Monday 28 January 2019

January. Sick and Tired, You've Been Hanging on Me

The January Man, if we're to believe the song, 'walks abroad in woolen coat and boots of leather'. I'm not sure about that; but what has been a horrible month (God, I hate January) is, thankfully, nearly at an end.

I can almost see the distant uplands of spring - if not around the next corner, then maybe the one after that. I live in hope, as Barrington Womble once said.

And what better Long Song for the last Monday of this unfeasibly long month. Well, the clue is in today's title. That's right, Pilot.

Grandaddy - He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot (2000)

Sunday 27 January 2019


As band logos go, the Average White Band's is, shall we say, not very subtle. The line drawing*of a naked woman's bottom forming the 'W' is very route one. A single entendre. But what else were a bunch of horn players from north of the border going to come up with in the early 1970s? At a time when the very sound they were trying to emulate was essentially James Brown, or to be more precise his backing band - the JBs. Blaxploitation? Not really, more Jocksploitation.

When thy wrote Pick Up the Pieces in 1974 they used the JBs Hot Pants Road as their template. And why not, it had pedigree: the JBs had scored with variations on that groove - Pass the Peas, for instance, had given them a sizeable hit earlier in '72.

The JBs - Hot Pants Road (1972)

Average White Band - Pick Up the Pieces (1974)

And by way of thanking the Scottish sextet, the JBs under the moniker AABB (Above Average Black Band), repaid the compliment and came back at them with this. Touché.

AABB - Pick Up the Pieces One by One (1975)

* However, she did come to life briefly:

Saturday 26 January 2019

You'll Hear Better Songs Than This

Eleanor McEvoy was on the radio a couple of nights ago while I was in the bath. I had to stop playing with my rubber duck, such was the beauty of her songs. She was chatting away and playing in front of a live audience in Dublin - I was hooked. Ducks and hooks in the same paragraph, blimey. She's on tour in the UK in April. I really hope you can get along. I know I'll be at one of her gigs, to be sure.

Here's one of Eleanor's beguiling songs that says in three minutes what most of us (songwriters and non-songwriters alike) struggle to say in a lifetime.

Eleanor McEvoy - You'll Hear Better Songs Than This

Thursday 24 January 2019


George with Billy Idol's brother
Let there be no doubt: George Harrison was the funniest Beatle. The youngest Beatle. The Darkest Horse. And the Wilbury most travelled.

George was, as I said in my Neil Innes piece, a fervent supporter of, and friend to, the Rutles.

He was also, as this piece of film from 1975 quite clarly shows, the most self deprecating ex-Beatle of them all. Watch the young lad from Wavertree in this archive footage from Rutland Weekend Television as he lampoons not only himself, but his former global Number One single He's So My Lord.  

George Harrison - The Pirate Song (1975)

Monday 21 January 2019

Lundi Chanson Longue

Regardez vous les bloggers sur la right hand side de this page, beaucoup writer compagnons are using Lundi to jouer longue chansons - sometimes lasting neuf, even dix minutes. Zut alors! Some are bien, some are not so bien. I had a go last Novembre. Voici mon latest attempt.

Sash! - Encore Une Fois (1997)

Sunday 20 January 2019



In 1996 Blair’s Britain couldn’t get enough of Britpop. With TFI Friday regularly outgunning News at Ten's viewing figures1, saturation point had yet to be reached and so, what Oasis and Blur had unwittingly started less than two years earlier, was now operating with an open house policy to all and sundry.

But quite how a Fab Four parody troupe who hadn’t been seen since 1979 fitted into the scene was, at first, a little unclear. But fit they did, perfectly.

The Rutles were essentially a ragtag bunch of bewigged men old enough to know better. A post-fab guitar band (in the guise of Neil Innes2 – or was it the other way round?) who had openly lifted3 more Beatles riffs, harmonies and melodies than a flock of thieving Noel Gallaghers. Maybe, just (definitely) maybe, this resurgence was down to their mighty Archaeology album in which Innes lovingly tipped his John Lennon cap to the Beatles’ recently released Anthology series. Innes had mined his huge pop sensibility songbook and came up with something far and away greater than a regular tribute to Four Lads From Liverpool Who Shook the World™.

Laid out before us were 16 tunes, each of them a stand alone classic, yet when listened to back to back in, shall we say, the context of a lost Beatles album, then the ensemble piece was staggering. Staggeringly good, staggeringly incisive. Although context is usually everything, Innes proved with Archaeology it isn't always.
At the back end of last year when Neil Innes, via his Twitter feed, agreed to answer a few quick-fire Rutle related questions I jumped at the chance. I kicked off our brief 140 character limited chit-chat with:
He went on to tell me that "Questionnaire was the song that persuaded me to go ahead." And what a great song that is - dipping, as it does, in and out of Fool on the Hill, I am the Walrus and Imagine, but never giving up its own identity; unlike the first album where the line between Beatles/Rutles, real/parody was so blurred it all became one.

When I asked Neil if he could condense Archaeology into a 4 track EP4, along with Questionnaire he name-checked Major Happy, Rendezvous and Shangri-La.
Shangri-La is so clever (but not in a smart arse way) in that it turns pastiche on its head. Not long before Archaeology Noel Gallagher had ripped off Innes' How Sweet To Be An Idiot (when Oasis recorded Whatever). Innes couldn't resist dropping that motif straight in at the start. I guess all's fair in love and plagiarism.

However, unlike George (a huge supporter of all things Rutle) and, to a lesser extent, John, Paul McCartney never liked the Rutles (no shit Sherlock). He hated them. Indeed because of Macca, Innes spent many an awkward day in the High Court defending both the band and his own songwriting.
So treasure Archaeology. And treasure the Rutles. They may not have troubled the charts, or indeed the tabloids, in quite the way that Damon Albarn or the Gallagher brothers did in those heady days of Britpop, but if it's songs you're after (and, at the end of the day, aren't we all?), former Bonzo and Python Neil Innes is definitely worth taking a detour for.

1 I may be playing fast and loose with the ratings here.
2 Eric Idle had left the band some years earlier. He couldn't get into his stage pants anymore.
3 Interestingly Innes was accused of stealing Cheese and Onions from the Beatles (it once appeared on a 1980 Fabs bootleg - credited to John Lennon!) It was, in fact, Innes' original demo of his own song.
4 I often condense great works of art into miniature.


Postscript 12.5.24

Imagine my horror upon learning that after Neil's death his Twiitter account had been by an illegal crypto currency fuckwit; comedian Dave Gorman flagged it up and basically called it out for what it was. So, if you're wondering why my Twitter interview with Neil looks a bit 'gappy', that's the reason. (I'm kicking myself for not screen grabbing them instead of just leaving the Twitter links.) I may reach out to Mr. Gorman up and ask him to help come and fill the gaps...

Monday 14 January 2019

Get Carter

I think it’s a pretty safe bet that despite 2019 being barely two weeks old we already have a contender for tune of the year: 'Faraway Look' by Yola Carter is a song so utterly huge, so monumental, that it would take several gangs of labourers working round the clock with industrial tune moving equipment for the next eleven and a half months to dislodge it from my brain’s playlist generator.

Imagine Memphis era Dusty joining forces with, say, Glen Campbell, Scott Walker and Gene Pitney – and Phil Spector manning the controls - belting out a sixties clarion call to end all clarion calls in a ‘You’ve Lost That 24 Hours From The Son Of A Wichita Preacher Man’ kind of way. That’s how big this is.

And if you think I'm over egging this particular soulful pudding, then pull up a chair and see for yourself.

Saturday 12 January 2019

Dying to Die

Black Mirror
When your time's up, your time's up; most of us, luckily, don't have the slightest clue when that is. But some of us, apparently, know when last orders have been called. David Bowie knew. He'd been preparing for it. Just listen to his final album - Blackstar; the album he released on his last birthday as an earthling. And, only two days later, achieving almost perfect mortality salience, he floated off in his tin can for the rest of eternity. (He didn't have Five Years left to die in.)

January is a pretty miserable month at the best of times. If it's not the teetotal puritans blockading pubs or right wing loonies telling us how great it's gonna be when Europe cut us loose, we are reminded that David Bowie left us three years ago this week. He was just 69. I'm not sure what that is in human years, but I do know he left behind more than a handful of songs that will never be forgotten. This being my personal favourite:

David Bowie - Conversation Piece (1969, released in '70)

Bowie must have liked it too; enough to put it on a B side, anyway. Conversation Piece is Bowie at his most fragile. Quite how it never made the cut for his Space Oddity long-player is beyond me. But he did rectify matters early the following century when he re-recorded it, made it sadder(?) and put it out on his Heathen album. I love them both.

David Bowie - Conversation Piece (2002)

David Bowie (b. 8 January 1947, d. 10 January 2016)

Friday 4 January 2019

Just Remember How We Shook Shook

Bass players often get a bad rap; contrary to popular belief they can change a light bulb1. And some of them, I'm assured, even have girlfriends. I know, who'd've thought it?

I mention this because a track appeared on my annual Best Of CD from Chiggins which, even though my age begins with a 5, made me think2: 'God, I'd love to play the bass.'  The Look by Metronomy contains a bass line so haunting, so dreamy, so f**king catchy, I wanted to go down to the music shop, grab the nearest bass3 off the wall and run out with it yelling 'Pay you Tuesday.' I believe members of the Who used to do this on a regular bassis; never did them any harm.

Anyway, here's that song:

Metronomy - The Look (2011)

And here's a (bassic) guide telling you how to play it

1 It actually only takes one bass player to change a light bulb. After the guitar player has shown him how to do it.

   2 Don't get me wrong, playing bass has been on my bucket list ever since I first heard Jean Jacques Burnel playing Walk On By

  3 And by 'nearest' bass, I mean Rickenbacker 4001. obvs, as played by - among others - Marin Gordon from Sparks and Radio Stars, to Wings' Paul McCartney - and a veritable Who's Who in between.

Martin Gordon plays a Rickenbacker

This fella plays one too
All the punk bands in the 70s seemed to favour the Rickenbacker. Everyone from Eddie and the Hot Rods to the Damned (actually that was the same fella - Paul Gray) and a whole lot more besides.  And don't get me started on Lemmy...

Thursday 3 January 2019

Ready for Take Off?

2019. Starting a New Year. It’s a bit like air travel. Safe as houses; apart from take-off. And landing. Two points at which all bets are off and, if anything bad’s gonna happen, chances are that’s when it’ll all come crashing down. Quite literally. But, even if it looks like you’re running out runway and you swear the pilot has left it too late to lift the nose cone, 99.99% of take offs take off. They do. That’s what I keep telling myself.