Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Rubber Band Boy

The David Bowie Story pt. 1
In an attempt to fill in quite a few gaps in my knowledge of the artist that is David Bowie, I've started reading David Buckley's exhaustive biography Strange Fascination.
Reading through the first few chapters I was intrigued by Bowie's eponymous 1967 debut album, often dismissed as risible and naive, and even completely batty.
Not necessarily so, however, I'm pleased to say as, therein lie by a surprising collection tiny colour folk-cum-music-hall-cum-pop songs which recount the rexpectives stories of some strange quintissentially English characters and situations. When discussing 'very early Bowie' many will cite the skeleton-in-thecupboard that is The Laughing Gnome although these songs - recorded earlier still - go beyond that. Hardly the stuff that rock stars and rock albums are made of, there's hardly a lead guitar in sight, yet wind instruments and percussion, for example, are used to full effect. Our young Bowie was already so obviusly striving to be something different from the rest.
Famously David Bowie was released on the same day as The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper and although very much in its shadow (what 1967 album isn't?) it goes some way to sharing its Englishness, both often harking back to pre-WWI styles and imagery updated for the new psychedelic age.
The 20 year old David Bowie was still some way from 'glam rock' and even Space Oddity yet we must savour this debut album for its pop-single sized portraits such as Rubber Band (below), Love You Till Tuesday (exhumed in the 80s), and Silly Boy Blue. Unsurprisingly many of them were made into a mini-film in 1969 before the big Oddity breakthrough.  We Are Hungry Men, Join the Gang and She's Got Medals touch on heavier themes, later to be explored by a more mature Bowie. Stay tuned.

a much better and more detailed review of David Bowie can be read here at Anorak Thing.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Advanced Maths Pt. 2

More updates on the John Foxx front. News is now out of a new double CD album by the Man and his Maths, a matter of months after the release of the debut Interplay.
The Shape of Things will be on limited release at the upcoming JF&M live shows and via the official website. It's a double disc set with new tracks on the first disc and a series of remixes of Interplay faves on the second. Although coming out so close to its predecessor, it's said that The Shape of Things will be "rougher and more experimental than Interplay". Crumbs!
As a taster, here's Talk also available to download via Artrockertv / soundcloud here- apparently it features Electro Harmonix DRM16 drum machine, and the Moog and Paia modular synths, so there.

Here it is in youtube form, as uploaded by polterter

Friday, 23 September 2011

Heaven 17 - Penthouse & Pavement

I Love 1981 - pt 18
So here's another one of those "classic 80s" albums, although if the truth be known Penthouse and Pavement didn't really have such a major success or impact at the time. It's an album of two halves - literally. The 'penthouse' side being the slik 'uptown' funky style which was coming back into fashion, and the darker 'pavement' side which was heavier on the electronics and darker lyrics, obviously harking back to Marsh & Ware's Human League days (you can easily imagine Phil Oakey singing these instead of Gregory).
Fascist Groove Thing is an uneasy opener, lingering somewhere between the two worlds - an early attempt at electronic funk with the lefty politically aware lyrics, driven along nicely by John Wilson's bass, as is much of the 'penthouse' side, boosted by the newly discovered Linn drum and, thankfully, some lighter lyrics. The funk-pop triptych of the title track, the non-charting single Play to Win and closing Soul Warfare lulls us into a false sense of "uptown" optimism before the needle lifts. A possible dance soundtrack to the shiny new 80s Britain.

Over on side two however it's more doom and gloom and grim late-70s: more Callaghan than Thatcher, more cold war than cool. Nothing wrong with that of course, as Heaven 17 - citizens of the People's Republic of South Yorkshire - knew only too well. Let's All Make a Bomb and Height of the Fighting are an ironic take on modern warfare, as advocated by the reigning Thatcher-Reagan alliance, while Song With  No Name touches on the alienation of the modern artist in a fast changing world, with echoes of the Human League's darker sci-fi scenarios. We're Going To Live For a Very Long Time is the best take on born-again religion you'll ever find, and the final run out groove repetition on vinyl - unreproduceable in any other format - is a clever means of hammering a message home à la Billy Graham et al.

Problem is of course that Heaven 17's irony was never quite appreciated and au contraire was often taken on face value. From the faux-business brochure cover art to BEF's sales-pitch slogan, they were often misinterpreted as being part of the new yuppy culture - young, urban, professionals on the up, emerging from the grim-up-North pavements to the penthouse world of an emerging nouveau riche Britain. As it turned out Heaven 17  would take some time before they actually found their balance, but they would have their day later and duly became household names.
In hindsight, Penthouse and Pavement does remain a classic 80s album as demonstrated by its albeit premature 30th anniversary celebration in 2010, with live shows and a full blown re-issue, extra tracks, DVD etc. Heaven 17 and BEF now prepare two live shows at London's Roundhouse on 14th &15th October next. They're going to live for a very long time....for a very long time....for a very long time....for a very long time....for a very long time....for a very long time....for a very long time....

edit: a big "Holà!" to going underground and we refer you to that rather spiffing blog for HEAVEN 17: THE STORY OF 'PENTHOUSE & PAVEMENT' videos

The Beatles London - 2

No Beatles tour of London would be complete without a trip to Abbey Road, to observe the studios and, naturally, the famous zebra crossing as immortalised on the Abbey Road album cover (left). Although I'd previously considered it a rather clichéd thing to do (and therefore avoided it) a trip to Abbey Road and environs is a quite emotional experience.

 The road itself is set a fairly quiet residential area of North London, the nearest Tube station being St Johns Wood, if you're coming from central or south of the capital. Head straight out of the station cross the road into Grove End Road and after a few metres you're practically at the zebra crossing itself with AR Studios on the other side.

Luckily it was fairly quiet the morning I was there, and so just manged to get some decent photos including the obligatory one of yours truly crossing over (physically and metaphorically with your back to the studios, as The Beatles wanted it.). Just in time it turned out as shortly after arrived a crowd of Spanish tourists, as well as a young Italian lad who had his picture taken crossing over with no shoes on and cigarette in hand..wonder why? Sadly I forgot to have my pic taken standing on the right hand side pulling my breeches up, per John Lennon in one of my favourite AR cover session pics (see video below)

The studios themselves are perhaps misleadingly welcoming. The gates were open and there was a huge temptation to just walk over and have your photo taken on the steps. There were also people coming and going without any apparent need for passes or whatever. But a mere 'no unauthorised entry' sign on the gate was sufficient in deterring you from going too near. But to think how many have been through those doors to 'do' their albums...from The Beatles to Pink Floyd, from Kate Bush to Kiki Dee, as well as many many great filmscores being recorded there. That's the emotion, they'd all been there.

Just a word of warning. British drivers are generally disciplined and do stop at zebra crossings, but watch out that this particular one is right near to a busy junction and almost on a bend so watch out, and watch out especially those taking pictures who will have to stand in the road itself and not the pedestrian crossing!

Souvenir-wise you can get most stuff from The Beatles Coffee Shop which is practically built into the abovementioned tube station.... Not much room to manoeuvre but there are a few tables outside too if it's weather.

...but also check out St John's Wood Collectables in Violet Hill (a short walk away) for more 'collectable' items, vinyl, books etc. as well as souvenirs. Friendly chap there too.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Advanced Maths Pt. 1

pic.: it's full of stars
Much fervent activity in the John Foxx & The Maths camp these days as the great man and his band prepare for their live performances, and run a special John Foxx week. Phew! Rock n roll!
But more of that later as the goodies keep rolling in and Lost in Music tries hard to keep a-breast (oo-er missus!).

Meantime, take a few minutes to enjoy a fab new remix of Shatterproof form the Maths' Interplay album, executed by none other than Steven Mallinder, erstwhile Cabaret Voltaire member, electronic music guru and good bloke. Together with Phil from Wrangler they've come up with this rather wonderful remix for your listening pleasure, and The Maths' Benge has even done his own "low-tech" video to suit!

...and while we're at it let's pay homage to the great Cabaret Voltaire themselves with Just Fascination from 1983's excellent The Crackdown album. To quote one youtube commenter : "These guys should have been bigger, i mean they deserved to be bigger." Couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

New Divisions

Well the good news is that Gillian Gilbert (pic. left) is getting back together with her old band New Order to play a couple of live gigs on the continent in October. Hooray!
Bad news, however, is that bass player Peter Hook will not be joining the band. Instead he's announced he'll be playing Joy Division albums Unknown Pleasures and Closer in their entirety live with his own band The Light in November. Pah!

New Order sans Hooky will play  Brussels Ancienne Belgique on October 17th and Paris La Bataclan the following night. Both are benefit gigs to help with medical expenses for ailing friend Michael Shamberg.
Peter Hook's The Light will on the other hand play at The Lowry Theatre in rather less glamourous Salford, Manchester on 18th and 19th November next.

Well let's just hope they can all get back together again soon and make a proper New Order album : Barney, Gillian, Hooky and Steve. Meanwhile, let's enjoy the band in that classic line-up for this special perfomance of True Faith (amongst many other songs) at reading Festival in 1998.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Fab 40 - John Lennon's Imagine (1971)

John Lennon's second solo album Imagine is 40 years old this month. Released on 9th September 1971 in the US and a month later in the UK, Imagine for many represents Lennon's best solo work, or at least second to the initial post-scream therapy album Plastic Ono Band released a year earlier.
Yet despite it being arguably his best, Imagine is by no means an easy album: Lennon covers a range of musical styles and subject matter as you're ruthlessly thrown from one side of his personality to another. The timeless title track opens proceedings but then you're thrown into the faux-country/bluegrass of the light-hearted Crippled Inside, then back again into sloppy ballad Jealous Guy, a song which dated back to Beatles times and would be covered so masterfully a decade later by Roxy Music.
Gimme Some Truth and I Don't Want to Be a Soldier again tackle political and pacifist themes, which would be his main preoccupations in the successive New York City album. There's more soul searching from primal-therapy in How? and It's So Hard and even time for an alleged dig at former bandmate Paul McCartney (later denied) in How Do You Sleep? The only really poor moment is the closing Oh Yoko!, a naive attempt at a sing-along tribute to his famous wife, but which works out an being about 2 minutes too long.
But put it all together and Imagine works - it's John Lennon all over. Fervent political activist one minute, clown the next; from angry young man to dedicated lover and husband, from world weary angst to profound introspection. Imagine, and Lennon, is all of this

The Imagine album also marked Lennon's - and Yoko's - transition from the UK to the USA, a place he would soon consider his artistic home. Initail tracks were recorded in his home in Ascot, and in part at Abbey Road, yet the album was completed in New York's Record Plant, with final production by Phil Spector. By September 1971 Lennon had left the UK with UK, never to return.

Although the title track became an immediate hit in the US, reaching number 3 in the Billboard 100,  amazingly it was not released as a single in the UK until 1975 to promote the Shaved Fish "best of" album, released to fill the gap after Lennon's famous retirement from the music scene. Its message of universal love has become the anthem for just about every single world peace cause that has existed since, and despite hundreds of cover versions and live performances, the simplicity and sincerity of Lennon's original has never been equalled.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

all the hits

The new this-week-in-1981 issue of Smash Hits is out now, as ever thanks to the tirless collecting, scanning and posting of Brian McCloskey's Like Punk Never Happened blog/flickr page.

With features on Gary Numan, Simple Minds, Heaven 17, and,er, Meat Loaf it's a bumper issue, not least for the adverts for albums which are almost as exciting as the rest, and in some cases more so.

Here's a few for you to check out:

NB interesting to see an early picture of Boy George on p.13 where he's referred to as 'clothes seller George'! The article in question is a not-so-light-hearted dig and the spate of 'medley' singles which were all the rage at the time.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Carnaby Street Undressed (documentary)

This looks good. Swinging London and all that.
It's on Yesterday TV in the UK on Sunday but, note to self, it's probably available on the net somewhere too.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

OMD: Julia's Song - Live at Eric's - 10th Sept 2011

Here's a good quality video of OMD (Humphreys and McCluskey at least) at the re-opening of Eric's Club in Liverpool doing the excellent 'Julia's Song'. Always been one of my fave tunes and a great choice by the boys to remember the good old days.
Looks very sweaty in there though..

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Simple Minds - Love Song / Heaven 17 - Play to Win / Ultravox - The Thin Wall / John Foxx - Europe After the Rain / OMD - Souvenir

I Love 1981 - pt 17
A veritable feast of great new "comeback" singles suddenly all came out around this time of the year in 1981, so many in fact that it's hard to keep up with proper reviews, so we've grouped them together with a few lines for each, for now, in the hope of being able to do them justice at a later date.
Glasgow's Simple Minds were still very much on the fringe of things before this year (their big break would come in 1982), although the new single and parent albums Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call (yes, two albums) placed them firmly in the new dance / electronic pop-rock grouping as already so boldly established by Ultravox and others. Although much played by Kid Jensen in his evening programme, as with earlier 1981 release The American, Love Song failed to make the Top 40 although ensured they got their share of the dance floor-space in the trendier clubs. The albums remain often overlooked masterpices so check 'em out if you haven't done so already.

Emerging from their grim-up-north Sheffield studios, Heaven 17 went all out pop/funk to produce the jaunty Play to Win, a taster of their forthcoming album Penthouse & Pavement. It was a departure from the rather more serious agit-pop/funk predecessors Fascist Groove Thing and I'm Your Money although like them failed to make the charts. There was however a brave and rarely seen TOTP appearance as "bubbling under" or something, with Martyn Ware on guitar. We'll come back to Penthouse & Pavement at a later date. You can well imagine Ware/Gregory/Wright gnashing their collective teeth as fellow Sheffielders and former band mates The Human League were already storming the charts with their second hit Love Action, and causing quite a stir.

No strangers to the charts however were Ultravox, with Midge Ure at the helm, and after practically establishing a whole new genre with Vienna proceeded very nicely with their follow-up The Thin Wall, a jagged and jerky pop tune which, although not one of their best over the years, did its job very well it getting them firmly back on the map as pioneering electro-rockers. In hindsight, perhaps not their most accessible single, but the whole track shows off their competence as musicians, modern composers and techno-aces and Ure's vocal leaves any imitators literally breathless. Still not quite sure what The Thin Wall is all about but you just gotta love the line "they shuffle with a bovine grace and glide in syncopation.." Ridiculously pompous, but brilliant.
Again it was a preview of their upcoming new album Rage in Eden which would enter the charts at no. 4 a few weeks later. More of that meisterwerk anon.

And speaking of Ultravox, founder of said band John Foxx, after practically inventing the pure electro-pop artist genre, inspiring newcomers like Depeche Mode, Soft Cell etc to get up and do their thing with a few synths and a drum machine, promptly turned his back on pure electronics at least, got out his acoustic guitar, frilly shirt and baggy trousers and started to go all Italianate-Byron 'retro-romantic' ( I just invented that). Europe After the Rain is bouncy and tuneful enough to fit in with modern trends but was a long way from the dark and dank Underpass and Ballardian soundscapes of 1970's Metamatic which so many had already loved him for. As with Numan's foray into funk, many were alienated from John-Foxx-as-synth-god and duly abandoned him, although it could be debated that Foxx was merely going back to his Ultravox days of Systems of Romance - full circle. Another memorable TOTP appearance here but, alas, another non-starter chartwise, just scraping the no.40 spot.
Ensuing album The Garden was much of the same (if not worse), save for the title track and Systems of Romance, obviously revived from his Ultravox days. But we'll come back to that.

And lastly, and certainly not leastly, a record that suddenly seemed to sweep them all away during those heady end of summer days was the comeback single by OMD, or Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark to friends. Emerging from their own Gramophone Suite studios, their slow and sloppy Souvenir was pumped out left right and centre by everyone from Peter Powell to Steve Wright on Radio 1 (although eveidently they were no longer loved by their champion John Peel) and is even reported to have been played on Radio 2..God forbid! That was the music your parents listened to! But no matter, the song had the appeal of both a smooch friendly tunes for couples, and dreamy would-be lovers but somewhow retained OMD's appeal of being just a tad different from your average "new wave" pop group, and not just because of their cumbersome name. Although they had been practically absent since the success of Enola Gay several months hence, Messrs Humphreys & McCluskey (the former providing vocals here) took just a couple of weeks to get to no. 3 in the charts and establish one of the best known pop tunes of the 80s.
Like most OMD videos, the one for Souvenir is deadly embarassing, inspired perhaps by the fashionable Brideshead Revisited, so here's a much better TOTP performance with the unique line up which included Martin Cooper (who wrote the song with Humphreys) on sax and Mike Douglas on, er, glockenspiel, who it seems stayed around just for this single.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Black is back

80's Liverpool crooner Colin Vearncombe, aka Black is back with a new album wittingly entitled Any Colour You Like.
I bought his debut album (even more wittingly entitled 'Black') on vinyl back in the day and played it quite a lot but I didn't go beyond that. I see there's re-recording of 'Wonderful Life' and 'Sweetest Smile' from said album, so it'll be nice to hear those plus some new material.
Never quite sussed out whether Black was just our Colin or a group, or whatever, but no matter, I'm sure this will be quality stuff from a bloke with a great voice. New album available now from all decent download sites.

Here's one of my faves from back then:

'snow joke

..this time it's for real.

Kate Bush has a new album ready. It's due out in November.
'50 Words for Snow' features seven brand new songs, all about falling snow. 65 minutes. Wow. 


Kate Bush has at last revealed why she's been dressed like this all summer.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Belgique: douze points

Yes it's full marks from the Lost in Music jury to the splendid kingdom of Belgium where the good burgers of   Hasselt have organised a rather spiffing 'industrial music' festival called Sinner's Day for 30th October next.
Said fest will feature such greats as Blancmange, John Foxx & the Maths, Karl Bartos, The Psychedelic Furs, The Cult, The Mission and top new romatic band Visage.
Check the Sinner's Day website for all the necessary info on everything from alcohol to, er, toilets...
Furthermore, being towards the Eastern part of Belgium, Hasselt is very close to Germany and Holland and conveniently placed for many Europeans. Uitstekende!

some good burgers of Hasselt (Belgium)  yesterday, getting excited about seeing Visage live in October.

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Beatles' London - 1

During a recent visit to London, I was keen to seek out some Beatles hot-spots - after all they were the ones who kept London swinging and everything in the 60s, right?
Apart from the obligatory Abbey Road zebra cossing / studios etc. I also stopped in front of 3, Savile Row, home of the Beatles' Apple Corps (geddit?) offices from around 1968, and also the Apple Studios in the basement. The famous rooftop concert was also perfomed and filmed there on a bitter cold January day in 1969.

Sadly there is nothing to commemorate this outside the building which could only be noted by the Beatle-related graffitti around the doorway. However, as I was there (Aug 31st) scaffolding was being erected on the front of the building so hopefully some kind of restoration is underway in order to bring it up to the standard of surrounding establishments (a well posh area of Regent Street/Mayfair) and to mark that this was the spot where so many great things happened during Apple's permanence in the building. Don't let me down..