Wednesday, 31 August 2011
I think it’s fair to say that upon first hearing Noel Gallagher’s solo single ‘The Death of You and Me’ I hardly jumped from my seat claiming to have heard the future of rock and roll, more a wet squid mumble of “it’s ok…sounds a bit like ‘The Importance of Being Idle’”
I’ve now listened to it a few times and still feel well within the same arena. On the flip side I’ve just listened to the stateside single ‘If I Had a Gun’ and think that this is top drawer stuff. A great song and proof that Noel’s fire hadn’t burned out when the coke dealer stopped popping over. A great verse, strong chorus and something Beady Eye have yet to manage, a killer middle 8, pop-tastic.
Why it’s surprising to me and others that Noel is capable of writing such a great song is beyond me considering he has easily one of the strongest back catalogues of the last 20 years to look back on. Did we really think that the man who wrote ‘Live Forever’ and ‘The Master plan’ couldn’t bang a chord sequence together? What separates the new Noel Gallagher solo material to the Beady Eye singles (and album come to that) is the fact that the words are no nonsense and genuine. Liam and Beady Eye like to drop words like ‘Psychedelic’ and ‘rock and rooooll’ into every conversation but it takes more than making abstract ‘dripping from a dead dogs eye’ lines to make a great psychedelic rocker. In some cases rambling gobbledygook is just an easy road to the chorus where as writing something clear and simple and no nonsense is the real challenge and craft.
The Chief is back
The album Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is released on October 17th. And will then be followed by a second album recorded with collective Amorphous Androgynous (I know…what happened to names like The Smiths?) and is released early 2012.
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 15:31
Tuesday, 30 August 2011
Back in the land of comfy beds (that don't puncture), hot running water that doesn't require a Tetanus jab after use and the overall creature comforts that are only forthcoming from your own home.
Loads to write up, interviews with Miles Kane, MONA, Dry the River, The Vaccines and much much more randomness, drunken tales and tips for eating shredded pork baps while balancing an umbrella and duo cans of Relentless in one hand.
Now go and have a shave and shower...
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 09:12
Tuesday, 23 August 2011
THE STEPKIDS (SELF TITLED ALBUM)
The Stepkids are not what you would call a conventional band/group; instead they are the culmination of many styles and genres and three individuals all of which are pulling in the same direction. No deadwood here. The collective is made up of three singer/songwriters including guitarist Jeff Gitelman, who up to recently was the touring guitarist for Alicia Keys. He is joined by bassist/keyboard player Dan Edinberg and finalised by drummer Tim Walsh whose East Coast jazz and strong R&B chops give the music a strong foundation for the more psychedelic ideas layered on top.
In interviews the band are very clear to point out that each song is a definite group effort with everyone giving 100% all the time to the groove, lyrics and overall mood of each track. The song ‘Shadows on Behalf’ features every member covering what seems like multiple parts as well as vocals. For a home cooking recording listening to the whole piece, on headphones especially, is a wonder to experience.
‘Legend In My Own Mind’ is so Sly Stone you almost get frustrated due to the fact that Sly himself can’t produce such gems any more. A great song/production.
Listening to the album influences from artists such as Sly Stone, Parliament and even Chic (for the rhythm section) make appearances but nothing that leans on anyone else’s work, there is no standing on the shoulders of giants here, more just appreciative nods to their heroes and influences, which in my opinion is the truest form of flattery rather than just simply making a cookie cutter facsimile of an original song. If the Isle of White band, The Bees, had cousins over the pond you might expect they sound like The Stepkids.
'Santos & Ken’ mixes Stevie Wonder with almost Todd Rundgren psychedelia, a standout track on this barely 10 track album (2 songs include ‘Intro’ and ‘Outro’).
Another personal favourite from this collection is the Phillie funk of ‘Cup Half Full’ which mixes sweet vocals with almost jazz/funk chords à la Steely Dan, while keeping things bouncy and grounded thanks to the aforementioned solid drumming and bass.
Just purely for the pedigree of the musicians involved I think The Stepkids will be a definite “one to watch” live act on the circuit.
The Stepkids is released on the 26th September through Stones Throw Records
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 15:12
Well well, when it rains it pours..
Nick Ashford from the husband and wife songwriting partnership has also died aged only 70 years old of complications from throat cancer.
Ashford was one part of Ashford & Simpson with wife and partner Valerie Simpson who together clocked up many hits for Motown artists such as Marvin Gaye, The Supremes , Chaka Khan as well as artists such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Teddy Pendergrass ('Is It Still Good to You'). Their partnership hit it's stride in the mid 60's with the string of hits they wrote for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell such as 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' (a song from which Amy Winehouse took a sample from for her own 'Tears Dry On Their Own') Moving through the 60's,70's and even the 1980s with their own hit 'Solid' as well as writing the monster hit 'I'm Every Woman' for Chaka Khan.
Below are a few choice cuts from a long and successful career.
*I Don't Need No Doctor - Ray Charles
*Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell
*You're All I Need to Get By - Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell
*I'm Gonna Make You Love Me - Diana Ross & The Supremes
*California Soul - The 5th Dimension
*Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing - Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell
*Destination:Anywhere - The Marvellettes
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 09:34
Awoke to the sad news that songwriting legend and co-member of one of the most successful rock 'n' roll pop hit making teams Jerry Leiber had died aged 78 from what has been reported as cardio-pulmonary failure.
Leiber was part of Leiber and Stoller (with Mike Stoller) their 61 year partnership mined gold such as 'Stand by Me', 'Yakety Yak' and 'Hound Dog'. Their respected talent was appreciated in their own lifetime and even by mavericks such as Phil Spector that was mentored by the pair and would literally sleep on their sofa and work on his own songs after hours before showing his work the next day when they arrived. Leiber went onto write the hit 'Spanish Harlem' with Spector. Their songs managed to combine good time blues and pop with social commentary equal to that of Dylan and Lennon. The Coasters hit 'Shopping for Clothes' is a perfect example.
Here are some of my favourite versions of Leiber/Stoller songs for those of you that fancy some old skool R&B pop this rainy Tuesday morning.
*There Goes My Baby - The Drifters
*Hound Dog - Elvis Presley
*Kansas City - The Beatles
*Charlie Brown - The Coasters
*Stand By Me - Ben E King
*Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley
*Searchin' - The Coasters
*Shopping for Clothes - The Coasters
*On Broadway - The Drifters
*Spanish Harlem - Aretha Franklin
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 09:04
Friday, 19 August 2011
ELVIS and the Memphis Mafia
by Alanna Nash with Billy Smith, Marty Lacker and Lamar Fike
Elvis Presley. Elvis Aaron Presley or is it Elvis Aron Presley? We’ll get to that later. Elvis is one of the top flights of cultural icons of the 20th Century that is instantly recognised by their first name alone. When someone says ‘Elvis’ you don’t think “oh yeah…Costello”, well unless you’re one of the .01% I suppose. There have been millions of words written about Elvis and sometimes you want to just let it be and let the music speak for itself. Although this is easier said than done with someone so interesting and yet so flawed it is hard to sit through a whole track without muttering a story or two to the person next to you… “I heard when this was made…blah, blah, blah”. After all the stories are now legend, part truth, part myth with a hell of a lot of pills, both legal and otherwise, thrown into the mix. The book I’ve finished reading here is ‘Elvis and The Memphis Mafia’, a book that has been put together and collaborated by three of Elvis’ closest friends in his entourage. The debate whether they were true friends with his best interest at heart or whether they were simply paid employees that looked to milk the golden cow dry, turning a blind eye to their employers path of self destruction and bad behaviour, but that’s one for their own consciences I guess.
Reading through the book, through the years and chapters it seems ironic that Elvis’ whole career was started when he recorded the song ‘My Happiness’ as a present for his dearly beloved Mother Gladys. Happiness seemed to be the one thing that he could never get, even with all the money, fans, adulation and many, many women on his arms. Boredom seemed to explain a lot of Elvis’ problems. It all came too easy to him. From the moment he opened his mouth in August 1953 to record his mother’s gift in Sun Studios to his final concert shortly before his death...it worked. The voice that came out didn’t need hours of training, running scales, practicing breathing techniques, the sort of thing every artist and professional singer does as a matter of daily duty, this type of requirement doesn’t mean a thing when you’re Elvis Presley. You were firing on 10, 24/7. So what do you do to fill the gaps between studio dates, concerts and dodgy movies? Drugs and lots of em’. His dependencies lead to more than a few trips to the emergency room for ‘exhaustion’ when in fact it was detoxification. An average day (if you can call any day ‘average’) started with pills to wake him up, then it was another 2 doses/packets throughout the day, pills to calm him down, to boost his mood, muscle relaxants, pills to curb his appetite, pills to get him on stage, pills to help his weight, injections to calm him down after a show, pills to help him sleep. It is said that during the autopsy when then pumped his stomach the amount of pills that fell out into the pan sounded “like gravel”. His personal physician Dr. Nichopoulos (Dr. Nick, Simpsons fans) prescribed in 1975 1,296 amphetamines, 1,891 sedatives, and 910 narcotics. This was upped in 76’ to 2,372 amphetamines, 2,680 sedatives, and 1,059 narcotics. In his final year, 1977 he was personally prescribed 1,790 amphetamines, 4,996 sedatives, and 2,019 narcotics. It’s amazing to think that in 1970 he was made a ‘Federal Agent at Large’ for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (and given an official badge) by non other than President Richard Nixon (in an attempt to improve his own image to ‘the kids’). In return for this Elvis himself, blamed the rise in the drug culture of America and anti-war activism straight at the front door of four of his biggest fans. The Beatles. All you need is love…
Hindsight is wonderful for those who have lived through the dark times and can sit back and write a book that they know will sell due to the subject matter. However, reading between the lines the amusing anecdotes combined with old style dark Gothic and the greedy southern family members (sometimes swinging meat cleavers), you have a group of people that hung around with Elvis hoping some of the magic would rub off on them and they too would be the king, if only by association. Nobody had the balls to stand up and say the truth, the reason? Simple, they would have been fired, kicked out the club, possibly reinstated a month or so later but then told never to mention it again. Elvis was his own man, did what he wanted and had yes men and yes women around him from the age of 18, do you think at 40 he was about to start taking orders from people? He spent money like a tap running (fuelling his private jet so he could fly across the country for a sandwich is a great example) and although he made it back just as quickly thanks to constant touring and promotion, it never seemed to be enough.
Thanks to his ‘personal manager’ The Colonel (Tom Parker) the manager/artist split was hardly conventional or indeed ethical, in fact Parker was taking anything from 10 to 50 percent of Elvis’ earnings by the time of his death, as well as taking percentages from every other aspect of his earnings i.e. music royalties, movie appearances etc.
Elvis wasn’t a business man by any stretch of the imagination but one feels if he had taken even a passing interest in it, he could have been making a lot more for himself (if he’d bothered reading half the contacts he blindly signed). It has been said that in some cases Parker was earning more money per song than Elvis due to various shady business deals and backroom cash in brown envelopes i.e. sweeteners and perks to make sure Parker made the deal. It is reported that Tom Parker had a massive gambling addiction and would run up massive debts in Vegas, only bailing himself out by promising ‘another run of shows by Elvis’ to cover the debts being called in (mostly without Elvis’ knowledge or permission). This was another of Elvis’ shortcomings, his trust in people within an industry that is probably only second to boxing, for its backstabbing and low down dirty foul play regarding money and payment for the artists/acts being exploited. The quote by The Colonel to Elvis to explain their relationship “you take care of the music and I’ll take care of the business” was used until the last days.
A great read, a sad read and sometimes laugh out loud funny. A Greek tragedy in every sense about a complicated person who made it to the top of mount Olympus only to realise he could see everyone below having more fun with their normal lives. A prisoner of his own fame and a victim of good intentions and underhand doctors looking to pamper him and make sure the invoices kept rolling in.
Look past the white jumpsuits and dodgy karate moves, Elvis is the King of Rock and Roll, and like all kings in history was betrayed by those closest to him and finally by himself.
Favourite Elvis songs
20 Days, 20 Nights
Viva Las Vegas
Are You Lonesome Tonight?
Can’t Help Falling in Love
(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame
If I Can Dream
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 10:28
Thursday, 18 August 2011
Being born in 1981 meant that I was lucky enough to see a lot of great films care of the video shop, films that are now called 'classics' by those a generation or so after me. In my opinion some weren't classics then and still don't meet the criteria now but as time heals all wounds it also manages to turn 2 star turkeys into 5 star Sunday roasts.
I can't wait another 10 years for great films of the 90's to finally get around to being cool and getting the love they deserve. So with today's access to Movie sites online and youtube, look up the following and see some films that drop kick 'Pretty In Pink' out of the park...
OK so although the decade started off with 'Goodfellas' (which should be given away in the post to everyone as I can't really picture anyone's DVD collection without it)it also was the decade that the ball achingly bad 'Cool as Ice' came out. This is one for youtube, you won't be able to watch it through open fingers while at the same time you won't be able to turn away. With dialog such as "I'm gonna go across the street and, uh ,schling a schlong" uttered by our hero played by non other than future dancing on ice mug Vanilla Ice, (known to his criminally ashamed mum as Robert Matthew Van Winkle)
Some other amazing choice films from the decade of curtain hair cuts and shell suits (to which I'll always be joined at the hip to) included the following:
My Own Private Idaho - 1991
White Men Can't Jump - 1992
Dazed and Confused - 1993
The Crow - 1994
The Basketball Diaries - 1995
Swingers - 1996
Jackie Brown - 1997
American History X - 1998
Magnolia - 1999
[on the way to Las Vegas]
Trent: They're gonna give daddy the Rainman suite, you dig that?
Mike: Do you think we'll get there by midnight?
Trent: Baby, we're going to be up five hundy by midnight!
Trent: Vegas baby! Vegas!
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 10:33
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
After their recent performance at London Field Day on the 6th August Born Ruffians took some time out of their recent tour schedule to answer a few questions for me.
Below is the transcript.
Questions for Born Ruffians
Q. ‘Hummingbird’ is one of your most popular songs among fans as well as part of your live shows. What inspired that song?
A. Actually this song took a fairly long time to write. It was written around the main baseline and I think that inspired most of the feeling of the song. It went through so many different stages and changes that it was extremely relieving when we finally hit a version that worked. Sometimes it still feels strange that it has become our most popular song.
Q. How do UK and European shows differ from US and Canadian festivals?
A. I’ve never been to a US or Canadian festival where people wore costumes like some of the UK festivals
Q. Are there any other bands/artists you’re looking forward to seeing while at Field Day?
A. Kieran Hebden and Omar Souleyman
Q. What music do you all listen to? Any outside of your normal indie/alt guidelines?
A. I listen to a lot of rap music which I suppose is outside those guidelines. I always have been a fan.
Q. Back in April your song ‘Little Garcon’ appeared in an American Express commercial and ‘Hummingbird’ was used for a cell phone commercial here also. Do you think this is part and parcel of the promotional package these days or do you think some products would be seen as ‘too far’ and possibly “selling out”?
A. That’s a tough question. I definitely don’t think people see doing an ad as selling out anymore and almost every band I know with any amount of success has been in an ad or two. The stigma is gone BUT I’m sure there are still a few products that could turn your fanbase against you. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any realistic ones (maybe McDonalds? I feel like it still has a pretty cheesy stigma) or if there was a company advertising weapons grade plutonium or something.
Q. As artists on Warp records you included two Aphex Twin songs for the Warp20 (recreated) compilation, are Aphex Twin an influence on the band or was it just a chance to try something different?
A. No it was just a chance to try and cover the most influential electronic artist on Warp because we are seen as one of the most “rock” bands on Warp so we thought it would be a funny contrast.
Q. What’s next for the band?
A. We are in the process of writing the next record.
Q. Are there any up and coming bands you are listening to?
A. In the UK I like an artist named Josh Weller (he’s already been in the charts I think so I guess that is more than up and coming). From Canada, Young Rival are a great band.
many thanks to Leila Hebden and Born Ruffians
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 13:59
Monday, 15 August 2011
I've purposely left my blog quiet the last few days, as the riots in London have been at the forefront of every one's mind and some review of the latest indie offering from the next great white hope chin-less wonders seems a little pointless and half arsed.
Fear not good people, thanks to my MTV generation attention span a lot of us although still angry at recent attacks and looting are taking the high road and facing the world straight ahead once again.
I have many upcoming posts to be added in the next few weeks, I will be reviewing the new album from The Stepkids as well as heading to Reading on the bank holiday weekend for the Reading Festival 2011 as I've managed to wangle a lovely shiny press pass for the occasion which will definitely be the vital moment we all discover whether the pen is indeed mightier than my longing for the beer tent and can manage to comprehend the finer points of each bands set and the atmosphere.
Blue skies outside and a fresh OptiCLEAR lens wipe to clean my uber cool specs. Things are looking up.
Some tracks for you to spotify, youtube or even *gulp* purchase at your leisure.
1) The Wall - Yuck
2) (Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame - Elvis Presley
3) The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala - Arctic Monkeys
4) Zig Zag Wanderer - Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
5) Save The Last Dance For Me - Ike & Tina Turner
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 09:15
Wednesday, 10 August 2011
Day 4 of the riots now.
The backlash is starting to filter into people's minds from Internet rumours, newspapers and general office chit chat. Everything from purpose scare mongering sent from the government so that the police get more funding to David Icke-esque Zionist plans to cause a civil war that will let a 1984 type Big Brother government come to power through cause and effect conflicts and lizard shape shifters taking over.
I think the main issue is the fast food culture that we've been born into which means that if a rumour is posted on Twitter or facebook that our town is about to be raided it's treated as gospel and there is the let down and depression after we've all banded together to make sure that our friends and family are safe that then nothing happens, you almost feel a little cheated and partly ashamed that each of us hasn't shown that kind of consideration 24/7 for each other.
I've heard a few times in my life from people much much older than me that 'what this generation needs is a war' and although that sounds crass and insane to an extent I can see what they mean. The fact everyone pulled together and watched out for each other. Everyone hiding underground in air raid shelters and at the London Underground bunkers for sometimes hours and hours helped you realise that you were all in the same boat and that pettiness such as religion and race didn't matter when you were all faced with the same falling bomb. Friendships were forged and communities were made stronger through the troubles. I've lived in 4 flats in the last 5 years and I don't think I've ever said more than 3 words to any of my neighbours the whole time, not because I'm rude or introverted (well...) but it just isn't really done these days, the idea of a neighbour leaving you a spare set of keys in case they get locked out is an ideal that has almost gone out with flared trousers and Osmond records. They called the 1970s the ME generation and I don't think we've moved on since.
The looters who attacked the shops and local businesses have been photographed and filmed and some of them are clearly recognisable to those who know them. They are the ones who the hangover of the riots is starting to ache as they know that even though they have 22 pairs of new trainers and a 52" plasma hanging in their flat that they only have a minimal time to enjoy their booty as the police will be knocking sooner rather than later and unlike the previous government The Conservatives aren't afraid to lock people away and take away stolen possessions without wringing their hands and mumbling about 'human rights'.
"It is a cliche that most cliches are true, but then like most cliches, that cliche is untrue."
— Stephen Fry
This is the case when people say 'I blame the parents' and this is really a valid point. If you are a parent living in Tottenham, Enfield or even Croydon and at 10pm on the night of the much publicised and news worthy Riots in your local area and you don't know where your 14 year old son/daughter is...then guess what? Your a fucked parent because they aren't at bible class, they are looting JD sports and it's your fault. Children grow up far too quickly in this generation and are treated as adults when they are still getting free child bus passes, parents need to grab their children by the scruff of the neck and drag them home. It's shocking that at an age where I was watching WWF wrestling there are children the same age now than can field strip a rifle like a Vietnam vet.
The spark that everyone jumped on to ignite the fuse of these riots is the shooting of Mark Duggan, someone who if you ask the police was a hardened member of a gang in Tottenham and was a known drug dealer and was involved in the deaths of at least 3 rival gang members murders in the last year. He was also armed when the police confronted him.
On the other hand if you speak to his family, he was a saint. Family man (he had 4 kids) and devoted husband, his wife is denying he carried a gun but when pushed back tracked to "if he did have a gun - which I don't know, he would run rather than fire" so the fact that he may have carried a gun is fine and as low rent as picking a grape and eating it when walking around Sainsbury's it would seem, normal behaviour?
Areas haven't always been 'bad areas', they were just normal areas that were made bad by people like Duggan and his friends. Whether it is some sort of mimicking of 'the hood' in LA and trying to live up to gangster stereotypes and feel to impress other areas they need to purposely mess up their streets and neighbourhoods to somehow boost their image "oh..you come from THERE" as if an area defines a person. I know if you tell someone they come from a nice area or a 'posh' area they tend to add a swagger to their walk and come out with lines like "nah, I live at the other end, the estate bit" trying to convince me that an area like Ruislip is one step away from Brooklyn or something when in fact anywhere with a Golf Club, Duck Pond, Bowls lawn and Lido could ever be anything other than charming and retirement potential for the locals. There are idiots and scummers everywhere but that's individuals, when people who are academic and have potential to do well in life purposely put the brakes on themselves so they can fit into a pathetic image of "real" and "street" then they are the builders of their own prisons and by the time they wake up to themselves will either be behind real bars or the victim of crime themselves by the next lost generation.
Usually here I would add a top 5 or something but personally, whats the point? I'm not attaching music to these riots as it would only diminish their existence and downgrade art to the level of robbing some shitty Nike Air Jordan's..
'Take care of yourselves..and each other' - Jerry Springer.
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 09:13
Wednesday, 3 August 2011
Recently a certain weekly music magazine has started running a section on its website that is supposed to dispel the so called myths around ‘classic’ albums and groups. This week the target is Guns N Roses and their 1987 debut album ‘Appetite for Destruction’. I don’t ever remember anyone proclaiming this album the greatest collection of songs of all time or testament to the world domination of the group but apparently that is all irrelevant to our online classic debugger who is pulling no punches with his shots at the group and this album. If I were writing the original piece I’d probably start with the sound of the album as after all music is something you hear rather than watch or read. Ok well he passed on that and moved straight onto their ‘fan base of beer chugging morons’ ok…though I’m sure the musicianship will be called to order…nope straight onto Axl Rose’s appearance, please tell me at least the songs are going to get a mention before the end? Hurrah! 5 out of the 12 on the track listing get a mention before you think he’d missed over half the songs available. He does manage to give ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ the just deserved praise of being a ‘stone cold, era-defining classic’ while dismissing the other 4 mentioned as MOR, turgid, trite and boring and not as interesting or heavy as records by Spacemen 3, The Butthole Surfers, The Pixies first mini-LP, Dinosaur Jr and The Melvins from the same time period (all of which I’m sure he bought the day they come out to prove his individuality and as an act of kicking against the system and wave of the 28 million people that have bought ‘Appetite for Destruction’ which is still currently the biggest selling debut album of all time in the USA no less).
Dirty Harry once said "Opinions are like assholes. Everybody's got one and everyone thinks everyone else's stinks." Nobody has to like everything, that would just be weird. You need the ying and yang I suppose, but also hindsight is a wonderful thing to use and if you need to try and rubbish an album that was made 24 years ago I think judging it on the songs and musicianship should be the only factors brought to the table. All the wining about the ‘offensive songs, violence, reactionary, misogynist lyrics’ I mean cry me a river for god’s sake it’s a heavy metal band from LA. I’m sorry Morrissey didn’t write for Guns N Roses, but nobody claimed them to be political metal Bob Dylan’s. Nobody claimed they would right the wrongs of the world; it was just loud rock and roll music. The fact that they came along the same road as bands such as Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin separated them from the glam 80s poodle rock music of the time.
I also loved the line about pulling the album from the shelf to destroy it. If you read between the lines there, the act of destruction is actually irrelevant. It’s funny because even though the writer is showing his contempt for the album, and the band throughout, he is letting the readers know he’s still cool enough to own it in the first place. It’s as if he feels that had he started the first paragraph with “I’ve never bought this album because it’s a load of metal rubbish” nobody would take his opinion seriously. Either that or he carefully goes through the yearly music magazine compendiums and buys the 1-50 must have classic albums and adds them to his collection like each one was an individual selection.
You want a sacred cow. Choose The La’s…a whole myth and legend over a single song, you all know the one I mean. The rest of the album is at best ok. But every fart Lee Mavers makes or the next time the group ‘re-unite’ and everyone wets themselves at the comeback of the century, only to realise once again that the indie emperor still has no clothes on.
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 12:37
Tuesday, 2 August 2011
While having an imaginary interview in my head with the execs at Rolling Stone magazine they put forward the question regarding what ideas I had for future features for the magazine. This shows two things. Firstly that my Rupert Pupkin attempts to actually evolve from my own blog into paid music journalism have grown into a whole new level of psychosis and also that I have a great pitch once in a blue moon.
The idea is:
The best music scenes from Movies…that aren’t actually concert films so slide that copy of 'The Last Waltz' back in the shelf it don’t count.
Its very easy when writing this type of thing to just flick through a few back copies of movie magazines or considering its not 1989 actually just Google “movie music scenes” and steal someone else choices, but where is the fun of that? I was born in 1981 and personally don’t have the attachment of Humphrey and Ingrid looking at each other while ‘As Time Goes By' plays. But on the other hand I will always be taken back to the scene in Superbad when Seth is dancing with a girl at a party and gets covered in what could only be described as ‘crimson love’ while grinding up to her during Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Big Poppa’.
Here are some others (tip…new screen on hand and get youtube primed)
1) Kick Ass – A great film, funny, killer soundtrack, matrix style violence and the foulest mouthed young girl ever seen on film. The music scene I’m talking about is the finale where our hero fly’s into the bad guy’s penthouse on a jet pack with attached machine guns and is supported by the golden tones of Elvis Presley singing ‘An American Trilogy’ as he annihilates everything in his path.
2) Superbad – I’ve mentioned this already and that indeed is a great scene, but the one that has got to pip it to the post here is Evan (Michael Cera) being mistaken for “Jimmy’s brother, the great singer” and being made to perform, and pulling ‘These Eyes’ by The Guess Who out of the bag.
3) House Party – This is the turning point where half the readers go “never seen it” and the other half go “seen it, it sucked”…personally for those of us who grew up renting videos from the video shop House Party and similar films (i.e. Class Act) will always remember Bilal (Martin Lawrence when he was funny) slow dancing with an unfortunate girl and crooning 'Always and Forever' by Heatwave into her ear.
4) Wild at Heart – Another left field choice but hey it’s my list so I’ll have whatever I like and if it happens to be a David Lynch film with Nicholas Cage serenading his girlfriend with Elvis’s ‘Love Me’ while being backed by a heavy metal band, then so be it. (The Quantum Leap-tastic Dean Stockwell stealing the scene in ‘Blue Velvet’ would also be right up there miming to Roy Orbison’s ‘In Dreams’.
5) Life of Brian – The crucified, messiahs and naughty boys all singing ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ as they hang from the crosses. “Bernie, I said, they’ll never make their money back”
6) The Rules of Attraction – This early ‘naughties’ film starring James Van Der Beek also features a killer soundtrack and one particularly moving scene when the quiet girl character that is only ever seen in the background finally cracks and commits suicide in the bath. The scene brings a new found resonance to Harry Nilsson’s version of ‘Without You’, from being the song sung at weddings to it coming back full circle to the original intent and longing of Badfinger’s Peter Ham (who wrote and played the original) and showing its true beauty through heartbreak.
7) Snatch – Guy Ritchie. Where did it all go wrong? After ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ you followed a home run with ANOTHER home run, amazing, we won’t talk about ‘Swept Away’, ‘Revolver’ but instead remember the scene with Brad Pitt as the Gypsy bare knuckle fighter Mickey heading to the ring to the strains of ‘Fucking In the Bushes’ by Oasis, a track so good even people who believe they actually don’t like Oasis (add your own lame Beatles-comparison blah blah blah here) and always comment “I love this tune..Who is it?”…
8) Blow – ‘All The Tired Horses’ Another shot from the corner here with this Bob Dylan song that he himself doesn’t actually appear on, no verse or chorus as such...just the repeated refrain “All the tired horses in the sun, How'm I supposed to get any ridin' done? Hmm” apparently everything from the meaning of life to the proof that Dylan is a heroin addicted shape shifting mutant is hidden in this sentence but for me even though it’s not related as such to the movie when matched with Johnny Depps performance seems to make perfect sense.
9) Number 9, Number 9….ok Kill Bill – 'Bang Bang (My Baby Shot me Down)' by Nancy Sinatra. Quentin Tarantino has said in interviews that the music in his films is almost as important as the scenes themselves and dialogue, a trait he has picked up from Martin Scorsese who listens to music throughout the making and almost fits the scenes to the music that inspired it. Kill Bill starts in black and white with ‘The Bride’ half dead, covered in blood and trying to speak to her would be killer (Bill) as she gets to her last sentence Bill shoots her point blank in the head and this song kicks in as the titles roll…I’m not going anywhere for the next hour or so after that..in fact who am I kidding I’m gonna watch VOL 2 straight after.
10) Number 10? Here we are…Ferris Bueller’s Day off – ‘Danke Schoen/Twist and Shout’ this is all personal choice of course but one that I think deserves its place. Matthew Broderick has never been this good since, full of infectious charm and a guy that ‘can do anything’ to quote his best friend Cameron Fry. The ending parade scene where after ‘ditching’ his friend and girlfriend in the crowd he appears on the microphone on a moving parade through the city crooning Wayne Newton’s ‘Danke Schoen’, before unleashing one of those ‘this would never, never happen in real life but what the hell it’s a film’ moments, by mixing straight into The Beatles ‘Twist and Shout’ and getting everyone from builders, to little kids, to his unsuspecting dad (who’s watching from a nearby office block but cannot see his truant son’s face) to break into a massive street dance…
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 10:22
Monday, 1 August 2011
‘Creativity is great, but plagiarism is faster’ -anon
The scene is always the same; the topic is always different but no matter what the programme is discussing or reviewing if the time line happens to pass the date of 07/02/64 one event is ALWAYS mentioned. This is the date The Beatles touched down in America. You think I’m exaggerating? Have a look for yourself, whether the programme is talking about music as a whole, Motown and Soul, POP, Classical, Country, Jazz, Folk and everything in between… if this date is passed over, the same piece of film of the Boeing 707 Pan Am jet taxiing into JFK airport on the 7th February 1964 is shown. There have been many books, films, documentaries, interviews and even cartoons about The Beatles that have pretty much sewn up the topic for fans and casual appreciators alike but one thing that seems to get lost is the influence behind the songs. I’m sure if you googled ‘Beatles influences’ the result would be a list of the usual suspects, ranging from Elvis Presley to Chuck Berry and Little Richard with some Carl Perkins references along the way. This is all well and good and I’m not disputing this at any level as these are the main meat and potatoe influences of each member of the group and are still the ones they probably think of when this question is put to them for the 1000th time in interviews.
The point of this exercise is to put a viewpoint out there that there were a few more influences about that were a little closer to home and that apart from being the greatest group that have ever existed in the history of popular music, they were also great music fans and had their own individual tastes in music in relation to contemporary acts and bands throughout the 1960s that influenced their playing and writing outside of their Buddy Holly 45’s from their youth.
Sometimes the influences are slight and you have to really squint to see the join and it may just be a song that was made in the same vein as the influence whereas others are just so close to the original that you almost feel proud at the cheek of them to release their own finished version and release as a single.
Here are a few:
'I Feel Fine' - A great track from November 1964 that features at it’s opening the ‘first use of feedback’ according to John Lennon although this has been argued and debated until the wee small hours with names like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Dave Davies, Ritchie Blackmore and Pete Townsend all throwing their 1st place medals into the ring for consideration. The song itself features a very distinctive guitar riff that John Lennon was apparently ‘busking throughout the sessions and trying to fit into every new song he wrote without success’ this riff finally appears here on this song but after a simple scanning through the 45’s on the recently found John Lennon’s jukebox you will see the song ‘Watch Your Step’ by Bobby Parker (a R&B track from 1961). I’ll leave you to make your own minds up there. But if you are too lazy I’ll just blurt it out “They are the same!”…It wasn’t all John adding some licks from other songs here. The drumming is straight from 'What I Say' by Ray Charles. If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.
‘Talent borrows, genius steals’ – Oscar Wilde
‘I’m Down’ – This is a pretty easy one as in the world of rock and roll there is only so many templates and Little Richard and Chuck Berry have used them all up and have done it better. This is a track that is very, very similar to ‘Long Tall Sally’ by Little Richard even down to the opening vocal lead in to the scream before the solo. Although it is a song that was a live favourite (see Shea Stadium shows) and a B-side from the get go so they weren’t claiming to re-invent the wheel but simply have a loud rocker to get the crowds going and cut loose as a band.
‘I Saw Here Standing There’ – The opening gambit from their debut album ‘Please Please Me’ from 1963 has more than a passing resemblance to a late and little played Chuck Berry song from 1961 named ‘I’m Talking About You’ (this is what youtube is for people).
‘Composers shouldn’t think too much…it interferes with their plagiarism’ – Howard Dietz
‘Lady Madonna’ (1968) – The ‘back to basics’ track that McCartney wrote as a kind of “getting back to their roots” Fats Domino New Orleans to help the band come out of the summer of love psychedelic brouhaha and centre them once again away from the sitars and meditations, a great song, it’s a shame that Humphrey Lyttleton had already written and recorded ‘Bad Penny Blues’ in 1956.
‘Come Together’ (1969) – This may be a moot point due to the fact that it has already been decided upon and settled out of court that this song includes some lyrics from the 1956 Chuck Berry (yes him again!) song ‘You Can’t Catch Me’. With the line ‘Here come a flat-top, he was movin’ up with me’ being a bit too close to The Beatles and Lennon singing ‘Here come old flat-top he come grooving up slowly’ which is fair enough. The matter was later settled by Lennon after he covered a few other songs that the prosecuting publisher also owned (resulting in his solo 50s inspired covers album ‘Rock And Roll’.
I’m sure the whole episode shocked John Lennon and the group as a whole as when he did the same trick on ‘Run for Your Life’ in 1965 on the ‘Rubber Soul’ album nobody from Elvis Presley’s office called and said “oi Lennon, why have you taken the whole line from ‘Baby Let’s Play House’ and added it to your own song?” The line ‘I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man’ is used as the opening for The Beatles track and the turnaround line in verse 4 for Elvis, word for word.
Coincidentally in an interview John Lennon stated that ‘Run for Your Life’ was one of George Harrison’s favourite Beatle songs, and being both one of the four involved and a big Elvis fan, he would have immediately seen the link. George himself was no stranger to the crib sheet especially when faced with the blank page and writing duties. His famous court case and prolonged copyright infringement suit in relation to ‘My Sweet Lord’ (1970) that lasted over 10 years due to the similarity to the girl group classic song ‘He’s So Fine’ by The Chiffons (the group themselves actually recorded their own version of the Harrison track in the wake of publicity they were getting in the press). John Lennon didn’t buy the ‘subconscious plagiarism’ plea either in 1980 during an interview with Playboy magazine “He must have known, you know. He's smarter than that. It's irrelevant, actually—only on a monetary level does it matter. He could have changed a couple of bars in that song and nobody could ever have touched him, but he just let it go and paid the price. Maybe he thought God would just sort of let him off.”
Although to prove that sometimes the pendulum swings the other way too. When George Harrison nicked the line/hook “Something in the way she moves” for his smash (and the groups in fact) track 'Something' he was in fact taking a line from APPLE’s (The Beatles own record label) newest signing, future acoustic rock troubadour James Taylor who had a song out titled 'Something In The Way She Moves'…he couldn’t really play down the connection if this had gone any further as both McCartney and Harrison himself guested (un-credited) on another of Taylors songs ‘Carolina in My Mind’ from the same time frame. George Harrison later commented that when writing ‘Something’ he pictured Ray Charles singing it rather than any other closer to home influences. I’m sure a few eye brows were raised when this was printed while they sat in an office full of un-sold James Taylor records.
Some will argue that plagiarism is only accounted for when the perpetrator takes one man’s work and makes it worse, others will say that all originality is simply undetected plagiarism when you pull back the sheets, I think everyone is influenced constantly by everything around them and why should rock and roll be any different? A musical nod that shows appreciation to another artist only validates that what they wrote originally, is good enough and appreciated enough to be remembered.
There are some cases where lyrics have been swiped, although just little enough to protect themselves from the judges gavel, or in some cases enough amendments made to either a singular word or a whole line to keep the lawyers at bay. In the McCartney song ‘Golden Slumbers’ on the groups Abbey Road album the lyrics involved include the lines: “Golden slumbers fill your eyes, smiles awake you when you rise, sleep pretty darling do not cry, and I will sing a lullabye”…beautiful. If you now take a look at the following poem by Thomas Dekker from the play ‘Patient Grissel’ you will see a few similarities. ‘Golden slumbers kiss your eyes, smiles awake you when you rise sleep pretty wantons, do not cry. And I will sing a lullaby’. It seems that it’s not all champagne and skittles in the Macca household but a little bit of lyrical petty pilfering going on.
The Beatles are far and away both my favourite group and the best pop group, cultural phenomenon to hit western culture in the 20th century and I hope I haven’t given the impression that they were ‘a bunch of cheeky tea-leafs’ but they just assimilated themselves with the music and influence around them at the time. They were aware of their surroundings at all times and projected it back again like a cultural stereophonic mirror. The best artists represent the people and the world around them so it seems only necessary that Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starr would hear a song on the radio and immediately want to compete with it, everything you hear influences you whether you like it or not. If you like it then you’ll subconsciously try and imitate it, if you don’t like it then you’ll subconsciously steer clear of the same choice of notes/chords and go a different direction musically.
‘To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism, to steal ideas from many is research' – Wilson Mizner
‘There’s a lot of random in our songs…writing, thinking, letting others think of bits-then bam! You’ve got the jigsaw puzzle' – Paul McCartney
'And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make'-
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 14:39