Gentleman Hugh – Stranglers front man in North Devon

Gentleman Hugh – Stranglers front man in North Devon

I have to admit that I haven’t been paying too much attention to Hughs career since he split from the Stranglers in 1990. In fact I didn’t pay much attention to the Stranglers after they released their fifth, and extremely disappointing album “The Gospel According to the Men in Black” in 1981 so you could be forgiven for thinking my interest in Cornwell was only fleeting. However, nothing could be further from the truth as I still play Stranglers records on a regular basis and I still think of myself as a fan. I’m a creature of habit and play either Rattus Norvegicus IV or the White Side of “Black and White” at least once a month and have done for the last five years so I was thrilled to hear from my mate Steve that Hugh was appearing in the nearby market town of Great Torrington in North Devon at the Plough Theatre.

Steve and I both spoke before Hugh appeared of how he must look now and if we’d recognise him if we saw him in a pub. Would he be wearing a leather jacket and jeans, or perhaps a hat, bandana or something unconventional ? I was almost certain he’d still have that arrogant “lead singer” edge and would dress accordingly, but I was wrong. He looked just like a gent, possibly the least casual guy in the theatre wearing jacket, trousers, shirt and brogues – yes brogues !

cornwell-on-stage-at-Torrin

Hugh then delighted us with tunes from each of the first ten Stranglers albums in the first half of the concert followed by more tunes from his solo career in the second half. They were all acoustic, no tapes, no backing tracks, just Hugh and his guitar – pure genius. He kept us entertained between the songs with tales of the writing, the producers, the labels, the records, deals and the recordings and also gave us some advice – “Belgium, if you want decent food, avoid Paris, go to Belgium”. It was all so civilised.

He commented on a couple of people sneaking in and out between songs, a little controversy perhaps? No not at all, Hugh was the perfect gent. Wait a minute, what’s those stimulants he’s popping? Relax, just cough sweets ! He’s knocking those drinks back though? But hang on, it’s Ok it’s only water , still water , not fizzy ( I had noticed someone had swapped them before Hugh came on )

Me and Hugh Cornwell

After the show Steve and I made a brisk beeline for the reception were Hugh promised there was some signed “vinyl” to purchase and he was true to his word. Having opened a number of new LPs on my market stall I gave Hugh a hand and helped open up my copy of Hughs latest “Solo Greatest Hits” before he signed  “The Fall and Rise of Hugh Cornwell”

I asked him if he was surprised how remote we were in Torrington and he laughed, explaining he’d left from Brighton at lunch, he was knackered, North Devon was certainly remote and the drive was over five hours.  Mmmm, controversy at last!

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Get back into Vinyl – With this Collection

Get back into Vinyl – With this Collection

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Everyone’s getting back into vinyl so I’ve had a look through the boxes to come up with a small pile of inexpensive “essentials” for collectors. These albums feature quite a range of music talents and at £30 for the collection of ten aren’t going to break the bank. As usual, with all my albums, the ten that form this collection are in lovely condition and I’ve got two full sets to go on the stall this Thursday.

Let’s take a closer look at the albums…

Beatles, Help was the fab fours 5th album released in 1965. It reached number 1 position were it stayed for 9 weeks and spent 37 weeks in the charts. It has 14 tracks including the singles “Help”, “You’ve got to hide your love away”, “You’re going to lose that girl”, “Ticket to Ride” and “Yesterday” and was of course the soundtrack to the film of the same name.

Wings, Red Rose Speedway. This was Paul McCartneys 4th and Wings 2nd album since he left the Beatles and includes amongst other tracks the single “My Love” which was a US number 1 hit. The album stayed in the UK album charts for 16 weeks in 1973 and reached number 5.

John Lennon & Yoko, Double Fantasy was Johns 8th album since leaving the Beatles and gave him a number one album in the UK album charts for 2 weeks in 1980. The album contains 14 classic tracks including hits “Starting Over”, I’m losing you”, “Beautiful Boy” and “Woman”

Despite only making the number 2 spot in the UK, Madness, One Step Beyond was in the album charts for well over a year (longer than the 3 albums above combined) a total of 78 weeks. This was there first album (1979) and arguably their best featuring the title track, “My Girl”, “Night boat to Cairo” and “The Prince”. It started a two tone phenomena that heralded the “Nutty Boys” as kings of the charts  in the 80s (no other act stayed in the charts longer during the decade)

If you didn’t know it already, “Sheer Heart Attack” is evidence indeed that Queen were once a progressive rock band.  This album oozes talent – it’s simply stunning. Play the opening track “Brighton Rock” loud and repeat often ! It was Queen third album and reached number 2 in the UK, staying in the charts for 46 weeks boosted by singles, Killer Queen and Now I’m Here.

Not nearly as successful as his first album, Mike Oldfields “Incantations” only reached number 14 in the charts in 1978 but it did have the added bonus that it’s a double LP so you got considerably more tunes for your money. It spent 260 weeks less on the charts than Tubular Bells but it’s still a very interesting album which  gets better and better the more you play it.

Kate Bush, Lionheart spent a whopping 36 weeks on the charts reaching number 6 in 1978. It was her second album and contains the hit single Wow.

Ultravox (23 weeks highest position number 4 ), Tears for Fears (82 weeks highest position number 2 ) and Billy Joel (95 weeks highest position number 2 ) complete the collection .

When you add up all the weeks these albums have spent in the charts it comes to a lot of weeks, as Kate Bush would say – Wow!

Like I said earlier, I have two identical collections of these and they will be available to purchase on the market stall, South Molton Pannier Market this Thursday. As usual with collections, sorry I won’t split them up. If there are a couple you already have, maybe you can buy the collection and swap the duplicates with friends or give them as birthday gifts or the whole collection would make a great birthday gift.

 

12 Old Songs that need New Titles

When looking back through the titles of old songs isn’t it surprising just how many songs are still relevant today? That’s not helpful when searching for examples of songs for this blog post of course but it’s one of the reasons why finding old songs that need new titles is quite challenging. The reason why old songs are still so relevant today is because their lyrics are about emotions and when we talk about emotions, the main emotion a lyricist is concerned with is love and sex.

I did wonder what percentage of songs were about love and sex and was surprised to see Cosmopolitan magazine had done a survey and it’s a whopping 92%

Everly_Brothers_Devoted_to_You

The Everly Brothers – writing songs of love and sex in the 50s

So when looking for songs from the past that need new titles, its the 8% of songs that aren’t about love and sex that we need to be concerned with . Lyrics based on subjects such as politics, world events, news stories, geography, technology or fashion are the sort of thing we need to be looking for.

So I had a look through singles and albums books and asked some friends for help on Reddit and these are the best so far,  (if you have any more please add your comment with the old title, band and alternative title and I’ll add it when I do an update) (new title shown in bold) …

  • Marvin Gaye, “heard it through the grape vine” renamed to “heard it through social media”
  • Beatles, “Back in the USSR” – “Back in the Russian Federation”
  • Glen Miller, “Pennsylvania 65000” –   (is now a considerably longer telephone number) “Pennsylvania 275 65000”

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  • Elvis Pressley, “Blue Suede Shoes” – “Black Nike Flyknit Trainers”
  • Drifters, ” You’re more than a number in my little red book” – “You’re more than a number in my Iphone contacts list”
  • TRex, “Telegram Sam” – “Email Sam”

Marc-Bolan-of-T-Rex-in-19-007

  • David Bowie, ” All the young dudes” – “All the young hipsters”
  • Pretenders, “Talk of the Town” – “Trending on Facebook” 
  • Michael Jackson, “Bad” – “Sick”
  • Who, “Pinball Wizard” – “Minecraft Wizard”
  • Madness, “Baggy Trousers” – “Skinny Jeans”
  • Beatles, “When I’m 64” – “When I’m 74”
Portrait Of Ronald Reagan...WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 14: U.S. President Ronald Reagan poses in the White House December 14, 1981 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Arnold Newman/Getty Images)
Portrait Of Ronald Reagan…WASHINGTON – DECEMBER 14: U.S. President Ronald Reagan poses in the White House December 14, 1981 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Arnold Newman/Getty Images)

Above – former US president Ronald Regan proves 64 is no age at all – becoming  president at the tender age of 69 years, 349 days  (although he may have been stretching it a little when he was replaced aged 77 years, 349 days)

 

 

The Beatles – the first Punk Band ?

The Beatles – the first Punk Band ?

When thinking about the founders of punk, The Beatles isn’t the first name to come to mind. The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones, The Iggy Pop, The Clash, these are the names more usually associated with the Punk genre. But what about The Beatles? Let’s take a look through the “Fab Fours” early beginnings and see how evidence “undoubtedly” proves they were not only the biggest punk band in the world, but also the first.

Ground breaking and ahead of their time, the “Mop Top”, Brit pop legends took the world by storm in an instant in 1963 when their chart busting, “Please, Please Me” album and hit single, “Love Me Do” went straight to the top of the charts . John, Paul, Ringo and George enjoyed success after success with their popular tunes and the boys made £millions and $millions rocking and rolling around the world through the early sixties.

But behind the fake smiles and loads of money, rumour has it all was not well with these four ordinary lads, originally from the scruffy and dirty terraces (a common breeding ground for punk rockers) of Liverpool, England.  By 1968 they were tired of their riches, complying with all the rules, carrying a handkerchief and being nice to everyone and started work on a new album of music in a new style. This was to be their most controversial to date, an album of anarchy and an album that would stick 4 fingers to the world, the British monarchy and the authorities and inspire millions of punks around the world. It was the birth of punk rock !

The album name was originally planned as “A Dolls House” but after deciding it would sound too much like the future release by Siouxsie and the Banshees “Happy House”, they renamed it “White Album” to avoid a costly law suit, so I’ve been told. Ask almost anyone who was a teen in the 70s and they’ll tell you the White Album was a punk rock “must have” as it features many punk rock classics including this little Punk Rock gem…

Well if “Helter Skelter” doesn’t convince you The Beatles were the first ever punk band, then lets take a look at the “overwhelming”  evidence…

  1. Just like every punk rock band, The Beatles were controversial. When John Lennon said “we are greater than Jesus”, what he really meant to say was “screw the world, I’m a punk and we’re a punk band and I don’t care if you burn our records (because you’ll buy them all again anyway, either on vinyl or CD)”
  2. The Beatles, like all punk bands, start with the word “The”
  3. Many of The Beatles songs were only 2 minutes long which is the average length of a punk rock tune
  4. The Beatles were a 4 piece band (which is officially the exact number of punks needed in a band to be classed as a punk band)
  5. Lennon and Yoko admitted to being the original punks in Playboy interview
  6. Search “Punk Rock” in Wikipedia and there is no mention of The Beatles ever being a punk band. (now there’s proof if ever you needed it)
  7. The art work on their 7th album, “Pistols” was deemed too controversial for the 60s and was withdrawn and renamed “Revolver” but in 1975 it became the inspiration to a new and equally large punk band, “The Sex Pistols”

never-mind-the-Pistols-here

…of course, it’s just a theory, but there must be some truth in this right?

Camel, Mirage – Did cigarette advertising prevent the rise of this iconic album?

Camel, Mirage – Did cigarette advertising prevent the rise of this iconic album?

Talent

Have you ever seen a talent show on TV where one act is so unbelievably good and despite all the talent they not only don’t win, but they don’t even make the finals? You have? It’s annoying isn’t it? Well if there was a TV talent show for albums, then Camels 1974 album, Mirage would be one of those albums that would do just that, a clear winner that would not even make the finals.

Mirage was voted number 21 in the 50 greatest Prog rock albums of all time in Rolling Stone magazine so musically, why it would fail to sell well is a mystery. Mirage is a well rounded, jazz, folk, metal fantasy-themed progressive rock album of the highest order yet it failed to enter the UK album charts and only just crawled into the US billboard 200. Perhaps its to do with the bands endorsements of cigarettes that had something to do with its lack of publicity and therefore lack of sales?

Whatever it is, we’ll look at it later, first lets get you listening to Camel , Mirage via YouTube before you read any more so you can judge for yourself how brilliant it is or login in to Spotify

If you want more information on the group Camel then here is a full biography on Last.Fm otherwise if you’re interested in Camels second album, Mirage, the bands finest work then stick with me. I’ll take you on a Mirage journey in more detail starting with all the facts and figures of chart positions and pressings and then we’ll look at a few other oddities and concentrate of the music with a little help from Billboard 200, Paul McCartney, Londons’ Philharmonia Orchestra and some cigarettes…

Chart Position

According to RateYourMusic.com the album was first released in the UK on 1st March 1974 and was rolled out to USA, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Greece in the same year. The Deram was the first and most valuable of the labels, although it was also pressed on Passport, Janus, London, King and North American labels . I have an original UK pressed Deram with the inner sleeve as seen below and in Rare Record Collector 2016 guide it’s valued at £50. I would add though, I wouldn’t sell it at any price, so please don’t ask!

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Finding chart positions has been difficult because Mirage didn’t set the world on fire but after some research I have found back issues of billboard magazine which has helped track down the USA positions. It’s first occurrence in the USA charts was at position 205 on 16th November 1974 where it was in the “bubbling under” section of the Billboard 200 pop charts and a week later when it had crawled to position 203 before eventually breaking into the charts at position 188 on 30th November 1974.  During the Christmas weekend it reached it’s highest position of 149 where it stayed for a fortnight before slowly slipping down the charts. On 1st March 1975 it finally left the US 200, having dropped from position 185 the previous week after 13 weeks and that’s it – that’s all I have.

Cigarettes

We’ll take a walk through the tracks in a moment but before we do lets look at why the album was problematic from the start…

camel_pack

You see the band didn’t get their name from the humped, spitting creature that roams the deserts but from the cigarettes they smoked and there lies the problem because not everyone shared their love of the cancerous weed, particularly the American music industry.  The bands website has the full details but from a marketing point of view, cigarette endorsements, even in the 70s were a disaster. What was even worse was the iconic camel cigarette logo cover on the USA version of album had to be scrapped and replaced with this…

CamelMirageusa

 

…the USA cover is not very inspiring is it?

Let’s go through the tunes…

Album Review Side 1

Side one opens with Freefall (5mins 55sec) featuring Andy Latimers stunning guitar and some super fast drumming from Andy Ward. The lyrics and the vocals are a little tame in this track but it’s all backed up with an ensemble of rock/jazz guitar and organ work creating a genuinely bright and interesting start to the album. The quality of Latimers playing is a significant strength to the album either on flute or guitar. His skills were recognised at the prog rock music awards in 2014 when he was awarded for his lifetime achievement.

Up next is one of the highlights of prog rock Supertwister (3mins 20 sec)

This kicks off with Latimer on flute and an exciting percussion back drop with ground breaking use of bottles and aerosols providing the rhythm and ends with probably the greatest ending to a record in the world (I should have used a Carlsberg for this picture but we only had Tetley)

beer

We’re now into the last track, three part 9 mins 18sec of Nimrodel, Procession and The White Rider which all combine to form one song.  A slow intro leads onto church bells ringing and crowds cheering before leading to the JR Tolkien Lord of the Rings inspired “White Rider” , featuring echoing guitar solos similar or better than Dire Straits Mark Knopfler coupled with Peter Bardens mini moog, organ, and celeste . There’s even sections where the mini moog takes centre stage very similar to Mike Oldfields Tubular Bells and also sections where the Mellotron gets an airing. Don’t know what a Mellotron is? It’s the instrument used in the introduction of Beatles Strawberry Fields for Ever, Paul McCartney explains

Album Review Side 2

OK now flip it over to side 2 (for those listening on vinyl of course)

Earthrise (6mins 50secs) starts with some howling wind sound effects to set the scene and the mini moog is providing the “vocals” for an instrumental that just doesn’t need lyrics to tell the story. A real belter of a rock song for you to let your hair down to, Doug Ferguson laying a base with his bass (what else!)

and then track two side 2 is Lady Fantasy at a very healthy 12mins and 59 seconds long – not quite 13 minutes (which would be unlucky I guess) “Listen very carefully my words are about to unfold”

This is pure prog, all over the place, up and down, varied and magical with a large helping of full heavy metal mixed with elegant guitar, organ and Celeste solos. If you don’t know what a Celeste is then Elizabeth Burley of the London Philharmonia will explain. The track builds and builds before finally heading for a mellow “Dire Straits” finale.

Mirage is pure poetry so play it again and again, you’ll never get bored of listening to this album .

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Discovering 60s Mono and Stereo Decca Releases

Discovering 60s Mono and Stereo Decca Releases

Decca

Have you ever noticed on some 1960s Decca LPs there is a hole at the back of the cover? If it looks like the example above by the Moody Blues then you have an album that has the wrong inner sleeve in it. This example has a plain white sleeve which isn’t the correct one.

As the caption next to the hole indicates, the hole allows the inner colour to show through so the sleeve should be either blue or red, depicting if the album is either Mono or Stereo, similar to this one…

decca blue

Here are a couple of Rolling Stones albums in stereo and mono , you can see the correct colour in the indicator hole…

Rolling Stones Decca Stereo

If you are a collector, you may already know that mono and stereo versions of some of these 1960s albums have different values so it’s important to check which version you have when assessing it’s value. It doesn’t always follow that mono ( which is often the earlier pressing) is worth more or that stereo is worth more.(which is likely to be the better sounding and possibly more desirable)

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Don’t forget to check the album you have in the sleeve is the correct album for the cover and the inner. The Tom Jones album above is a red mono version and the code is LK5032 rather than the stereo version which would have code number SKL5032.

Here are examples of values affected by stereo and mono versions …

Let it Bleed , Stones mono value £400 stereo £150

On the Threshold of a dream , Moody Blues mono value £30 stereo £20

My brief, but memorable 8 track moment

It was 1971 and I was just 8 years old. Myself and my school friends had just the radio to listen to if we wanted to hear any modern music because we didn’t have a record player of our own. Of course we could use our parents record players but the only records they had were 78s so the tunes were mainly rock and roll or classical. I remember listening to Ravels Bolero, Bill Hayley’s Rock around the clock and the entire collection of Elvis but what I really wanted to listen to was Slade, Sweet and T Rex. It was the Reilly’s who lived across the road who came to our rescue for in their garage they had a Triumph Dolomite …

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…and inside it had an 8 track player.

dolomite

…were we played all Mr Reilly’s 8 tracks

pile of 8 tracks

…and we lived happily ever after

…until the car battery went flat

…oops!