I’m taking a short break from the blogging malarkey as I’m up to my tits in work at the moment. I should be back next week, but in the meantime here’s some videos from three blokes who all used to be in the same band (that sadly never made any records). You have to wonder how these three egos managed to all fit in the same room together.
So here’s the band that “rescued” me from artists like Chris Rainbow. I sometimes wonder where and who I’d be if I hadn’t heard “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight” when I did. Punk and post-punk opened up so much more than just your ears, it expanded your horizons in all sorts of directions. It was like a revolution in everything you thought and did. Would I have gone to art school and become the person I am without it? I don’t think so.
In a nutshell, The Jam were my generation’s Beatles and Paul Weller was our John Lennon. That didn’t make Bruce Foxton our Paul McCartney though. He only wrote a few songs which were mostly a bit naff and cliched, but (apart from his obvious best effort “Smithers-Jones”) I’ve always liked “Carnaby Street” which isn’t a particularly brilliant song either but it sounds terrific with The Jam at their young and thrashy best.
This was the b-side of their 1977 single “All Around The World” and at the time Carnaby Street was a dump trading on past glories, full of crappy shops flogging cheap tat for gullible tourists who had come to experience “Swinging London” not knowing it was long gone. In the song Foxton sees this as a metaphor for the decline of England in general. The street has moved back upmarket since then and so have old Mod brands like Ben Sherman which are still trading on the past only with much higher prices, which in many ways is another metaphor for England today.
As a little something extra for the weekend here is the lovely “Life From A Window” which is a real pearl among the swine of their poor “This Is The Modern World” album. This is probably Weller’s first proper “grown up” song, dropping the slogans about youth explosions and the kids (man) in favour of a dreamy wistfulness like Ray Davies in one of his “just leave me alone with my thoughts and a cup of tea” moods.
Most Saturday afternoons in 1977 you’d find me in my bedroom listening to the Kenny Everett show on Capital Radio which was the perfect way to fill some of that dead time between getting back from the shops with my Mum and the football results coming on Grandstand. It wasn’t just the adventures of Captain Kremmen (which you can download here) that kept me listening, like myself Kenny had a major ELO obsession and was constantly playing their then-new “Out Of The Blue” album. He must have played the entire double album (parts of it several times over) and this was before I got my own copy so I was glued to the radio. Kenny’s musical tastes leaned heavily toward the polished and elaborate like ELO, he was the sort who thought “Sgt. Pepper” was the pinnacle of western civilization and that snotty punk stuff was just horrible. I thought so too at the time, it just sounded like a moronic racket to my ears and whenever my sister played the first Clash album I’d take the piss by singing “White Riot” in a retarded D.P. Gumby voice.
Another album that got heavy play on his show I ended up buying was “Looking Over My Shoulder” by Scottish singer/songwriter Chris Rainbow. If anybody has heard of him these days it’s as lead singer of The Alan Parsons Project in the 1980s (I’m so glad to say I never knew he was) but in the 70s he recorded three solo albums which are to The Beach Boys what ELO’s were to The Beatles, full of sunny, intricately-arranged pop symphonies with heavily multi-tracked vocals. While a lot of “Looking Over My Shoulder” now sounds as dated and cheesy as the shirt he’s wearing on the sleeve some of it still quite gorgeous.
“Dear Brian” is a fan letter to Brian Wilson who at that time was still a recluse, drugged out of his head in a sandpit somewhere. Over it’s sublime six minutes he laments the destroyed tapes and lost outtakes that ended up on a studio floor and implores Brian to “step in the sandbox” and make music again. The ghostly “In And Out And Round About” washes in like a mist coming off the North Sea and gets a bit Proggy (but in a very pretty way) with some highly pretentious lyrics and a grand church organ arrangement. Kenny played this a lot and would get all wobbly over the whispery ending.
All of Rainbow’s albums are out of print now and go for rather large amounts of money as he’s something of a minor cult amongst fans of 70s soft pop. I wish I could tell you I spent my Saturday afternoons in 1977 being all punky and rebellious down the King’s Road, buying bondage trousers at Boy and getting into fights with Teddy Boys, but sadly I was only 15, still desperately unhip and listening to stuff like this instead.
How satisfying is it to beat Man United in the FA Cup Final when you’re watching it in a pub full of their smug supporters who have been chanting loudly and insulting your team through the whole bloody game?
“We would sacrifice all our wires, wheels, systems, specialities, physical science and frenzied finance for one half-hour of happiness such has often come to us with comrades in a common tavern.” G.K. Chesterton What’s Wrong With The World (1910)
Now this looks like what I call a proper boozer. A friendly and unpretentious place presided over by a smiling, ruddy-faced landlord with half a tub of Brylcreem in his hair. Exactly the sort of place you’d want to order a pint, a bag of Cheese & Onion, and settle down for a few hours of talking bollocks with your mates, unmolested by the racket of satellite television, blaring music, or lads and ladettes getting loudly shit-faced on Cheeky Vimtos.
But like a lot of other simple old English pleasures the proper boozer has recently been under assault, besieged by the modern barbarian hordes of ghastly chain bars and “upscale” gastropubs*. Every time I go home it seems another old favourite pub has either closed or had a makeover and been given a new, stupid name like The Cabbage and Ferret’s Trousers. The Public Bar and Saloon have been knocked into one huge, noisy hangar of a space, the genuine old fixtures ripped out and replaced with fake ones, behind the bar is a surly Australian student and the new menu is all Brioche, Brie, and Balsamic Vinegar, with traditional grub like the Ploughman’s vanished like relics of that dark time before we were all dreadfully continental and sophisticated and didn’t know what Extra Virgin Olive Oil was.
If you find a proper boozer you should treasure it, I don’t live in England any more but some of the most pleasurable nights of my life were spent in it’s pubs, playing darts at The Andover Arms, watching the sun go down over the Thames outside The Blue Anchor, throwing up down my mates arm at The Spotted Horse, being stripsearched by the police in the gents of The Star & Garter, and getting headbutted in The Quill. Halcyon days.
*Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against good food in pubs, I used to drink (and eat) at the original gastropub, The Eagle in Farringdon back when it first opened and loved the place (they did a fantastic steak sandwich). But now every bloody pub in England thinks that “just” being a boozer isn’t enough and they have to offer fancy grub too, usually with poor and over-priced results. There’s nothing wrong with just serving crisps, nuts and pork scratchings, all you really need food in a pub for is to soak up the beer anyway.
My Dad was a big movie fan and his idea of a grand day out with me and my sister was to take us to the pictures. I loved it too, sit me in the dark with a Kia-Ora and I was a happy kid. A big event was seeing the latest James Bond film (I think “Diamonds Are Forever” was the first I saw) on the day it came out at the Odeon Leicester Square which I still think is the greatest cinema in the world with its football-pitch size screen. Aside from Bond, Dad also worshipped Michael Caine which meant we got dragged to see “Zulu”twice when it was re-issued in the 70s (no videos in those days).
My own cinematic tastes ran toward the ouevre of Ray Harryhausen and the stop-motion creatures he created for movies like Jason & The Argonauts and Mysterious Island, so when “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” came out in 1974 the old man took me to see it. Even though it wasn’t his cup of tea I’m sure he didn’t mind because the film had some rather nice eye candy in the form of Caroline Munro who played Margiana, a slave girl and love interest for lucky old Sinbad. Munro had been a scream queen in a couple of Hammer horror movies but her main claim to fame was being the girl in the Lamb’s Navy Rum billboards that were plastered all over London at the time. She wasn’t the sort of actress to give Meryl Streep sleepness nights and her part in the movie consisted mostly of standing there looking scared and trying not to burst out of her costume, but she did that brilliantly. Even though I was only 12 at the time I think I knew what girls were for by then and she was burned into my subconcious at a very impressionable age.
Caroline had a romantic fling with former Zombies lead singer Colin Blunstone and I don’t know how long it lasted or how serious it was but when it ended Colin was moved to write a song about her on his terrific debut solo album “One Year” in 1971. The plaintive “Caroline Goodbye” is a gorgeous record with a whispery and sad Nick Drake-ish mood. He does sound a bit wet though, no wonder she dumped him.
As a bonus feature to our program today here’s a one-off single Caroline made in 1967 when she was only 16. This is very nice 60s girl pop produced by “Teenage Opera” man Mark Wirtz and the musicians on it include Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker. Like her acting, she isn’t the greatest singer in the world but she sure sounds pretty.
My philosophy is, when you haven’t had time to finish writing any new posts put up something else by Pauline Murray. Here she is with Penetration and a fantastic live version of “Vision” that was on the b-side of the “Danger Signs” 12″ single.