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


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 …


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.


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.

Roughnecks And Roustabouts – Pete Williams Band Live

Pete Williams – St David’s Hall, Cardiff   2nd November, 2015

I’ve been listening to Pete Williams for well over thirty years – kind of.

The “young bass driver with the complete Stax collection under his arm” (and don’t think for a second I had to look that up!) who played in the original – and still the greatest – incarnation of the greatest band ever has carried on making music ever since that band imploded in late 1980. He’s solo now, fronting his own band and currently supporting The Proclaimers on a 35-date tour of the UK.

That other band came back a couple of years ago too, with Pete and two other members of that original line-up. They’re in pretty good shape these days even if the live shows and records do occasionally tend to favour the theatre elements over the music.

Me, I’m all about the music and Pete Williams’ solo work is bung full of good tunes, lyrics about – you know, real people like you and me – sung with passion and pride and no pretension.

His first solo album, 2012’s “See” contains songs with has some devastating subject matter (“Suddenly Shattered”, “Reconsider This”), the stories told with grace and empathy. A lovely record that I keep going back to, however 2015’s “Roughnecks And Roustabouts” is even better, a more personal album by the sound of it whose stories are more easily understood (“We Came, We Saw”, “First Real Job”, “People”)

Both albums feature keyboards and horns and on some numbers strings (check this) but the band tonight is a four-piece, the guitar, bass, drums template being enhanced only by the ukulele that Pete plucks and strums on a couple of songs. Any worries that this may affect what are, after all, subtle songs full of light and shade, are very soon laid to rest – they’ve been thoughtfully arranged / rearranged to fill – and sometimes NOT fill, to great effect – any sonic gaps.

Cos its the songs that really get you. They would work just as well on solo vocals and guitar, hell they’d probably work on solo vocals and bongos. The songs are taken more or less fifty-fifty from the two albums and make up the finest forty-minute live set I’ve witnessed all year.

Set list:

Breathe My Love
La Ciniega Song
We Came We Saw
Roughnecks And Roustabouts
Let Me Like You
First Real Job
Are You Listening?
Suddenly Shattered

I may have missed a new song but you get the idea)

The Proclaimers are big fans of Pete’s old band down to name-checking them on their first album. The two acts this evening make a good match and judging from the warm and enthusiastic reaction all around me, the Proclaimers’ fans agree.

If you’re quick you can catch the tour until mid-November with a couple of Scottish Xmas dates as well. Get there early, you won’t regret it. The Proclaimers aren’t bad either, mind.

Pete Williams’ website

There’s No Beauty Anymore

And here’s a Glastonbury quiz question for you. Which band made their debut at Glastonbury last weekend and have had more number one UK singles than Metallica, Kasabian, Arcade Fire, Ed Sheeran and Bryan Ferry put together and were STILL not covered by the BBC? Nope, not Dolly Parton …

Dexys Midnight Runners emerged from the West Midlands at around the same time as the Specials and the other 2-Tone bands, but wasted no time defining themselves as separate, outside and better than the rest.

Paying as much attention to the image and the clothes as they did to the music, almost uniquely at the time outside of black music and heavy metal, this proved a smart move. Everybody knew what they looked like. And everybody had an opinion on it.

Dexys mainman Kevin Rowland has said on countless occasions – most recently in this month’s Mojo Magazine – that he does not like looking back which is fair enough but forgive me if I don’t share that feeling.

Simply put, Dexys in their various incarnations have been responsible for some of the best singles, the best albums and the best gigs I have ever attended.
Here’s some evidence.

Old Vic Theatre, 1981 – Soon / Plan B

This was an unbelievable set of gigs. During the gig I attended, Kevin stopped the show to argue with a heckler who wouldn’t shut up during the quiet bits. I actually thought he was going to lamp him.

Radio One Big Top Weekend, Newcastle, 1982 – Come On Eileen

As far as I know this was the first ever public performance of this song, which has of course become the ultimate wedding disco anthem. I maintain you can hear me bellowing loudly at the end of this, but it’s not conclusive.

Shaftesbury Theatre, 1982 – R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

The definitive version of the Aretha Franklin classic, Dexys anthem in the early days.

Shepherd’s Bush Empire 2012 Until I Believe My Soul / Tell Me When My Light Turns Green

One song from “Too-Rye-Ay”, one from “Searching For The Young Soul Rebels” from the triumphant comeback tour of a couple of years ago.

Glastonbury 2014 – This Is What She’s Like

And from the Glastonbury set, this is possibly THE Dexys song ..

I saw an interview with Kevin Rowland a couple of years ago where he said the new incarnation of Dexys was more about the theatre than the music. He’s entitled to his opinion, I suppose. But for me it’s always been the music, Not the theatre, or the clothes, although I get that these form the attitude, which informs and inspires the music, which is unique and agnificent whether the band is wearing tracksuits, dungarees, Brook Brothers suits or dresses.

If you want to hear some more live Dexys tracks old and new then check the current Beat City podcast here Beat City 30 – There’s No Beauty Anymore

Also features :

Elephant Man (om the Gwan Bad Riddim)

Colorama (fro the cracking new album “Temari”)

Bobby Womack RIP

plus loads more


Arthur Rigby And The Baskervylles

Arthur Rigby And The Baskervylles – Half Moon, Putney 30/07/13

Brass players are starting to disappear unexpectedly from up-and-coming bands on the London gig circuit.

If you go on their website (below) Arthur Rigby And The Baskervylles are billed as an 8-piece band to include a 3-piece horn section, and there’s no saxaphone player. Tankus The Henge, a band of whom I am more than fond, were reduced to a single horn player (from a full complement of two) the last time I saw them.

It’ll be like the disappearing bees. Not The Bees as in the band “The Bees”, although come to think of it, what DID happen to them?. I mean  the insects.

You’ll all notice it in about three years time and then it’ll be like “oh no, why didn’t we listen to Tony”.

The name of the band, according to the violinist, derives from references to singer Ben Hatfield’s heroes and influences. His grandfather was called Arthur, and Baskervylle Road in Heswall, Merseyside is where Paul McCartney bought a house for his father Jim. And the “Rigby” bit …

It’s fair to say Macca will nod approvingly on hearing these guys.

I’d heard their sound described as “chamber pop” and they do have certain similarities to the excellent Paris Motel (who should make another original album soon btw!)

If you want comparisons they have more in common with the Divine Comedy and Dexys – and the quality of the songs is more than a match for Hannon or Rowland.

They released an EP last year called Tales From Pegasus Wood, five superbly crafted songs arranged beautifully, the best being “Follow”.

Live, however, they pack far more of a punch – without ever doing anything so crass as “rocking out”. Many more successful bands could take a lesson here as to how to translate your music from the studio to the live setting. It’s not a matter of turning it up and playing louder and faster, so you lose the subtleties. Sounds obvious but it’s often ignored.

Arthur Rigby and the Baskervylles give the impression of a band who really get off on what they do, a proper team effort with seemingly no egos pushing their way to the front of the sound.

The sound helps – I hope they never play anywhere with dodgy sound as this would detract from the magic they create. The Half Moon’s sound people always do a good job in my experience, and tonight they excel themselves. It’s loud, but you can hear every instrument clearly.

There’s a minimum of chat as the first few numbers are played with nary a pause, which is most welcome. Most of the songs are new to me, but have that quality that makes you think they’re standards.

As I walk to the station my lasting memory of the gig is of the trumpet player singing along to the song during a bit where he hasn’t got anything to play.

When the band are as into the material as that, you know you’ve got a good thing going.

Superstar Bunny – Here We Go!

This week, BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq has been fielding emails, texts and tweets concerning damaged records. I heard this too late to contribute but was reminded of our late lamented pet rabbit Bugsy (and Minstrel too, who also appears in the video) –


We kept them as house rabbits, ie, they weren’t in a hutch in the garden all the time, bored out of their rabbit skulls. They did have a cage, a big dog-type one, which they lived in at night but the rest of the time they had a free run of the whole ground floor of the house.

This has been a broadcast on behalf of the House Rabbit party. Rant over.

One afternoon we left Bugsy and Minstrel in the lounge on their own for a while. After a while we heard some clattering. Intrigued, we went back in to find Bugsy in the middle of a pile of CDs, which he was diligently removing from the free-standing CD rack with his mouth and throwing them onto the carpet.

Wow, we thought. He really doesn’t like Culture Club, fair enough. Or Elvis Costello – hang on a minte. Or Dexys! What is WRONG with him?

For a couple of hours he was set to be the main ingredient in a pie, but Sal talked me out of it.

Thought nothing more of it until we tidied the room up at bedtime. No point in tidying as you go with two rabbits and two teenagers about the place.

We then noticed this:

Brim Of Ash by Shop

Bugsy had obviously found the cardboard cover of Cornershop’s big hit single “Brimful Of Asha” to his liking …

And he had noticed other tasty packages on the same CD rack – Cosmic Rough Riders and Feeder were similarly marked. Indeed, we have yet to locate Black Grape’s Euro 98 song “England’s Ire” to this day.

He was also bright enough to realise that most of the CDs had nasty plastic covers, so he’d discarded them.

Bugsy knew a good record when he saw one – Brimful Of Asha was Number 1 in John Peel’s Festive Fifty in 1997.

RIP, Bugsy. Miss you 8=)