SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #201 : MALCOLM MIDDLETON

It’s time for Falkirk’s finest to get his solo slot in this series. I’ve written loads about him in the past. He’s long been one of my favourites. Here’s the bio from his own website:-

Malcolm Middleton is a guitarist and songwriter best known for his work with the Scottish alternative rock band Arab Strap. Over the course of 10 years they released 6 studio albums before splitting in 2006. They reformed in 2016 for some 20th anniversary concerts and are currently working on a new album for release in 2020.

Malcolm has continued to write and perform as a solo artist and has released seven albums, most recently “Bananas” in 2018. As well as collaborating with artists such as David Shrigley and Mira Calix, he has composed soundtracks for the films Rogue Farm (2004), Munro (2009) and The Closer We Get (2015).

He also writes and performs under the name Human Don’t Be Angry and released the third album “Guitar Variations” in November 2019.

Here’s one side of a digital single from April 2019. It was recorded during the sessions for Bananas and the two songs feature a couple of talented guests on backing vocals.

mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Scaffolding

If you like it, please feel free to click here and make a purchase, for only £2, of a hi-quality version along with its equally entertaining b-side. You’ll also be able to learn who provided the backing vocals.

Oh, and this post is doubling up as another entry for the stuff I bought in 2019.

JC

45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 9)

A GUEST SERIES

39. Whatever – Oasis (1994 Creation Records)

Released as a single in December 1994 (Reached Number 3)

There used be this ‘indie club’ at University, (it wasn’t called Indie Club, it was called ‘No Wave’ which was sort of clever, but I called it Indie Club after the Fast Show sketch) basically a bunch of like-minded kids (usually boys to be fair) who thought they were cool because they liked guitar music and not Robbie Williams. We used to meet on a Thursday and plan discos and try to get live bands to come and play in our student union.

Mainly though, we were just trying to impress cute indie girls who wore skinny jeans and Converse trainers. Sadly for us, we all looked like the drummer from Shed Seven, even if we thought we looked like Jude Law.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned Frank or not before. Frank was strange. He was obsessed with being the most indie, or having the most records (to the point where he used to steal records and CDs off of DJs when they were not looking), or telling us that he heard a band first. Frank, is one of those people, will claim to have seen a band when they were just beginning.

He for instance, claims to have definitely have been in the audience at Oasis’ Water Rats show in London (27th January 1994), a legendary show that took place weeks before they became superstars. Roughly 73,000 people claim to have been at that show, when the capacity of the Water Rats was about 200.

Towards the end of the winter semester at University, indie club had its Christmas party. About halfway through one of the guys who was DJing decided to play the new Oasis single – which was the six minute string laden epic ‘Whatever’. Frank nodded along to it and then said “Oh they’ve finally released this, of course they debuted it at the Water Rats Show,”, then shifted in his seat and said the applause at the end, is taken from that show…”

Ok Frank. Whatever.

For the record, and I’ve just looked this up, I didn’t know this at the time – Oasis played six songs that night staring with ‘Shakermaker’ and ending with ‘Supersonic’ – they definitely did not play ‘Whatever’ as far as I know, it didn’t even exist at the end of January 1994.

‘Whatever’ was released in December 1994 a week before Christmas and the band were convinced it was going to be the Christmas Number one. You can hear this at the end of the track as it descends into applause and members of the bands roaring “Number One!” and “OASIS!!” in the background, in the studio, not, you know live at a sweaty flea pit in London.

It’s a bit laddish to be fair, but before all that nonsense you get this string laden affair (the band hired a proper orchestra for those bits in a pique of musical maturity) which compliments Liam’s vocals and the band’s music. What’s great about ‘Whatever’ is the arrangement. The way that is starts with that string section and the band join in gradually is great.

Then as the songs goes on the exact reverse happens, first Liam songs singing, then the guitars stopped, then the drums stopped before all that is left is the same strings that you heard at the start. It’s a masterpiece.

One of the B-Sides ain’t half bad either

Slide Away

SWC

 

 

THEY CAME FROM A BAD AND LOWDOWN WORLD

There’s been many mentions on this blog about Kitchenware Records, including a guest ICA by David Ashley back in June 2018. I’ve reflected a fair bit on Prefab Sprout and Martin Stephenson & The Daintees, but there hasn’t, until now, been a posting solely on The Kane Gang.

David’s ICA opened with a track by The Kane Gang and he summarised things by saying they were a three piece and much more soul than jangly guitar based, while making the observation that some of their songs hadn’t dated well.

He’s bang on the money with the former in that the trio are one of the few white acts to ever enjoy success on the American Black R&B chart but maybe a tad harsh about the songs dating, notwithstanding there is very much an 80s production style to the fore, as some of their numbers still fit in perfectly nowadays with the music you hear on easy-listening stations such as Smooth Radio.

So….who were the Kane Gang?

They were a trio of lads from the north-east of England, consisting of vocalists Martin Brammer and Paul Woods, plus multi-instrumentalist Dave Brewis. The three had been together from school, originally as The Reptile House and then as The Kings Of Cotton, the latter playing live around the Sunderland area with the aid of backing tapes. They eventually attracted the attention of the 23-year old Keith Armstrong who had not longed founded Kitchenware Records and thought their take on soul and gospel music had commercial potential.

Their debut 7” single, in 1983, was fourth release on Kitchenware (it had the catalogue number SK5 but that was because SK1 had been a video of a live gig featuring none of the band of the label!).

mp3 : The Kane Gang – Brother Brother

Like all the early Kitchenware releases, it didn’t do very much in terms of sales outside of the north-east but the follow-up, in reaching #60 in May 1984, provided the label with its first taste of chart success, albeit minor:-

mp3 : The Kane Gang – Smalltown Creed (12″ version)

It was a song that, in part, celebrated their northern roots and the fact that singers and bands didn’t have to venture to London anymore in order to get music out to the masses. There was an eventual downside to this song in that a Radio 1 DJ, who attracted a large audience to his daily lunchtime shows, felt there was a great jingle to be made out of the chorus and, rather sadly, it is that snippet of music that most folk will recognise rather than any of their songs.

Just two months later, Kitchenware finally hit payola when The Kane Gang took a mournful and soulful ballad, complete with tear-jerking harmonica moments into the Top 20:-

mp3 : The Kane Gang – The Closest Thing To Heaven

The trio were already at an advanced stage with their debut album but instead of it being released in time for the Christmas market, a decision was taken to delay it until early 1985 and instead to go with a further single in November 1984 around which they undertook a live tour, including a gig at Strathclyde University Students Union that I managed to get along too. The new single, which would peak at #21, was a cover of a song by the Staple Sisters, an American gospel/soul band who had enjoyed commercial success in the last 60s and throughout the 70s:-

mp3 : The Kane Gang – Respect Yourself

I was really excited about the gig at the student union as it had been announced beforehand the trio would be accompanied by a full band, including Donald Johnson from A Certain Ratio on drums. It turned out to be a disappointment and my overwhelming feeling from the night was one of boredom and being underwhelmed. Maybe the expectations were too high and I was anticipating some sort of fast-paced and energetic show from start to end, but for a group who had been in the singles charts for the best part of the previous five months, there felt like there was a lack of conviction or belief in the performance.

Having said that, maybe I was in the minority as it turns out that a recording of the gig was made available many years later as a bonus disc in the 30th anniversary re-issue of their debut album.

The Bad and Lowdown World of The Kane Gang hit the shops in February 1985. It’s a decent enough record but the problem was that it contained only nine songs, of which its three strongest had all been released previously as singles. It did enter the charts at a respectable enough #21 but quickly dropped away, with the accompanying flop single not doing much to help matters:-

mp3 : The Kane Gang – Gun Law

The strange thing about The Kane Gang is that as they drifted further away from view in the UK, they began to make inroads in the USA.

The follow-up album, Miracle, didn’t appear until August 1987, on the back of what had been another single that stalled outside the Top 40:-

mp3 : The Kane Gang – Motortown

The single did go Top 40 on the other side of the ocean and its follow-up, a cover of a single by Dennis Edwards (ex Temptations), took The Kane Gang to the top of the R&B charts:-

mp3 : The Kane Gang – Don’t Look Any Further

Things somewhat stalled after that and the trio called it a day at the beginning of the 90s. Martin Brammer has now forged a career as a songwriter for hire, being responsible for chart hits by the likes of Lighthouse Family, Mark Owen, Rachel Stevens, Tina Turner, James Morrison, Beverley Knight, Ronan Keating and Olly Murs, all of which means he could have a Golden Hour on Smooth Radio devoted entirely to his work. Not that I’d be tuning in…….

JC

STUFF BOUGHT IN 2019 (5)

It was back in July 2017 that I gave the most fleeting of mentions to Sacred Paws, congratulating the duo on their debut recording, Strike A Match, winning the Scottish Album of the Year award. I’m annoyed with myself that I failed to follow up with a feature on what is a really enjoyable and unusual listen, certainly in comparison to the sounds most closely associated with Glasgow. Hopefully this appreciation of the sophomore offering goes some way to rectifying things.

Sacred Paws is made up of Rachel Aggs (vocals, guitar) and Eilidh Rodgers (vocals, drums) who have known each other for years through various bands they have been part of.  It was back in 2015 that they decided to work together, although things were complicated a bit by the fact that Rachel was living in London and Eilidh was in Glasgow. The development of technology and home recording has perhaps made such geographical issues less than a problem than they were a few decades ago but it still meant that things weren’t rushed.

The duo were signed to Rock Action, the label owned by Mogwai, and the first fruits of their labour was the Six Songs EP , released to a fair bit of buzz round these parts thanks to an energetic blend of spiky guitars, funky drumming/percussion lines and vocals that were chanted as often as they were sung which really made for a breath of fresh air. Throw in the fact that the girls were clearly enjoying themselves on stage and you had a decent recipe for success.

The debut album took over where the EP had ended, delivered with just a bit more polish and confidence. It gave a few nods to the 80s female-led bands such as The Slits and The Raincoats while the increased use of upbeat African-style drumming provided a real energy that bordered on the infectious. It made for a hugely entertaining listen and was a deserving winner of SAY 2017, albeit the vast majority of people in the country had never heard of them nor, with next to radio play, had heard any of the songs.

Sacred Paws had a rather quiet 18 months on the back of winning the award, with just a handful of live appearances and no new material.  Rock Action didn’t try hard to cash in on the increased profile with an re-release of earlier material and instead encouraged the duo to go about things in the way they themselves most wanted. Rachel re-located to Glasgow which meant they could spend more time writing and arranging the new material but it did take until the end of May 2019 for the follow-up Run Around The Sun to hit the shops.

Having said that, it had been preceded by a couple of digital singles and a BBC Radio 6 session with Marc Riley, who in effect is becoming a part-replacement for John Peel in terms of providing a platform for bands to come into a studio to band out three or four songs in one go to be broadcast to the nation. I was delighted with the singles which indicated that the duo weren’t tampering with what had made them so interesting to begin with. The album proved to be a huge delight, again full of bright, sunny and infectiously happy songs that were very welcom in a year when so many events and happenings seemed to cast a long shadow.

mp3 : Scared Paws – The Conversation
mp3 : Sacred Paws – Brush Your Hair

It’s an album that I’ve found myself prone to putting on while I’m embarking on a road or rail journey, and outside the skies are dark and brooding while the rain batters off the windows – it is the perfect antidote to such situations and as I sit back and close my eyes, I’m transported thousands of miles south to where the sun is beating down and the mood and vibes are carefree. And when the last of its ten songs comes to an end after a little more than 32 minutes, I’ll hit the repeat button.

JC

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #241 : QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (2)

Queens of the Stone Age (w/ bonus Desert Sessions EP!)

A GUEST POSTING by HYBRID SOC PROF,
our Correspondent from the Wilds of mid-Michigan

There are folks who call Josh Homme “Ginger Elvis”… I didn’t know that when, about two years ago, I caught a re-run of Queens of the Stone Age’s 2013 performance at Austin City Limits and thought: “he’s simply got to be the sexiest man in rock ‘n’ roll!” Is it the more subtle version of Elvis’ hips? the underlying pain, restlessness and experience behind those blue eyes? the wry humor in the lines around his eyes or and deep joy in his smile? I have to believe there are folks who’ve written: “I’m not gay but…”

A lot like my relationship with Tool, I arrived late to the Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA) party. In my 20s during the nightmare hell of 80s poseur/party hair-metal bands, the only response I had for MTV metal was no, just no. Granted, I made up ways to define bands other people said were metal so that they weren’t metal… because I liked that one or this one, but we all make excuses, yes?

Again, like Tool, Homme’s first band, Kyuss, was categorized as “experimental metal” in something I read in the 90s and, as a result, I dismissed them out of hand. Similar things were said about QOTSA – and the name sounded stupid – so there was no way they were getting a serious listen. I even tried an EP they shared with another band, Beaver, and I liked Beaver’s songs better (especially “Morocco,” you should check it out.) Anyway, if I was looking for power chords and gloriously volume, the first Killing Joke album, Big Black’s single, “Il Duce,” or Screaming Trees’ cover of Buffalo’s throbbing 1972 non-hit “Freedom,” all sufficed. What’d I need experimental metal for?

And then, as so often happens when I’ve made reactive choices, the universe knocks you upside your head. A decade after dismissing QOTSA, I found out that Mark Lanegan – and who doesn’t love Mark Lanegan?! – had sung with them. I mean , c’mon, I’d dismissed these guys and Mark was just making me look bad… Of course, I’d heard that Dave Grohl played with them, too, but Foo Fighters at the time were on the ascendant and I found them monotonic and formulaic “alternative” power pop. But, Lanegan. Crap. So, before checking out the back catalog, I tried 2013’s … Like Clockwork. Listening to it as I drove the used Volvo wagon north on the highway to the university where I teach it was nothing special, why were the reviews so great? What had Lanegan seen?

I don’t know why, but a week later, I listened with earbuds in. It wasn’t the same record, there were layers upon layers and rhythms upon rhythms and that odd stuff Homme does with his voice made sense and, wow, what a record! I didn’t love every song but each and every one made sense as part of a totality. So, maybe it was time to track down the back catalog.

The last Kyuss release was called Queens of the Stone Age (1997) so I’ve included it. It’s an OK EP, I’ve included the best cut, “If Only Everything.” In looking back, what started to irritate me was that I wasn’t at all sure this was metal, why was this called metal? It seemed way more about guitars – it even reminded me a little of Swervedriver. Did that mean I didn’t know what metal was? Had it splintered and fractured in bizarre ways? Had the genre never made any sense to start with? Or do reviewers in the 21st C simply not know what to do with loud guitars that aren’t “alternative”? Sigh. In any event, the first, self-titled record – once again Queens of the Stone Age (1998) – had quite “interesting” cover art. That photo and the fact that it’s my favorite in the set meant that I had to select “Regular John” for the ICA.

Rated R (2000) is the record I am pretty sure I read the full review of when it came out and it’s a consistent group of songs but has no real standout – at least not for me. I considered “Monsters in the Parasol” but “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” fit better in the emerging flow of the ICA as I put it together. Lanegan sang some on Rated R but he’s much more evident, to me, on Songs for the Deaf (2002). I don’t know if it was his involvement, but this is, overall, a very strong, if wildly uneven, set of songs. (Apparently, the band was a little bit out of control at the time.) I had to fight myself to include only two songs on the ICA but settled on “No One Knows” and “God is in the Radio” as most representative. I love the angular/martial rhythm that explodes right off the mark on “No One Knows” and the throbbing menace of “God is in the Radio” feeds a side of me usually repressed since I no longer play right back.

Just avoid Stone Age Complication (2004), it’s a collection of B-sides and the like and simply doesn’t work. Apparently, it was released without the band’s input. Songs for the Deaf and the extensive touring they did in support of it had made the band an international name and Lullabies to Paralyze (2005) solidified that position. As I was moving through the catalog, however, it became pretty clear to me that Homme, and others in his band, were center pivots in a world of spin-offs and related bands in LA – connected to everyone from Jack Black to Billy Gibbons, Dave Ween to Trent Reznor. Was all THIS why they were considered metal? Lullabies is another record that gets two songs. “Medication” and “Little Sister” are really strong – were great on that Austin City Limits show – and serve to hold the ICA together across two major transitions.

I liked Era Vulgaris (2007) but don’t find myself listening to it much, which might mean I don’t really like it that much. I think I like bits and pieces as songs, but it doesn’t really work as an album. I really like “Misfit Love,” though. I almost chose “I Sat by the Ocean” or “If I Had a Tail” – from … Like Clockwork (2013) to get at the different kinds of emotions and playfulness the band can provide but “I Appear Missing” immediately struck me as the song to start the ICA off with and there wasn’t room for the others. If you were a hip-hop DJ, the break is from 0:37 to 1:04. This was the record they were touring for when they played Austin and, by accident, I had fallen into the best record to introduce me to the band. Not only was it a return after the death of a band member, turnover in other areas, serious illness and a variety of side-projects, it’s a much more diverse group of songs than on previous albums. It sounds like stock music writing but there’s a maturity to the songwriting, the emotions, and how listenable it is.

Villains (2017) is the latest release. To be honest, I bought it, gave it a listen and life with teenagers intervened, and continues to intervene. I need to get back to it but, in a cursory re-review “Un-Reborn Again” stood out and perfectly anchors “Side A” of the ICA.

Did I mention that Homme convinced Iggy Pop to record his last record, backed him on it and was his touring band in support of it… and, when I saw them in Detroit, they couldn’t have been tighter?

There’s a bonus EP in this ICA… the format evolves? Homme, from the get-go, appears to have been an intense collaborator. And, more than that, his collaborations often turned into workshops. When I was looking around to discover more about Homme – particularly after he recorded the third episode of Guitar Moves, Matt Sweeney’s interview series for Noisey (Vice) (on youtube) – I found two volume sets of recordings called the Desert Sessions. I treat Desert Sessions and the band in my files, Even though it’s not really a band, the sets are really compilations, either… The 12 volumes have people from Danzig, The Dwarves, The Eagles of Death Metal, Hole, Lords of Altamont Marilyn Manson, The Miracle Workers, Nine Inch Nails, PJ Harvey, Primus, Scissor Sisters, Screaming Trees, Soundgarden, The Vandals, Ween, ZZ Top and more participating, so there’s a lot going on. As workshopping, however, the songs are often more “interesting” than “good” – to my way of thinking. An EP’s-worth of sampling lies after the ICA.

As always,

HSP

SIDE A

Queens of the Stone Age – I Appear Missing – from … Like Clockwork (2013)
Queens of the Stone Age – The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret – from Rated R (2000)
Queens of the Stone Age – Medication – from Lullabies to Paralyze (2005)
Kyuss – If Only Everything – from Queens of the Stone Age (1997)
Queens of the Stone Age – Un-Reborn Again – from Villains (2017)

SIDE B

Queens of the Stone Age – Regular John – from Queens of the Stone Age (1998)
Queens of the Stone Age – Little Sister – from Lullabies to Paralyze (2005)
Queens of the Stone Age – No One Knows – from Songs for the Deaf (2002)
Queens of the Stone Age – Misfit Love – from Era Vulgaris (2007)
Queens of the Stone Age – God is in the Radio – from Songs for the Dead (2002)

Bonus EP

Desert Sessions – I Wanna Make It Wit Chu – Volumes 9 & 10 (2003)
Desert Sessions – Like a Drug – Volumes 5 & 6 (1999)
Desert Sessions – Cowards Way Out – Volumes 1 & 2 (1998)
Desert Sessions – The Gosso King of Crater Lake – Volumes 3 & 4 (1998)
Desert Sessions – Powdered Wig Machine – Volumes 9 & 10 (2003)

JC adds..…..

I’d actually forgotten how many great songs QoSTA had released over the year.  They are a particular favourite of Mrs Villain, so I know a fair bit of the material.  Also worth mentioning that the Ginger Elvis did some great work on production duties with Arctic Monkeys.

45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 8)

A GUEST SERIES

40. Hotel Yorba – The White Stripes (2001 XL Recordings)

Released as a single in November 2001 (Reached Number 26)

In December 2001 I was asked (Ok I offered) to DJ for an hour or so at the staff Christmas party.

I turned up, had my dinner, (weirdly this was at an Italian restaurant and Christmas Dinner featuring pasta and not roast potatoes), and then took to the DJ Booth (I say booth it was a table with a machine on it). Back then it was all about CDs still, and I used a double CD player to throw down a few tunes as the boss plied me with free alcohol. The CDs were supplied by the restaurant and consisted mainly of that years ‘NOW’ releases, although I had bought a few of my own.

As the alcohol flowed I got a bit more daring, and started to stray of away from the stack of NOW CDs and that is when I dropped ‘Hotel Yorba’ by The White Stripes to bunch of bemused middle aged drunk people. Straight After ‘9 to 5’ by Dolly Parton and just before ‘Kung Fu’ by Ash.

‘Hotel Yorba’ was the first White Stripes single to really impact on the British Music scene. It was the lead single from their album ‘White Blood Cells’. It was certainly the first single of theirs to trouble the UK charts. At the time the NME were really hyping the band and this helped to increase their exposure.

Most of you probably know that the Hotel Yorba actually exists, it can according to Wikipedia, be found on the I75 in Detroit and is now a housing project. According to Jack White, the Beatles once stayed at the Hotel Yorba, a story that is sadly untrue.

The band also filmed most of the video outside of the building because again according to rumour, the band were banned for life from the building…..despite which the single version of ‘Hotel Yorba’ claims to have been recorded live in Room 206 of the Hotel Yorba!

The B Side was a track called ‘Rated X’ which I can’t find my version of – what I do have though is an acoustic version of ‘Hotel Yorba’ in which Meg White apparently plays ‘Cardboard Box’ again its recorded live at ‘The Hotel Yorba’

Hotel Yorba (live at the Hotel Yorba)

A few months later The White Stripes went global and went on to be on the biggest and best bands of the first decade of the century. I picked Hotel Yorba because it came at a time when music was a little stagnant. They, The Strokes and a couple of others all spearheaded a new wave of bands that dragged British music into that new century.

SWC

JC adds (from wiki):-

“Rated “X”” is a 1972 single written and recorded by Loretta Lynn. “Rated ‘X'” was Lynn’s sixth number one country single as a solo artist. The single spent one week at number one and a total of fourteen weeks on the chart. The song dealt with the stigma faced by divorced women during the early 1970s, and was regarded as somewhat controversial at the time, due to its frank language.

In 2001, a live version was used as the B-side of the “Hotel Yorba” single by The White Stripes.

mp3 : The White Stripes – Rated X (live at the Hotel Yorba)

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (20)


Television in the 1970s was a completely different beast to what it is today, with just the three channels available in the UK to entertain the masses, none of which broadcast very early in the morning or very later at night. Saturday afternoons saw BBC1 and ITV offer up sports programmes, while BBC2 would carry an old movie, more often than not from the era when Hollywood churned out Westerns and John Wayne was a global star.

ITV’s offering was a show called World of Sport, hosted by Dickie Davies whose name would later feature in a song by Half Man Half Biscuit.

mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit – Dickie Davies Eyes

Worth mentioning, in passing, that Brian Moore, who was another stalwart of World of Sport as the main football presenter, gets namechecked in the lyric of the above song.

Anyways, I can hear you wondering what the hell all this has to do with Luke Haines, so let me explain….and I’ll get there in the end.

World of Sport followed a formula each week. It started at 12.15 and ended five hours later, opening with a segment on football and closing with the all the football results from across the country, along with some reports of the games where cameras had been present and would feature on highlights programmes the following day. Much of the afternoon was taken up by horse-racing, with seven races from two or more tracks shown back-to-back, always destined to finish by 3.45 when the half-time football scores were read out.

The key time for World of Sport was the 4-4.45pm slot, the period in which they wanted to retain their viewers who only tuned in for the football scores and news. They chose to do this by offering up 45 minutes of wrestling in which you tuned in to the antics of a group of middle-aged men where the theatrics and story-lines were more important than the sport itself. In many ways, it was like being allowed to watch a pantomime, once a week, from the confines of your living room, complete with a cast of regular good guys and villains, with the latter inevitably being on the receiving end for the most part, albeit sometimes they were allowed to win to enable a new storyline to emerge or develop.

Luke Haines spent much of his young childhood watching the wrestling, and to be fair he wasn’t alone. At its very peak, the wrestling attracted 12 million viewers, which was around 25% of the viewing public in the UK. I was something of a devotee, spending every other Saturday afternoon between the ages of 5 and 12, when I wasn’t at the football with my dad, in the company of my maternal grandparents, and my nan loved the wrestling like nothing else on the telly. The names and faces of the participants are still fresh in my memory and I can still hear the mid-Atlantic twang of the commentator, Kent Walton, who covered the sport for more than 30 years until a new controller of the channel decided it had run its course and pulled World of Sport from the schedules.

Luke Haines took his childhood memories and turned them into a concept album that he released in 2011. In a career packed with strange and bold statements, 9 ½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s & Early ’80s is among the most bizarre….(to this point in time at least – there’s a few things just around the corner as will be revealed)

I said earlier that this was a concept album, but that would tend to suggest it had some sort of story line with a beginning, a middle and an end. Instead, the album offers up songs/tunes/spoken word numbers, all of which are in some way related to the characters who appeared on the television screens on Saturday afternoons in the 70s and early 80s between 4pm and 4.45pm, but which have their own narrative rather than then being interlinked.

It’s an incredible piece of fictional work, albeit memories of Haines’s upbringing are woven into the imaginary and fantastical tales of real-life characters such as Rollerball Rocco, Gorgeous George, Catweazle, Mick McManus, Count Bartelli, Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki. There’s one thing I can tell you and that it’s not an album that would translate to a show in the west end of London or on Broadway.

The release of 9 ½ Meditations stirred up a huge amount of debate. Was Haines being particularly thrawn (a Scottish word for crooked or perverse)? Had he gone too far with his efforts to demonstrate that he was not your archetypal bloke with a record contract, far removed from those who every breath and bit of energy was devoted to commercial and mainstream success? Or was he genuinely, having just passed his 40th birthday, doing what so many do at that age and reflect back on more innocent and perhaps happy times? After all, jumping on the nostalgia train has made many a pretty penny for its passengers…..

The debate may have been wide-ranging but the conclusion of almost all reviewers was that the album was very much worth a listen, with most folk giving it a solid, 7 or 8 out of 10. Maybe the best summary of it all came from J.R. Moore writing for Drowned in Sound:-

The first thing that makes an impression is the humour. This is not a comedy album, however. It is a very personal project, inspired by a childhood enthusiasm for the sport and by watching wrestling with his father. The first lines “I was trying my best to understand / How a beautiful bouncing baby becomes an ‘orrible man / As a child I thought I’d grow up to become a dancer / But I became a fighter”, could apply as much to Haines as to any wrestler, and also evoke universal feelings of lost youth and innocence. As well as Haines’ own past, it is also about history in a larger sense; he is analysing a version of Britain that no longer exists.

J.R Moore? Surely it wasn’t his old mate from Black Box Recorder providing a leg-up?????

It’s an album that wasn’t really ever going to win him any new fans, but it was one that appealed greatly to those of us who had followed him with interest through the years or those re-attracted to him as a result of reading the hilarious and enlightening (and occasionally score-settling) Bad Vibes. It also felt as if Luke Haines, for the first time in a while, was seemingly enjoying being a recording artist again, that is if it can ever be said that Luke Haines is capable of enjoying anything via the creative process.

No singles were taken from the album. Here’s a track in which one of the wrestlers from the era grapples with a new piece of musical gadgetry:-

mp3 : Luke Haines – Big Daddy Got A Casio VL Tone

JC