Sunday, November 6, 2022

Kilimanjaro


If you are only going to make two albums make them as good as the two released in the early 80's from The Teardrop Explodes. Last night I listened to Kilimanjaro for the first time in a while and it sounded every bit as vibrant and original as I remember it. Hard now to believe that both U2 and Duran Duran apparently considered The Teardrop Explodes as their own real competition. Cope wasn't even then your typical pop star but pop star he was briefly although if you delve into his lyrics they certainly weren't about Girls On Film or Karma Chameleons. 

Kilimanjaro was wildly ambitious, shiny and polished, choc full of unforgettable tunes including a certain track that catapulted them into the Top 10 and into our living rooms through TOTP. Reward sounded awesome then and still does so today, a stampede of Northern Soul energy that needs to be played at full volume.

The Teardrops had an innate gift for for a poppy hook and captivating melody that set them apart from some of their contemporaries. The genesis of Kilimanjaro was troubled with large amounts of LSD being consumed, making it all the more amazing that something as perfectly formed emerged from those recording sessions. It is an album that finds the band at the top of their game, a band that could have had it all which appears to be the last thing Cope wanted. 

You can hear the influence of The Teardrops on so many bands in recent years, from The Killers to Blur and The Libertines. Kilimanjaro remains timeless and listening to it again it's apparent why it spent 35 weeks on the charts. 



Sunday, October 30, 2022

Raw Power


On January 16th 1991 Glasgow Barrowland played host to the one and only Iggy Pop. I had been going to gigs at The Barrowland for around 5 years up to this but few gigs had me so excited pre-gig as Iggy. I had been a fan for years and was worried I had built this one up to much in advance.

Within a few minutes of Iggy hitting that world famous stage it was blindingly apparent that I had not built it up enough. He opened the set with Raw Power and that is literally what it was, with Iggy a whirlwind of primal energy. It was a blistering start and it never let up the whole night. I first heard The Stooges when I was 15 and had waited years to see Iggy and hear those songs live. I had watched video footage from the likes of So It Goes and The Tube but nothing quite prepares you for the real thing. He was like a man possessed and was clearly having the time of his life on that stage. Those first Stooges albums were game changers for me, along with the likes of The Velvet Underground. 

We were treated to China Girl, Lust For Life, Real Wild Child and many other classic Iggy tracks but is was that opener, 1969 and the closing trio of I Wanna Be Your Dog, No Fun and Search and Destroy that elevated that cold, winter night in Glasgow to one of the best gigs I have seen. It was an epic finale with the crowd going ballistic and that ferocious riff almost lifting the roof off The Barrowland.

Iggy was 45 at the time of the gig but had more energy and stage presence than almost any performer I have seen live. The influence he has had on so many bands over the years cannot be underestimated and Jan 16th showed why he is a legend, why his music is so important and why we should always treasure Iggy. 




Sunday, October 23, 2022

Into My Arms


I'm always drawn to lyrics that speak to me on some level, whether they are about love. life, politics or whatever else. As long as I connect to them in some way they have done their job.

I've always been fascinated by the lyrics of Nick Cave who, for me, is on of the great modern day lyricists. The imagery in much of his songwriting is incredible and I've always found a resonance in many of his love songs, in particular Into My Arms. A beautiful, melancholic love song that goes straight to the heart. Cloaked in religious imagery this is one of those tracks that just gets me every time I listen to it. 

At its heart a song about loss and the sorrow that ensues, there is an emotional quality that few other songwriters can match. Reminding us that even in the darkest of times we are not alone, there is a good reason why Cave himself treasures this song so much. 

A beautiful piano led melody that speaks to people in a way that is universal and is rightly revered as one of his most beautiful songs with an opening line that draws you in from the off, this is songwriting of the highest order that Cave performed privately at the funeral of Michael Hutchence. 




Sunday, May 16, 2021

A Little Bit Of Melodic Sunshine


Late 2000 I was nearing the end of my time working in record stores, and was not really enjoying listening to music as much as usual. There wasn't much that piqued my interest at the time and I was opening those new release boxes on a Friday afternoon hoping to find that elusive something to get my musical mojo up and running again. 

Step forward Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine, courtesy of Glasgow's very own Cosmic Rough Riders. I knew the name, but not too much else at that time. Something about the cover intrigued me enough to put it on and have a listen, and I was not disappointed. Well crafted, melodic tunes played with honesty and sincerity, this was just the tonic I needed to appreciate quality music again. I could hear so much of my favourite music in there - The Byrds, Neil Young etc - but this was uniquely Cosmic Rough Riders. I've always thought the title of the album perfectly sums up the tracks within, music that is uplifting and just makes you feel good. 

Essentially a compilation of tracks from their first two albums, it's an album I never tire of listening to. Similar to Teenage Fanclub with Big Star, the album was responsible for me appreciating more the sounds of the likes of CSNY, Buffalo Springfield and Fairport Convention. A couple of Top 40 hits ensued (and an appearance on TOTP) but like The Go Betweens and Trashcan Sinatras it remains a mystery as to why every household doesn't know their wonderful music. 

The album is being reissued on vinyl later this year from those lovely folks at Last Night From Glasgow, on four different vinyl colours. Well recommended for fans of timeless, melodic tunesmithery.



Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Read My Lips


Tipped by the NME in late '89 as one of their tips for stardom in the 90's, alongside the likes of Ride, The Mock Turtles and The Charlatans, it was not to be for The Katydids. Their career may have been short lived, but did produce two terrific albums. Their debut found Nick Lowe at the production helm and it's clear why Reprise enlisted him for the task. The album's 60's pop sensibilities are to the fore throughout and Lowe perfectly captures their obvious love of the music of that era and their ability to write great pop songs. There is a joy in the voice of lead singer Susie Hug that comes across throughout the album that is hugely infectious that stood them out from the crowd. 

Lights Out (Read My Lips) was the second single from the album and is a track I never tire of hearing. Everything that was great about the band can be found in this one track. Unpretentious, hook laden pop that is an absolute delight to listen to. 



Monday, February 1, 2021

Falling And Laughing


Comprising a couple of re-recordings of early singles, cleaned-up versions of demo tracks and a few new tracks the debut album from Orange Juice was released on this very day in 1982. 

You Can't Hide Your Love Forever is chock full of timeless pop tunes, with some great songwriting from both Edwyn Collins and James Kirk. The debut album from Glasgow's finest purveyors of The Sound Of Young Scotland is one of the best, and most underrated albums of the 80's. At the time some thought it did not live up to expectations, possibly due to a bit of musical snobbery due to signing to a major after releasing their first singles on Postcard. In reality, what's so great about the album is that it sounded so different to anything else at the time and how much it would influence what would follow. Infusing their obvious love of punk with their love of soul it stands as one of the truly great British debut albums. 

With lyrics that are cutting, witty and romantic, excellent guitar interplay between Collins and Kirk and a great rhythm section from David McClymont and Steven Daly this is an album like no other.

Also you can't really go wrong with an album sleeve featuring a couple of lovely dolphins swimming together in the sea. 



Sunday, January 31, 2021

Early Gigs Part 1


Between '86 and '89 there was barely a week went by where I would not be found at one gig or another. Apart from The Barrowland, most of these would have been at Glasgow Uni, Strathclyde Uni or Glasgow Tech with a few others at the likes of Fury Murry's, The Mayfair or 46 West George Street. Over the first few years of gig going I had the pleasure of seeing the likes of The Shop Assistants, Go Betweens, 10,000 Maniacs, Pixies, Sonic Youth, James, Age Of Chance, The Sugarcubes, The Bodines, The Pastels, The Mighty Lemon Drops and The Wedding Present amongst many others. 

Both the Universities and The Tech played host to many great bands and were essential to the gig scene in Glasgow before the likes of King Tut's and the much missed ABC. If it hadn't been for these venues it's unlikely I would have had the chance to see most of those bands in their prime. 

Two that really stand out for me from that time are The Pastels, supported by The Vaselines in Fury Murry's and Pixies at Glasgow University. The Pastels had not long released Up For A Bit and that evening started a lifelong love of both them and The Vaselines. Both these bands are much loved and that evening in Fury's clearly showed why. I do recall being a bit worse for wear at the Pixies gig and missing the support band completely. I managed to rally just as Pixies hit the stage. Doolittle had just been released and we were amongst the first people to hear these songs live. Glasgow took Pixies to their collective hearts and made sure they knew how loved they were in this part of the world. I've seen Pixies a few times over the years, but none will match that very special evening in The QMU. 



Saturday, January 30, 2021

Texas Fever Revisited


I have posted before on Texas Fever, a club night we used to frequent in Glasgow when we were 16/17 years old, but watching Teenage Superstars last week prompted a new post. Although Texas Fever was not part of the film it was held in the same venue as the legendary Splash One nights that were featured in the film. We knew of Splash One, but were just that bit too young when it was going. We saw all the posters around Glasgow advertising these nights but at only 15 we just missed out on them. At 16 we felt we might get into a club so headed into Glasgow on a Friday, after school, to 46 West George Street for an audio feast. We were listening to the likes of The Velvet Underground, The Byrds, The Sonics and The Stooges so this felt like the place for us, and it was. Those nights at Texas Fever were nights to treasure and certainly helped shape my music tastes ongoing. Everyone there was there because they loved music and wanted somewhere that they could meet like minded souls and just hear and dance to their favourite music in a club instead of a bedroom. Texas Fever was held upstairs at 46 West and on a Sunday downstairs they would host live bands with the likes of James, The Wolfhounds and The Mighty Lemon Drops playing. Splash One may go down in Glasgow folklore, but those Friday nights at Texas Fever will always be unforgettable for all who had the joy of being there. 



Thursday, January 14, 2021

R.E.M. - The IRS Years


Last night for the first time in years I listened to the fist five R.E.M. albums, the ones before they signed to a major. I had forgotten how bloody good all five of them are. Unlike many bands I listen to I was in at the start with R.E.M. I bought Murmur when it was released based upon a review I saw in Melody Maker. I had heard a couple of tracks before buying, but had no idea what delights were in store. Every track is top rate, an album to listen to from start to finish without skipping any tracks. I had found the band for me, I couldn't wait for the next album to arrive. Five albums in four years and each one was further proof, if any was needed, that this was one very special band. 

The early Warner Bros albums are great albums too, but there is something really special about those early albums. From Murmur to Life's Rich Pageant they could do know wrong. It was a golden time for music generally with the likes of The Smiths, The Mary Chain, The Bunnymen and New Order (amongst many others) releasing top quality releases and those IRS albums more than stand up to their peers. 

Five albums in four years with this level of creativity is quite something and cemented Athens, Georgia on the world music map. Many of my favourite REM songs come from the likes of Green, Out Of Time and Automatic For The People but those early, enigmatic IRS releases are the ones for me. 




Sunday, September 27, 2020

In Praise Of The Style Council


There were undoubtedly quite a few tears shed when Paul Weller disbanded The Jam at the height of their success in '82, and a fair amount of antagonism towards The Style Council when they released their debut single, Speak Like A Child, the following year. Although I was only a young teenager when The Style Council released said debut I was hooked instantly. To do this day, Speak Like A Child is still one of my all time favourite debut singles. I loved The Jam, but was a tad too young when they started out. My introduction to them was round about the Eton Rifles/Going Underground stage of their career and then I worked my way backwards to In The City. When I started secondary school there was "The Mod Corner" where I longed to be, but don't think new starts at the school were given admission to this exclusive club.

Over a period of six years the band released five albums and a fair number of great singles, most notably You're The Best Thing, Walls Come Tumbling Down, Long Hot Summer and the aforementioned Speak Like A Child. Toward the end of The Jam it was obvious that Weller's ambitions were far beyond what he was releasing with The Jam and that he was already moving in a new direction. At the time most people could not understand why he walked away from Britain's most popular band at the time, but listening now to the back catalogue of The Style Council it was the right decision and makes perfect sense now. The Style Council also allowed him to let his hair down and have some fun. The video for Long Hot Summer being a perfect example of his new found freedom. 

And to think he was only around twenty-four or so at the time. Brave decision for a young guy, turns out he always had a wise head. Not sure that Bruce Foxton or Rick Buckler would agree, but those wonderful Style Council records would likely never have been made if he hadn't had the guts to walk away when he did.