Roy Harper on Flat Baroque and Bezerk

cover_1923193112009.jpg


Flat Baroque and Berserk (1970) is the fourth album by English folk / rock singer-songwriter and guitarist Roy Harper


‘Flat Baroque and Berserk’ was the first record of mine to go into the charts. For the first time in my recording career, proper care and attention was paid to the presentation of the song. Peter Jenner was assigned by EMI Records to produce the recording. Peter and I got on really well and he was a better overseer of my work than anyone I have been involved with before or since. I had also had a Studio upgrade. EMI Studios, Abbey Road was at that time the most advanced studio in Europe, and over the next ten years I was to record in near-perfect conditions.

Over those years, the studio buzzed with four separate Beatles, some Stones, The Pink Floyd, Cliff and the Shadows, Gracie Fields, three of four musical knights, Kate Bush, Olivier Newton-John, The Hollies, Yehudi Menuin, Stefan Grapelli, The Plastic Ono Band, Eric Clapton; you name them, they were all there. Jimmy Page and I were in there three or four times together.

It was a creative hotbed where the technical staff, headed by Ken Townsend, were second to none.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was very pleased with my first record made in such elevated surroundings. The song that I was best known for in those days, ‘I Hate the White Man,’ was recorded live for this album, and still stands as a testament to my lifelong devotion to espousing equal rights for all humans. I have long since wondered about the wisdom of stating that you have the capacity to hate your own race for it’s misdemeanours, but as a polemic it has been both an effective tool and somewhere of a place for a humble humanitarian to stand.

‘Another Day’ is probably one of the best love songs I ever wrote, and much of the rest of the record is on a gentler level, although ‘Hells Angels,’ recorded with ‘The Nice,’ is raw and was very eventful.


TRACK LISTING

1. “Don’t You Grieve” 5:43
2. “I Hate the White Man” 8:03
3. “Feeling All the Saturday” 1:56
4. “How Does It Feel?” 6:29
5. “Goodbye” 5:42
Side two
No. Title Length
6. “Another Day” 2:57
7. “Davey” 1:30
8. “East of the Sun” 3:02
9. “Tom Tiddler’s Ground” 6:48
10. “Francesca” 1:19
11. “Song of the Ages” 3:52
12. “Hell’s Angels” 7:46

Personnel
Roy Harper – vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar on “Hell’s Angels”
David Bedford – arrangements[8][9]
Skaila Kanga – harp on “Song of the Ages”
Tony Visconti – recorder on “Tom Tiddler’s Ground”
Keith Emerson – keyboards on “Hell’s Angels”
Lee Jackson – bass guitar on “Hell’s Angels”
Brian Davison – drums on “Hell’s Angels”

The album contains some of Harper’s best-known songs – Tom Tiddler’s ground especially.  “I Hate the White Man”, in particular, is noted for its uncompromising lyrics, and Allmusic described the song as certainly one of his most notable (and notorious) compositions, a spew of lilting verbiage that’s hard to peg. It could be irony, it could be ironic self-hatred, it could be muddled reflections on the chaos that is the modern world, or it could be a combination of all of them. Harper described the song as, ‘a testament to my lifelong devotion to espousing equal rights for all humans. I have long since wondered about the wisdom of stating that you have more than the capacity to hate your own race for it’s (sic) misdemeanors, but as a polemic it has been both an effective tool and somewhere of a place to stand.’

Teenage Funkland 5: That London

IMG_20180413_113523399_HDR.jpg


Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop; with the Brixton Anti-Nazi League Rally & a trip to Wembley to see Burnley FC win the play-offs… on the same bloody weekend!


After meeting the Stone Roses, once me & Nicky were back in little Ynysddu our appetite had been seriously whetted for all this music malarkey, & it wouldn’t be long before we were back on the road again. As it happens, we were just chillin’ with a reefer listening to a bit of Bjork when Lisa bobbed in & told us there was gonna be a big gig in Brixton…

“Who’s playin?”

 “Manics… Levellers… Billy Bragg… a few others. There’s a few coaches leavin from Blackwood… three quid there & back!”

“Buzzin!” we said.

She left & then Nick said,

“Fuckin hell, Burnley are playin at Wembley next day!”

 “Buzzin!”

Image result for the holy bible manic street

It had all seemd to miraculousy fit together – we could get to London for £3, watch a gig, & see Burnley get promoted (hopefully) in the old Third Division play offs. So the next day we got up at some stupidly early time & found ourselves waiting at Blackwood bus station with a load of festival types. One of them was the original manager of the Manic Street Preachers. He was a bit slow, like someone who’s not quite nappy-trained when everyone else was using potties. It turns out the Manics had dropped him in a flash just as success was looming. I was never really a fan of the band, like, a bit too buzz-saw grungey, banshee wailey for me. 1994 was the year of their third album, ‘The Holy Bible,’ whose first single, Faster, was released on June 6th, lyrics by the missing-within-a-year Richey Edwards.

After paying our £3 fare we began to trundle East toward the big smoke… London, England. From Piccadily to  Portobello Road, from Peckham to Primrose hill, from Portland Place to Putney & from Paddington to Penge the place is pretty pukka! The capital is a totally bonkers… far too many people, far too expensive & far too big. But there’s loads of stuff to see & do & the tubes were pretty easy to jump back in 1994; there were hardly any electric gates, & if there were you just shimmied on your knees through the luggage bit.

Stall holder in Camden lock late 1970’s

In 1994 the Mecca for all young people was Camden Town & its mental market; shop after shop of funky clothes blaring out funikier tunes spread out round some wicked little venues. Unfortunately, me & Nick were a couple of years later for the legendary squatting of the Roundhouse by the Spiral tribe & its Mad-Max raves. By 1994, however, the place was becoming the new home of Britpop, thanks to spunky young band of pearly princes called Blur who lived in the area. Their eternal disco-classic, Girls n Boys & its ridiculously brilliant bass line had just reached the top ten back in March.

A few weeks later, on the 25th April, they took the whole country down the Poplar dogs with the anthemically Cockney album, the bastion of Britishness that is Park Life. A ‘nocturnal travelogue for london,’ chirp’d singer Damon Albarn, & the album – part mod, part punk, part pure art, & peppered with sunspots –  would capture the London zeitgeist with all its apples & pears & gorblimeyisms; which remains, to this day, a modern classic.

Image result for park life album
———————————————————

Blur’s Parklive Tour, May 1994:

10th – Rock City, Nottingham, UK
11th – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, UK
12th – University, Bristol, UK
13th – De Montfort University, Leicester, UK
15th – University, Hull, UK
16th – Plaza, Glasgow, UK
17th – Queens’ Hall, Edinburgh, UK
18th – Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK
19th – Academy, Manchester, UK
21st – Octagon, Sheffield, UK
23rd – Event Centre, Brighton, UK
24th – University, Reading, UK
26th – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, UK
27th – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, UK
28th – Guildhall, Southampton, UK
31st – Town and Country Club, Leeds, UK

Meanwhile 2,000 Blur fans are spilling onto the street as suave bastard Albarn, mad axeman Coxon, cool f***er James & soon-to-be groom Rowntree head for a hard day’s night of outrageous debauchery & wanton hedonsim ‘Im up for it,’ says Damon as I leave him with three diminuitive Blurettes hanging from his neck live living breathing pendants. ‘Whatever is it, I’m up for it.’
NME Journalist after the Wolverhampton gig
———————————————————-

Other albums released by pre-Brit Pop bands in early 1994 – all in March actually – included ‘Give Out But Don’t Give Up’ by Primal Scream, which unfortunately after Screamadelica was a bit retro rocky rubbish really. ‘Devil Hopping‘ by the Inspiral Carpets was weak, while ‘Up To Our Hips’ by the Charlatans was also lacking brilliance. One to Another and that Area 51 jam, tho, they were bangin tracks. Still, it was going to be up to a wave of new bands to define the Britpop sound; Blur’s ressurection & reinvention after being slain by the Seattle conquest, while the growing acclaim surrounding Pulp’s His & Hers album (released April ’94) would lead to the following year’s world shattering ‘Different Class.‘ It had taken Jarvis Cocker & co. eleven years to get there, but their sound & songwriting were finally clicking together. Echobelly & Sleeper were also redefining themselves for the epoch, giving us the leading ladies of the Britpop Olympus. “Any generation that would pick Kurt or me as its spokeman,” said Eddie Vedder in ’94, “that generation must be really fucked up.” They probably were, but the British didn’t care anymore – they were ready for a change & it had already fuckin’ started!

Oh yeah, Blur & Suede. I do believe we’ve got ourselves a Happy Mondays vs Stone Roses/Beatles vs Stones-type face-off in the making. This has to be encouraged. It is, indeed, exactly the kind of healthy competition that inspired Brian Wilson to outdo Paul McArtney in the Sixties, Bowie to outglam Ferry in the Seventiues & Morrissey to outwhinge Edwyn Collins in the Eighties… There’s also tremendous gossip-coloumn potential in all this, what with Damon living with Brett’s ex, Justine, & Suede, Blur & elastica vying for magazine & ‘TOTP’ space. Its the drama of the season, watch this space. Paul Lester

IMG_20180413_114622602_HDR.jpg

Back on the bus with a load of South Welsh, after a few hours of hashish & hip-hop we finally arrived in Brixton, parking up with what seemed like thousands of other buses. They had all arrived from different parts of the country, emptying their contents to form a mash-up of well over a hundred thousand folk – the biggest crowd I’d ever been a part of. Once in Brockwell Park. the ‘show’ was started by a couple of speakers, who came on & ranted a while about the BNP, whipping the crowd into a phrenzy.

“I wish they’d shuddupp, thats proper boring

Said Nick, & I agreed. Our prayers were suddenly answered & on came the Levellers, & out came the spliffs, & the crusty hippies began to wave their dreadlocks around furiously to the music whilst dancing like they were having an epileptic fit. Next up were the Manic Street Preachers (with a new manager) & finally Billy Brag did a solo rendition of his brilliant New England, which went down a treat.

The Anti-Nazi League rally of 1994 had its roots in the first Carnival Against The Nazis, which was played by X-Ray Spex, Steel Pulse, the Tom Robinson Band and The Clash in 1978 – a diverse selection of music for a diverse multi-cultural crowd. A huge rally of 100,000 people marched the six miles from Trafalgar Square through London’s East End – the heart of National Front territory – to a Rock Against Racism concert in Victoria Park, Hackney. With the relaunch of the Anti-Nazi League in 1992, a nationwide live musical movement rose up which culminated in over 150,000 arriving at Brockwell Park to celebrating the defeat of the Nazis in the recent local elections & reaffirm their belief in a multicultural society. Of the growing rise of Neonazism, ‘they have an illness in the minds,’ said Stero MCS frontman Rob Birch, ‘they’re ill people.’

Other bands that played were Back To The Planet, Credit To The Nation, Urban Species & African Head Charge, but the definitive highlight of the show were Rage Against the Machine, who got 120,000 people jumping in unison singing,

“Fuck you I wont do what you tell me!”

All around the crowd, the neon-clad metropolitan police began to get edgy, & it looked for a moment they were gonna pile in & kick off a new set of Brixton riots. But it all passed off peacefully & suddenly it was time to go home. People began to wander back to their coaches, but we were off to Peckham to see some family of mine. For a moment we completely lost each other in the merry mass of people, but after ten minutes of frantic searching I saw Nick’s yellow t-shirt come bobbin down the hill & all was well.

IMG_20180413_114639679_HDR.jpg

The next day, despite only having ten pounds and a bit of shrapnel left between us, we jumped tubes into Central London. I’d had a brief stint in London in 1992, as a 16 year-old staying on the largely intimidating North Peckham Estate overlooking Burgess Park. In the three months or so I was in the capital I’d learnt the laws of the jungle; skiving college, jumping trains about the city & going shopliftin’ & stuff – it was an alternate education. I wanted to show Nicky the Trocadero centre & the proper arcades, where we had a wee two-player go on the mental Windjammer. It was a an old hang-out of mine, the Trocadero, & for useful information lovers, in 1994 Nickelodeon UK began broadcasting live from there in a two year stint before moving to Rathbone Place. 

Image result for trocadero centre 1994

London Trocadero

So, it was time to get to Wembley, where we arrived at the stadium – the old one with the towers – at a few minutes minutes after three. The match had already kicked off & unbeknownst to us Stockport County had scored. Now Burnley versus Stockport might not sound exactly like a glamour-match – but to a Burnley fan who’d spent all his conscious life watching them in the lower echelons of the football league, this play-off final was the biggest match of his life. Luckily for me & Nick we stumbled across a sound steward, who took our sneaky tenner & led us right up to the executive boxes for a panoramic view of the action – with a programme thrown in for good measure.

I had been to Wembley once before, as a wide-eyed kid back in ’88 to see Burnley play Wolves in the Sherpa Van Trophy. I distinctly remember Wolves fans mooning us on the motorway after the game. I also remember there being more fans for the meeting of two 4th division teams at Wembley that year than the Liverpool-Wimbledon FA Cup Final, with 80,000 filling the stadium. On this occasion, there was still 35,000 Clarets, but only 8,000 or so County fans, with huge swathes of the ground left empty.

Image result for burnley fc wembley 1994

As the game continued, Stockport got two players sent off – Wallace for a disgusting spit in the face of Burnley wing man McMinn, and Stockport goalscorer Beaumont for an off-the-ball stamp on Burnley pie man Les Thompson. We soon enough scored a couple of goals & I didn’t give a shit any more about the quiet atmosphere & the rows of plastic seats across the way. Despite finishing 12 points behind Stockport in the league, Burnley were promoted & Wembley was the greatest place on Earth. The chant, ”Jimmy Mullen’s Claret Blue Army’ was the loudest ever surge of pride sang by the Turf Moor faithful to this day. Marlon Beresford, Gary Parkinson, Les Thompson, Steve Davis, John Pender, Warren Joyce, Ted McMinn, Adrian Heath, John Francis, & David Eyres – we will always love you!

Skinner’s Rats

Skinner's Rats 1.jpg

A retrospective look at life in a band in the 1970s by one of the Mumble’s top writers …


In late 1971, I joined a band. What kind of band was it? Well… a folk band… no, a ceilidh band… no, a… um… well… Basically all of those and none. We would open our set with the intro to Richard Strauss’s ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’, which would then segue into the theme tune from the BBC’s ‘Music While You Work’, which would in turn segue into a medley of Irish and Scottish reels. Oh, the second half of our performance, after a beer break, would always start with the beginning of the 2nd Movement of Haydn’s ‘Surprise’ Symphony. It got the attention of the people in the pub.

Skinner's Rats 2.jpg

When I first joined, I played mouth organ. The rest of the band were Rick West (guitar), Peter ‘Blossom’ Currie (accordion), and Barry Laing (fiddle), and we had got together through vaguely knowing each other at Goldsmiths College. We had a residency at the Walpole, a pub in New Cross, SE London, and our boast was that we would go for a whole evening without repeating a single tune. That meant we played every jig, reel, and Strathspey we could think of, sung every English, Irish, and Scottish song we could remember, and then resorted to South African Voortrekker tunes and comedy fox-trots – Blossom had been a session musician for the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and also had spent time in Africa. I can remember Barry standing on a bar stool, singing ‘We Are The Bold Gendarmes’. Barry had one of the clearest, most distinctive voices on the folk scene, and you can hear it on this recording of the New Zealand song ‘Shanties By The Way’.

One day I turned up at the Walpole to find they had bought me a drum kit. “I can’t play drums!” I said. “You’re a musician – you can play anything!” they said. The kit they had bought me was an ancient 1930s dance-band set, with a huge, thin bass drum, a set of ‘Chinese temple blocks’, what must have been the original Zildjian cymbal mounted on a spring (and it seemed to have had a bite taken out of it), a rattle, and a stuffed parrot. I made do. I painted a big ‘The Who’ logo on the front, in honour of Keith Moon. A few months later, when I returned from a holiday, they told me, “We sold the drum kit… but we bought you a double bass!” I looked at them in disbelief. “I can’t play a double bass!” I said. “You’re a musician – you can play anything,” they said. I struggled with the bass for three months or so. We used to travel everywhere in Blossom’s short-wheelbase Land Rover, Blossom driving, his girlfriend in the passenger seat, and the rest of us plus the double bass and all the other instruments crammed in the back. At one stage we had a gig every night for a week, and my fingers were raw. I gave up and left the band shortly afterwards. I spent some time as a solo artist, singing, playing melodeon and anglo concertina, on the folk club circuit in London after that, but that’s another story.

Skinner's Rats 6 1981.jpeg

Skinner’s Rats 6 1981: The band in trio formation.

The band had several changes of personnel – at one time various members found their way temporarily into The Cray Folk, who were sort of a rival band, and various members of the Cray Folk defected to the Rats, which made things rather confusing. I seem to recall once playing melodeon in an ad-hoc line-up that went by the bare name of Skinner’s Rats, but of which I was the only original member… or was it the Cray Folk with no original members? I can’t recall! At one point, during a time when Barry was absent, the band was joined by a Scottish fiddler called Kenny Logan. He played a Hardingfele – a Norwegian fiddle with a set of sympathetic strings – and he taught the band the wonderful Irish jig ‘Banish Misfortune’.

The band had a couple of tracks on a compilation album of folk acts from Kent, and then brought out an album called ‘My Boy’s Can Play Anything’, which was the boast of their manager, the landlord of the Bull Inn at Farningham, when people rang up to hire the band for a wedding, a funeral, a Bar Mitzvah, or whatever. I also got in on one recording session, which resulted in a single. It was a rather lacklustre version of ‘Granny’s Old Armchair’ with ‘Tramps and Hawkers’ on the B side – it was always on the jukebox at The Bull, but I am glad to say it has otherwise sunk without trace. If you do happen to come across a copy, let me know! Lead vocals were by Pete Hicks formerly of the Cray Folk, and I can be heard plunking away at the double bass and joining in the choruses. But the last I heard Skinner’s Rats is still going, with the core members of Barry and Blossom. Here’s Blossom half way up Mount Etna in 2012!

I think our greatest moment came when we played the Roundhouse in London. It was the night of the ‘Greasy Truckers Party’, 13th February 1972. We arrived late and were told we had missed our spot and couldn’t perform; however, part way through the evening there was a power cut, and the organisers realised they had an acoustic band ready to go, so under battery lights we were ushered onto the stage. My ‘The Who’ drum kit drew cheers, but when we launched into ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ the crowd of bored hippies went wild! At that time Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey was a popular movie to drop tabs of acid to. The London Chapter of Hell’s Angels was in the audience too, and I seem to remember they took Blossom on as a Prospect. Of course we never made it onto the album, except as the John-Cage-like track ‘Power Cut’, though the album cover has a picture of us. Good grief – this was all nearly half a century ago!

Paul Thompson

An Interview with Ramona Lisa Grotte


Without Ramona Lisa Grotte & her talented musicians, the streets of Seattle would be a lot less lively… The Mumble caught up with the lady for a wee chat!


Hello Ramona, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m from & still live in the Seattle area, Washington State, USA.

How did you develop your appreciation of music?
I grew up with music playing in the background/foreground in every part of my life. All of my Grandparents as well as my parents always had music playing. Radio, records, 8-tracks, tapes, CDs etc. Every genre. Live shows!!! I can’t imagine life with out it.

You are one of the head honchos of Gigs 4 U – can you tell us about the organisation?
I am the Programming Director at Gigs 4 U. Our company provides live music/entertainment services for our clients events/programs. We have helped our clients create new opportunities for artists to get paid to play. Many of these gigs did not previously exist. Our clients know that music enhances their spaces for their employees, guests, general public. The live music program at SeaTac airport is an award winning program that has helped artists make new fans that would otherwise not know who they are. Like a world tour with out leaving home!

Good work – so how did you get involved in the company?
I was invited to help with programming at the very beginning of the company by the owner/founder Edward Beeson. He and I have since become very close and are currently getting ready to live on a boat together. His company has changed lives in MANY ways!

Ed Beeson & Ramona – happily mixing business with romance

 

What do you like to do when not organising Seattle’s kick-ass public music scene?
I like to spend time at the beach with Edward and our dogs. I love art and when I have time, I actually create stuff!

You’re washed up on a desert island with an all-in-one solar powered DVD/TV combo & three films, what would they be?
Oh my gosh. Something by Hitchcock, something from British telly and something musical.

Ramona’s art

When did Gigs 4 U begin & how has the company grown since that time?
It was formed in 2013 to launch the live portion of the Experience the City of Music program at SeaTac airport. Since that time the company has grown to provide services to many more clients like: Amazon, The Downtown Seattle Association, Friends of Waterfront Seattle, Seattle Parks and Rec., Microsoft, Whole Foods, Nordstrom, and many more. We have over 1000 vetted artists in our database, with about 150 of them are being actively scheduled for on-going programs throughout the city. In 2019 we represent all genres, instrumentation, ethnicity and configuration, while logistically we can provide solo, small production for an intimate crowd or we can go full band, staging, sound system etc.

What inspires you in the morning to get to work for Gigs 4 U?
The artists. So many artists are struggling to make a living at being artists and this is a shame for our society. Art is a fundamental need for humans. Music is more powerful than anyone realizes. It is in the universe and pulses in our souls. We as a society should be paying our artists fair compensation for the beauty and help that they bring to us daily.

Can you describe the relationship you have with your performers?
Our artists are like family to us. We are always looking for more ways to help them pursue their craft and be able to make a living from it. Some of them are my best friends.


www.gigs4u.org

An Interview with Steve Arnott

8


Steve Arnott had a dream; then he got a bus; then he got on the telly – The Mumble absolutely adore the guy…


Hello Steve, where are you from & where you at?
Hi Mumble I am from Kingston upon Hull and I am still here.

Where did your love of music come from?
My love for music came from hearing singers such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson played by my mum. Then I discovered hip-hop culture at the age of 9 through breakdancing.

You’ve got three famous singers from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and India Arie… Yazz could then cook 🙂 Starter: Fallafel and Houmous; Main: Stuffed Wild Mushrooms and for Pudding: Lemon Cheesecake.

Where & when did you get the idea for The Beats Bus?
I came up with the idea about 5 years ago as I used to do workshops with young people aged 16-25 in Hull city centre. The workshops were really successful, but there wasn’t a lot attending so it started me thinking why? I came to the conclusion that not a lot of families have excess money to give the children to travel to the city centre everyday, so I needed to make a travelling recording studio/workshop vehicle.

 

What kind of things do the kids say The Beats Bus makes them feel?
Confidence, a sense of family, proud to be part of it and they are excited about the future, which is great.

How did the documentary, A Northern Soul, come about?
I met Sean the director at the event “Made in Hull” that he created but previously. We had had a discussion through a mutual friend, Rebecca Robyns, about each other. Sean was looking for a character and I had a story to tell. Then we met we agreed to start filming and the rest is history.

_Z1A1167FFSATDAY.JPG

What was it like working with these particular film-makers?
It was a pleasure working with Sean, he is a very inspiring man and we are both from Hull. Sharing the same background we struck up a strong bond and friendship straight away.

How did A Northern Soul, change your life?
The documentary has changed my life massively; it has helped me fund my dream and also provide free workshops for young people in Hull.

Did being the City of Culture change Hull?
No, it never changed Hull, it has always been an awesome city. What it did do though is shine a light on our creatives and massively boosted our civic pride.

What’s happening right now with The Beats Bus?
In 2019 we are rolling out free workshops for young people who get stuck on their estates because they have no money to travel. We want to try and raise their aspirations. We are also working with the Police on a ‘no more knives’ campaign which is going to be an exciting project.

What would you say to somebody who has a dream?
Follow it with all your heart and going up, under or over to achieve your destiny. It is in your hands – choose a path and make a plan.

Have you thought about taking The Beats Bus further afield – perhaps even the Edinburgh Fringe?
Yes and we will, but at the moment we are concentrating on helping our community as they really need it.


www.beats-bus.co.uk

beats bus logo

Teenage Funkland 4: Young Roses


Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop with the true story behind the secret track – THE FOZ – on The Stone Roses’ Second Coming


It is early May, 1994. In the UK local elections, the Tories have just lost 429 seats and control of 18 councils. They were definitely losing the youth vote, especially after the introduction into law of the most insidious piece of legislation in 300 years, the Criminal Justice Bill. ‘New age travellers?’ had croaked John Major at the Tory conference, of 1992, ‘Not in this age. Not in any age.’ In effect, this prevented people from getting together outside & having a rave, granting the police huge discretionary powers to thwart our fun. The Levelers were in the front line of protests, a proper funky band of proper hippies; on May 7th they attended a press conference at the Rainbow Centre in Kentish Town, where the Advance Party’s Debby Daunton declared;

I suppose that because no one in government has ever had the desire to let what’s left of his hair down at a rave, they don”t see why anyone else should be allowed to…. Society is perfectly happy for the army to run around pretending to kill people on Salisbury plain

Meanwhile, the 32-mile long Channel Tunnel had officially opened on the 6th, finally physically connecting the Entente Cordiale for the first time since the Ice Age Land Bridge was swamp’d by the seas. Following two centuries of cross-channel schemes, those 22 miles of water between Dover & Calais were finally breached by science, engineering & Human endeavour. After cutting the ribbons on the Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo, the Queen found herself rushing under the seabed towards England, emerging at Calais on an overcast afternoon & a meeting with President Mitterrand. “The mixture of French elan and British pragmatism,” said the Queen in her speech of the day in the most untroubled French, “when united in a common cause, has proved to be a highly successful combination. The tunnel embodies that simple truth… the French and British peoples, for all their individual diversity and ages-long rivalry, complement each other well – better perhaps than we realise.” Agreed! Every cheese-eating surrender monkey needs someone to drag them out of the pickle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three days later saw the release of Trogg’s song Love Is All Around (1967) by Scottish popsters Wet Wet Wet, fronted by heart-throb-at-the-time Marti Pellow. Another 4 days after the release – May 13th – Four Weddings & a Funeral was released, on which the song was featured, propelling it towards fifteen weeks of being at No 1. Like everybody else at the time, even the band themselves were fed up with hearing the song, so deleted the single from sale, thus preventing them from equaling Bryan Adams’ record for weeks at the top with his 1991 single (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. The film did even better, becoming the biggest grossing British film ever, making nearly £200 million and costing just $2 million to make.

Back in the world of cooler music, Wigan’s finest psychedelic popsters, Verve, were told they had to change their name to The Verve by lawyers representing Polygram, the owners of Verve jazz records. The Verve were yet to hit the heights of Northern Soul & espcecially Urban Hymns, but were slowly growing in status, musicianship, songwriting & style. In little Ynyssdu, after the Oasis gig we felt ourselves full of rock ‘n’ roll. The crunch of the guitars still swirled around our heads, the bass & drums gave us a groove to our step… & we wanted more. Out came the keyboard. Suddenly me & Nick were the new Lennon & MaCartney as we proceeded to pen such classics as ‘(Whats yer) Problem Babe’ and ”Teenage Funkland’ in a stony haze. Then one day, during a lull in jamming to the casio beat, something struck me. After reading an article in the NME (see below), I was looking at a map of the region & saw the town of Monmouth…

Fuckin Hell Nick… that’s where the Roses are recording!

“Where!”

“Monmouth… it’s just over the border. Come on pal, let’s check ’em out & see where that bloody album is.”

“Let’s go!”

So we borrowed a tent & off we went…

IMG_20180509_134550672 (1).jpg

Aha! The Stone Roses. My beloved Stone Roses. I was 13 when the first album came out in 1989. A year later I was on a school trip to London – we saw Blood Brothers I recall – & I’d just started listening to the Inspiral Carpets. A friend had given me a tape with Life on it. On the reverse side was the Stone Roses, & somewhere after Birmingham I thought I’d give it a listen. By the time we hit London I was hooked. I must have listened to that album twice a day for the next few years. While that was happening, the Roses had ditched their dodgy record company – Zomba – & signed up with American label, Geffen. Then they went underground for a long time – young dads n’all that – with the difficult second album proving a lot more difficult than anyone expected. Things had changed you see, the zeitgeist,,, the Age of the Second Summer of Love was over, the Time of the Britpoppers had come.

The Roses were the flagship band for the Madchester movement which we all bought into & loved. Their longevity is proven. In the past couple of years I’ve seen James at Party in the Palace (Linlithgow), The Charlatans at Electric Fields (Drumlanrig Castle), The Happy Mondays at Lindisfarne Festival, & of course the Roses themselves at Heaton Park then, for my fortieth birthday, at the Etihad. I was there with my sister & brother-in-law, & to our right were a couple of my age with their 14 year old daughter, all donned out in Roses regalia & singing along to every word. The Roses, you see, are family, & we were a part of it.

Me & the brother-in-law, Simon, at the Etihad 2016

13495189_10154308866384874_4309523229403616411_n

It was an awesome gig – much better than Heaton Park, & one in which the first album was played in its entireity – a great moment really seeing as I’m trying to emulate it at the moment. Yeah, what a gig, the best I’ve ever been to in my life, I think, the Etihad was like a modern Collosseum & my favorite gladiators were on cracking form – their new single, All For One, if a little plastic in the recording was majestic in such an environment. Aye,  I love the Roses me!

From my blog, June 2016

That first album was a killer, an eternal classic, & everyone knows it. The travesty is, instead of seizing world domination when it was in the palm of their hands, the looping funk of Fools Gold teaching everyone how to dance properly, the Roses chose to be enigmatic.. The world had waited… & waited… & waited… & fuckin waited & still not even a whimper. Yet they still retained the aura of Britain’s coolest band. In reality, with John Squire obsessing over the sound & chalking up a healthy coke addiction the recording process had dragged on for months & years. “I made the mistake of using cocaine for a while,’ recollected Squire, thinking it would make me productive, but it just made me more unsure, more paranoid.” By May 1994, however, they were approaching the final touches at a famous converted farmhouse near Monmouth called Rockfield Studios. Bohemian Rhapsody had been recorded here, so it must have had some good, creative vibes. “Put the heating on more often,” wrote Ian Brown in the visitors book, “and I might one day come back.” The album would be released a few months later on the 5th December.

28.jpg

The Roses signing the Rockfield visitors book

May ’94 also saw the passing away of John Smith, the leader of the Labour party. Before his well-mourned passing it was universally understood that he would be the next prime minister… & a good one at that. After over fifteen years of Toryism, it was time for a change. Although Maggie Thatcher had got the country back on it’s feet after the chaotic seventies, by ’94 the party she once ruled with an iron fist was a corrupt organisation led by an excrutiatingly dull PM, John Major. A seismic shift was coming, & with the elections due in 1997 & everybody felt Labour would win. On Smith’s death, the name of a young, dazzling Labour MP began to be spoken… Tony Blair.

wzmjn7fb-1405849076.jpg

Now then, I cannot believe that the brilliant John Smith, the leader of the Labour Party in 1994, would ever have let George Bush & the American Neocons ever get away with faking 9-11 & attacking Iraq & Afghanistan. Tony Blair did. by the way, & was the chief beneficiary to John Smith’s sudden & unexpected death by heart attack in London on the 12th May. He would have made a great PM, the country was desperate for change & Labour was heading for a landslide. Was it a conspiracy, perhaps, perhaps not Smith had suffered a heart attack in ’88, & was a heavy drinker. Still, Tony Blair did make an unusual statement while staying in a French hotel with his family in April 1994. On waking his wife, Cherie, one morning, he blurted out quite obtusely, “If John dies, I will be leader, not Gordon. And somehow, I think this will happen. I just think it will.”

Monmouth from the air, 1920

Back in the world of the 18-year-old Nicky & Damo, a bus-ride out of Ynyssdu & a wee train jump outta Newport & we found ourselves pulling into Abergavenny, a strange sounding town right on the border. Monmouth wasn’t served by train, so we blagged some local budweiser boy to drive us there for a fiver. So there we were, razzin down the road with a local wise guy, the sun setting over Wales behind us, the English border ahead. Crossing into the mothership, we were soon were among the scenic streets of Monmouth. On the outskirts of town we found a camp-sight, & in the failing light snook in thro’ a back field & set up camp. By the time the tent was up & we’d had a reefer or two, we were swamped by a serious a case of ‘What next?’

“Reyt, I think Rockfield’s a couple of miles out of town… so I’ll go & check it out.”

“Nice one… I’ll chill here & get stoned.”

“Nice one… inabit!”

“Inabit.”

Rockfield Studios

With one rolled I set off along a country road. Above the stars were singing & I was enveloped in the bosom of a warm May night. Up ahead, somewhere (I hoped) lay Rockfield Studios. After a couple of miles the shadow of a building loomed out of the gloom. It turned out to be a farmhouse & just as I was walking to the door to check it out, a car razzed up beside me on the drive. This guy leaps out sporting a baseball cap & all at once I clicked… it was only fuckin’ Ian Brown.

“Can I help yer kid?”

 “Yeah mate, I’ve come to see what the Stone Roses are up to!”

 “Cool, come in!”

So there I was, sat in the control room of Rockfield Studios, chattin to Reni about a Roses gig in Colne (near Burnley) & Ian Brown buzzin about, his mane completely shaved off & renouncing all drugs. The Roses’ producer then turns up with two Yanks – radio pluggers – who had been sent over by Geffen to see where all their money had gone & to listen to the album. Mani was away & Squires was off taking coke somewhere but there was one guy missin.’

Lads… I can’t stay on mi own, mi mates waitin down at the campsite.”

 “No worries… we’ll go pick him up.”

Sound as fuck… none of yer pop star bullshit… simply sound as fuck. We roared the couple of miles down the road in their motor, Reni at the wheel. Then with a screech & a spin we razzed up the camp site, pulling up right outside the tent. I got out, unzipped & poked me head inside… Nicky looked stoned.

 “Yo Nick, I’m wi Stone Roses!”

 “Eh!?”

 “No, swear down… come on, wi gonna listen to the new album!”

 “Reyt, I’ll get mi weed!”

 Unfortunately it was too dark to find the weed, & we were proper rushin.’ So after brief introductions me & Nick were just about to get in the car when who would show up but a pretty pissed-off campsite owner.

 “Oy there boyos, what yer doin!”

 “It’s allright mate, they’re with us,” said Brown.

 “Wait a minute… they haven’t even paid!”

 “We’ll sort you out in the morning mate,”

So we jumped in the car with Nick. I can’t quite remember, but I’m sure they made more noise when they left than when they arrived.

Back in the studio we were flanked by Yanks on us left & Mancs on us right. One by one tracks off the new album were brought from a pile of massive tape reels. For a wide-eyed kid who had been using a Tascam four-track, to see the epic grandeur of a proper recording studio it was very cool indeed. At one point we went to the farm itself for a cup of tea & a spliff, watchin’ MTV. Talk ended up on football… the Roses being Man U fans. It was just at the beginning of their strangle-hold on the domestic game, & the double loomed, even if they were wearing an awful, schizophrenic away kit. They had just pipped Bastard Rovers to the title by 8 points & were about to meet Chelsea in the FA Cup final. It was the season when Cantona ran rampant in the middle field, his Napoleonic dash & Gallic élan controlling every match & inspiring his team. He also kicked a Norwich player in the head – ‘descpicable’ said Jimmy Hill – and stamped on John Moncur at Swindon. But he was genius!

I feel really at home here. I love the game, above all in England. I really thought I would not play football again, but my career was changed completely by coming here, I did not really know what to expect. On the continent they say that the English are cold & reserved, but they are not. The English like to laugh. They like to tell jokes. I’ve been surprised. I like the English Eric Cantona

In Rockfield Studios, at one point John Squire came in to make himself a brew. He didn’t say anything, an almost Shelleyan figure in the background, who made his tea & disappeared. The Second Coming was mainly about Squires. He wrote all the tunes but one & lavished them with a series of powder-driven guitar solos. Inspired by Led Zeppelin & thus the artistic alchemy of Aleister Crowley he had produced a darkly poetic album. I remember seeing a Robert Johnson CD in the studio (which I’ve now got in my car) & another influence must be Jimmy Hendrix… on Good Times the title & the guitaring are one & the same. At one point they gave us a tour of the studio, & I saw the handwritten lyrics to Straight To The Man, testifying to the fact the album was still malleable. During the listening, other tracks definitively stood out; the acoustic sing-a-long Tightrope, the melodic Ten Storey Love Song & the fuzzy Begging You made us realise why we loved them in the first place. Then they slapped on Love Spreads & we knew the Roses were back.

They also played a mental track, full of screeching violins & mad acoustics, which they called The Foz“You should put it on the album,” we told ’em. Indeed they did, at our behest it seems, as a secret track. If you left the album running by accident, the stereo would suddenly spring to life again, 90 tracks in. Producer, Simon Dawson, who was also present at our visit, bragging about how the album was ‘gonna be massive,’ had this to say about The Foz.

This was nothing to do with me at all – it was something they did before they came to Rockfield. I know I’m credited with the keyboards, but I didn’t play them on that! I think Reni played the piano, Ian played the violin, and John was playing the mandolin. It was something they did late one night when they were with John Leckie and he’d wandered in with his DAT player – it was just a bit of a joke, I think. I don’t think it was supposed to be found that easily — it was supposed to shock people who’d left their CD playing while they were studying or whatever. The working title was ‘The Foz’ – well, I say working title…that was what was written on the box, anyway…” – Simon Dawson.

 

There was one funny moment. Ian, Reni & Simon asked us what we’d been up to, & we mentioned we’d seen Oasis recently. BOOM – you could almost cut the tension with a knife. Simon was praising them as good lads, but you could definitely feel a sense of ‘who are these johnny-cum-latelys everyone’s rabbiting on about.’ During 1994, Oasis were actually recording at nearby Monow Valley studios, which led to Ian Brown & the Gallagher brother’s first bumping into each other as Brown was walking out of the WH Smiths in Monmouth. As Brown shadow boxed his way towards them & started praising Cigarettes & Alcohol, perhaps this was the existential moment of the baton being changed. Darius had established the empire, & Xerxes was gonna spread its power over widening regions. Whatever did transpire that day, safe to say back at the studio two sets of baggy Mancunians were creating & recording beautiful, beautiful, perhaps even immortal music.

The Stone Roses in December 1994 : in their exclusive interview to The Big Issue

So our brilliant time finally over, with the radio pluggers leaving at the same time as ourselves, Reni & Ian drove us back to the campsite, the first ‘outsiders’ to hear the album in the world. All the music mags had been shunned, & there we were a Barlicker & an Accy Roader, piercing the aura of invincibility right to the summit of Olympus. “I don’t think its as good as the first one!” said Nick as we finally managed to skin-up. But I didn’t care, I mean, the fuckin’ Stone Roses, the new fuckin’ album – we were very lucky boys.

Needless to say we were up at the crack of dawn & did a runner without paying.


TEENAGE FUNKLAND

———

1: THE MURDER OF KURT COBAIN

2: SUPERSONIC

3: NEWPORT

4: YOUNG ROSES

5: THAT LONDON

 

 

 

Celtic Connections: Eddi Reader and Leeroy Stagger

eddie reader pic 1.jpg


Kings Theatre, Glasgow 
Wednesday, January 30th 2019


Glasgow’s venerable Kings Theatre seemed a fitting venue for the return of the ever-popular Eddi Reader to the Celtic Connections festival, Glasgow’s amazing annual sharing of music from all over the world. But first, we had a Scottish version of a transatlantic session as the packed King’s audience welcomed Canadian singer songwriter Leeroy Stagger to the stage to perform his unique blend of folk, blues and tradition, based simply upon two musicians on guitar and banjo.

eddie reader pic 3.gif

Leeroy introduced each song, telling us the story of how it came about and why they were performing it. They were simple songs with simple lyrics, sharing tales in a familiar old way of sharing stories that has been practiced across the globe in every clan or tribe. An amazing adherence to tradition, and yet somehow also a new, alternative take on things, encompassing, as is popular today, ideas of rebellion through music; a rebellion towards a new world of love and light. And indeed his soulful music succeeding in generating a feeling of love in the auditorium, a feeling taken up and built upon as Eddi Reader and her band strode on to the stage to begin their performance.

The ensemble of eight consisted of flute, accordion, piano, guitar, drum, double bass – an exciting array that promised much – and all presided over by Eddi herself in a striking red dress, which she commented on as she addressed us and told us how glad she was to be performing in the well known King’s theatre in her own home town, a town where she holds a well-earned special place in the people’s hearts. The city, and city life, were at the forefront of her stories that were set about in each of her songs. The old Celtic music with its sensual sound and simple lyrics were profound from the first song with the band coming to life behind her tremendously emotive vocals. The solos flew by on flute and violin and danced in and out of her melodies in a most attractive way.

The evening was marvellously produced and performed, each song touching upon a new emotion; there was partying, terrible sadness, lots of joking. Music to dance wildly to, music that represented high life, low life, tunes that would have fitted right in to any venue, from a cosy pub to a giant arena. All with Eddi always rising far above it, singing with a magical quality that held us and enchanted us. Her stories too were captivating, all the more so because of being a part of the performance and told in such a personal way that you could have no doubt of the reality of the life being represented in this glorious two and a half hours of sheer entertainment.

eddie reader pic 2.jpg

Yet again, an evening like this creates a connection between a large live audience and graceful, generous artists who want nothing more than to heal the world through the love generated by simple and beautiful act of performing and sharing music. It feels like a privilege to share their heartbreak and their joy. It feels like this kind of evening is one of a kind but it is great to realise that music happens everywhere, every night, all over the world. And that’s what Celtic Connections is all about.
Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

celtic-connections-300x300