Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Alien Ant Music And The Animal Farm

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)

©m.duffy 2006 (Planet Janet)
Also on ciao and dooyoo (sam1942). 2006.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I'm A Brit So Make Me A Star!

In the UK, we are nuts about reality shows, and it can only get worse. It is official, in Britain we vote in our millions on TV shows, far more than in a political election The Travel Guide gives any new visitor to our funny looking country a definitive insight as to the workings of the British mind, and it doesn't get any more brutal than this; we prefer reality TV shows to who ever is running the country. In fact, we will more than happily launch our bulldog bodies towards the telephone and vote off our least favourite celebrity stuck in a Australian jungle than walk to our nearest polling station and vote for the next Prime Minister. Has the Land of Hope and Glory really become that fickle?

Well, according to the Lonely Planet's guide to Great Britain, that's exactly what has happened and for any alien life form who dares to beam down into the centre of Birmingham, that's what they are going to see - thousands of Brummies glued to the goggle box awaiting the final results of who will be dunked into a vat of green goo.

We wonder, when putting down our cups of Earl Grey and ruffle the Evening Standard what the rest of the world has to say about this revelation. Not that we really need reminding what Europe thinks of us, we have the Eurovision Song Contest annually to do that. So what else is on the 'Watch Out For Overseas Anglo's?' Well, we are equally in dire need for the delights of fast food, according to the same irritatingly good book. We love our junk food and think of nothing else than to poke fun at those who are staying healthy on lettuce and carrots. (Hang on, that sound's like my pet rabbit..?)

However, it also gives the rest of the world the idea that we don't actually sit down. The reason why we love junk food and ready meals so much is not because we are a lazy nation of good for nothings (there are many countries who would disagree here,) it is because we work too hard and don't spend enough time on ourselves and too much time on others. (There had to be a good point in there somewhere.) informs overseas visitors that citizens also eat more junk food and ready meals than the rest of Europe put together.

So we are, deep down, nice people. Honest. Yet what do we have to offer as soon as anyone lands here? According to the book, Cardiff is 'the epitome of cool.' (written no doubt, by someone who has never been,) and Newcastle has been described as having nightlife that is 'wild and crazy'
which is true to a point: it is not advisable to go around too late without the aid of something or someone to protect you.

Yet on a serious note, the bombings in 2005 did effect us to the point of World War Two all over again. We would have dug our own trenches, rolled up our sleeves and resurrected Dame Vera Lynn and kept out shores clean and safe from terror knocking on our doors again. We had just decided to head for the conviences of life. It doesn't mean to say we have lost the nerve to guard ourselves with dignity. Although the book states that our desire to take an interest in politics has certainly sen better days. We care for our Saturday night TV because we can rely on it to be there for us. It is as simple as that. Politicians? We only love them if we can vote them off...

So, in conclusion, we have found out to our dismay that we are a nation who has,

"a symptom of ever-growing obsession will fame and celebrity".

We don't just want our celebs to burn in Hell on a reality TV show, but we have to read about them too. We love to gossip about such stars as if we know them personally, and these 'celebs' can be just about anyone. You don't have to have a talent to become a God or Goddess overnight, according to the book,

"even though their 'celebrity' status is based on little more than the ability to sing a jolly tune, look good in tight trousers or kick a ball in the right direction"

So, just give me my 15 minutes of fame and I'll be happy. Give me David Beckhams legs, John Lennon's head and a tuneless voice and I'll be dancing around a desert island for my supper, hoping no one will want to vote me off...

©m.duffy (Planet Janet)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Come Round To Eric's For An Evening Of Noise

Vince Clarke is probably the only man in music history who has managed to fall on his feet every time he has jumped into a new venture. Previously to joining Erasure in 1985, his credits had been The Assembly with Fergal Sharkey, teaming up with Paul Quinn from Bourgie Bourgie for one single, the infamous Depeche Mode, and somewhere in between all that lot was Yazoo.

After being introduced to a very young spiky haired, pouty girl called Genevieve Alison-Jane Moyet who had already fronted little known band, The Vicars, Clarke got to hear her sing for a demo tape and was immediately struck by this girls’ extremely powerful voice. They teamed up together after Clarke had talked her into cutting a record. She was equally impressed with his synthesiser genius and electro style. By the time 1981 was drawing to a close, these two young musicians from Basildon in Essex set to work on producing their first single.

‘Only You,’ by Clarke’s fair hand was released in 17th April 1982, a date that had become a musical mark in history. It was on this day in 1960 that Eddie Cochran was killed in a car crash in Chippenham and it was also the date of Billy Fury’s birthday. Still, this track had immediately become not just a hit, but a forever widely covered song. Not in the least bit surprising that their first record should be such a success, with both having vast experience in the music industry, albeit, Clarke more than Moyet, they had invented was not just a sound that was both modern and in touch with the growing new romantic movement, but with Moyet’s incredible voice, classic, clear and pleasing to all generations. It was this single that was the featured in the album, ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’ a amateur themed ‘in the bedroom singing with a hairbrush in your hand’ including voices of friends and Eric’s mum. (Whoever Eric is..)
Whatever the case, what we were introduced to was the fusion of two great music minds of the post punk era.

Visually, they had looked rather comical. Miss Moyet was a large girl of a big frame and face to match. A smile and voice that was quite intimidating and God help if she ever fell on top of you. Vince Clarke on the other hand was the complete opposite. Small, meek with floppy fringe and spoke very little. Pouted with head down and generally appearing like some dopey student in tatty clothes.

Moyet’s deep and unmatchable vocal boomed across the airwaves on the radio in those early days like some mysterious and emotional diva. Crying from the bottom of her heart, her energy in her performance on both record and stage was quite remarkable. Apart from having to change their name to Yazz whilst touring over in the States due to an American record label of the same name, they embarked on little upheaval. Eventually, after releasing only three, yet highly acclaimed albums, they decided to split in 1983. A strange move as they were at the height of their career as a band and with America now under their belts, many were puzzled at the decision. Admitting that they wanted to break whilst the going was good, they were quick to release the potential they were creating for themselves in their chosen ventures simply because Yazoo were still very mush in the public eye. Moyet was able to launch her successful solo career although, her diversity and acclaimed vocals were lost in the sea of ballad commercialism and she seemed never wanting to return to the sound of Yazoo again. Meanwhile, Vince Clarke went on to form the Assembly with old friend Fergal Sharkey and they had one hit titled, ’Never, Never in November 1983 reaching number 4.

‘Upstairs At Eric’s’ was trusted onto the chart in August 1982 as Yazoo‘s very first album. Its mannequin cover showing both dummies cut off at the waist and torsos sitting on the table with their detached legs still sitting bent on the chairs, they face each other as if in deep discussion. Photographed by Joe Lyons, upstairs in a disused warehouse one night, it gives the purchaser the theme of the electronic, synthesised age where music and culture became flatly unemotional. All industries were obsessed with robots and all that was unhuman. This showed in predominately the music industry and yet also very much in the fashions of that time. Buskers on city streets gave miming shows pretending to be robots and mimicking passers by. The new romantic movement had a emotionless face about it. The costumes that the young wore (myself included here!) were right out of the 18th Century. All the fellas wanted to look like Dick Turpin and both sexes wore as much make up as they possibly could, thus giving a mechanical impression of a soulless existence. I hardly believe at the time, that this is the way we wanted to look, but unfortunately that was the rest of the world saw.

The first track on this album is probably the best known song by Yazoo, titled, ‘Don’t Go.’ Released in July 1982, it was one out of only six singles that they recorded together. It rushed its way straight to number 3 and hung around for a fair 11 weeks in the chart. The track opens with the famous right handed flutter of notes on the keyboard that has been used as recognisable by the public as the band themselves. A fast, drum machine based track, Moyet shows off her diva like vocals with defiance and dignity. She is allowed to use her voice in this track and stretch it in ever way imaginable. She drops her vocals and throws her lyrics up to the ceiling to see if they would stick like a pancake. it’s a quick passed song with equal amounts of speed and energy as a lap of a race track. Using a heavy base line that was only just being introduced into these electric sounds at the time, it is rather edgy and angry in its theme. It is however, a classic example of the extensive talents of both Clarke and Moyet, both using their abilities to their best. It is a touching note to add in here that on the credits of the album, Vince Clarke is credited for his ‘noises’ rather than noting the instruments that he plays….Added ‘noises’ were played by Daniel Miller. He appears on about half of the tracks on the album.

‘Too Pieces,’ starts with the extreme opposite of life as the previous track. A gentle yet very simple flick across the keyboards is used here. A logo for all Clarke creations. There is depth and feeling in this track. Not that there was in the last, but this theme is softened by its simplicity. The drum machine winds down the mood and gives Moyet the ability to water down her dive like style. A track that surprisingly is more instrumental than vocal, it is the post punk eras version of a love song. It was better in most cases, in those days to create a vision of romanticism through instruments rather than vocals. This back end of new wave lacked any deep emotion, so therefore, anything written with a love theme in mind was difficult if it was also going to appeal to the buying public.

‘Bad Connection,’ is the first track in a series of pieces on this album that feature sound effects and backing pieces of talking. A feature that was also introduced in the new wave scene to literally liven records up a towards the end of the new wave era, records started to sound flat and boring. What is used here is the old familiar sound of a phone ringing and the dial tone. Opening like ‘Kids In America’ but with some featured optimism, this track is jolly in its theme, and sounds rather like OMD but after a very good nights sleep. Chatty backing vocals also by Moyet it is loosely based on a sixties theme of bubble gum pop from the days of Dusty Springfield. A nice touch of the ‘operator’ reporting a bad line whilst Moyet sings of her urgency to speak to her boyfriend. ’I’d wish they’d fix the wires cause my baby don’t know, that I’m leaving in the morning and I’m ready to go…’ The lyrics are simple and almost childlike. No imagery and colourful word play added here within the lyrics. The backing lines of ‘oh can you hear me?’ strung in a chanting backing create a beat on its own making this a very catchy, pleasant tune.

‘I Before E Except After C’ opens with a recording of a series of voices repeating their prose. The features voices, that grow in number after a few seconds are the voices of D.Davis, Moyet and Eric’s Mum. Like a bad dream or a very heavy drinking session that is drawing to a close at closing time, or even a bad trip, these voices entwine and become a mass of whispers and distortion. It is totally impossible to concentrate on anything whilst listening to this that does feature some experimental synths and drum machines. It dose, however, remind me of something between The Shamen and a hot sweat in the middle of the night. A disturbing piece that leaves us with Eric’s mum hysterically laughing. Not a song in any stretch of the imagination, more like Vince Clarke’s version of that strange, mysterious ‘Number Nine,’ the Lennon composition.. It is Clarke in his primitive days of experimental synths and playing around with dubbing and over dubbing, editing and mixing, a very up and coming thing for artists to play with, so Clarke set off on a road not travelled, ahead of his time. One actually has to remember how long ago this recording actually was. I don’t feel that Yazoo as a band were ever given the recognition for introducing certain sounds and experiments than they were. It is compelling listening and you’ll be drawn into the track and not clearly understand why…

‘Midnight,’ enters on Moyet’s voice totally unaccompanied, then with religious themed keyboards backing Moyet’s desperate voice it fundamentally opens on just about the same line as ‘Don’t Go.’ Moyet has this uncanny knack of pushing all emotion ever felt by a singer in just one screaming note. Precisely in tune and never off key, her vocals were quite extraordinary for the type of music that she was signing. New wave, post punk new romanticism whatever you wish to call it, never relied on such strong vocals. Debbie Harry full of all alluring appeal was not the worlds greatest singer but Blondie were massive, and it was purely because new wave wasn’t about talent or even control over a song, it was about meaningless sounds and vocals. Unfortunately Yazoo were the last band to fit into the new wave category for these reasons. It truly meant that Yazoo were in a music genre of their own. This track is equally as pleasant as the rest of the album bar one or two pieces. Yet again, in this track she accentuates on her every note giving a fairly flat song depth and strength. Not surprising that it was actually written by her, and the first track of hers featured on this album.

‘In My Room’ is probably the nearest we get to experience punk/electro on this album. Each track so far has been a simmered down versions of a mixture of genre’s around at that time. Featuring a slowed down deep chant of ‘The Lords Prayer,’ this extreme experimental track of distorted drum beats and elongated keyboards chords a layered feel with the icing on the top of this cake, Moyet’s voice which seems to have taken an electronic form. Mixed in a misbeated theme, this track will do little to tap your feet or move your head, it will probably flit over you whilst you await the next track and that of one being the biggest hit. Perhaps this track is misplaced in the production of this album and probably belongs elsewhere. Still, it is Clarke in playful form, and probably not to everyone’s taste. He does, at this stage of his career be preoccupied with voices mixed with noises, these deep, still vocals where words are spoken rather than sung seems high up on the agenda for this piece of work from a young band. It certainly was the order of the day, we must be aware of that, despite what we think…

Unfortunately, when I think of ‘Only You,’ I immediately think of the acappella version by the Flying Pickets which reached a number one position Christmas, 1983. This might have upset Vince Clarke as it was obviously his song, but only managed number 2 the year before with Moyet on vocals. This had to be Clarke’s masterpiece through his career, even in the days of Erasure, I do believe that this is the song that he will be remembered for. Basic and a very pop version of a new wave track. This was the track that I feel kicked off the very pop essence of the eighties. Many believe that it was Visage’s ‘Fade To Grey,’ that was the very beginning of the new romantic movement in its musical sense. Foe me, it was ‘Only You,’ by Yazoo that was the fore runner for the eighties pop era. It was far from punk and really nowhere near new romanticism, but it did pave the way for a lot of bands coming along who were all geared up with synths and drum machines but lacked direction. Clarke is one of those behind the scenes man in British music history who will be not just one of the innovators of the British pop scene but also one of those people who could be easily forgotten. The lyrics were teenage perfection and simple to understand. A little love song of a break up to fit the era and also very fitting for the vocal range of Moyet.

‘Goodbye 70’s’ is a very interesting track in the sense that it is not just closing the door on the ‘seventies’ punk/glam rock scene, but it opens the eighties with the same excitement as 1980 did at the time. This is a mesmerising track in its speed and disco effect with thundering keyboards and laser effect sounds sitting over a steady drum machine, it is Pet Shop Boys before they knew themselves, it is again, an example of the shape of the pop sense was to become in the following decade. Fast and furious, defiant and excitingly entrancing, we even feel a detection of rave/techno music in this track, years before its time. Moyet adjusts her vocals to fit this disco feel in a range that suits her, which is any range really….

The last three tracks wind the album down on a gradual sombre note from each track to the next, the theme becomes more introverted and distracted from its speedy theme from previous tracks. ‘Tuesday,’ is the first of these tracks, that feels little to me and sounds more like a B side to a far better standing song. The keyboards are whining somewhat and Moyet sounds slightly bored. In actually puts me in mind of ‘Nobody’s Diary,’ which was to be the last hit for the band before they split. It was this track that I felt Yazoo where on a slight down hill slide. We can look at Moyet’s solo career to recognise that the spark from her days with the creative Clarke had all but vanished in her music. Her voice doesn’t hold so much strength in this track of ‘Tuesday,’ as the others…

‘Winter Kills,’ is the most morose piece I have ever heard from either of the two musicians here. Written by Moyet, it a shockingly far cry from ‘Goodbye 70’s’ which was also written by her. It is not advisable to listen to the track too often without fear of wanting to slash your wrists. It is not just disappointing, but worrying as I feel Moyet needed some help in her life if she had this type pf material in her in the first place. I try and figure out what was attractive about this song for them to produce it onto the album. Surely Clarke could have talked her out of it…? Perhaps he was just as miserable at the time too. Moyet’s voice has lost all strength and energy. She still give a performance matching nothing else, but I did think that this track held not place on this type of album at all. I wonder if song is about someone who had died, the track continues..’lost in daydreams you drove too fast and got nowhere, you rode on half fare when you got too scared…’ Bar one or two incredible notes of hope, this track holds no glimmer of recovering what so ever. Best left to a funeral march, I do believe Siouxie and The Banshees have come up with jollier stuff than this…

‘Bring You Love Down (Didn’t I?)’ picks up the tempo and we are relieved. We relax in the knowledge that Yazoo haven’t completely lost the plot towards the end of this album and we find ourselves back to square one, like slapped over the face with a wet kipper, we find ourselves bewildered from the experiences of the last two tracks. With clappy drum machine beats and catchy, fluttering lyrics, we are back safely in the arms of the security songs that were Yazoo. We are even graced by the sound effect of a glass clinking party going on in the background to end the album on a disco, unharmed and happy note. This track really holds little meaning in a lyrical sense, but we don’t care! it’s the best way to leave Yazoo, Moyet bouncing her large chest around the stage and Clarke, ever the party animal, moody with ever growing fringe, looking as though he was wishing he was somewhere else…..

Their story was a very brief one, but their careers mountainous ever since. It would seem that even though this was only a short space in time for both Alison Moyet and Vice Clarke, it was certainly the most important…

When this album was released again on CD, it featured the dreaded bonus tracks which are always dumped in on a new cd release of an old album just to justify the money spent on putting it on CD in the first place. These were; ‘The Other Side Of Love’ (November 1982, number 13) and; ‘Situation,’ (September 1982, no position reached in singles chart)

All songs written by Moyet and Clarke
Produced by E.C.Radcliffe and Yazz
Vocals and Piano by Moyet
Noises by Clarke.
Mute Records

pictures from wikipedia and the band's unofficial webiste at

©m.duffy (Planet Janet and sam1942 on other sites) 2006.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Evening Of Wonders With Derren Brown - Live 24/5/07 Dorking Halls, Surrey

On a hot and sticky Thursday night, I dragged myself from a hard day’s work over to the delights of one of Surrey’s most extraordinary church hall’s to see the man they call an illusion trickster from darkest Victoriana - Derren Brown.

As a thousand people rushing into the cramped theatre straight from work or dropping the children off at the baby sitters, found their seats, a rumour in surround sound filled the air with excitement. As many of us would not put it passed him, we found ourselves staring around the corners of the room for hidden cameras and twitching curtains. After previously reading somewhere that he picks out his victims from watching them enter the auditorium from some secret location, it meant that if Mr Brown had been peeking from off stage, he would have seen a few hundred people squinting al around as if they have lost something.

The show began in the most traditional fashion. A projector from the back casting great words onto a screen on stage which said calming things such as ‘Hello,’ and ‘Follow The Instructions Carefully.’ In silent movie style, we are entertained by him even though we haven’t seen him yet. We are told by the Big Brother screen to watch a piece of film of two people playing table tennis. At first, it suddenly feels like a University lecture - the ones which we bother to turn up for, because we think they’ll be easy. We find ourselves caught out by one of Derren’s little visual games, little did we know on first viewing of the film that the two players in black in the foreground were actually a pair of gorillas - anyone could have made that mistake…

The rest of the show consisted of, as he would put it - ‘A Evening of Wonders.’ There were, before the show, a disturbing number of young student types loitering around in the foyer. For a moment, I felt, at the ripe of age of 35, very old. Yet it occurred to me, that this section of Derren followers were hoping to catch Brown at his gory worst. I wonder later, if these kids had walked away feeling somewhat disappointed, when the entire evening was spent mind reading. There must have been at least one spotty youth in the crowd who was aching to hear Derren say, "And now I shall re-enact a scene from 'Misery' Satrring Kathy Bates, I shall attempt to hack someone's legs off with a blunt instrument. I'll just throw the Frisbee out into the audience to chose one of you, why are you all ducking?"

I was relieved to see a whole new take on his ‘act.’ He would hate me for saying that word, yet what we saw was actually the re-enactment of his career’s birth. He gave us, although it may have fallen on a number of deaf ears, a small insight to where his certain techniques originate. Flashes of Victorian looking men in stiff black and white poses light up the screen behind him. We see the 36 year old Derren, a man of 2007, dressed in the same bib and tucker and sporting similar pointed beards. What I personally delight in, is his ability to talk with great respect for these past illusionists and charlatans, yet in the same breath, present them as frauds. Brown, himself believes in nothing and continuously presents himself as an equal trickster, but here comes the real trick - he is the genuine article, or at least, so he would have us believe.

He is a showman, and one of a breed who is not just dying, but has long since been dead since the first World War. He comes to us in almost an apparition of someone who is not of our time. He has, swamped himself in such mysteries of the past that we either want to swim into the dark, deathly depths of the Victorian swamp with him, or tell him he needs to get out more. For me, I am far from the latter. Yet there is a trick in him, and a very clever one at that. At the end of the first half of the show, he invites 150 of us to collect a black envelope each from a smiling usherette and write on the card inside, a question, then walk onto the stage, place it in a bowl, where, in the second half, he will randomly pull out an envelope and then proceed to tell the writer what the question is inside and give it an answer without opening it.

Of course, if anyone who was there might have noticed, is that he didn’t actually give any answer, nor did he say the actual question, yet as each card came out (and mine didn’t, tutt!) he would then begin to tell the person the ailments they suffered with and when they were going on holiday this year. I have found that his entertainment technique on stage is actually quite simple for the full effect - he starts a trick, it goes wrong, you figure out what it is he is trying to achieve and just as he is about to give up, he turns the trick around and presents us with a result and we had;

a) not bargained for, and

b) left us just about as speechless as the coach of Taunton Athletic who has just seen his team score the winning goal over AC Milan.

(I wish I could have come up with another simile on that last point there.) Yet we are enthralled at him, and find ourselves falling under his entrancing spell further still so that when he comes to do the next, not-so-fancy trick, we muse even more, not that the trick was any good but we are lavishing in the great idea it was to buy a ticket.

Sparklingly handsome tinged with equal self absorption, Mr Brown will keep you nattering about how you thought he could know the total number was of a random number of people in the audience thinking up a group of numbers each. Only he knows how it is done and if you think buying his new book, ’Tricks Of The Mind,’ is going to tell you anything, you are very much mistaken.

We are, after all, the nation who invented entertainment in it’s wondrous form. We used to gather in the village square to watch people chained to the whipping post and others being hung for their crimes, so should we be that shocked that the Victorians aren’t that far behind us still? Just look over your shoulder the next time you by a ticket to see him (and you know you will) and you will find a whole host of ghostly figures straight out of the Old Time Music Hall, flying their little Union Jacks.

I kid ye not!

Find out more dates in his 2007 tour at
His next performance after Dorking again tonight is; 31st: Glasgow, Royal Concert Hall (0141 353 8000)

Also take a look at -

© m.duffy (Planet Janet) 2007

Monday, May 21, 2007

Vanity And Insanity...

On a sunny day in June, 1958, Minneapolis saw the birth of just another black kid amongst a struggling community. Prince Rogers Nelson , in adult life, became a singer, songwriter, producer, record label owner, multi talented instrumentalist and a studio owner, not to mention one of the most exuberant, exciting and outstanding performers of the twentieth century.

His first UK release came in the form of a single called ‘I wanna be your lover.’ It entered the charts in January 1980 and failed to even make the top 40. This didn’t deter the young singer and dreamt of greater heights. In all honesty, this didn’t come along for another 4 years. Not until July 1984.

‘Purple Rain’, a film written as a semi autobiographical account of a young, talented boy growing up in a tough and poor neighbourhood failed to attract any form of positive recognition. The critics jumped all over it calling it pretentious and a waste of money. The soundtrack, on the other hand had earned Prince World fame. His first real taste of British acclaim came with the single, ‘Little Red Corvette,’ in April 1983. Prince had needed to maintain is pride by keeping on the same high cloud. ‘Purple Rain’ arguably became the greatest achievement of his career. A moment in his time, that the artist hasn’t really topped since. Even though ‘Parade - the soundtrack from ‘Under The Cherry Moon’ (1986) actually reached a higher position in the album chart , (‘Parade’ claimed number 4 where as ‘Purple Rain’ only claimed number 7) it is ‘Purple Rain’ that stands alone in the corridor of excellence.

His royal purpleness, encaged by an ever growing entourage of purpalies had created an atmosphere of total stardom. Of his own making, he had now reached the summit of God dom and hasn’t been able to come down from it since.

His recent performance at the Brits was received with the same exuberance and excitement as if he had donned a Louis XIV wig, purple frills, straddling a purple motorbike and rode it as his entrance on stage. We could forget for one moment that it has been over two years since any releases from him. Hard to believe he is soon to be 48.

‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life….’ like a James Brown sermon in The Blues Brothers, we open this album with Prince the Preacher dictating to us his understanding of life and the after world. He is about to give us his greatest lesson like Sammy Davis Jr telling us to take a dive and swim to Daddy…our eyes are opened as well as our ears. We get ready for a lesson in throwing away care, kicking troubles in the groin and tweaking the nose hairs of strife, yes, its Prince giving us a taste of the album complete with ecstatic keyboards and low guitar riffs. We hear the artist’s adaptation of rock, pop and anything gloriously arrogant.

‘Lets Go Crazy’ should speak for itself. A mad rush of energy pours out of our speakers and into our brains. We will emerge from this experience fully cleansed and enlightened. I believe that any sudden burst of frighteningly fast drum machines and hysterical guitars good for the soul. It would not be Prince without some yells and screams. This might be the only album where listening is just as good as the visual. We don’t need to see Prince having it off with a microphone stand or running his tongue up and down a fret board (ouch), we can experience the whole live thing straight through our speakers. One thing is for sure, this album aims to please, excite, and begs for applause. Prince wormed his way into our hearts and our record collections with this enchanting piece of theatrical performance. There is not much left out of this irrational piece of basically going wild with no sense of direction. One will either love it or hate and skip the rest of the album.. If you keep going with it, listen with an open mind.

‘Take Me With You’ seems to be a bit of a come down after all the excitement of this first track. A ‘duet’ with unknown female artist, ‘Apollonia.’ Prince has always been famed for using good female backing singers with good , strong voices and bringing them to the fore. There are one or two names from the past who owe the start of their careers to Prince. One tends to get the feeling that Prince is very pro women in the industry. As well as constructing his own talent, he sought after creating the same from others. An introduction with hap hazard drums we find ourselves in amongst tambourines and cymbals and enjoying a pretty song that’s catchy, inoffensive and perhaps a little childish in its form. Prince went through a stage of using violins to enhance a record. ‘Raspberry Beret’ was a classic example of using this method. They give femininity to a song and allow the track a fair chunk of jollity and optimism. One to skip along holding hands to….if your twelve….
There then come a further three tracks that I don’t fully understand. Experimental is probably the name of the game here. The first of these three is ‘The Beautiful Ones.’ A ballad of sorts, Prince has the most diverse vocal range. With the power to adapt to low, tension filled drama within the lines of ‘When Doves Cry’, to the trill, untuneful, feminine to the extreme weirdness of ‘The Beautiful Ones.’ Using keyboards practically playing a different tune, we experience, probably, the epitome of a naff eighties ballad. There were greats such as ‘Broken Wings’ by Mister Mister, then you had off the planet, space themed, where’s Blake 7 numbers such as this from Prince. A rock theme drifts in towards the end and Prince does what he does the best, screams like a banshee with a few electric guitar riffs thrown in for good measure. By the end, and Prince loves his extended to the hilt endings, the listener has had enough.

‘Wendy? Yes Lisa? Is the water warm enough? Yes Lisa? Shall we begin? Yes Lisa…’
‘Computer Blue’ voices, Wendy and Lisa who had a few unofficial hits of their own back in the early eighties that didn’t really amount to much, they had been Prince’s two main backing singers. We hear them here reciting some lines in which they sound thoroughly bored. Stranger than strange, this was actually Prince’s attempt at a country themed song. Probably the one song that couldn’t be any further away from country if it tried. Listenable to its length, it seems to me, like Miami Vice incidental music, probably used in a car chase, with its funkiness and ostentatious ness, it takes a peculiar slant mid way into something so slow that it cries out for the record player to receive a good kick. A raw bass and riff takes hold where ‘’Computer Blue’ left off.

What we are now hearing is ‘Darling Nikki.’ Known for its explicit lyrics, ‘I met her in a hotel lobby, masturbating with a magazine.’ A story about a one night fling. It has a disturbing energy and a riff that Hendrix would be proud of. It appears too metal for Prince and his voice must have been in tatters at the end of recording. He wails and screams as if in terrible pain. A tremendous performance but all too short lived as the very end of this track is something played backwards. A kind of accapella verse. Thankfully, due to age and a previously local Woolworths, I have this on vinyl. After several attempts to play it backwards, which certainly didn’t do my record player any good what so ever, I believe that the lyrics are, ‘hello, how are you’ and then something about something coming up….if there is anyone out there with this on vinyl, please help as there is someone here who will not sleep til I find out what that says! Prince’s little teaser. Well, we always thought he was a teaser any way…..

The Laurence Llewellyn Bowen of pop dom teases us with the second half of this circus piece from the purple big top…..

‘When The Doves Cry’ was number one in the U.S and number four in the U.K when it was released in June 1984. The first track from this album it cuts to the chase with its hard hitting lyrics with equally cold blooded drum machine. Starting with a riff that would sound at home on a Jimi Hendrix track, the track consists at first of just a voice lowered to sound hard and cold hearted and a steady drum machine. A powerful track, it is simple and very entrancing. The mix of his voice used in the backing track gives the feel of a continuous thought in the singers head repeating ever word. It is not short of the odd yelp and cry which has always suited Prince far better than Michael Jackson. It is an atmospheric track that enlists the help of a strangled guitar riff as the break. A record ahead of its time, listening to it now, over twenty years on, it is hard to think that its actually been that long since its release. A monumental piece in rock history. It feels just as much apt today for young kids as it was then for the film.

‘I Would Die For You’ is another creative piece of writing using a drum machine in a different form yet unheard by listeners. The drum machine seems to flicker uncontrollably in the backing track. The lyrics are almost mumbled, as if not to take away the limelight focused upon the unusual usage of the machine. A short number, it allows a simple handful of repeated notes to flow gracefully over the backing track. An inspired piece, again, unheard of until this album.

Straight, and almost without knowing and taking the listener by surprise, we hear the electrifying and glitzy performance of ‘Baby I’m A Star,’ This track couldn’t have had a better title. It full of pretentious arrogance. So much so, that its uplifting for the listeners as one cannot help but feel as if the lyrics could be directed to them. It cries out to be strutted to, wrapped up in sparkly gift wrap with a dirty great bow on the top screaming look at me!!! It has a fantastic fast drum beat throughout, a true stadium piece of work. Some clever backing tracks using keyboards and singers giving it their all. It pours over Prince like it was meant to be his personal theme. Even hints at an audience in the dying seconds to give it that real live theme.

The lights fade, the glitter cast aside and the arms above our heads start to sway hypnotically. ‘Purple Rain’ is not just a track for the ears but an epic for the soul. One of the finest, still most used ballads, it gives a quality that Meatloaf, I’m afraid just hasn’t come close to. It yearns out to us in desperation., that I feel it should be renamed ‘Purple Pain.’ Prince must have been on the floor in the studio after creating this masterpiece of a broken heart. At a staggering 8 minutes, 45 seconds long, he increasingly becomes more and more distraught towards the end. Unlike James Brown when his guards would come on and throw the cloak over him to drag him off stage, this piece, perhaps too long, equals the complete showmanship of anything ever done by such an artist of this calibre. We are literally crying buckets, it pulls at the strings and has you reaching for the kitchen blades. With incredible clashing of cymbals and strained riffs, and whining violins creeping up the scales, it hardly feels that the track is going to end, we almost feel exhausted when it finally does.

Putting cryptic aside, the downfall of The Revolution is a rather sad tale. Prince disburse his fantastic looking army of beautiful people shining blue lights under their chins to make them even more gorgeous after a tour in 1986. His explicit lyrics and over all performance were sensational products of his making yet Prince wanted to reach out to more fans. Knowing that the act had to be ‘cleaned’ up somewhat, he re emerged the following year with hair cut, more conservative clothes and a not so startling entourage who competed to out show him.

I personally was devoted to the purple, glitzy ear when it was all about super stardom. That I feel, was the best of the eighties. This type of class act, we just don’t get anymore. As much as we are two minds over Michael Jackson, we fail to remember that it was twenty years ago when he wowed us with his incredible, precisely choreographed dance routines. Madonna still wasn’t a household name and still laughed at to a point, wondering how long she was going to last, when Prince with his gaiety and stupendous cabaret of a travelling circus delighted us and enchanted us where we liked it or not. A professional at his craft, he produced his masterpiece with this album. The very one that we will eventually remember him by.

At The Brits this year, attending the after show party. He sat down with his now non purple brigade of guards and babes around him like a human fence. He ordered a DVD player and sat and watched films and didn’t flutter an eye lash at the surrounding scene of hundreds of drunken, rowdy stars once.

Now, that’s Rock and Roll.

Take a bow, your Purpleness.

©M Duffy (sam1942 on ciao and dooyoo and Planet Janet on DJ) 2006.
pictures from

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Go, Go ,Go To The Holiday Rock!

Carrying on from one perfectly personal recollection to the next, the next natural surge of Perry and Croft overload came in the form of another, smooth riding venture. From Army anecdotes to hapless, hey day enlightening of Perry’s Summer Holidays as a Butlins Redcoat, the next instalment could only be Eighties miracle, ‘Hi-De-Hi!’

Filmed out of season at ‘Warner’s’ holiday camp at Dovercourt, Essex, the set seemed credible enough to pass as a 1959 fictional ‘Maplins,’ at the even more fiction postcard town of Crimpton-on-Sea. Due to the desertion of such a camp out of season (a phrase now as long gone as the show,) the camp, in itself, needed no finery and plumpness to bring it into the Fifties era. The chalets needed no down treading and the swimming pool look just as uninviting - even the fictitious Hawaiian Ballroom eerily needed no plastic palm trees. What was needed now was a strong cast and more importantly - a believable one.

Head of the crew was bumbling, bored academic, Professor Jeffery Fairbrother, played by theatre actor and Croft’s son in law, Simon Cadell, had grown tired of the pen pushers of his sullen world. He found himself curious with the world of ‘amateur light entertainment,’ and proceeded to contact his straight faced manner with the gushy crowds who appeared every Summer at Maplin’s. Entertainments manager and aging teddy boy, Ted Bovis held on to his stirring resentment after being pipped to the post by the inexperienced Fairbrother. Instead, the over weight, Northern funny man stood back in his proud position of ‘entertainments manager.’ His hapless right hand man and general dogsbody was the tall, lanky Spike Dixon who dreamed of being a real star. Perhaps the only yellow coat to take each performance seriously, his usual first laugh of each episode was so enter the scene dressed up in some weird, heavy costume of either a six foot duck or a policeman. His face, almost as long as his inside leg measurement meant that Ted was usually pulling the wool over this young lad’s eyes. This fairly mediocre father figure would encourage great spirit in Spike only to have him drop from a great height by the end of the episode.

The next failing character was the memorable Peggy Ollerenshaw - the high hoped chalet maid whose constant knockdown came usually from Gladys, the ‘commander-ess of the Yellowcoats. Peggy’s one wish was to become a Yellowcoat and although she came so close on a couple of occasions, her dream was sadly, never to be fulfilled. Her guardian in all her dreams and wishes was Ted. He felt a responsibility over her in order for her dreams to stay alive. He would encourage her in much the same way as he would Spike, yet mildly in the knowledge that it was only his name and his pocket he was interested in. He would dish out sympathy to Peggy like tonic, when she had been trodden on. The saddest character in the show, she was guaranteed to get the sighs of sympathy from the audience. Eager, excitable and ready to please anyone dressed in a canary colour, she was undoubtedly the only character, it would seem, would genuinely wanted to be there.

Peggy’s greatest nemesis was Gladys Pugh. Short haired, overly made up and with a Welsh accent that even the other side of Cardiff were none the wiser, she had a heart on fire for the idiot, Fairbrother. Thrusting herself in his general direction when alone in the office, she used every inch of her colourful face to tease him into submission. Fairbrother - far from appetized, he was already in the throws of a divorce himself, stayed wary of the temptress’s charms and generally tried to avoid her from every angle. Her main duty was to open the morning’s events over the tannoy to the inmates of the day’s arrangements. This usually came in the form of a stimulating knobbly knees competition, ‘chuck your granny in the pool’ contest and perhaps rounded off with some bathing beauties. These freezing cold mothers and sisters were parked out next to the icy pool in all the latest in Fifties swim wear, and if you have any recollection as to what that may have entailed, then check out some outlandishly patterned nylon number. Somewhere along the line, someone had told Gladys that she could sing - in the dreamiest of poses, she would promptly start to warble precariously over the speakers, (cut to shots of buckets being thrown over the outdoor camp speakers…)

The tight lipped, middle class Barry and Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves (Dianne Holland, sister in law of Perry,) had danced their way around the Ballroom every night in the hope of keeping their wilting career from going completely down the pan. From their younger days as award winning dance instructors, they never feel quite at rest in amongst the working class masses on their cheap and cheeky holidays. Sickened and disgusted with anyone from a lower class than them with a pulse, they prided themselves in having the only teas maid and net curtained chalet of the lot. Twinkle toed they still were, they were, treading water so fast to keep them away from the clutches of the panto season outside the camp. They delighted themselves, especially on lowering their eyes onto the innocent Peggy.

There came a list of characters who played timely key supporting roles; miserable, whiskey swilling and child hater, Mr Partridge, the Punch and Judy man spent most of his time avoiding the little brats and propping up the bar. Somehow, the darlings would always find him, stinking of booze with a face waiting for conscription to make a comeback. One would like to think that behind every squeaky voiced Punch and Judy show, there is a sullen Mr Partridge just living for the moment that the kids go home.

Fred Quilly is the typical jockey who is more in love with his animals that anything else. Giving out rides to ungrateful children, he too wears a face as long as a wet June having to subject himself and his horses to such a motley bunch of miserable holidaymakers. He too, an aging professional in bright yellow and white silks, he waves his whip at the slightest point he makes and never smiles. It is these wretches to society who make us laugh even more. The big gag here being the fact that these ex pro’s end up in a holiday camp at the end of their career’s and are, in their eyes, living an eternal Hell for it…

After the showing of the first couple of series, the cast seemed to grow into more Yellowcoats of both male and female. We can vaguely remember the Webb Twins who just about strung a sentence between them in an episode and girlie entrants, April and Dawn - obviously thrown in to keep the forty something Sylvia company - the only other leg showing, pretty face, threat to Gladys. During Series 5 and onwards, the cast grew even more until nearly a complete camp staff list was made. Even Carry On veteran, Kenneth Connor made a brief appearance as entertainer, ‘Uncle Sammy,’ (as well as also turning his hand to other sit com’s such as ‘’Allo, ‘Allo.’)

Each episode was fairly predictable; Gladys’ would inevitably find a dead end on the road to true love with the deflated Fairbrother whose dead pan face would not even twitch over the microphone when jeering the audience into shouting ‘Hi De Hi,’ louder. Spike, in what ever costume took precedence that day would have a custard pie in his face or be either thrown or fall into the ‘Olympic Sized’ pool (not surprisingly, Spike, played by Jeffrey Holland came down with hyperthermia one year that the series had to be shot in September instead,) Peggy would do her level best to sing/dance/crack a joke loud enough so someone would take notice - inevitably, it would have had to have been the masterful Joe Maplin, who, although never appeared, his presence was felt every week. Ted would take centre stage and conduct the audience into something along the lines of the entertainment they had come from the East End to see, and everyone else fell in around the main cast. However blunt this synopsis may seem, the gags were loud, original and most of all, believable. To a vastly faithful audience of forty to fifty something’s, this was exactly how the cheaper end of holiday camps were to them as children. In the days after the War, people weren’t exactly loaded. Many things were actually still rationed and no one was venturing abroad just yet. For the working class man and his large family, the Essex/Sussex/Kent week away was the only thing he could afford. Hopping was considered to be what the very lower classes did for a week each year, just to get of South London. Those with a tiny amount more of cash, went to a holiday camp.

Thus ‘Hi-De-Hi!’ grew into a fan club all of it’s own - the very people who had been to such places. The show was only the side step of the British, holiday revolution swamped in nostalgia. As a part of vital social history, this show, which ran for an incredible nine years was the key to parents finally showing, through the laughter of a good, all round comedy, what they got up to when they were children too. Showing real life clips each week, at the ending credits, we are given a true taste of the great British holiday camp - boating contests and ‘eat as much pie and mash as you can,’ may seem to us now as corny, lower class, cheap and somehow unbelievable, yet this was how the British loved to relax - doing all the things that they couldn’t have even dreamt about ten years before.

The show came with it’s own tragedies as all lengthy sit com’s do. Leslie Dwyer, the most miserable of the entertainers, Mr Partridge was seriously ill, and not unlike Michael Bates, in ‘It ‘Ain’t ‘Arf Hot, Mum,’ he decided to keep going through filming as long as he could. Yet unlike Bates, Dwyer’s death was written in, most disturbingly eighteen months before he actually died. Becoming one the most watched episodes in the shows entire run, the ‘Who Killed Mr Partridge?’ was seen to be a classic in series six. Towards the end of series five, it was written in that Jeffery Fairbrother was to leave as Cadell wanted to go back into theatre. At the start of series six, and from one extreme to another, Squadron Leader Clive Dempster rolls into town in an open top Morgan and steals Gladys’s heart leaving no room for wistful memories for Fairbrother. However, in a cold twist of fate, it is Gladys who finds herself no longer the temptress but the tempted where she finds her undying love a mockery in a tragic situation of Dempster’s ability to charm any woman, leaving Gladys out in the cold. On reflection of the excellence of Cadell’s straight manner and quick timing, David Griffin, who played gung ho Dempster, said he felt that the strength of Cadell’s presence had taken a great deal of the show away with him. In respect of his predecessor, Griffin said he could never fill Cadell’s shoes…

As with all Croft and Perry stories, the show was brought to it’s natural end in true pathos style. The camp is to be shut down and it’s employees are given the boot. In the last tear jerking episode shown the day before New Years Eve in 1988, it leaves us with a lump in our throat. We suddenly realise how important these characters had become - like a Croft and Perry ending we are used to, ‘Hi-De-Hi,’ left us with something to mull over. These characters whom we had taken for granted were now departing from our screens. Although the show was never seen as being as immensely successful as it’s predecessors, it was the characters at Maplin’s who we find ourselves remembering the most. It was years gone by before I realised that no one was going Peggy impressions anymore, yet no one had ever talked about ‘Dad’s Army’ in the same way.


That was what appealed to us the most about ‘Hi-De-Hi,’ each character reached out to a bit of us who dreamed about something better, like a small part of our own inner lives wanted to loved, noticed or just plain recognised as we find all the characters in this show wanted for themselves. Perhaps the most memorable scene was the show’s very last, where Peggy stands alone in the camp and shouts at the top of her voice as her words echo around the vast, empty site.

Since ‘Dad’s Army,’ and ‘It ‘Ain’t ‘Arf Hot, Mum’ were of their time and had shown us a piece of history that has long gone before, ‘Hi-De-Hi’ gave us something that is still with us - the good old British holiday camp….

I still have memories of dunking for apples with my hands tied behind my back…..

‘Hi-De-Hi - The Holiday Musical’ enjoyed a short run at three venues North and South in 1983/84.

First shown on BBC 1 1980 to 1988
Written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft. - series one and two on DVD - new £11.97
Series three and four - new £11.97
Series five and six - new £16.99
BBC shop - 1&2 + 3&4 - £46.98
5&6 at HMV - £24.99

©m.duffy (sam1942 and Planet Janet on other webistes) 2007

Friday, May 11, 2007

Amongst The Butterflies With The Modfather...

Since the birth of the Mod father in May 1958 in humble Woking in Surrey, it wasn’t long before it wasn’t just his doting parents looking admiringly at him for in around 1983, he came to the for with the unsurpassable Style Council and since then, he has been not just an icon in the Mod movement of the late Seventies , but a political spokesman on the very important social issues of the eighties with his band.

Calming down the tone somewhat on his venture into solo-ism, his music changed again, into deep, reflective themes. Not at all what we had first remembered him for in The Jam and then into the pastel coloured clad brass musicians in The Style Council.

Still very much mop haired and slightly rebellious in his scruffiness, this middle aged man still can throw a large crowd together in complete silent harmony. Where their fathers and mothers jumped and hopped around in drain pipes and minis, their children now stand, silent in front of the same man but in reflective thought of his words, rather than his music.

After the surprising success of the start of his solo career, (and let’s face it, we didn’t think he would ever appear again after the break of The Style Council) he bought us strong albums with guitar in hand. In the shape of ‘Paul Weller,’ ‘Wild Wood,’ but it was only with the giant storm of a live album, simply titled, ‘Live Wood,’ in September 1994 that he had stumbled across something that other bands find incredibly hard to do, and that’s release a pleasing live LP.

Jumping back into the studio for a brief while, he didn’t dip his toes into the waters of live audience participation again until, ‘Days Of Speed,’ in 2001. Complete with all the chattering back ground noise of a Darts Final, this album was to the highest positioning album for Weller on the live front in his career. Reaching number three, this album fails to inspire anyone to get up behind a microphone stand and give it a go themselves. Complete with man in question and a guitar, this album will take you through a collaboration of gentle songs, thoughtful moods and the odd wolf whistle from the audience, who I have to admit, are pretty well behaved throughout the whole set.

Showing the three poses of a black and white Weller on stage, the album cover will not amaze you by any stretch of the imagination, what will become apparent on listening to the album though, is the wonderment that Weller hasn’t dabbled in a live album thing too much before and why he had left it so long to do so in between.

Fear not, this album sets a simple situation in front of you. A man, with a guitar that will show you all the styles a guitar can achieve and a voice which will enlighten you, sadden you at times, and create atmosphere’s making you wish why the hell you hadn’t bought tickets to go and see this guy when you had the chance. An irritating album in this sense, yes. As a piece of uplifting and generous noise, you will only want to play the album over and over again.

Could it be possible to understand an artist more by listening to one album that paying only half attention to the rest of the his career past him? I speak on experience here and being of the hardened Style Council generation, I had found it hard to recognise Weller in anything other than a yellow cardigan and loafers with a collection of brightly coloured musicians behind him, bouncing around the stage. I have to admit, that this knocking on rocker had to be smacked quickly across the back of the hand and told to grow up a bit. This album, I must say, has led me to believe that there was more to Paul Weller than ‘Shout To The Top’…..

When on thinking as to how I should write a piece to capture the surprising spirit of this album, I had to quickly stop myself from going through track by track in a fairly dull routine which will not just bore you but will have bored me senseless in the process. I guess the idea is it appreciate the album as a whole. There is nothing that stands out on it’s own in this album, as it somehow stands out as a whole. Each track practically melts into the next. The voice it strong, deep, poised at each stressed note and emotional enough to create a sense of the song rather than just a nice musical tune. What we have here is a man who is willing to express emotions and feeling of any ordinary human being and express these feelings into a set which obviously delighted the audience witnessing and will equally delight the listener at home.

There some tracks that you will recognise here; ‘Out Of The Sinking,’ from November 1994, and ‘You Do Something To Me.’ Not to mention some regular classics from my generation, including ‘That’s Entertainment’ and ‘Town Called Malice,’ which, when played on just the a compliment on a guitar, will bring new life and light into these ancient songs. The acoustic effect he gives to ‘That’s Entertainment,’ is not an unusual sound, as it had been done before and still holds the same hard hitting power of those social lyrics just as much. ‘Town Called Malice,’ perhaps might have you reaching for the bucket initially as, with all due respect here, the acoustic set perhaps just doesn’t do it justice. The power behind this track originally was the effect of the musical content. It held aloft a moment in time, which was the early, struggling eighties where money and jobs were hard to come by and property prices went through the roof and a lot of people lost their homes due to the rise of mortgage repayments. Sorry Paul, this last track should have, perhaps been left off.

Whilst you are in a relaxed, soothing mood, you can flick through the inner sleeve where, along side the track titles, are the dates and venues where the recordings took place for each track. The incredible smooth production of the album only comes into light here were, one could truly believe that the whole album was recorded all at the same gig. The album titles where these tracks can be originally found are also mentioned for your interest. The collection of statutory photographs in the sleeve are of the usual live standard. Various poses in bright lights with a small selection of guitars around him at different angles are pictured, but nothing very impressive. I guess the idea was to take away any stunning album cover that may over shadow the creativity if the album within.

With no other credits to anyone other than the producer, it is perhaps a shock that Weller had taken all the credit himself on making this album. I guess it would have been, perhaps, difficult to listen ever single engineer and technician at each concert, but I do think that someone should have been able to take a bow for the sound quality of the album if nothing else. The atmosphere that this album creates is quite imaginable. The idea that a live album should be just as though you are actually there really does come into it’s own in this particular LP. Weller’s clear voice is sharp to the point of any live performance if you happen to be in the front row. For this alone, the album should be appreciated as a classic piece of live history even if you are not a Weller fan.

In September 2002, Weller created his number one album, ‘Illumination’ but seems to have done very little since. In a world where we seem to only judge someone on how they have done rather than what they will be capable of in the future, this certainly has to be an album to treasure as a point in Weller’s career where he can be very much judged as one of the best live performers of his generation…

All songs written by Paul Weller
Executive producer; Pete Mason
Sony Music
Bought on CD for eight pounds HMV

©m.duffy (sam1942 and Planet Janet) 2006.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Weapons Of Words Wrapped In Tunes....

Born into the world as Robert Allen Zimmerman on the 24th day of May 1941, to his parents, the world could not have been a lesser welcoming place. Their new son, despite the World War situation he started his life in, became the most influential songwriter of his generation and beyond. He has produced the most originally political anthems studying the thoughts and social issues predominately throughout the sixties. Embarking on a mission, he became a voice in the mist of social change.

Using folk and country genres of music. He adapted this style and used it as the fundamental basis of his astute and unique lyrics.

Sturdy, yet sometimes challenged by his contempories, he a remained steadfast in his beliefs and has maintained his ability to surprise and shock his audience from the flower movement to politicians and heads of state, not just in America but around the world.

Legally changing his name in tribute to the obscure writer, Dylan Thomas in 1962, he created his persona in first, the small clubs, folk gatherings and coffee houses downtown. He released a single in March 1962, ‘Mixed Up Confusion,’ and an album quickly followed in June the same year. Both failed to enter either chart on any score. Not enough for the young artist who continued to work towards the next accomplishment.

With the release of the cult, free thinking, full spirited ‘Freewheelin’’ in 1963, he made his mark instantly and by the following year, he had become the firm Bohemian voice then playing over two hundred concerts in his first year. Forever in demand, his followers adopted not just a belief in his lyrics but was touched by his plain, simple and unaffected way of life. Armed with just a guitar and a harmonica, he was a unique picture of everything free and peaceful.

‘The Times They Are A Changin’’ was a mixed album of both personal and political speaking out, and set the pace off for a generation to question political strategies and their future. Dylan had ignited a flame that burnt heavily within the minds of the American youth.

Within this album, he found his first U,K single in the release in March 1965 of the title track. Reaching number 9. A fairly reputable position for a singer treading new ground. It was a mark of personal history, a couple of years before the hippie movement and the infamous Summer Of Love, he was primarily ahead of his time. With his tuneful ear to the ground, he had connected immediately with the new born feeling of a soon to be changing world. With his finger on the pulse of the youngsters of that time. He had stepped up on a social platform, a position that was never challenged and always respected., no matter how much of a protest singer he was temporarily labelled.

Engaging in his career of anti establishment values, he was never to be a ‘singles’ artist. Finding a flowing, creative voice through albums rather than 45’s, he gathered the more serious and intelligent listener around him. With the release of this album in July 1964,he was not at all in a rush produce a single from it. The album has to be listened to as a whole product. Dylan’s mind, the restless public speaker.

Although not reached the chart topping standards as ‘Freewheelin,’’ the previous year, it still comfortably sat at number 4. In the 2005 edition of ‘The Times They Are A Changin’’, it is complete with the original recordings of the 1964 album. Thankfully, there are no signs of tampering here. No extended remixes or bonus tracks (actually should be bogus tracks..). Dylan, isn’t someone who can be brought into the twenty first century with a few funky beats and a kettle whistling in the background. It just couldn’t be done, so gladly, what we hear is what was already there, and nothing else…

The inside sleeve denotes the ‘11 Outlined Epitaphs By Bob Dylan.’ Don’t be fooled into thinking that these are the controversial lyrics. What they appear to be, is an elongated prose of Dylan’s life. His thoughts on the world around him including conversations in passing that have stuck in his mind and influenced him. They are, I suppose, wishes, hopes and dreams of a man whose fears have haunted his mind. What we read here is the world viewed through eyes opened where other eyes have been blinkered.

‘Gather around people, where ever you roam…’ opens this album in a rolling folk piece accompanied by a harmonica. A short piece in running length, it drifts and allows his voice to roam free over the flowing lyrics. A timeless piece very much a part of the world we live in today as much as it was a track picturing the times of then. Musically he knew how to adapt his untrained voice to his style and left his unique song writing abilities and wonderful collaboration of notes to others who had the vocal range to compliment it. A song that casts the mind back to a time of uncertainty and illusion. The world was seen as a different place and ‘the bomb’ still a sobering thought. Idealism wasn’t an issue. What Dylan speaks of is a cold reality, not perhaps bringing hope but presenting war as a tool to fix matters, speech limited and minds closeted. 1984, depicted the way in which George Orwell saw the future of mankind. In this album, we look at the way in which Dylan saw the world through his music.

‘The Ballad Of Hollis Brown,’ puts in mind a scene of a road rolling wagon train crossing the wide open baron south of the deep American country. A backdrop of southern life in the sixties. One can feel the heat of the burning sun pounding down hard on the lifeless country. The hard life, dirty and bleak is enhanced through his throw away voice; cold and defined, this track fills our ears with no emotion. His words denote a life with a shot gum in one hand and a single life or death thought in the mind. The flitting of his hand dropping to a low note and the quickly up again across the strings gives the song a flippancy about it, like this life he talks of, holds no importance. It fades with the same speed as a tossed apple core out of a moving car. No thought from its disillusioned theme.

The religious context of ‘With God On Our Side,’ is a tribute to the history of American civilisation.
Musically, it is a track that slows at points and picks up in moments like a freewheeling bicycle up and down a hilly path. He tells of the native American people and how they had been treated. An ironic track lyrically, it speaks of civil war and the people treading the new land with a gun and God on their side. It makes a mockery of this American history by saying, ’well, we did round up the Indians like cattle and we did take away their land and we have started wars with other races and other countries and we do kill each other, but its okay as because God says it is…’ A statement like this, made by a folk singer, was an incredibly bold one and such freedom of speech would have led to all sorts of trouble if matched today. Dylan seemed to capture a certain power to sing such lyrics about his own country. I would suspect that, the Americans perhaps didn’t actually get the full meaning of this track when it was first heard. I do believe that they had seen this song, initially as a defiant anthem to the greatness of the USA, but a tale of American fighting history, he picks out the poor and the meaningless political reasons behind it. A widely critical and controversial piece, it sparked the analysis of Dylan’s work from then and the rest of his life. Slowing graciously to a defiant end, it is solemn like a prayer. He adds a hint of disgust to his voice and by this, he is painting a picture of his dislike of the human race. In this piece, it could be easily said that it was this song that marked the beginning of the ‘rebellion’ of the youth culture. Perhaps the generation of the peace movement would not have happened if it wasn’t for Dylan?

The personal account of an over worked mind fills the theme of ‘One Too Many Mornings.’ Perhaps a reflective and sobering thoughts of a man increasingly questioning himself as a person as opposed to his references to the American government that appears to be the anthem of most of his songs around that time. Perhaps many of us can retrospectively find a kin to the lyrics of this soft, mellowing track (another song on the same theme that springs to mind is the very well titled, ‘Mellow,’ By Elton John from his 1972 album, Honky Tonk Chateaux.) There has been many a time for many people who’ve experienced too many mornings! Musically, a peaceful song to calm any hangover.

‘North Country Blues,’ reflects the same musical mood as ‘Ballad Of Hollis Brown.’ One can start to imagine one man on a swamping stage with a single spot light and a silent crowd. With a guitar strap around his neck and a harmonica to his lip, his acoustic complement seems quite incidental as Dylan would have had just the same impact if he had stood and recited his lyrics in a normal voice.

It has to be said that Dylan, single handedly and profoundly changed the world with his powerful and poignant songs. It appears that the voice of Dylan, (if you didn’t see him as the very young man that he was,) the listener would think that this was a voice of an old, wise and well travelled man. He held an incredibly old head on his shoulders. Not just his voice; gravely and droning as it was, his wise, observant words were strangely unreal from such a tender aged young man.

‘Only The Pawn In Their Game.’ reminds the listener of a Don MacLean track lyrically. It tells an abstract story of ‘Alice In Wonderland’ themes. He seems obsessed with rhyming a word several times or at least, as many times as he can. Anything rhyming with the word; game, name, same etc.. Dylan, here, feels a drive to explain to the world what it feels like to be caught between a decision of life and death. Cold lyrics are spat out like a bad taste. Dylan’s music was rather dull in sound, but it was lyrics alone that carried his finest work to millions of attentive ears.

‘Boots Of Spanish Leather,’ is a wonderful play on words title that pleases the listener. His rolling guitar looping the same handful for notes, reminds the listener of a Simon and Garfunkel track, years before Simon and Garfunkel came to the fore. With Dylan’s vocals cascading in and around and back to complete a full circle with each note, his words are fundamentally depressing and probably not an album to listen to when the listener is sorrowful. Although this is an album that presents the early, more widely known work of Dylan as a non conventional political songwriter, it is still categorised as folk. For those who can’t stand folk music, then I would suggest that Dylan’s later work when electrical influences took hold and his sound became blues based. His lyrics, in the latter, where not so engaging or shocking. With this in mind, folk music had been the perfect genre for Dylan to speak and be heard clearly. Such lyrics can be found in this song, ’..take heed of the western wind…’ and its with these in our ears, that the longing forces us to pack the bags and travel and be free (well, some of us anyway…). To clear the head of all material woes and angst. This album will cleanse the soul and if it doesn’t, it will leave you feeling more depressed than ever.

Moving on, we are delighted to hear an optimistic and future thinking song with its welcomed up tempo feel. We are entering the track titled, ’When The Ship Comes In.’ (sounds hopeful) The hand flickers fast across the strings and the re introduction of the piercing harmonica is heard (we hadn’t missed it). This track is welcomed relief to this simple, but sometimes morbid folk album. This track will please the ears.

‘The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll,’ probably won’t fill you with much happiness from the sound of the title. Fortunately it is written on a higher octave and requires Dylan to attempt to sing. Not a successful feat, but at this point in the album, we are now engrossed so much in the lyrics, we actually don’t care any more about his untrained voice.

‘Restless Farewell,’ is the final track of an album that will leave you either wanting to don a caftan and opened toed sandals or shelving it for good to collect dust. Perhaps an album for the camp fire (no, not the bonfire) and appreciated by Scouts…but a starry sky and the Australian outback are a necessity for the listener. It would certainly have more impact in such an atmospheric setting rather than perched over the coffee table with the six o’clock news on mute. The powerfulness of this album will take you back to a time of home made banners on nuclear war and protest marches with fellow students. This last track is a closing note to this collection of songs. A slow ’farewell,’ by the singer, almost reflecting on his own life in his ’dying’ moments. A solemn presence in the album as it draws the curtain on a remarkable piece of political and social history as seen through the eyes of a great songwriter.

Bob Dylan. Famously enigmatic, his career faltered during the seventies when after the controversial Vietnam War, there seemed little left for Dylan to say. He returned to studio work after failing to have the major impact of his earlier recordings. Dated and mildly middle of the road, it appeared that Dylan had lost his touch. From once being a powerful presence when rowdy audiences suddenly listened intently as soon as he walked on stage, his voice became weak and unmentionable than in his thought provoking songs.

Indulging in a career of writing for other admired artists, he guested on other peoples albums, almost reluctantly wanting to record his own (he did still continue to release throughout the seventies) Perhaps it could be said that this had been a wise career move. Residing to a back seat place in the ever changing music industry, he still remained on sleeve notes and credits on a great number of inspiring albums. His influence still felt through a whole range of other music genres other than his own. Over all, Dylan has continued to work tireless from decade to decade, refusing to retire and rest on his laurels, he still grows from acclaim to acclaim.

So what was the concept of this album? Was it a ordinary folk album? A moment in political history? Or the ramblings of a outspoken young man?

However you see this album from beginning to end, it will still strike a chord in your mind and set off a train of thought. Either way, it is just as prominent today as it was then…

Bought music zone 2006, nine pounds
©m.duffy (sam1942 and Planet Janet on various websites) 2006.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Born Again Real Gone Kid...

Since being ever so slightly disillusioned with the constant churning out of talent less track after another, there comes a time in a writers life (or a certain age, which ever comes first0 when she sits back and starts to take stock of what is exactly out there these days. I’m going to disregard the X factors of this world, because these are innocent individuals who quite unknowingly shuffle, in a transfixed state, into the jaws of the cold hearted music industry, selling their soul, private lives and fluffy hair grips to give away on a Saturday night before the show in return of a giant question mark they unwittingly drag behind themselves all the way to the job centre when the curtain comes down.

D is for Deacon Blue…

Okay not everyone’s cup of tea and if you didn‘t like them then at least they don‘t make records anymore, but because I have deliberately stayed away from the section entitled Room 101, I do, as it happens, think they weren’t too bad….

Born out of political respect for the pride of the working classes, Deacon Blue heralded a shift in the stagnant pop pattern. Striding forcefully from Glasgow with the rest of the community behind them, this band defined a fierce strength in their contribution to U.K music history. Practically taking the Eighties bull by the proverbials, Deacon Blue set out to create a meaning behind composition. Something that had laid dormant since the burst of the Greenwich village Sixties…

Their king at the realm was remedy man, Ricky Ross who was accompanied on backing vocals by his girlfriend, Lorraine McIntosh. The band were joined by four more firm handed musicians including James Prime who had drifted exuberantly from fellow Scots poppers, Altered Images. It was arguably, their early years, that gave Deacon Blue the platform that they eagerly needed for their hard, Scottish rhythms and soft Celtic styled ballads. Their first album, was probably their best; ‘Raintown’ pretty much described everything that the band stood for both socially and emotionally. Ross’s gruff, gritty vocals were soothed and bathed accordingly by McIntosh’s swift, floating tones. Their music was unmistakeable for the time of the fast mid Eighties. When most years would trickle in a constant turn over of sub genres here and there, the mid to late Eighties was practically a flood. We drowned in this branch of rock and that stem of a sound that once was orchestrated by this person and was taken by that artist and given these synths…the stories were endless, it was hard to tell who was what and what was singing who. We could, however, lean back on steady, unbend able bands like Deacon Blue who didn’t mess around with our ears in the long run. The tragedy of such bands was that by the time the Nineties showed up, their sound struggled to keep up with the shifts yet gain…

We felt at home with them. They spoke out about pride, ‘dignity’, passion and sorrow; the usual human feelings that other pop ‘masters’ failed to home in on. Two of their eight albums reached number one, ‘When The World Knows Your Name,’ (April 1989) and ‘Our Town - Greatest Hits,’ (April 1994), but strangely, never a number one single.

Putting down the denim and the hairspray in 1994, the band, it was probably the untimely death of their guitarist Graeme Kelling from cancer in 2004, that truly marked the end of an era. Although Ross had gone away to retreat into song writing ecstasy, he did cast his talents back to the Dignity days of DB by trying to attempt a solo recording career. Naturally, when any front man goes off, it usually flops, (take note, David Lee Roth) Perhaps, the most surprising thing within this band is not the fact that some of us still play their records, but the latter note of Ross’s solo project, was heavily constructed on a desire to sound like Oasis. Liam, you’ve not hit the big time…

B is for The Bambi Slam…

Right, so only the more hardened of indie punk rockers will know who I am talking about now, but stick with it if you can..

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 (play this on 45rpm, it sounds a hell of a lot better…)
Peace 1978

T is for Tindersticks…..

I was recently asked to write an article on Nottingham, now because I only can think in music/band/artist terms, I decided that the best solution (and not to make a complete prat of myself) was to write about any famous bands that have come out of Nottingham in the last forty years. You wouldn’t believe how difficult that was…then suddenly I managed to get lucky ( no I didn’t answer my phone to NME offering me a job) but I found that I could grace my keyboard with the lush descriptions of Tindersticks. (You look puzzled…)

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

Food for thought perhaps while to hum away to your local radio station next time, but the general point of this muse is to sometimes salute the stuff that’s come and gone…

Thanks for persevering…

©m.duffy (sam1942 and Planet Janet featured on the websites dooyoo and ciao)
(part of this article has also appeared on and other places under