Sunday, 31 January 2010

Robyn Hitchcock

I have had a couple of Robyn Hitchcock albums on vinyl for many years now but cannot remember the last time I played them. I have heard the odd track on but to be honest kind of forgot about them. However, last week whist ferreting through the second hand record and CD shops in London, I came across a copy of Olé! Tarantula. Released in 2006, and featuring Peter Buck from REM, this is such a brilliant album and it's been pretty much on constant play since I bought it. Pretty much every track on the album is a winner, great lyrics and catchy tunes. Current favourites are Adventure Rocket Ship, one of the album's rockier tracks, Belltown Ramble and Belltown Ramble.

I'll definitely be digging out my vinyl copies of Groovy Decoy and I Often Dream of Trains tonight, and of course will keep my eyes open for more of his CD's.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Playlist - Hippy Dream (Before the Dream Faded)

Having thoroughly enjoyed documenting the reasons for choosing the 50 or so tracks I selected for my John Peel inspired playlist, I have decided to attempt to do the same for my playlist called Hippy Dream (Before the Dream Faded).

This will however be a very different writing experience to the Peel playlist as that one was written from my recollections of hearing the songs pretty much as they were released. Despite feeling very old today, I was not old enough to have heard the songs fom my Hippy Dream playlist when they were released, and only grew to know and love them later on ... but there's still a story to be told.

So, as before, these are not in any particular order, just as I thought of them (or in some cases heard them). Also, it's possible that some of 'facts' are a little wayward.

The Youngbloods - Get Together (1967)

This is one of the tracks that I heard for the first time on lastfm. Really beautiful track, originally released in 1967 and then again in 1969, to a much greater response, following its use in a TV public service announcement.

Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth (1966)

I had of couse actually heard this song at some stage in my earlier life, but it wasn't until I started exploring Neil Young's musical family tree in the late 80's that I realised he was in the band that recorded it. Not having been a child of the 60's revolution I can't say how well this song sums up that era, but for someone who's looking back at those times it seems to fit the bill. A truly great track, demonstrating Stephen Stills' song writing at its best.

Crosby, Stills and Nash - Carried Away (1977)

This track comes from their brilliant, 1977 album, CSN. I must admit it took me a while to really get into this one, having been totally blown away by their 1969 debut, but it improves with every listen. Brilliant track dominated by their wonderful harmonies and piano.

James Taylor - Carolina in My Mind (1970)

I heard this track for the first time whilst at college back in the early/mid 80's. A beautiful song that still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Hearing this track again makes me think that I really ought to get hold of some more James Taylor material.

Al Stewart - Life In Dark Water (1978)

This is another track I heard for the first time on lastfm. I remember when I first heard it I thought it was Roy Harper. On researching its year of release I was quite surprised to find it was from the late 1970's. Sounds much earlier to me, and the hippy dream had well and truly faded by then. Great vocals, though if you ask me are a bit spoiled by the overblown guitar solo half-way through.

Neil Young - Old Man (1972)

The first time I knowingly heard Neil Young was back in 1979 when John Peel played a couple of tracks from his Rust Never Sleeps album. This made an immediate impression, but as a child of the punk era it was not until later that I started working my way through his extensive back catalogue. Released as a track on his classic 1972 album, Harvest, this track, along with pretty much every track on that album, is a classic. A handful of people at school had the album but once I got to college I realised that Harvest was one of the records most students owned ... I do wonder however when my kids go off to college what their 'must have' student albums will be, or will such a concept even exist?

David Crosby/Graham Nash - Bittersweet (1975)

Released on their 1975 album, Wind on the Water, demonstrating the beautiful harmonies achievable through the human voice. What I particularly like about this track is the piano introduction followed by the gradual overlay of their beautiful vocal harmonies, building up into what I suspect today would be called a "massive" song ... probably suffixed by the word "init".

Fred Neil - Everybody's Talkin' (1969)

The first time I heard Fred Neil I was convinced it was Tim Buckley. Little did I know that it was probably more a case of Tim Buckley sounding like Fred Neil, and in fact Buckley covered Fred Neil's Dolphins on his 1973 album, Sefronia, but more about Tim Buckley later. Neil started off much more in the blues/folk era of New York's Greenwich Village, rather that the US west coast hippy scene, but somehow this track seems to perfectly fit both.

Tim Hardin - How Can We Hang On To a Dream (1966)

I had never heard of Tim Hardin until I saw the film Factory Girl which featured the song Red Balloon. Inspired by this I satrted to explore his back catalogue and uncovered some great tracks, of which this is one. Beautiful arrangement of piano and violin, complimented by Tim's slightly husky vocal track. I've recently picked up a truly brilliant Tim Hardin double CD compilation called Hang On To A Dream: The Verve Recordings featuring no less than 47 tracks.

John Martyn - Over the Hill (1973)

A great track taken from his 1973 album, Solid Air. I was introduced to John Martyn, and in particular this album, at some time in the mid to late 1980's between school and college. The whole album is a masterpiece and it was pretty difficult to choose a track, but this is probably my favourite. I saw John play a concert several years ago but I don't remember it being as good as I'd hoped. Hearing this album again makes me want to look over his back catalogue in more detail.

Nick Drake - Cello Song (1969)

I can't quite remember when I first heard Nick Drake, but pretty sure it was some time between leaving school and going away to college. I didn't however have my own copies of any of his material until the 90's, starting off with the Way To Blue compilation, closely follwed by his three studio albums. This track is taken from Nick Drake's 1969 album, Five Leaves Left, featuring his distinctive whispy, dreamy voice. A perfect track from a perfect album.

Fred Neil - The Dolphins (1969)

I first became acquainted with this magnificient song through the Tim Buckley cover vesrion on his 1973 album, Sefronia, and it wasn't until a while later I heard Fred Neil's original version. The beautiful string work, subtle percussion and deep vocal track really make this a stand-out song. It's a hard call to make but if I had to make a call between this version and Tim Buckley's cover version, then I would say the original wins, but only just.

The Pentangle - Hunting Song (1969)

I had heard the name Pentangle before but it wasn't until I'd started exploring on lastfm that I'd actually heard any of their tracks. I guess this probably fits more into the folk genre rather than into what I've called the hippy dream, but it seems to fit well in the playlist. This track is taken from their 1969 album, Basket of Light.

John Martyn - May You Never (1973)

Another brilliant track from John Martyn's 1973 classic, Solid Air. I'm not convinced the version that comes up on lastfm is the original album version though. It sounds and feels like a much later version, but is still a great track nonetheless.

Richard and Linda Thompson - When I Get to the Border (1974)

Taken from their 1974 album, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, this is another track which probably fits equally into the folk genre as it does into the hippy dream one. The whole album is a masterpiece from beginning to end, and this particular track perfectly showcases their oustanding, combined vocal talent.

Tim Buckley - It Happens Every Time (1966)

This is my favourite track from Tim Buckley's 1966 debut album. This album however was almost the last one of his that I tracked down; the last one being Blue Afternoon which I still do not own in any form.

Pearls Before Swine - Ballard to an Amber Lady (1967)

This group are new to me in that I'd not even heard their name before I found them on lastfm. To be honest though I have found their material a bit hit-or-miss, but this track is really good, featuring some mean guitar picking overlaid with a folky vocal track ... and lots of humming. This track comes from their 1967 album, One Nation Underground. On hearing the track again whilst documenting this playlist I think perhaps they are worthy of a bit deeper investigation.

Richie Havens - Here Comes the Sun (1971)

The Beatles original was pretty darned perfect in every way, but this cover version is just as good, whilst at the same time being completely different. Hard to explain but if you don't believe me just listen to the track.

The Pentangle - A Woman Like You (1968)

Taken from their 1968 double album, Sweet Child, this was another track that when I first heard it I thought it might have been Roy Harper. I really however know so little about Pentangle, only having recently heard the odd track here and there.

Grace Slick and the Great Society - Somebody to Love (1966)

Timeless classic. This is an unusual version though, and has a more raw and edgier feel to it than the versions with Jefferson Airplane.

The Doors - The End (1967)

Taken from thir 1967 debut album, I probably could have chosen many other Doors' tracks but for me this one captures the mood perfectly. Its use in Apocalypse Now is a hauntingly perfect fit.

Kaleidoscope - Flight From Ashiya (1967)

I'd heard the name of this band before but had not knowingly heard anything by them until recently. Unlike most of the songs above this one in the list, this has a distinctive and unmistakeable English sound to it. It's also drawn to my attention that perhaps too much of this playlist has been focussed on the US west coast sound, so I might need to make some adjustments.

Buffalo Springfield - Mr Soul (1967)

A great track by none other than Neil Young from his very early days with Buffalo Springfield. It always used to make me think it was Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones until the vocals kick in.

Crosby, Stills & Nash - Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (1969)

I think this was the one of the first Crosby, Stills & Nash songs I ever heard. I picked it up on the 1974 compilation album, So Far, and this track alone was probably the main reason why I started exploring more of this era. The music, the vocal harmonies, the atmosphere, in fact everything about this song is just perfect.

The Lovin' Spoonful - Summer in the City (1966)

No compilation of this type would be complete with this song.

James Taylor - Fire and Rain (1970)

Another classic James Taylor track. I'm very sure it's been covered to death, and appeared in numerous films, but I remember it working particularly well in the 1988 film, Running on Empty, starring River Phoenix playing the son of a couple who blew up a Napalm lab in protest against the war.

The Byrds - Mr Tambourine Man (1965)

Maybe a contravesial choice but personally I prefer the Byrds version to the Bob Dylan version. Bob Dylan is a bit like champagne for me ... everyone raves about it, and sometimes I like it but other times it doesn't do anything for me.

The Guess Who - American Woman (1970)

The first time I heard this track was as part of the soundtrack to the excellent film American Beauty. To be honest I know very little else about this band so probably need to do a bit more investigation.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - Teach Your Children (1970)

Another great Crosby, Stills and Nash track, this time from the 2nd album, Deja Vu, which brought Neil Young in to make up a formidable foursome. I heard this first on the excellent So Far compilation, and I actually feel it sits better with the tracks on that album than it does with those on Deja Vu.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - Long Time Gone (1970)

This is a superb David Crosby penned track, and also appropriately the title of his autobiography. I think I heard this on a TV documentary with some festival footage quite a while before I found an interest in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Dave Mason - Sad and Deep As You (1970)

Great track from the Traffic guitarist, Dave Mason. This track is from his debut solo album, Alone Together, from 1970. The whole album is one of my favourite of the era and for me this is one of the stand-out tracks. Quite a mellow album compared to some of the material he produced with Traffic but a gem nevertheless.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - Woodstock (1970)

I can only imagine what it must have been like being a child in the summer of love, but for me this song captures what I believe it would have been like.

The Incredible String Band - First Girl I Loved (1971)

I've heard a few tracks by these guys but so far this is the only one that made an instant impression. Again, probably a band to whom I've not found the time to give sufficient creedence to.

Neil Young - After the Goldrush (1970)

I think I heard a cover of this before I heard Neil's original version, with a female vocalist I recall. Discogs suggests that it was Prelude. The line "Well I dreamed I saw the silver spaceships flying" makes me think of The Chrysallids by John Wyndham, where one of the central characters has a similar dream.

Love - The Red Telephone (1967)

Love's Forever Changes is such a strong album that I could probably have chosen pretty much any of the tracks to include here, but this is one of my favourites. I'm sure there's someone out there who can identify another group who sound like Love, but for me they provided a very unique sound.

Neil Young - The Needle and the Damage Done (1972)

Harvest was the first Neil Young album I heard in its entirity, after having been introduced to his later material, Rust Never Sleeps, on the John Peel radio show in the late 70's. Again it's another one of those albums where almost all of the tracks could end up here.

Love - A House is Not a Motel (1967)

Ok, so I couldn't resist adding another song from Love's classic Forever Changes album from 1967.

The United States of America - Garden of Earthly Delights (1968)

Another band about whom I know very little and have only been introduced to through Seems like they only made one album, released in 1968.

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - Here's Where You Belong (1967)

Yet another band whose music was introduced to me recently by This track is from their 1967 album, Part One.

I have quite finished compiling this list as I'm struggling to find the time. Hopefully I'll complete it over the next couple of weeks.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Hippy Dream (Before the Dream Faded)

Like most people interested in music, I have more than one musical genre of interest at any one time. Despite my recent posts being centred around Japrock and post-punk, I also have a great love for the sound of the late 60's. This started with 'discovering' Neil Young and branching out in all directions from there. I now have a playlist on lastfm, which I've called Hippy Dream (Before the Dream Faded). It's by no means finished and I keep adding to it every time I come across a worthy track. If I can find the time then I'll write a blog entry detailing my reasons for choosing the various tracks. However, this will be very different to the reasons for choosing the tracks on my 'peel inspired' playlist as I was but a mere toddler when most of these tracks were released, so I have only grown to love them retrospectively.

What you'll find on the playlist is stuff like Neil Young, David Crosby, Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, Nick Drake, Dave Mason, the Byrds, and plenty more. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I've enjoyed compiling it.

Comments and recommendations always appreciated.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

More Japrock

Despite the potential for my order to have been delayed due to the UK's adverse weather conditions, I am now the proud and excited owner of Julian Cope's excellent Japrocksampler book. It's a great book to use as a reference and recommendation for Japanese rock and also a good read in general and talks about Japanese history and culture, and their impact on the music scene.

Tracking down some of the material mentioned, even online, is proving tricker. I have found some Flower Travellin' Band, Magic Power Mako and Les Rallizes Denudes on but often these are from different/later albums than those in the Japrocksampler Top 50.

One particular album that has appeared frequently on, and that has grabbed my attention, is Satori by the Flower Travellin' Band, which features at joint top place in the aforementioned top 50. The tracks on this are just brilliant and have been getting regular airplay this week.

Other more recent Japanese artists such as Kawabata Makoto of Acid Mothers Temple also get a mention in the book and seem to have a lot of material on lastfm. To be quite honest I'm a bit undecided about this lot. Some of the tracks I've heard are great, but others less so. I'm sure that's no different than most bands and perhaps I set my expectations too high. The good thing about Acid Mothers Temple however is that I've definitely seen their CDs in the various record shops I frequent in London.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

A playlist from my formative years

Having had several playlists on lastfm for a while now, I've decided to blog about my first one, which I imaginatively called "My formative years ... mainly stuff I heard on John Peel plus some other gems, from where I have no idea" and then it got truncated. Anyway, if you click on the preposterously long link above, you'll find the actual playlist.

Right then, down to business. These are not in any particular order other than those which came to front of mind first ...

Magazine - A Song From Under the Floorboards (1980)

A brilliant song from a band who I must admit I struggled with a bit at times. The Correct Use of Soap from which this track come has some stand-out tracks, of which this is the strongest, but also some other ones which quite frankly annoy me. Their first 2 albums, Real Life and Secondhand Daylight, have grown on me over time but I seem to enjoy them more when I hear the odd track in isolation.

Wire - Outdoor Miner (1978)

This was probably the first Wire song I knowingly heard, and certainly the most accessible. I remember having the Harvest label 7" version on white vinyl in the late 70's, which made it even more likeable, in a sad sort of way. Whilst this track made it into my list, pretty much all the tracks from their first 3 albums, Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154, are brilliant, with Pink Flag being one of my top 10 albums of all time. The later albums had their highs but always felt a bit hit-or-miss, although The Read and Burn releases marked a return to form.

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)

This is probably the most obvious Joy Division track, and not necessarily their best, but the reason I've included it here is that it's their first song that made me sit up and take notice. Of course it wasn't long before I worked my way through their back catalogue of what in those days was just the 2 albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer, with Still joining the ranks a short while later. I still have the first 2 albums on vinyl, meticulously preserved. I absolutely refuse to discuss the Paul Young cover version.

Killing Joke - Turn To Red (1979)

Killing Joke were the 2nd band I ever saw, after the Revillos, some time around the time of the release of their second album, What's This For. This track was not one of the first I heard or bought, but is undoubtedly one of my favourites. I picked it up as the limited edition 10" version, with numerous inserts, a while after getting hold of their first album and the Wardance 7", the latter alas without the conscription insert. What I particularly like about Turn To Red is the punk-dub style which was completely new to me at the time. With Alex Paterson once being a Killing Joke roadie, it's no surprise that this track appears on various Orb compilations and mixes.

Magazine - The Light Pours Out of Me (1978)

Another great track by Magazine, but bizarrely I only heard it on the John Peel show when someone sent in a request to play the Bauhaus version and he decided to play the original instead.

A Certain Ratio - Shack Up (1980)

I came across A Certain Ratio by accident while ferreting through the bargain bin in the old HMV shop in Oxford Street. I picked up this on 12" for the princely sum of just 22p, and then only because it was on the Factory label. It took a few plays for it to get to me, but I soon had to track down their other releases. Their early singles, All Night Party, Shack Up and Do the Du, along with the first vinyl album, To Each, are all excellent and worth tracking down. Their cassette only release, Graveyard and Ballroom, has been reissued on CD with some bonus tracks, and there are a couple of early live recordings out there too.

New Order - Ceremony (1981)

Whilst New Order are probably best known for their later material, this one is my favourite. It still has the Joy Division sound, and I think was written when they were still a band ... I seem to recally a live Joy Division version on Still. I remember the bronzed 7" sleeve being particularly susceptible to collecting finger prints from mass handling. I also remember hearing a live new order concert where Sumner told the audience something like, "this is my Cermony guitar", and then later being at a New Order concert when one of the audience shouted the same when he changed guitars.

The Associates - Party Fears Two (1982)

I can't claim to really being an Associates fan, and I'm not sure I've even heard that many of their tracks, but for me this was a stand-out song. Perhaps they are worthy of further investigation on lastfm.

The Human League - Empire State Human (1979)

I'm not sure if this was their first single, but if not it was one of the first, and quite frankly a million miles away from Dare. I think this was recorded when the 2 guys who left to become Heaven 17 were still in the band. I kept an interest in the Human League for a short while after this release, with Reproduction probably being the last record of theirs I liked. The later, more pop-driven material left me a bit cold, although I do remmeber seeing a particularly angry looking Phil Oakey shouting the lyrics to Lebanon on some music TV show or other.

Simple Minds - Chelsea Girl (1979)

The only track of theirs, past and present, that I really liked. I had a friend who was heavily into their early material but it never did much for me.

Tuxedomoon - What Use (1980)

This one is a bit of a cheat I'm afraid. The reason being that I did not discover Tuxedomoon until fairly recently, but I felt justified including them here on the grounds that, had I heard this at the time I would have liked it ... hope that makes sense. I had of couse heard the name of the band but for some reason their music just bypassed me.

John Foxx - Underpass (1980)

John Foxx is one of those artists who I wish I'd given more time to, but he kind of got lost amongst all the other music I had to listen to. I have recently acquired a couple of his back catalogue, The Golden Section and In Mysterious Ways, so am catching up, but this early track is a masterpiece and every bit as good as Gary Numan and Tubeway Army. What I've yet to do however is get hold of any pre-Midge Ure Ultravox! albums which feature John Foxx.

Killing Joke - Nervous System (1979)

Taken from the Turn To Red 10" from way back in 1979, this is another Killing Joke classic. A brilliant blend of punk and dub, with stunning results.

Joy Division - Shadowplay (1980)

This is a brilliant track from Unknown Pleasures and possibly my favourite on that album. It still contains some of the raw quality from their Warsaw days, whilst at the same time demonstrating the more subtle elements of their later material.

Wire - I Am The Fly (1978)

Another classic, short and sharp, punk-pop song from the brilliant Wire, appearing both as a 7" single and also as an album track on their 1978 classic Chairs Missing. Not sure these guys put a foot wrong between 1977 and 1979.

New Order - Everything's Gone Green (1981)

This was the first New Order record which marked the departure from their Joy Division roots towards the more electronic sound associated with New Order today. It was released as a 7" single with a sleeve design issued in multiple colours. I remember having 4 or 5 of these at the time but alas these are now long gone. It also appeared on a 12" on Factory Benelux, with a couple of additional tracks Mesh and Cries and Whispers which were pretty darned fine too.

A Certain Ratio - The Fox (1981)

Appearing on the Do the Du 12", the To Each album and Graveyard and Ballroom cassette, this is one of their stand-out tracks which defined their early sound, merging post-punk with funk, which still sounds very fresh and relevant to me today.

The Psychedelic Furs - Sister Europe (1980)

Prior to their brilliant, but more pop sounding 2nd album, Talk Talk Talk, the Psychedelic Furs released a couple of brilliant singles and debut album. Sister Europe was the second single I believe and I remember being completely blown away when I first heard it on the radio.

The Psychedelic Furs - Mr Jones (1980)

Although this appeared on their second album, Talk Talk Talk, it was released as a single the year before in 1980. I can see why perhaps it didn't find a place on their first album, but to some extent I'm not sure it fits well on the 2nd one either. Maybe it should have been left as one of those obscure 'between album' singles. Regardless of where it should/shouldn't fit, it's a great track, ful of post-punk punch.

Bill Nelson's Red Noise - Furniture Music (1979)

This was a great single, on red vinyl, from Bill Nelson after his time with the band after Be Bop Deluxe. Without the internet in those days to use for research, I never realised at the time that his roots were from the early 70's, but this track along with Revolt Into Style slotted perfectly into the post-punk sound. When I can spare a few minutes I think I'll have to search out some Be Bop Deluxe to see what I missed.

B-Movie - Remembrance Day (1980)

Originally released as one of the tracks on the b-side of their Nowhere Girl 12", this was eventually released as a single in its own right, probably more than once. I loved this track from the first time I heard it on the John Peel radio show, and was delighted when it appeared in his festive 50 of that year.

Theatre of Hate - Legion (1980)

This track was released as a double A-side single, remember those kids, along with Original Sin. I have to confess to only hearing this, again as a John Peel festive 50 track, some time after hearing Rebel Without a Brain, but it's probably by favourite Theatre of Hate track. It has such a raw energy and unique sound, and has a true to form short, sharp punk sound.

The Rezillos - Destination Venus (1978)

As the Revillos, the second coming of the Rezillos, were the first band I ever saw, I have to confess a rather large soft spot for them. I'm pretty sure this was not on the original version of the Can't Stand the Rezillos album and was only ever originally released as a 7" single. It has subsequently appeared on the Mission Accomplished album and the CD version of Can't Stand the Rezillos. This is just such a great track and one of the last ones they released, certainly taking them out on a high. I've just seen the picture sleeve for this on discogs for the first time. I did have the 7" but alas mine only came in a plain sleeve, which for a vinyl obsessed spotty youth was almost catastrophic at the time.

The Cure - Jumping Someone Else's Train (1979)

I'd heard, but missed out on buying their previous 2 singles, Killing an Arab and Boys Don't Cry so this was the first Cure record I could really claim to be my own. Released on the Fiction label, it soon became pretty rare, particularly once the Cure had established themselves in the mainstream. During a moment of madness (and slight financial crisis) I regrettably sold it along with many of my other late 70's vinyl. Fortunately this sort of material is easy to get hold of on CD or download these days, but it's not the same as handling a great looking 7" or album sleeve.

Heaven 17 - We Don't Need This Fascist Groove Thang (1981)

This was the first single by Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware following their departure from The Human League. I can't remember where I heard this first, it may have been John Peel or one of the other radio one DJ's at the time, but I seem to remember John Peel also playing a version of this by the Fire Engines and commenting that every band should cover the song in their session. Anyway, a truly great song with a great message.

Steven Brown - Out of My Body (1991)

This is probably the most recent track in my list, and again it's a cheat as I only heard it recently, but as Steven is from Tuxedomoon, and given what I said about them earlier in the post, I felt happy with including it here. I have this track on a compilation CD by Steven called Decade but it originally appeared on his Half-Out album from 1991. This is a really great song from an outstanding musician so if you're not already familiar with his work then please check it out.

XTC - Are You Receiving Me? (1978)

XTC must be one of the most enduring post-punk or new wave bands from the late 70's. Their ability to produce the perfect pop song is, in my opinion, unsurpassed, and this is but one fine example. This was recorded at around the time of their Go 2 album but only appeared on it as a bonus track on the CD version.

Bill Nelson's Red Noise - Revolt Into Style (1979)

This is another brilliant track from Bill Nelson. Released in 1979 as a blue vinyl 7" on the Harvest label, it remains a firm household favourite to this day.

Wire - Mannequin (1977)

This is Wire's first single, relased on the Harvest label in 1977. An absolute classic which, along with their first album, Pink Flag, no self-respecting music lover should be without.

The Police - Born in the 50's (1978)

I imagine there are several people wondering why I have a couple of tracks by the Police in this list, but this one from their first album, Outlandos D'Amour, is brilliant.

The Cure - Primary (1981)

This is one of my favourite tracks by the Cure. The scratchy and swirly guitar intro gets me going every time I hear it. It came out as a single and is also featured on the third album, Faith, for which the cassette version came packaged up with a bonus film soundtrack called Carnage Visors.

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Helter Skelter (1978)

One day I will create a playlist of all the great covers of Beatles tracks. This one would definitely feature in the top 5, along with the Banshees' version of Dear Prudence, Here Comes the Sun by Richie Havens, Ticket to Ride by Husker Du and Tomorrow Never Knows by The Mission. The track appeared on Siouxsie's first album, The Scream, from 1978.

The Skids - Charade (1979)

I'm not sure if I ever knew or whether I'd forgotten, but this was produced by Bill Nelson. I may be imagining this, though I suspect not, but I have a vague memory of a thankfully long forgotten radio one DJ saying that this record was good until the singing started. So I'll dedicate this one to you. I still like the Skids but ...

Patti Smith - Frederick (1979)

Released as a single and an album track on Wave from 1979, this song is pure and raw late 70's New York sound. Along with Dancing Barefoot this is probably my favourite Patti Smith track.

Steven Brown - The Thrill (1991)

It wasn't until I started documenting my playlist that I realised I'd included a few 'cheats' in my list. I think I must have created it after discovering Tuxedomoon and the solo efforts of their various members, Steven Brown and Blaine L. Reininger. I probably should replace it with something that I did grow up with, The Fall seem conspicuous by their absence, but maybe I'll leave that for another day. Cheat or otherwise, it's still a great track and is another from Steven's 1991 release, Half-Out.

The Sisters of Mercy - Temple of Love (1983)

Although shunned by many, I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the odd smattering of Goth. It was a tough decision to choose between this one and Alice, as both were brilliant. Their first 2 albums, First and Last and Always and Floodland remain firm favourites, reminding me more of my university years than school. I never got to see them but did see The Mission and The Cult a couple of times.

Wire - Dot Dash (1978)

Yet another perfect punk-pop song by Wire. I really cannot praise their 1977 - 1979 period highly enough. Not sure this track ever made it on to an album other than as a bonus track on a CD re-release, but a gem nevertheless.

The Rezillos - (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (1977)

One of the band's earliest singles from 1977. Just a great song, and a brilliant vocal combination between Eugene Reynolds and Fay Fife.

Martha and the Muffins - Echo Beach (1980)

This is one of those songs that had the potential to get played to death and become annoying, but somehow it didn't and remains a classic to this day. I thought I heard it on the radio recently but was sadly disappointed when after the distinctive introduction it went into some other song. Full marks to a modern artist/producer for recognising the brilliance of the track but needless to say I prefer the original.

Leyton Buzzards - Through With You (1979)

This was a great, sneeringly good punk song, on the b-side of Saturday Night Beneath the Plastic Palm Trees. Not sure I'm ever going to be prepared to forgive 2 of the band from forming Modern Romance though.

The Police - Next to You (1978)

Another great track from their debut album, Outlandos D'Amour.

Joy Division - Transmission (1979)

Another classic Joy Division track. I missed this at the time but soon tracked it down after hearing Love Will Tear Us Apart. I saw the video later on which was just mesmerising.

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Love In a Void (1979)

For some reason I always thought this track was on their 1978 album, The Scream, but it would seem not. Anyway, a blisteringly great song showcasing Siouxsie and band at their very best.

The Skids - Working For The Yankee Dollar (1979)

Another great single from the Skids. I had this one as a limited edition 7" doublepack which contained a cover of All The Young Dudes by David Bowie.

Patti Smith - Dancing Barefoot (1979)

Another great single from Patti Smith's 1979 Wave album. The Mission used to do a fairly decent cover version of this at live shows.

Killing Joke - Wardance (1980)

A brilliant single by Killing Joke at their very best. The b-side, Pssyche, was pretty good as well. I had this on 7" but never the version with the call-up papers.

The Psychedelic Furs - We Love You (1979)

Brilliant debut single featuring the classic lyric "I'm in love with Anthea and Donna and all that sh*t that goes uptown top ranking". Came in several different colour sleeves, I think I had the green one.

Joy Division - Isolation (1980)

I could have chosen any of the tracks from Joy Division's 2nd album, Closer, but the reason I've chosen Isolation is that it was one of the first I heard, and one of the first to make an impact. I grew to like the rest of the album soon after but this one stuck with me.

Warsaw - They Walked In Line (1978?)

I'm still not sure to this day whether the Warsaw album was ever officially released. I had a bootleg version many years ago, with a blown up version of the Unknown Pleasures cover accompanied by bonus 7". I remember the day the postman delivered it, it was my first bootleg and I was so excited. The whole album was brilliant and quite amazing it lay unreleased for so long. I'm sure it must have been released officially by now?

So there you have it, a brief explanation of the tracks which I grew up with. No doubt there are many bands that I should feature who also had an impact on me. Names like The Fall, The Damned, The Jam, The Clash, etc., spring immediately to mind. Also there's no mention of bands like The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, etc., but they kind of fall into a different category for me. Perhaps I'll get round to extending this playlist to include the Fall, etc., and create another playlist for the Smiths, etc., one day.

I'm still buying (very occasionally these days) and selling off some of my old vinyl records and CDs, so if you're interested have a look at my records and CDs for sale.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Japrock vs. Krautrock

I first developed a taste for Krautrock from a friend who suggested a few bands I might like to check out, and also lent me his copy of Julian Cope's great book Krautrocksampler from a good few years ago now. I tracked down lots of Can material quite quickly, including some of the solo and collaborative efforts of its various members. I also managed to find copies of a couple of Neu, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Cosmic Jokers, Faust and Ash Ra Tempel releases. Can, Faust and Neu were probably my favourite of that batch. I didn't discover the likes of Amon Düül, Harmonia and Popol Vuh until much later. Harmonia were a really great find and I was quite surprised to not have discovered them earlier through my following of Brian Eno.

I have made extensive use of over the past few months to discover more Krautrock but today something I was listening to or reading brought back a distant memory of a book I'd seen called Japrocksampler, again by Julian Cope. I remember looking a t it briefly in the shop at the time but then promptly forgot about it. So, it was with great interest this week that I have been exploring Japrock on I'm definitely a novice in this area but have unearthed some interesting bands and songs already.

The Flower Travellin' Band were a bit of a surprise. Admitted I've only heard a couple of tracks so far but was surprised that they were a bit blues/rock oriented. I had some sort of impression that the genre would be really quite weird and experimental, so whilst this was not unpleasant, it was slightly unexpected.

My expectations however were soon set right when I heard some material by Magical Power Mako. The tracks which have come up so far are from the more recent albums, but are still challenging in their own way.

Probably the most bizarre discovery however was Les Rallizes Dénudes. Not only is their music interesting, but the band history is also somewhat out of the ordinary in that one of the band's members took part in a plane hijack with the Red Army Faction, and ended up taking asylum in North Korea. That is so much more rock'n'roll than throwing the TV set out of your hotel room window.

Having been impressed with what I've heard so far from this genre, Japrocksampler is definitely a book I'll be tracking down, and the Japrocksampler web site is a great resource too. As with some of my other less mainstream tastes such as Nurse With Wound, Throbbing Gristle, etc., it's not the sort of music that the rest of the family appreciate too much, so listening becomes somewhat more of a private pleasure.

I'll probably write more blog entries on this fascinating subject once I know more about it and have discovered which aspects I like more/less than others.

I don't own any Japrock records or CDs that I've grown out of and/or stored electronically yet, but I do have some Krautrock CDs and records for sale for anyone interested.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Ensemble Modern plays Frank Zappa

First of all, a very Happy New Year to all my readers. My first blog entry of the year is something I discovered by accident earlier today. I typed Frank Zappa into and whilst it's been playing for over an hour I've yet to hear any songs by the great man. I did however come across a group called Ensemble Modern who, amongst others, cover Frank Zappa songs. Apparently Zappa has said something along the lines of them being the only people to play his music how it was meant to be played.

Still no Zappa being played, but it has surfaced a couple of excellent tracks by Soft Machine from their excellent album Third that I'd forgotten about, and also a Hatfield and the North track from their Rotter's Club album. So, despite being sorely disappointed at not hearing any Zappa yet, I have been taking a pleasant trip down memory (or should that be Canterbury) lane.

And so, without further ado, and in no particular order, my top 5 'Canterbury' albums would be:
  • Soft Machine - Third
  • Matching Mole - Little Red Record
  • Hatfield and the North - Rotter's Club
  • Camel - Mirage
  • Caravan - In the Land of Pink and Grey

I'm very sure that as soon as I post this blog entry that I'll suddenly remember many other Canterbury greats, but these 5 are all classics in my book, and a great starting point for anyone not familiar with that scene.

Anyone interested can check out my Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, Caravan ... CDs for sale