It’s funny, how certain times make it impossible to listen to certain songs; and how other songs simply jump out at you. Jump out at you with a force that you hadn’t noticed before. There are songs that only fit break-ups, others that only fit celebration. Right now my head is all over the place; constant noise inside.
All last week I had none of my music to hand but all I wanted to listen to was loud guitars. This week back at home I’m after strings and mood pieces. So Paddy McAloon’s I Trawl The Megahertz (oh such a beautiful record, especially the title track – go and listen if you haven’t) has been on rotation. And the first album by The Guillemots found it’s way into the random play.
Sao Paolo has turned up in other blogs recently. I liked it, but it didn’t speak to me like it is now. Especially the cacophonous strings and piano which sound like the inside of my head. And the second half of the track “thrown across the water like a stone” just says everything to me right now.
I’m afraid I won’t be updating these pages too often for a little while. Unfortunately life has changed forever. My mum has been taken seriously ill and there are more important things to think about than my favourite b-side – however much I love doing that.
I’ll still be posting, but I suspect this will be more like a steam valve than anything else.
Take care of yourselves people. And go and give your mums a call for me.
Here’s the original versions of tunes that were played by some of the main players The Specials, Madness and The Beat!
Prince Buster – One Step Beyond
Dandy – A Message To You Rudie
Prince Buster – Madness
Toots And The Maytals – Monkey Man
Lloydie & The Lowbites – Birth Control
Prince Buster – Judge Dread (400 Years)
Prince Buster & The All Stars – Al Capone
Prince Buster – Enjoy Yourself
Prince Buster – Rough Rider
Prince Buster – Too Hot
Andy & Joey – You’re Wondering Now
The Way Out as far as I know only released two singles. Matthew Wiles was the singer/songwriter/guitarist. And as far as I recall his brother was on bass, and Buddy Ascott from The Chords was on drums for this single.
It’s a shame they never really released anything else, because they were a great little band, with some great hazy psychedelic new wave pop songs. They remind me now a little of The Icicle Works, with that Rickenbacker power-trio sound. And Matthew was a great guitarist too. Gotta love the screaming feedback over the end of This Working Way!
Any way, Ladies And Gentlemen, this is The Way Out!
The Direct Hits were Geno Buckmaster, guitar and vocals, Colin Swan bass and vocals, and Brian Grover on drums. They were a South London based trio, formerly known as The Exits (who had a single called Fashion Victim). The Direct Hits released a couple of singles and two albums Blow Up and House Of Secrets. And for a couple of years they were quite possibly my favourite band.
Blow Up came out in 1984. It is, like a lot of their material, very 1966 influenced. Groovy pop that leans into the psychedelic. Touchstones would be The Beatles Rubber Soul, The Who A Quick One and The Jam All Mod Cons. There are close harmonies and backwards guitars and in the 8 minute long Henry The Unhappy Inventor a mini rock opera. It’s all incredibly melodic and occasionally verges on the twee, but with a sense of melancholy that never fails to move me. Great music for sitting back and daydreaming. And, for all the obvious influences, The Direct Hits were very much their own band, with a very very individual sound. Live they were also one of the loudest bands I’ve ever seen!
In the summer of 1984 I almost didn’t listen to anything else but Blow Up. The second album House Of Secrets featured some great songs, but it lost the magic a little. And then that was that. I’m not sure what they did next. I know Colin Swan, who sang the majority of the songs, turned up a couple of years ago in a band called This Happy Breed. But apart from that nothing else. It almost makes the band perfect for me. No long slow decline into the ordinary; just a little burst of wonderful pop music that still stands up today.
You can find their music out there if you look hard enough. A compilation called The Magic Attic came out on CD in the 90s and looking through the iTunes store the other day I found Blow Up.
Somewhere it’s 1966 all year round, the scene is swinging and The Direct Hits are playing….
Well you could argue that it hadn’t really gone away. Punk itself harked back to the mid 60s in it’s sound; it was all very Who and Kinks in sound and attitude. But in the late seventies there was a return to the style of the Mod, albeit in a fairly superficial way.
A number of factors may have led to this: the 60s influences of the punks, the film Quadrophenia, based on The Who’s album about a Mod called Jimmy, and the success of The Jam, Paul Weller’s Mod styled trio. Whatever it was suddenly the place was awash with Fred Perrys and Parkas. And loads of bands.
I leave you on this beautiful Friday night with a selection of the biggest bands from the Mod Revival era.
Secret Affair – Time For Action
Secret Affair – My World
Secret Affair – Dance Master
The Chords – Maybe Tomorrow
The Chords – Somethings Missing
The Chords – I’ll Keep On Holding On
The Lambrettas – Poison Ivy
The Lambrettas – Page 3
The Lambrettas – Runaround
The Purple Hearts – Frustration
The Purple Hearts – Can’t Help Thinking About Me
The Purple Hearts – I’ve Been Away
David Bowie could be said to be responsible for a lot of the course of music through the 70s and 80s. Obviously there was the whole Glam thing. He along with Roxy Music and Marc Bolan were the figureheads of the whole thing. A few years later a lot of people on the punk scene talk about Bowie being the vital spark that kicked off their lives. And if you listen to Ziggy Stardust and Pin-Ups there’s a lot of similarities between the sound he was playing with and some of the punks. And then the Young Americans album pretty much defined the whole sound of the early 80s. Of course a lot of the people from the punk scene were the same people that created the New Romantics thing so there’s not a lot of surprises there.
What gets missed sometimes is Bowie’s influence on the Mod Revival. In 1973, partly as a way to close the chapter on the Ziggy Stardust period and partly I think to revitalise his creative juices, Bowie released an album of covers. The songs were all songs he loved during the mid 60s. The album opened up a lot of people’s eyes to that music, and led a lot of people to go digging into the whole 60s scene, and in particular the Mod scene.
A lot of the Glam musicians had been around for a few years by the time of their success. Bowie, Bolan and Ferry had a musical history that stretched back through the 60s. A very Mod history. It’s no wonder that Glam was so centred on image.
Here’s a couple of tunes from Bowie’s mid 60s output. One is a repost of a classic Mod pop tune and the other is a bonafide Mod anthem, albeit a sad and sorry tale of the darker side of coming to London to get in on the scene.
*Coincidentally there is a great post about Bowie and his 60s period over at Another Nickel In The Machine. A fine fine blog which everybody should visit! Check the blogroll for link!
Rolling in on a jagged riff and a very funky backbeat, Making Time was far closer to the spirit of punk ten years later than the Summer Of Love a year later. What was punk anyway, but something of a Mod revival? The Creation’s guitarist Eddie Phillips was an excellent guitarist, being the first rock player to use a violin bow, which he does on this to beautifully noisy effect.
“Our music is red with purple flashes” indeed!
The Times were formed by Ed Ball, ex Television Personality and future Creation Records exec. This Is London came out in 1983 and was one of the first Mod albums I bought. Part Jam and Kinks, part Monty Python, This Is London creates it’s own little world. A world where Groovy London stuck around and became twisted.
It’s quite twee, but edgy all at the same time. Ed Ball’s lyrics are sarcastic and witty, painting a picture of a dirty old town, where hope is losing the fight. There’s a lot of Ray Davies here, but it’s fed through John Lydon’s sneer.
This Is London was one of the first albums I listened to where the lyrics meant more to me than the music, perhaps in preparation for my later obsession with Costello…That’s not to say the music is weak. Each track takes something of a different style: This Is London and Goodbye Picadilly are vaguely New Wave in their attack, Big Painting and Goodnight Children Everywhere are more 60s, Stranger Than Fiction is reminiscent of The Who tune The Real Me and Chimes Of Big Ben is ska influenced pop.
“I’m walking in the streets of Battersea in search of happiness
But all I find is misery in this London borough mess
My very best friend deserted me for someone else today
She met a small time insurance broker
And they’ll be married by next May”