Dec 25, 2010

The Christmas programme

The finest Christmas single ever recorded.

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Christmas comes but once a year, which is no bad thing since there is hardly a slew of great festive songs. I have trawled the vaults and extracted these for you yuletide enjoyment. Another chance to hear the Kinks' Father Christmas, for sure, but also a couple of Old Time greats Breaking up Christmas by the Camp Creek Boys and Christmas Time Will Soon be Over by Fiddlin' John Carson.
  1. Christmas, Krzysztof Komeda, Rosemary's Baby, 1968, Paramount
  2. Merry Christmas Baby, Chuck Berry, St. Louis to Liverpool, 1964, Chess
  3. Breaking up Christmas, Camp Creek Boys, Old Time String Band, 1967,
  4. Go Power At Christmas Time, James Brown, James Brown's Funky Christmas, 1995,
  5. Father Christmas Is Dressed In Green, Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire, Christmas 1979, 2007, Damaged Goods
  6. Jingle Bells, Tenchi Muyo, Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Oh-Ki No Christmas OST, 1993, AIC/Pioneer
  7. Mistress for Christmas, AC/DC, The Razor's Edge, 1990, Atco
  8. Santa Claus Is Ska-Ing To Town, The Granville Williams Orchestra, 7", GWO
  9. Christmas Time Will Soon Be Over, Fiddlin' John Carson & His Virginia Reelers, Fiddlin' John Carson 5 (1927-1929), 1998, Document
  10. O Tannenbaum, Vince Guaraldi, A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965, Fantasy
  11. Little St. Nick, The Beach Boys, The Beach Boys' Christmas Album , 1964, Capitol
  12. Christmas Bop, Marc Bolan and T. Rex, Messing with the Mystic (Unissued Songs 1972-1977), 1975, Fly
  13. Ding Dong Bell, The Ethiopians, 7", 1968, Crab
  14. Father Christmas, The Kinks, 7", 1977, Arista
  15. Hard Candy Christmas, Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton, Once Upon a Christmas, 1984, RCA/BMG
  16. Christmas Eve Is Coming, Anna, Norman Blake, Meeting On Southern Soil, 2002, Red House
  17. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, The Ronettes, A Christmas Gift For You From Philles Records, 1963, Philles

Dec 18, 2010

Goodbye to the Zig Zag Wanderer: a tribute to Captain Beefheart

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It is with great sadness that this week's programme is a tribute to Don van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart. Here is a selection of my favourite tunes from almost every album in chronological order. For a comprehensive obituary, try the Guardian.
  1. Diddy Wah Diddy, The Legendary A&M Sessions, 1966
  2. Zig Zag Wanderer, Safe As Milk, Buddah, 1967
  3. I'm Glad, Safe As Milk
  4. Safe As Milk, Strictly Personal, Blue Thumb, 1968
  5. Veteran's Day Poppy, Trout Mask Replica, Straight, 1969
  6. Willie The Pimp, Frank Zappa, Hot Rats, Reprise, 1969 (Don van Vliet, vocal)
  7. Doctor Dark, Lick My Decals Off Baby, Straight, 1970
  8. I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby, The Spotlight Kid, Reprise, 1972
  9. Low Yo Yo Stuff, Clear Spot, Reprise, 1973
  10. Observatory Crest, Blue Jeans and Moonbeams, Virgin, 1974
  11. Debra Kadabra, Zappa/Beefheart, Bongo Fury, Discreet, 1975
  12. Cathy's Clone, The Tubes, Now, A&M, 1977 (Don van Vliet, saxophone)
  13. Hard Working Man, Jack Nitzche, Blue Collar OST, Mudcrow, 1978 (Don van Vliet, vocal)
  14. Harry Irene, Shiny Beast, Warner, 1978
  15. Hot Head, Doc at the Radar Station, Virgin, 1980
  16. The Past Sure Is Tense, Ice Cream for Crow, Virgin, 1982

Dec 13, 2010

Paint the fence, strum the guitar

Fugiya and Miyagi, at Otto Santral (11.12.10)

If you want to lose friends gradually, be in a band with them. If you want a quicker and precise exit strategy, write about their music. So here goes...

Fugiya and Miyagi are a Brighton-based latter-day Neu and Can distillation, which they have redacted into kraut-lite. Malcolm Mooney's breathy vocals the Deutsche dub found on Saw Delight and a motorik beat. The rest of the songs fall into the modern indie template, albeit a fresher and more intelligent take. (Clippy disco hi-hats, funkish guitar chops, A Certain Ratio bass.)

The set was well paced but missing the usual dynamics of a live performance because there was no guitar amp on stage, meaning there was none of the frequency and warmth of an over-driven
amplifier. There is no such texture from a monitor, certainly not for the front rows of the audience at any rate, as the PA sends the front of house mix over their heads. Also, the maximal drumming pushed the on-stage volume instantly to the top leaving no headroom.

I've seen the band four times and they are not bad. They've broke free of the Brighton band curse: Too many hometown gigs, a record that doesn't capture your energy and then sink without a trace. (I've been there and done that.)

The refernces and influences are all in place, but they need to define their own space. The guitarist's choice of instrument says it all: a J. Mascis special edition purple Fender Jazzmaster. A vintage Jazzmaster is indie-rock standard equipment, but a custom shop repro says as much about a musician as a Harley Davidson says about a bank manager.

Dec 12, 2010

Music from the body

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After a trip with Mrs Johns to the Body World's exhibition in Istanbul (see, stuff does make it here eventually, even if most of the time it's Jethro Tull), this week's programme is a journey through the body in music. Like Dennis Quaid in Inner Space, we travel from Davey Graham's Fingerbuster, through Amen Corner's heart and to the sugary lips of Echo and the Bunnymen. I couldn't find a song with anus in the title, which would have been a good exit tune.
  1. What's the ugliest part of your body?, The Mothers Of Invention, We're only in it for the money, 1968, Verve
  2. Fingerbuster, Davy Graham, The Guitar Player, 1963, Golden Guinea
  3. Don't talk (put you head on my shoulder), The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds, 1966, Capitol
  4. Expressway To Your Heart, Amen Corner, Round Amen Corner, 1968, Deram
  5. Chest Fever, The Band, Music From Big Pink, 1968, Capitol
  6. Stretch Your Skin, Los Rocket's, The Rockets, 1968, Rev-Ola
  7. Little Hands, Skip Spence, Oar, 1969, Columbia
  8. Waving My Arms in the Air, Syd Barrett, Barrett, 1970, Harvest
  9. Turn Back The Hands Of Time, Tyrone Davis, 7", 1970, Dakar
  10. Big Eyed Beans From Venus, Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, Clear Spot, 1972, Reprise
  11. Spanish Knee, Hugh Hopper, Hopper Tunity Box, 1977, Compendium
  12. Cor Baby That's Really Free, John Otway, John Otway and Wild Willie Barrett, 1977, Polydor
  13. Your Dragging Feet, Polyrock, Polyrock, 1980, RCA
  14. Lips Like Sugar, Echo & The Bunnymen, Echo & The Bunnymen, 1987, WEA
  15. Braindead, The Scientists, The Human Jukebox, 1987, Munster
  16. New Slang, The Shins, Oh, Inverted World, 2001, Sub Pop

Dec 8, 2010

Right here, right Neu!

Hallogallo 2010 at the Bronx Pi, Beyoğlu, Ist (07.12.10), 35TL

German kosmische group Neu! may have had only one idea, but it was certainly a very good one: strip down two decades of rock and roll into its indivisible parts – a pounding rhythm, provided by drummer Klaus Dinger; a pulsing guitar riff and the hint of a melody from guitarist Michel Rother, with singing reduced to its primal base.

The next step was to spread that idea over three albums – Neu! 1, Neu! 2 and Neu! 75 – with varying degrees of success, and in some cases, at varying speeds. Willing to risk a few hundred Deutschmarks, Hamburg label Brain released the three records between 1972 and 1975, picked up United Artists at a later date. Now they are cult classics that have spawned two generations of bands.

Neu! is back and is called Hallogallo 2010, a name taken from the first song on Neu! 1. Dinger died in 2004 and so is replaced on the drums by Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley. Shelley is a reliable player who gives the music space with his characteristically unfussy playing. One bass drum-kick too much space. perhaps. The set opener, "Fur Immer," features Dinger's signature motorik (motor skill) beat – a relentless and punishing allegro four-to-the-floor. But Shelley's take missed the fourth kick beat in the bar, leaving a hole, and so undoing the pattern's bludgeoning totalism.

The sound was fizzy and clear from the two-year-old PA and the lights were unobtrusively automated. Rother was stage left behind a table of equipment, while virtually inaudible bassist Aaron Mullan (Tall Firs and Sonic Youth's sound engineer) stood opposite, with Shelley in between behind a Plexiglas screen, like you would see at a stadium concert.

The gig went by at a fair clip, and the hits were given their proper treatment. Even Rother's phased guitar noodling was just about the right side of bearable, if not incessant. The very young crowd made a good attempt at dancing and were engaged with the set's ebb and flow, despite no acknowledgment from the stage. except an occasional beatific smile. Everything was just so, and on paper, this should be have a great gig. But as it was, it was just OK. Having listened for so many years to so many reinterpretations of the Neu! sound – and played in a few – it lacked a bit of punch.

But it was the crowd that weren't working. I felt enormously proprietorial, having bought Neu! 1 on actual vinyl more than 20 years ago from a real record shop. It was too personal to share with young people who had plenty of energy to dance and cheer late on a Monday night. I'm just too old for this classic rock.

Dec 5, 2010

The Soul of the Soviet

Thanks to Mr Ben for turning me on to this video of some very groovy Soviets wearing some very dapper threads. The tune is nearly a medley of "Papa was a Rolling Stone" by the Temptations and "Money Runner" by Quincy Jones with some traditional Caucasian folk thrown in. I particularly dig the angled up Vox organ a la Sun Ra. The band's name and the song's title are a mystery, although the clip was tagged with Chervona Ruta and Marichka. Na zdorovje!

Dec 4, 2010

Back to the Country: Corrections

My dear friend and listener Simon from Brighton has flagged up a few inaccuracies in this programme first broadcast on November 9.

Firstly, the Kentucky Colonels' Appalachian Swing was originally (and famously) released by World Pacific. (Established by Richard Bock and Roy Harte in Los Angeles, 1952 and sold to Liberty in 1965. FYI)

To add insult to injury, Clarence White of the Kentucky Colonels doesn't play the b-bender guitar on the Byrds' Yesterday's Train (I should have picked Truck Stop Girl, on which he sings). It is of course Sneaky Pete Kleinow's pedal steal. Although, I'll wager he plays the acoustic guitar on the recording.

And finally, the Louvin Brothers is pronounced Loo-van to rhyme with toilet, rather than Low-vin, to rhyme with how, as in, "How on earth should I know how Louvin Brothers is pronounced?"

I stand corrected.


My bike, until Steve Winterton took it.

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Now that I think of it, this is a somewhat obvious theme. Not only is motorcycling a passion of mine, but the association with bikes and music is as old as rock and roll itself. I've tried to steer away from too many obvious songs (note absence of Wanted: Dead or Alive and Bat Out of Hell), but the Shangri-Las is a must. Also of interest is reggae's fascination with the iron horse, although I couldn't find a dub paean the the Suzuki. Let's kick-start the programme with the Beach Boys....
  1. Little Honda, The Beach Boys, All Summer Long, 1964, Capitol
  2. Leader Of The Pack, The Shangri-Las, 7", 1964, Red Bird
  3. Motorcycle Irene, Moby Grape, Wow, 1968, Columbia
  4. Devil's Motorcycle, The Chocolate Watchband, One Step Beyond, 1969, Tower
  5. High Heeled Wheels, Neon Boys, The Neon Boys/Richard Hell and the Voidoids, 1973, Shake
  6. Yamaha Skank, Shorty the President, 7", 1973, Soul City
  7. Motorbikin', Chris Spedding, Chris Spedding, 1975, RAK
  8. CB 200, Dillinger, CB 200, 1976, Island
  9. Ghost Rider, Suicide, Suicide, 1977, Red Star
  10. Motorcycle Mama, Neil Young, Comes a Time, 1978, Reprise
  11. Motorbike Beat, The Revillos, 7", 1980, Snatzo
  12. Drive Blind, Ride, 12", 1990, Creation
  13. Speeding motorcycle, The Pastels, 7", 1991, Paperhouse
  14. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, Richard Thompson, Rumor And Sigh, 1991, Capitol
  15. Superbike, Fat Truckers, Coletten No.3, 2003, Roadtrain
  16. The Motorcycle Song, Richard Hawley, Lowedges, 2003, Setanta

Dec 3, 2010

Normal service has been resumed

After being away for couple of weeks, the last few programmes are now up and running. Also, as pointed out by C, the Under the Covers edition cut off after the Spacemen 3 tune. Hopefully, that has now been fixed.

However, there may be some disruption in the coming weeks as the Acik Radyo studio has been forced to move in order to make way for a hotel (as if this city needs another one). And while we're talking of the best open access radio station in Turkey, the new book celebrating the 15-year history of the station and the people behind it is out now.

Inexplicably, I can't seem to post comments in response to yours. Perhaps someone can tell me why, but in the meantime, thanks for you remarks and keep them coming. Feedback is always appreciated, not least to reassure me that someone/anyone is actually listening.