Archive for the ‘music’ Category


Very smart new website – the 1p Album Club

By Stefano on January 11th, 2013

If you regularly trawl for CDs on Amazon you will know that a fair few from the 90s and beyond now come with a price tag of just 1p. Basically any money the retailer makes is screwing the buyer (a little) for the postage. So albums that cost 1p, they are going to rubbish right?

Well not always so. When I was putting together the second album list a few days ago I noticed that quite a few of the albums – like The Strokes Room On Fire – were in the club.

And then I discovered this fabulous blog – The 1p Album Club - on Tumblr. The premise is simple – the writer spends 1p (and postage, coughs) on an album and then reviews it. They have pretty catholic tastes too as bargain basement beauties from the likes of Echobelly rub shoulders with cheapies from UK garage greats Mis-teeq.

I was very pleased to see The Milltown Brothers fine Byrdsie album Slinky get the nod. Here’s a fabulous tune from it. Anyway fair play to the 1p album team for a great idea very well executed.

features, music

12 of the most disastrous second albums of all time – Stone Roses, Duffy and more

By Stefano on January 9th, 2013

Aaah the tricky second album syndrome, it catches a lot of bands on the hop doesn’t it? After all you have a decade or so to piece together the tunes for your first album, while the second is often flung together in a heartbeat after months of touring.

If you are smart you have saved a few great songs from your early days to tide you over. If not then you better hope that the substance induced writers block disappears and fast.

The tricky part is deciding do you simply try and replicate that first album and risk accusations that you haven’t moved on? Or take the band in a different direction and then risk alienating the fans who loved your early stuff. Either route is fraught with danger.

Here then are twelve apocryphal tales of bands whose second albums were in one way or another disastrous. Some of them, in fact many of them, are actually pretty good, but, poor reviews, a lack of hit singles and a general falling from fashion meant that they stalled, and in some instances killed, a band’s career.

So have a look through the list and tell me which ones I have missed in the comments.

If you enjoyed this check out the following

Under rated 90s British indie bands

Under rated 80s British indie bands

The best Psychedelic albums of 2012

12 The Thrills - Let's Bottle Bohemia

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Picture 1 of 12

With So Much For The City, the Irish band patented the sound of 2003, all jangly guitars and west coast harmonies. Much was expected of its follow up Let's Bottle Bohemia, but in spite of the first two tracks - Tell Me Something I Don't Know and Whatever Happened to Corey Haim? - this was a lot lighter on hummable tunes and The Thrills' audience disappeared. It is actually quite a good album, but suffers quite badly when compared with that incendiary debut - a maxim that applies to a great many of the second album flops.


Morrissey likes Nigel Farage and nearly voted UKIP. Big Mouth Strikes Again in a bizarre interview

By Stefano on January 9th, 2013

Oh, Stephen Patrick, your Big Mouth Strikes Again.

The lead singer of arguably the best band the UK has produced since The Beatles has been mouthing off again and this time has come up with some real gems. Morrissey has been talking to Loaded magazine (I am not sure why? Surely they represent a lot of things he hates) and the conversation has been picked up by of all people The Daily Mail.

When pressed on politics Morrissey has the usual go at Cameron and then takes time to say how much he likes UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage

‘I nearly voted for UKIP. I like Nigel Farage a great deal. His views are quite logical – especially where Europe is concerned, although it was plain daft of him to applaud the lavish expense of the Royal Wedding at a time when working-class England were told to cut-back, shut-up and get stuffed.’

I am not entirely sure he means it…

Morrissey also has a blast at Jimmy Saville – ‘He was a profiteer, and those who protected him are still here. However, I’m not sure if witch-hunts against aged Radio Caroline DJs is quite the point. ’2013 enlightenment can’t be applied to dark and dim nights of 1972, otherwise every singer who ever slept with a 14-year-old would suddenly be behind bars – and that would take a lot of bars.’

The Beckhams ‘I’d… have the Peckhams (Beckhams) dragged to the edge of the village and flogged because they are insufferable to anyone of intelligence, and they actively chase the paparazzi.’

And in a more traditional vein stag hunting. ‘If I kicked a dog I’d be fined £200, yet we’re asked to accept Cameron shooting down a majestic stag just for a hoot. Weird world, isn’t it?’

Weird indeed.

‘Sweetness I was only joking when I said…’


Ten of the best Scott Walker influenced tracks – Julian Cope, My Life Story, Jens Lekman and more

By Stefano on January 9th, 2013

One of music’s most innovative, iconic and downright brilliant performers celebrated his birthday this week, and nope it isn’t that guy who decided to come out of retirement yesterday, it is the man who was a massive influence on him – Scott Walker.

Brandish already boasts one frothing at the mouth acclamation of the man’s genius here so in order to mark his birthday, which is actually today, here are ten tunes from other artists that bear the influence of the man. They may not all be direct steals from the fella’s late 60s quintet of astonishing albums, but you know I can half imagine him singing each one.

Cue strings, passionate vocals, dramatic finales and songs about ‘authentic queers and phoney virgins.’

1 White and Torch – Parade

Parade is simply magnificent. A slow building 80s orchestrated ballad that’s beautifully arranged and sung and really has very little in common with much else from that decade. It has probably more in common with Scott’s Walker Brothers records than his solo career. The duo made a few other enjoyable singles in the mid 80s but nothing came close to Parade.

2 Jack – Three ‘O Clock In The Morning

Jack’s Anthony Reynolds loves Scott so much he even wrote a book about him. This is the wonderful opener to the band’s superb second album The Jazz Age and has more than a whiff of Scott 2.

3 My Life Story – November 5th

I could have chosen any one of about 20 tracks by the mid 90s pop orchestra, but this track, from the band’s second Golden Mile, album deserves to be heard a lot more often.

4 Simon Warner – Waiting Rooms

Another 90s obscurity, Warner’s Waiting Rooms album ranged from the Brel like stomp of Wake Up The Streets through to this gorgeous Scott 3 style floating ballad

5 Lloyd Cole – Butterfly

From Cole’s fabulous Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe album, Butterfly is maybe as much in debt to early 80s pop like ABC as it is to Scott, but it is stunning nevertheless

6 Suede – Still Life

All the key Brit poppers loved Scott. Blur did The Universal, Jarvis even got him producing Pulp albums. But Brett’s Scott meets Andrew LLoyd Weber finale from Dog Man Star is the big one for me.

7 St Christopher – All Of A Tremble

C86 does Scott. This is my favourite ever Sarah Records tune

8 Jens Lekman – And I Remember Every Kiss

In which the genius Swedish popstrel lives out his Scott 2 fantasy.

9 The Teardrop Explodes – The Great Dominions

Cope was largely responsible for the rediscovery of Scott in the 80s with his Godlike Genius compilation. He then penned his own tribute to the man in this track from the band’s masterpiece album Wilder.

10 The Divine Comedy – Tonight We Fly

And who else could we finish with? Neil Hannon’s best song? Maybe? This is his very own ‘We Came Through’ from Scott 3 and hails from his third albums Promenade. This is still the only way to finish a Divine Comedy gig.

They are all here, plus a few more choice cuts on this Spotify playlist


Happy Birthday David Bowie – and thanks for Where Are We Now? a lovely present…

By Stefano on January 8th, 2013

Simon Poulter edits What Would David Bowie Do, so he seemed the right person to have the last word on what has been a momentous day for fans of the Dame.

So the Dame is back, back, BACK. Unexpected and brilliantly unannounced.

On his 66th birthday (a date he appropriately shares with Elvis Presley), out of seemingly nowhere, David Bowie has released Where Are We Now?, a haunting and, to be oxymoronic, joyously melancholic single.

And there’s more: the equally unexpected new album The Next Day, due in March. This amounts to a bounty of riches from Bowie. For an artist who appeared to have withdrawn from public life following heart surgery nine years ago (his last “appearance” was being papped in New York while out buying music magazines in October), this most enigmatic of reappearances has brought delight and wonder to the Bowiedom.

His last live performance – singing the Roger Waters parts of Comfortably Numb on a David Gilmour solo show – was in 2006, and since then it was assumed by many that the Dame had entered gentle retirement. Even news that London’s V&A museum was to be stage a major Bowie exhibition this spring raised speculation that the singer himself was behind its curation, suggesting new activity. His ‘people’ strenuously denied any involvement from or endorsement by Bowie, but given the dates of the exhibition and the release of The Next Day, one can’t help feeling the timing is more than coincidental.

Time will tell. For now, lets savour the moment: Where Are We Now? – produced by Tony Visconti, Bowie’s producer on the legendary Berlin trilogy of Low, Heroes and Lodger – nods to that period with various references to Berlin streets.

A suggested album cover for The Next Day, with the title simply superimposed over the Heroes sleeve, hints at Bowie using these new recordings to reflect.

Where Are We Now? certainly has the air of someone in retrospective contemplation. It’s piano-driven melody with a simple synth bed and and spacy drum track, is tied to somewhat mournful lyrics and an apparent sadness in Bowie’s voice.

The accompanying video is equally downbeat, featuring Bowie’s face attached to a puppet, with the song’s lyrics peppered throughout like an abstract karaoke screen, while suitably dour images of Berlin pass through.

Plenty will assume that this is Bowie’s most strident gesture yet of bowing out, just as Bob Dylan’s Tempest was meant to be his signal to the world that it was all over (based on the loose conjecture that The Tempest was thought to be Shakespeare’s swansong as a playwright). But Bowie is, and always has been, an enigmatic actor, and his moments of Greta Garbo moments of withdrawal have been numerous. But then, as his official spokesman said today in a statement, “Throwing shadows and avoiding the industry treadmill is very David Bowie.” Quite true.

He hasn’t performed live since 2006 and has rarely been seen in public since then. His last studio album came out 10 years ago, and there has been an air of reflection in a lot of his most recent work, “most recent” not fully reflecting how long it has been since we’ve had anything new to devour. The beautiful Survive, taken off his final EMI album, Hours is a perfect example of a reflective Bowie, rather than the more provactive and even upbeat Bowie of yore.

Last year Bowie was reportedly approached to play a part in the London Olympics opening ceremony, but turned the opportunity down (to be replaced by a projected montage that served only to remind . The assumption was made that, following his Reality tour in 2003, and the heart bypass that truncated that, the Dame had walked – not trounced – quietly off into the Manhattan sunset.

However, first thing this morning, Bowie’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts had other ideas: “CHECK OUT WWW.DAVIDBOWIE.COM NOW!” trumpeted @DavidBowieReal. “Think we’re in for a big surprise…” If you’ve not already stumbled upon it, you need to check out for a very well kept secret right now. This really is turning out to be quite some birthday!”.

Few have disagreed. Indeed, some have become quite emotional at the news. Where Are We Now? may not be a classic Bowie song, but it is certainly classic Bowie.

“I’m so insanely excited,” tweeted Caitlin Moran. “It’s like hearing King Arthur’s voice from the cave.”Even Duncan Jones, Bowie’s film maker son, commented on Twitter: “Would be lovely if all of you could spread the word about da’s new album. First in ten years, and its a good ‘un!”

2012 was a year of major anniversaries, in particular celebrating 1962 as a year of cultural epochs – debuts for The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and James Bond amongst them. With the surprise appearance of new material from David Bowie, it’s quite possible that we have a lot to look forward to in 2013, with the emphasis on “forward”, even if with a tinge of nostalgia about it.

So Happy Birthday, David. And thanks for the present. It really is just what we’ve always wanted.


David Bowie’s best album? Forget Ziggy and Hunky Dory.

By Stefano on January 8th, 2013

Personally I think it was all downhill for David Bowie after his 1966 mod-pop masterpiece Can’t Help Thinking About Me, but I do know that a few people rate Hunky Dory, Ziggy and that weird one with the New Romantics on it, and it is his birthday so I won’t moan about his later output. Instead but put your prejudices to one side for a mo as we try and convince you that there are some songs in the Bowie canon that you may never had heard of that are worthy of a spin. I refer, of course, to his self-titled 1967 debut LP on Deram.

Now all but the privileged few will have heard the Bromley boy’s debut LP, largely because rock snobs have for decades written it off as a Anthony Newley pastiche. The fact that its preceding single, The Laughing Gnome, featured guest vocals from what sounds like Cilla Black quaffing helium didn’t help matters either.

Nevertheless, David Bowie (the album) is a place I visit regularly, mostly to play Maid of Bond Street, a genuinely tender little ditty that stays in your heads for days. The album also boasts one of his best ever singles, Love you Til Tuesday, which we adore for its juddering downward bass line, chirpy strings and genius pay off line about stretching it to Wednesday. Few other artists have tapped into the frailty of human relationships in such a sympathetic way. Rubber Band with its Salvation Army style shuffle is a wonderful evocation of Olde England – Ray Davies spends most evenings wishing he’d written it – while Bowie’s pleading vocal on Sell Me A Coat is among the most dramatic and poignant of his long career.

Sadly for Bowie, the album proved to be a one-off and within a few years he’d traded the subtle witticism of his early stuff for the fun, but rather obvious Mick Ronson powered glam rock riffs. And while he did knock out of a few good tunes later in his career, Heroes, Boys Keep Swinging and Oh You Pretty Things (Peter Noone version obviously), in my opinion little compares to this album, his early Pye 45s and of course the non-album cut The London Boys. Not just a brilliant evocation of swinging Soho from 1967, but also a tune that lent its name to one of the ’80s top notch disco bands. It doesn’t get much better than that.

And here is Can’t Help Thinking About Me – his best song ever

Article originally published here

music, News

Bowie is back! David’s top 5 overlooked songs revisited

By Gerald Lynch on January 8th, 2013

Ziggy Stardust. The Thin White Duke. David Robert Jones. Whatever you call him, David Bowie, the chameleon of pop, is back!

Celebrating today his 66th birthday, the enigmatic icon marked the occasion with the release of a new single ‘Where Are We Now’ and news of a new album called ‘The Next Day’ touching down in March.

You can listen to ‘Where Are We Now?’ by hitting up the YouTube video above, a melancholic track that recalls cuts from Bowie’s 1999 album ‘hours…’.

With ‘The Next Day’ set to be Bowie’s 26th studio album, there are reams of goodies for the uninitiated to dive into ahead of the new albums release. And while even the casual music lover could probably hum along to ‘Heroes’ or ‘Life on Mars?’, there are plenty of killer Bowie tracks that have fallen through the cracks over the years and are often overlooked.

Here are Brandish’s top 5 Bowie gems that you might have forgotten!

John, I’m Only Dancing

A raunchy blues stomper that’s often covered, John I’m Only Dancing’s androgynous, homo-erotic undertones and searing guitars would later go on to influence the likes of Suede and Placebo.

Speed of Life

Here’s how you properly kick off a comeback. Marking the start of Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy” as the first track on ‘Low’, it’s a swirling electronic instrumental with more killer riffs than you can shake a MOOG synth at. Here’s a rare live performance of the song from a 1978 gig in Dallas Texas, with Bowie looking particularly sharp.

Five Years

The opening track on the classic album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’, Bowie’s apocalyptic vision starts quietly before erupting into a maelstrom of sound, setting the tone for Bowie’s most beloved record. Theatrical and wild, it hints at the closing of the Ziggy Stardust chapter that saw Bowie’s popularity at its peak.

Absolute Beginners

Bowie’s best love song, Absolute Beginners soundtracked the movie of the same name. A lush track telling a tale of young love, listen how Bowie’s voice just soars for the chorus.

Modern Love

Though a single on ‘Let’s Dance’, arguably Bowie’s most popular later-day album, ‘Modern Love’ always plays second fiddle to the album’s titular track and ‘China Girl’ when it comes to radio play. That’s a travesty – ‘Modern Love’ is far and away the best song Bowie ever laid down during his Americana/white-boy soul phase of the mid-80’s. Read either as an attempt to turn his back on one night stands or the junk of his drug addictions, it’s Bowie at his dancey, desperate best.


David Bowie celebrates 66th birthday with new single, Where Are We Now

By shinychris on January 8th, 2013

It is difficult to contain my excitement this morning. Just as I had (along with most other people) assumed Bowie was enjoying retirement counting his royalties from last summer’s playing of Heroes, up he pops with a new single and an album promised. Called Where Are We Now, and produced by Tony Visconti, the new single sounds quite melancholy – a bit like Thursday’s Child and Survive from the excellent 1999 Hours album.

His voice also sounds a little shakier, but then he is 66 I guess. The single contains lots of references to the period when he lived in Berlin in the 1970s where he recorded Low and the weird video features a cut-out of his head sitting next to a woman some people assume to be Bjork – though I’m not sure. I think it’s a good single with a catchy chorus though not a massive departure from what he’s done before.

But that’s not all. Promised on March 11 is a new album called The Next Day which is bound to be massive, considering Bowie has been absent from the music scene, living as a virtual recluse if the media is to believed, for the last 10 years or so. I can’t wait. You can get full details of downloads for the single and a link to the video on Vimeo on David’s official website, David

Football, music

Ugo Ehiogu, his record label, The Fossil Collective and an ace tale about Ian Wright

By Stefano on January 7th, 2013

The other day I wrote a list of the ten Premiership players you would most want to have a beer with. If he were still playing today you can bet Ugo Ehiogu would be on very high on that list. As was unveiled on the Danny Baker Show on BBC Five Live on Saturday the former, Villa, Middlesbrough and Rangers defender isn’t your average footballer.

After finishing his playing career, Ehiogu has spent much of his time working for a music label he co-owns Dirty Hit Limited, and the bands on the label might surprise you. In keeping with a guy whose favourite band is apparently The Arctic Monkeys Dirty Hit has a really pukka roster of indie bands several of whom could well make their mark big time in 2013.

The band that caught my ear are The Fossil Collective whose very English take on Americana – think also The Leisure Society – has already delivered two absolute gems in On and On and Let It Go. There’s a whiff of Radiohead in the Leeds band too in the days when Thom Yorke and his crew still knew how to knock out a pop tune or two. Check them out on Spotify here or see the video above.

The label also has 1975 who are an edgier take on The Vaccines and iTunes has predicted great things for in 2013, singer songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich whose Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm is a gentle folk album not too far removed from the music of this excellent fella, and Bowie-esque new wavers The Little Comets.

Much respect to the fella then.

Ehiogu also has a few excellent anecdotes too. Asked by Baker if he spoke to players during games about things other than football he said that he found Ian Wright very chatty. The Arsenal man would apparently tell defenders how great they were, and Ugo said that while he was mulling over the compliment Wrighty would have shot away into space waiting for the ball from an Arsenal midfielder. Crafty.

Finally, with apologies to Celtic fans, here is Ugo’s best ever footballing moment. Genius!



The fifteen most under rated British bands of the 80s – The Claim, The Monochrome Set, Furniture and more

By Stefano on January 4th, 2013

A few weeks ago I wrote a list of the most under rated British bands of the 90s as nominated by some charming musicians, bloggers and chancers  that I hang about with on social media sites. It got huge traffic, so, not wishing to change a winning formula, I asked the same group to come up with the most under rated bands of the 80s, and here’s the list.

Obviously the key here is defining the phrase ‘under rated’. There are some 80s bands; Felt, The Soft Boys and Gang Of Four spring to mind, who didn’t  trouble the charts a great deal  in their prime but thanks to being championed by more recent bands are now heralded as makers of some of the finest music of that decade. So we didn’t include them. I also added a few bands who were huge at the time, but these days never seem to be played on the radio or mentioned at all.

In a totally serendipitous way as I was putting the list together Steve Lamacq on BBC 6 Music decided to make the first two weeks of the year ‘lost 80s bands’ week, playing some completely forgotten tunes like Westworld’s Sonic Boom Boy. So Steve, how about playing a few of these?

Thanks then to everyone who added their twopennyworth.

And can someone please release the lost album recorded by the number one band. Ta. Any we have missed in the comments please. If you do your own list shout and I’ll post a link here too.

There’s a selection of tracks on the Spotify play list below

15 Bauhaus

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When was the last time you heard Bauhaus on the radio? Odd really because for a few years in the early 80s you couldn't escape their Bowie-inflected gothy art pop. Still, their big pop single, She's In Parties, sounds terrific today, and even if I can't bring myself to do the weird shoulder shrugging dance that accompanied Bela Lugosi's Dead it still sounds kind of fun. Their version of Ziggy is still pants though. Pete Murphy went on to bigger and better things - well that tape ad at least - but you can re-live his dark mumblings on Spotify


music, News

Haim top BBC Sound of 2013 list (we told you so…)

By Gerald Lynch on January 4th, 2013

Haim have topped the BBC Sound of 2013 list, lining up the Californian power-pop trio for a stellar year.

The list (now in its eleventh year), aims to showcase the top bands and artists to keep an eye out for in the year ahead, with previous winners including Adele, Jessie J and Brandish favourite Michael Kiwanuka.

Haim, comprised of three sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim have been championed for their fusion of ’70s rock and ’80s synth pop, drawing influence from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, The Bangles and The Go-Go’s.

Beginning life as a covers band, the sisters have now supported acts such as Florence and The Machine and Mumford and Sons off the back of their Forever EP and recent single Don’t Save Me.

213 experts and critics compile the list, with eligible artists not having scored  a UK top 20 single or album before 11 November 2012.

The top five list for 2013 is rounded out by London R&B duo AlunaGeorge in second, New York-based rapper Angel Haze in third, Birmingham soul singer Laura Mvula in fourth and Glasgow electro-pop outfit Chvrches in fifth.

Haim also topped our Top Five Bands To Watch In 2013 list, which also included Cheatahs, Palma Violets, Savages and Daughter. Finger on the pulse, no?


George Martin’s long lost psychedelic masterpiece – Theme One

By Stefano on January 3rd, 2013

George Martin, as you all know, was the master producer whose wizardry in Abbey Road Studio Two helped The Beatles create some of the finest music ever recorded.

However it is a little know thing that Martin, whose birthday it is today, recorded a gem or two of his own. The most amazing piece is this little tune Theme One.

The apocryphal tale that surrounds the recording of this mini masterpiece is that when The Beatles completed ‘A Day in the Life’ on the Sgt Pepper album, he kept the orchestra in the studio and recorded this to put the time they had been paid for to good use. In some way it starts where Day In The Life leaves off with that amazing cacophony of sound.

The track is familiar to aging Brit rockers as Tommy Vance used it as the theme tune for the Radio One’s Friday Night rock Show in the 70s and 80s. It also turned up on The Sound Gallery 2 easy listening compilation in the mid 90s.

The track also appears on Martin’s “By George! – George Martin & His Orchestra Play” which dates from 1968, though I must admit I have never ever seen a copy.

Gadgets, music

The MP3 player is dying, but vinyl record sales are through the roof

By Stefano on December 27th, 2012

Got an MP3 player? Chances are you don’t use it a great deal as it has been kind of superseded by the Swiss Army Knife of gadgets – the smartphone. With Spotify on mobile devices as well as the seamless integration of iTunes on the iPhone, there doesn’t really appear to be much of a need for standalone MP3 players.

And their decline has been confirmed by figures today from research organisation Mintel which says that sales of MP3 players have fallen by nearly a fifth to £381 million this year compared to 2011. Mintel predicts that sales will halve again by 2017 and virtually disappear within five years.

Samuel Gee, a technology analyst at Mintel, told The Telegraph that the decline in MP3 sales is “unlikely to reverse”.

“It is impossible to talk about the current PMP market without extensive reference to smartphones. The devices have directly contributed to the sharp decline in the value of PMP sales.”

He added that MP3 players are being “steadily outshone” by increasingly affordable new technologies, like smartphones.

I am guessing here, but it would seem that the one MP3 player that still sells well is the iPod nano which maintains a significant share of young women and pre-teens.

One music format which appears to be making a very real comeback is vinyl records. In a wonderful article in The Guardian John Harris put the case for vinyl records and highlights their recent rise in popularity.

We await conclusive British figures for 2012, but last year there was a quantum leap in sales of new vinyl albums, which were 44% up on the figures for 2010. Anecdotal evidence suggests the consumers responsible are not just hard-bitten types – men, usually – of a certain age, but much younger people. And the phenomenon extends across the industrialised world: the same pattern is evident in the UK, the US, Australia, Germany – and even cash-strapped Spain.

Harris makes the point that digital music leaves us in a state of twitchy impatience – hands hovering over the mouse which will move us to the next track. This obviously isn’t the case with vinyl records.

We’ll look at the demise of CD and whether that is a good or bad thing, later in the week. In the meantime I am off to give the above record a spin.


Beatles albums now just £7.99 on iTunes and their six most under rated albums

By Stefano on December 20th, 2012

If Macca fronting Nirvana wasn’t quite your thing then maybe you’ll like this more. Apple is now offering almost all of The Beatles albums on iTunes at a reduced price of £7.99 each. The offer is apparently for a limited period only, so if you do fancy adding a bit more of the Fabs to your life you’ll need to move pronto. The albums are also around the same price on CD at Amazon and probably a lot cheaper on vinyl at a charity shop near you.

But which one to buy? Beatles fans are split between between the pop art perfection of Revolver and vaudevillian psych of Seargent Pepper as to which is their finest moment ( I go with the Pepper).

Assuming that you already have those two – plus The White Album, Abbey Road a singles collection or two what should come next.

Here then are six of the band’s most under-rated albums. The number one might even contain the best music they ever recorded.

Pic from PA

6 A Hard Day's Night

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Of all the Fabs early albums this is the one to own. The others are at times inconsistent whereas Hard Day's Night delivers track after track of prime Merseybeat genius. It also contains some of the band's best ever ballads in And I Love Her and If I Fell and in I Should Have Known Better and Things We Said Today two perfect pop tunes.

Accessories, features, music

Happy Birthday Keith Richards – a tribute (and some cool photos)

By Stefano on December 18th, 2012

Simon Poulter of the always excellent – What Would David Bowie Do? blog on the human riff.

Britain’s Daily Mail, a newspaper you can regard with varying degrees of editorial pointlessness, surmised in June that Keith Richards – the Human Riff, the Human Lab, and a dozen other nicknames reflecting both guitar prowess and indestructibility – was now so broken, so ravaged by arthritic hands and addled memory that he was finding it hard to perform.

Almost in unison, a section of the paper’s permanently seething readership waded in with a barrage of reaction, some berating Keef for even being alive, others suggesting the Rolling Stones had ended their relevance a long time before and should now just give up.

This may go some way to explain why, when the band announced their four 50th anniversary shows, a nuclear mushroom cloud appeared above Middle England as concerned representatives of the Mail’s readership turned apoplectic at news Richards, Jagger, Watts and Wood – with a combined age of 273 – were to roll once more.

Well, today we can make that 274, as Richards chalks up his 69th birthday. It’s an unlikely milestone, even he’ll admit. This apparent freak of nature, who only gave up hard drugs eight years ago, has, for the best part of adulthood, tested human pharmaceutical endurance to its limits while seeing so many contemporaries succumb to rock’s lethal distractions. He is at a loss to explain how he has survived and others didn’t. Perhaps he should just say “pleased to meet you – hope you guessed my name”.

The brilliant autobiography

Much of Richards’ homespun philosophy can be found in his brilliant book Life. A stupendously refreshingly read, Life tells Keef’s story with well managed honesty and little obvious attempt at embellishment, either of the hard truths or the apocryphal tales. It is an engagingly rich story of a boy emerging from London’s bombsite-ridden suburbs to embrace the music of America’s impoverished south, turning such an unlikely affection into the spiritual heart of the most famous – some maintain greatest – rock and roll band of the last 50 years.

That’s an accolade that welcomes challenge: bands have come and bands have gone. “Every generation throws another hero up the pop charts”, sang Paul Simon, and the Stones have faced plenty of competition. They’ve also faced plenty of challenges of their own, not least of which the sibling fractures between Richards and Jagger that have seen them fight, tussle and, seemingly, fall apart irreparably on regular occasions.

Something, however, has always brought them back together again. Richards has always maintained that he and Jagger share a true brotherly love, a bond that occasionally breaks. In his words, Richards has, though, tended to paint Jagger as the more nefarious Glimmer Twin, the posher of the two middle-class Dartford boys, the Stone with the business sense and, now, the knighthood.

Richards, on the other hand, has frequently played up his image as the Stones’ pirate captain, the rock’and’roll rogue: unpredictable and possibly dangerous, like John Belushi’s character Bluto in Animal House, but beneath it all, fundamentally a good guy.

For a while – particularly in the wake of John Lennon’s murder – Richards regularly carried either a knife or a gun, or both. He’s not the Stone to be messed with by any order. Just go to YouTube and find the memorable clip from their 1981 tour, when Keith sees a fan jump on stage and starts charging towards him and Jagger (who deftly takes a swerve), removes his Telecaster by the neck and hacks the fan to the ground before strapping the guitar back on to continue playing. “The cat was in my space,” said Richards, matter-of-factly, “so I chopped the mother down”. That’s why you’ve got to love Keith. Liam Gallagher may have looked like he could do something like that, but you suspect only Keith Richards would.

Immersing myself in Richardsville

Over the last few months I have been immersed in the Rolling Stones. Whatever commercial voodoo they performed around their 50th anniversary has clearly worked. I’ve bought their book and visited the Somerset House exhibition of the book’s photographs; I’ve acquired Blu-ray Discs and DVDs of them in concert in the 70s, 80s and 90s, of them jamming with their great hero Muddy Waters, in the brilliant Stones In Exile documentary, and setting new records on the Bigger Bang tour. And I’ve spent a frustrating 30 minutes attempting to blow what’s left of my life savings on a ticket to one of – any of – their London and New Jersey shows. Somewhere there is a bulldozer with a tongue logo on it shovelling cash into four or five large piles.

While this accumulation will be due in part to Sir Mick Jagger’s assumed stewardship of Rolling Stones Inc. (actually, a Dutch-registered public limited company called Promotone BV which holds its annual company meetings in the curious-to-say-the-least location of Amsterdam), the company’s Chief Riff Officer and CEO Jagger’s fellow Wentworth Primary School, Dartford, alumnus, Richards, might be comfortable with his rewards, but remains at his happiest strumming a blues in an open D tuning.

These last few weeks, the more Stones material I’ve been exposed to, the more I’ve come to appreciate their music, especially its subtlety. That is not a word you associate with the Stones, who’ve often been regarded by music snobs as a Premier League Status Quo for the chugging, thumbs-in-belt-loops-ahoy boogie of Honky Tonk Woman, or the cringeworthy street patois of Miss You, and it’s equally abhorrent disco beat.

But then listen carefully to Sympathy For The Devil, Paint It Black or Gimme Shelter, or some of the live standards like Monkey Man or Tumbling Dice or Midnight Rambler, along with lesser known gems hidden away on their 26-odd studio albums. Why, even more recent fare like Love Is Strong and Doom And Gloom – knocked out in a Paris studio over a couple of days – still deliver the goods as far as Rolling Stones songs go.

You could say that for half their careers, the Rolling Stones have faced calls to quit on the grounds that they’re too old. Keith Richards, at 69, may be today a more avuncular version of his former self, with his clean living and throaty, bronchial laugh (not to mention his parodic turn as Captain Jack Sparrow’s father in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise – with Johnny Depp happy to admit Sparrow was based on Richards), but he and his ageing band have endured.

That endurance has come from tampering little with the brand: The Beatles started out as rock and rollers before discovering psychedelia and inventing progressive rock; The Who applied a rock edge to Tamla Motown; Led Zeppelin deconstructed and then reconstructed the blues; but the Stones are and have always been the Coca-Cola of rock.

Classic Stones

Sure, like Coke (Classic anyone?) they’ve taken a few ill-advised diversions, but today the Stones remain, pretty much, the same thing enjoyed by each generation that has come across them. Snobs blame this absence of variety on a fairly limited musical spectrum, but much of this is down to Keith. It is, mostly, his songs and riffs that have dictated the Rolling Stones musically.

Richards might have willingly – and at times, to his patent regret – left the running of the band to Jagger, but the spirit of the Stones, the heart and soul of the Stones belongs to him. It was Keith, not Brian Jones who found the triangulation point between the Mississippi Delta, Chicago and London. It was Jagger who then took the concoction and turned it into something more exotic, more 5th Avenue than Dartford High Street, like Levi-Strauss turning workwear into the most enduring fashion item of modern history.

But that’s why we love Keith. If he has pretensions and delusions of grandeur, he keeps them well hidden. He has amassed a fortune, and his properties display copious evidence of his wealth, but unlike the apparent airs and graces of his writing partner, Richards doesn’t overplay the finer things in his life.

To see him on stage today, earnestly toiling away on his collection of Telecasters and other luthiered exotica, is to see a master craftsman at work. He may never be a virtuoso in the manner of a Clapton, a Beck or a Page, but I don’t think he particularly cares. And nor should you. Happy Birthday Keith.

Images PA

Article originally published here.

Mick and Keith - US tour 1975

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