Monday, 28 July 2014

50 songs to take to my grave 11: Sheela-Na-Gig


This record was another jawdropper. I bought the 12” of Sheela-Na-Gig by PJ Harvey on a hunch. I think it was Single Of The Week in NME and on learning she was a westcountry girl, I needed no further reason to buy it. It’s always a wonderful feeling when a hunch pays off. This one most certainly did.

Anyone remember that old Maxell cassette advert featuring the ‘Blown Away Guy’, where he’s sitting in front of a speaker and is being, quite literally, blown away by the sound? That’s kind of how it felt on hearing Sheena-Na-Gig for the first time. No girl I knew from the westcountry sounded like this. Polly Jean Harvey was gritty, dirty, wild and seriously rockin’. Steeped in the blues, she could also rip your eardrums to shreds with a single power-chord.

A sheela-na-gig is an overtly sexual, often grotesque carving depicting a woman brazenly displaying her genitalia. They are particularly prominent in the UK and Ireland and are believed to have been brought over by the Normans during the conquest in the 11th and 12th centuries.


In the song, the female protagonist tells of the harsh rejection she received from a man on presenting her naked self to him. “I don’t want to be unclean,” he cruelly responds, comparing her to a sheela-na-gig. “Please take those dirty pillows[1] away from me.” The anger and resentment in the female is felt in the terrifying musical arrangement which comes hurtling at you like a runaway train loaded with explosives. Harvey’s filthy, raw, distorted, bluesy guitar riffs, interspersed with muted strings and power-chords, is accompanied by a merciless bass and scattergun drums delivered with unadulterated fury. To top it off, Harvey’s seething, demented vocal is enough to make any man quake in his boots. This woman means serious business, make no mistake.

Sheela-Na-Gig was constantly being played at home, in the car, on my Walkman – everywhere I went. Wayne and I frequently screamed it out whenever we heard it. To this day it remains the most furious and outright scary thing PJ Harvey has ever done. While her debut album ‘Dry’ crackled with similarly raw, dirty, blues-infused alt-rock, Sheela-Na-Gig was able to stand alone as a simply awesome piece of work. The album was pretty phenomenal, but that single – wow, that single simply blew my mind.


Soundtrack:

Sheela-Na-Gig – PJ Harvey (from ‘Dry’)

Sheela-Na-Gig [live] – PJ Harvey (live at Reading Festival 1992)

[1] In the classic horror movie 'Carrie', Carrie's mother (played by Piper Laurie), refers to breasts as "dirty pillows". 

Friday, 25 July 2014

From Inside The Pod Revisited #2

So here's another old Podcast from my previous blog. This one dates from November 2011 (hence its title) and the artwork features a view of Newport in the rain. Apparently. Nothing has been re-written, it is exactly as it originally appeared.


pod 21: Eleven/Eleven
(first published 18 November 2011)

After a flurry of themed pods, it's back to the randomness of normality. The long dark nights have drawn in, it's cold and wet outside, and to make it worse, it's nearly Christmas!

I've pieced together an assortment of tunes to put some colour into your November drabness (for half-hour, at least). 

A double-bill for December is being lined up, featuring some of my fave records of the year. In the meantime, feast on this little beauty, which contains a sample of the delights I've been feeding my head in recent weeks.


1. Stereolab Lo Boob Oscillator (part 1) [1993, single]
JC over at The Vinyl Villain recently posted an old TV clip of Stereolab performing their best-known track 'French Disko'. I was never a big fan, but this made me go back and re-evaluate their work. In doing so I discovered the magnificent European-retro sound of 'Lo Boob Oscillator' and liked it very muchly.

2. Bruce Springsteen Born In The USA [Nebraska demo] [1982, Lost Masters 1: Alone in Colts Neck (bootleg)]
Bit of a surprise inclusion? Possibly, but it can't be much of a shock to learn that my favourite Springsteen album by far is Nebraska, with its stripped-down, back-to-basics maudlin folk sound. 'Born In The USA', his biting critique on the isolation and poor treatment Vietnam vets faced on their return home, was originally written for Nebraska. It was passed over and ended up, in a completely different form, becoming the title track for The Boss' next album. Here though, you can hear the anguish and the desolation.

3. Cambodian Space Project Mean Visa Kmean Bai [2011, 2011: A Space Odyssey]
I've featured music from all over the world on this blog, but this is the first from Cambodia. It has taken a little while for the country to rediscover its culture since the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge which murdered its musicians and artists. During the 60s, it had a thriving rock & roll scene. Last year, the Cambodian Space Project became the first Cambodian act to release a single since 1975 (the year Pol Pot came to power). Having toured the world this year to rave reviews, expect to hear a lot more from them in the future.  The title of the song translates as 'Have Visa, No Have Rice'.

4. Sheepdogs Hang On To Yourself [2007, Trying To Grow]
I have our friend Sean in Thunder Bay, Ontario to thank for this. He recently sent me a mammoth playlist (that I still haven't got through) which included a track by the Sheepdogs. I'm a sucker for some good old country-tinged rock 'n' roll so naturally I loved it. Like the Kings of Leon did in their early days, the Sheepdogs sound as if they should have been around in the early 70s mixing it with the likes of Gram Parsons, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Band. Actually, they've only been around a few years, this track featuring on their debut album.

5. U-Roy Chalice In The Palace [1975, Dread In A Babylon]
I said last time out that there was a distinct lack of reggae here at FItP, so this is the first step towards fixing that. I should perhaps have left this for the Queen's diamond jubilee next year. I can't think of many better sights than Her Maj sharing a fat reefer with The Originator (aka: toasting legend U-Roy).
"One is totally wasted, mon...", she slurred to her favourite corgi as she took a final puff of the enormous spliff and handed it to an equally stoned Duke of Edinburgh...

6. Dead Can Dance Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to The Book [1990, Aion]
I didn't get Dead Can Dance at first, but then being a mere 20 years old just as grunge was exploding, that's perhaps understandable. But late one night (or more likely early one morning), in a dimly lit room at the end of a house party, someone put 'Aion' on the turntable and it suddenly made complete sense. This track in particular continues to stand out, its lyrics having been penned by Spanish Renaissance poet Luis De Góngora. I suppose in less poetic language, it's all about 'sod's law'!

7. Throwing Muses Shark [1996, Limbo]
The utter genius that is Kristin Hersh recently came to Cardiff with Throwing Muses, their first tour in too many years. And I missed it! Couldn't go. Gutted! Have to make do with the wonderful memories I have of the classic Muses line-up supporting R.E.M. in London in 1989, blowing the several hundred people there present into the middle of the following week! *sob* Life can be so cruel. While nothing can quite make up for this terrible injustice, I'm including this amazing track which was strangely omitted from the band's recent self-compiled 'Anthology' (out now!)

8.Leadbelly Birmingham Jail [1948, Leadbelly's Last Sessions]
Why can't people tell stories anymore? Or at least, why can't anyone tell a story like Leadbelly? His songs have endured for 60, 70, 80 years or more, and this one, his variation of the traditional American folk song 'Down In The Valley', is one of my favourites. It was one of his last ever recordings, sadly passing away the following year.


9. Helen Love So Hot [1994, Summer Pop Punk Pop EP]
Perhaps only Shonen Knife can rival Swansea's Helen Love as the band that most worships, and wants to be, the Ramones. 'Da Brudders' influence is so great, they are frequently referred to in the Welsh combo's song titles and lyrics, and the trademark catchy, often very short blasts of punk-pop are uncanny. Joey Ramone even guested on one of their early singles! Sadly, "Hey ho, gadewch i ni fynd" doesn't have quite the same ring to it...

10. Jeffrey Lewis Gas Man [2007, 12 Crass Songs]
It's been kind of cool to like Jeffrey Lewis for a while. Hugely prolific (16 albums/EPs in 14 years, many of them lo-budget, self-released affairs), he's beginning to become more and more popular with every new release. Which most likely means he's no longer cool, of course... He has also written and illustrated his own series' of comic books. This song is possibly one of his most angry, but eerily poignant still.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Memories of a thousand* gigs #26

(* probably not actually that many, but who’s counting?)


#26: Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine
The Great Hall, Exeter University - 17th October 1991
Also in attendance: Midget + others


My third gig in Exeter in a week (following the Levellers on the Monday night and James on the Wednesday), I had already acquired a sizeable bruise on my sternum thanks to being pushed against the barrier at the front of each of the previous two outings. I was down the front again at this one, so that bruise grew even larger.

There are two significant reasons this gig has remained so memorable. Firstly, pre-show, I was at the bar with Midget when, to my left appeared a very large man. ‘Twas none other than Jon Beast, the charismatic manager of Carter USM. Beast was, to many, Carter’s third member although he was a non-playing member. Among his numerous duties was his warm-up act. Strolling onstage just prior to showtime as if to check everything was in order, Beast would immediately be subjected to the crowd hurling the chant “You fat bastard!” as one in his general direction. Of course, a mic would be turned on for Beast to address his public in response. “You fat WHAT?” he retorted before lifting his t-shirt to reveal his plentiful belly to the world!

John Beast
during Carter reunion
shows in 2010. He's
still got it...?!
So, there he was, patiently waiting his turn at the bar. I turned to Midget, about to whisper “psst, look, it’s Jon Beast,” but Midge had already clocked him.

“Alright there Jon?” Midget said, turning to the man himself.

“Bloody ‘ell, ‘allo Midget mate, long time no see!” They knew each other! Unbeknownst to me, Mr Beast had been involved with the punk scene in Devon many years before, which is how he and Midget became acquainted. He chatted to us briefly before ordering drinks and going back to work. That in itself was a moment to remember.

The other thing that sticks in my mind about that show was my near-death experience. OK, I’m milking it a bit, but I can quite understand how serious a crush can be. That Carter show was the one and only time I ever contemplated climbing out of the crowd as a life-saving measure. I’d been in some rough pits before, and the bruises I took into that show were testament to how rammed it got at the front of a crowd, but this show remains the roughest gig of all for me.

I survived it though, fighting off the temptation to climb over the barrier and make my way to the sides. I’m glad because Carter were brilliant. Two blokes, two guitars and a tape machine – kind of sounds like the sort of thing you’d get at your Great Auntie Doris’ 75th birthday or something, but I tell you, if Jimbob and Fruitbat turned up at Great Auntie Doris’ birthday party, we’d be booking Great Auntie Doris’ funeral the next day! Loud? You betcha. Fast? Very. Raucous? Oh yes. And bear in mind that this was Carter at their peak – everything they did afterwards never quite hit the mark in the way those first two albums did. Sheriff Fatman almost caused a riot, while Rubbish, Shoppers' Paradise and Surfin’ USM were all greeted by equally enthusiastic moshing and crowdsurfing.

When a track from ‘30 Something’ comes on nowadays, I get a kind of psychological pain in my sternum, like a reminder of that wild, wild night in Exeter in 1991. Yet this doesn’t put me off. On the contrary, I imagine I’m back in that mosh pit, grinning like an idiot, forcing myself to live with the pain. If I was going to die that night, I was damn well going out with a smile on my face!


Soundtrack:

Surfin' USM – Carter USM (from ‘30 Something’)

Rubbish [live in Kilburn] – Carter USM (from ‘Wham Bam!’)

Shoppers' Paradise [live in Kilburn] – Carter USM (from ‘Wham Bam!’)

Sheriff Fatman [live in Brixton] - Carter USM (from ‘In Bed With Carter’ VHS)

Friday, 18 July 2014

43rd 7 @ 43

Today marks the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of my birth, or as I like to think of it, the 18th anniversary of my 25th birthday. While that's nothing remarkable, it does fall on a Friday and even during this fallow summer period that's a posting day. I could have ignored the occasion, but I decided instead to do a one-off post very loosely based on the '45 45s 'til I'm 45' things JC and Dirk did on their blogs. I'm only going to feature one 45 and the series begins and ends today. The record in question is the 43rd seven-inch in my collection (sorted alphabetically by artist and title, naturally).

I used to have heaps more vinyl than I do now, but I was forced to purge my collection quite considerably on a couple of occasions - once for financial reasons and once for grown-up, commonsense reasons. What I have left therefore is generally of a pretty high standard. Even so, when I looked through my singles, I was slightly concerned number 43 would be a little embarrassing. It wasn't, not quite...



While Lazyitis isn't the Happy Monday's finest moment, it's far from poor. It is, however, possibly one of their strangest. Here was a band on the verge of hugeness, highly fashionable and cool, making groundbreaking music to soundtrack a burgeoning scene that would define a period in British music history - here they were making a record with a Scottish country singer who sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

Karl Denver had 11 UK top 40 hits between 1961 and 1964. The first four of these all made the top 10, the biggest of them being the aforementioned version of Wimoweh. The Mondays by contrast had not cracked the top 40 at all yet. Musically they were poles apart, and so the collaboration was something of a curio. It is bizarre, it can't be denied. Shaun Ryder's cocky Mancunian drawl weaves itself around Denver's fine crooning and fake American accent. How could such a concept work?

It's arguable as to whether it actually does, to be honest. Lazyitis first appeared the previous year sans Denver on the Monday's second album 'Bummed'. It wasn't the strongest track on the record if I'm being honest, but at least it sounded coherent. By contrast the single version released in 1989 sounded more like a couple of blokes trying to outdo each other on a pub's karaoke machine singing two completely different songs at the same time. It's a bit of fun, undoubtedly, but that's about it. It didn't come close to bothering the charts either.


Karl Denver and Shaun Ryder in the rain
(Lazyitis video shoot)
A few months after Lazyitis was released, Happy Mondays put out the 'Madchester (Rave On) EP and a new movement was born. They did Top of the Pops and became one of the biggest - and most notorious - bands in the country. Karl Denver contracted pneumonia following the shooting of the Lazyitis video. Hardly surprising really. He released his third album in 1993, nearly 30 years after his previous offering. While recording his fourth record in 1998, Denver died of a brain tumour aged 67.

Lazyitis remains something of a footnote in the Happy Mondays story, but it does show they weren't afraid to challenge their audience or themselves. Neither would they reject things out of hand for the sake of being 'cool'. It's not an embarrassing record to own but there are many better ones in my 7" boxes.


Soundtrack:

Lazyitis (One-Armed Boxer) – Happy Mondays & Karl Denver (single)

Mad Cyril (Hello Girls) – Happy Mondays (b-side of Lazyitis)

Lazyitis – Happy Mondays (from ‘Bummed’)

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Book Club #1


A new series in which TheRobster picks a title from his bookshelf and shares some thoughts...

I made a list of things I wanted to cover in this blog, and while checking things off the other day, realised I had made one glaring omission. I never told you I got a mention in a rock star's autobiography! Well, when I say rock star, I mean the bass player in an unsuccessful folk-rock band, and when I say autobiography I mean the story of his time in said unsuccessful folk-rock band. But I still got a mention!

The man in question is Ed Jones who was a member of the Tansads, a band Wayne introduced me to in the early 90s during our 'crusty' phase. I became a fan. Turns out - if Ed's story is to be believed - there weren't many of us.

The book, 'This Is Pop: The Life and Times of a Failed Rock Star'[1], is a fabulously entertaining read. Candid and brutally honest, Ed recounts how a troupe of touring musicians are repeatedly let down by record labels, the press and, more importantly, each other. You don't have to know a thing about the Tansads to enjoy it. It's probably fair to say that if you've never heard a Tansads song in your life, you won't be in a particular hurry to make much of an effort to do so after reading Ed's book. He doesn't exactly rave about the experience, even though he stuck it out for a good few years.

Anyway, my claim to fame occurs towards the end (page 194 in my copy[2]). Having described how the press either loathed or completely ignored the band's third album 'Flock', Ed notes there was one dissenting voice:


A shame he got the publication I worked for wrong (although I did occasionally have reviews published in the Express & Echo, my Wavelength column actually appeared in the North Devon Journal.) But let's not split hairs. Ed was probably most chuffed that I heaped praise on that particular song - it was his sole songwriting contribution to that album.

The truth is it was probably just a phase I was going through. Listening to Ship Of Fools now I experience mere indifference, though in fairness, it's still better than most of the rest of the album which by and large is rather cringe-inducing. In 1994 though, 'Flock' was one of the most played CDs on the West Of England's jukebox, and a group of us (which included Ian and Tracey from the West of E and Jo Rundle, my trusted confidante and source of much fun and laughter) went down to Exeter to see them play at the Cavern. It was a good night and I also wrote a dazzling review in my column. 

Sadly, I don't think their stuff has aged terribly well. The internet isn't exactly rife with info or pics of the band, so they've been largely forgotten. You could argue of course that in order to be forgotten you had to be known in the first place, and the Tansads never exactly set the world alight. They seemed to be the preserve of a select few during the early 90s, and looking back there was probably good reason for that.

So while I am reluctant to recommend the Tansads music nowadays, I heartily suggest you give Ed's book a read. Alan McGee (yes, that one) wrote the Foreword, so it has a certain pedigree. "This is how not to be famous," McGee writes. And he should know.


Soundtrack:
  • Ship Of Fools – Tansads (from ‘Flock’) Link expired, will consider re-upping by request.



[1] Published by Canongate, 1999; ISBN: 978-0862418809
[2] I say 'my copy', I think it's actually Steve Beardsley's. He loaned it to me a very long time ago and I've neglected to return it...

Friday, 11 July 2014

From Inside The Pod Revisited #1

For a couple of years, I ran a blog called From Inside The Pod. It never conquered the world or anything, but it was fun for a little while. Webbie and Deadboy were followers, a few others wandered by and downloaded my offerings.

My offerings were in fact a series of 'podcasts': a continuous mix of 10 songs lasting approx 30 mins rather amateurly strung together using a bit of audio freeware. Some had themes, many were just things I wanted people to hear. All but one of them contained at least one track by a Welsh act. 

Responses were mixed. People seemed to love the cover version ones, but couldn't have cared less about most of the others. I eventually crashed the pod when I had a bit of a strop over the lack of hits I was getting (hmmm, sound familiar...?) I lost  some of the stuff I created, such as the banner graphic at the top of the page which I always really liked. Luckily though, I did save some stuff - like the posts themselves.

Anyway, what I thought was, during the quiet summer period I'd repost a few of my fave podcasts along with the essays and sleevenotes that accompanied them. Yeah, lazy I know, but if JC can get away with republishing old articles I reckon I stand a chance!! If you like them, I might even post one of the 'unreleased' ones I made but never posted due to me throwing my toys out the pram and shutting the site down.

So... without further ado, here's one that proved quite popular; it was published in the autimn of 2010 and contains a couple of songs I've featured in depth on this here site that are well worth hearing again. And again...

pod 06: Appetite for Distraction
(first published 19 September 2010)

I really should be writing my final course essay. It involves analysing the lyrics of Another Girl Another Planet by The Only Ones and identifying its language creativity and potential literary merits. Instead, I get distracted thinking about records that everyone should have in their collection by law. Another Girl... is most certainly one of them. It is quite simply the greatest pop song ever written. 'Doolittle' by the Pixies is another. Buffalo Tom's Velvet Roof and, of course, the Beatles' 'White Album' are also mandatory.

Quite why this train of thought should lead me into creating a new podcast is unclear, especially as it has nothing whatsoever to do with my reverie. But I don't worry about the whys and wherefores of such things, the fact it exists is enough for me. Enjoy it, and let me know which record (track or album) you would make it a criminal offence to be without.

1. Sibrydion Femme Mental (2009, Campfire Classics)
One of Wales' best kept secrets. Sibrydion's third album, from which this track is taken, is just fabulous (or fab'las as they say in these parts). Yeah, they may have more than just a passing resemblance to Welsh pop's torchbearers the Super Furry Animals, but you know what? Who cares! I'm going through a banjo-lovin' phase at the mo so this one gets a big thumbs up.

2. Robert Wyatt Shipbuilding (1982, single)
Oh, here's another of the records you must own by law. Elvis Costello's lyrics were about the Falklands War and the paradox of the new optimism of the former shipbuilding heartlands in the north of England, where vessels were built for battle, and the cynical twist of those sending off their husbands and sons to fight and die in those same ships. When delivered by Robert Wyatt, who once fought tooth and nail against BBC producers to perform on Top of the Pops in his wheelchair (and won!), the song becomes one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful to ever grace our undeserving ears.

3. Hell's Kitchen Nice (2006, Doctor's Oven)
One of the oddest, yet strangely endearing new blues bands around comes from the heart of the Mississippi Delta, in... oh hang on... they're from Geneva, Switzerland. Curiouser and curiouser. Beyond that, and the fact they have two dead good albums, I know practically nothing about Hell's Kitchen. Perhaps that's best...

4. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs A Different Drum (2006, Under The Covers Vol. 1)
What a pairing! One of America's most underrated songwriters and a former Bangle (who still looks absolutely stunning, by the way...) have released two albums of cover versions, one of songs from the 60s (from which this Linda Ronstadt hit is taken) and one of 70s classics.  Awaiting volume 3 with great eagerness.
(2014 update: last year, volume 3 materialised. Guess what decade it covered...)

5. The Kinks Holloway Jail (1971, Muswell Hillbillies)
My favourite Kinks album saw the band in a transitional phase. While Ray Davies' heart was still very much in London, his lyrics had shifted from fond reminiscence to disillusionment, and the music took on an air of the Deep South. Sure enough, the Kinks' future was in America.

6. Jah Division Dub Will Tear Us Apart (2004, single)
From the global hotbed of dub reggae - that's, erm, Slovakia in this case - come Jah Division, one man's mission to dub up anything that's there to dub. Strange stuff, sure, but isn't it more bizarre how it just seems to work?

7. Snuff I Think We're Alone Now (1989, Snuffsaidbutgorblimeyguvstonemeifhedidntthrowawobbler-chachachachachachachachachachachayouregoinghomeinacosmicambience)
Another cover. Snuff are masters of brilliant, often hilarious covers, including the theme tunes to 'Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads' and 'Match of the Day', and the Shake 'n' Vac and Bran Flakes adverts. And of course, the utterly amazing title of their debut album remains one of the greatest of all time!

8. Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood  Jackson (1968, Nancy & Lee)
As a heterosexual male who is completely comfortable with his sexuality, I have no problems admitting to enjoying a bit of camp now and again. Nancy and Lee fit the bill right now, this charming cover of Johnny Cash's duet with June Carter being one of their finest moments.

9. Cults Most Wanted (2010, Cults 7")
A brand new band who are being bigged up all over the Internet on numerous blogs, despite having released just a couple of singles. Little appears to be known about them, but their influences clearly lie in the pop and soul sounds of the sixties. This seems to fit really nicely next to Nancy and Lee, don't you think?

10. Broken Social Scene Art House Director (2010, Forgiveness Rock Record)
One of my top albums of the year so far is the fourth offering from this supersized Canadian collective. Their last album was one of my favourite CDs for the car when it came out and this one is not far from that exhalted status.

Download it here. Link expired. Will consider re-upping by request...

Monday, 7 July 2014

Memories of a thousand gigs #25

(* probably not actually that many, but who’s counting?)


#25: Hole
The Lemon Grove, Exeter University - 11th Dec 1991
Support: Therapy?, Daisy Chainsaw, Spar
Also in attendance: Wayne

‘Twas a chilly night, but then it was mid-December. Even so, you wouldn’t dare wear a warm woolly jumper on a night like this – not to see three loud, noisy alternative rock bands at a tiny little place like the Lemon Grove.

The posters advertised a fourth band, Spar. I had no idea who they were and I still don’t. They must have played really early as by the time we arrived they had been and gone. Instead, opening the night for us was a peculiar punk troupe called Daisy Chainsaw. You may remember them – they had the shock-hit of the year with Love Your Money. They looked a complete mess, and to be fair, they sounded a complete mess too. They were the real deal, alright.

Daisy Chainsaw proceeded to play perhaps the most chaotic performance I’ve ever witnessed. Singer KatieJane Garside reeled around the stage in a stupor. Sporting a dirty, torn dress, she drank from a baby bottle and physically assaulted the guitarist at any available opportunity. They only ever had one memorable song but stone me, you’d never forget their live show!

Wayne and I were aghast at such antics. When Daisy Chainsaw had finished, we needed a drink so retreated to the bar. Whilst there enjoying a beer and a chat, we were stopped in our tracks by a sudden trembling of the earth, the sound of glasses rattling behind the bar and a deafening rumble. Thunderstorm? Earthquake? Neither – Therapy? had just begun their set. To be honest, I don’t remember what they played, it was just a wall of industrial-strength NOISE! I wasn’t ready for it and decided I didn’t much care for it. A year or so later though and I rediscovered Therapy? through their records and this time I was taken in. I saw them again in 1994 at Exeter Uni’s Great Hall and enjoyed them immensely, though they didn’t seem quite so LOUD in a bigger space. I still love Therapy? to this day.

The main draw of course was Hole, fronted by one Courtney Love. This was just a few months after the release of their somewhat disturbing debut album ‘Pretty On The Inside’. I bought it – and its lead single Teenage Whore on pink vinyl, no less – not really knowing what to expect. It’s not a particularly cheerful or tuneful record, described by Love herself some years later as “unlistenable”. It was rooted in the underground punk and sludge metal stylings of the Melvins and Swans. Love has often cited Fleetwood Mac as a big influence, but I’m buggered if I can hear that anywhere on that record.

It certainly wasn’t present at the live show either. For all her greatness, Stevie Nicks could not have fronted Hole; only Courtney Love was up to that job. The set consisted mostly of songs from ‘Pretty On The Inside’, and just like the record, the performance was noisy, ugly, offensive and VERY LOUD. Those are all good things, by the way. I like my rock stars to be uncompromising, and that’s what we got that night from Courtney & co.



At one stage she jumped into the crowd, guitar and all, and proceeded to snog members of the audience. On returning to the stage, she remarked what better kissers we were than London guys[1], but lamented the loss of her shoe which was then dutifully lobbed back on stage. And that wasn’t all she had lost in the melee:

“Can I have my sweater back?” she pleaded. “My boyfriend gave me that sweater!”

Little did we know that the boyfriend would subsequently become her husband, a reluctant spokesperson for a generation and ultimately tragic rock icon. Courtney on the other hand would become a figure of hate, revulsion and ridicule who, somehow in the midst of it all, would also make a couple of bloody good records (‘Live Through This’ and ‘Celebrity Skin’).


Studying Courtney Love that night I couldn’t make my mind up whether I liked her or not, or even if I wanted to like her at all. I wasn’t exactly wild about her, but she intrigued me that’s for sure; she was certainly a formidable character. Over the next couple of years, she would become much more well known through the press, though rarely for her music. To be fair, she hasn’t done herself an awful lot of favours, but you have to give her credit – the girl could definitely do rock ‘n’ roll. A lot of bands would give anything to make just one record as good as either ‘Live Through This’ or ‘Celebrity Skin’. Love her or hate her, she couldn’t/wouldn’t be ignored. Never a dull moment with our Courtney, and at least I could leave the show with a smile on my face, even if it was accompanied by a ringing in my ears.

Emerging into the cold winter air drenched in sweat, it was easy to forget Christmas was but a fortnight away. One thing was certain though – I was in no mood for some nice carol singing; it would take a week for my hearing to return.


Soundtrack:

Love Your Money – Daisy Chainsaw (from ‘Eleventeen’)

Meat Abstract – Therapy? (from ‘Babyteeth’)

Teenage Whore – Hole (from ‘Pretty On The Inside’)

Good Sister/Bad Sister – Hole (from ‘Pretty On The Inside’)

  Here's a very rare video clip I just found from this actual show, including the bit where Courtney loses her clothing...



[1] I say ‘we’ – I never got to snog Courtney. I still can’t say for sure whether that was a good thing or not…

Saturday, 5 July 2014

50 albums to take to my grave #10: Copper Blue


This piece was prepared and ready to go when S-WC posted this on Monday. Oh well, I don't have an alternative so here's my effort. Sorry it's not as good as S-WC's...

OK, just to get it out there before I begin - Bob Mould is a fucking rock god. There is no argument, no debate, no discussion. 'Tis a fact and thats the end of it.

Right, now on to the critical appraisal. Sugar was formed by Mould following his first two solo albums. 'Copper Blue', their debut record, has three main selling points: huge riffs, strong melodies and, of course, Bob Mould at the helm. Mould isn't afraid to rock, as everyone knows from his Hüsker Dü days; let us not forget he practically invented alternative rock. But 'Copper Blue' wasn't all about being all groundbreaking and edgy - it had proper tunes, songs that could get played on radio, earworms that would burrow into your head and sing to you for days/weeks at a time.

I was blown away the first time I heard it. We get thick, chunky punk guitar riffs right from the off with The Act We Act, while A Good Idea sounds like the greatest Pixies song that wasn't actually the Pixies. Helpless is a pop song at its core, If I Can't Change Your Mind is just pop all over, while Fortune Teller vomits up the pop within it, spits it out and cleanses its palate with more guitars. Turned up loud.

And that's probably the one thing I still hold dear about 'Copper Blue' - it just FUCKIN' ROCKS LIKE A BASTARD! This is a rarity when you have such a stong set of songs - how do you get those melodies to the fore while keeping those guitars sounding monstrous? Well, it's Bob Mould so if anyone can do it, he can. "Standing on the edge of the Hoover Dam" he sings, and you can quite believe he actually is, the vast space around him filled with loud, melodic alternative rock music.

Bob Mould today.
Well, recently anyway...
What's really interesting is how Bob's most recent solo outings have channelled the spirit of 'Copper Blue'. This may be, in part at least, because 'Copper Blue' recently celebrated its 20th Anniversary and Mould went on tour playing the entire record start to finish. But there's no doubt the 'Copper Blue' formula worked, it remains one of Mould's best loved (and most commercially successful) records.

Few records still grab me by the throat in the same way 20-plus years after they first did. 'Copper Blue' is one of them though. I find it impossible to listen to just one or two tracks without wanting to listen to the whole damn thing. I'm listening to it right now as I type this, and I find myself bouncing around in my seat, smashing my fingers rhythmically on the desk and beaming widely like a complete imbecile. And that's all you need to know about how this album makes me feel.


Soundtrack:

A Good Idea – Sugar (from ‘Copper Blue’)

Fortune Teller – Sugar (from ‘Copper Blue’)

The Act We Act – Sugar (from ‘Copper Blue’)

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Shucks...

There is no bigger tribute than when one of the people who inspired you to start a blog posts something like this. When the article chosen is one of the most personal things you've ever written, it's extremely moving. I've been in a dark place just recently, but JC's post today has brought me to the verge of tears for a good, heart-warming reason.

I don't do this to get praise, but it's still nice when it happens. I need no more motivation to keep the blog going - the only thing I need is more articles. I'm working on that.

In the meantime, download that Bohicas track I posted yesterday (if you haven't done so already) then go and give JC a smile at t(n)vv (if you haven't done so already). If our paths ever cross JC, I'm buying the drinks!  Cheers dude.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Taking stock

OK, so it's going to be a little quieter here for a couple weeks while I take stock of the situation. My initial objective - to tell my life story through my musical experiences - has been achieved. There are still things to tell - gigs, albums, songs, etc - but most of what I now have are ideas.

Therefore, before I continue, I want to decide what happens next and to prepare some articles accordingly. My next post will be at the weekend, and I'll probably just stick to a couple of posts a week through the summer. Many of you will be on your hols at some point anyway, and if the hits I've had this last couple of weeks is anything to go by, you're all watching the World Cup at the mo rather than reading music blogs. So the time off will give me some time to prep some stuff as well.

That said, I would welcome some contributions, much like JC does at t(n)vv. I've bored you over the months with tales of my most memorable gigs, favourite songs and significant albums. If you fancy telling me about yours, don't be shy. Email me at rob[underscore]baker71[at]yahoo[dot]co[dot]uk. I await your call with eagerness.



In the meantime, here's a musical interlude from the Bohicas - something I've been listening to lately that's pretty awesome. Look out for this band, I saw them support Drenge recently and they were brilliant.


Crush Me - The Bohicas (single)