Tuesday 30 August 2022

Not many Benny

I love songs that throw you. Benny and the Jets throws me every time I hear it. Firstly, that strange out-of-time vamped piano chord at the beginning that tells you something's not quite right. Next up, it sounds like it's been recorded live; it wasn't - the crowd noises were overdubbed from a live set Reg played in Vancuver in 1972 and, bizarrely, Jimi Hendrix live at the Isle of Wight(!). Thirdly, it originally appeared on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in October 1973 - how would the (fake) crowd recognise it instantly - it wouldn't appear as a single for another nine months? And then there's the falsetto vocals; Dwight said at the time he was trying to sound like Frankie Valli; he really doesn't. But my God, despite (who knows, maybe because of) the above, it still works. A most unusual track both for him and its time (I never had a clue what he was wanging on about when I first heard it; still haven't) and probably one of only a handful of his songs of his I can listen to on a regular basis. I realise that's hardly a ringing endorsement, but, hey, them's the breaks. Take it away, Elton...

Elton John - Benny & The Jets (1973)

Monday 29 August 2022

Bank Holiday Monday Long Songs

I'd shortlisted a couple of selections for today's BHMLS™ but couldn't decide which one to go with; so I've opted to run with both. Neither of which, I can guarantee, will attract any new subscribers to this blog; in fact it'll probably send my regular readership (with maybe the exception of The Swede) running to the hills. But, hey, my bat, my ball, my wicket.

Hatfield and the North & National Health were flag bearers for what we now call prog. And way back when - in the 70s - progressive music was very much an underground scene. TV appearances by its protagonists were few and far between, which is why I've gone for National Health's OGWT set from 1979. Dave Stewart's keyboard set up is reminiscent of an eastern Europe telephone exchange and, no, please don't approach the man writhing on the floor ranting into the microphone; it's for your own safety.

National Health - The Collapso (1979)

Hatfield and the North - the band that spawned National Health - were equally eclectic. With one foot in jazz, one foot in rock and a third (imagine Jake the Peg) planted firmly in the Canterbury scene, this next selection is, I think you'll agree, totally deserving of the BHMLS™ tag, weighing in, as it does, at an eye watering 20 minutes.

Hatfield and the North - Mumps (1975)

Sunday 28 August 2022

Just the two of us

If David Bowie was still this side of the grass the chances are he would, at some point, have been persuaded to take his Hunky Dory album out on the road and play it live - back to back (and probably chuck in a greatest hits set at the end). Tho' for that to have even been a possibility would not just have meant bring one rock god back from the grave, but two: Mick Ronson not only defined the sound of Bowie's seminal 1971 album, but was also responsible for helping create the whole Ziggy zeitgeist during that crucial '71 -'73 period. The Man Who Sold the World couldn't have done it on his own; he needed reliable backup. And in Ronson he found not just his perfect foil but someone to keep him grounded. The fact they both packed their bags and buggered off to Mars the following year is neither here nor there...

Here they are, just the two of them - Bowie on vocals and piano, Ronson on guitar...

David Bowie - Eight Line Poem (BBC session 1971)

Mick Ronson (1946-1993); David Bowie (1947-2016)

Thursday 25 August 2022


Twitter earlier this evening: 'What's your all time favourite guitar solo?' I didn't have to think twice; I knew the answer straight away. Well, you do, don't you? You'd know too if I asked you, I'm sure you would. Don't get me wrong, there's a longlist in my head, for sure. There's also a (very) select shortlist in there too. And yes, some heavy metal guitar heroes are in the running; as are a lot of jazz greats. In the 12+ years I've been writing this blog you'll find several in my back issues - hidden in plain sight, most of 'em.
But, all time favourite? Well, that's easy, innit? Take a bow, Jerry Donahue...


Fotheringay - The Sea (1970) 


Tuesday 23 August 2022

Power and Class

I have a lot of love for John Power: after jumping ship from bass playing duties in the La's in 1992 (he and Lee Mavers had taken the band as far as they could*), Power formed Cast (one of the first - and probably one of the best - Britpop bands I ever saw, early in '95 at Trent Uni) before growing a beard, wearing plaid shirts and transmogrifying into something of a folkie.

John Power - Start at the Beginning (2015)

And along the way he's trod the boards - and gained much critical acclaim - in Lennon at Liverpool's Royal Court playing (the older) John Lennon** and narrator. Here he is backstage rehearsing one of my favourite Lennon songs. I particularly like it as having only two chords it's a tune I often play at the end of a night too.

John Power - Working Class Hero (2013


* I'm over simplifying, obviously. It's well documented that Mavers has spent all his working life trying to write and record the perfect pop song. Some say he achieved it with There She Goes. But not Mavers. Nearly forty years later he's still looking for that perfect melody, that perfect hook, that perfect chorus. It's his personal Holy Grail.

** As a native of Liverpool, a Beatles devotee, and having attended Quarry Bank High School, it's the role Power was born to play.

Sunday 21 August 2022

See the tree how big it's grown

It seems like a lifetime ago now, but, as regular readers will know, during those grim days of Lockdown I started taking photographs of the beech tree that lives outside my front door and posting them on Twitter; egged on by my son James who said I should photograph it every day for a year, I ended up doing precisely that. It was all done very much on the hoof so there was no fixed point where a tripod would stand (it was all hand held from, roughly, the same position) and no fixed time of day when I pressed the shutter (most of the shots are mid-morning, but a couple were taken ad hoc to capture a particular light - or the time that it snowed).

So 365 images (give or take) were deposited one by one into a digital folder whereupon I gave them to James and asked him to 'put them together'. Which, to his eternal credit, he's done. He's also scored it which makes the whole thing pretty unique. Here's the first cut. 

(Just hit the 'play' arrow on the tree  - you don't need a Twitter account to view it)


Friday 19 August 2022

I woke up with a feelin'

Mackay & Bowles - sounds like a firm of solicitors. Or maybe a haulage company. Alas, not. Bill Mackay and Nathan Bowles are virtuosos of the guitar and banjo respectively. Of course they are. But until yesterday neither were known to me. Which is fine; I can't be across everything and everybody. Only so many hours in the day and all that. However, what did sound familiar was an instrumental of theirs entitled Joy Ride which they released last year. I heard it and (thought I) recognised it immediately. See what you think before reading on:

Bill Mackay & Nathan Bowles - Joy Ride (2021)

If, like me, you think it sounds like a cover/reworking of a single put out by a bunch of scallies thirty odd years ago, you'll perhaps see why I sent this message to Chicago based Mr. Mackay on Twitter.

As you can see I played it with a straight bat: nothing offensive, nothing blue. Thinking no more of it I went to put the kettle on and made a fuss of the cat. Ten minutes later I'm sitting in my favourite chair with a cup of tea & a custard cream and this pops into my inbox:

He likes the overlapping fibers; I bet he does! I wonder if Lee Mavers has given it a coat of looking at? What do you reckon - totally coincidental or a blatant lift? (I've seen them given for less.)

The La's - Feelin' (1991)

Tuesday 16 August 2022

Only Talking Sense

Neil and Tim Finn have been responsible for so much of the music that lives within me; music that makes me smile and music that makes me cry - often in equal measure. Whether it be Split Enz, Crowded House, the songs they wrote and recorded apart or, and this is where I think the the Holy Grail resides, in the albums they made together as the Finn Brothers.

Their 1995 album Finn has just been made available on vinyl for the first time thru Pete Paphides' Needle Mythology label; Pete is truly one of the finest music journalists/authors around and a curator, some may say gatekeeper, of some of pop's most overlooked recordings. Here's a short film of Pete giving Neil his copy of the album. 

And here is a taster of what you can expect to find on this luscious album. It's side one, track one and this is (I think) its first live outing on the BBC's Later - with both Neil & Tim (and Jools Holland) looking like mere boys.

The Finn Brothers - Only Talking Sense (1995)

Sunday 14 August 2022

Area Code 303

Flying Mojito Bros; the name may not be familiar to some of you, but if you can imagine Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sharing a stage with The Orb you're kind of half way there. Among a ton of other stuff they've put their names to, the Mojitos have reimagined some nailed on classics - Eight Miles Higher, anyone? - remixed friends of this blog - Curse of Lono - and still find time to plough their own furrow too. Area code 303 is Denver, Colorado. Did I tell you I was in Colorado earlier this year...?

 Flying Mojito Bros - Area Code 303 (2017)

Thursday 11 August 2022

Just one more thing...

Another blog post and another ridiculously hot sticky night. Despite my office being probably the coolest room in the house, as I'm typing this it feels like a nursing home where the thermostat is permanently cranked up to 11. Joy. Talk of a drought, hosepipe bans and the proliferation of wildfires means we are probably only days away from calling a national emergency; as if we haven't got enough on our plates already this year, ffs.  

Anyway, enough of my whinging (sorry, I do have a tendency to whinge when I'm hot and bothered). I discovered this beautiful piece of music the other day. It's called Evening Time and I think I want it to be played at my funeral. Which hopefully won't be for a little while yet, unless I melt to death over the next few days...

Kolumbo - Evening Time (2022)  

Monday 8 August 2022

If not for you

Another day another rock and roll casualty. Olivia Newton John may have been too saccharine for some but, to boys of a certain age growing up in the early 70s, Neutron Bomb was as much a pinup as say Suzi Quatro, Susan Dey or even that model in the Flake commercial; poster girls all. And the fact that she scored her first hit with a George Harrison arrangement of a Bob Dylan tune meant that she could no wrong. I love this song. And you can tell from this clip* she loved singing it. Rest easy, Olivia. 

* P.S. 11.8.22 - Apologies, since posting this, Youtube have taken down all the 1971 live footage of ONJ (incl. the one I originally put up) and the audio only versions. Bastards. So I've swapped it for a later versh. Soz.

Olivia Newton John - If Not For You

Olivia Newton John (1948-2022)

Monday 1 August 2022


We're spoiled for good pubs here in Nottingham; despite the rate at which hostelries are shutting up shop, those that remain (together with a plethora of new watering holes), for the most part, are well worth a visit. And often a detour. In particular I can't recommend the Bath Inn highly enough: situated but a stone's throw from the city, in Sneinton, which, if you listen to the new owner*, is on the verge of becoming our very own Covent Garden. We'll see. All I know is they sell some great beers, the surroundings are immaculate and the craic at the bar is fierce.

* When I first met Piers Baker, the new owner (pictured above, behind the bar), I thought he looked (and sounded) very familiar; turns out he's also the only known stockist of sonic screwdrivers this side of Gallifrey.

Laid Back - Bakerman (1989)