REMEMBERING MY FIRST EVER GIG

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The Robster has been putting up some great stuff over at Is This The Life? including a great tale of his first ever gig which happened to be The Wedding Present.

I’ve mentioned a few times that my own first live concert was in May 1979 at the Glasgow Apollo.  The headline act was The Police and support came from both Bobby Henry and The Cramps.  It was a chaotic night in loads of ways.  The tickets, costing £2.50 in advance or £2 on the door, had gone on sale a few months earlier but such was the lack of interest in any of the bands that the promoters and venue management decided to close off all areas except the stalls. Nobody however, would anticipate that The Police would storm the charts shortly beforehand with a re-released Roxanne and be tipped by many as the ‘next big thing’, which led to a huge demand for tickets. I think it was 48 hours in advance of the gig that the circle and upper circle tickets went on sale and soon it was a total sell-out.

The problem for the venue was that all tickets were for unreserved seating and they just weren’t geared up for that…also the fact that groups of friends were coming along and demanding that they be allowed to sit together even when their tickets were for separate parts of the building (I can vouch for this from personal experience).  The upshot was that the stalls filled up very early while  those who had tickets for that area (ie had bought them ages in advance) were angry at finding themselves shunted to the nosebleed seats high up in the gods (which was a ridiculously long way up at the Glasgow Apollo).

I can’t remember much of Bobby Henry who, gawd bless, will always be the first live musician I had the privilege of seeing.  The Cramps were chaotic and confrontational and didn’t go down too well with the majority of the audience. Lux Interior didn’t help things by constantly challenging folk to invade the stage and fight with him – which was a near impossibility as the stage was a good 30 feet above the font of the stalls but was reachable if you were crazy enough to jump down 20 feet from the circle area – so instead the front man got his cock out while singing Human Fly.

The whole place was at fever pitch by the time the main act came on stage.   They opened with a song that I would later place at #20 in my 2008 45 45s at 45 series:-

mp3 : The Police – Can’t Stand Losing You

The fact that the band became the biggest act on the planet for a brief time in the early 80s, as well as Sting becoming the most self-righteous and pompous prick imaginable makes it all too easy to mock The Police. But as a 15 year-old lad, I thought they were as good as anything else that was emerging from the post-punk era that had been christened New Wave which is why I’m proud that they were my first headline act.

Not too many other bands were singing about prostitutes in 1979. These were the days when even the use of the word ‘damn’ was liable to get your song banned from the airwaves. The Police were actually regarded as a group that was a bit daring, cutting edge and subversive. You’ll have to trust me on that for I know it’s almost impossible to imagine.

I’d bought Can’t Stand Losing You a few months earlier after seeing the band play it live on The Old Grey Whistle Test.  I hid the record away from my folks cos I thought they would go crazy about the sleeve.  Pictured at the head of this post you can see it is an image of someone (turns out it was drummer Stewart Copeland) slowly hanging themselves by putting the noose around their neck and standing on a block of ice that was melted away by a three-bar electric fire. The back of the sleeve was a close-up photo of the ice block having melted…..and beside it was the photo that had been held by the hanging man.

I honestly had some nightmares about that sleeve. Is this what you were driven to when someone chucked you and broke your heart?? Surely not…(and it has since occurred to me that perhaps a certain Ian Curtis might have glimpsed this sleeve at some point or other….)

But aside from the sleeve, it was a record that I played constantly hour-after-hour and day-after-day. I hadn’t been exposed to all the much reggae, so the song had a beat and rhythm that I thought was really unusual. I also loved the sound of Sting’s voice – it was so much sharper, clearer and tuneful than most other singers fronting new-wave bands. I was gutted when I realised the single wasn’t going to chart (it only made #42 on its first release) but it made up for it when it was re-released in the summer of 1979 and reached #2.

They say you never forget your first time, and that a small part of it lives with you forever. I’m no different…..and although I’ve been left embarrassed by an awful lot of the stuff that came out after the initial singles, I’ll never forget the part The Police played in developing my life-long love and affection for music and live gigs.

Here’s the b-side

mp3 : The Police – Dead End Job

Enjoy.

THIS SHOULD REALLY HAVE BEEN PART OF THE ON-GOING SATURDAY SERIES…

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The Low Miffs are from Glasgow and they make the sort of intelligent, catchy but different guitar-pop that has always found such favour with your humble scribe.  Oh and there’s the bonus that lead singer, Leo Condie, has a vocal delivery that can be eerily reminiscent of the late, great Billy Mackenzie.

In 2009, the band teamed up with the legendary Malcolm Ross and released an album of 8 perfectly constructed songs that should have sold by the barrowload.  Don’t just taken my word for it….this is from the pages of one of Scotland’s main newspapers:-

Malcolm Ross was the musical mercury of Postcard Records’ Sound Of Young Scotland, flowing smoothly from Josef K to Orange Juice and Aztec Camera. This collaboration with Glasgow young guns The Low Miffs raises the temperature to that of those heady times.

Dear Josephine, with gymnastic vocals from Low Miff Leo Condie, and a guitar break to turn your face inside out, reinvigorates that old jingly jangly motif, while also injecting genuine joie de vivre to the opening Cressida.

Featuring some quite brilliantly controlled playing weaving lovely patterns around singing that is part Associates, part Sparks, this is sonic sunshine to light up the darkest room.

Ross is a revelation, delivering a smoky understated vocal on the quiet menace of The Back Midnight, a jazzy walk on the wild side with a Tarantino twang. Mankind is a bit of a rock and roll cabaret wafting up the steps from a Belgian basement, a staggering waltz with gruff saxophone and sharp snappy lyrics that crackle like a long-lost Alex Harvey tune. With added drama, if you can imagine such a thing.

More jaunty is The Man Who Took On Love (And Won), with the lovely line “Love’s last reserves are more than I deserve”. Best of all is the strutting swagger of Kind Of Keen, big on eerily atmospheric keyboards adorning a road song at the junction of Highway 51 and the M8.

5 stars

One of the best tracks on the album was given a download release in advance of the actual LP hitting the shops.  I suppose in the modern era that counts as a single, but my rule of thumb for the on-going Saturday series is that I must have a vinyl or CD copy of the 45.  It seems criminal not to air it:-

mp3 : The Low Miffs and Malcolm Ross – The Man Who Took On Love (And Won)

I can’t recommend this LP enough.  It’s available for a ridiculously low prize on the band’s bandcamp page here.

Enjoy!!!!

INITIATIVE TEST (Part 2)…aka the 202nd musical posting on the blog

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Grim and pale with (heavy) head in hands, I sat in Dan Van Samaritan’s apartment in Utrecht, central Holland on the Monday morning. It was 08.30 and I was due at work in south west England … hundreds of miles away.

Before I’d been shooed away at midnight by the be-whiskered Amsterdam Police; through a fug of tasty smoke, they’d given me the phone number of the British Consulate in The Hague. I pulled the scrap of paper from my pocket. “Right” thought I. “These Union Flag-flying fuckers will sort me out. No problem. That’s what they do, isn’t it?”

I called their number on Dan’s phone. No answer. The Consulate staff weren’t there. My life was already a Dutch Breakfast so I could well do without those lazy sods still nibbling on Gouda and pumpernickel reading their morning Expatica Express.

“Get thyselves sat beneath a portrait of The Queen and help this beleaguered countryman, you work-shy mandarin bastards” I chuntered to myself. I lit a Peter Stuyvesant and tried the number again. Still nothing. Perhaps they were out last night dressed in orange celebrating the first herring of the year, or something?

Half an hour later, I finally extracted a gruff ‘Hullo’ from a she-male voice at the other end.

‘Geertruyd here’.

It was the cleaner!

It transpired that Her Majesty’s Ambassador and all his merry civil service men were not in the office that morning due to what she called ‘a Training Day’. I vented my spleen toward the damduster-wielding dutchwoman. I was beside myself. (In-cand-escent and in-de-shit). She sympathised with my plight; understanding my acute frustration and desperation, but unable to offer any advice other than, ‘Continue to the port sir, and hope that your passport is there waiting’.

OK. South I go to bloody Belgium then. It can’t be that far from here can it?

By the way, the coach I had missed in Amsterdam had long since arrived in England. Unbeknownst to me however, my friend had been given a hard time by UK Customs at Passport Control. “And which one are we today then sir?” he’d been asked as he wielded 2 passports and a likely story.

Anyway, I got on a local bus full of Holland’s finest old cloggy women and headed towards the nearest motorway junction.

mp3 : Talking Heads – Road To Nowhere

Back on the main Highway, out came my map, anorak, thumb, and my metaphorical Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Benelux Blues. The drizzle lowered in the Lowlands. After half an hour, a car pulled over. It was clearly an ‘Ok ya, company car’. An unwashed black Audi with 4 tell-tale ironed shirts hanging in the back.

Herman the Sales Rep listened to my tale of woe. He was heading to Eindhoven for a Plastics Convention. A city I knew only as the home of a football team called PSV and the Philips Lighting Company. Herman seemed friendly enough. (But then, Jack The Ripper was probably a right charmer on first meeting). We chatted over the next hour or so and I told him my tale. He shook his head in disbelief.

I mentioned the beer, and the cold, the lack of ID and money, Amsterdam, and the missed coach home. I told him that I was serving in the Air Force and that my bollocks would be lightly poached as I was late back on duty.

mp3 : XTC – The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead

Then, in a truly bizarre coincidence, as we passed Eindhoven, he had the most wonderful lightbulb moment!

The nearest RAF Station was not far across the Dutch/West German border.

“That’s it. That’s where we can go!” declared Herman.

In 1984, RAF Brüggen was a major NATO base in a Cold War world – where a certain apocalyptic Nuclear War was just around the next bunker. Two Tribes, Greenham Common, Threads, Reagan, Thatcher, CND, Protect and Survive, Cruise and Pershing missiles. Why, even painting the windows white and sitting under the kitchen table wouldn’t save you.

This Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) meant we were doomed – the lot of us. In fact, the only undecided thing was how you were gonna spend your final 4 minutes; prior to kissing your ass goodbye.

Aaah, happy days!

Anyway, I digress. Herman agreed to take me across the border into Germany and onto the RAF base. As a Sales Executive, he knew the way like the back of his leather-bound filofax.

‘If you don’t get home safely, I’m a Dutchman’ he vehemently declared.

“Aren’t you the funny fucker?” says I.

We crossed the manned National Border, with him flashing Fritz a Buisiness card and me a crazed inane grin – with thumbs up like Selwyn Froggitt.  On a road through a forest, we approached the sprawling air base, negotiating speed-calming barbed wire chicanes flanked by armed guards. We could see the Hardened Aircraft Shelters. Fierce German Shepherds prowled the perimeter fence. How ridiculous they looked with their crooks, dressed in their woolly waistcoats and leather shorts. (Only joking, I mean Alsatian-type dogs really).

At the RAF Brüggen main gate, Herman came into his own with sales waffle a-gogo. Thankfully, the airman on guard duty wasn’t the pointiest bullet in the magazine. His tin hat was on the wrong way round. (‘Must be a chef in his day job’ I thought). For all he knew, I could have been a Yorkshire-based Soviet Stasi SuperSpy. (I had no ID and he had no idea). With a salute from him and a weary wave from me, we were in. A high security top-secret base with the largest Tornado aircraft force in NATO had been infiltrated by a Dutchman saying, “I have come to check the vending machines in the NAAFI” and me – a scruffy youth in a borrowed lime green anorak.

By the way, This ‘oops’ moment had happened at RAF Brüggen earlier that year.

And so, now on the Camp, and en route to Station HQ, it was then very strangely that my ears began to bleed. Herman pointed it out to me as he parked up.  It had bever happened before (or since). Dan Van Samaratin’s rain jacket would never be the same again and my white ‘Tube Station’ T-shirt sported fresh claret blobs.  Herman passed me a wet wipe with ‘Currywurst’ printed on it.  With ears dribbling, I tried to compose myself and rehearsed my story in my fat head.

I introduced myself to a clot of a Corporal in Personnel Services. Seeing the blood, he quickly realised it was above his pay level and found me a Warrant Officer. And, if Rottweillers had hats then he’d be one. At this point, Herman motioned that it was time for him to leave. I thanked him – woefully insufficiently – and he was gone. Rotty with a blue beret took me to a room where I regaled him with bumbling tales of lager and London and Leeds United. Throughout my desperate report, I remember how he took phone calls about bonfires and sausages and fireworks. (It was the 5th of November). Here I was, at my tether’s end, whilst he considered the merits of a good Catherine Wheel.

So here’s the plan: Issued with a Temporary ID card and an Advance of Pay to cover costs home, I take a lift to Mönchengladbach in a mini-bus full of bonfire-going kids. There I catch a train through what’s left of Germany and across The Netherlands to the Hook of Holland. Overnight Ferry to Harwich. Train to Waterloo. Train to Salisbury. Taxi home. Bollocking from work. Re-union shag with girlfriend. Phone call to relieved mother. Two-way tales with passport-holding mate. Food. Sleep.

Through the damp suib of a German Bonfire Night, I hurries to the train station for the 19.30 Deutsche Bahn (that’s German for ‘a big train’), relieved that I had escaped the jaunty jabberings of a dozen excited under-10s eating sausages. (Bratwursts/Worstbrats).

I’d been given an advance of pay in cash. Exactly 138 Deutsche Mark – to cover the whole fare from Monchengladbach to Salisbury.

I asked for a ticket and the frau behind the counter told me the price …

“That is 143 Marks please”.

“Surely some mistake?” I argued.

“Nein. The price it has risen last veek”.

“Shit. Bollocks. Fuck”. A queue built up behind me.

“Can I leave you my name and address? I twitched. Can you take my watch instead?”

Sensing my desperation (along with the fact that if I were to throw myself under the train there would be an interminable delay – even by über-efficient German suicide-mopping-up standards), the woman behind me in the queue stepped forward and offered to pay the 5 DM difference.

“Oh, thank you. Danke, muchos” I babbled, as I went to hug her … but as she recoiled, I thought better of it!

I made it onto the train and felt like Richard Attenborough in The Great Escape. All I needed was the Trilby hat and a pair of specs made from old German milk bottles. The ‘funny look’ from the Guard as he checked my ticket added to the ‘squeeky bum’ moment. We shake, rattle and rolled all the way to the west coast port of Hoek van Holland

(Cue ‘Homeward Bound’ by Paul Simon you may be thinking? Too obvious, dear reader. We don’t just throw this blog together you know).

Unsurprisingly, I puked all the way across The Channel. So much so that I expected any chewy bit to be my own anus. The sea was as rough as an unkempt bear’s arse. (Is there anything worse than not having a cabin and clutching a pissy public porcelain pot for hours and hours?)

Anyway, I can see you glazing over at the back dear reader. Suffice to say, I continued across Britain in shabby vagrant style and arrived home to my accommodation block on the Tuesday afternoon in one piece.

Many were relieved to see me. (‘Cept the bloke next door who’d had his eye on my portable TV). Why,  I even went on to marry the girl waiting for me.  Aaaah!

mp3 : Paul Weller – In Amsterdam (By a strange twist of fate, this is from his new album!)

Dick Van Dyke, 16 May 2010

JC adds…

Almost four years on and I still can’t believe nobody has snapped up the film-rights to this tale.

Over the years I’ve asked DvD to consider becoming a regular contributor to the blog(s).  Hopefully one day….

 

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT….SOME MORE LOST CLASSICS

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Ben, Tom and Mal(l) – Some more classics that should have been bigger hits than they were

So bands who don’t use guitars (by that I mean the electric lead ones I’m ignoring the bass), all of them are rubbish, right. Let’s look at the case for the prosecution. Keane. Yup, Keane. Terminally piss poor, much maligned Keane. Keane made a big fuss about big different because they used a synth or a piano instead of a guitar. Essentially Keane were middle class, fairly well to do lads from Sussex then achieved massive international and mainstream success based around the piano rock sound. Sadly, they suck massively they just peddle out bland, tuneless donkey wank and need to be stopped. Here endeth the prosecution.

The defence for bands without guitars begins and ends with one band. Ben Folds Five. A quirky indie band from North Carolina who were known for their humour as much as their tunes. When asked why they were called Ben Folds Five what with them being a threesome, Ben Folds replied it sounds better than Ben Folds Three. They formed in 1993 at the height of the new explosion in US sound brought about by Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam and described their music as ‘punk rock for sissies’. Despite having no lead guitar, Ben Folds Five did rock, they did have a punk sound, with raw energy, passion and perhaps best of all, tunes. Ben Folds Five also made a record with cast of Fraggle Rock. Keane never did that (Fraggle Rock wouldn’t have them).

They are best known perhaps for ‘Brick’ which gave them success in the States and here in the UK, but for me the standout Ben Folds Five track in ‘Underground’. An ode to the moshpit and the scene that Ben Folds Five were up against, this peaked in the Uk at Number 37. I remember reviewing it as ‘the bastard son of Randy Crawford and Fleetwood Mac’. I was 19 and admit now to have never heard Randy Crawford, so I was probably trying to be clever. It is great though and should have been a much bigger hit.

mp3 : Ben Folds Five – Underground

Staying on the American Indie Rock theme, next up we have ‘Velvet Roof’ by Buffalo Tom, The Robster has already waxed lyrical about this record on his increasingly excellent blog ‘Is This The Life’. Everything he put is right of course, but for me, Buffalo Tom, are one of the greatest bands to come out of the USA in recent years. They are very much on a par with the likes Dinosaur Jr (good mates, I believe) and that alt rock scene that we all fell for in the early 90s but they had something different, perhaps sit was that not many people (at the time) were fans, or because they seemed like nice guys, I’m not sure. I remembered being really annoyed when aged 18, some guys in my college who thought they were cool because they wore ‘Jesus Christ Pose’ Soundgarden T Shirts starting listening to Buffalo Tom. It was almost like I didn’t want this band to be cool, that and the Sondgarden fans were cooler, more attractive, taller, more muscular, and more popular with the girls than me. One of that crew went on to form middle of the road indie band ‘Airhead’ so I’m certainly having the last laugh now. They were awful.

‘Velvet Roof’ is a tremendous record, and should have been a massive hit. It’s a simple song, built over one gigantic riff, and it’s that riff that sells it. All of their singles were pretty good, I’d recommend their singles collection ‘Asides’ not something I would usually do, because it’s a singles collection, but it’s really worth a listen.

mp3 : Buffalo Tom – Velvet Roof

And finally, we come to ‘Mall Monarchy’ by Compulsion. What. A. Tune. This was staple indie disco fodder for every indie club in the mid 90s and was the nearest thing Compulsion got to a hit record, all their other records were scuzzy, punk rock rackets – bloody brilliant mind you. They came to be around 1992 and were lumped in with The New Wave of New Wave that the bloody NME invented. What Compulsion essentially were was a four piece from Dublin (with a Dutch drummer) with a tendency for shouty vocals and fantastic live shows. The debut album ‘Comforter’is excellent, and I still wear (just) my Comforter Tour T Shirt with pride (well when cleaning the car).

‘Mall Monarachy’ should have done very well, it didn’t, I remember watching it on The Word in 1994 and thinking, ‘Yup their time is about now’. Looks like I was wrong, or the public was. They released a second album a few years later called the ‘Future is Medium’ which saw them all dye their hair orange and wear black boiler suits. The idiot singer from My Chemical Romance did that a few years ago and everyone hailed him and them as geniuses. For Compulsion it just meant that they didn’t sell that many records. They split soon after. Garrett Lee from Compulsion turned his hand to production and dance music – using the name Jacknife Lee – who some of you will have heard of. He produces Snow Patrol now. I’m devastated that Compulsion split so that Snow Patrol could have decent production.

mp3 : Compulsion – Mall Monarchy

SW-C

THE 200TH MUSICAL POST ON T(n)VV

I’ve got to be honest…..when the old blog was unceremoniously dragged off the internet I wasn’t sure if I had the appetite to keep whatever I got back up going to the same extent. So I’ve surprised myself that today marks the 200th musical posting on The (new) Vinyl Villain.

There’s a huge thanks needed to those of you who have contributed guest postings to hit that number and to those readers of old who were patient enough not to complain about so many of the posts on T(n)VV were repeats from the old place. If I’m being honest, there are days when I wonder if I can be really bothered with it all as I’m not sure I really have all that much more to say, but then someone will drop me an e-mail or leave a comment or in the case of Luca a few months ago, write something really special that makes the effort all worthwhile.

I was really keen to do something special to mark the 200th post….so I got in touch with a dear old friend to ask if he would be willing to help out by letting me re-post something that made a lot of people smile when they read it on the old blog back in 2010.

I know that those of you who read it first time round will not be upset that after much digging around I’ve been able to find this particular;ar contribution from the weekly series called ‘The Sunday Correspondents’ in which a number of different contributors were given free rein to say what they liked, provided it was on a Sunday.

The most talented and naturally gifted and funny of those contributors went by the name of Dick Van Dyke. He is a Leeds United supporter. He adored The Jam/Paul Weller/The Style Council. Back in 1984, he thought he could combine a match in London with a gig in Amsterdam. What follows is a true story:-

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

INITIATIVE TEST

mp3 : The Style Council – Headstart For Happiness

I went to Amsterdam to see The Style Council one Sunday in Nov 1984. We’d travelled over by coach on the Saturday night after a Charlton v Leeds match in London. After a green-gilled ferry to Ostend, we travelled up to the city of canals, bicycles and scantily-clad women in shop windows. All day Sunday was spent drinking. (The difference between Dutch Heineken and the fizzy Session beer of blighty soon kicked in). We were all shit-faced.

After the gig, (and my climb down the front of the Circle to Stalls having fallen in love with DC Lee), I came out of the theatre and – because I’d dawdled for a much-needed piss – I’d become detached from the rest of the merry coach load. Clueless as to where the coach had parked earlier that day, I was soon lost.

My jacket was on the bus and it contained my passport, ID and money. Little known to me, after a 15 minute wait, they’d set off without me in order to meet the ferry.

It was freezing and nearly midnight as I stood shivering in a ‘Tube Station’ T-shirt and jeans in downtown Amsterdam – where all the streets look the same. I was totally stranded, due back at work the next morning and my girlfriend in the UK was expecting me.

What would YOU do next?

Initially, I went to the Dutch Police Station. I know; I should’ve known better. It was just as you would envisage. 2 blokes, feet up on desk, TV on, smoke-filled room, bottle of Bells in filing cabinet. “Go and follow the coach to the Port” was the ‘shexy futball‘ Van Der Valk-meets-Ashes To Ashes response from the moustachioed porn star lookalike.

“Er righto .. I’ll do that then”.

I did go back to the Theatre thinking that the band, recognising my dire plight, would welcome me aboard the warm tour bus. I’d be tucked up in a bunk bed alongside Mick Talbot whilst Paul strummed English Rose and DC Lee fed me hot toddies, donuts and skunkweed.

“We’re going to Berlin now” grunted the big hairy fucker who always used to look after Weller.
(This was 1984, so Berlin presented it’s own problems – unlike today’s open all hours EU borders). I’d naturally assumed that they were returning to Kent and White Cliffs and warmed teapots … but no.

‘Think again’ I thought, as the bitter November wind gnarled into my mind and my body. It was now 12.30am.

And so it came to pass…

I was back outside the Theatre; the band couldn’t help me. I decided to (somehow) follow the coach to the Port – where surely my passport will have been handed in by my mate to a nice Customs fellow and all this mess would be tidied up. I know… I’ll hitch-hike.

Looking around me in central Amsterdam, I asked a couple of drunks by a tram stop where the motorway south was. (A bit like standing in Leicester Square asking for the M1). It took 3 or 4 more requests before I got an answer which made reasonable sense. I needed the E35 – wherever that was. They pointed; and then shook their heads as I turned; but not before telling me that it was illegal to hitch-hike in Holland!

So I began running to the motorway junction. Running, not jogging. I was becoming more and more desperate, but without any money, what else could I do? Besides, the running temporarily took my uncontrollable shivering away.

Luckily, it was only about 3 miles to the junction. But as I stood on the hard shoulder with my thumb up, I quickly realised how isolated I was and how it must have looked. It was very late on a Sunday night/Monday morning and there was little traffic. After the hustle of the city, it was a quiet and eerie place.

After what seemed like forever, a car finally stopped. It was a black BMW with 3 large black men inside. As I had never been as cold in my life, I didn’t care about anything but getting warm, and the thick furry seat covers and blast of warm air from the car heaters are the only things I really remember. That, and the Barry White lookalike driver saying in a voice of treacle and tarmacadam,

“What you doin‘ man? You’re gonna die out there”.

I tried to explain my plight, as a fat bassline from speakers the size of windmills almost burst my heart through my chest. ‘Fuck’. They were only going 2 junctions in my direction and, in what seemed like only 5 minutes, I was back standing on the hard shoulder. This time, I was well away from the Amsterdam suburbs, without any road lighting and only the steam from my breath for company.

I was now shaking like a shitting whippet; the cold and the fear and the stark reality hit me. After what seemed an age, a small Citroen van – the sort you would only see in some arty French film from 1968 – pulled over and stopped.

“Where you going?” asked the driver. “Er … south. Belgium. Please”. The truth was that by now I didn’t really know where I was going. I had no concept of the geography of north-west Europe.

He told me his name was Dan and he was going to Utrecht … wherever that was. In the van were lupins. Lupins and tulips and other big bloody flowers I didn’t recognize. He was a Dutch florist. A florist with a goatee beard and a spliff on the go. (He could have been a goat with a spliff and a gladioli up his arse, I didn’t care).

I explained my predicament to him as the sound of ‘See My Friends’ by The Kinks ….. came through his tinny car radio. He took me the 50 or so km to his home town. He was my Samaritan. Dan Van Samaritan if you like.

In his little apartment, he gave me coffee, toast and a spare bed. He explained he had to leave for work around 7am. When I woke around 8am, he’d left me a sweater, a rainproof jacket, a map of Holland, a hunk of cheese and 12 Guilders. (About £5).

mp3 : The Kinks – See My Friend

What would I do next? Join me next month (if you are in the slightest bit interested) as I continue the true story of my journey home to Blighty. To be continued … perhaps.*

(Dick Van Dyke, Sunday 28 March 2010)

* Readers were left in suspense until mid-May for the next instalment.  You guys can come back the day after tomorrow and find out what happened next …………

CULT CLASSICS – SHOW ME AROUND by LUGGAGE

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I couldn’t resist your call for people to act as advocates for their favourite (commercial) flops.

There are so very many of these that I almost gave up trying to sift through them until I thought of the following track:

mp3 : Luggage – Show Me Around

“Show me around the streets you made your name in”

For a brief moment it seemed that Luggage might escape the gravitation field projected by the commercial failure of the Dublin rock scene of the mid nineties. A John Peel session, half page interview in the Irish Times, the stirrings of something. And we fans and members of other Dublin bands knew that they had the songs and the class to make it.

Singer Barry O’Mahoney had been a performance poet and had a knack for twisting simple phrases into new shapes. Guitarist Joe Fahey had been in an early incarnation of MBV and peeled off chords like Mark Bolan in slow motion. Bass player Rachel Tighe had been in Backwards Into Paradise, another Dublin band with a cultish reputation. Drummer Cathal O’Reilly held it all together. They were a band, and continued to play for many years after this, with at least one albums recorded but never released. However they did release two E.P.’s, on 7″ vinyl and cd.

I have to admit to having an involvement here. For a while I was the manager of Luggage and it inspired me to form a band myself. I remember seeing them for the first time, going along with the expectation of being disappointed but being blown away. Had I been uninvolved I would have been a fan anyway. And if they were to make it, they certainly required a more competent manager than I was and I had moved on by the time this came out.

When I first heard this song I thought it would be their hit. When I heard the recording I was even more sure. There was even a video –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jpt6m2AEj9E

But what do I know? The general public ignored it and it disappeared. However, it remains a regular on my turntable, iPod, laptop and cd player.

I have played it to many people. It is the lead track on a four track e.p. called Comical Life on the Blunt / Independent Records labels. Enough have shared my enthusiasm for me to feel justified in considering it a lost, cult classic.

“Show me around the nightclubs you collapsed in”

Cheers,

Seamus Duggan

Today’s contributor is tbe brains and talent behind the Vapour Trails blog. Click here for more.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 81)

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I’ve been looking forward to posting this 7″ single for quite some time.

First of all, a little bit from wiki:-

Meursault are a Scottish indie rock band from Edinburgh, formed in 2006. Led by singer-songwriter Neil Pennycook, the band’s musical style has been variously categorised as folktronica, alternative rock and indie folk. The band themselves have described their most recent work as “epic lo-fi”. The name of the band is a reference to the main character of L’Etranger, the existentialist novel by Albert Camus.

Their releases to date have been generally well received by the music and entertainment media, both in Scotland and on a nationwide level. In 2009 The Skinny placed the band’s debut album, Pissing On Bonfires / Kissing With Tongues at No. 16 in their “Scottish Albums of the Decade” list; while their second full-length release, All Creatures Will Make Merry, has been reviewed favourably by a number of notable media outlets.

“Something for the Weakened” is the third studio album released on July 16, 2012 on Song, by Toad Records. Regarding the album, songwriter Neil Pennycook noted, “This album makes more sense to me, and I think I’m more relaxed this time. I can hear it as a body of work, and it resonates more with me than the other records.”

Unlike the band’s previous two studio albums, Something for the Weakened does not feature any electronica elements, with Pennycook noting that his Macbook broke prior to recording, and that “I think we all wanted to move towards something which had a more human element to it.”

Recorded by band member Pete Harvey, Something for the Weakened is the first Meursault album to feature contributions from Lorcan Doherty, Sam Mallalieu, Kate Miguda and Rob St. John.  Neil Pennycook notes, “With the last two records I was into that idea of just locking myself in a room for a few weeks and emerging with an album, so it was nice to have everyone getting together this time, bouncing things off each other.” Pennycook also noted that the band had more input than on previous recordings; “When the songs are being recorded/arranged the rest of the guys have a lot more input now due to the nature of the sessions. Whereas before I treated recording as quite a solitary thing, I play better with others these days.”

Upon the album’s release, he stated, “I’d written a bunch of songs, a few we’d been playing live for a little while in some form or other, but most were worked up from pretty sparse guitar, piano and vocal demos.2

“The song “Flittin’ gave me an idea of what I wanted the album to be about. While the other two are pretty heavily-themed, I just wanted this album to reflect what was happening over the course of a year. I don’t think the lyrics are quite as metaphorical as they’ve been in the past, they’re a bit more direct and that’s what I was after. That carried through the instruments as well.”

The lyric, “So long, it’s been good to know you,” featured in “Flittin'”, is by Woody Guthrie.

It’s the single Flittin’ which is featured today.  This is a single that I would have very high up in my list of all-time favourites….not quite enough to break into the 80s dominated Top 10, but without any question, this is my favourite 45 of the past decade or so.

Much of this is to do with how unprepared I was for it.  I’m a huge fan of the debut LP from Meursault, but I’m less enamoured by the follow-up.  Matthew from Song by Toad Records is a friend of mine, and he was telling me ages in advance that the material for the third LP was a bit special.  And he was right….

It’s an astonishingly beautiful but powerful record.  It’s also one in which most of the songs are able to be arranged in different ways depending on the live setting – Meursault mostly perform as a standard five or six piece band but there are occasions when they are accompanied by a string section while sometimes Neil Pennycook will perform solo; but no matter the type of show or the number of musicians on the stage, Meursault will never fail to leave you gobsmacked at the quality and magnificence of a performance which will stay with you for a long time.

Flittin’ is a great example of what I mean by the different styles.

mp3 : Meursault – Flittin’
mp3 : Meursault – Flittin’ (piano)

The A-side is a glorious cacophony of acoustic guitars, keys, drums/percussion and strings over which Neil stretches his vocal chords to stay on top of it all and remain in control.

The B-side however is just a vocal and piano. It might be the same song in terms of tune and lyric but it’s a totally different song in every other respect and is, in this fan’s opinion, one of the most beautiful bits of music I have the pleasure of having in a vast collection.

Enjoy