November 4th, 2014
Trad Jazz clarinetist Acker Bilk died on Sunday. He was one of those faces that always seemed to crop up as the musical guest on Light Entertainment television shows in the 1970s, always with his distinctive bowler hat, waistcoat, and goateee. Put on Morecambe & Wise or Mike Yarwood on a Saturday night and there he’d be. If it wasn’t him it would be fellow Trad-Jazzer Kenny Ball (who died last year), it was like a refuge for all the pre-Beatles acts who’d had their pop careers wiped out by the Fabs.
So while I knew bugger all about him — I only just found out where his nickname “Acker” came from — and couldn’t tell you how good his Jazz chops were, he was ubiquitous in my youth so his death makes me rather sad. It’s like another little piece of my childhood as gone, if a very esoteric one. Acker Bilk was a household name back then but I doubt if anyone under 30 has ever heard of him.
This is the tune he’s most famous for and no apologies for that because I think it’s a gorgeous melody, even if it does sound like a proto-Kenny G record now. A huge hit in 1962, this became only the second record by an English artist to top the American chart (Vera Lynn was the first, trivia fans).
Download: Stranger On The Shore — Acker Bilk (mp3)
He plays it slightly jazzier on this version, but I’m including this clip mostly because it’s such a perfect example of the shabby tackiness of 1970s Light Entertainment television. The rubbish you had to sit through on a Saturday night while lying on your brown living room carpet in front of the television waiting for Match of The Day to come on.
November 3rd, 2014
Forgot to mention in my Dum Dum Girls review that the support band Ex Cops were very good too. They’re a duo who play vaguely shoegazey indie rock with pop hooks and beats, or something like that.
They opened with this terrific song which is the lead single from their second album Daggers due out later this month. Lead singer Amalie Bruun (who is Danish) was wearing that very same t-shirt too.
October 31st, 2014
This was a hit in 1971 but I only have a very vague recollection of it. There is something a bit “cult leader” about the lead singer, as if he’s preaching in front of his brainwashed followers. But I do like this, it straddles the thin line between sublime and ridiculous where a lot of great pop music lives.
In this clip you also get Ed “Stewpot” Stewart wearing an eyepatch. There used to be some bizarre stuff in the charts and TOTP could be quite weird as a result. Often marvelously so.
October 30th, 2014
Saw the Dum Dum Girls on Tuesday night who were absolutely fabulous. Whenever you go see a band for the first time there’s always that nervous worry in the back of your mind about how good (or not) they will be live, but those fears vanished the minute they kicked into the first song (though I thought lead singer Dee Dee Penny’s vocals were mixed too quiet). Cliched and creaky though the genre might be, there’s still something thrilling about a good rock combo, and their drummer was especially good at nailing a primitive, sometimes Glam-Rocky beat. The girls all looked very stylish too, it might seem a trivial point but I appreciate it when a band (girls or boys) makes an effort with the visual side and doesn’t turn up on stage in jeans and t-shirts like they just rolled out of bed.
They played all of the new album Too True to start and then another set of older songs which made me want to buy more of their records beyond the two I have. The emotional “Coming Down” was the highlight of the evening for me, but as I’m not into filming shows myself this clip of them singing it is from a different show earlier this year.
After the gig I joined the queue at the merchandise table to buy an album, but instead of the usual bored road manager or drummer flogging gear there was group leader Dee Dee herself selling stuff. Oh, the glamourous rock and roll life! Great though this was, it meant the wait was even longer as people kept posing for photos with her and asking her to sign the records. So when she served me I did the polite English thing of not bothering her too much and just bought a record and left without getting it signed. Bloody wish I had done now, my mate did take this picture though.
Look! It’s me buying a record from a sexy girl rock singer!
October 27th, 2014
I lived in Florida for 10 years and it all sort of went by in a blur because there is no real changing of the seasons to mark the passing of time there. The climate just goes from really hot to less hot, and the palm trees look the same all year round.
In New England it’s hard not to notice the change of seasons, especially Autumn which announces itself in a colourful explosion of red, orange, and yellow leaves on the trees. It really is quite spectacular, people here drive out into the country just to see the foliage (we did it last week). The London “countryside” (ie: the parks) can be quite beautiful in the Autumn too, as you can see from the above photo taken from the book Richmond Park Photos.
Here’s another lovely change-of-seasons record. As you can tell, like most English people, when I don’t have anything interesting to say I talk about the weather.
Download: Summer Is Over — Dusty Springfield (mp3)
For the anoraks out there this was the b-side of “Losing You” in 1964 and is now a bonus track on the CD version of A Girl Called Dusty.
October 24th, 2014
My sister absolutely hated this record, saying that being 17 was bad enough without having to listen to a depressing song about it.
October 23rd, 2014
I thought “the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” was a surprisingly poetic cover line for a teen magazine, so I looked it up and it is from a poem: “Autumn” by John Keats (though he didn’t write that last bit obviously).
Very sophisticated and cultured of Jackie to be quoting Keats on their front cover which would be unthinkable for a mainstream glossy today. You couldn’t imagine Seventeen having nothing but a line from Phillip Larkin on their cover.
I guess they were trying to be lyrical about the coming of autumn which is a good excuse to dig out this beautiful Bobbie Gentry song (even if it is about Spring).
Download: Seasons Come, Seasons Go — Bobbie Gentry (mp3)
October 22nd, 2014
If you like my “Tribes of Britain” posts then you’ll really like the wonderful blog What We Wore which also chronicles British youth style but also has stories from the people in the photos so it’s far more interesting.
You may think this is just a funny song about some bloke buying a new suit but it’s actually one of the most subversive singles of the 1950s: a devastating critique of materialist desire, capitalism, and how the working classes try to achieve status through their clothing. Really.
Download: Shopping For Clothes — The Coasters (mp3)