A folk tune, like whisky, is fine straight-up. But it can take a good mixer too. The Fergus McCreadie Trio serve a knockout punch of traditionally-infused jazz that slips in your ear like a good malt goes over the thrapple, then sets your heart alight with the exquisite afterglow of places, times and moods. I could rave on about the awards and accolades that have been heaped on this young man and his group, but that’s all been said before. The point it, this guy is seriously good, like a favourite dram.
The Trio’s first number of the evening was perhaps fittingly titled ‘Ardbeg’, after the Islay Distillery. A simple piano melody from McCreadie drifts effortlessly over David Bowden’s understated bass, with Stephen Henderson’s percussion rolling and glinting throughout, like sea-shimmer. McCreadie has a gift for distilling the essence of landscapes into the mood of a composition. Most of the pieces from the Trio’s debut album, ‘Turas’ (Gaelic for ‘journey’ or ‘tour’) are inspired by places in Scotland that McCreadie has visited and drawn inspiration from. In particular, ‘Hillfoot Glen’ is a funk inflected hustle of a Scottish ‘Harlem River Drive’ with some lighting fast piano arpeggios over a driving snare drum rhythm. The trio are so tight on this one it’s thrilling.
’The Set’ goes back to Trad reel rhythms mixed up in cool jazz. The confidence with which the trio dissect the rhythms then throw out fragments for the ear to catch onto was mesmerising to hear. A few as yet unnamed tracks show that there’s much more licks to come from this trio of precociously talented young men.
I found my personal favourite of the night was a track I’d not heard before – ‘An old friend’ – downtempo, meditative and achingly sincere (there’s a performance of ‘An Old Friend’ at BBC Young Jazz Musician 2018 here). The deceptive simplicity of the piece reminds me of Zbigniew Preisner’s ‘Farewell’ from ’Ten Easy Pieces for Piano’. Both pieces make easy that hard task of expressing melancholy without being maudlin: sentiment minus the sentimentalism.
Horsecross Perth’s new Theatre complex was an excellent venue for the trio, with an intimate feel and first class sound engineering. I just hope it’s not too long before the trio return to Perth with what’s sure to be some excellent licks.
It was a nice day when my companion and I arrived at the City Halls for Day Two of the Tectonics Glasgow Festival, annual showcase for all kinds of new and experimental music performance. Stepping in to the Recital Room, we were confronted with a large wooden floor paved with drawings that somehow constituted a kind of path. The four artists performing Lucie Vitkova’s installation, were standing together using their voices for a perpetual sound that varied from whale noises to some kind of prayer incantation. It appeared to have no structure to it and we stayed for a few verses, only to wander off, taking with us the impression that this had been all about the quality of sound.
Festivals always have their own character, and this one, though small, also had its own atmosphere of welcome and anticipation, not to say a slight feeling that we were at some kind of science convention! We stepped out to enjoy a chat between performances and readied ourselves for a performance at the Old Fruitmarket. It turned out to be a free-form improvisation of recorded and live breathing exercises that lasted about 45 min and was performed by Angela Sawyer, Alex South and Nicola Scrutton. With its focus firmly held on the crowd who were sitting together it proceeded into a lot of people making a lot of what I can only call farm noises.
For the next part of our festival journey it fell to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra to perform for an hour in the Grand Hall. We were treated to two orchestra pieces by Juliana Hodkinson (All Around) and Mauro Lanza (Experiments in the Revival of Organisms). This was followed by the world premiere of The Gay Goshawk by Martin Arnold which had Martin himself on melodica and Angharad Davies and Sharron Kraus on highly sensual, traditional and beautiful vocals about the trappings of love and life.
By this point we were both very relaxed and in a mood to continue absorbing everything we could. We found ourselves back at the Fruit market, that famous old market hall with a large, high space for the Symphony Orchestra to perform Sarah Davachi’s Oscen, a large scale work all about textures and harmonies. The place was transformed as the music took us along a slow melodic journey telling a story of Consort and Disunion.
My impression was of a day full of the tonality of music, the experience of being human, what is important and what perhaps is not. A day showcasing theory itself, turning it into a solid phenomenon that can take you to marvellous places that are there for all of us if we would but listen. An experience uniquely offered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra over a very enjoyable and successful weekend.
Back in the olden days, when I were a lad. Music was everything to me it was a natural progression of my inner Superhero and I held my first musical inspirations in the same light. It was the costume that I loved and Toyah matched that in real life. Bringing fantasy to life through theatre, Rock N Roll, make up and style. I loved Toyahs first three albums. Sheep Farming in Barnett, Anthem and The Changeling. The Changeling was my fave, a Pixie concept Album that brought Miss Wilcox’s magical creativity to life.
I was 14 at the time and best mates with Jengerisers, my partner in crime and musical sparing companion. At that point in my life “1982” I had only ever been to WMC Gigs. Toyah was coming to town, to Bradford St Georges Hall, I saved up my dinner money and bought a ticket. Jengerisers did the same. As you can guess I was very very excited as this was my first proper gig ever and I was about to see Toyah in real life. It was fantastic performance art that still resonates with me 38 years on. The Changeling brought to life while visiting all her earlier hits. I fell in love with the big gig experience that night. The morning after the gig, Me and Jengerisers bunked off school and headed down to the Norfolk Gardens Hotel to see if we could meet Toyah and her band. Our mission was successful Toyah was Lovely and we got autographs from all of the band, It was then that I became a fan for life.
This was when the evolution of Makeup began for me too Toyah set the benchmark for looking brilliant. I soon learned that looking that good took a lot of time and effort to achieve. It was The Its A Mystery EP and Toyahs makeup on the cover that was what I was aiming for. Both Toyah and Steve Strange enthralled me for the same reasons. Where faces became canvases for rich expression of Temporary Art. The style that easily transcended gender and looking as good as possible was an evolving process.
Bradford, back in the early 80’s was a pretty grim place, still held in the fear of The Yorkshire Ripper, 3 day weeks, unemployment and being in the hell hole of a school called Grange. Toyah, Gary Numan Bowie and Visage gave me the escape that I needed. I never adhered to be a rock star. But I did adhere to looking that good. That was the key inspiration. It didn’t come easy, the makeup I mean, it took many years and countless hours of practice, I even did a beauty therapy course to perfect the look. Dressing up became a full-time occupation. A big colourful fuck you to Thatchers Britain and an education system that failed me. , Dance, Style, Makeup, Music and making love, were my reasons for living and escaping in equal measure.
As I write this preview and look back at the photographs of Toyah that I fell in love with as a kid, I can still feel the inspiration to be creative that gripped me 38 years ago and completely understand why I was so excited and inspired. Its been a lifelong inspiration, even now at 52 years old I put just as much effort into doing my makeup as I did when pushing the boundaries of Northern Working Class Culture, Back in the early 80’s Homophobia was rife and this was one of the reasons that made my school life hell. This all started before I began wearing makeup, I never have been Gay, men and cock never has done it for me so I would have made a crap puff. However, I found the strength and courage to start a personal transformation that would indeed give people cause to think that I might have been Gay. The funny thing was that the more makeup I wore, the more girls wanted to get off with me. This turned my tormentors blue with fury. And the echos of “Calvert ya Queer” echoed around my consciousness for the best part of a decade. It certainly opened my eyes at a young age that being Gay was not a bad thing. I always felt safe in Gay Clubs and Bars. The torment and abuse did have an effect on me, I knew I might have looked femme but I knew I wasnae gay, so I set about proving that I wasn’t and that involved getting off with as many beautiful Ladies as I could, I guess to prove to the world that I wasnae gay. I loved sex and there was a lot of it. When one looks that fabulous it goes hand in hand with having a Good Time ❤ Toyah shaped my life. I love her. ❤
Investigating Toyah has been a rich experience in understanding what makes a person be themselves in the face of absurdity. Indeed looking amazing seems to go hand in hand with healing the inner child. Beginning her life with a physical disability and a lisp. Both of which Toyah overcame to become a fully formed successful artist and pioneer. How Toyah has the healing power of the Divine. and Spirituality came to her at the age of 4 with the realisation that we are all just a speck of dust in relation to the vast infinity of the Universe. What an inspiration she is. ❤ Make up, Divinity, Creativity and Performance Art. My first inspiration and the longest lasting. It is only just now that I realise why. Toyah had the answer. Toyah is a Spiritual Healer too. Make Up and fruity coloured hair has Powers. beyond being Punk As Fuck.
I got to The Liquid Rooms in time to see the support band Gothzilla. A local Edinburgh Goth Band that got me boogying straight away, Gothzilla are like a Veteran Sisters Of Mercy, Three guitars and a drum machine. Aye they really rocked tonight the perfect warm up for Toyah. I was having such a Good Time. Once the support band had finished, the place was rammed in anticipation of The High Priestess Of Punks return to Aulde Reekie. She looked marvellous and I was much closer to the front of the stage than I was at St Georges Hall, back in the olden days. Toyah looked Marvelous with a tight-fitting mirror ball dress, she looked strong and majestic. The penny really dropped tonight, Toyah set the benchmark for my ideal Woman back in 1982. and she still has it, fit as fuck, with Punk Rock attitude.
She performed a balanced set of classics and songs from her new Release. In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, perfect for live performance and taking its lead from classic Led Zepplin. There were a few first-night gremlins and on the whole I think the performance was too big for the club, The Sound even cut out completely on Good Morning Universe, apart from the vocals and only briefly, as you can guess Toyah was more than a little miffed.
She really wrestled with the sound all night. Not that it hampered our enjoyment the sound was perfect for the audience. My favourite moment was Brave New World. Indeed it was Brave New Worlds art that I fell in love with as a kid, as she sang I could see the picture disc that I had when I was 14. I think I lived that song more than any of the others. Aye Awesome Stuff.
Toyah still held the same beauty tonight as she did back then. She was just as sassy and sexy. Robert Fripp is one lucky man. Toyah eventually got over her sound issues and ripped into the classic singles. Ieya, Its A Mystery, I Want To Be Free, she did a marvellous rendition of Martha And Muffins Echo Beach and some really nice album tracks like Danced and Angel And Me from The Changeling. It was fantastic, Toyah had me completely, I couldn’t stop singing it was really really good fun.
Slipping in a new song called Come, Toyah got all sexy and I fell in love with her that little bit more. the last time I saw her live was 38 years ago and Toyah thrilled me tonight just as much as she did back in the olden days. My guess is that the sound glitches will have been worked out over the rest of The Thunder In The Highlands Tour. If you get the chance go and see Toyah. A True Divine Nemesis.
First-class Fife band, Paris Street Rebels, have just released their new single – Kings of Balado
Where are you all from and where are you all at geographically speaking? Grant: Myself, Jazz and Kev all grew up together in a discarded, derided and forgotten ex-mining town in Fife, Scotland. Ballingry brought us up mean and showed us the best and worst life has to offer dangerously young. Cammy was different he found us after years of growing up in a slightly less violent village just 10 minutes from us. He always maintains that place was no good for him. Nowhere near enough trouble he says haha. The truth is all 4 of us have always been outsiders, even in our own communities. All hung up on Little Richard when everyone else was busy fitting in.
Hello Kevin, so where does your love of music come from? Kevin: My love of music comes from a generation of music lovers. A lot of my family members have always had music on around me and you could say it stemmed from there. I really got to know music when I started writing and understanding that it doesn’t just come from the radio or the beautiful people on tv, it comes from depths of the heart.
How did the band’s line-up come together? Cameron: The band’s line up as it is now took some time to come together. We were initially a six-piece group which after three months quickly turned to five. Around six months later, after weeks of discussion, we made the decision that being a four piece band would be the best line up for Paris Street Rebels. We’ve never looked back since.
Can you tell us about the earlier incarnations of the band? Kevin: The band at its earliest stage looked and sounded completely different from what you would see and hear today. Having started as a 6 piece we found ourselves building a sound to satisfy the various members as opposed to focusing on one singular vision. After becoming a 4 piece we watched ourselves become a far more single minded, focused, dangerous rock’n’roll group. With a united ethos and hell bent on changing the world, the four of us have become something else entirely.
What would you say are the band’s biggest influences? Jazz: It’s very hard to pin down influences for us I’d say, I suppose most people would compare us with the punk scene, The Clash etc but we take influence from so much more than that. What makes us different is that if you asked any member his top 5 bands they’d all be totally different. That’s what makes us unique I think.
Which singers and styles have influenced your own voice? Grant: When I think of the singers who have directly influenced me throughout the years it’s clear I’ve always connected more with vocalists who had their own unique voice. The type of singers who you could instantly recognise and identify in any setting. That authenticity of expression has always been important to me. To name but a few Ray Davis, Joey Ramone, Bob Dylan, Joe Strummer, Patti Smith, Jam era Paul Weller, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen. These artists could not be confused with any over-manufactured, mass produced, reality tv talent show fodder of today and that in and of itself proves their worth.
Do the band members socialise outwith the music? Jazz: Constantly, probably too much to be honest. Me, Kev and Grant all grew up together, same village, went through school together and have been through a lot together. Cammy was the missing cog and although in the grand scheme of things he’s relatively new in the social circle. He’s just made everything click. He’s the glue needed to hold the other three maniacs together.
What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like? Kevin: My perfect Sunday afternoon could look like a day in the rarity of the sun playing guitar drinking beer or even a ‘black out blind’ day listening to the rain with no worry at all.
In 20 seconds sell the Paris Street Rebels speed dating style. Grant: Well Cilla I think people should listen to our little rock’n’roll band Paris Street Rebels. Deranged? Yes. Professional? Debatable. Legendary? We soon will be sister.
You’ve got three famous bass players from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert? Jazz: James Jamerson (Motown), Paul Simonon (The Clash) and Mani (The Stone Roses). Beer starter, Gin and Tonic main, Sambuca for desert.
You’ve just been deserted on an island with a solar-powered DVD-TV combo – which 3 films would you have with you? Grant: I could’ have chosen 3 pretentious Italian arthouse films by the way… and on another day I may well have…but on this occasion I thought it best to tell you it like it is. Cinema has always been the real Rock’n’Roll and its not to be trifled with. Apocalypse Now. Its long as fuck and has Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper and Marlon Brando among others playing out the tragedy and comedy of the Vietnam War. All whilst one of the greatest soundtracks in cinematic history makes the death filled jungle’s of North Vietnam…. almost funky. Trainspotting. Hard to avoid really. Would seem cliche if not for the fact that even in 2019 it is still undoubtedly that good. It told the story of heroin addicts of course but also of working class Scottish culture trapped in a cage of its own design. Iconic then, iconic now. The names Danny Boyle and Irvine Welsh will forever be etched on my heart. Pulp Fiction.For a pre-teen in the late 90s seeing this for the first time its effect can not be understated. The strange world of Tarantino’s LA might as well have been Alpha Centauri for all I knew. The way the thing was structured, crafted, shot and the way Pulp Fiction was built around dialogue and its characters strange interpersonal relationships within this mythical 50’s American dreamland knocked me dead. It still does.
Can you describe the band’s sound? Cameron: We take inspiration from all sorts of different bands and music. We like to fuse a blend of The Clash, The Libertines sort of angst along with the glam rock of 70’s Stones and T-Rex, with some David Bowie in there for good measure. Having said that ask me another day and all those would be different again. Schizophrenia runs wild in this group.
Is the band focused more on recording or gigging? Kevin: As we plan our years we tend to take one year foccused solely on writing and recording and preparing for a new year full of gigs to showcase our recordings which helps us hold our fans gaze.
Can you describe the dynamics of the band’s musicianship? Cameron: We put the song first. Whatever we create as independent musicians within the group is to serve the song we’re working on. Paris Street Rebels aren’t a group that allow pretentious 10 minute guitar solos. It’s all about the story we’re trying to tell at that time.
Where do the band’s songs come from? Jazz: Our songs are all about what’s happening around us, growing up in a place like we did you seen a lot of shit. They’re about our experiences and what we’ve seen other people go through, as well as all the shit that’s happening in the world today. Bands have always been social speakers, the times were living in now we need to speak up more than ever.
Can you tell us about the new single – what its about, where it came from? Cameron: Kings Of Balado is the story of two perfect strangers spending a night lost in the festival campsite of Balado which was the long-term site of Scotlands legendary T in the Park. It pulls directly from our own lives and experiences and explores the importance of music festivals in general but also the spiritual connections we can all feel for each other in mass gatherings of these types. A unity. A temporary lifestyle lived briefly throughout the summer months. Festivals and other outdoor, hedonistic events like them serve as a blueprint for alternative society for young and old dis-satisfied with day-time TV and uneventful barbecues.
Can you describe the writing process of Kings of Balado? Grant: When we were first writing ‘Kings Of Balado’ it started to sound like some ancient, pagan chant or incantation of some kind. There seemed to be something primal about that pounding, maddening mantra building to a crescendo like that. That mystical aspect really influenced the lyrical content of the tune. I immediately made a connection between that and a strange night I had spent years ago, one night when the Scottish weather was uncharacteristically sublime. Perfectly lost in the campsite of the T In Park festival held at Balado, ten minutes from my front door. I spent the whole night walking and talking with a complete stranger who I felt like I’d known forever. We talked about hopes, love, fears, politics, Stanley Kubrick and revelled in the human carnival going on all around us. It sure was a trip.
Can you tell us about the recording process? Jazz: The track itself was a piece of piss to record. Once we locked into the feel of it we rattled the thing off without much fuss. Shout out to Chris Marshall & Johnny Madden of &West Studios who smashed it out of the park once again on production duties. The Wizards we call them…. magicians man.
What does the rest of 2019 have in store for the band? Cameron: At the moment we are currently working on our next single release for our track ‘Kings of Balado’ which will be released April 12th along with a steady stream of gigs around Scotland. We also have several other singles set to be released steadily throughout the rest of 2019 which we cannot wait for you all to hear. Stay tuned.
Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop; with a trip back to Burnley for his 18th birthday (11-06-94), on which occasion Oasis had kindly obliged to play a free concert in Preston for all his pals…
After being surrounded by so many familiar accents, suddenly we felt a little homesick. I then realised I was just about to turn eighteen – June 11th – & mentioned to Nick going back up North for a few days. We had been in Wales for a month, half of our free-rent-time, & so far we had done some pretty mad stuff. We had some proper tales to tell. Besides, there wasn’t a decent chippy for miles around Ynyssdu & Nick was growing sick of fish finger butties.
One of those stories was of course I meeting with The Stone Roses, a garbled account of which was now leaking out into the world – or perhaps the Geffen boys actually thought we were members of the band.
1994 was a very different place – the height of the analogue age, but on the cusp of the digital revolution. In 1994, for example, there were 67 mobile phones for every 1,000 people in Britain. By 2004, there were more mobiles than people. Back in 94 the metrosexual revolution was in fill swing with Oddbins making wine-tasting available to anyone via 200 wines being quaff’d by the ‘less civilised’ members of society, leading to a serious surge in street-mooning & gutter-puking.
Meanwhile, out in the world of golf, the 19-year-old Tiger Woods was hurtling around gossipy player circles as ‘that brilliant black kid.’ Tiger, real-names Eldrick (his nick-name came from his dad’s Vietnam War buddy) was from Cypress, California, & at the age of 3 was shooting his dad’s 9-hole course in 48 shots.
I’ve never been materialistic at all. I just want to be the best golfer around. And I don’t mean the greatest black golfer around, I mean the best, period. Tiger Woods
Unfortunately Tiger was living in the same era as Kim Jung-Il, whose biography tells us he first picked up a golf club in 1994, at North Korea’s only golf course, and shot a 38-under par round that included no fewer than 11 holes in one. Satisfied with his performance, he reportedly immediately declared his retirement from the sport.
Before we headed north, we had to back to Wales first to sign on, so we decided to break up the train-jump with our first visit to Stonehenge. We got off the train at Salisbury, dominated by her cathedral’s massive spire, then caught a bus up to the stones. It was nice enough, but fenced off so we couldn’t get stoned among those ancient monoliths, & like kiss ’em or summat. Instead we skinned up a couple of spliffs & spent a nice hour on a little rise not far away from the circle, the wide sweep of Salisbury plain all around us. In our reefer-haze we even wrote a new tune, called Blowin’ a Reefer on Salisbury Plain – tho’ lacking Weed’s classic status, we thought it would make a perfect b-side.
Meanwhile, in the world of philandering royalty, we were all still trying to get our heads around the separation of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. In June, Charles finally admitted his extramarital affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. He’d been secretly seeing her for years, but had been forced by higher powers to create heirs with Diana Spencer, some crazy Zionistic shit most likely.
After signing our souls away to the Man, we set off for Lancashire, knowing there would be couple of fat giros waiting for us when we got back. On the way up we heard that the Scottish MP Gordon Brown had pulled out of the Labour leadership race, leaving the door wide open for Tony Blair. They had decided to share the power, Blair getting first ‘dibs’ on the premiership, while Brown got the house next door.With hindsight, if Brown had realised he would have to play understudy for well over a decade, he might have changed his mind. But to two young lads in the middle of a Teenage Funkland, the news might as well have been in French. One bit of news did catch my attention, however.
“Yo Nick, Oasis are doing a free gig on my birthday in Preston.”
“That’s lucky Damo,”
“Aye, it is innit!”
So we set off, me & Nick, plus a few friends in tow, including Jane – the girl I was seeing before I set off to Skegness. She was a bonny blonde & suffice it to say I woke up on the first full morning of my nineteenth year with her beside me. It was in the attic bedroom of her mum’s house in Brierfield, which is no longer standing. It was not far from a bridge over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, & a year or so later, when we split up, I remember after one last night of farewell lovemaking, I took a ‘couple-photo’ from her room & threw it symbolically into the canal from the bridge – where it might be to this day!
Back in 1994, on the morning of my 18th birthday we had all bobbed along the East Lancashire train-line the 20 miles to Preston, where I quickly realised that train-jumping with 8 people was a lot trickier than with two. In the confusion half of us got there without paying, & we were soon approaching Preston’s Avernam Park. It was a free festival in the old Castlemorton tradition, sponsored by Heineken Festival – a huge inflatable beer-can of whose over-shadowed the site. It was a Saturday & the third day out of four – The Charlatans had played on the Friday. This was also the first Heineken Festival of the summer, they’d be up & down the country for months.
It was interesting to see that in a matter of a month or so since Newport, the Oasis crowd was getting bigger & more boisterous. When they took to the stage, a deep mooing footie chant kick’d off, the first time I had heard the now famous “O-A-SIS, O-A-SIS!” terrace-song. One prat chucked a beer at the stage, with Liam throwing a wobbler; “we’re not fuckin’ ‘aving that – were not playing,” he spurted out, but of course they played. kicking off with Shaker Maker.
Altho’ we were too young & bouncy to notice, the tent was also full of critics from ‘That London,‘ all finding themselves tapping their feet to the cultural phenomenon exploding before their eyes. The fact that none of them could understand Liam’s incoherent ramblings between numbers made them like the band even more. By the end everyone was buzzing, including a guy who climbed 50 feet to damce precariously on a metal strut on the roof of the marquee, before being chased Beny-Hill style by two security men off the park.
I feel a real twat with Oasis, because the’re the first other band I’ve really loved since I joined a band myself. We’ve played with them a lot lately & I love hanging around with ’em, but I can’t talk to ’em properly cos I keep thinking ‘You bunch are fucking ace!” Martin Carr (The Boo Radleys)
After another barnstorming, intoxicating, belligerent, blistering, mouth-full-of-chips-AND-gravy gig, me & Nick got the Gallagher brother’s autographs on the back of the same sheet of paper that the Stone Roses had signed, like proper starry-eyed fans. After Oasis came the Boo Radleys, who were alright. As Avenham Park began to empty me at the end, Jane & I said our goodbyes as Nick toddled off to Barlick with Ezy Ste, while my other mates went back to Burnley.
So I was off on a romantic birthday surprise trip to Blackpool, to where we caught a train at Preston.. As it was so packed after the free festy, the conductor never came & soon we were soon searching for a B&B in the English Vegas. As it was so packed the conductor never came & soon we were searching for a B&B in the English Vegas. Finding a suitably cheap & cheery one, we rushed to the Pleasure Beach for a birthday go on the recently opened Big One. It had put the Pleasure Beach back on the map after a decade of Alton Towers’ supremacy & was – for a while – the tallest roller-coaster in the world. It was also a good place to splice a wee snog with your girlfriend with innuendos about big ones – teenage foreplay at its most effective.
Back at the B&B & indulging in some drunken pillow-talk, Jane she mentioned she was going to Newquay with six other girls for a weeks holiday at the beginning of July.
“Is the Pope polish?”
The day after the day after my birthday, Oasis released their second single – the cocky superior sonic sneer of the copelling & addictive Shakermaker – & the Pyramid Stage burnt fireball-down at Glastonbury. The former, recorded & mixed in only 8 hours, would reach #11, while the latter was gone forever. Also released on June 13th was Shed Seven’s second single, Dolphin, two months before their debut ‘Change Giver’ album. I love Shed Seven me – the city of York’s wicked wee, pimp-rolling contribution to the 90’s soundscape -; Rick Witter was an oddball, dusky pixie with a stunning voice, whose Dolphin is a well funky track & A Maximum High (1996) is a fantastic album. Brit Pop at it most pearliest – beautifully posed, epic music that brought the movement’s ethos to a true perfection.
Not having a TV in Ynyssdu, I watched a bit of telly while up in Lancashire, including Chris Evans’ Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. Between his stints fronting The Big Breakfast and the Radio 1 Breakfast Show, Chris Evans had devised and began hosting a Saturday night gameshow that bundled winning contestants off on holiday directly at the end of the show. It was a conceit that generated unprecedented levels of hysteria in the studio, not least on the occasion when they revealed they were sending the entire audience on a coach trip to EuroDisney. Suddenly the atmosphere was something akin to the away end when your team’s just scored a last minute winner. The only person not going completely wild was the somewhat perplexed studio guest, Barry White. Only in 1994.
Me & Nick were now buzzin’ about another gig that had rolled onto the horizon, like they do in the seemingly endless roll of parties that is the English Summer. Both Bjork & Oasis were playing the Saturday night at Glastonbury. We had never been to a proper festival before, but the time seemed right, especially with Jane & the Girls being a only a short train jump away in Cornwall just afterwards. We were young & at liberty to enjoy the keenly-felt experiences which were piling rapid-fire into our lives.
After a week or so we borrowed Ezy Ste’s tent & set off South. We spent a couple of nights in Stratford-Upon-Avon en route, calling on an old mate of mine from Accy Road, Mark Hancock. We found him in this candlelit park where a load of actors were having a rather la-de-da party. He was raving about Prozac, popping open a blister pack of green-and-white capsules and declaring he had seen the light. We declined – we preferred pills that made us dance, preferably to Techno. But we had some beers & it was reyt enough to see him – I had just turned eighteen after all, & felt like a proper adult talking about Shakespeare & all that stuff. So Mark got us tickets to see a play called Peer Gynt at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
It would be hard to imagine a face less likely to stoop to gloating than the noble wreckage of Barton’s countenance. Prodded about the entirely negative critical response to Ninagawa’s mammoth god, though, he admits: ‘Of course it was heartening if one was taking the opposite approach. But one also felt for the actors and for the main fellow (Michael Sheen) who was so valiant and good. I mean, you can’t do international casting as Peter Brook does unless you can really communicate with everyone and work together. It looked like a Great Dictator production – you know, ‘I’ve got my lighting; I’ve got my design; I’ve got my concept; I’ve got my film of onions. And in between there are some scenes.’
Paul Taylor (The Independent Newspaper, May 1994)
It was a curious experience, watching high-brow theatre proper stoned like. In later years I would develop a definitive appreciation for the dramatical arts – I’m a theatre critic for example – but for the 18-year-old Damo watching Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece found no amplification, no guitars & no catchy choruses. It was time to get to Glasto.
Edinburgh’s most majestic songwriter loves a bit of jazz. He also likes to write witty & exciting three-part travelogues in America
PART 1: HAPPY LANDINGS
I arrived in New Orleans to a stifling heat and no rain, despite what the forecast had predicted. Retiring to the smoking area for a wee snout I discovered a discarded packet of Marlboro Lights. Initial signs were good. After a long wait the bus came to pick us up. The sign telling us which stop we were at wasn’t working and the bus driver hadn’t heard of my destination, but with a little help from a friendly Cuban lady I managed to get to the apartment. The room was very clean and it was late by the time I arrived so I decided to get an early night and in so doing beat the Jet Lag.
I woke early on Saturday and headed straight into town. After a decidedly suspect breakfast of fried oysters and grits (a disgusting porridgy substance) I made a beeline to Bourban street. The parade was in full swing, the French facades and balconies teeming with revelers in bright clothes, and occasionally not so much clothes, flinging long strings of cheap plastic beads at each other, which seems to be the done thing. Music poured out of every doorway and it wasn’t long before I was chilling in a bar with a cold beer listening to some hard rocking blues played by a way wood looking rabble of rogues begging us for tips so they could keep their kids in beer and cigarettes. From there I made my way down to the Mississippi where a gigantic steamboat greeted me. They apparently did tours but I was more interested in the airboats. Yes – you can go down the Mississippi on an airboat after all. You shall go to the ball! Gentle Ben bitches!! I booked the trip for Thursday, by which time my Mardis Gras hangover should have mellowed.
I inquired with a local busker if there were any open mic nights and he told me there was one at a bar called Check Point Charlies. He warned me it was rough but when I told him I was from Leith where trainspotting was based he said I’d be fine. After a little more music I headed west with the aid of a tourist map I’d picked up to hit Lafayette cemetery where easy Rider was partly filmed. It was a long walk through hoards of revelers, crossing the road practically impossible with all the garish floats laden with elaborately costumed dancers pumping out obnoxiously loud rhythms. But hell, this was what I’d signed up for.
By the time I got to the cemetery it was closed, so I’m going there today instead. The parade finally died down and I managed to cross the road and hit a live jazz bar where I enjoyed the greatest burger I’ve had in my entire life. Hickory sauce with crispy bacon and a melt in the mouth patty cooked to perfection. From there I headed back to the French Quarter only to be trapped once again by a second wave of floats. All I wanted to do was get the bus but this was impossible. No access due to party. And it never ended! I followed the whole procession all the way up the main drag – Canal street – until I was pretty much home by the time I could cross the road. Approximately 3 miles later! So I cut my losses and decided I might as well hit the hay.
Yesterday I headed straight for Check Point Charlie and the area where I’d been told the best music was to be heard. Sure enough it was hipster paradise with boutique coffee shops, gay and lesbian bookshops, real ale bars. But it had a good feel so I spent most of the day there going from bar to bar to keep out of the rain which had started in earnest. I was told that the sign in time for the open mic was seven o’clock. By which time I was told there was no open mics while Mardis gras was happening. So I guess I’d shot myself in the foot there. Oh well. The bar was cool at least. A regular Bukowski dive full of the shadiest dregs of society. A sign on the bar read “Danger – Men drinking”. I felt right at home and soon got chatting to a couple of the local ladies who kept me in drinks all night. They said they liked me but they didn’t trust me. I guess you’ve just got to take what you can get. The night dissolved into an alcoholic blur and I can’t remember much after the sambucas. Needless to say I’m not at my best this morning and so apologize if my writing is a bit sloppy. But I’m ready for another day. A nice breakfast and a walk to the Easy Rider cemetery should sort me out. As far as the food goes. Keeping it simple seems to be the way forward. Until next time – happy fuckin’ Mardis Gras bitches!
PART 2: MARDI GRAS
After finishing up in the library I headed back to the cemetery only to find it closed again. And apparently for the whole of Mardis Gras. So I guess I wouldn’t be spending it taking acid there like in easy rider. I was hungover and desperate for some scram so I got myself a tuna sandwich and a bucket of cola. Still didn’t feel right as I crawled my way back to the French quarter. Coffee didn’t work, hair of the dog didn’t work, and by this point I felt so full of liquid I would burst if I took another drop. So I opted for one of my own unique hangover cures – a nice feelgood film at the cinema. It was another long walk and the film wasn’t on for another hour but I could wait. The film I saw was Fighting with my Family – an unlikely collaboration between Stephen Merchant and Dwain “The Rock” Johnson about a female wrestler from Norwich who makes it big in WWE. A very inspiring, life affirming and funny true story. Just what I needed. I decided to get the taxi back into the city, I’d had enough of walking. Ann Macintosh had recommended a club back on Frenchmen that was apparently good. After some fish I went in and was greeted by the sounds of dixieland swing. Played more than competently by a mixed bag of lively musos of all ages. It was OK, but it still wasn’t the magic I was looking for and it wasn’t quite enough to lift me entirely out of my delicate state and start dancing. So I caught a bus home and decided to live to fight another day. And fight I would have to. It was Mardis Gras!
After a long wait on the bus mixing with a little of the local color I arrived back on Canal Street – New Orlean’s main drag. And the carnival was in full swing. Garish floats crowded with the kind of black and white make up that made Robinson’s jam so controversial and tossing out endless plastic beads, plastic cups and occasionally foam footballs to the greedy, eager hands of the punters below. As it was Mardis Gras I felt I had no choice but to instantly start work on my next hangover. My first beer came at 11am with a delicious roast beef po-boy and from there I had no choice but to follow the parade wherever it took me. Crossing the road was out of the question. Imagine a kind of massive game of snake only more colorful and a bit more drunk. So I snaked my way from bar to bar realizing it was impossible to get back to the French Quarter. I was almost back at the cemetery when the crowd finally relented and I was able to cross the street. Now, more than a little buzzed off the beer and jack Daniels and coke slushy. About half an hour later I was back in the French Quarter where I found a smoking bar. No beer. Just smoking. And the infamous Coyote Ugly bar from off of that film. Complete with slender, scantily clad glitter bunnies bopping on the bar. Like the port of Leith on steroids. I chose not to enter. It scared me a little. Instead I opted for another bar back on Frenchmen where there was some decidedly mediocre blues playing. I was starting to get a little disillusioned with this town. So I took my slightly drunk self up a few buildings and wham! Dixie land in overdrive. Smells like Teen spirit was being blasted out on horns by an all dancing, all rapping gang of eager young ne’er do wells. Energy and vibrancy buzzed off the stage and put all the other acts I’d seen up to that point to shame. And yes I felt my foot tapping, my hips swaying, my arms flailing and before I knew where I was I was dancing. Music this good is so infectious you have no choice. And it just got better! The next band mixed up popular melodies with wild improvisations that always landed perfectly on harmonies so tight there was barely air between them. All delivered with such effortless joy and what can only be described as psychic communication it kind of made me just want to smash up my guitar and give up the whole sorry show. But instead I decided to dance. The saxophonist particularly impressed me. Not that he was the best player. That was definitely the man mountain of the bastard bellows trumpet player. But the saxophonist just looked so crazy.
He was on the stage before anyone else bouncing about like a kid on too much orange juice and candy. A tiny guy but with muscles so well defined he’d put Bruce Lee to shame. In his little white wife beater. He spent the first few minutes of the gig staring angrily at the crowd while periodically glaring at his phone. But pretty soon he was bouncing and glowing like the rest of his merry gang of renegades. A star in the making mark my words. The music kept going but I couldn’t. Drinking since 11 had took it’s tole and 12 hours later I was ready for my taxi home. But New Orleans had finally delivered – and it was contemporary – who’d have thunk it?
Today it’s ash Wednesday and things apparently get a bit religious. Holy water for beer then I guess…?
PART 3: ALIGATORS
Ash Wednesday turned out to be a bit of a non event and besides a few church goers with a dirty cross daubed on there foreheads there was nothing much to report. I spent much of the day just eating and drinking and wondering around the city. Only this time I had my bearings a little better and wasn’t spending quite as much time asking people for directions. I wound up back on Frenchmen eating a burger, enjoying a couple of beverages and listening to some sweet gypsy jazz. All very pleasant. The only thing that tarnished the experience was the constant tipping that is required of you. It seems the whole country is built on tips. I haven’t checked my bank account since I got here but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be pretty. I decided to turn in early as I had a big day planned for Thursday and wanted to be at full power. Riding the bus home I noticed that not many white folks take the bus outside of Mardis Gras. And there you go Mira – that’s my comment on race!
Thursday I started out early with a shower then headed to Canal for an Ihop breakfast of bacon omelette. Not bad. They really do like cream and cheese here though. I had a couple of hours to kill before my air-boat tour so I went for dessert at Pinkberry. I heartily recommend their cookie cream ice-cream. Perfect comfort food. A little wonder down the river front later it was time to catch my bus out to the swamp. It was a little late in coming but we got there. The buildings thinning out as we crossed the river, a couple of the dilapidated houses looking like they came straight out of a horror film or maybe To Kill a Mocking Bird. Coupled with the anonymous stores and retail complexes ubiquitous to the American landscape. When we got the docks I was in hog heaven. Gentle Ben in full effect! Air-boats everywhere. I was on 15 so I made my way and boarded. A seat right at the front. The guide was an incredibly lively fellow, dancing on the spot as he rapped out the names of fishes and plants and Louisiana delicacies. There was no room for shyness apparently so I tried to chip my awe in. Although my comment on the cemetery being closed ‘cus people were pissing on the graves didn’t go down as well as I’d hoped. As we hit the open water he opened up the engine and pretty soon we were flying along just like in that beloved 80s children show, barely skimming the shore. We slowed down as we entered the narrow bayous. Trees I can’t remember the name of looking like they were dripping furn from their branches. You know the ones. You see them on TV all the time.
Then we slowed and right in front of us 2 alligators. A big one lazing on the shore and a smaller one in the water. Why was the smaller one in the water? Because he was stupid according to our all knowing guide who was merrily screaming at him and chucking marshmallows for him to eat. It seems most marshland beasts are fond of marshmallows. This being the preferred bait for every creature we came across. A thoroughly delightful couple of hours marred only by the fact that my face was now burning due to the deceptively strong sun. Our tour guide seemed to enjoy himself the most though. His enthusiasm was infectious. I would say he was only doing it for the tips but he never even asked for any. I gave him one anyway.
Back in the city I decided to celebrate my new found knowledge of Gators by eating some. Gator poppers. Deep fried balls of alligator very popular with the locals apparently. Tasted like chicken. I also tried another local delicacy – red beans and rice. Not bad at all if a little filling. Then I was off to the cinema to see Captain Marvel. The latest in the Marvel film franchise. Purely for the sake of me being able to say I’d seen it first. I won’t say too much about in case there are any Marvel fans in the audience. Suffice to say it does most of the things expected of a Marvel film.
This morning I got the laundry done and my delightful host gave me a lift to the shop for some well needed travel equipment and to a well known seafood restaurant for the still elusive boiled craw-fish. They were no longer elusive and quite delicious. All I had left on my food checklist now was the famous fried shrimp po-boy. Which I think I’ll have tonight. I’m afraid this will be the last entry as tomorrow I’m on a steamboat and Sunday I head home. So, for those of you who have bothered to read them, I hope you have enjoyed my little adventures and see you back in blighty!
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…
“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!”
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.
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.
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
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.
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. At one point I remember going into a record store & discovering the very earliest release by The Stone Roses, the punky So Young. I listened to it on one of those old listening booths from the 60s, & it was a special moment discovering ‘new’ Roses music. The track would be eventually released on The Complete Stone Roses compendium of 1995. But that rainy afternoon in the capital a precedent had been set for grailhunting the Roses.
Two years later 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.
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.
Football in the analogue era was so different by the way. Away from radio updates, watching the Ceefax/Teletext screens change every 30 seconds or so in an exciting carousel was the only way to keep up to date with events across the board. In those days as well, people played fantasy football & football manager games by post – I played one where I did a whole season per post, which was cool. Players were off the radar completely – no hourly twitterfeeds or instagrams, just names in old programmes & photos in your panini album.
As the gplay-off final 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
“Monmouth… it’s just over the border. Come on pal, let’s check ’em out & see where that bloody album is.”
So we borrowed a tent & off we went…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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!”
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!”
“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 EnglishEric 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.
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.