Thursday, March 29, 2007

How To Surf Successfully On The Big New Wave

Moody, miserable and sneering like Billy Idol, the front man of The Boomtown Rats was the vastly opinionated and occasionally angry Bob Geldof. After forming his band in a small, sleepy town near Dublin, Ireland in 1975, he led the way for the era of meaningless new wave. With Johnny Fingers on keyboards, Simon Crowe on drums, Pete Briquette on bass, they were joined by Gerry Cott and Garry Roberts on guitars, they originally called themselves The Nightlife Thugs. Thankfully after reading Woody Guthrie’s ‘Bound For Glory,’ they changed their title to the name of a gang mentioned in the story.

The highlight of their relatively short career was with the release of this 1979 album, ‘The Fine Art Of Surfing,’ heralding the number one single, ‘I Don’t Like Mondays.’ The late seventies saw the fusion of punk and something resembling senseless pop. Guitars were juddery and lacking in talent and the songs were fast and jumping with little tune and virtually no bass. The lyrics were meaningless and superficial but yet catchy enough for this strange genre to take off, albeit, rather briefly. New wave was a loosely based term for anyone who had a hit after the mid seventies other than disco or glam rock. Guys in suits and mop hair cuts, the image visualised new wave in television characters such as Mickey Pearce in Only Fools And Horse. The branch off new wave eventually was Ska which, fundamentally was the fusion of beat and reggae. It was new wave that was the fore runner of Ska but using Mersey beat’s shallow themes and American pop rock. Bands rarely survived from this genre to thrive into anything else that followed. The best example of success was probably with bands like U2. Vocals were strained and tuneless and most leads sounded as thought they were suffering from a cold. Short lived, it actually was quickly dated and many bands faded out just as quickly. It was Ska that seemed more survivable.

Geldof took the right course of action. Perhaps realising immediately that the band were going to be short lived, he extended his morose identity into a political stance thus making him the ultimate missionary for all of humanity when the music failed. This album marked the end of their career although other albums followed in moderate fashion, they featured more middle of the road pop rock. The band split in 1984 and Geldof slipped quietly into the shadows of the music industry and into his obsessive involvement of saving the world from poverty.

Since moving the entire band to a rented council house in Chessington, Surrey in 1976, they released four mediocre singles before having their fist number one hit with ‘Rat Trap’ in October 1978. It was to be the very first introduction the listening public had to new wave. It was their only other number one. Geldof, already an ex MNE journalist, had enough to say about the state of the music industry, thus fuelling his ability to write hardy, strong minded songs. ‘I Don’t Like Mondays,’ was based on the true story of a U.S girl, Brenda Spencer who went on a shooting spree killing two people and wounding another nine; a sort of Hungerford style rampage years before the British maniac. The day she embarked on her ‘day out’ was a Monday and in her pathetic defence, she gave the reason behind her mindless killing as ‘I don’t like Mondays..’

Written by Geldof, the first track of the album is ‘Someone’s Looking At You,’ and the gentle beginning has us thinking about another band entirely. Released as a single in January 1980, it reached number 4. It was an introduction to the great forces that were new wave. Geldof’s vocals are squeaky and twisted in a Toyah Wilcox style. It is understandable when listening to the opening of this album that their influence was felt by Blondie, amongst others. Perhaps I am surprised as to how enjoyable this track is. With the same equalled quality to either of their number ones, we shouldn’t be thinking any differently that any band lead by Geldof is going to be less than average. The same opening line also ends the track, a solitary, ‘On a night like this, I deserve to get kissed at least once or twice…’ It has an immediate dance floor situation of an awkward teenage party. It was about getting ratted on Party Seven and smoking a fag between ten of you. All greasy hair and chequered jackets with shoulder pads that no one actually needed. The songs were about pretty girls in piggy tails and frilly dresses looking all sweet and innocent. We only have to remember how Debbie Harry used to dress, so the less said the better… Lovely thumping drums and stuttering ‘S’s, there’s also a fairly rocked up guitar solo at the break and keyboards that sound more at home in a sermon. Very energetic and sets the theme for the rest of this punk induced album. Truly stomping stuff… if anyone out there can remember The Stomp….(perhaps just me, then…)

‘Diamond Smiles’ is a track based on keyboard, ‘fun fair’ chords. Get ready to clap on occasions in a Mick Jagger pose. Geldof uses his voice as an instrument in this track, he gives it an element of base and forever a feeling of force behind it. We wonder if he ever gave himself a headache after each recording. We can imagine him twisted and contorting his lanky body towards the microphone stand with fists clenched in a pleading pose. Personally I feel, Geldof was one of the last great characters of pop, and it was probably the last intrusive genre of music that allowed such characters to feel welcomed. Released as a single in November 1979, it failed to gain anything higher than a number 13 slot.

‘Wind Chill Factor (Minus Zero)’ is a strange opening to this diverse and exciting track. The intro reminds me of a Bowie/Ziggy track followed by ‘Toni Basil’ lyrics were she would squeal her vocals so they sounded irritating. There is something very Madness about this track, and it is easy to see the connection from new wave to Ska. Wind howls around our heads and the riff of a guitar comes in like a machine gun. Silly high pitched sounds from the band give it its punk theme, straight into a Ska B side, the backing vocals are distorted by the band taking on different voices. Electronic Max Headroom lyrics and OMD drum machine effects make this track hard to categorise. It changes every second up and down with its tempo. It’s a shame that as this track excels in its musical content, the inspiring lyrics are lost in a sea of creative art. We strain our ears for something recognisable. I can hear the electronic sounds of New Order, or at least Joy Division. There is so much happening in this track, that it is literally a delight to listen to over and over again, ever discovering new sounds and noises. Records don’t have this amount of personality anymore. Tracks became characters of their own, each so individual. We experience in this album, different versions of the same theme. Unlike any other new wave around at the time, we can listen to the unusualness and sheer uniqueness of each track. It is all new wave, but with so many angles, it is almost hard to keep up. In this track we hear not just music as how it should be; a fusion and collaboration of numerous instruments but interesting and fun lyrics. ‘I took the tube train through the subway systems, I rode those tunnels like a six foot mole…’ one doesn’t get to smile of chuckle at the words of a song anymore. The records of today have become depressing… this was the last time music was fun and enjoyable…

‘Having My Picture Taken,’ is a classic example of such past records that if the subject was on something abstract, then it was accompanied by sound affects. This track is complete with photo booth sounds with clicks and musical flashes of a standard SLR We now start to see a pattern in Boomtown records in the sense that they are themed from start to finish. Every second is there to be listened to, even the click and wise crack at the very end. A concept that is also lost in records of today as no one listens to a song from beginning to very end. We can appreciate The Boomtown Rats for such touching effects. It is these things that we probably remember when Geldof is stamping his political mark on the news, but the question is, does he?…

With a subject the opposite as The Beatles, ‘I’m Only Sleeping,’ this next track is a comfort to any one who suffers from insomnia. The weird lines of ’Sleep (Fingers Lullaby)’ contain such sinister words as ‘If I took enough of these red things, get some permanent sleep, blue things, what lullabies would you sing, white things…’ a giggle under the breath at lyrics such as these, and all of a sudden the world doesn’t seem so much of a nasty place… even a member is counting sheep at the close of this track. It is completed with spiralling piano and mesmerising, zombie lyrics, we wonder if anything they did was ever taken seriously. Perhaps, the slightly disturbing piece of the album is a mind shifting chant at the close of the first half of this album where someone is saying..’that’s not funny’ a few times over and a Punch and Judy sounding laugh happily plays away in the background..
I wonder if The Boomtown Rats were something further into the depths of new wave. Riding on a high plane, they amused themselves and the sales of their records was just a by product. With Madness, there seemed to be a strong sense of level headedness about them, like that nice boy who comes round and visits his Gran once a week. The idea of The Boomtown Rats coming round is that of making Gran a cup of tea before reaching for her purse…

It can be said that ‘I Don’t Like Mondays,’ is about as sane as this album gets, bearing in mind, we now know the story behind this masterpiece of creative writing. The opening is a thunderous piece of piano that sets the scene of this hopeless tale of a ‘little girl’ who loses her grasp of normality. In my naivety, after all these years I firmly believed that this was just another teen song depicting the grey thoughts that drift through your mind when your young and that going to school is the worst thing that can happen to you and especially on a Monday morning that comes round too quickly. I was expecting the same amount of depth as ‘Our House’ by Madness, but with these theatrical opening bars with violin accompliment, I guess that my original thoughts had been grossly mislead.

We what we hear is an abstract around of the story from a narrators point of view. The calls back and forth from lead to backing vocal become forceful while Geldof becomes fearful. With such lines as the opening, ..’the silicone chip inside her head gets switched to overload, and nobody’s gonna go to school today, she‘s gonna make them stay at home…’ You can see where I was coming from in my original synopsis. . When remembering the video that went with the single, It featured Geldof on his knees expressing such desperate emotion in his vocals and his twisting body whilst being surrounded by the other members depicting the cold manner of the authorities, not even making visual contact with the man on the floor. Now in our minds, we can see this track for what it is. We can appreciate the quality of the song writing that has gone into producing such a piece of history. The very unfortunate story behind this song was the lawsuit thrown at the band from the Spencer family for damages as they felt that the song was only opening up wounds and was not helping their daughters case..mmm, no comment….It was also re released in July 1984, but only reached number 38, not surprising with anything with a strong element of current affair controversy can get easily forgotten over the years and with this second re issue, it was clear to see that the idea of some kid not wanting to get up because it’s Monday had regained its place as theme.

With ‘Nothing Happened Today,’ we are probably not that shocked after the previous track and even less surprised when we are catapulted right back into mindless new wave again. At least we now know what The Boomtown Rats were capable of…This track wastes no time in delivering its mind numbing theme…nothing happened today, okay, so its lines such as ..’I’ll do some washing, I might go shopping…’ that introduce us to the very primary ingredients to making the perfect new wave record. All you need is to surround yourself with a handful of students who can just about play their instruments and open up a copy of some local rag or switch on some daytime TV (be grateful, there was no such thing in the seventies!) and off you go… One thing is amusing, around the middle of the track is a ‘over the back fence’ conversation between two old dears, well actually it sounds more like Terry Jones and Graham Chapman (Monty Python) ironically dressed as women. ‘…It looks very natural’ everybody said, but then his wife said Toupee, isn’t that a French word? And Harry said, Ole! That’s a Spanish verb..’ and the chatter continues but thankfully not for much longer, an amusing piece of ultra nothingness! The early musical equivalent of improvisation…

‘Keep It Up,’ throws me straight back to the days of Blondie, and if for a second, Debbie had stepped up to the mic in this track, I would not have questioned my purchase of this album….Blondie made use of the ‘fun fair’ keyboard sound that was adopted by virtually all new wave bands, that’s if they could afford a keyboard that could give them that same sound…let’s face it, nearly all bands were flat broke in those that’s, and even when they did hit the big time, they still sounded as though they were rehearsing from one of their mum’s front room. Ah the beauty of new wave! It was a fascinating thing as it made kids buying these records the notion that they could grab a few mediocre instruments and give it ago themselves. In that respect, this genre inspired a lot of bands, some who we still have around today. Because it was tracks like these that sounded so simple, many bands when starting out, covered the big names as it was a sound that was so easy to copy. Geldof didn’t have a voice as such but he did have opinions and it was this identity that spread over the whole band giving the band the character they needed to be listened to. Unfortunately, it is in these fairly dire tracks that we lose the words as we are too busy trying to concentrate on the mess we hear to be music….’in her £2.00 coat she really thinks she’s cloaked in mystery, she’s acting like some character from Agatha Christie…’ or such lines as ..’I can remember the carefully sharpened eyeballs…’ These lyrics are intelligently written and we feel disappointed with the music of today, where the majority is so awfully uninspiring that we yearn to hear colourful lyrics like the ones Geldof gave us so it could marginally make up for the lack of musical talent…. Written by Geldof and Gerry Cott, I feel that Bob was probably better off writing alone.

‘Nice n’ Neat’ is one of those examples of Bob writing alone. I feel that he allows his lyrics not to be cloaked too much in gyrating musical noise. With an acompliment in the most important places of just a drum solo, his words stand out practically on stilts. A fast and furious track with heavy punk themes, it is far from the Sex Pistols, (please don’t be put off here, not all punk was the Sex Pistols, it came in many forms..) It is very mainstream, watered down punk which was far more listenable and likable. It was the diversity of punk that gave us, eventually, new wave.

Again, in this delightful piece of intricate acoustic playing at the opening to give it a Mediterranean feel, we hear Geldof writing alone. This wonderful Spanish guitar takes us away gently and not against out will to another style of music that was sometimes adapted by other new wave artists. We remember Blondie using a strong reggae theme for ‘The Tide Is High.’ This is a pleasing track for Rat fans and new ones alike, it stands out against the rest on this album as it shows us that the Rats could actually play proper music. Occasional piano allows the track to swing. It is most danceable and reminds me a little of the B. A Robertson records that followed shortly. An unusual piece of a music genre that at the other end of the scale we have the very forgettable , ‘Je suis un rock star..’ By the ever bewildering Bill Wyman….mmm, okay….

Today, we know Bob Geldof for shouting a lot and slamming his fists on desks and generally making a political nonsense of himself, I guess, after listening to this album, you would say that nothing has changed. We do however, yawn when we see him now but yet he still needs to be admired for his courage, determination, steadfastness and superiority over politicians and other established members of society. ‘Do They Know Its Christmas?’ sold two million copies in the first two days of its release. A feat, that I’m afraid to say, the Rats would never have accomplished. So what would we prefer? The Rats still caught in the Rat Trap or Sir Bob forcing his Dublin accent down our throats and into out wallets? I have to admit, I loved one of his sides, but only marginally respected the other. He is though, the very example of the saying,…’squeaky doors get oiled…’

He will also be remembered for marrying Paula Yates, and then getting dumped by her…He might even be remembered for his ghostly solo career where he jumped into rock folk music in his ventures as an aging new wavist. ‘This Is The World Calling’ in October 1986 (Number 25) and ‘The Great Song Of Indifference,’ in June 1990 (Number 15.)

For the exceptional songwriter, what do we remember him for? Two hits and Johnny Fingers known for wearing pyjamas.

Perhaps it is better to be remembered as the sole spokesperson for the human race…

Another recommended album;
‘A Tonic For The Troops.’ 1978, (re issued December 1983)

All songs written by The Boomtown Rats.
Produced by Mutt Lange
Recorded at Phonogram Studios, Hilversum, Holland.
©M.Duffy (sam1942 and Planet Janet) 2006..

Monday, March 26, 2007

Good morning news busters, are we cooking with napalm today? You bet!

Fearless writers, Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin set out on the dusty road of alternative laughs years before when they submerged themselves in the river of Church gags and minor political laughs for the pioneering, ‘Not The Nine O’clock News,’ back in the late Seventies. Sharpening their wit and wisdom ten years later, the duo banged their heads together and came up with yet another ground breaking idea for a topical situations comedy - ‘Drop The Dead Donkey,’

First aired on Channel 4, late, one sticky August night in 1990, the entrance of this bang-up-to-the- minute spoof news outfit, came tip toeing in totally unnoticed. Spot on with current affairs from the word go, it, towards the end of it’s staggering eight year reign, (a feat for any Channel 4 broadcast) it was the best thing to hit the unlovable channel since ’Desmond’s.’

Writing something that so clearly had to be no more than half an hour old still remains a mystery to the viewer. The script had to basic - plot lines already set out and throw away lines about news headlines appearing that very day had to be shoe horned in at the very last minute. Not only did this nightmare of a project require writers of the Lindford Christie kind, but equal actors needing only a few stolen moments to learn vital lines. Naturally a spoof comedy with the backdrop of a news broadcasting company had to be as believable as possible. What lay in the minds of the viewer whilst he watches, was that undoubted feeling that he was actually watching something live.

The story of ’Globe Link News,’ was one mounted in greedy and power. The fictional, yet uncannily initialled, Sir Roysten Merchant, who just happened to have the initials of the then breathing, Robert Maxwell, was the money encrusted and dodgy tyrant behind the company. With enough force of a hurricane, he controlled each nerve ending on a daily basis, although his visual identity always remained anonymous, up until the very last episode. His heavy presence was always a regular ghost amongst the team, yet his empire came under question every so often about the legality of his ‘companies‘. Holding everyone of his ’basket cases’ in contempt, he caused friction in every corner, yet his employees had their own frictions to encounter between themselves without the enforcement of a figure with no face. Perhaps the most memorable of these logger heads were the very news casters who brought the viewer a perfectly chiselled face and an endearing smile. Henry Davenport - a man in control of his being, not to mention his own lunch break, he dared not to impose too often without insult, marking on the fact that he was of the old school of broadcasting. Once in his prime in front of the camera, he was now, in his twilight years as a presenter, was repeatedly found drunk and in the arms of a younger acquaintance. He bellows his voice over the hap hazard ways he feels the news has grown since his day, yet nothing twists his toupee more than the tight lipped snobberish ways of his co host, Sally Smedley.

Miss Smedley was, to Davenport, the very reason why, given two Gins of a chance, he would have walked out at any given time. Posh to the point of exasperation, she was as prim as any news caster could get. In her twin set and pearls, she takes aim at Henry on every valuable occasion to comment on his failure to conduct his own life with decorum. A spinster, fussed with fashion and her visual appeal, she is a woman in her forties who never smiles and means it, she is the least liked member of the team. The viewer on a regular basis is given hints that she may be quite a tigress on the quiet so long as the man in question is rough with dirty fingernails - a side of herself that she regularly defends.

When it is obvious that these characters throughout the show are based on real people or at least, true to the stereotypes who work in broadcasting, we seem not the least bit surprised if the afore mentioned characters are anything to go by. Bedraggled editor and brown cardigan wearing, George Dent appears to be the usual state in which any editor is normally in. Be it magazine, newspaper or broadcasting, he looks down trodden, weary and in need of a good night’s sleep. Holding the entire network together by the scruff of the neck, he is the stop in which the buck slams on the brakes. Hounded by guilt from his grabbing ex wife, he also has to deal with a wayward daughter. Edging dangerously towards a nervous breakdown, he comes a damp fence between his whining staff and the blonde flicked, smooth Gus Hedges. The only person who legitimately takes control and appears to be the most grounded of the team is the raven haired Alex who is young enough to be George’s daughter, yet was capable many times to grab the proverbial steering wheel before George hurtles the car over the cliff. Like any reasonably behaved hard worker with an explosive private life who naturally leaves such embarrassing matters at home, she is snapped up by the BBC after series two.

Slightly twisted and twenty years out of date, Gus Hedges is the epitome of most masturbating Chief Executives, whilst being the only member of the force to be holding a ten foot wooden spoon. Dishing out sarcasm, low wit and general grease in the hope of indoctrinating his slaves, even though he addresses the staff with his ‘I‘m not here,’ speech, he devours any story, be it true or otherwise, in or out of the office. More in tune with the ghastly Fleet Street gossip, he desires the bring the news link company down to the sleaze and titillation he thinks will win bigger ratings. A mouthy man with more front that the Suffolk coast, he is in private and very different character who, in one episode, practically breaks down on the moist shoulder of George, wailing that his life is meaningless. Since he is, in truth, a producer of corny one liners more than anything else, he is easy to wind up and pin down by the rest of the team, and the ‘lads’ of the office pass the time with such pranks rather than actually do any real work.

Dave Charnley and Damien Day were played by actors who were, surprisingly, the most successful minor role players who turned their characters to their advantage. Both embarking on forward thinking careers off the back of ‘Drop The Dead Donkey,’ Messer’s Tompkinson and Pearson went on to bigger things and in the process, creating household names for themselves. Their characters on the show were largely, found as extremes from each other‘s personalities, yet remain good colleagues. Day was just about the only member of the team who got to step outside the office every day. As field reporter, his outside broadcasts inadvertently saw him standing in the middle of a muddy field desperately trying to make his flopped news story sound exciting. As his antics became more bizarre, he was seen, off camera to fix certain stories to make them look real. Punching a small boy in the face to make him look as if he had been shot was not a far cry from the lengths that Day would go to get himself even more ratings. His loathe of the company urged on to elaborate on his reporting more so in the hope of being head hunted by another channel - failing to do so, his job, unfortunately for him, only stuck with him more each day. A man who lived a good life with no wish to toy with the sins of life, he was the complete opposite to sub editor, Dave Charnley.

As Day was as clean living as the day was long, then Charnley was as remote from the 7 deadly sins as humanly possible. Drinking, gambling and generally Davenport but only twenty years younger, he took each day with the contempt it deserved. Quick to have a flutter on the briefest of bets, he tried to make his life on the job for interesting, bedding married women and getting into trouble with their husbands. Constantly late for work, hung over or generally hiding from a husband larger than himself, he liked to live fast only finding true love once, for the lesbian Helen who only confirmed her feelings more for women, rather than him. Breaking his heart silently, he continued to gamble more, work less stay kindred spirits to the equally failed Davenport.

From the start of the second series a small host of characters came and went allowing the show to thrive on the illusion of a real news broadcasting company. As flippant as the staff got to producing news items that were actually true or at least partly genuine became a running gag. Only the day’s topics needed to be added.

Despite the complexities of the show, the result of a simple, yet eye catching theme remained fairly simple. A script was generalised and up to date quips were added her and there. It’s sparkle came from the cast who entwined their characters with off the cuff lines and thrown away poses. The success of the show was embedded in the idea of it’s exciting anthem. We were compelled to watch just to see if we could catch them out - very rarely did the writers miss a trick. In true documented style without the shaky camera angles, this show was a moment behind any broadcasting company. Watching Sky or CNN was never going to be the same again. The same bustle was captured, the tantrums and pitfalls of any hard working, behind the scenes show was open for full viewing. If life was really like that in the world of broadcasting, then we should all be glad of the mundane, everyday jobs we already have…


Final thought…

As with all compelling shows, we crave for the episode when we feel as if the world is changing into something as good as we would like it to be. As regards to comedy, it is the subjects that we think are not covered or are dusted under the carpet in the hope of not to offend which really seek our attention. In the days of ‘Drop The Dead Donkey,’ we were delighted and even secretly relieved that ‘jokes’ were made on the madness of the IRA and musty politicians who thought the world was square. Through these characters, we see beyond their shallow faces and explore their own personal failings. Each having as much depth as the Grand Canyon.
We miss such shows as this. The planet seemed a better place because someone, somewhere in a television studio said it was okay to have a laugh at the things that make us sad about the society we have to live in. It’s that ability that we will always need.

The final episode saw Globelink being ’sold,’ as the characters find themselves other occupations-some good, some fair. Each having sold their souls in some way over the years to the company now face a future of uncertainty and unfamiliarity. Perhaps the ironic ending to any show ever broadcast, in a fit of anxiety, Gus breaks into Sir Royston’s house, finding he doesn’t even know who Gus is….

Six series on total, it finished on 9th December 1998.
Repeats can be found on the second of the Paramount Channels on Sky.

Written by;
Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin (mostly)

Gus Hedges - Robert Duncan
George Dent - Jeff Rawle
Helen Cooper - Ingrid Lacey
Sally Smedley - Victoria Wicks
Alex Pates - Haydn Gwynne
Henry Davenport - David Swift
Joy Merry weather - Susannah Doyle (PA from series two)
Damien Day - Stephen Tompkinson
Dave Charnley - Neil Pearson.
Sir Royston Merchant - Roger Hammond (only appears in the final episode)

‘Drop The Dead Donkey’ can be found on DVD from;

©M.Duffy (sam1942 and Planet Janet) 2007
Ciao and dooyoo

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Beauty And The Blues

Twenty five years ago, the birth of a darker side of music was forming. Straight out of the loins of fast, furious punk, came the sombre approach to life and death in the form of Goth. It was initially the delights of North London in such suburbs as Camden Town that was first blamed. Pointed at by conservative bony fingers for the introduction to such macabre ways of thinking, it was actually Nottingham and the surrounding areas, it has been said, first took the giant steps into a brave new witchcraft -like world. Even though Nottingham didn’t achieve great Goth status in the eyes of the rest of the English speaking world, (no claim on Joy Division, I’m afraid) they did mange to put in their penny’s worth as far as other music was to go….

So, we know that every town can have a stab at a claim to fame on the ‘generating genre’ list. It’s not difficult for the Liverpudlians to shout Cilla Black or Gerry and the Pacemakers in front of a passing tourist. They don’t even have to mention the B word too much these days. Even Leeds can boast the more recent Sisters Of Mercy; probably one of the most innovative bands from the Goth movement, but, hold fast, there are more obscure places to go and find the birth of great names. What about Cobham in Surrey who gave us Peter Gabriel and who can forget Stanmore in Middlesex who gave us Billy Idol? So who have we been able to identify as more than just a blotch on the British music industry from this historic city?

Well, delving through the deepest depths of the back of my mind, I came up with two bands who have graced us with their enigmatic presence. The first of these bands are almost certainly going to be figures of the Sixties generation. Back in the midst of the psychedelic decade, long haired, introverted students were busily working away on their own stunning slants of already secure music themes. It wasn’t just The Beatles that we got all unnecessary about by any stretch of the imagination. The youth of the day were shifting into a pattern of generating their own angles of music that their parents had been brought up on. The British Blues scene took it’s turn at peaking around the late Sixties with such sounds from John Mayall, Eric Clapton and Peter Green. Born out of the inspiration of the ever changing social acceptance of ‘free thinking,’ a certain band flung themselves onto the general public from Nottingham and they eventually called themselves, Ten Years After. Appearing as though they had all failed the audition for ‘Easy Rider,’ and with Leo Lyons, their bass guitarist looking more like Frank Zappa, these three individuals came together an created some of the greatest British born Blues around.

Although they may not light up any seasonal fire crackers in your minds, they will have made their presences felt throughout the revolutionary British Blues scene. Solidifying true Southern U.S blues with a predominately white guitar feel, they embarked on a historic career that has never really ended. Even though British Blues artists had been smouldering away in the privacy of their own bedrooms since the late Fifties, it was, strangely and literally, ten years after that this sound from the now, heavenly regarded, artists of that time, really came to the fore. It was great musicians like Alvin Lee, of Ten Years After, that gave us the backbone of a lot of the rock music we still listen to today.

Thankfully, they are still going strong and sounding just as exciting and revolutionary as they did forty years before, they just look like our dads now; bearded, friendly and trusting like a well behaved Spinal Tap, they undoubtedly, can still rock. For future gigs and contact, please go to

The next influential band to come out of the Robin Hood city was a band that need no formal introduction. Tindersticks plunged head first into our ears initially as the strangely titled, Asphalt Ribbons. Quite where this name originated, I don’t know, and even so, it was not under this name that they found any great success. Yet, it was the three musicians plus three more that gave us the name that stayed fast. Although, they never appeared to conger up any real critical acclaim, they did have a fairly memorable album, ’The Second Tindersticks Album,’ that landed the position of number 13 in April 1995. Describing them to a complete stranger is rather a difficult task as they did seem to create a genre all of their own. Not quite fitting into a known category, other than ‘chamber pop’, they may have been brushed casually with the title of Goth Gods, although this would have been better felt to be at the most extreme end of the scale where Goth may have met Country on a unique and totally accidental night…

One thing was for certain, they somehow found the same frequency as a few other darkly spirited romantics floating around at the time. As the colourful craziness of the Eighties came to an abrupt halt and the more monochromed moroseness of the Nineties began, Tindersticks found themselves an audience that was surprisingly and completely at their mercy. Their depressingly precise lyrics and heart aching melodic music was quite the tonic for the faint hearted. Even though they were fundamentally a band who produced meaningful prose and wistful string arrangements, they were not unlike the pensive side of Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground. The brooding vocals of Stuart Staples in Tindersticks was enough to melt the most coldest of souls. His emotion altering lyrics shifted darkly and absorbingly through the aching tunes and mournful chords, that the listener felt quite dragged in to his doom and gloom world. Perhaps making what we knew as mainstream Goth more along the lines of Stock, Aitken and Waterman..

Despite their bleak outlook, their beauty came from their traditionally perfected arrangements. Their music, although noose-needing, spelt out a theme that probably applies to us all at some stage in our lives. What Tindersticks gave us was an alleyway; destitute and deathly as it was, but a path when, on such down trodden moments, we might just find a guiding light. These glamorously laced themes dripping with personal failure were beautifully crafted with such musical skill that the songs seem practically timeless. It could well be argued that there never was, nor will there ever be, a band with such a gentle, inoffensive sound quite like Tindersticks. Find out more about this uniquely accomplished band at

Since the two above mentioned bands slot into the filing cabinet of our minds of ‘bands from Nottingham,’ they couldn’t really be any further apart in the genre sense. Yet they are just as important to mention as any other, more famous name from anywhere esle. Both just as inspirational now to up and coming bands as others were to them in past decades. With this in mind, and with these two enchantingly professional groups, perhaps it is about time that we were graced with another band or artist from this city…

©michelle duffy 2006

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Brash and the Punk - Bambi Slam

Around the mid to late Eighties, a band of Canadian and British origin came to the fore in the indie scene by the name of Bambi Slam. Basing their punk themed rock and silky layered harmonies on influences from such diverse Eighties bands such as Jesus and Mary Chain, The Bambi Slam took this genre and added, quite defiantly, young Linda Miller on Cello as well as a softer approach to their subjects and with Miller, a feminine side to their boyish, moody front. This unusual stance gave their indie sound edge as well as a sort of depth that was not the way indie music was performed twenty years ago. Although lead man, Roy Feldon had all the visual impact of a long haired student on campus, it was their distorted approach to both their compositions and accompanying video that made them stand out. Their music could truthfully said that it had an appeal that was captivating to any listener. The introverted, yet wistful lyrics on 'Take Me With You,' led you to believe that they were merely a folky band with warm hearts, but on the other hand, the sobering depression of the thunderous, 'I'm Left Wonderin' will have you think differently..

Three albums quickly followed one another and after a BBC session for the late John Peel, The Bambi Slam seemed to fade away into complete obscurity. Since it has been the norm for most Eighties indie bands not to still be kicking around the music industry today, perhaps it is no surprise, but it is a surprise to learn that their career only lasted a couple of years. By the time 1988 rolled around and even after supporting rock Gods, The Cult on a British tour, the band had split leaving Roy Feldon to embark on a short lived solo career. He had kept the group name and still performed under it.

It has been a shame that this band never made it any further than university venues and student record collections. I was lucky to come across their first album 'Peace,' totally by accident in a South London library of all places. Being the head hunter of extraordinary music for a college radio station at the time, I was keen to use The Bambi Slam stuff and spread it around the student community, but as I had later discovered, they were, to no fault of their own, a band of their time and of their generation. Perhaps if teenagers found The Bambi Slam legacy, the band might be given a new lease of life today.

The Bambi Slam were;
Roy Feldon - guitar/vocals
Nick Maynard - drums
Linda Miller - cello
(and someone on bass!)

Albums included;
Is (EP) 1987
Bambi Slam 1988
Peace 1978

Friday, March 16, 2007

Rock And Rubber Mallets

Born out of a religious devotion to one of the greatest exponents of all that was ever Metal; Metallica, Alien Ant Farm housed a quartet of cheeky, wholesome Californian nerds. Perhaps, four of the most unpredictable and unimaginable rock stars ever to grace the U.S, these ordinary looking kids off the block blazed into teenage vulnerability around 1996.

In strange and extreme arrogance, their first album was titled ‘Greatest Hits,’ released in the U.S in November 1999. In America, it managed to con the teens into submissiveness and an award was promptly handed out to the band the same year at the L.A Music Awards. The Brits, on the other hand, were having none of that and the LP failed to create even the slightest dent over here. After all, we invented Metal. We already knew what it was like to feel our ear drums bleed - we had Ozzy…

Thunderous, thrashy and somewhat Alice In Chains tinted, the band, visually, can only be described as The Beastie Boys meets the Myth busters, or perhaps even Adam Sandlers lost cousins, yet there is something disturbingly appealing about these guys with their shaved heads and Scooby Doo tee shirts. They reflect a certain mood within all teenagers, but perhaps mostly towards kids in the U.S. Sniggering still at their farts and whistling at girls, it is not difficult to imagine that these fellas, loaded and famous as they are, still ring old ladies door bells in the middle of the night and run away laughing.

Their contribution to the rock industry is merely down to taste. If you like your rock heavy on the bass and minus any real noticeable guitar riffs yet you prefer the lead vocal to actually sing in key, then AAF is certainly the band for you. If you ever become fortunate to see them live, then please don’t be put off by the fact that they are not famous for putting on a show. The all-American named Dryden Mitchell does nothing to promote a form of eye candy. His hunched over stance with mouth busy tonguing the microphone is almost an imitation of Grindcore Gods, Napalm Death. Despite their visual effect and their ability to perform good, and surprisingly tuneful Metal music, they have, unlike a lot of their hero’s, stayed far away from making any social comment. Choosing, I believe, to distance themselves from anything too political and topical, they have, in previous years, met only criticism from the media on how they were a bad influence on the youngsters of the Nineties generation. Although the critics were harsh, it was how the band unitedly stood their ground with great maturity that was perhaps, more shocking.

AAF gave us another shock in September of 2001 by releasing their own take on Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal.’ This shaky, club classic dance number filled with all the glitz and styled glamour that was Jackson in his element, was probably one of the very last pieces of cover that any rock band would ever dare to take on, let alone endanger their already growing respect from other long haired rock giants already masterful. This daring take on such a record was tarnished with all the right amount of bass, heavy drums and chain saw styled guitars that was needed and leapt, peculiarly to number three in the singles charts in the U.K. The British kids were buying it at last. As a ‘make sure’ marketing ploy, the song was released again in February 2002 as the B side to the single, ‘Movies,’ which, again had enjoyed such huge success that it was released twice and instead of it’s humble number 55, it sat readily at number five the second time around.

For a group of four young lads, all born between 1971 and 1977, it is surprising that in the years of Alien Ant Farm being around, they have only managed to release five singles. Four of which were two songs released twice, and only two chart positioning albums to 2003. At a glance, one could argue that they are the laziest rock band in existence, failing to produce a decent single and record a fairly passable album, but a closer look shows us that these musicians (and isn’t it a blessing from God that we see a band that can actually play instruments? This is the only reason why I think Ben should win the X Factor…) we can see that apart from the obvious single, these fellas have written everything. Like their counterparts of today and the giant Metal bands of the past, they are proud to say that they have not once leaned on others for their musical contribution to teenage album collections. They are humorous, thoughtful and, most of the time, polite. They are melodic, play in time and are good to their mothers. In my book, they posses all the makings of a fairly decent heavy rock band.

Their music can’t always be described as custom built heavy metal. In fact, many of you out their will be disagreeing with their title of Metal band as it is. For example, the jolliness of the backbone of ‘Glow,’ from the album ‘TruANT,’ (2003) is more Manic Street Preachers than Anthrax. Yet, ‘These Days,’ taken from the same album has a more grinding feel to its theme, hanging in the air with the heaviest of cobweb guitar riffs, the density of some of their work would have even Miss Havisham reaching for the duster. They had even tried their hands at deliberately mixing Spanish guitar with a darkly forcible bass line yet keeping the vocals strained and cutting. Working these layered Latin themes, this band takes on a whole knew meaning and far from the Metal legends they are supposed to be. Although they still appear to be a bunch of guys fresh out on vacation from high school, they seem friendly, alluring, shy and very attractive to English speaking teens across the world.

However geeky and freak loving, these giggling, immature youths on a Blair Witch Project trip shouldn’t be regarded as what they appear to be. Frighteningly in 2001, the band came close to a major loss. Dryden Mitchell suffered a severe broken neck when the band’s tour bus crashed after colliding with a big truck on route from Spain to Portugal at two o‘clock one morning. After the initial shock and then being shown the devastating pictures of the remains of their twisted coach, the band took the incident as a true near death experience for all of them. Their work has since taken a more serious turn. Passing fans, probably won’t notice anything different about this heavy metal band, but for Alien Ant Farm, their next album, ‘TruANT,’ released in August 2003, certainly lent towards a more definitive and reflective key. Though the bands style and lack of responsibility will pretty much, always shine through, it is their inner most souls that had been tarnished with the freak accident two years before. Due to extensive surgery to Mitchell following the smash, the band took time out whilst Mitchell lived for months in a halo brace around his head, holding it in place with screws and wires.

The band now take on a whole new meaning yet again, yet this time, matured, edged and introspective, we wonder where the band go from here. After the release for the long awaited ‘TruANT,’ they seemed to have died a death as far as the Brits are concerned. Even though it had been noted that they are one of those rare bands that genuinely appreciate their fans, nothing seems to have come from the AAF camp for quite sometime. It is a shame as I do believe that we haven’t, in many ways, not seen the best of Alien Ant Farm yet…

Dryden Mitchell - vocals
Terry Corso - guitar
Tye Zamora - bass/vocals
Mike Cosgrove - drums
DreamWorks records

Album releases;

Greatest Hits - November 1999 (cd)
ANTology - March 2001 (cd)
TruANT - August 2003 (cd)

©michelle duffy 2006
Also on ciao and dooyoo (sam1942). 2006.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Best And The Worst And The Curse Of Blondie

The sultry, well defined cheek boned face of a young Miss Deborah Harry is probably not difficult to imagine as once the pretty face of a playboy bunny girl. The low but cheeky voice of the female lead of Blondie formed the band with her boyfriend way back in 1974 in New York. After a mixed line up change every so often and a couple of uninteresting singles, they finally hit Britain with ‘Heart Of Glass’ taken from the album ‘Parallel Lines.’

Frank Infante, a guitarist, later rhythm guitarist joined the band in Autumn 1977 after the release of the first Blondie album at Christmas 1976, simply titled, ‘Blondie.’ It was this album that failed to make the charts although a new song featured was ‘Rip Her To Shreds,’ a song that was later made known to growing fans in other albums as well as live sets. Nigel Harrison joined very shortly after Frank in November 1977. It was then that Frank switched to rhythm guitar and Nigel took bass. With Chris Stein, Debbie’s boyfriend on guitar, Clem Burke on drums and Jimmy Destri on keyboards, the line up was complete and there, they stayed until the bands first split in 1982.

A punk outfit at first with a splash of sixties fizzy pink girlie pop, Miss Harry, a severely bleached throw back to the later years of Marilyn Monroe, she was the perfect punk goddess to stand amongst the moppy haired, young suited and booted boys. Surprisingly American, they had always come across severely British. The cover for Parallel Lines, a design thought from their manager, Peter Leeds and photographed by Edo was to Miss Harry’s disgust. She hated the shot and immediately said that it looked flat. It was, however, to become an iconic view of the band. The sharpness of the black and white, bold stripes behind the black suited band and Debbie in a white dress and shoes denoted the new wave feel that the music held within. For 1978, it was design ahead of its time and a style that was soon adapted to the up and coming Ska movement of that time. Blondie, were very much the fore runners for a new type of sound. It is within this album, that the listener can generate the music tastes that were going to happen in the near future. Very much a Blondie album, it experimented with different music genres that were big in the late seventies. The examples of this are, ‘Heart Of Glass’, a fusion of disco and glam to suit the diverse vocals of Harry. ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ is pure Blondie punk, although not their own song, it was originally the product of a band called The Nerves, even so this very immature, sweaty sound of hard thumping, microphone stand shaking new wave might as well have been natural to Blondie as throughout this album, they adapt gracefully to each and every style.

This entirely, timeless classic album is still admired by fellow musicians to day as being one of the most influential and inspiring of the era. Along with its striking sleeve, it contains a small piece about the making of the album and the first meeting with Blondie by album producer Mike Chapman. He recalls in the appraisable and touching account his incredible nervousness on his first encounter with Stein and Harry. Being called in to produce, he had only become a big name from producing glam and glitter rock albums and was not prepared for a futuristic punk rock band with an attitude. He tells of the tensions with the recording, how arguments would occur and yet the genius of the creative writing capabilities between Harrison, Harry and Stein.

With an insight into the stresses of a recording band hard at work and the dramatic force of the cover, we are eager to sample the strengths of the album, and hope not to encounter any weaknesses. We discover there are nine tracks on the album that have been written collaborations between band members. It was an up and fast moving idea to be a songwriter as well as a singer. Since the decade of serial covers that was the sixties, the seventies stole the show by almost everything being original. Having to keep up with the likes of Deep Purple, Led Zep and Clapton who were imaginative to the extreme, a band without the sensitively, multi talented musicians that these other bands had, was a hard job.

Track one, our opening and already mentioned track, ’Hanging On The Telephone,’ starts with a phone ringing and Harry’s vocal quickly enters before the band has a chance to start playing. Mixing sixties style keyboards, it also uses a bridge of Mersey beat drum and cymbal tapping to give a fundamental British edge. A track that was very of the punk generation. Full bodied and mostly untuneful, it involves a lot of fast lyrics. All in all, I feel the need to dig out my winkle pickers and drain pipes rather than don a pink Mohican. This was in itself, the very idea of new wave. For those of you unfamiliar with this fairly dead genre, it literally was a amalgamation of punk and pop It did take on a different form after the age of Blondie and took hold of The Police, but they became so big that they became a music genre all on their own. For this track, it was a definitive introduction to new wave. It had meaningless lyrics, that could never be so deep they could be analysed to any great length. A noise rush of guitars, none actually playing a tune and a lot of lighter than light drums with very little bass. A track that on the whole, could only have any meaning to the listeners who remembered it the first time around. The new wave sound was short lived and eventually breathed it last fast and frantic puff of life around the early to mid eighties by the likes of Duran Duran, but by this time, it had been so commercially watered down, it had become practically unrecognisable. For ’Hanging On The Telephone,’ it took only around five years for this track to sound incredibly dated. Released in mid November 1978, it managed a sturdy number five and stayed around for 12 weeks.

‘One Way Or Another,’ and only recently brought to life again by a slimming advert where we are subjected to a handful of girls trying desperately to get into tight jeans puts me in mind to when this track came out anyway. The advert, it would seem was very close the truth. There were millions of girls and guys fighting and sweating hard to get into the tightest jeans possible without causing internal damage. With its grungy guitar riff and basic drum accompliment, its gives a steady background to the catchy, yet simple lyrics of the song, ’one way or another, I’m gonna get ya, I’m gonna get ya, get, ya, get ya, get ya….’ not too hard to pick up, in fact I think it took only two plays of this record to get the lyrics from beginning to end. Again, a pointless new wave lyric and dull, dirty sound of a repeated riff. Totally devoured of meaning and thought, it was the right kind of sound to keep us twiddling our thumbs whilst the punk era drew to a close and the eighties new romanticism began. It was, if you like the perfect bridge, and with snappy, plain records like this to keep us going, there were very few that were likely to complain.

‘Picture This,’ was a slower, more tuneful track that calmed the pace down on the track and comes as a little light relief. It enlightened us with backing vocals to give it some thought, and speaking of thought, some had actually gone into the lyrics this time. It has a bubble gum theme, all Cindy dolls and seven inch record players on the floor with a stack of records dropping at the end of each. It’s dreamy as far as Blondie could ever dare to be so, but today, it seems flat and un adventurous. Harry’s vocal sounds tired, almost as if she can’t wait to get the track over and done with. Strangely it reached number twelve over here and hang around for eleven weeks. It was Tracey Ullman before Tracey Ullman started making records…

‘Fade Away And Radiate’ was written by Harry’s other half, Chris Stein. We wonder what on Earth had been on television or put in his tea when he wrote this. With its opening more morgues and depressing than a Celine Dion B side, it reminds me of ‘Stereotype’ by The Specials, which had not been their finest moment. Like Joan Of Arc being led to the stake, it punctures our ear drums with military drums before we feel the urge to turn it off, Harry’s voice sounds like it has had surgery, it comes across as soft and unconvincing. Stein, possibly has a crack at a guitar solo, but thankfully that fades away very quickly. With misbeated drums and wobbly backing, we really rather hope that this track would fade away soon. Robert Fripp guests on this track playing guitar.
We wonder, actually what this genre this was aiming for at the time of writing. It is quite depressing, and even the touch of early UB40 reggae doesn’t do enough to lift this track from bad to reasonably better.

The up-tempo and barely optimistic jangle of the guitars at the beginning of ‘Pretty Baby’ is welcomed after the previous. Again, it struggles to fit into a them when the first two tracks were so strong and able of creating their own cult. This album falls by the way side somewhat. Harry tries her hand at the old style of all girl, sixties Motown where the lead talks a lyric and the backing singers sing it back rather like a Supremes style. This feature is warmly received by the listener, but all we crave for now is the same sit up and listen anthems of the beginning of the album.

‘I Know But I Don’t Know,’ Is a vocal collaboration between Harry and one of the guys. It is limp to say the least. Both voices, one singing, one talking each verse, it is pure, authentic new wave, I can bet you that, but I feel that this style of boy/girl pop punk lyric was better done by the one hit wonders of the time. There doesn’t seem much to be said about this track. Perhaps the title should say it better than me, for the style and the content of music from within, I should just say, ‘I know, but I don’t know…’ Perhaps it’s the howling dog moment by Harry plus another that probably knocked it off the turntable for me..

‘11.59,’ is the one and only title for this next track, albeit, numerical. Very rocky and nearer to punk in its opening that the rest of the album. It is dominated in verse by keyboards. The lyrics are clear and reminding me of that timeless classic…’you’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties….’ Blondie, it has to be said, brought us legends of new wave. They were gods (and a goddess) in their own right for a handful of classic pieces of music that will follow one generation to the next, but I feel that the majority, and I will include this highly acclaimed album, was pretty much flat. For a piece of new wave history in our British music industry, it was uneventful, thankfully this is something else we can blame the Americans for…

‘Will Anything Happen,’ perhaps starts to pick the album and attempt to put it back on its feet again. With a guitar riff not sounding unlike a ripping machine gun, it has punch where the other tracks appeared less than average. Once more we are back to straining our ears for lyrics. It was seem that we have to for go something for the appearance of something else. We lose the lyrics and the music sounds better. This feels although the band have been asleep for the duration so far and suddenly someone has given them a punch (I think I’ve said that about another album before!) It finishes before we have had a any time to get into it…

‘Sunday Girl,’ is one of those tracks that we know and love. Remember me mentioning that Blondie had a handful of classics? Well, this is one of them. It was this track that went straight to number one over here and stayed thirteen weeks in the chart. Jolly, with a pretty drum beat, this is hardly fault able. It has a touch of hand clapping at a off count beat. It is still flat, but tuneful and pleasant to listen to. Harry had such a versatile voice, she sings with a soft, interesting, pink fluffy voice. A track that would probably get on ones nerves after too many plays, but the whole point of new wave was that it didn’t require any real musicians of any intelligence. Because punk had been generated by the media for kids to get into easily, in the same vein, new wave had done the same thing, except tone punk down a little and make it sound more acceptable. As with this track, the acceptance is there only the irritation of your mother turning this up on the radio was this tracks only down fall.

‘Heart Of Glass.’ Was and still is a disco favourite and will be played somewhere, somehow at a middle aged, drunken party where bank managers dance with their thumbs in the air and wear streamers around their necks anywhere in the world at any time of the day. With is indication of Rod ‘Do you think I’m Sexy’ drums and twinkle of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love.’ Harry was at her sultry, new age Monroe best. On Top Of The Tops, she looked drugged up (and probably was) her eyes sat heavily on those fantastic cheekbones and the whole band came alive with this track. It epitomised the rock glam, glitzy, disco and anything you like mix of everything that could get you up on your feet. Perhaps my only grip is that the ‘nah nah nah’s’ went on too long at the end…This record went straight to number one in the UK charts in Jan 1979. It was re issued in July 1995, but failed to go any higher than number 15.

Those of a certain age, will recognise this next track and be surprised at this track actually working for a band like Blondie. Originally a song written for Buddy Holly and also recorded by him (it wasn’t a hit, but a track that would crop up from time to time on compilation albums), ‘I’m Gonna Love You Too,’ includes the Hollyisms usually found in his records. The first feature of this is the group ‘ha, ha, ha, ha ,ha, ha, ha, ha’s’ which is probably a touching tribute from Blondie to the man himself. She tries a little to style the short, quipped lyrics that was Holly. It’s a fun track, not to be taken too seriously. Lots of jumping up and down on the spot very quickly wouldn’t go a miss when listening to this record. A fairly passable new wave twist to a B side rock and roll song.

‘Just Go Away,’ written by Harry alone, its rather middle of the road. Lacking in all that is Blondie, it features the most appalling backing vocals echoing the lead in the chorus. The guys play at being an imitation of The Young Ones backing Cliff, on ‘Living Doll.’ it’s a pretty flat song that probably didn’t deserve a place on this album. What must be remembered here, that despite the fair pieces of rubbish on this album, this had been marked down in history as a cult album. Simply because it was the epitome of new wave music. Albeit, a very quick wave…perhaps a microwave? Bad joke…

The digitally remastered album on compact disc features four bonus tracks, (my heart sank.) The first is titled ‘Once I Had A Love (aka The Disco Song)’ 1978 version, but those with half a brain cell will recognise it as ‘Heart Of Glass.’ Recorded, according the sleeve note, on the 6th of March 1978 at The Record Plant in New York. Unfortunately, the main thing that listening to this track does is hurl towards the listener that Blondie were lousy at performing life. Particularly a track as this which requires the keyboards, the backing vocals and all the other trimmings to create the full, in your face disco record that it was supposed to be. This terrible live recording is a basic, jingly guitar and drum version without the sparkle. Skip it, its not a version of a classic discotheque track, its something less than that.

‘Bang A Gong (Get It On) was enough for me to turn off the CD and forget the whole thing. I am a passionate follower of Marc Bolan. I was that generation and we looked up to Bolan as some sort of glitter God. However, Blondie’s messy version of this Bolan classic is criminal. I was shocked, actually to hear this on the album. ‘Parallel Lines’ was a historic moment, we understand that. What I don’t understand is the want and the need to sling on a handful of dire tracks on the tail end of it to justify its remastering. This track was recorded on the 11th of April 1978 in Boston. Blondie gave this song a grunge theme and far too much thrash that I feel the song never deserved in the first place. The track goes on for too long and the vocals of Harry that don’t sound sober come across as amateur and un rehearsed.

Yet another live track follows. Recorded at the Walnut Theatre, PA. This time we hear, ‘I Know But I Don’t Know,’ which, even a little credit here, doesn’t sound too bad. I feel the mark of a good track and a good band is to see if they can produce a record live, that is the perfect copy of the studio version. This track, that sounded durgy in the studio, has been given some extra guitar thrashing here and from what I can pick out, Rick Wakeman has sneaked some keyboards in at the back….but I guess he probably had better things to do that day. A track inexcusably thrown against the wall to see if it would bounce off the audience, it sounds just as bad as the studio version…

‘Hanging On The Telephone,’ sounds even better. I feel that with these last four tracks, they are a journey through the life of Blondie live and that the last track is when they got it right. The vocals, it has to be said re fairly easy, in pitch and note, to be repeated perfectly on stage. New wave lyrics never needed a good strong singing voice, a lot of it was shouted anyhow, so this track is passable without surgery.

That was new wave, a musical stage that passed a lot of us by. Actually what was happening to music after new wave was far more intriguing. It is surprising to learn that Blondie were one of a handful of bands in the world who created so many number ones in such a short space of time. Between Jan 1979 and November 1980, they racked up five in total. Their last number one was with ‘Maria’ in February 1999 after reforming the band in 1998. A long string of compilation albums were churned out every so often between 1982 and 2003 with also ‘No Exit’ and ‘The Curse Of Blondie.

Although we’ve yet to see anything from the band in the 21st century, we can be safe in the knowledge that we will always have the late seventies new wave movement to fall back on. It is ironic actually, that the historic Blondie and leader of all that came after them, have grown both musically and performance wise in recent years.

Perhaps the very curse of Blondie was new wave….

Bought at Music Zone around five pounds Feb 2006.
©M. Duffy (sam1942 2006)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Man Who Had All The Luck

Perhaps you will be wondering why someone so up beat, mildly funny and marginally entertaining and who is more likely to be known for writing ‘on the fence’ music reviews would, like a bolt out of the blue,’ be writing about an American Jewish playwright of the 20th Century who gave us not just intensely depressing and heavy going plays but thought provoking, suicidal and soul twisting literature. Well, it certainly isn’t for the way he styled his hair or cooked chops that has led me to take this rather disturbing career move, but I however, feel the need, every once in a while to take a stand and point out some of the stranger sides of my sobriety.

Arthur Miller may forever roam the minds of the average individual as that geeky, bespectacled guy who, under some pretence, married one of the most beautiful women of our time. Although he was, very briefly Mr Marilyn Monroe, their five year marriage has left a giant dent in the history of modern times. We should then, with this episode, begin to understand the fickleness of mankind and the ‘swoop for a scoop’ behaviour of the press. Just when we thought we can die in the contented knowledge that we once belonged to a race of superior and intellectually designed species, think again. All we will remember of a great playwright and author is that he got to share a bed with the stunning, yet, troubled actress.

As so often, these masterful beings are inspired at such an early age to accomplish all that they were destined to do. Miller, however, was not. After becoming so intoxicated with the depth of the famous novel, ‘The Brothers Karamazov,’ by Dostoevsky, (so well known even spell check didn’t query it..) he decided to study Journalism and English at the University of Michigan where, after he enrolled in 1934, he went on to win awards for his plays whilst a student. Ironically, he was attending the University at the same time as another then unknown playwright, Tennessee Williams. How the evenings after supper must have flown by. One can actually begin to form a picture of these two young men, studying hard at their craft of literature - discussing, cross questioning and dissecting prose into the small hours each night. Not out, like their fellow students, being sick in supermarket trolleys, getting drunk, or even more unimaginable - getting laid.

Beginning to analyse his extraordinary understanding of the hum an mind is like trying to fathom out the reasons why Darwin decided to cut open a frog to see how it worked. We can though, easily see that the young boy was exposed to such great social pressure. Miller had come from a harsh background within his family than most would consider. From Jewish tradition, his father was a man who worked all his life in a manufacturing trade. As a retailer of fine fashions for women, he fought another, doomed inner battle, a battle of his mind and soul. By the time the thirties came, times were desperately hard for men to find work. The Depression, as it was historically known saw the destruction of every fighting spirit. Men with families were pushed to the limits of their self worth and beyond. As Miller was born in 1915, straight into the angst of WWI, he was at a vulnerable and impressionable age by the time such social change was raw.

Surrounded with hardship, the depression and a heart wrenching move from New York to Brooklyn after his father’s business had failed, t would have appeared that Miller had gather all sides of the human soul just by being born. However, lifting his spirits, he worked briefly writing radio plays back in New York whilst sitting the Second World War out due to a sports injury.

All the best people struggle to achieve their success where as, many other mediocre beings with average talent tend to have everything slipped onto a plate for them and served with chips. You can begin to imagine that Miller, despite all his incredible material and life experience of all that is desperate and doomed of a human existence would not be the type of person to, again, struggle in his life. Yet it appeared that he did. On a more of an up beat level and even though it had won a prize at the New York City’s Theatre Guild, his first play for Broadway only opened for four days. So, it’s not just poor Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Davidson pantos that close so suddenly (!) Even the greater than great Miller struggled to be recognised. ‘The Man With All The Luck,’ in 1944 (sounds hopeful) seemed the right tonic for theatre towards the end of the War. It was with his second play, ‘All My Sons,’ that Miller finally found the recognition his deserved. Opening on Broadway three years after the first flop, it proceeded to become a film a year later in 1948.

There have been many writers who have been captivated by social impact on the human spirit in the last Century. All appearing to echo the depth and characterisations of those who were acted out in Greek plays. There have been many comparisons throughout Miller’s life with the great Greek playwrights; Sophocles who wrote the frightening powerful, ‘Antigone,‘ Aeschylus who penned ‘Agamemnon,’ and Euripedes, who wrote ‘Helen.’ All plays that spark depression, death and suicide. (Perhaps it is now we wonder how Goth music became to be Goth, surely everyone listening to The Mission, should have wondering around wearing togas.)

Settling down into becoming a firm fixture like usherettes in Broadway, he continued his career of soul searching and human dissecting over the next forty years and still, even today, teenage boys are subjected to complete scripts of Arthur Miller plays as a part of their private school curriculum. Subjecting his audiences for decades to stories of guilt, reconciliation, depression, rage and hope, he has earned a golden throne in the history of human struggle. He used his childhood experiences throughout his life, working on the theory that the human life was continually failing to become knowledgeable in feeling self assured. All of his characters were always far from self satisfied people. Many were torn from this emotion and another. They fought inner battles against morality and self worth. As you can see, every few plays had happy endings.

He was, in my mind, a psychiatrists worst nightmare. A client who had just about sorted out every conceivable failing and anguish of the human brain. A short lived affair would have been Miller on the couch. He was then, the introspective man’s Disney. Yet, by the time he had created probably the most engaging pieces of theatre of our time in, ‘Death Of A Salesman,’ in 1949, he was dripping with awards. Before it was made into a film in 1952, in which Fredric March was nominated for an Academy Award, Miller was already aware that he was being allowed by his audience to walk within the anxiety of the human life but opening up the soul and exposing the terrors, dreams and failings of a human being. Pretty tough stuff considering Rock and Roll hadn’t even taken a jump in to unknown laps yet! He was, and perhaps not the wisest of moves, about to embark on something as controversial but more political than his plays.

Perhaps not noted on the surface, as a man who would go out of his way to expel the underlying activities of the American Congress in the early 1950’s, yet when his play, ‘The Crucible,’ was produced on Broadway the same year, twitching were taking place on a more threatening and darker side. In 1950, a certain paranoid and dogmatic Senator Joseph McCarthy produced a white paper at a speech in West Virginia allegedly accusing more than 200 workers at the State Department of being communists. The names were never spoken . Surprisingly and almost unbelievable, a large amount of names were of those in the film industry. Hollywood was almost crippled and many had their career’s so shattered by these unfounded accusations that some never worked again. ‘The Crucible,’ was Miller’s most damming and powerful piece of work yet. The fundamental basis of the tale was about the events that took place at the Salem witch hunt of 1692. ‘Self contained,’ and politically down to the knuckle, this play was seen, by Un-American Activities Committee as a strong parallel to the communists supposed movements around the same time. Miller stood by the fact that he was writing ‘a fictional story about an important theme.’ The fact that this theme was potent to every American figure in the land was neither her nor there. Miller was faced with a gallon bucket of hot water and asked to step inside. Even more surprisingly, this film was reproduced again in the 1990’s and left all who witnessed it, flat, unexcited and down right disappointed. The Fifties had been and gone with all it’s segregation and political fear of everyone and anyone who was not white, middle class and all American. In the 1990’s this film was like watching ‘Born Free,’ with your pet lion cub on the couch.

After such a controversial storm as ‘The Crucible,’ there is only one way a playwright of a certain angle can go and that’s inward. His plays, since and until his death in 2005, had left the audiences wanting to soothe him with some hot milk. It had been a play that had left not just a bitter taste in the political mouth but had almost ruined his career. Although the early Fifties had seen a down turn in the way playwrights and writers were seen in the public eye, this somehow only spurned Miller on to challenge even more probing issues. With plays spilling out towards an ever weary crowd, he wrote about deeper things and uncovered topics of the soul and the mind that even still, were seen as taboo or ignored.

‘View From A Bridge,’ was probably regarded as his most introverted work. It also was regarded as politically below the belt as it confronted the U.S immigration laws that were currently used, but many would perhaps agree that it was with his 1960 film, ‘The Misfits,’ that he stumbled upon the fragility of hearts and minds. Written so openly about his crumbling marriage to Marilyn Monroe it heralded the end of an era as to what Miller could get away with. It was, tragically, the last completed film by either stars, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. Accused of her lateness, illnesses and lack of script knowledge, Monroe had had the finger pointed at by all cast and crew and even her weary husband. She was even falsely accused of triggering Gable’s heart attack that killed him shortly after filming. It was personally and emotionally draining and should have been seen as the pinnacle of his career, however, that was far from the truth. It was a flop and a mistake on Miller’s behalf for entertaining the idea of something so personally crippling to his wife. It would appear that Miller didn’t stop there, perhaps, some would say, to cash in his troubled ex wife. Two years after her death, he wrote, ‘After The Fall,’ which was known to be loosely based on his marriage to Miss Monroe.

Steadily, he continued to work throughout his life and almost up to the point of his death last year. He married again, for the third time, in 1962, the same year in which Marilyn died, but was made a widower in 2002. His work has carried on his crusade of indulging heavy drama and human conquests and failings. He had made a life long career in asking questions about the human existence - the struggles of the mind, the body and the reasoning with ones self and ones beliefs. Hence play causally followed play every couple of years until he couldn’t resist another little stab in his last play, ‘Finishing The Picture,’ in 2004, about the making of ‘The Misfits.’

He had been awarded, celebrated and admired, yet on the other hand, he had been trodden, accused, and name smeared with political left ness and contempt, yet still he is distinguishably the most influential and psychologically demanding author of his time. He will, undoubted, be remembered in many years to come in the same vein as we remember Shakespeare. His thought provoking legacy will be of a man who conjured up stories out of social change, human paranoia and physical indifference between religions and political beliefs. He tampered with our souls, our integrity even though we didn’t ask him to. He made us depressed, neurotic and alone through his intensely disturbing and confusing techniques. Yet, a master and will always remain so.

In 1985, he went on a soul searching, material seeking journey across Turkey with fellow heavy and suicidal playwright, Harold Pinter…

You can imagine the laughs they had on that holiday…..

Plays to adore or avoid;

Focus - 1945 9film in 2001)

All My Sons - 1947 (film in 1948)

Death Of A Salesman - 1949 (film in 1951 and again in 1985)

The Crucible - 1953 (film in 1996)

A View From A Bridge - 1955 (film in 1961)

The Theatre Essays Of Arthur Miller - 1978

©M.Duffy (sam1942 on ciao and dooyoo - also published as Planet Janet) 2006

If you would like to know more go to for more information. It will astound you with Miller this and that and forthcoming shows and events. You can even check out the ‘Miller Message Board,’ for heavy going banter, best turn out at three in the morning!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Witnessing The Arrival Of Abba

From the beautiful, burning beaches of the West coast of California to the smallest, poorest lowliest communities of Japan, Abba will always be the worlds biggest, highest paid international group of the 20th of century and beyond. This Swedish quartet of individual songsters on their own right joined forces originally in 1971. The powerful drive of creative writing came from the two male members, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. The two iconic female voices came from Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad. Together, their real success came with their Eurovision winning song, ‘Waterloo’ in 1974. It was to be the biggest winning euro song ever. No winning artist has topped it since. On the back of this event, it was the springboard that was enough to launch them into a stunning, media stricken career peppered with wonderful highs and rock bottom lows. It was these terrifying times that forcibly led to their spilt in 1982. Ironically, it was their enormous success and mountainous financial awards that was to be their ruin. Agnetha, the beautiful, shy, golden haired girl who paid the highest price of the fame of Abba. Once finding the comfort in total solitude and isolation in departing her life from the rest of the world, she stayed, not daring to venture out from her remote farm in Sweden. Even giving up speaking English, she lives still, in her own world of closed walls and unanswered telephones.

Forever idolised by the rest of the world, Benny and Bjorn have allowed their fame to work for themselves. Co writing with Tim Rice on the theatrical music score in ‘Chess’, they have also appeared in the 1993 tour of U2 and go on to write and produce the loosely based biography of Abba titled, ’Mamma Mia.’ This show continues to play to a sell out house in the West End.

By the time ’Arrival’ was released in the Britain in November 1976, it was already their forth U.K release. It went straight to number one and stayed for a proud 92 weeks. Benny and Frida had been a long term couple and eventually married in 1978. Bjorn and Agnetha were already married in 1973. They divorced in 1979 and Benny and Frida divorced in 1981. Similar to Fleetwood Mac, they had had their fill of personal relationship heartaches. Probably more so than Mac, their troubles of the heart had been widely covered and persisted by the media, especially over here. Being aware of their enormous fame, they remained assured, erect and professional at all times both in front of the press and on stage and like Mac again, their sorrowfulness outside the public eye only fuelled their writing capabilities. Their sad songs became more pronounced and soulful. The downside of this was that sad songs were subjected to analysis. Were they telling us their own feelings of their own break ups? Were they having affairs? It didn’t matter. Bringing a tear to the eye of their listeners, they touched on our own heart felt tragedies and this only enforced their role as the greatest international group. They were human, and this as we know, sells, especially records. Abba, a acronym of their first initials, sold over a hundred million records worldwide and continue to do so.

‘Arrival’ was a perfect piece of hits singles, (and not too many) and thought provoking newer songs adding to the delight of the listener. They already had produced a ’Greatest Hits’ album in April of 1976, so to throw more singles at the audience that they had thrown before would have been a mistake. As we discovered from Abba at the time of this album’s release, Benny and Bjorn were professional executives of their craft from the word go. No album was ever going to be sloppy. No single was ever going to be mediocre. Their performance was always polished to a very euro manner, but they had experienced their fair share of flops. Their first UK album, ’Waterloo’ only made number 28 in August 1974. In June 1975, ’Abba’ only reached number 13, so for the arrival of ’Arrival’ it was essential that this album was to do well, before the band was to be labelled a ’bit of a joke.’

We take a look at the front cover and see the members sitting in a clear, see through helicopter shot, presumably at the end of the day with a glorious sunset behind the cameraman ( Ola Lager). The golden light of the setting sun gently lays across their faces giving a softness to the picture. Inspired by Rune Soderquist, this pose gives an indication to the music content within. There is, to be honest, a softness to the quality. We hear a Celtic style piece of instramentalisation in the form of the final track, the title, ‘Arrival.’ The album is peaceful in many places, pleasant to the ear and sometimes engaging in its form. We are open to the creativity of this band. Although intrusting us with the hit singles, they are aware that we will give the same interest to the unknown tracks as well as the well known.

Our first track is ‘When I Kissed The Teacher.’ At three minutes long, it is the standard single length. The solo lead is Agnetha. A dreamy acoustic takes us into the intro, before it opens up into a quick beated, euro single. It is full of all the right timings, complicated backing vocals and tinkleling bells and keyboards. There are two featured drummer used on this album. Ola Brunket plays on eight of the track and Roger Palm on only one. Abba’s unique brand of inoffensive pop entertains and delights audiences of all ages. Foot tapping, head nodding and cheerful lyrics (most of the time), this albums starts with a pretty song . The guitar on this particular track could have been borrowed from Led Zep. With a Mamma Mia style underlying in the background, it is creaming theatrical musical theme. We can imagine this is to be in some stage show. It is a good track and there’s a lot of little touches to be found it. Over all, we can se why this wasn’t release as a single, it doesn’t have that punch that Benny and Bjorn would have insisted on.

‘Dancing Queen’ was a different kettle of fish. (where does that saying come from?) This did have that punch. This track probably doesn’t need any describing and I defy anyone out there who doesn’t know this. it’s the theme of all seventies, teenage parties. A coming of age (and gay anthem nowadays) track, it was unique and touched with piano, strings and shuffling percussions by Malando Gassama. Tambourines rattle gently within this swaying, either love it or loathe it track. On the 21st of August, 1976, we went mad over it. Then not so mad over it with its reissue in 1992, when it only reached number 16. Now get out of those platforms, spangle head band and twirl to your hearts content. Unfortunately, for those of us who remember it the first time around, we’d say it was the most over done, overplayed record of all time. We have heard too much, better pass it onto the next generation.

‘My Love, My Life,’ is a true soulful song, but perhaps not the real gut wrenched that we were subjected to the future years of the band. Lest face it, its not too suicidal, when this album was recorded, they were all still happily together. It is the fore runner of ‘Thank you For The Music,’ and with the accompaniment of the doubled backing vocals creating the sense of a hundred choir voices gives the track an essence that was truly Abba. It is the perfect come down from the ceiling after the energy of ‘Dancing Queen.’ Just the opening keyboard is enough to bring a lump to the throat. Our faces are sullen, as we are led through the proverbial church entrance. It is an angelic piece of sombre meaningful lyrics. Agnetha , with those doe eyes looking as though they are about to cry, brings this piece to its knees, or the listener, one or the other. Let us pray at the sound of those church chime bars. Again, no punch, or wrist slashing qualities for this to be a single. We introduce Janne Schaffer in electric guitar ( I’ll let try you and pick this out on the track, because I couldn’t!)

‘Dum Dum Diddle,’ should be explanatory. It a jolly track but reminds me of a Bay City Rollers B side. It is a seventies party song., or possibly a middle aged, sobering New Years Eve record. I can see the flowing skirts, socks pulled up to the knee and sandals…hang on… that was me… Too much jelly and ice cream, my son, of five years old, would love this track. The Tweenies have nothing on this Abba track. At least they will pick up the lyrics quicker that we could… Nice touch of rolling up and down the synthesisers towards the end to give a little edge. Lasse Wellander features on acoustic guitar here and on the next track.

One of my favourites now appears on this album as track number five. ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You.’ has been made famous, not just by Abba, but by Steve Coogan as the inexcusable Alan Partridge. A strong acoustic, great vocals from both Frida and Agnetha. One thing to be noted here is the versatility of these two female vocals as they entwine with each other so they almost sound the same voice. Sing along able, it uses that iconic guitar riff that has become the epitome of the track. A good single choice, it made number one quickly after its release in February 1977. Another wise move by the band, was to spread out the releases from the album over a steady length of time and not all on top of each other. They had learnt how to govern and manage themselves, that they had practically become an institution. Nothing got passed Benny and Bjorn. They were the masters of this project and everything was going to have a strategy from beginning to end. They were destined to be respected and admired, and I think for the band, they would never have accepted anything less. A powerful vocal track allowing the female voices (Frida takes the lead here) to cry the lyrics out with all they have. Ah ha!

The sixth track is the very popular, ‘Money, Money, Money.’ A tongue in cheek theatrical song about a woman wanting to find a sugar daddy. It is not really a pop record, or even a disco track. It’s quite literally a song to listen to, appreciate but be amused by it. Very much on the same par as Liza Minnelli and Joel Gray’s loot seeking ditty from the 1972 film, Cabaret titled ‘Money Makes The World Go Round.’ A song for fun I guess one could say about his track. With its crafty, sinister chords and Frida’s deep, scheming vocals, we can imagine her cowered over the microphone stand meagrely rubbing her hands. It was Abba’s tribute to Fagin from Oliver Twist. Haven’t we all had a day dream about this song? At least the lyrics have certainly passed through our minds at one stage or another….
Released on the 20th of November 1976, it reached a fairly impressive number three. We obviously couldn’t get enough of this intriguing record as we allowed it to stay in the charts for 13 weeks. Abba certainly did get their money money money. It was the pressures of the fame that came with it that they wanted to get away from.

‘That’s Me,’ is more of the throw back to their euro stardom. It quite happily declares its euro ism. Complete with disco beat, lots of maracas shaking and meaningless lyrics, it is all glitter and no sparkle. Someone is having a great time running their hands in a sporadic fashion up and down the keyboard, that the effect is quite awful, but let’s not forget, this is the era of sonic seventies, tasteless disco. With all this glammed up trash, we could only await for the next Earth Wind And Fire record to calm our nerves… The opening funky ‘Doobie Brothers’ style of piano and groovy beats sounds promising, but after too much atomic laser synthesiser sounds lighting up the background like machine gun fire works, it starts to lose the very little appeal it had in the first place. Never mind. Thank Goodness they didn’t go into Eurovision with this track instead. We would all be sitting around now saying… ‘Abba…who?’

‘Why Did It Have To Be Me,’ is a glimmering shadow of the earlier hit for Abba, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do,’ With its strolling rock and roll theme, its a little doowop and too much razzamatazz. Move over Chas n Dave, it would seem that from some brief moment, they might have had competition… Sung as lead by Bjorn, (something that wasn’t heard often was the men singing lead) he actually has a kind, soft voice. Perhaps Abba should have let the men step forward more often. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the voices of Agnetha and Frida, but to hear tracks like this one, no matter how bad it was, was a refreshing change.

‘Tiger’ is a fairly short track in length. At only two minutes, 53 seconds, its about a flat as ‘That’s Me.’ It is difficult to review something now that thirty years ago was new, exciting and like nothing heard before. One needs to put oneself back in time to review an album such as this well. ‘Tiger’ is a repetition of the same chord throughout. The lyrics are pretty dire, ‘I am behind you, I’ll always find you, I am the Tiger.’ What the listener will find the utmost shocking is the awful, subhuman ending here the females are subjected to hitting the highest note that they honestly sound as though they are being strangled by their own tiger. Probably more at home in the musical, The Lion King rather than a pop album, but this was Abba, and being from a country like Sweden, their music was often in different stage styles and sometimes more naive than British music or American. The rest of Europe were so backward in their song writing, especially during the seventies, literally brought over to us child like songs. It was as if they didn’t know how to write anything gritty. I mentioned The Tweenies, well, I can imagine them covering this track on their next Cbeebies tour…….if not then The Wiggles certainly will……

The best, it can be said, is perhaps left until last on this album. The title track was so atmospheric that even Mike Oldfield couldn’t wait to get his hands on this. ‘Arrival,’ is an instrumental piece of a strong Celtic theme. Abba were in their own class when it came to producing atmospherics within songs. This became more apparent in later work when their ability to incorporate synthesisers upon synthesisers gave their songs such a fullness that it like having Phil Spector round to fiddle with your graphic equalizer. The only trouble was, that Abba tours were so limited due to the difficulties enacting their tracks live. If this is the listener’s first taste of ‘Arrival’ the track, then I suggest ‘Eagle’ from Greatest Hits, Vol II. A purely scenic and transforming song that will have you gliding on the wings of a giant bird of prey scouring the Scottish mountains. ‘Arrival,’ was certainly the fore runner of this. ‘Eagle’ didn’t appear until the release of ‘The Album’ in January 1978.

Abba now live amongst our dusty record collections and sometimes get an airing at a drunken party, long gone has the glam rock glitter boots, the sparkly lip gloss and the long beards (never suited the girls) Lost are the 16 UK albums, nine of them, number ones, only ‘Gold’ remains with us, well over three hundred and forty three weeks in the album chart and still counting…

John Peel loved them and so did we. They offered us a chance to see that the world wasn’t really flat and actually there are other countries out there. Closeted in our little Britain world, we couldn’t imagine anything over the sea, until Abba. Perhaps now all we have left apart from those old records, is the awful tribute bands and terrible take offs as if we are supposed to be impressed with ‘Bjorn Again,’ and bands lower down the talent scale.

If we really need to hear Abba again, let be the original……and let it be ‘Arrival’….

Or my next review will be on The Wiggles……

pictures from wikipedia.

©M. Duffy (sam1942) 2006.