Monday, 23 August 2010

The Charlatans at V Festival 2010

The Charlatans are a band I have had quite an interesting relationship with over the years, and are now filed under the status of one of my top 10 favourite bands, but that is a status they have not held for too many years. My first awareness of the Charlatans was at school and the purchase of the 7 inch single of 'the only one I know' . This now holds a special place in my affection being the first genuinely indie song that I had ever bought. The song was so different due to the driving organ sound throughout, it instantly grabbed my attention, and is probably the reason why I have held The Charlatans in such high regard ever since as there are close links with the organs coming from The Stax stable of records.

The 7 inch did not instantly embed itself as a classic, I always loved it, but I loved every 7 inch (in fact every bit of vinyl purchased) with a passion. It got played a lot, made the trip to uni with me, got copied onto lots of mix tapes but was just in amongst the crowd. In fact in do have a bit of a blind spot between there's no other way by blur and this single and have to concentrate not to mix them up.

Then the Charlatans were lost to me for a number of years until the collection Melting Pot and the eruption of Britpop which they jumped on the tails of. Melting Pot was a cracking collection, introducing wierdo and can't get out of bed plus the Britpop staples of How high and North Country Boy set The Charlatans up there as one of my faves of the era, but no better than the Mansuns and Casts of this world.

So they then got themselves elevated by the simple fact that they have stayed around, created quality albums and reinvented themselves. I think the transition to legendary status came when they released the Wonderland album. This was a revelation as Tim Burgess sang the album in falsetto, and the tunes really stood up to the treatment.

On release, as I was heavily into the NME on a weekly basis they gave it favourable comments, normally the ex Britpop releases were passed over with a brief 7/10 if lucky and I seem to remember it getting compared to Curtis Mayfield -high praise indeed. But this was a style kept for one album, before evolving again and again on subsequent albums. They have not stopped still, a fact that shone through in their set at V this year, songs from a load of different albums all greeted with great affection, See Blackened Blue Eyes for an example of the quality recent output.

In fact the Charlatans were in the forefront of giving away their album free to the public but by the cooler medium of Xfm radio station rather than the daily mail, they did however get overshadowed by the whole Radiohead, In Rainbows phenomena (pay what you want for the biggest release of the year)

The final reason for their elevation to (borrowing a phrase from the NME) Godlike genius was I found out that the bulk of the band are Brummies, and Tim Burgess now living in LA means Manchester can't claim this chameleon of bands really any more, so they are a home town band!

So why was V 2010 special, yes the set was good, and the perfect way to finish the Festival in the Union tent (despite the band huddle after three songs for a quick blocking from Tim I imagine)' but that was not the reason, the reason was my meeting the band, in the signing tent, getting signed cd and poster, shaking hands with the band, getting my photo taken, and the official picture of me and Tim Burgess being shown on the NME website, a thrill in itself given my history with that publication.

Even the queuing was an experience, as having come from seeing Lissie (quality tunes and pipes and was on the front row) I went to queue for the signing tent, but I was a little early and the queue had some Lissie fans in front, I thought i might meet Lissie for a minute, but the 2 die hard Charlatan fans in front of me, who had been queuing for hours already made it clear that anyone over the age of 19 was not allowed to see Lissie, so I stayed put and was very pleased to have done so. As I stood watching Paul Wellers set from the side of the main stage waiting for the Charlatans I got more and more excited until then it was time, I made the day of the chap in front of me, being his official photographer, I think he was more excited as the photos he took for me were a tad blurry, but igit to meet all the band and was suitably star struck just being able to shake hands and say thanks to everyone in the band. At least I recovered enough by the time I met Tim Burgess (last on the line) to say how much I love the band and to get him to shake my hand for the official picture with the nme.

Superb, superb, superb physical product (signed up at the lake cd) which is now framed on my wall. Happy days.

(and I did feel sorry for Lissie, due to the popularity of the Charlatans, only 8 people met her in her signing, but I'm sure they all had a good long chat!)

Thursday, 19 August 2010

James Brown's I Feel Good - for the sick

James Brown was an iconic larger than life individual, the Godfather of Soul, which meant that it was only him, Elvis and Michael Jackson who had their own iconic names in my life. Unless you counted Sir William of Idol which Billy had been christened by Smash Hits magazine. My first experiences of James Brown came from the Blues Brothers - a superb cult movie with a soundtrack that provided me with a love of stax soul music that endures to this day and probably more importantly from the cd that I had bought for me, James Brown's the best of. This was an important cd as, arriving in 1987 it was one of the very first I got to play on my lovely new cd player, (funded ironically by my Dad despite my telling him for at least 12 months that cd's were inferior to vinyl and I would never be getting a cd player, I have no idea why Dad succumbed to my wining to get one subsequently, I would have made have given him a load of grief. I think it arrived for doing my GCSE's but I'm not too sure).

It was interesting how I came to get James Brown's greatest hits, because I didn't have to buy it myself, Mom bought it under my direction, because......... I was poorly, and as it came out in 1987 I guess I was 15 at the time and stuck at home with a temperature feeling sick. This was a very rare occasion, I don't remember many instances of being at home being poorly, missing an early Rich Bennett birthday party, getting a day off school by spinning round and round in the hall until I felt sick, amazingly, one time when I received Muffit the Daggit from Battlestar Galactica and this instance. I probably was ill quite a lot as every child was on reflection, but those were memorable, as was the day I got The Best of James Brown. Actually it was quite amazing to be bought a cd, because they cost a fortune in 1987, at £13 which seemed to be the going rate they cost the same as a couple of lp's but a quarter of my season ticket down the blues and a lot more than toys, and Mom and Dad were sensible in lavishing gifts on us as money was quite scarce.

The disk was well spun, partly because it was one of the few I had but also because James Brown's tunes were very accessible to the young Neil whose music taste was quite limited - I feel good and sex machine were crackers to bounce around to as was Living in America - which was already a firm favourite as it featured on the Rocky 4 soundtrack. Now this was an iconic movie, and one I had bought the soundtrack of on lp. I went to see this at the odeon cinema in Sutton, without parents, which was great, and the cinema seemed to be filled with people from school. It was the scene of one of my coolest moments when I was sat some way back and launched (what was either a minstrel or a little round mint, the sort that you get from a curry house) a sweet forward in the daylight and it bounced with a satisfying 'thunk' off the head of one of the square boys from my class. It was a great bounce, no doubt embellished in my memory, but it bounced up in the air in my memory and the whole school saw and admired it, with me taking a bow. But in actual fact I was probably limited to accidentally hitting the lad, feeling embarrassed and sinking into my seat looking behind me to deflect the blame to the naughty kids at the back, but I like my memorys version better, as I was cool for a second.

With such a love of the record, it seems strange that when I went to V99 with Mrs P some years later, and the legendary James Brown was headlining the second stage I didn't push myself to the front. But I was caught in the grip of Britpop and the manics were on the main stage so I tried to do both, which meant loitering at the back of James Browns audience, which was massive unsurprisingly, waiting to hear a loved tune before heading to hear the manics singing a design for life. But this plan did not work, I didn't know that James Brown's show consisted of lots of acting and introductions before he took to the stage, so much that we got bored of the intros, and left, to see the Manics, who I can't remember anything about at all, and JB is now dead so I won't get to see him, Pish. I am sure he was ace eventually, the NME said so in ironic terms.

Amazing what memories the cd brings back. This was also in hind sight the first cd that I took full advantage of the skip function and program function to create ...... A playlist....... as songs, get up, papas got a brand new bag, gonna have a funky good time, gravity, America and i got you I feel good definitely got loads more spins that the others, but actually looking at the reverse of the CD, all of the tracks resonate really well, I may listen again in the way to the office now......

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

My Life Story meets Ronnie Scotts

The Golden Mile is a great cd, the second album by My Life Story a band riding on the cusp of britpop and not really crossing over to any great extent. I read about them, as I did with many bands in NME and remember seeing them live in the white room, a cracking music show fronted by Mark Radcliffe. The next day they were coming to Brum to promote the single on a mini tour and doing things differently by playing the far more prestigious Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club rather than the flapper and firkin. The venue was more appropriate for My Life Story as they had an air of the theatrical about them, strings the normal and single to be promoted (twelve reasons) a really theatrical production.

I loved it when bands I liked appeared at Ronnies but previously this had been limited to 80's revival gigs (when 80's revival gigs were not trendy at all and hence played these little venues, witness Howard Jones and Toyah both of whom had a profound impact on my love of music). I loved it particularly because at my work it was a very closely guarded secret that we had corporate membership to Ronnies, so closely guarded it seemed just to be me who knew. The membership entitled people to phone up and get 8 free tickets and the days before email this was not publicized around the office. I must have had the secret passed onto me on a drunken night, in some initiation, but rather than take clients and entertain them (presumably the reason for the membership) I would entertain family and friends as i did not have too much spare cash then (the wage of £9k didn't stretch to too many gigs). In fact the membership was so secret that when I passed on the fact to another person and they tried to book, they were asked whether they had had the booking approved, 'no who should they get it approved by' was the response, and the answer was me. I was seen as the key person behind my company when in actual fact I was the lowest of the low, oh the power!

Ronnies was a Great venue, dark with cabaret tables or benches serving food whilst the gig was on, really civilized. I am not too sure what it looks like now as when Ronnie Scotts ran into financial difficulties, it became The Rocket Club, a lap dancing club that must be doing ok as it is still there today, I wonder if they still serve meals in baskets in between dances?

The gig itself was great as I met the enigmatic Jake Shillingford, the first time I had met anyone who I considered cool. I have met many since and struggle to get more words out than just 'hello, I think you are great and I love your music'. Today was the same but I got my first autograph, on the picture from the NME so I must have been prepared and planning to meet them, 'best wishes Jake.' I also had the excitement of standing at the urinal next to one of the support act which again was quite exciting, he had nice shoes I recall, zebra skin effect. But both of these meetings (in the loosest sense of the word) led me to realise that these glamourous individuals on vinyl cd and tele were in fact very normal people whose clothes up front were a lot less glamourous than when seen from the audience or on tv. Probably due to sweating into a suit, something I know from hot days in the office is not very glam at all.

But I do remember loving them and the gig, the sound was so different to the bulk of britpop, and felt really theatrical, like Mark Almond crossed with Jarvis Cocker. I have to admit I loved the gig more than seeing Oasis at Knebworth which happened within 7 days. Obviously I never told anyone at the time, (uncool) but probably reflected in the fact that whilst I own all of oasis's albums, I own all of My Life Storys albums, plus all of the various singles, in multiple formats, (they really did stretch out the bsides with different interpretations of the same song) and recently bought Jakes next bands debut album Exileinside (a good ebay purchase for £1)

The physical product of the album did create a conundrum that I have faced a number of times with 2sides of my personailty vying for supremacy. The album came as a limited edition little book version with a nice picture of the 11 members (yes count them 11) of the band in the centre, (not surprising the neve made it big with cash being split 11 ways). So

Question - do I buy the limited edition (a Great edition to my music collection) but one that was outsized and did not fit on my cd shelves, forever to sit in a little pile with the Pixies greatest hits and Spiritualised ladies and gentlemen in the stupid pill box

or do I get the regular shaped boring disc that will fit pleasingly to the eye on the cd racks, and meet my slight case of OCD.

Well it tends to be limited editions every time, and a special shelf has been built for the outsized Duran Duran albums complete with separate DVD and book et al, although are the extras bits ever listened to, watched or read?.........

Friday, 6 August 2010

On this week 1 - Roundhay Park free Britpop Festival

In 1995 I was gripped in the fever of Britpop, in love with Suede but desperate to get hold of anything that I was told by Q, NME, Melody Maker and Select was part of the Stuart Maconie named Britpop scene. Every week with my new found wage resulted in a trip to HMV in Sutton or a trail round the record shops in Brum, particularly Reddingtons Rare Records who provided all CDs at half price on a Saturday and had shelved packed with promos (an album always felt much more special if itched gold writing embossed saying it was not for resale) and imports from the states.

In 1995 an adventure was to follow though, a road trip to see the free Britpop festival in Leeds. I am not really sure how it arose but me and Mrs P had tickets along with my ex and her new fella from uni in Sheffield (nice chap with good long indie hair I seem to recall). Getting there is resigned to history but must have been a bit of a challenge arriving in my beige metro (I can't believe that I drove a beige metro for a good 3 years everything about that car was shit) but I remember walking into the park quite clearly very excited for what seemed miles and into a cracking natural amphitheatre. I believe that the festival had 2 stages but being a festival virgin I was only interested in the main stage because it featured no less than Salad (like a granite statue) Powder (sh sh sh shave me) Marion (heroine fuelled) Menswear (breathe deeper, day dreamer criminally underated and lost to the hype myth) sleeper (just my inbetweeeeener) culminating in the headliners Pulp. Seeing Jarvis up there in front of many thousand fans, with them in the palm of his hand was superb and probably fuelled my love of all things Britpop one hundredfold. I love to see a headliner with the audience in the palm of his hand, chatting nonchellantly through the set, it's a rare gift that very few manage.

It's funny what memories stay with you, do I remember the sun setting over the field, or perhaps the dancing with Mrs P to a bit of Razamatazz, no, what I do remember is eating noodles from the vans that stood around the side of the field.

Looking back this was an amazing free experience, and one that I rate Heinekan highly for as a result. Do I think that a free festival with back to back performances of my favourite bands who were the next big things is likely again? - well no, but luckily festivals were not on every weekend as they are now and somehow I managed to get a ticket. Superb, but in actual fact, probably well worthwhile for the bands as I feel I may well have repaid them for their performances as I own every album they have done and a great many cd singles (in multiple) formats.

Great tunes

Pulp's cruelly missed Razamatazz


Powders sing along Shave me

Dirty Dancing at the drive in

I didn't really know what to expect having signed up to watch Dirty Dancing at Weston Park in the drive in yesterday. Drive in movies were something American from the movies and the RAC who sponsored the event did not conjour up the same images that grease used to when I was a kid. But having convinced Mrs P that this was a good use of Friday night and got Mom in to baby sit we hared over to Weston Park. The setting was lovely, we drove into the grounds an hour before the show and there were deer roaming around, many doing a great impression of bambi. When we arrived we found loads of enthusiastic staff showing us the ropes, giving out free gifts and handing over headsets which we could use or tune the radio in. First mistake of the night had been having some tea because the RAC provided us with vouchers for a free tea from Gourmet Burger. Cracking Chips and a nice burger with a massive lettuce leaf which would have been nicer if not resting on a BLT sarnie. Then the pre match entertainment, a quiz, with the MC resplendent with roving mike running around asking questions of the audience shouting with arms aloft in return for skaletrics sets themed on Top Gear. The questions ticked through and Mrs P had all the Dirty Dancing answers down but we did not get near a win until the penultimate question. What is the closing song from the Italian Job (subject of tomorrows film) - easy as number 1 son is obsessed by the mini car movie, up shot my hand as quick as a flash and the MC was staring straight at me, as he came towards me I had a moment of geek nervousness - was it a trick, could it be 'on days like these' I remember that song and was that the closing titles, I began to panic but luckily the MC went to the lad in the mini before he got to me, he would surely know the answer but mumbled something with society, the MC gave him a second, said no, and headed on, up shot my hand, he came to me, and into the Mic I said , 'I think it's the self preservation society' correct! And the exchange for a fantastic Childs toy (massive box worth £100 per Amazon) happened, I did feel like a champion having won my boy his Christmas pressie.

The sun came down and the movie commenced, lots of honking of horns and then we settled down to what I hate to admit being a bloke but a classic film. I have probably seen it a couple of times with Mrs P but in that arena watching the big screen in the open air, soundtrack blasting from the speakers was cracking, even better with the window open and a bit of fresh air. Within 5 minutes I had been reminded why I bought the soundtrack too as we had had ' do you love me' followed by another cracker. But I must admit my favourite bit was the classic 80's montage moment when backed by wipeout - a cracker of a tune, the heroine of the feature learned how to wiggle her steps across a little white bridge getting better and better.

Free popcorn was provided and the show finished to rapturous applause from the crowd. An incredibly orderly exit sorted by the happy RAC marshals and their young children in orange coats followed and me and Mrs P left having had a fantastic evening. It felt like we had discovered a little gem that no one else knew about, an amazing evening for £15.

It was interesting that this movie compared to the others I loved in the 80's (Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller, Lost Boys) hasn't dated, probably because it is set in the 60's and is still set in the 60's.


Listening to this brings that memory flooding straight back Do You Love Me ........ and a cracking soundtrack album no home should be without.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Salt -n- Pepa and lashings of hard work

In the Virgin trains magazine today was a lot of retro reminiscing about the 80's which is flavour of the month at the moment due to the joyous A team remake (a highlight of my year used to be returning from a 4 week summer holiday to watch 4 episodes of the A team taped on Dad's £700 video recorder. It seems amazing how important this was and how much anticipation me and my sister had for this event. It was summed up in the year when the timer recording did not work properly and how gutted we felt) and other sundry things. Interestingly it wasn't the Ateam or Karate kid movies or even the Live action Danger Mouse theatrical performance (is there any brand out there that will die?) that caught my eye, but the news that Salt n Pepa were reforming to perform at a London Festival.

Now I have fond memories of Salt n Pepa and am instantly transported to the purchase of the greatest hits as a youngster, a bargain cd purchase, played on a CD Walkman whilst undertaking manual labour for my Gran and Grandad. I didn't do a lot of the manual labour but one summers day I had the joys of earning some spends whilst back from Uni by clearing a road that had overgrown the access to a gateway that was to be used again. The over grown gate was covered in nettles and brambles and it was very hot, I ended up hot sweaty scratched and stung. With the greatest hits blasting away (and the threat of batteries running out at any moment) I seemed to labour for hours to the tunes of Push it, shake your thang, let's talk about sex and all (funnily enough I would never have told my Gran I was listening to a song with the word sex in the title).

A great sense of achievement was gained from this labour and in hindsight it was something I should have done loads more of in my youth to spend more time with Gran and Grandad but my visits were limited to this........ and adventures on 'the ride on mower' - a fantastic hulk of a machine, petrol driven and probably about as fast as my first car. I remember making up quite complex games speeding round and round in circles based on Formula 1 to keep myself interested, and particularly listening to the inevitable first relegation of Birmingham City to the old 3rd division on the day of the Bradford City fire tragedy.

But I do have a soft spot for Salt n Pepa, their poppy brand of rap really hit the spot and Push it was an inspired song that filled many a Rugby Club disco. I am sure they felt pretty radical at the time but having read their wiki page it makes me smile to think these radicals were called Cheryl and Sandra which I will happy refer to them in the future.

Monday, 2 August 2010

The Communards - Celebrity lookalike !

The Communards are what one might call a guilty pleasure, had I not over the last few years come to recognise that I have a particularly eclectic set of musical tastes and that should I need to run through the list of records that I had purchased, then something such as the Communards would be seen as particularly cool when sat next to my Sam Fox LP, remix LP 12' singles and picture discs.

The Communards, and this particular tune, struck a chord with me back at school, when I distinctly remember myself and a friend, interestingly the only other person from my school who supported the same football team as me - Birmingham City - singing this tune at ridiculously high pitched range whilst twirling round with arms outstretched faces looking heavenward and eyes closed. Well my eyes were closed, not sure whether Alison's were (his name wasn't Alison but he had bought his sisters lunch box to school earlier and the nickname had stuck much to his disgust).

This form of dancing has surfaced many time subsequently, however only when under the influence, and often to far cooler tunes - The Stone Roses at Indie Discos (Ramshackle in town a good example) had the same effect a few times. It is quite an art to master when spinning round with a beer in hand, eyes closed without the expected bumping spilling outcome, which inevitably did arise, with a comment along the lines of 'watch out baldy' I would imagine.

The phrase 'watch out Baldy' brings out another link I have had later in life with the Communards, or Jimmy Somerville in particular. Now I am not sure that there is anything more than being folically challenged in this but. When at work the celebrity look alikes were dished out, Jimmy Somerville was mine, as was Phil Mitchell, and Grant, and Phil Collins and sundry other 'celebrities' who had no hair. But Jimmy Somerville stuck for a little while and this song cropped up being sung again, but without the swirling dance moves in the office. Although Karaoke was always a favourite..... and now you come to mention it.......

On the 12', purchased from a very reputable car boot sale, is another cracking extra long remix of

followed by b-sides resplendent in piano

and the live recording from the BBC of Czardas a traditional hungarian folk dance, which if you listen to it, you will recognise it and consider, briefly, crouching down and flinging legs out, before realising this is not the way forward.

Overall great value for money for the 50p outlay (I didn't even haggle)

The final thing to say about the tune is that it is one that does surface every now and then when I am thinking about Mrs P, I may have lost my hair, but there is a romantic soul deep down...