Monday, February 5, 2018


Us is the result of a collaboration between Andrew Montgomery, whose distinctive voice fronted the much missed Geneva, and Leo Josefsson of Swedish band Lowe. The first time I heard their dark, haunting elecronic synth based sound two words popped into my head, film soundtrack. And that is meant in the most complimentary way, with thoughts turning instantly to the likes of Blade Runner. Based in Stockholm, Us create a sound that is shaped by their influences but also manages to sound uniquely like Us. The partnership between Andrew and Leo works so well because they compliment each other, Leo's epic synth sounds feel like they have been waiting all this time for Andrew's heavenly vocals to accompany them. Good to have Andrew back recording again and, with plans to release their debut album this year, hopefully a live date in Glasgow may be on the cards in 2018.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Just Like Pagliacci Did...

Arguably one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, Smokey Robinson also has a voice that sounds like no other vocalist, with perfect timing and phrasing. Whereas other Motown voices were very gospel influenced, Smokey has an intimate vulnerability to his voice that makes every word he sings feel honest and heartfelt. As as lyricist he was second to none, with even Bob Dylan apparently at one time calling him the greatest living American poet. There are many songs throughout Smokey's extensive career that showcase what a gifted songwriter he is and none more so than The Tears Of A Clown. Based on the Italian opera, Pagliacci about a clown who must make the audience laugh while he weeps behind his makeup because his wife has betrayed him it was initially released on his 1967 album Make It Happen but didn't see the light of day as a single until 1970, after the head of a Motown fan club chose it to be released in the UK. Turned out to be a very inspired choice as the single went on to be Smokey's first chart topper, firstly in the UK and then in the USA. Not bad for a song that co writers Smokey Robinson and a teenage Stevie Wonder didn't think had much potential when it appeared as the last track in '67 on Make It Happen.

When Stevie Wonder wrote the music, Smokey thought it sounded like a circus and, as he had been intrigued since childhood by the Pagliacci story, came up with the lyrics based on the clown.The Tears Of A Clown is a once heard, never forgotten tune and remains to this day one of my favourite songs of all time. One of pop music's most unique properties is its ability to wrap the most heartbreaking lyrics in a bubbly, effervescent melody and few songs mange this better than The Tears Of A Clown. Dealing with a heartbroken lover masking their pain in public, the upbeat melody is a perfect counter to Robinson's poignant lyrics.

Now there's some sad things known to man
But ain't too much sadder than
The tears of a clown

Sunday, January 21, 2018

In A Crossfire Hurricane

Martin Scorsese has not just made some of the best movies ever, he has also integrated music into these movies as an inseperable part of the process. It isn't an afterthought, it's an essential element of his all his movies, with some scenes designed around the music itself. Music soundtracked Scorsese's early life, so in many ways it was inevitable that it would play a large part in his movies as he started directing. Growing up in the Lower East side of New York in the 50's, there would have been music playing all around him. He listens to music while writing his screenplays, coming up with ideas based upon what he is listening to at that time. His love of 60's girl groups is evident at the beginning of Mean Streets when you hear those distinctive drum pounds of Be My Baby as Harvey Keitel wakes from a nightmare. It's impossible to imagine Scorses's movies without the music that accompanies them. Think Johnny Boy's swaggering entrance into the basement dive bar in Mean Steets as Jumpin' Jack Flash blasts out the screen. It almost feels as if The Stones track was written specifically for that scene, so well do they complement each other. That 60 second scene not only introduces the world to the acting talents of Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel, it also introduces us to the perfect marriage of song and film that Scorsese does better than any other director. There are so many examples of Scorsese's deft use of music in his movies, and how he creates a mood with specific music, and his work over the years wouldn't be the same without it.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Lost In Music

For most folk that knew me throughout my fornative years it was no great surprise that I would end up working in a record store. Little did I know when I walked into Our Price in the Sauchiehall Street Centre for my first day, in November 1988, that I would still be working for them almost 14 years later. Going to record stores had always been a big part of my life since I started buying records in the early 80's, but to work in one was something else. By the mid 80's all my spare money was being spent on music. I took on a paper round when I was about 12 to finance my burgeoning vinyl habit, before moving onto a part time job in Victor's chip shop, the original one close to EK's wonderful 2 screen cinema, to further the desire to buy what I was hearing on Kid Jensen and John Peel's essential radio shows. No Saturday was complete without a trip into Glasgow to vist the many record stores the town had to offer at that time. First stop was the Virgin Megastore on Union Street, followed by Lewis's, Listen, A1 Sounds (in the Savoy Centre) and my illicit visits to listen to the latest reggae releases in Ital Riddims on the corner of Buchanan and Sauciehall streets. For anyone not aware of Lewis's, it was a department store on Argyle Street with a lavish food hall and a great selection of vinyl. I still vividly recall, amongst many others, buying Siouxsie And The Banshees Ju Ju album in there with my hard earned paper round money. The Virgin store was a great place to hang out and people watch as it was where all the punks would gather on a Saturday afternoon. In my hometown of East Kilbride we were very lucky to have the wonderful Impulse records, where along with all the latest records, you could also buy t-shirts, badges, patches and posters. By the mid 80's I was never out the place, what better way to spend an hour or two.

As the 80's progressed I tended to shop more up The West End in the likes of Echo and John Smiths on Byres Road, as well as Rat Records and Fopp in the city centre. Today Glasgow is home to Love Music, Mixed Up, Missing, LP Records, Oxfam Music on Byres Road and the ever excellent Monorail alongside HMV and Fopp and continues to live up to it's reputation as a city steeped in music and music lovers. Gone are the days of queuing outside Impulse for the new Jam album but the memories of spending my teenage Saturday afternoons in these special places remains a source of pleasure to this day.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Specials

I've never been a huge fan of live albums as it's hard to feel the energy and excitement of a gig coming through your speakers at home. This afternoon I bought The Specials Live At The Moonlight Club and have to make an exception in this case. Recorded two months before the release of their debut single Gangsters it captures what I imagine the band's early performances must have sounded like perfectly and transports you back in time to that intimate club in West Hampstead in 1979 before they became on of the hottest musical proprties in the country. I was too young to see them live in the late 70's/early 80's but was fortunate to see them a couple of times a few years back in Glasgow and witness first hand what a formidable live act they are.

I would have been about 10 years old when I first heard The Specials and instantly knew then what would be at the top of my Christmas list that year - Dear Santa, could you please bring me a copy of The Specials album. Thankfully my letter got through to him and for the next few months it was never off the turntable. To this day it would be in my Top 10 albums of all time and still gets played regularly. Looking back it wasn't just the music, it was the clothes and style that went along with it. I loved the look of the band and the image they had. Has there ever been a cooler loking band ? Every member of the band brought something to the table and pretty soon I had all the gear, heading out to under 18's discos with my Harrington jacket, skinny tie, pork pie hat, stapress trousers, Dr Martens and the obligatory crew cut. We were very fortunate in East Kilbride to have a great wee shop called Rig Out where you could buy all the 2 Tone and Mod gear and it soon became my first port of call on a Saturday morning. Fashion and music defined a lot of young people in those days and I was now a fully fledged 10 year old Rude Boy. 2 Tone's mix of ska, rocksteady and punk spoke to something in the young me that no other music at the time did. I was also listening to bands like Blondie, The Undertones and The Jam but there was something about the music of The Beat, Madness and particularly The Specials that connected with me and made me feel like I was part of something new and exciting. I still vividly recall going on seaside holidays with my parents in the late 70's/early 80's, to places like Scarborough and Morecambe, and being totally in awe of all the teenage Rude Boys and wanting to be about 6 years older so I could hang out with them.

Mostly made up of original material with some great covers thrown in The Specials debut album is that rarest of beasts, an album that manged to blend all the anger, disillusionment and bitterness of the day straight into their music. Produced by Elvis Costello who managed to capture their live sound perfectly it is an album I still enjoy as much now as I did back in '79. Perfectly encapsulating Britain in '79 just as we were about to enter eighteen years of Tory rule. Few, if any, other bands have captured a moment in time as well as The Specials did on their debut album. The follow up album, More Specials, is a very different sounding abum but is every bit as good as the debut. Less frenzied than their debut, but certainly more adventurous musically it includes  elements of jazz and soul, with more original songs and more collaborators in the likes of Belinda Carlise and Lee Thompson. The band certainly widened their palette and More Specials shows the direction the band could have been heading in if they had managed to stay together.

One of the best debut albums ever, one of the best live acts ever, one of the coolest looking groups ever, quite simply Terry Hall, Neville Staples, Lynval Golding, Jerry Dammers, Horace Panter, Roddy Radiation and John Bradbury collectively produced something very special indeed.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Based on a memoir by his wife Deborah and directed by Anton Corbijn, Control chronicles the far too short life of Ian Curtis, and the music he made with Joy Division. Featuring outstanding performances from Sam Riley as Curtis, and Samantha Morton as his ever patient, loyal wife Control works on two levels, both as a musical biopic and the story of a life.

The film mainly concentrates on the last seven years of Curtis’ life and never once seeks to sensationalize or romanticize him. In some ways Control is similar in style to the 1960’s Northern kitchen sink dramas with its central storyline of a moody teenager whose aspirations in life are put in check by the daily realities of married life. Of course the film is so much more than that with Curtis’ inner turmoil never far from view. His suicide, at only 23, has been well documented over the subsequent years and is never far from your mind as the film unfolds towards its inevitable conclusion. Corbijn sank large amounts of his own money into making Control and his passion and commitment to the subject shines through the entire movie. Shot in black and white the film captures the mood of industrial Manchester in the late 70’s and is essential viewing for fans of the timeless soundscapes of Joy Division.
Wonderful cinematography, terrific performances and the majestic music of Joy Division combine seamlessly to make one of best rock biopics you will see. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Throw a slice of Talking Heads, Devo, Prince and LCD Soundsystem into a musical blender and the end result wouldn't be far off the sound of new Glasgow based 4 piece BooHooHoo. Their debut EP, the wonderfully titled DebutHooHoo, saw the light of day at the tail end of last year and immediately sent out a message that this is a band to look out for in 2017. With its synth laden, infectious energy their debut EP drew its sound largely from 80's pop while at the same time sounding completely new and very much of its time. Although they wear their influences on their collective sleeves they somehow manage to sound uniquely like BooHooHoo, which is no mean feat. In this new era of May and Trump we need, more than ever, bands like BooHooHoo producing music that is danceable, interesting and leaves you with a big grin on your face. With some rave live reviews under their belt already, 2017 could well be a very good year indeed for one of the most exciting Scottish bands to emerge in quite some time.

Friday, December 16, 2016

And The Stars Look Very Different Today...

Despite all the great new music released this year 2016 will be remembered as the year we lost so many iconic artists. Here's hoping that 2017 does not follow a similiar trajectory. Like so many I grew up listening to the music of David Bowie, always eagerly awaiting what he would do next. Over the course of 29 studio albums he remained a musical pioneer with a breadth of vision that was unparalleled. My introduction to the music of Bowie was the Let's Dance album which, although not amongst his best work, certainly piqued my interest and started my journey into Bowie's back catalogue. From there I worked my way backwards to the classic 70's albums, with Station To Station becoming, and remaining, one of my all time favourite albums. Even now, almost a year after his death, it is hard to believe that we will not get to hear a new Bowie abum in the future. 2016 however saw the release of his best work for many years with Blackstar quite rightly sitting atop most of the year end best album lists and is a fitting end to the career of one of the most influential and enigmatic musicians these Isles have ever produced. I had the good fortune to see Bowie in 2003 on what would turn out to be his last tour. With a setlist including Rebel Rebel, Changes, Starman and Ziggy it was a night I will never forget and illustrated why the music and legacy of David Bowie will never die.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas Folks...

Merry Christmas folks, hope you all have a great day today and all get to spend time with your loved ones. Eat, drink and be merry x

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cool Eyes...

As far as I know I have never posted any Jazz on Spools before, primarily because I don't really listen to any. However I am a bit partial to a little slice of Horace Silver. I could probably fit everything I know about Jazz on the back of a postage stamp and apart from a couple of obligatory Miles Davis albums the only Jazz albums I own are by the pianist born Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silva. Both albums were bought for £1.00 in a Virgin closing down sale many years ago and don't come out of their sleeves too often but the other night I decided to give 6 Pieces Of Silver a wee spin and it wasn't too shabby at all. Recorded in 1956 for the Blue Note label I find it goes well with a nice botle of red. I read a couple of reviews earlier today that describe it as hard bop. I'm sure they are right, all I know is that after giving it another listen I might have to been too quick to dismiss Jazz music out of hand...then again maybe that's just the red wine talking...

Cool Eyes