “I Feel Love”

Ooh,its so good,its so good,its so good,its so good,its so good …

A great leap forward for dance music (or “disco” as it was contemptuously called by rock fans back then).

And Giorgio Moroder’s second appearance here. Bet he’s impressed.

11.THE STRANGLERS “Down In The Sewer”

An eight minute mini punk opera from the Stranglers’ “Rattus Norvegicus” album

“Gonna tell you what I’m gonna do. Gonna make love to a water-rat or two. FOR GOD’S SAKE HUGH USE A JOHNNY ”

They get compared to the Doors a lot, but Dave Greenfield’s keyboard lines are on a different planet from Ray Manzarek’s unresolved noodlings

The bit at the end from about 5:44 is magnificent, and so bloody therapeutic .

See how it resolves, Mr Doors keyboard player? THAT’S how to play organ in a rock and roll band .

12. THE B-52s “Rock Lobster”

Moving on to the other end of competence for keyboard players in bands, but it still sounds bloody great

I think it was the bright yellow cover that first attracted me to this record, that or the cartoony looking band.

13. FUNKADELIC “One Nation Under A Groove”

Around the mid to late seventies the mates I used to hang out with were all soul boys. It rubbed off.

Feets don’t fail me now!

14. T CONNECTION “On Fire”

You never hear T Connection mentioned at all these days, not ever, anywhere but they really rocked, for what was essentially a disco band.

Duran Duran owe them a massive debt.

15. THE HUMAN LEAGUE “Empire State Human”

“Tall tall tall, I wanna be tall, tall, tall, as big as a wall, wall, wall”

Moved to Sheffield in 1979 so it was compulsory to love this band.

I like the early funny stuff better.

16. DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS “I Couldn’t Help If I Tried”

I had never heard anything quite like this band before, and neither had anybody else.

“Searching For The Young Soul Rebels” is still my fave LP ever . If you’ve never heard it, stop reading this now and go and track it down. This blog isn’t going anywhere.

There – I told you it was good, didn’t I?

This is their best song, for me (although get ten Dexys fans in a room and you’ll probably get ten different suggestions, and none of them will be the Number One hits!)

This grabs you from the mournful, defiant first four-note rundown on the horns and never lets you go.

I’ll forever associate it with being in love for the first time – lending her this album with crucial lyrics underlined. I’ll leave you to work out which ones.

It didn’t last and … hang on, this is sounding like a Dexys song in itself now so I’ll stop.

17. TRICKY “Black Steel”

So, seventeen tunes from the first 19 years of my life, then nothing until middle-age comes knocking

There’s a reason for this, I think.

You have kids and raise them and that takes up most of your effort and all of your money – and in those pre-internet days, music took a back seat.

To be honest if I could pick ten years to go into a fallow period, music-wise, I don’t think 1984-1993 was a bad choice, although I stand to be corrected on this.

This is from Tricky’s masterpiece “Maxinquaye”, which I first heard of thanks to none other than the late great David Bowie mentioning it as the best thing he’d heard all year in 1995.

The man had the talent to identify what was crucial and important in each musical generation (see also his final album which is pretty much a Kendrick Lamar tribute record in places)

This is a cover of a Public Enemy tune. Who says the original is still the greatest?

18. THE BROKEN FAMILY BAND “Devil In The Details”

Who knew quiet music could be this nasty. And funny.

The only band to ever really rival Dexys in my affections, and the best lyricist around in Steven James Adams.

19. LADYTRON “Playgirl”

No synth band ever created a bigger or better wall of sound than Ladytron.

I was there when they blew the PA at the old Astoria in Charing Cross Road, around 2008.

This song is another one with memories. “Sleep you way out of your home town” indeed.

20. AL GREEN “To Sir With Love”

This list is mostly in chronological order but I thought I’d finish with a song and an artist I always go back to cos he always makes things better.

This is just incredible – he takes a song originally sung in a film by a schoolgirl (played by Lulu) to her teacher and takes it to a higher plane.

But when I listen to this I don’t really hear the words at all, its all about the feeling he invokes, and he could do this if he was singing the dictionary.

When I heard this I realised that soul is never about the words at all, not really

This has been my #20EverythingSongs. Check out the hashtag on Twitter.

Thanks to @girloon for inventing the hashtag.

I don’t mean she invented the concept of the hashtag. That would be an outrageous claim akin to this one.

I mean she thought up #20EverythingSongs.

Give her a follow in Twitter if you like music, she’s brilliant.

BEAT CITY 61 “feat. David Cameron” – SLEEVE NOTES

Listen or download the first Beat City show of 2016 here

MEILYR JONES “How To Recognise A Work Of Art” (from the forthcoming album “2013”)

Meilyr Jones is a pretty unique talent. He formed Radio Luxembourg while still at school, that band morphing into the Race Horses. Collaborations include Gruff Rhys, Stealing Sheep and Euros Childs.

But frankly all of that, fine though it is, pales into insignificance next to his solo work. “How To Recognise A Work Of Art” hits you firmly in the sonic solar plexus with its Motown beat set behind those oddly ethereal vocals.

Check out his recent session for Marc Riley on BBC 6 Music before it disappears from the site – as well as a great version of “Work Of Art” it also includes “Strange Emotional” and “Featured Artist”, both from the new album, confusingly titled “2013” since that’s when the songs were written.

HINDS “Warts” (from the album “Leave Me Alone”)

I’m scratching my head to think of too many Spanish bands that have made any sort of a splash in the English-speaking indie world.

Hinds hail from Madrid. They’ve gained attention over the last couple of years for their carefree, jangly guitar sound and their infectiously upbeat live shows.

Their debut album “Leave Me Alone”, however, shows a more multifaceted music – there’s a more downbeat approach to songs like “Warts” and the last single “Garden” which to my mind is a smart move – you don’t want to be TOO cheerful to sell records to indie / emo kids.

From the accompanying press release :

“These songs try to represent the 12 faces of love we’ve experienced.“

“It’s funny ’cause we thought this album would be all party and cheerfulness, but – SURPRISE – it’s not!!!!! haha. Feelings are more balanced, like in life. So suddenly we had a more sober – or even sad – album than we expected. Please don’t think we’ve turned into depressive people or something, we’ve always been humans, it’s just we’re now showing it to you.”

Fair enough, I’d say.

NOVELIST “Street Politician”

Kojo Kankam, aka Novelist, co-founded The Square grime crew (whose members have appeared on the Beat City podcast before) but left in late 2015 to push on with his solo career.
Artistically this looks like a very smart move indeed. December saw the release of the “David Cameron riddim” (lost in the pre-Xmas rush, a theme throughout these sleeve notes incidentally!)

and now Novelist has dropped the absolute killer track “Street Politician”, which actually samples our dear leader Mr Cam.

The best thing I’ve heard all year by some distance – why aren’t more people making records like this? It deserve to be a massive hit but I can’t see it getting too much airplay despite not having any bad words on it.

(see the final entry in the show for a further example of protest in current music, also featuring David Cameron)

SUMMER TWINS “Ouija” (from the album “Limbo”)

Summer Twins are sisters Chelsea (guitar, vocals) and Justine Brown (drums, vocals). They write dreamy rock ‘n roll songs with a touch of California sun. Born and raised in Riverside, Ca, they formed Summer Twins in 2008, with a focus on singing pop harmonies atop garage rock inspired by the ’50s and ’60s. Summer Twins play live with Michael Rey Villavicencio on bass and Andy Moran on guitar.

Their debut album “Limbo” came out in October 2015 – here’s another track from it.

LIZZO “My Skin” (from the album ….. “Big GRRRL Small World”)

Lizzo has this to say about this track :

“This is a summoning of bodies: all shapes, sizes and shades to unite in their pride, and wear their skin like the gift it is”

Check out Check out the rest of Lizzo’s thoughts on the track “My Skin” – they’re well worth a read.

VILLAGERS – “Memoirs” (from the album “Where Have You Been All My Life?”)

The new Villagers album is a collection of new recordings of songs from the last few albums. Always a potentially dodgy exercise but they really come through, not least on this superb, moody reading of a ‘Memoir’, which Conor O’Brien wrote for Charlotte Gainsbourg; it can be found on her 2011 album Stage Whisper, but has never before been recorded by Villagers until now. Here’s the Gainsbourg version.

Looking forward to seeing them perform the new arrangements on their forthcoming tour of Europe. See you dahn the front!

COUSIN STIZZ “Dirty Bands” (from the album “Suffolk County”)

Brilliant 13-track mixtape from Boston’s Cousin Stizz, making serious waves further afield. Not a dodgy track on it – check out this one for size.

BEATY HEART “FLORA” (from the forthcoming album)

Here in Beat City we took Peckham popsters Beaty Heart’s debut album “Mixed Blessings” right to the core of our (beaty) hearts.

It contained some wonderful summery beats into an indie wrapper with some really messed-up lyrics sung with a jaunty bounce that made it easy to forget the often very dark subject matter.

The lead track for the second album has just been given the accolade of Huw Stephens’ single of the week on Radio One, which is excellent news 8=)

The album is produced by David Wrench, who has worked with Caribou, Jungle and FKA Twigs. Presumably the band are aiming for a wider audience, which is no bad thing, just as long as they don’t lose their quirkiness along the way – basically David, make it less Jungle and more FKA Twigs / Caribou, would you? Just play “Lekka Freakout” loud if you feel its all getting a bit too commercial. Ta.

MECHANIMAL “Radio On”

Mechanimal is an industrial audio-visual unit hailing from Athens, Greece, led by Giannis Papaioannou as main producer, songwriter and keyboardist, solely responsible for the direction of the band.

Mechanimal’s musical language can be interpreted through a wide range of genres, featuring male and female vocals on mechanical repetitive beats, shoegazing guitar drones and pulsating sequencers.

Their first album, simply titled “Mechanimal”, was released in 2012 by Inner Ear featuting Freddie Faulkenberry on vocals and Tassos Nikogiannis on guitars. On stage, Mechanimal employed video visual elements created by Angelica Vrettou.

Their second album, titled “Secret Science”, was released in 2014 by Inner Ear featuring the same vocalist and Kostas Matiatos on guitars.

For the recordings of their third album Giannis Papaioannou assembled a new line-up featuring both past guitarists, but female vocals by Eleni Tzavara. This third album, symbolically entitled by the acronym “Delta Pi Delta” will include 10 tracks and will be released by Inner Ear at the beginning of 2016.

The touring band for the new album features a revolving line-up (with Eleni Tzavara on vocals, Tassos Nikogiannis on guitars, Giannis Papaioannou on keyboards, Antonis Charalambidis on drums), that often rearranges songs to fit in this new live setting which is always accompanied by the video fragments projected on stage by Angelica Vrettou.

This is also from “Delta Pi Delta”:

SEA PINKS Ordinary Daze (from the album “Soft Days”)

Sea Pinks have been around for a while, starting out as the one-man project of singer/guitarist Neil Brogan, who made three bedroom albums on which he played everything himself before expanding the line-up for 2014’s “Dreaming Tracks” to the classic indie band lineup of guitar,bass,drums and – erm – cello (anyone remember the Grammatics? No? Just me, then)

“Soft Days” sees them stripped down to a three-piece and I think Brogan has achieved his aim for “a tighter, more cohesive record”.

Definitely their best record yet.

You can buy the album on Bandcamp – the band gets more money that way – heck, you can get the VINYL for thirteen quid.

This is the opening track from the album if you need further convincing:

BEAR GHOST “Funkle Phil”

From Phoenix Arizona, Bear Ghost beg the question on this single “How much Queen is too much Queen?”

Bear Ghost know the answer, as the Darkness did before them, is to go for it “full Freddy”.

If that was all there was to this band, though, they’d quickly become tired (as the Darkness did) but that is certainly not the case. Check out Necromancin’ Dancin’, available from bandcamp on a pay what you like, its superb.

Listen to “Necromancin’ Dancin’ here

ENNIO MORRICONE “Overture” (from “The Hateful Eight” soundtrack)

We’re not huge fans of Tarantino movies post-Jackie Brown here in Beat City, but each to their own.

On the matter of music, however, you can generally trust Quentin, and he’s surpassed himself by persuading legendary film music composer Ennio Morricone to write the score for “The Hateful Eight” (in fact as I write this I’ve just seen that he’s won the Golden Globe for best score. He has to be a good bet for the Oscar next month, surely? .
Unbelievably he wasn’t even nominated until 1979 and has only ever received an honorary one, in 2007, which I’ve always thought was a bit of a “whoops, sorry, we missed you out all those times, you’re going to die soon, have an award”.

It would be a fitting and well-deserved end to a great career if he were to win now.

This is one of Morricone’s best known themes:

LIZZO “Betcha” (from the album “Big GRRRL Small World”)

A more typical track from Lizzo’s excellent album which sneaked out at the end of 2015.

STEVE MASON “Planet Sizes” (from the forthcoming album “Meet The Humans”)

Inspired by his relocation from the London city to the Brighton sea, Planet Sizes is taken from his new album, Meet The Humans, which is out on Double Six on 26 February. While its uncluttered leading track gradually unfurls into a celestial acoustic melody, the rest of the album sees the songwriter experiment with dance, pop, folk, dub and deep house influences. Following his “double political concept album” Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time and his debut solo album, Boys Outside, a collection of songs that wrestle with the end of a relationship and his subsequent breakdown, this third album was recorded with Elbow keyboardist and producer Craig Potter, and is a move towards a more simple ethic. It is “an album where each song is a separate entity, where there is no great narrative running through it,” he says.

There’s an excellent animated video accompanying the track, directed by Anna Ginsburg

SQUEEZE “Cradle To The Grave” (live on the Andrew Marr show)

Protest music’s seemingly gone out of fashion, a subject I keep meaning to write about at greater length.

There don’t seem to be too many younger rock bands making any sort of stand, which seems strange at a time when you may reasonably expect a bit more dissent.

On Sunday, seventies popsters Squeeze closed the Andrew Marr political show on BBC1 with their catchy theme to Danny Baker’s sitcom “Cradle To Grave” .

Prime Minister David Cameron was a guest on the show and singer Glen Tilbrook changed the words of the last verse into a pointed attack on his government, with him sitting three feet away on live television.

It may not bring any governments down, but its a start.

“I grew up in council housing
Part of what made Britain great
There are some here who are hell-bent
On the destruction of the Welfare State”

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this piece and listening to the podcast.

Beat City #63 will be available to download on Sunday 17th January 2015, with the sleeve notes following the next day.

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Thank you. Come again.

FULL LIST OF ALL 55 ALBUMS IN BEAT CITY’s TOP 50 ALBUMS OF 2015

I know its late, and most folks have gone back to work but here is the Beat City EOY Show 2015 – an hour of SOME of our favourite tracks of the year.

However there is no way we could possibly do justice to all the great new music that came out in 2015 in one podcast – and we didn’t really fancy doing four or five hours’ worth of shows – so here is an alphabetical list of all 55 of the albums in our Top Fifty Of 2015.

If there’s any we’ve missed then please let us know and we’ll add to the list accordingly – the idea is to get something a bit closer to that impossible and dubious goal of “a comprehensive selection”.

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Anna von Hausswolf “The Miraculous”
Arca “Mutant”
Atomic Suplex “Fourteen Inches Of Fist”
Beach House “Thank Your Lucky Stars”
Cayucas “Dancing At The Blue Lagoon”
Cheatahs “Mythologies”
Christian Fitness “Love Letters In The Age Of Steam”
Dutch Uncles “O Shudder”
Eternal Summers “Gold And Stone”
Father John Misty “I Love You Honeybear”
Gardens & Villa “Music For Dogs”
Gaz Coombes “Matador”
Ghost Culture “Ghost Culture”
Gill Sandell & Chris T-T “Walk Away, Walk Away”
Gilmore & Roberts “Conflict Tourism”
Gwenno “Y Dydd Olaf”
Hey Colossus “Radio Static High”
Joanna Newsom “Divers”
John Grant “Grey Tickles, Black Pressure”
Kelela “Hallucinogen”
Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp A Butterfly”
Kroda “Ginnungagap-Ginnungagadr-GinningaKaos”
Lady Lamb “After”
Lippy Kid “Echoes And Answers”
Lucy Ward “I Dreamt I Was A Bird”
Motorhead “Bad Magic”
Nathaniel Rateliff And The Night Sweats “Nathanial Rateliff And The Night Sweats”
Naxatras “Naxatras”
Pete Williams “Roughnecks And Roustabouts”
Piney Gir “Mr Hyde’s Wild Ride”
Public Image Limited “What The World Needs Now”
Public Service Broadcasting “The Race For Space”
Rachel Sermanni “Tied To The Moon”
Simon Love & The Old Romantics “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time”
Sleaford Mods “Key Markets”
Sleater-Kinney “No Cities To Love”
Songhoy Blues “Music In Exile”
Sons Of Kemet “Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do”
Squeeze “From The Cradle To The Grave”
Stereophonics “Keep The Village Alive”
Sufjan Stevens “Carrie And Lowell”
Sweet Billy Pilgrim “Motorcade Amnesiacs”
Swnami “Swnami”
The Autumn Stones “Escapists”
The Chap “The Show Must Go”
The Fratellis “Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied”
The Helmholtz Resonators “The Mystery Of Woolley Mountain”
The Unthanks “Mount The Air”
The Wave Pictures “Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon”
The Woodbine & Ivy Band “Sleep On Sleeping On”
Titus Andronicus “The Most Lamentable Tragedy”
Tommy Genesis “World Vision”
Trembling Bells “The Sovereign Self”
Zalza “Superposition”
Zarelli / Leonard Nimoy “There Will Come Soft Rains”

Thanks to everybody who listened to the show in 2015, helped spread the word or said a kind word about it, it means a lot, thank you x

See you every Sunday in 2016 for a new show, starting on January 10th. Hey, gotta finish all the Christmas cake first …

Thank you. Come again.