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b-logg vb. written by people with too much time on their hands, read by people with   too much time on their hands.


A Presonal Trawl Through The Music Year

This Page: 2015 | 2016 | 2017

›› Previous Years: 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014

›› Previous Years: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009

Blogggggg 2017

Where Is This Vinyl Revival?

Right at the end of 2016, the Guardian news paper ran an article – the death of downloading – yes those same no nothing bloggers/writers that predicted the death of vinyl & CD’s are now predicting the death of the download. The legal paid for one that is. Reading the article I could see some reason behind it. Streaming had overtaken the legal download, and physical sales of music had actually grown. In the 1980’s when home taping was killing music, a survey reviled that people that did the most home taping also bought the most vinyl music. Could this be the same principle that now people will ‘try out’ music by streaming, then buy a physical copy? There might be hope for recorded music industry yet.

However, a couple of weeks into the new year The XX went straight to number one in the charts with their latest album – I See You. The Sun paper reported that it had sold a ‘massive’ 25,000 copies to achieve this feat! How many of those were vinyl? If the percentages that are reported are correct less than 1000. I find it alarming that bands and artists even bother to make new recorded music with those margins. There is an independent record label called Full Time Hobby (Home of White Denim, Smoke Fairies) I like to think it was named with a slightly tong in cheek dig at the major labels of the time when it was set up in 2004. However if you want to make music these days it seems that is the only way it is going to happen is to make it your hobby. Now if only the English Premier soccer league could use that model…

At the end of November the same writers were claiming a 'massive' sales serge was imminent for December and the run up to Christmas with a massive one million units predicted to be sold. Well that will sort the industry out then!

While reading David Hepworth’s latest book (see below) many thoughts occurred to me regarding the music industry, I basically agree with his conclusions that their no longer seems to be any individuals capable of being able to shock/grab headlines coming though the ranks in any significant number. The odd hip-hop star and Ed Sheeran, maybe. This coincides with the advent of the internet to mass consumption in 1995. Nothing earth shattering in that, we know people under the age of 35 believe music is free. But it had the side effect of killing off the Rock Star. OK so there is the odd band and artist that who have made a big impact using the internet. Arctic Monkeys are one, but there are so many people doing it that they are spread very thin and trying to stand out is almost imposable. Without the hype of a record company and an income stream from a back catalogue, were are the all those annoyingly overpaid bad behaved Bono’s? Where are the next generation of truly great ‘Glastonbury’ headliners?

Ed Sheeran.. yes he was everywhere, occupied most of the top 20 singles for a couple of weeks in March this year, played the pyramid stage at Glastonbury and generally pissed off everybody that actually cares about music in 2017. Personally he dose not piss me off as much as some artists have over the last couple of decades but he’s getting there. It just seems a shame to think that someone bordering on blandness seems to be making a reasonable living out of music in 2017 instead of the real pioneers in the industry. Perhaps it’s more of a reflection on his audience rather than his talent. For an indication of who I would say have talent and deserve Sheeran like success see my albums of the year below.

As I type this out, 6 Music have just played out a compilation of The Sound of 2018 finalists. Were they all selected because they all used the same backing track pumped out from Garage Band? Has originality really been replaced by blandness? No, it’s just me getting old and nostalgic.

The NME continues it’s downward trajectory. I pick up the print edition now and then when I see it. Sadly it’s no more than a pamphlet now with 50% adverts. How long before it’s just a leaflet? The website is almost unusable on a tablet with ads popping up randomly when you try to read anything. What did surprise me was their recordings of the years seemed to bear no relation to the artists featured in the magazine…

Fake News

In April Ms May did a U Turn and decided to have an election. Anyone that actually had been following the news instead of just reading the headlines for the previous nine months would have reached the conclusion that an election before the final Brexit would be inevitable. It was a no brainer, with such a slim majority and so much resistance to Brexit she had to try….. and yes the pollsters were wrong again. How many people laughed at the result? And every one claimed victory. I’m not nailing my colours to any political party. Since I left school in 1970 and started taking notice of politics, I have seen and herd all the bullshit form every side of the political spectrum. They still all lie – sorry, avoid a straight answer. I have voted for most the parties available in my constituency and even spoiled my vote in a couple of polls in frustration. If anyone had a magic wand, or in reality a formula for making everything right, do you not think it would have been tried. Perhaps the government of the day should do what most people do when they have a question or problem – Google it!

The political football the NHS has always been struggling for funds under Labour and Tory and it always will do – probably. FACT, Since 1970 the Tory’s have been in power for more years than Labour and the NHS is still here despite each side saying the other will destroy it if they come to power. I’m not saying that it is in a good state, I just wish people would realise this. It will still be here long after I’ve gone and vital care will be available to anyone that needs it. Another thing, why must the UK think it has the right the poach staff for the NHS from overseas? A lot of staff come from countries that can ill afford to let their doctors and nurses go, so why should it be OK for the UK to do this?

The Brexit farce drags on. I don’t pretend to understand more than 10% of this situation, and I don’t believe many people posting tweets understand much more if any more. However, here’s a thought. If you had a company and by some misfortune you had a two year warning that maybe a lot of your customers are ditching you, would you sit there waiting to go out of business, or try to establish new customers?

Stories keep emerging every week from pro remainders saying that after Brexit we will not be able to get enough people to fill vital jobs. Why is this? As far as I understand it we will still be letting people into this country, but it just won’t be a free for all.

Another thing, don’t some of these celeb Labour supporters not think that some of their troll comments on twitter might have the opposite effect on what they are trying to achieve – Billy Bragg for one. I’m sure he’s horrified that I un-followed him! Some of their comments were at best rude at worst damn right disgusting. Grow up and have proper adult debate. Come on, you now have 280 characters to get your point across!


The older we get the more people are going to leave us. That is just life. It happens. This year we lost a number of musicians that may not have been household names like Price or Bowie but never the less had a big impact on my musical upbringing. With in a week we lost Walter Becker and Holger Czukay. Between them they produced a huge amount of music that made up my 1970’s soundtrack. A few weeks later Tom Petty joined them. I was lucky enough to catch him on his Mojo tour in 2012. Anther artist that sound tracked my 70’s.


2017 seems to have been a seminal year for the anniversary re issue, Sgt. Pepper, OK computer to name but two.

There was a point this year when I was beginning to wonder if there were going to be any worthwhile new releases. With the slew of big re issues led by The Beatles and Radiohead other big hitters The Smiths, Prince, R.E.M. and Bob Dylan’s ever growing Bootleg series, the monthly music mags seemed to dedicate a lot of copy to these releases. Neil Young finally releasing the long forgotten lost album Hitchhiker and Nick Lowe re releasing his long deleted ‘80’s albums.

It must be an age thing. I’m finding it harder to find new music that genuinely excites me at the moment. (see Sound Of 2018 above) Most of my favourite albums this year have been old stuff that I’ve picked up second hand for a couple of quid a pop. Example, at the start of this year I only had a couple of Richard Thompson albums. An artist I have always been aware of and liked the stuff of his that I had herd but never got around to buying more of. Then, one day in my favourite second hand CD shop someone had offloaded a Richard Thompson collection. For less than £30 I had acquired an excellent library of said artist. Over the last few years some other artists that I have accumulated albums in a similar way, Ani De Franco, The Fall, Cowboy Junkies, Drive-by Truckers, Robert Palmer, Emmylou Harris and Ricky Lee Jones.

Not only that, I was able to pick up of albums for £2-3 a go from artists I had read about over the years and finally able to hear what all the fuss was about. A few mentions, Dan Penn, David Acklass, Mickey Newbury, Penguin Café Orchestra, Blind Boys Of Alabama, Indigo Girls and The Jayhawks.

Oh yes - this years Johana Newsome Award for Do Not Listen To While Driving For Fear Of Falling Asleep At The Wheel, gose to Bjork and her Utopia album.

Having said that, these albums are all worth a listen.

Laura Marling – Semper Femina
Arcade Fire – Everything Now
Bonobo – Migration
Flo Morrissey & Matthew E White – Gentlewoman Ruby Man
Elbow – Little Fictions
The XX – I See You
Ty Segall – Ty Segall
Kathryn Williams – Songs From The Novel Greatest Hits
Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley
Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
John Murry – A Short History Of Decay
Thurston Moore – Rock N Roll Consciousness
John Smith – Headlong
Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun
The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
This Is The Kit – Moonshine Freeze
Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination
Jim White – Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Sam Amidon – The Following Mountain
Four Tet – Two Thousand And Seventeen
The National – Sleep Well Beast
U2 - Songs Of Eperience


Arcade Fire – Everything Now
Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination
Radiohead – I Promise
The National – The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness
The War On Drugs – Thinking Of A Place
Laura Marling - Soothing
The Weekend/Daft Punk – I Feel It Coming
Loyle Carner – The Isle Of Arran
Manic Street Preachers - International Blue


Neil Young - Hitchhiker
The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper


Gigs this year were even more thin on the ground. Not even Elbow could tempt me to challenge the M25 on a winter evening. So I kept to local events.

Teenage Fanclub – Shepard’s Bush Empire

Not only Teenage Fanclub but the added bonus of Euros Childs playing support. The Fanclub have been one of my all time favourite bands for the best part of 25 years now. Un like some bands, I don’t get the chance to get tired of them as they don’t make too many albums and don’t do too may tours. Just catch them when you can.

Aeofe O’Donavan – St Mary’s Guildford.

On the last part of her tour promoting her latest album from 2016 – In The Magic Hour. A return visit to Guildford

John Murry – St Mary’s Guildford

Got to hear John Murry first via his last album a couple of years back. The climax of this show was the harrowing Little Coloured Balloons which was even more so live in the church venue.

Richard Thompson – Glive – Guildford

Solo acoustic, promoting his series of ‘Acoustic Classic’ Albums. The first time I’ve seen him live but I may have seen him with the Fairports in the early ‘70’s.

John Smith – The Keep – Guildford

Another artist that fits into the category of ‘why is he not a big star?’ he has the songs and the personality but he’s not called Ed Sheeran!

Sam Amidon – St. Mary’s Guildford


Tony Visconti: Bowie, Bolan And The Brooklyn Boy – 2007

One that had been on my shelf for a while. An update is surly in the works. He shares all his dirty laundry, but claims he has since washed it! One of the things that came out was several records I love, that I did not realise his involvement. His relationship with Bolan that eventually turned sour and his work with Bowie that continued to evolve, to his work with Morrissey.

Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run – 2016

There was probably more in the book than I probably needed to know regarding his personal demons. The fact that he had been seeing a therapist for most of his professional life came as a surprise to me. Again, the usual story of an early contract eagerly signed to get a record out ending in acrimony. But it worked out good in the end for the New Jersey boy.

Johnny Marr: Set The Boy Free – 2016

Johnny’s side of the ‘severed alliance’. Considering how such a short period of time The Smiths were together, they left a long shadow over Marr’s (and Morrissey’s) life.
But life after there is. The Cribbs, Modest Mouse, The Pretenders, Electronic, The The, plus dozens of sessions. All documented here.

Uncommon People - The Rise And Fall Of The Rock Star: David Hepworth – 2017

Automated rhythm sections introduced at the beginning of the 21st century seems to be the turning point that with high insight signifies the downfall. After his great read about the start of the rock era in 1971, Hepworth returns with another compelling book. 40 odd bite sized stories including Brian Wilsons 1964 flight to Huston (see below)

Going On The Turn: Danny Baker – 2017

The third instalment of his autobiography. A large chunk of this one details, with as much humour as possible, his cancer cure. Sometimes a bit harrowing but still a worthwhile read.

I Am Brian Wilson – With Ben Greenman – 2016

The darting backward and forward makes this a bit of a challenging read, I would have preferred that it had been edited in chronological order, but I’m a bit of a simpleton! How many times dose he mention ‘that flight to Huston in 1964’? virtually every other page it seems.. While reading this on holiday, I listened back to a lot Beach Boy’s back catalogue. Even the not well received late 60’s early 70’s albums sounded sonically far superior to the last BB’s album released in 2012 which Brian himself felt a bit sad about as it was made using Pro Tools to speed up the recording process.

Motherless Child: The Definitive Biography Of Eric Clapton: Paul Scott – 2015

Only one word to describe the pre 2000 Clapton ‘arsehole’. Well that is the character that comes across in Scott’s biog. The drink, the ‘weapon grade’ drugs, the womanising is all here. Damn fine read though!

Looking ahead…

Stuff to look forward to in 2018 - Arcade fire at Wembley arena, New albums from – Franz Ferdinand, MGMT, Manic Street Preachers, Johnny Marr.

Julian White ©2017

Blogggggg 2016

"Don’t Fear The Reaper

Only one music story dominates this year. The loss of David Bowie. One of the few artists that could still get me out to the record shop on release day of a new album. Not only that, but a great album to boot. I had played Black Star many times over it’s release weekend and was satisfied that it was not only one of his best albums for years, but will be one of the best albums of the year.

On the following Monday morning I could hear the radio playing lots of Bowie music. Because of the ambient noise of my work environment, it took several tracks in a row to eventually hear the news of his passing. It put an end the thought that all the time he was alive there was a chance I might get to see him live in concert. Despite having nearly all of his recorded work, I just seemed to miss his live dates.

Within a few weeks, George Martin passed. A legend that I had a close encounter with a few years ago flying from Montserrat to Antigua.

A few weeks later and Price was gone. Unlike Bowie, at least I had the chance of seeing him perform live a couple of times. At Wembley arena in 1987 on the Lovesexy tour and again during his O2 residency in 2007. Both occasions performing memorable sets.

Without these three people, how would the music of the last 50 years have evolved? OK so other people would have come along. But It was these people, and it was their work that shaped the music of the generation. Between Bowie and Prince a massive percentage of the popular music world of the last 40 years is due to their influence, no question. Without George Martin would the Beatles have been so successful? We will never know. Just be grateful that we were on the earth at the same time as these fabulously talented people to hear the results.

By the end of 2016 we had also lost Rick Parfitt, George Michael, Keith Emerson, Gregg Lake, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell & Sharon Jones. Some wags on (Anti)social media suggested that some of the pop stars of a certain age should really take it easy until the end of 2016.

Hopefully there are people around today that will prove to be as influential to coming generations as Bowie, Prince & George Martin. …see you in the next world…

A little lighter. A small article in Mojo mag from Sept this year. A company called Vinylize can now rip MP3’s to vinyl. Am I missing something? The whole point according to vinyl junkies is that Vinyl is the pinnacle of recorded musical sound. Digital, CD & MP3 is the dirt under their musical boots. This surly undermines the whole argument for vinyl. More bullshit please…

Another story that amused me was the latest in the NOW series of albums put out by Universal. Vol. 94 Did not contain any number one singles. The first time this had happed since the series had begun some 30 odd years ago. The reason was two fold. One, Drake who’s song One Dance got stuck at number one in the chart for 16 weeks, the apx cycle time of the NOW series. Secondly. Mr Drake refused to licence the song to Universal to add it to the collection. Pop stars ehh..

The NME conversion to a main line pop outlet was complete. They have obviously found their audience. There album of the year – the 1975 – a band whose last album they basically dismissed as pop fluff. Don’t know how long they will keep printing a paper copy. Whenever I see piles in shops, maybe only 10% have been taken from the stack, and that is at the end of the weekly cycle!

Just to reiterate how bad things must be for jobbing musicians, back at the beginning of September, The Sun news paper happened to remark that the number one album that week (Bastille) sold a massive 37,000 copies! If that is the number one album just how many copies did Teenage Fanclub sell that week to get to number eight?

The cost of Physical vs. digital download was questioned on the BBC website in November. Physical copies of TV series cost as little as £30 but £150 to download. Similar, the cost of box sets of the Classic album series or Original album series of usually 5 albums pr set cost about £10, but to download the individual albums cost up to £50. I’m still firmly in the physical camp. The only time I download is if there is no physical copy to purchase. This year for example, The stone roses and the strokes both released fine download only product. (OK Frank Ocean & Kanye West also did, but I can hold out for a physical) Oh yeah because I couldn’t wait Radiohead’s Moon Shaped Pool. On the other hand In the Original/Classic album re issue series I caught up with Terry Reid, Judee Sill, Laura Nyro, Ministry all for about £10 each.

In December for one week only, Vinyl outsold downloads. Yes that pinnacle of audio sound that if you play it on a £50 Crossley or ION turntable can be made to sound like a cats claws dragging down a blackboard. (younger readers might want to google blackboard). If you are lucky, the vinyl might come with an MP3 download code so you get a set of rubbish sounding tracks.

By December I purchased a Sony turntable to rip the 200 or so vinyl albums I still had. It comes with software that enables encoding up to 96KHz 24 Bit. Yeah that makes all the difference ripping from vinyl. All that static and scratches in 24 bit on my Stram Magic network player!

Obviously, the biggest political stories of the year were #Brexit & Trump.

Brexit will affect everyone in the UK and beyond for many years. Personally I did not vote. Three reasons, I felt that at my age it will affect me less than the younger generation. I felt it was their vote, their future. Second I was happy to accept what ever the voters decided. I could not find a single overbearing reason one way or another – truth or post-truth, to put my cross next to. Finally, I was in Cuba getting a taste of what a post Brexit Britten might be like! I did not have the drive to sort out a postal vote before I left.

All the polls and commentators suggested that we would remain. A bit of complacency crept in, so when the result was announced, hysterical remainers’ complained and called foul. A section of younger voters moaned the fact that they were not on the voting register because they were away at collage or university. I find this a bit worrying, cleaver enough to go to uni, but don’t have the smarts to figure out how to register to vote! OK that might not have made a difference, but that section of the community should have organised themselves a bit better and put an argument together that was not full of half truth’s and lies that the rest of the voters would believe to get the result they wanted.

Since then, the remoaners & Scotland have been demanding another vote. What the hell is Weee Kranke on? She dose not want London telling her how to run her country but happy for Brussels to rule her??? Trying to use the UK courts as delaying tactics. God knows where this will end up. Poor old Billy Bragg, He couldn’t tweet fast enough. Remember Billy when you slag off everyone you don’t agree with, as your late mate Joe Strummer sang, “you have the right to free speech, Just don’t be dumb enough to try it!” The EU seem hell bent on punishing the UK for leaving. Cameron, you opened up a complete can of worms you idiot!

There will be change, but I am optimistic. The entertainment industry might have to do a bit more form filling when touring Europe. A few multi national companies that avoid paying tax in the UK might bugger off, but BMW, Audi, Fiat, Renault, Mercedes will still be selling cars in the UK, Italy & France will still sell their wine here. There will still be 24 hours in a day and spring will still follow summer….

Music Of The Year

A few observations. With the guitar and drum duo’s that have sprung up in the wake of the White Stripes all beginning to sound the same, (see last years bloggg) is it me or have nearly all the pop acts ditched real instruments. Chvrches, Christine & the Queens, Taylor Swift plus virtually every track to make the top 40 to name a few, seem to have been made using the same computer program. Why do they rent top notch studios at 1000’s of £’s a day to sound like Garage Band was used as a backing? Finally, I think Kathryn Williams should give his Bobness a lesson in how to cover the great American songbook – oh she has!


Aoife ‘O Donovan – In The Magic Hour
David Bowie – Blackstar
Mogwai – Atomic
Animal Collective – Painting With…
Ed Harcourt – Furnaces
Goat – Requiem
Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
James Vincent McMorrow – We Move
Kathryn Williams & Anthony Kerr – Resonator
King Creosote – Astronaut Meets Appleman
Kiran Leonard – Grapefruit
Lambchop - Flotus
Mudcrutch – 2
The Pretenders - Alone
NAO – For All We Know
Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Teenage Fanclub – Here
Bon Iver – 22, A Million
Syd Arthur – Apricity
White Denim – Stiff
The Comet Is Coming – Channel The Sprits
Wolf People - Ruins


David Bowie – Lazarus/ I Can’t Give Everything Away
Bon Iver – 8 Circle
Iggy Pop – Break Into Your Heart
Aoife O’ Donovan – Stanley Park
Mogwai – Ether
Teenage Fanclub – I’m In Love / Thin Air
White Denim – Had 2 Know (Personal)
Ryley Walker – Roundabout
Nick Cave – Skeleton Tree

Re Issues of the Year

Neil Young – Time Fades Away
Kate Bush – Before The Dawn


Muse – O2 London
A last minute decision to see the band on the Drones tour. Crashing drones and spectacular lights, still one of the best touring events around.

Neil Young – O2 London
This was a memorable gig for me for all the wrong reasons. The week beforehand I was not feeling to good. The day of the gig still no better, thinking that all I had to do was sit there and listen. Drove to the O2 started shivering. Managed to sit through most of Laura Marling’s set. But after throwing up on the seat in front of me (no one was sitting there at the time) just had to leave. Sorry Neil, hopefully another time.

Elvis Costello – Bristol

Elvis and his imposters doing a surprise few European dates. Still trying to figure out why Steve Nieve was dressed as the Home Pride flower man? A lot of early material plus a couple of new songs from the stage show he is involved with.

Ryley Walker – Guildford

After last year seeing Ryley with his band, this time solo in a church. A lot of new songs from Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, which was released the following week.

Phill Cook – Guildford

The Carolina based guitar man who has worked as a session musician – most notably with Bon Iver – on tour to promote his rather fine 2015 album – Southland Mission.

Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Guildford

The last gig with the current line up.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls – Guildford

Along with Ryley Walker, Frank Turner is another of those artists that make me hate everything about Simon Cowell and his get rich quick brand of pop music. Gig number1997 on his version of the never ending tour. Frank arrived in Guildford, with passion, drive and energy. The only other artist that I have witnessed live that seems to ‘get it’ was Bruce Springsteen. Why Frank is not a bigger ‘name’ is beyond me. Is he holding back, happy with the level of success that he has achieved, or are people just not interested in his brand of left leaning pop hooks in sufficient numbers, but are happy to throw cash at the antichrist Cowell and his acts? The likes of Muse will always come out top when it comes to a public vote for top live act purely as more people will have seen them. But in my world Frank is at the top and has probably been for the last few years.

Reading matter

Chrissie Hynde – Reckless - 2015

Covering her life up to the Pretenders 2nd album. The self confessed junkie/alcoholic opens up about her early life. Her nearly marring John Lydon and Sid Vicious to stay in the UK in the mid ‘70’s.

John – Cynthia Lennon – 2005

Much of her story is well documented else ware. Reiterates how bad a father Lennon was to Julian in his early years.

Prince. Matt Thorne – 2012

Spookily, I picked this up just a couple of weeks before he passed. A well researched book documenting virtually every song put to tape by the star. If they ever get around to issuing any of his ‘Vault’ Matt Thorne must be the person to go to for getting the project into order. Not only studio performances but live work. Matt was at most of the O2 run of shows in London and the after parties.

David Hepworth – 1971 – Never A Dull Moment – 2016

The book in which Mr Hepworth makes a compelling case for the year in question being the beginning of the rock era and rock album. Each chapter details a month with much humour.

Wilko Johnson – Don’t You Leave Me Here – 2016

It’s a bit sad to think that until his much publicized brush with the grim reaper, Wilko has become a national treasure. The chapter in which he details his first and only appearance at Glastonbury probably sums my feelings and his. Would this book have been commissioned if he had not become ill? It would still be a good story without the cancer. Like loads of great bands and artists that don’t get heard, there are probably thousands of great stories that never get published.

Jon Savage – 1969 : The year he Decade Exploded (2015)

After the David Hepworth book, I sort of expected to be a similar tomb for the year 1966. It takes the same format, each chapter taking a month of the year but the music is more of a soundtrack rather than the subject. Chapters tackling subjects , LSD, Fashion, Vietnam, Andy Warhol, The rise of Woman’s rights. For me I found too much detail relating to US student rights and protest to be bothered with. It’s obviously an important subject, but I just did not find it engaging.

Mark Radcliff – Reeling In The Years (2011)

After the J Savage book, this was a sheer joy to read. Radcliff’s humour and musical knowledge make this one of my favourite reads of the year.

2017 what’s on the horizon? New albums from Flaming Lips, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, The XX, Elbow

Julian White ©2016

Bloggggg 2015


Over my working years, too many now, many colleagues have said to me, especially in recent times, something like this.. Damn, the local pub is closing, what will I do now!. I always thought, come on, it’s not that bad, get over it. As I type this at the end of the first week in December 2015, I probably now feel a bit like some of those poor old fools. News came through last night that my regular local independent record store (Peoples Independent Records – Guildford) is to close. Run and owned by Howard Smith, he has decided to call it a day, not entirly for financial reasons. He ran the store on his own, and after seven years, he needed time off from six days a week. Unfortunately no buyer was willing to take over the business so the inevitable running down and selling off of stock will begin.

After Fopp closed in Guildford I began using the shop on an irregular basis but over the last three years, most Fridays I spent a good half hour or so chatting with Howard, who recommended a good number of albums to purchase, as well as stuff that I had read about or herd. This was my equivalent to the local pub. This is what is missing from the likes of HMV, who’s staff will sell you any old shit without so much as eye contact.

R.I.P People’s, good luck Howard…

Half way through February and The Independent news paper business pages reported that the NME might be going to become a free sheet distributed via the student union network – their target audience. A quick denial followed but it could not hide the fact that its circulation had slumped to just 15,000 copies pr week. At it’s high 300,000.

By July, NME publishers confirmed the rumour and in September would become a free sheet and expand its content to include more film, TV, politics and lifestyle. To be distributed at stations etc. like Time Out. So it’s tough shit and goodbye to one of its loyal purchasers of the last 45 years. I’m hardly it’s target audience (that probably ceased some 30 years ago) but it was useful for discovering up and coming bands and artists which I am still very much interested in.

Having to rely more than ever on advertising, how will the publication manage to balance it’s independent views without pissing off it’s paymasters….within a few weeks we found out!

Although I have bought the thing every week since 1969, I still prefer to read the physical version rather than try to navigate the awful ad obsessed web site version on a tablet. Every time you try to scroll down the page another advert pops up.

When the print and download version reappeared in September, It was virtually unrecognisable. As I type this out at the beginning of December, I have still to see the physical edition. All the local indie shops I frequent tried to give the thing away, but they had to agree to take so many copies that it was impossible to comply with the publishers wishes so had to pass. My local HMV’s seem to have had the same problem and don’t stock it. However, having downloaded the iPad version there seems no point in trying to obtain the print edition.

To illustrate just how NME have drifted into pop’s main stream, Scroll through the NME end of year albums and singles and it’s pretty depressing. (The Coldplay album had not even been released & Album of the year by Grimes had not had a physical release when they published the list.) Artists including Miley Cyrus, Carly Rea Jepson, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, The 1975 & The Weekend that twelve months ago NME would not have wasted printing ink on are now the toast of 2015! During November, Sighting Justin Bieber’s ‘Purpose’ as one of the important albums still to come in 2015, and including adverts for The Vamps! The indie content was considerably downgraded… along with its overall coverage of music. So now we know who the advertisers target readership is.

However, with only two albums being reviewed (only one some weeks) and just a further half dozen being listed, plus half a dozen tracks to listen out for, the existence of NME must be called into question as music weekly. The editorial was less than 50% of the edition, and of that less that 30% was dedicated to music. The first cover star was the Mega diva Rhianna. The ‘star’ who treats her fans with complete contempt and has nothing to give the world of music except umbrellas! See the Mark Ellen book review below…. The publishers should have merged the title with Uncut to keep the brand alive and valid as a paid for quality monthly. Or they should have just closed the publication and called the re launched paper NEE - (New Entertainment Express).

Just have to accept the world moves on and everyone under the age of about 25 believes that music is free so why should you have to pay to read about it!

The same week The NME announced it‘s God Like Genius Award for 2015, Suede. Mmmm.. struggling to find a genuine god deserving of the accolade. Hardly in the same league as John Peel, Michael Evas, Joe Strummer or even the Manics. OK so they had some game changing singles in the early ‘90’s and their first couple of albums were pretty good but since then, the splits, reunions and an OK album hardly puts them in the god like category. I guess the problem NME has is that many really deserving artists, producers or music related people are not willing to accept the gong. A few years back Morrissey was reported to have been offered the title but rejected it. He then went on to say that this was why they did a hatchet job on him resulting in him suing the paper.


After last years decision by Apple to discontinue developing and producing the iPod classic, I decided to look around to see what other companies are producing that fits my requirements. Sony sell a new Walkman that plays FLAC and Apple Lossless files for about £160.00. Sounds interesting. So picked one up and gave it a go. The construction compared to the iPod is .. well a bit amateurish. Plastic and cheap best describes it. But it does have blue tooth, USB connection and a headphone socket.

1st problem is that it only came with 16Gb of memory. OK it has a slot for Micro SD cards so in theory at the moment you can expand it by 128Gb. For the time being I inserted a 32Gb card. So far so good. It does come with an ‘iTunes’ type interface, but it is so bad that it is easier to forget about that. As I have all my CD collection stored on a NAS drive in Apple Lossles & FLAC format it was just a case of dragging and dropping my desired files onto to internal memory or SD card, and it works… sort of… However, the USB is only used for loading up the device from a PC and for charging it. Cannot be used for playback. The Bluetooth connection works, but what a pain in the arse. Although it has a ‘Remember Connection’ setting, most of the devices I connected it to refused to remember the walkman and I had to go through the re connect procedure every time I wanted to use it.

Not all bad though. The sound quality is fantastic listening back to lossless files through noise cancelling headphones or through the Bose sound bar. Even sounds good in the car when I can be bothered to keep re connecting the Bluetooth! Sony could be on to something here if it sorts out the niggles I have come across.

In July, I became a criminal again (along with probably several million other people). The high court overturned the law (in the UK) that came into effect last year regarding the ripping of music and film to portable devices for your own personal use. The rest of the world can do this except the UK and probably the EU countries. Seems that artists and producers want a tax put on USB sticks, blank CD’s DVD’s, Hard drives, iPods & iPads, people whistling, in fact anything that can re produce their work, regardless whether the devise has been purchased for anything but storing music or movies on, to give them a protected income until time ends. Fine, can I have a tax put on every aircraft passenger that use any aircraft that I have made components for?

The annual Bowie award to surprise announcement came from Blur, again in February , with the announcement of their 1st new album as a 4 piece in 16 years.

The Tories went on to win an election that the polls predicted was unwinnable. But the trendy left wing more outspoken pop stars and personalities reaction was more predictable! If the left wing want to win, give us something worth voting for. They think they have. In September Labour elected a Hard left candidate as Fararge is as hard right candidate. Jeremy Corbyn to lead the party to victory in 2020?

One day (probably not in my lifetime) we may get a fair voting system in the UK (1.5 Million votes gets 56 seats for the SNP, 2.5 million votes get 1 seat for the green party) Seems fair!!! If that sort of thing happened in some banana state or former soviet state the UK government would be claiming vote rigging and fraud.

In September, the Piggate controversy kept us amused. If stupid lewd behaviour by teenagers disqualified people from public office later in life, Morrissey would be the only person allowed to run!

Back to music…

Still can not believe that music is getting (legally) so cheap. Not complaining. Last year someone gave me the book 1001 albums you should hear… Picked up a load of Jazz & Blues CD’s listed from HMV (UK) for £2 & £3! I know downloading is convenient but when you can buy the better quality CD for a fraction of the price, have people not figured out that they can rip the CD (not in the UK though!) and then theoretically throw the CD away for a fraction of the price of a download. Keep music physical!

A side issue with CD vs Vinyl. The main argument in the ‘80’s was the cost of the CD media. The average cost of a new vinyl release now is £20. You can get two new release CD’s from HMV for £15.

So Tesco is now getting in on the vinyl act. It wants to see off the last of the high street record stores by starting to sell vinyl. I suggest that record shops start selling baked beans and bread to stay in business.

Recordings 1. Albums

First, some great albums that seem to have been forgotten by the ‘taste makers’

Noel Gallagher – Chasing Yesterday
The Vaccines – English Graffiti
Black Rivers – Black Rivers
Guy Garvey – Courting The Squall
Squeeze – Cradle To The Grave
Villagers – Darling Arithmetic
Belle And Sebastian – Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance
Kathryn Williams – Hypoxia
Frank Turner – Positive Songs For Negative People
Foo Fighters- Cecelia EP

…and some great albums the critics did manage to hear…

Ryley Walker – Primrose Green
The Unthanks – Mount The Air
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Blur – The Magic Whip
Florence + The machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Mac DeMarco – Another One
Tame Impala – Currents
F.F.S. – F.F.S.
Deerhunter – Fading Frontier
John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure
Jamie XX – In Colour
Gaz Coombes – Matador
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper
Courtney Barnet – Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit
Alabama Shakes – Sound And colour
Phil Cook – Southland Mission
Foals – What Went Down
Laura Marling – Short Movie
Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?

Recording 2. Tracks

David Bowie – Dark Star
Wolf Alice – Freazy
The Vaccines – Give Me A Sign
The Unthanks – Mount The Air
The Chemical Brothers/Beck – Wide Open
The Barr Brothers – Come Into The Water
Sufjen Stevens – No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross/I Should Have Known Better
Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Candle Book And Bell
Squeeze – Happy Days
Ryley Walker – Sweet Satisfaction
Ryan Adams – Bad Blood
Phil Cook – Ain’t It Sweet
Noel Gallagher – Lock All The Doors
Mumford & Sons – Believe
Matthew E White – Rock & Roll Is Cold
Mac DeMarco – The Way You’d Love Her
Low – What Part Of Me
Leon Bridges – Coming Home
Laura Marling – False Hope
Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin’
Kendrick Lamar – Alright/King Kunta
Kathryn Williams – Tango With Marco
Julian Holter – Feel Yoy
Johnny Marr – I Feel You
Jamie XX – Loud Places/Obvs
Gwenno _ Patriarchaeth
Guy Garvey – Angela’s eyes
Grimes – Flesh Without Blood
Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia
Foals – Mountain At My Gate
Florence + The Machine – Ship To Wreak
Father John Misty – Hotel Lobby No4
Blur – Ong Ong


Elbow – Hammersmith Apollo

Having seen Elbow on a number of occasions over the last few years, this was a chance to see them again in a smaller venue doing some of their older songs. Always a joy. Looking forward to hearing Guy’s solo album.

Morrissey –BIC Bournmouth

A good selection of hits followed by Meat is murder accompanied by the counter productive animal rights ‘snuf’ film. People were just looking away, so what was the point. If it was toned down maybe people might have watched and sympathised. By September Morrissey decided to take his ball home. He complained that the record companies were not interested in him as a solo act. I’m no expert but I would guess that he has a similar size world wide audience as say Van Morrison. So how does he manage to record and release new material and tour constantly?

Ryan Adams – Hammersmith Apollo

The third time I have seen Mr Adams. Now with quite a large back catalogue, he managed to play songs from a large selection of them. A particular favourite was The stars turn blue & New York from Gold. Support was from Jessica Pratt who he joined for a song in her set and she joined him for a couple of songs in his set

Norman Blake & Friends – Dakota Tavern Toronto

Norman Blake & Joe Pernice

At the beginning of April found myself in Toronto at the same time that Norman Blake, Joe Pernice and friends were doing a Friday night residence at the Dakota Tavern. A few Teenage Fanclub favourites plus New Mendicants & Jonney tunes and a few classic pop tune covers and even some time to play Candy Crush!

Elvis Costello Detour X 2

Booked tickets for the first night of his solo detour in Sailsbury. No support just him and a film of his dad singing If I had a hammer. By the time of the last date in Basingstoke he had been joined by support duo Larkin Poe who helped him out on a few songs and his brother who lent a hand to Pump It Up and What’s so funny… All ways a joy to see and never lets you down .

I seem to have run out of enthusiasm for rushing around the country mid week or rather sitting in traffic for 3 hours unless there really is a gig or artist I desperately want to see. Sadly, these seem to be a bit thin on the ground this year.

The last three gigs were put on by Howard Smith, owner of the 4th smallest record shop in the UK, Peoples Independent Records in Guildford (Sadly closing, see above). He put on a good seven or eight this year. Despite the shop closing, Howard hopes to keep putting on some gigs. Hopefully there will be a similar amount in 2016. These were just the ones I was around for.

Ryley Walker, The Unthanks & Aofie O’Donavan. All these gigs were outstanding In small venues around Guildford. Aofie elected to play with no amplification at The Keep and held the audience for 90 minutes. Playing tracks from her soon to be released new album and older material. Ryley crammed his five piece band into the small 60 capacity Keep pub and played most of my album of the year Primrose Green.

The Unthanks played the ‘Big Church’ at the top of the high street to a capacity crowed. Songs from across their career, but could have done without the hour intermission, which for me disjointed the evening.

Reading Matter

Rockstars Stole My Life – Mark Ellen (2014)

This great read from the DJ, TV presenter, Editor at large for EMAP starts with a few chapters that could have been about me. Gigs at Wheely, Farnborough Tech, Guildford Civic Hall & Bracknell sports centre was my life in the early 70’s! It ends with what is all wrong with the entertainment industry today. The badly behaved and don’t give a shit attitude of Rhianna on her 7 day jaunt around the globe to promote herself and host of global products. Make’s Elton John of the 90’s seem like a choir boy.

Dear Boy: The Life Of Keith Moon – Tony Fletcher (2005 Edition)

Larry Hagman & Keith moon, Two people you probably would not put together in a room! This well researched and detailed account of Moon’s life. The hyperactive boy that became one of the world most famous celebrities and rock drummers – not necessarily the best. It says on the cover “top flight airport reading…NME” You would have to have some serious delay to read the 580 pages while at the airport! The detailed account of hotel room destruction got a bit tedious after reading about it for the umpteenth time, but as a detailed record of Moon’s life I guess it’s as accurate account as you can get.

All Things Must Pass: The Life Of George Harrison – Marco Shapiro (2002)

One of the first books to appear after the death of Harrison. A bit light weight after the Moon biog. Almost a run through, especially the Beatles years. Probably better Harrison biogs around, but for a few pence picked up from a charity shop, I can’t grumble.

Unfaithful Music, Disappearing ink. Elvis Costello. (2015)

On page 46 of this 660 page monster, he says many people will shed a tear when he recalls the following story. It concerns his father Ross, securing all four Beatle autographs for a young Elvis. What he did then will make any collector of music memorabilia shriek in disbelief. It has to be read. Even if you are not a fan of Costello or his music, it is a great insight into the music world of the last 60 years plus. Including fascinating insights into most of his writing collaborations, singing and producing credits, his inspirations and a lot about his dad, Ross, probably one of his biggest inspirations. A surprising amount of personal stuff considering his reluctance to speak on personal matters over the years. Few omissions including his film appearances and the breakup of the Attractions that was briefly glossed over. But these are minor beefs.

Going Off Alarming – Danny Baker (2014)

The second part of a planned three part autobiog. Taking in the period from 1980 to 1998. Again written in superbly entertaining manner. For me the funniest story involves Nick Lowe and Bob Dylan. A whole chapter on Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne and his unique relationship with his bank manager. Here’s to part three…

Coming soon...

New albums from..

David Bowie, Aofie O’Donavan, Elton John, Suede, Daughter, Bloc Party, Steven Wilson,
Lucinda Williams, Turin Breaks, Mystry Jets, The Last Shadow Puppets, Teenage Fanclub,
Field Music, PJ Harvey, Jake Bugg, Villagers.... and ....

Julian White ©2015