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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

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Bloggggg 2014


Kate Bush Ticket

Zero UI thoughts about the year in music

I don’t like to get too involved in slanging matches over best or worst albums as it is all subjective to the listener. But I had herd bits of the Disclosure album over the course of 2013 and was not sufficiently impressed to buy the thing. But in the January sales saw a copy in HMV for £4.00 so gave it a go. The first thing against it was the length over 60 minutes! Any album over 40 minutes gets marked down by me, anything over 45 minutes has to work hard to get my attention. So it all went down hill from here, mechanical beats with some real meaningful lyrics, I suspect, but not to me. I played it to an 8 year old and a 5 year old and they loved it… so there is the target audience for this sort of music, anyone under 9! The Pet Shop Boys were doing this sort of stuff better 25 years ago… I’ve officially turned into my dad!

I suppose it’s inevitable, the older I get the harder it becomes to hear new music that excites me. I remember listening back in the 1990’s to John Peel’s producer, John Waters – who had a program on Radio 1 at the time, not so much slagging it off but questioning the originality of Blurs Park Life as a heavily influenced Bowie ‘cover’. Obviously as time passes and the more stuff I listen to, this is always going to be a problem. Even on the rare occasion that I accidently hear the latest ‘boy’ band I think, Greenday have a lot to answer for! OK, so dose an original sound rally matter as long as either the tune is good or the words are intelligent? But I do hear a lot of ‘new’ stuff and hear myself saying more and more “that sounds like a watered down (Strokes, Arcade Fire, etc..etc)”

As for Drenge, Royal Blood, Black Keys… plus many other bass less duos, etc etc they are all beginning to sound interchangeable – Jack White has a lot to answer for!

One album that deserves more attention that it received on release or in the end of year polls is Catfish & The Bottlemen – The Balcony. It will probably never go down as a classic, but to me it was just great songs and tunes, nothing groundbreaking in terms of originality or sonics, just an album that felt great to listen to – which contradicts what I’d just written about Drenge, Royal Blood etc. OK in the same camp as C&TB, what about the rather fine Wilko & Roger Daltry album?

I’ve never been to Glastonbury, not that I haven’t wanted to go it’s just the thought of 4 or 5 days of mud and bad toilets that put me off. The one day at Jodrall Bank a couple of years ago in the rain and 3 hours to get out of a dark mud swamped car park put the final nail in that coffin. However this year the BBC put on exceptional coverage via their web site. Connect the laptop up to the TV and wow, a virtual festival in my own living room The six main stages streamed in real time, just select the required stage and the artists complete set without the annoying talking heads! Without having to trek through the mud. Thanks BBC, this years licence fee was worth it just for this. Same time next year please!

Lucky enough to visit the USA usually once a year. When travelling around I can’t help wondering how on earth new music gets herd. I know satellite radio caters for minorities, but the FM network? Loads of Classic rock, classic pop, Rap/R’N’B, Classical, Latin, Country, religious but NO Contemporary Alt Rock/Pop. Is this form of music so unpopular in the US that no FM station is required?

In the May 2014 edition of Q magazine it probably answered the question. Zero UI devices. Is this what the kids now days really want? Have they lost the ability to even bother to discover new music for themselves, happy just to have it forced upon them by someone else or an “App” by answering a few questions based upon their mood at the time. Neil Young once said when compiling his archive set that it was important to add a few not so good tracks so to be able to have something to judge the good stuff by. If you don’t hear some duff stuff everything just becomes a bland grey landscape.

Here is a tip for anyone that wants to discover music that they might not have been exposed to that dose not cost a fortune. It’s not CNC Milling but some people might not have thought of it. 2nd hand CD’s from Charity shops, Record fairs or Junk shops. For as little as £1 you can take risks on thousands of albums you might have previously overlooked. OK the jewl box might be a bit tatty, but they can be replaced. The CD will more than likely play perfectly. OK of you are being a bit daft you can get the vinyl if you like scratches and static, but the cost is so small in real terms these days. Over the last 5 or 6 years most of my collection has been sourced like this. OK, you might end up with a few duds, but just give them back to the charity shop.

Two albums apiece from Neil Young and Flaming Lips, artists that are not afraid to musically push things along and release the results regardless of what the critics may say. Was Young really happy with that god damn awful sound on A Letter Home recorded in Jack White’s ‘toilet’. Considering his outspoken stance on digital vs analogue, I suspect it was his ultimate joke.

In September Apple killed off the iPod classic. No real announcement, just the removal from its website. The golden goose that helped make Apple the worlds richest company (for a while) was consigned to the history books. No replacement, just a bendy iPhone is what they think music fans need. It’s also ironic that in June 2014, the UK government finally got around to modifying the law to make it legal for people to rip CD’s to their portable devices and hard drives! Not bad seeing as most of the music industry now consider streaming the future. Still, I can now sleep at night knowing my CD collection of music I’ve transferred to a NAS drive is legal!

In a later report, Apple stated that it reluctantly stopped producing the iPod classic because they could no longer source the 160 Gb mini hard drives! I still can not believe that Apple could not find a small company to keep developing the device on their behalf using solid state memory (I purchased a 256Gb USB stick for less than £90!) I know Apple want to sell 10’s of millions of units but surly a smaller company would be happy with selling 100’s of thousands and make a decent profit under licence to Apple. To keep developing the device to support lossless formats, Bluetooth connectivity and mass solid state storage for portable movies, photos and music. A cynical person would think that Apple just want every one to subscribe to their iCloud and iTunes services and you not to keep stuff. Fine if you have fast WiFi everywhere you travel, but that situation is still a good few years away, plus downloading FLAC or Apple lossless files will still take a wile.

In December it was announced that Vinyl had sold the most units for more than 20 years. Yes the debate about Digital Vs Analogue still rages but the figures are still stacked up against vinyl. The sound IS NOT BETTER just different, and it is the listeners choice. Yes the artwork is far superior for vinyl. But companies have not spent millions of £’s over the years for artists to produce studio quality sound to have it distributed on a bit of old plastic or MP3 quality files.

I have to chuckle. Over the last few years I have herd several discussions on various radio programs with various people in the 'biz' wobbling on about how the sound of vinyl is so fantastic and far superior to CD. They then go on to say that if an album is not on vinyl they prefer to download! Their own argument for vinyl is blown out of the air right there. I don't need to say anymore...

In December the Independent newspaper reported that the sales of physical distributed music still just outsold downloaded files(51.4%) and the fall in physical sales decline was slowing, so the demise of the physical formats is still a few years off.

Here is all the technical stuff you need to know about the Digital vs, Analogue debate. http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html In a nutshell, just buy a decent set of speakers or headphones!

The David Bowie award for surprise announcements went to Kate Bush who after 35 years in hibernation, out of nowhere announced in March a run of 15 dates, extended to 22 at Hammersmith Apollo London for the following August/September.

U2 caused controversy/uproar and surprise in equal measures by forcing their latest album (renamed appropriately ‘songs of inconvenience’ by some people) onto most of the iphones and itunes accounts on earth. Maybe not the smartest move by the tax efficient Irish band, but it did get the headlines. Most of the reviews seemed to reflect this and knocked points off for this delivery method. I wonder what the reaction would have been if a more ‘cool’ band or artist had pulled this stunt? Thom Yorke went in another direction for his latest album – bittorrant. Personally I’m reluctant to use the thing. In the past, I’ve had issues with it, so until a physical release appears it will remain unheard.

Live

Fewer live gigs this year than in previous years. The thought of sitting a queue of traffic for a couple of hours to reach a gig is starting to take it's toll. The gig is going to have to be something special to get me out mid week now...I'm defiantly turning into my dad...

Wilko Johnson at the GLive Guildford. Was surprised at the sparseness of his stage setup considering the fine racket that comes from it. No tuning aids or effect peddles or plectrum! Just fine guitar lead R’N’B based (that’s Rhythm and Blues to younger readers) songs from his career including a lot of the Dr Feelgood catalogue. A fine performance

Another trip to Cardiff to see the Manic street preachers in March. The set included a couple of new songs from the soon to be released Futureology album. These on first listening sounded different from the Rock/pop sound they have become renowned for.

Elbow in Liverpool

To support the release of their rather fine 6th album The Take Off And Landing Of Everything. Having now seen them several times (and tickets booked for next Feb’s gig at the Hammersmith Apollo) a review is a bit superfluous. Just a great band. With support from Jimi Goodwin also plugging his 1st solo album, a hugely enjoyable evening

Arcade Fire – Earls Court

Another of the spur of the moment decisions. I wanted to see Arcade Fire for a few years but ‘diary clashes’ got in the way. This almost happed here but managed to get a couple of tickets at face value a few days beforehand for the second earls Court gig. What a result. Definitely the best gig of the last few years. The best bit was the sound level. At last a band brave enough to challenge the ‘elf & safety’ twats and give us sound levels loud enough to drown out the constant chatter of people that seem to think the band playing are a nuisance to their night out! On record Arcade Fire don’t give the impression of a loud band, but was pleasantly surprised. Paper mache heads, disco dancers and glitter ball man added to the spectacle. New Zealand teenager Lorde was support, a bit shaky at the start and a bit lost in the vast Earls court with just her keyboard player and drummer. Probably the last trip to Earls court. Its being torn down to make way for expensive flats!

John Fullbright – Guildford

The intimate setting of St Mary’s church with 150 people to entertain. Did James Blunt or Ed Sheeran ever have to do gigs like this? Probably not. Life is just unfair. He has the songs but success may take a little longer for this singer songwriter from Oklahoma to reap the sort of benefits that Sheeran or Blunt may have.

Kate Bush – The K Foundation After The flood.

Row F I assumed would be 6 from the stage, but as they had removed the 1st 4 for the production, 2 from the front is where we ended up! The only slight disappointment was the set list. Like most people that attended the gigs, we had all seen the songs to be played printed in the press. There was just the hope that she might mix it up a bit. A couple of different tracks slipped in the 1st portion and different songs for the ‘encore’ to keep things fresh. But that is nit picking. Hearing all of these songs live was a real treat. It was an event that probably only Bowie could possibly eclipse – one day soon. Just one thought that kept worrying me at the end of the gig, I bet her feet were cold and dirty!

Elvis Costello/Steve Nieve – Albert Hall London

No feet worries for Mr Costello. With a freshly purchased pair of purple winkle pickers form Germany, he presented re arranged songs from his back catalogue with Steve Nieve, and joined on a couple of songs by support act Georgie Fame. When I got to the venue I noticed the words ‘Restricted View’ printed in the ticket. Well, that should have probably have read ‘No View’! Every now and then I caught a glimpse of the top of his hat or his purple shoes! But the sound was good. The set ended with the now familiar turning off of the amplification, and singing and playing as nature intended. Although impressive, I’d like to know if this is a dig or challenge towards some of the more undeserving, but commercially successful acts that infest our world today.


Albums

James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical
Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
Temples – Sun Structures
The New Mendicants – Into The Lime
Elbow – The Takeoff And Landing Of Everything
Jimi Goodwin - Odludec
Gruff Rhys – American Interior
The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream
Plank – Hivemind
Wilko Johnson/Roger Daltry – Going Back Home
St Vincent – St Vincent
Mogwai – Rave Tapes
Manic Street Preachers - Futureology
The Amazing Snakeheads – Amphetamine Ballads
Pixies – Indie Cindy
Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather
Catfish And The Bottlemen – The Balcony
Avi Buffalo – At Best Cuckold
Metronomy – Love Letters

Standout Tracks


Pixies – Blue Eyed Hexe
St Vincent - Digital Watness/Prince Johnny
James Vincent McMorrow - Cavalier
The New Mendicants - Sarasota
Mogwai - The Lord Is Out Of Control
Wild Beasts - Wanderlust
Bombay Bicycle Club - Luna
Manic Street Preachers - Futurology
Belle And Sebastian - The Party Line
Avi Buffalo - Memories Of You
War On Drugs - Under The Pressure/Red Eyes/Eyes To The Wind


Reading Matter

Morrissey – Autobiography – 2013

Only one chapter and not many more paragraphs. This long rambling memoir takes a while to get used to the format. Covers too few pages dedicated to The Smiths years, but many pages dissecting Judge Weeks summing up of that court case. Along the way a few snippets of insight into one of the most fascinating pop stars of the last 40 years. Including his spats with the NME and wanting only to be known by his surname like the great composers! Warning – Don’t get too close to the man, as he seems to have a lot of acquaintances die on him! Ultimately this biog is a bit disappointing, not enough pages covering The Smiths years and too many post trial pages just that seem to be entrees from his diaries listing various gig around the world, Oh and plenty of whinging about the lack of positive press and chart placings in the UK.


Rick Wakeman – Grumpy Old Rockstar – Orig. 2008

A slim entertaining canter through some Spinal Tap esq anecdotes including shagging dinosaurs, Brazilian work visas and lots of booooze….Heart attacks, Russian secret police uniforms, Meeting Castro & Ronnie Biggs, and giving up booooze. The first volume of several that might appear.

This Is A Call – Life & Times Of Dave Grohl – Paul Brannigan – 2011

Not only the life and times of Grohl but an adequate account of the Washington DC punk scene of the early mid 80’s. From his first demo recording with Mission Imposable a lot of the first half of the book is mainly a fairly detailed account of the US punk scene which influenced Grohl in his formative years. Not until the Nirvana era dose he feature more.

Heavier Than Heaven : The Biography Of Kurt Cobain – Charles R. Cross (2001)

Not the most cheerful of reads and not many laughs. Charts the 27 years Of Cobain’s life in some detail. The closest account to an ‘official’ biog of the man that there is likely to be. The Drugs, the bad diet, the family bust ups and the sackings. For a brief spell the biggest rock star on the planet – what a waste!

Further Adventures Of A Grumpy Old Rock star – Rick Wakeman (2010)

Some lighter reading after the Cobain biog. Stories from Camberley, Isle of Man, and getting you’re shit together in Devon. Plus, golf stories, more drinking stories and lots of farting!

Hope & Glory – Stewart Maconie (2011)

Not the usual sort of book I read, but a I’m big fan of Maconie since reading his great Cider With Rodies – his account of his life as a rock journalist with the NME. This volume selects a year from each decade of the 20th century that he thinks has an impact on our lives today. For me, a bit of a history lesson, but written in an engaging way to keep the reader fully on board. From the death of queen Victoria to the 1997 election of Blair including The day England won the world cup, Live aid & the coronation of QE2.

Play On – Mick Fleetwood & Anthony Bozza (2014)

He explains his unique playing style on his dyslexia. The inside track on the sackings, the walk outs and the affairs. Comes right up to date with the re uniting with Christine McVee and recording of their soon to be released new album.

Under The Ivy: The Life & Music Of Kate Bush – Graham Thompson (2012 revision)

Had to read this after seeing her in September. Concentrating on her professional career, very little on her personal life, culled mainly from interviews from herself and collaborators that were given throughout her productive years, meticulously catalogued. A whole chapter dedicated to her live tour (Tour of life) and odd live appearances and his conclusions on why she will probably never appear on stage again! Did she prove Thompson wrong a few months later! But he was right about the press frenzy that would occur if she did ever decide to play live again. The writers conclusion, that Kate is an artist of contradictions. A detailed and interesting read for Bush followers.

Jimi Hendrix: The Man, The Magic, The Truth - Sharon Laurence - 2005

This had been sitting on my book shelf for a few years and finally got round to reading it this year. He fell for one of the biggest con men in the game when he signed with his US manager. His short 3 1/2 'official' recording career in enough detail to get a good overview of the man from one of his trusted friends.

What to look forward to in 2015…new albums from… Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Kathryn Williams, Panda Bear, Belle & Sebastian, Pond, Dutch Uncles, Peace, Idlewild, Father John Misty, The Charlatans, Wolf Alice, Noel Gallagher, Teenage Fanclub,

'till next year....It's not too early to wish for a R.E.M. reunion is it?

Julian White ©2014

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Blogggg 2013

..written by someone that can’t write, for people that can’t read… ..

2013 Product


On a musical note, 2013 started promisingly with the sudden release of a new song from David Bowie after nearly 10 years of silence from the man. A few sharp eared people – myself included, had herd an interview on 6 music the previous November with Toni Visconti discussing the latest T.Rex reissues, in which he teased listeners with the promise of a huge announcement in the new year. Although it could have been anything, Bowie fans hoped this would be would be the event – and it was… The Next Day was released and was acclaimed almost universally. A few weeks later My Bloody Valentine repeated the trick releasing their 1st album in 23 years.

Two weeks into the new year and HMV went into administration. The last shop standing (of the big record retailers) blew the opportunity and ignored warnings from the collapse of Tower, Our Price, Fopp, Virgin, Zavvi to stick to what it knew best, cut it’s cloth to suit and it still went down the tubes. Still having a 30% share of the physical music sales, all the usual excuses flowed from the directors. Competition from on line retailers, Supermarkets, Digital downloads…..

However it did give the opportunity to get hold of loads of albums at heavily discounted prices…every cloud eh!

If they (HMV) had stuck to just stocking a wide range of music at reasonable prices and kept a good stock of back catalogue, employing managers that were interested in the music they sold, perhaps their customers might have stayed with them.

It became a joke with independent shops that you could not get the latest releases from (Graham Parker, Ty Segall or Father John Misty) but you can get a Twix or a Mars bar!

By April after a lot of the stores had been closed and down the chain was brought out of administration by Hilco the Canadian restructuring company that had turned the Canadian HMV around. Most of what I mentioned above was said to be going to be implemented (not my idea – I’m not that cleaver..) hopefully the chain will survive.

The rise in vinyl sales again makes the headlines. Another temporary spike in sales or a genuine rise in popularity? Anything that gets people into buying legitimate physical copies of music and can keep independent record stores afloat is fine by me. Personally if people want to spend (2 or 3 times) the amount cash on the format fine, I still won’t unless there is a particular recording I want that is not available anywhere else. I think people have some romantic view about the format. It is physically impossible for vinyl to sound better than 24 bit digital. (Most CD’s are 16 Bit and I personally still thing they sound better). From the age of about 7 years old the human hearing starts to degrade. What people hear IS different but factually not better. They may prefer the sound, that is there prerogative, but to say it is better than digital is incorrect. As I have said before, the artwork and presentation is far superior for vinyl, but the static, the scratching the wowing from out of centre holes etc. annoy the fuck out of me when listening to the format. Give me a CD or 24 bit download any day.

One good point of the vinyl format is the fact that you only get 20-25 minutes per side (the longer the side playing time, the worse the sound quality) and the thing has to be physically turned over. This in turn forces the listener to have to be around to do this instead of wandering around the house or doing other stuff ensuring greater attention to the music. I feel developers and inventors are missing a trick here. There is technology around to enable 192 kHz 24 bit studio quality playback so why not double sided CD’s/DVD’s with this quality? Double sided DVD’s are available. Why not utilise all this tech into audiophile utopia?

However, Research has shown that for music distribution, 16 Bit @ 44.1 kHz (CD standard) is indistinguishable from 24 Bit @ 192 kHz in a sample of over 550 listeners. In other words, more bits and higher bit-rates are not going to improve the 'quality' of your tracks.

What I think is a bit of a silly trend are artists streaming on line their latest albums a week or so before It’s official physical release. Two of this years biggest albums from Bowie & Daft Punk did this, how stupid are the record companies? Do they not realise with a click of the mouse that you can easily record the stream straight to your computer! ..and they still wonder why sales are falling….

A nod here to UK’s BBC 4 for screening some great music documentaries over the last year. The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Blondie, Tom Petty, Graham Parker & The Rumour, Elvis Costello and many more.

Gigs

Seem to have been in a 1980 time warp for this years gigs.

1st of the year was the 'Give it up for comic relief' at Wembley arena, booked the tickets before I saw the full line-up. Kasabian, Jake Bugg, Noel Gallagher, were the highlights.

Despite living in the Woking area for most of my life, my 1st gig in the town was this year. Old acquaintances The Members (with Rat Scabies on drums) contributed to the local hospice charity with The Steve Cradock band.

A week later at the O2 Neil Young & Crazy Horse and a bunch of feedback tore through a set of new and classic Crazy Horse songs. Support was Los Lobos.

A few days later Elvis Costello’s delayed gig at the Basingstoke Anvil theatre. Still using his giant wheel rotated by select members of the audience to produce a random set list, still a great spectacle and a great way to interact with the audience.

A week later, Vampire Weekend in Portsmouth warming up for their Glastonbury appearance and to promote their latest album.

The Who at Wembley Arena performed Quadraphenia in full to the delight of the audience. Even Keith & John put in an appearance. Then to complete the set added a few classics to send us home happy.

A trip to the V & A to see the Bowie Is exhibition. The audio was a bit hit & miss depending where you stood, but was an interesting experiment. A bit over crowded when I visited, but still a vital experience for Bowie fans. Maybe the closest I will ever get to seeing him live!

Jim White – 1st of a trio of gigs in churches in Guildford put on by Howard Smith – Google him! The US singer songwriter’s 1st port of call on a short UK jaunt saw him perform an array of songs from his albums plus a handful of amusing stories to accompany them.

2nd of the Guildford church trio – Kathryn Williams – on an extensive – by her standards - tour to promote her wonderful Crown Electric album. Just seems a crime why her brand of folk based pop just dose not seem to hit a chord with the music buying public in a bigger way. She has the true voice of an angel that must be herd. Her songs are equally as catchy as anything playing on popular radio stations around the world, yet for a vast amount of time ignored. Shame on anyone who has not even taken the time to give her a listen!

The following night at the O2 in London the almost opposite end of the pop music scale from Kathryn Williams, Fleetwood Mac. The original line-up back in action. The last time I saw them was in 1980 at Wembley arena to promote the Tusk album. This time the set list must have been fairly similar. Most of the songs culled from the three 70’s albums with the classic MK 3 line-up including a song with Christine McVee at the end. Again the evening was tarnished by complete idiots sitting next to me. With volume restrictions introduced by ‘elf & safety in the last decade the clueless people insisted on talking through the entire 2 ½ hour set - well apart the times they went to the Bar or toilet. WHY PAY £60 TO TALK THROUUGH A GIG. You idiots – Stay in the fucking pub, save money and stop annoying the people around you!!!!!

Paul Weller – Guildford – never seen so many old blokes wearing denim in such a small area. A sort of ‘Home coming’ gig for the modfather, (The biggest venue nearest to Woking) still on great form riding out his current purple patch of critical acclaim.

Final church gig of the year The Smoke Fairies with their brand of ‘sea shanties’ and nu folk promoting their compilation album of non album tracks of which they played a large selection from.

It’s been 31 years since the last time I saw Graham Parker and the Rumour a couple of miles up the road in Hammersmith. This time at the Sheppard’s bush empire to an audience of mostly 31 years older men. They sounded as great as they ever did. One of the bands that just slipped through the net of commercial success.

Recordings of the year..

Stand out tracks:

Roy Harper – Cloud Cuckooland
Get lucky – Daft Punk
Heart Shaped Stone - Kathryn Williams
Where are we now – David Bowie
Rewind The Film / Tokyo Skyline – Manic Street Preachers
Reflektor – Arcade fire
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – We No Who U R

As with previous years, it seems pointless repeating lists of albums that appear everywhere else which I broadly agree with, so I’ve selected some great albums that seem to have been overlooked by most of the contributing taste makers. Having said that, just for the record, here are probably my favourite half dozen … followed by the rest

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
David Bowie – The Next day [Deluxe Edition]
Vampire weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City
Elvis Costello & The Roots – Wise Up Ghost [Deluxe Edition] (NOTE. All the fuss about The Arctic Monkeys using Hip-Hop as a springboard for their new album, Elvis went the whole way and used a Hip-Hop backing band)
Kathryn Williams – Crown Electric
Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film [Deluxe Edition]

Albums:

Franz Ferdinand – Right Words..Right Action [Deluxe Edition]
Grant Hart – The Argument
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II
Public Service Broadcasting – Inform, Educate, Entertain
Villagers – {Awayland}
Iron & Wine – Ghost On Ghost
Local Natives – Hummingbird
Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart [Deluxe Edition]
Volcano Choir – Repave
Pinkunoizu – The Drop
Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
Neon Neon – Praxis Makes Perfect [Deluxe Edition]
I Am Kloot – Let It All In
Neon Neon – Praxis Makes Perfect [Deluxe Edition]
Matt Berry – Kill The Wolf
Tunng – Turbines
British Sea Power – Machineries Of Joy [Deluxe Edition]
Dutch Uncles – Out Of Touch In The Wild
Alela Diane – About Farwell
Graham Parker & The Rumour – Three Chords Good
Jonathon Wilson – Fanfare
The Besnard Lakes – Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO
Aoife O’Donovan – Fossils
Phosphorescent - Muchacho
San Fermin – San Fermin

Reading Matter

Starman – David Bowie The Definitive Biography – Paul Trynka (2011)

Davie Jones - George Underwood, Kon-Rads, King Bees, Mannish Boys, The Lower Third, to Richard Widmark’s character in ‘The Alamo” Jim Bowie – David Bowie. Very early ‘70’s heavy and a bit rushed after let’s dance. His relationships with ‘that bitch Angie’ Iggy & Lou. An update to include the next day will probably follow soon.

Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs – John Lydon (1994)

Finally got around to this one, Written almost like one of those TV talking head documentaries, Lydon is the narrator interjected with ‘guest’ contributors. I like the way it is done although it does tend to get a bit repetitive. The career of the Sex pistols in some detail from a number of angles, plus his sometime confusing and contradicting individualism political ideas.

Creation Stories: Riots Raves & Running a label – Alan McGee (2013)

A whirlwind run through McGee’s career touching most bases as he remembered them through his drug fuelled haze of the 1980’ & 90’s up to present day. The orchestrated riots of the Jesus & Mary chain to the muti million selling Oasis to sobering up. Plus his theories on who Sergeant Pepper really was.

Going to Sea In A Sieve – Danny Baker (2012)

Bakers easy flowing writing style make his thoughts on growing up in south east London come alive in a way that I’ve not come across before. His observations on the ‘70’s music scene make complete sense. Consider the fact that the 7 years between Woodstock in ’69 and the advent of punk in ’76 you had genres arriving almost monthly – Heavy metal, prog, glam, Jazz funk, pub rock, Fusion, Bubblegum, reggae dub, Singer songwriters, Country rock, Krout rock, Folk rock, Disco – no decade has come close to the ‘70’s before or after for musical innovation. But a lot of people dismissed it as boring…. Concludes with Baker taking up the job as ‘Talking Head’ on the LWT program 6’ O clock show in 1982. Volume 2 is due in March 2014.

Who I Am – Pete Townsend (2012 – 2013 update)

From Birth to auto-destruction to his lifelong obsession with his lifehouse project, whittled down from 1000 pages to just over 500 this biog touches on most of the significant events in Townsends’ life taken from his diaries. Like the Danny Baker Biog maybe should have been left at 1000 paged and spread over two volumes to allow more detail of certain events to be covered in more detail. A compulsive read for every Who fan.

Shout To The Top – Dennis Mundy (2006)

The story of Paul Weller, The Jam & The Style Council told from the side of the A & R man. The man with 3 careers with ever changing moods. Plus a couple of Townsend stories that never appeared in the Pete Townsend book – the Melody Maker article The Godfather & The Punk and his involvement in the Teenage Cancer trust concerts turn up here. With 20/20 hindsight catalogues all the errors that Polydor made guiding The Jam & TSC to extinction. A bit more editing on this book may well have helped with some of the repeated sections i.e. the £1m Polydor paid for the last 3 Style Council albums. (The last one which was rejected and not issued until much later) How many times did I read that in this book?

What to look forward to in 2014.. Elbow in Liverpool, Manics in Cardiff, New albums from both of the above plus Teenage Fanclub to return to action? What about Super Furry Animals? Sufjan Stephens? Radiohead? Morrissey?

Is it too early to wish for that R.E.M reunion tour?

Julian White ©2013

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Bloggggg 2012

(This article conforms totally to the Leveson report recommendations)

Just a reminder to anybody that might have just stumbled across these words of a Pentagenarian, I have absolutely no connection with the music industry.. I am just a music fan. These pages are just a way of me being able to keep a track of what I've been listening too, reading and gigs attended over the past year. A bit of an electronic scrap book.

Brennan onandonandon.....

After the 4th machine finally let me down over Christmas 2011, (see last years blogggg) I gave up with the JB7. It's a shame that Brennan could not get the quality control up to scratch. It is basically a good gadget. All credit to their customer service department, they couldn't be more helpful and efficient. My money was back in my account within a few hours of phoning to request they collect the machine.

So... After trawling the web found an alternative. Olive 03. Nearly twice the price of the Brennan but is a full size hi fi compatible device. Has the added features as Internet connection with Internet radio and can be controlled via iPad or iPod using an app. Also has a touch screen similar to iPod touch which displays the artwork and utilises flac compression which sounds superb. Hopefully this will last a bit longer than 3 months....3 weeks....aaaahhhhh.

Perhaps I'm just not meant to use new tech! I have a theory about me and hi fi. I use the stuff probably more than the average person. I had the same problem a couple of years back trying to get a CD player to last more than a few weeks. Went through five in just over a year. I think that most people buy this tech and use it for a few weeks then the use tails off to once a month or so. I use it most days so it gets more use than average - so it shows up all the weaknesses. I think the hi fi tech guys should pay me to try the stuff out.

Anyhow, settled on a Cambridge Audio Sonata NP30 music streamer along with a 2 TB NAS drive. Should have done this in the first place but I still like the idea of an all in one unit. By no means is this device without its problems and bugs. Losing the LAN network at random intervals and having to reset the machine is a bit annoying. Dispute claims that the iPad app displays album art work I have still not managed to get this feature to work...especially with flac files. Every time you add music to the NAS drive a complete re boot of the drive and NP30 is required which can take up to 10 minutes! The random play is not quit as random as I had hoped. It will only select up to 1000 songs at a time so the possibility of repeated tracks is high... Which is what I have found.

The Big Twit Test.

In April herd a couple of programs singing the praises of twitter. (Google Dave Gorman) I had of course had brief brushed with the service but was not convinced that watching loads of news style feeds by idiots posting messages for get rich quick links and Lord Sugar and Piers Morgan taking pot shots at each other was really what I needed in my life. However decided to give it a try and see what happens... After setting up the account the program rummaged through my computer and found contacts in my address book that had accounts, and found myself following them. It also contacted them to tell them that I was following them and invited them to follow me. To no great surprise none of them, wisely I suspect, decided to follow me.... The platform, like the old pager service but with added stalkers! ..after a month I concluded that the whole thing was a complete load of nonsense for the average joe like me. A platform for D list celebs to massage there over inflated egos for the celebrity obsessed. BUT I can see a side that if you have a small circle of friends that are desperate to know all your trivia and you are willing to supply, it can be fun.

I don't want to be bombarded with information - most of it trivial tosh, from multinational companies trying to 'groom' me to like their products and scammers trying to hook me into their latest scams...why would anybody want to follow a multinational company? Why would you want to be bombarded with Starbucks, McDonalds etc sales propaganda Errr tweets? However I still have the account and by the end of May I had 13 stalkers er.. Followers...buy the first week of June 12 followers .. Ok who un followed me... at various times this figure went as high as 43 but has leveled at 39ish at the end of the year. These ‘followers’ consist of only about 15 ‘real’ people, the rest are companies and chancres wanting my ‘money’ I guess…

The Format Nobody Wants...

After a 30 year gap managed to make a visit to COB Records in Porthmadog and the Bangor in north Wales one of the best stocked record shops in the UK. Sadly the Bangor site was in the process of closing down and had big discounts on the week end I was there.

As the year went on even HMV reduced the price of new CD's to silly low prices. Albums just a couple of months old for £3.00 and new albums 2 for £15.00. I like a bargain but it worries me to think how long will they bother selling them at which must amount to virtually no profit. I spent years moaning about the artificially high prices now the low pricing.

My best guess is that fairly soon they will reduce the amount of cd albums they sell even further to a level similar to that of vinyl albums with a similar price - £18 - £25 a go. Obviously the main stream of buyers prefer the convenience & the shit sound of mp3!

The Neil Young backed Pono player sounds interesting. I saw a YouTube clip with Young on the Letterman show promoting it. But still raises a few questions. kids today are used to listening to sound through rubbish speakers, earbuds or an in car entertainment system with added road & engine background noise. No matter how good the source files are, the output will still sound rubbish. From the age of about 7 your hearing starts to degrade. How does the system deal with these issues? Will the files only be downloadable or will DVD/Blu-ray discs be used for distribution?

I like CD’s. I can hear the difference between MP3’s and CD and vinyl quality, and for my ears CD is defiantly better. MP3 is like the cassette tape of today. In the early 70’s I bought vinyl albums only to get them home and being disappointed in the rubbish sound that came out of the speakers. Basically 50% of the sound was tape hiss, surface noise & static. When CD came along it was a revelation, wow, no surface noise. Most consumers don't have access to studio quality source and playback equipment. I have bought the odd Vinyl album over the recent years and have still not changed my opinion. I still hear mostly surface noise when the needle hits the vinyl. Is this what people refer to warmth of the sound?.. Well let artists add surface noise & static to special addition CD’s for these idiots then.

My guess at this stage (prior to hearing it) is that the Pono will only be beneficial integrated into a medium to high end hifi system which is what I am interested in. BUT as a recent NME article pointed out, the system dose have the backing of some high profile music performers, so it might just work.


Managed to successfully avoid eBay...record store day again and buying up vinyl albums that I all ready own on CD.

At the end of June, word magazine announced that the July issue would be the last....

In July Rounder records in Brighton, a hugely respected independent record store for 46 years announced its closure.

A Night Out

Once again not as many gigs as I would have liked to have attended. On 23rd Feb channel 4 dispatches (UK) aired a documentary about the big gig ticket rip off. Everything I suspected was conformed. The 'get me in', 'Viagogo' and 'seat wave' sites are all involved in scamming gig goers with massively inflated ticket prices with the pretence that individual gig goers with spare tickets are selling them. No big surprises, if anybody had read these articles over the last few years, just disgust at the depths that people will go to to. The government say they are looking into the matter...its hardly a matter of life or death so don't hold your breath. I personally could afford pay some of the prices quoted but there is no way I will play that game. Like most of the programs that raise issues of this sort, I doubt if anything will come of it. Over The following couple of weeks not one letter or message board post was published in the NME or web site about it. Most of their target readership (16 to 25 year old students and anti capitalist campaigners) must be happy being ripped off! Although Q magazine issue 310 did review the program.

A couple of days later the teenage cancer trust released tickets for their annual bash at the Albert hall. Viagogo (NME proud partners, as advised on the site) had over inflated tickets available for all the gigs. ITV London news did cover this story but nothing came of it either. I hope the sellers passed the excess profit on to the trust. If not, the promoters and everyone concerned should be ashamed of themselves.

Another twist, through O2 priority I managed to get a couple of Radiohead tickets. Whether it was for 'green' issues or a bid to stop 3rd party sellers I don't know, but the event was ticketless. You had to have the credit/debit card you made the booking and photo id to gain entry. What could possibly go wrong? See below... So why and how a couple of hours later were tickets selling from £250.00 upwards on viagogo? (A check a few days later reveled that the Radiohead tickets had been removed from 3rd party sites - coincidence?) Bizarrely the week following the sale of Radiohead tickets, NME ran a story with a headline "Radiohead do what they want!" Is £65 for a ticket taking the piss! Haha perhaps they should take a look at their own web site occasionally. Tom petty tickets for £800 anyone! Muse tickets for £1200!!

In a further development in October the independent newspaper reported that "Dynamic ticketing" would start rolling out soon. This is the same system that "budget" airlines use where basically the seller screws the punter for as much cash as they can get out of them by using a computer program to adjust the ticket price depending on the demand. Big demand high price, low demand, reduce the price. Should see off the 3rd party sellers!

In November Viagogo were implemented in supplying fake tickets for Mumford and Sons.

The Gigs

1st gig of the year was the Kaiser Chiefs at the re built Guildford Civic Hall now called GLive. Basically they knocked the old one down, turned it round 90 degrees and re built it with a glass front. From my memories of many gigs I attended at the old civic it looked pretty much the same as the old one in the main hall. However the Kaisers managed to entertain for 90 minutes of hits. Sadly their style of pop no longer bothers the charts in this era of xfactor/auto tuned cut and paste pop. Support was from the hotly tipped All The Young who impressed me enough to grab a copy of their new album when it was released a few weeks later. A guitar based four piece who reminded me live of Graham Parker.

Noel Gallagher at the O2 was the next gig. He complained in his blog that he was put off with the site of people eating food at the front. He would rather see people getting pissed on £5.00 a pint warm larger then! However the most amusing part for me was this. Every time we go the O2 we prefer seating. We are quite happy watching from what seems like half a mile away tapping our collective feet and standing with the rest of the crowd for the encore. However, most occasions we seem to get the muppets that for what ever reason just want to stand all the time. Why the fuck did they not get standing tickets? They seem to be in more plentiful supply. What is their problem. On this occasion though, the two idiots that were 2 rows in front of us met their match. Luckily for us the two guys directly in front of us would not stand for the standing! A 'quiet' word did not get them seated so direct action was needed. Pulling them to their seats and a 'louder' word in their ears did the trick. Braver than me. I gave them my card and enquired if I could hire them for the next O2 gig I attended! Gallagher senior gave a good set of most of his solo album plus a good helping of oasis tracks.

Many of the gigs I attend tickets are usually purchased many months beforehand. Occasionally notice of a gig passes me by and one such gig was Frank Turner and Billy Bragg at Wembley arena in April. Always liked Billy Bragg and for some reason had missed him live. So was happy to get really great seats at normal price the day beforehand for a sold out gig! What happened there seat wave and get me in? Probably the best gig at Wembley arena that I had attended and will hopefully propel frank to a larger audience in the future.

Double Elvis

A hot week in may coincided with two Elvis gigs. The first on Wednesday was at the Albert hall London. Unfortunately we ended up high up and sweated like sweaty things but not as much as Elvis in his light grey suit which throughout the gig slowly turned dark Grey. The spinning song book added unpredictability to the running order. The spinners could either dance on the podium or sit at the cocktail bar and watch the Leverson inquiry on rotation! Ware treated to A number of songs I'd never herd perform live. Long honeymoon, Beyond belief and with guest Glenn Tillbrook whisper to a scream from trust. The biggest surprise was the arrival of Russell crow to perform one Elvis P song and a Johnny cash's fulsome prison blues. The finale included Steve Nieve playing the mighty rah pipe organ on peace, love and understanding. Roll on Basingstoke Sunday. Sadly the Sunday gig was postponed… until June 2013…

This was a surprise. After missing the initial ticket release, and only finding silly price tickets on 3rd party sites, managed to secure tickets the night before from the rah box office. Tom petty and the heartbreakers royal Albert hall London. A warm up gig for his Isle of Wight gig the following week end. A splendid gig, all the tracks you expected to hear plus a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well.

Elbow. Jodrell bank Cheshire. Why do I put myself through this. Wet, cold, muddy, hell to get out of the car park....this was my Glastonbury experience light. they projected images on to the giant radio telescope, perhaps they should have turned it over and let the audience use it as a giant umbrella! Still good fun…until about 2:00 the following morning still trying to get out of the car park.

Back up to Manchester for the next gig. Morrissey at the MCR arena. Out of record contract with no new product to promote (apart from a brace of songs recorded and not issued) his set was littered with more smiths songs than I had herd him do live before. The superb Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want ending the main set. The encore still ill. Meat is murder was accompanied with a gruesome video, still didn't prevent a huge section of the audience paying a visit to the Victoria station branch of mc Donald's on the way out! Boz Boorer for some bizarre reason was disguised in drag and introduced as Gaynor Tension!

Wembley arena for the 2nd Noel Gallagher gig of the year. Again with added choir but the muddy sound did not do them justice. Also on the bill graham coxon. 3 weeks previous playing before 85000 people in Hyde park tonight first on the bill playing to a quarter full hall. What is it with the Gallagher brother fans? They have the most rowdy of gig goers more interested in drinking to oblivion than watching the gig. No wonder they don't sell too many albums these days, spent all there cash at £6 a pint getting pissed.

Last minute decision to see the Beach boys at Wembley arena on what was possibly the last time the surviving original members would be on stage together. Again the gig was sold out months before and silly price tickets were only available on 3rd party sites. but checking with the normal agents the day beforehand seems to be the way of getting tickets (returns from 3rd party sites i guess) at the proper price if you are prepared to take the gamble on not getting in. When the band arrived on stage just taken aback by the fact that their voices sounded 40 years younger than their looks! Not until al jardine fluffed the 1st line of a song was I convinced that they were actually singing live. Helped by a 9 piece backing band and sync film of Dennis and Carl they ran through 55 songs in just over 3 hours. Even the 3 songs from their latest album slotted in well with songs from the last 50 years. Only slight disappointment was the only track from surfs up they played was the syrupy Disney girls, oh well one track in 55 can't complain.

Radiohead at the O2 a few days later was in contrast to the beach boys hardly a bundle of jokes apart from the ticketless entry! The organizers seemed to have overlooked a little matter that since the tickets were originally purchased 6 months previous credit cards would expire. This meant Queuing up 3 times, 1st to be told your card had expired 2nd to get a printed ticket 3rd to get admission.... A gig to delight and disappoint in equal measures. Despite having loads of great songs they decided not to do those and instead opt for the usual 'worthy' songs berried on b sides and albums. Don't get me wrong, it was an enjoyable night just could have been better with a few more of their big songs. Still, James Bond sat behind us, bet he didn't queue up 3 times...


Radiohead

A Ticketless Ticket!


A pattern seems to be emerging here. Missing out on the Muse tickets when they went on sale when I was out of the country, again managed to get great seats a day before the gig at normal prices. Sitting a few feet away right next to the stage gave an interesting view of the gig. Voted a few days before by Q magazine as the best band in the world today the 2nd law heavy set confirmed this decision.

One of the few artist to successfully in my opinion merge electronica with folk, rock and hip hop. Bon Iver gave a excellent performance at Wembley arena in early November. This was to be one of Justin Vernon’s last gigs with the Bon Iver brand for the foreseeable future. Biggest omission was Woods which he had performed at previous gigs.

Elbow at the O2 a day after a 14 hour flight from Singapore was always going to be a bit difficult due to jet lag. The row U (highest back row) did not help. However the inclusion of Grace Under Pressure was welcomed. Guy Garvy presented a lucky punter in the front row with one of his guitars as a birthday present and it only took a few minutes to get out of the car park - unlike the Jodrell Bank gig.

Back to the O2 for Mumford & Sons. An unexpected bonus for ‘The worlds most hated band’ (see Lucy Jones NME blog) gig at the O2, was the support act Mystery Jets. Saw them support Arctic Monkeys on the NME tour a few years back and followed their progress ever since. Really enjoyed the Redland album from this year and in a fair world they should be a headlining at the O2 instead of support. Back to Mumford. How does an acoustic band sound so loud? With only 2 albums under their belt all the songs played were greeted with a seasonal shout along. The ideal pre charismas gig.

So gig of the year... has to be between Tom Petty, Frank Turner, The Beach Boys & Bon Iver...can't decide.

Recordings of the year

A lot of filling in gaps in my collection this year. Graham Parker was a big purchase this year. Had most of his albums up to Mona Lisa’s Sister. Started seeing a lot of his stuff 2nd hand so just had t fill the gaps after that. Also Bob Mould. After his stunning Silver Age CD, had to fill the gaps there.

My run through some of my favorite albums and tracks of 2012. Again these are the ones that I feel deserve a bigger audience. Although I like a majority of what’s been listed in the NME/Mojo/Uncut/Q recordings of the year, here are my favorite that seem to have slipped by the taste makers of the printed media to a large extent. Remember I don’t have sub editors to please or have to cozy up to advertisers…… just a thought..

Albums

Teenage Blood          The Staves            Animal Collective


          Albums of 2012



All the young – Welcome Home
Andrew Bird – Break It To Yourself
Mystery jets - Redlands
First aid kit – The Lions Roar
Little Comets – Life is elsewhere
Here We Go Magic – A Different Ship
Beach House – Bloom
Bob Mould – Silver Age
Field Music - Plumb
Martha Wainwright – Come Home To Mama
Donald Fagen – Sunken Condos
Lucy Rose – Like I used to
Animal Collective – Centipede Hz
Elbow – Dead In the Boot
Dirty Projectors – Swing To Magellan
Tom Williams & the Boat – Teenage Blood
Jay-Cee Carroll – 21st Century Blues
Dinosaur Jr – I Bet On Sky
Kathryn Williams – Presents The Pond
Lightships – Lightships
The Staves – Dead & Born & Grown
Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Crown & Treaty
Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral
The Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made The Radio

          

Track/Singles

Tom Williams & The Boat – Teenage Blood/Too Young
Mystery Jets – Greatest Hits
Emeli Sande – Read All About It (Pt III)
First Aid Kit - Emmylou
Jake Bugg – Lightning Bolt/Two Fingers/Taste It
Magnetic Fields - Andrew In Drag
The Shins - Simple Song
Orbital Feat. Zola Jesus - New France
JC Carroll - The Revolution Will Not Be On Line
The Vaccines – Teenage Icon
Manic Street Preachers - Wake Up Alone
Underworld - Caliban's Dream
Jessie Ware – 110%
The Maccabees - Feel The Follow
Grimes – Genesis
Two Door Cinema Club – Sleep Alone
Muse – Supremacy/Madness
Bloc Party – Octopus
Lucy Rose – Bikes/Lines
Public Enemy - Harder Than You Think
Bobby Womack Feat. Lana Del Rey - Day-Glo Reflection
Neil Young - Like A Giant

Reading Matter

The Stones - Philip Norman - originally published 1984 (2002 edition)

Again picked up for £3. After his excellent John Lennon biog, this lengthy volume covers mainly up to the the early 80's but has an added chapter covering the departure of bill wyman. Detail is given to the 60's drug bust, the death of Brian jones, the altmount chaos. A new volume is well overdue!

Still suitable for miners: Billy Bragg - Andrew Collins

It makes a change to pick up a biog these days that has the full backing of the subject. This 2006 updated version.... Started reading it when on a 'mercy mission' to Spain and finished reading it 3 weeks later in St Lucia. Details all his associations with wiggy, Phill Jupitus (porky), Andy Kershaw plus his involvement with rock against racisism, red wedge, the miners support and anti gulf war stance. plus his endless touring in the 1st ten years of his solo career to territories that most artist probably don't know exist.

Redemption song: the definitive biography of joe strummer - Christ salewicz (2004)

Rolling stone and Bruce Springsteen fan John/Johnny Mellor - woody - Joe Strummer - big chief thunder cloud, Britain's worst thief and working class supporter with the worst work Ethic for regular employment, sun sponsored marathon runner with bad teeth, campfire builder with a huge amount of enthusiasm for rock 'n roll success and dope. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story. The was no doubting Joe’s benevolent nature but sadly what came over was the lacking of any structure to his generosity. Just handing cash out to lost causes on many occasions seems to be just showing off. Salewicz (sandwhich) sorts the myth from the truth and Unravels the main players not only in the Bernie Rhodes manufactured band The Clash, but the punk era of year zero (1977) and beyond. A highly recommended epic read.

The History of the NME. Pat Long (2012)

From the merger with accordion news in 1952 to become the new musical express to the near extinction later that year but with the master stroke of starting the hit parade becoming the savior of the publication. A run through of the worlds most read weekly music paper covering all it's important writers up to 2001. The drugs the payola and Byron Ferrari! Not sure if I really wanted to know the extent of many of the 70's writers heroin intake, but it is all there.

The Severed Alliance – Johnny Rogan (20th Anniversary edition)

Not so much an update more a re write according to Rogan. Using a lot of the testimonials from ‘that’ court case which saw Mike Joyce receive a reported £1m from Marr & Morrissey (this fact was not included in the book) the account makes a compulsive read. From Marr (Maher) saving Morrissey’s life of bedroom confinement and possibly suicide, their shambolic management and the unfair 40:40:10:10 financial arrangements of Joyce & Rourke, it’s amazing that Marr’s band lasted so long and made so many fantastic records. Having now read the book dose Morrissey’s fatwa extend to me?

FAB – An Intimate Life Of Paul McCartney – Howard Souness (2011)

Much of the first part of the book is pretty well documented else ware. Not until the last couple of Beatle Years do lesser known stories concerning McCartney become apparent. One snippet that caught my eye was George Harrison’s veto for releasing a DVD version of Let It Be! A bigish section on the Heather Mills divorce. A well documented well balanced account of the mop top. Don’t think a fatwa was issued on this one.


Neil Young Waging Heavy Piece. (2012)

Not as much recording & performance detail as the Jimmy McDonough 2003 Shakey Biog but some interesting insights from the man himself. Could be described as an extended promotion for his Pono/PureTone musc player, his Linvolt ‘hybrid’ car project, & Pistol Annie’s latest album, but there is a lot more to it. His obsession with US vintage cars and model railway layouts. If you plan to read this book and are feeling a bit maudlin, Don’t read chapter 65!


What's to look forward to in 2013..

New albums from David Bowie, Teenage Fanclub, Super Furry Animals, Doves, Blur & Led Zeppelin… OK wishful thinking… but you never know… more likely… Franz Ferdinand, Everything Everything, Dutch Uncles, Biffy Clyro, Peace, Foals, Frank Turner, Villagers, Johnny Marr, Friendly Fires, Miles Kane, Palma Violets, Vampire Weekend, The Horrors… enough to be going on with…’till next time…….

Julian White ©2012


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Blogggg 2011

Random thoughts, Lies, Innuendoes, Super injunctions & Phone hacking...

January reports of HMV closing up to 40 stores after a bad 2010 & xmas period.

As I have commented before in these annual 'materpieces', I’m just a consumer/end user and don’t have any experience of retailing, apart from buying well above average quanties of albums, but from my observations, lines out the door of HMV before Christmas 2010 and that equates to a bad period…just maybe the practice of providing more space for books selling at £3.00 each than CD's that can sell for £5.00+ taking up less space might help! Then they wonder why CD’s are not selling…. But what do I know….then in April more profit warning for HMV…. I was in Singapore HMV at the end of 2011 and they had a better selection of CD’s than most of my local branches in the UK.

My observations seem to suggest that the supermarkets, that have played a major part in the closure of most of the high street record stores, have now begun to stop stocking the silver discs! My local supermarket now just stokes the latest pop fluff with a 'back story' that has virtually no musical merit, and that is it. Thanks boys...

On November 26th a blog appeared that suggested that the record companies were about to ditch CD's by the end of 2012. The record companies denied this - they would. However, many people in the know said the story was full of holes and seemed unlikely that the format will disappear that soon. My personal opinion is that the format will be around for many years to come, just like vinyl. (apparently making yet another comeback…hahah – see end of year Mojo). However I feel the price will start to increase slowly and independent labels will keep the format alive…for a bit longer - just like vinyl.

April 16th National eBay day…er sorry National Record Store Day saw hundreds of exclusive vinyl and CD’s issued for the event. Was planning to visit Banquet records in Kingston. I guessed there would probably be a bit of a queue so will leave it until about 11:00. Hahah got there and the line was still about 200 yards long. My guess is that most of the people in line never had the equipment to play their proposed purchases on. A quick look on eBay confirmed this. Roll on next years event… The good news it that the slight increase in the number of independent record stores over the last year. Hopefully this trend will continue..

Reasons why music sales are falling pt.666... Or D.O.A (Death Of Autotune 2011)

In the early 1960’s, I was give a children’s 7” vinyl story single called Sparky’s Magic Piano. A recording made in the late 1947. The hook was a dream sequence where the piano was talking to Sparky. How the sound was achieved back then is probably explained somewhere on the web. However, every time I hear some latest ‘pop’ single on the radio with this dreadful Auto Tune technique used, all I can think of is Sparky & his magic piano. It’s probably the same association Tom Waits now has when he hears great songs now used on commercials.

Auto Tune vocals…click this link…(just a 10 second MP3 clip) see if you agree. Another search on YouTube reveals just how talentless you can be to jump on a bandwagon – 100’s of examples there. OK Kraftwerk and Neil Young used it in the 1980’s but Sparky was there in the 1940’s… Talent less singers hiding behind technology, then just to cap it off the wonderful Kate Bush jumps on the bandwagon.. oh dear. In her defence the technique was to emphasise a talking computer. Oh yes and James Blake & Bon Iver who also used it in a wise way. I guess that in a few years time this gimmick will sound as dated as the Linn drum from the 80’s does now. The trend became even more irritating for me when on a visits to Barbados and Borneo, listening to the local radio stations seems every pop record uses this awful sound. On top of the real meaningful lyrics... "Oh oh make me move like a freak..."  "I'm made of paper, like a sky scraper...."  Who wrote this stuff, 4 year olds?

At the risk of sounding like my dad.... No I am sounding exactly like my dad... During their big time in the 80's I was not a big fan of Dire straights. They were there on the radio virtually non stop back then and people of a certain age at the time thought they were the best band since the Beatles. (I exclude myself from this section of society!) Over the years since, I've picked up most of their CD's second hand for about £3.00 each as I saw them – just for a historical archive situation you must understand…. BUT I do draw a line at Simply Red…The point being that when I happen to hear a lot of the chart pop from today it makes Dire Straights sound like a fresh sound to my ears. To me even the 'cool' bands like S.C.U.M, Gorillas, (especially their last album) Austra, Metronomy, Everything Everything, The Naked & Famous..... The list can go on...The absents of 'real' (Analogue) lead instruments can show up the limitations of computerised composed songs and combined with auto tune vocals, can make even Dire Straights sound like a breath of fresh air in a smelly toilet of cut and paste poo! Thats how bad things might have got!

Brennan on an on an on...

I'm not against new technology just it's over use. People will follow the trend to get a hit, every genre of music that has become popular for a while over the years has it's copycats. Radiohead generated loads of sound-a-likes.

Always on the lookout for new ways to store music. The cheaper CD's become, especially the second hand ones, the more I seem to acquire. So storage has become a big problem for me. Over the last few years I became aware of the Brennan JB7. I was waiting for a newer version with bigger a HD that would enable me to store a large amount of cd's with loss less compression. But took the plunge with the 500 Gb that would enable about 2000 with 320 kpbs compression. This would free up a large amount of storage in my main living area and move my selected albums to the loft space. Ok, so what albums should I put on the machine? Compilations, artists that I only have one album of, everything from before 1977, artists that begin with M and S (that seems to be my biggest section!). I finally settled on artists that I had most of their albums and had either died or band split up and therefore unlikely to issue any new material, oh, and box sets that don't often get an airing. So I took delivery. Worked out how to use the thing and started ripping. All the Beatles re mastered box sets especially the mono set. Yep sound pretty good... The Smiths...Talking Heads.. So far so good. Neil young Archive Vol one...

Now this is where things start to go wrong. How the machine works is that it rips the discs as a wav file. When you leave it for a while it compresses to your desired compression setting (320 kbps in this case). So I left the machine over night doing what it dose... Next morning turn on JB7 select random play (works similar to an iPod) .... What the fuck is that..... Could just about recognise the track... Sounded like someone had taken a radio to the end of a tunnel and I was listening to it from the other end... The previous evenings 'work' was wasted. After a few checks The machine was obviously faulty... Then began the process of sending the machine back for a replacement. Unfortunately they only retail direct by phone or Internet. To be fair to Brennan, there customer service was one of the best I had come across. Within two hours of phoning them the faulty machine had been collected and within 24 hours I had a replacement... However, on trying the replacement out it was also faulty.... It kept rejecting CD's. Again a replacement was with me within 24 hours. So the process of ripping my selected albums began again. With the cost of portable hard drives so low, I aquired one to back up the 'work' .

All went well for the next 5 weeks...then on 28 October had a couple of hours free and decided to add a few more CD's to it... Whatttt.... after the compression cycle a similar problem to the 1st unit surfaced. Added R2 D2 robot sounds and scratching noises... On the phone again. Now most people would have given up at this, but no I decided to go for another replacement... replacement arrived again within 24 hours, used the backup to replace my 'work'. So far as I type this everything seems OK...Hopefully, Not To Be Continued...

Cake And Eat It

Another curiosity that I came across this year was the PRS & PPL licensing stitch up that is required for every public building in the uk – not a new thing just that the authorities are now trying with a bit more vigour to enforce this tax....sorry.. Licence, private homes excluded – (Prices vary on size of premises & number of people that can hear). Premises that have a radio or cd player or iPod playing that people can hear (Voluntary or involuntary) must have a pair of these licences. Talk about cake and eating it. The radio stations have to pay to play the songs and every one else must pay to listen to them. The corporations trusted with collecting the cash have intensified their methods of perusing their money for the artists. Basically a Tax on listening. What other industry could get away with this funding. Every one else on earth that makes something gets paid for the product at the point of sale. That’s it! If every other business was conducted like the music and film industry, nothing would ever get done. Everyone would just make one thing in their life and sit on their bums waiting for the cash to roll in…. Wake up you lazy sods….OK this is an over simplified overview of the situation, but just think how rich the copyright owners of Sparkey’s magic piano would be now!


My personal picks of the year..in no particular order..

I have seem to have acquired less music this year than in the resent past. I put this down to a couple of things. First, in resent years I have had the disposable income to buy up a lot of the music that I would have bought in my formative years but did not have the cash. I seem to have reached a point where most of these albums have now been purchased. The oldies now that I acquire seem to be from artist that passed me by and have discovered through the pages of Q, Mojo and Uncut. Second, as I mentioned above, the closure of record stores means less opportunity for impulse buying.

Every year someone in the media moans that it's been a rubbish year for music. I don't listen. For me it's been as good a year as ever, If you can be bothered to look around. There are 100's of great new albums to get any serious music enthusiast excited. Their may not be the focus of a band or artist like The Libertines, Sex Pistols, Strokes or Arctic Monkeys to get people excited to start their own bands, but their is still a lot of great music out there.

Over the last decade Domino records have been one of the labels that seem to have led the indie way. This year was no exception. Anna Calvi, Austra, Arctic Monkeys, Real Estate, Alex Turner, Wild Beasts and King Creosote. These are just the artists that have appeared in the end of year lists.

Bon Iver    PJ Harvey   Gruff Rhys


Bon Iver – Bon Iver (that's eye-ver like the town near Heathrow NOT eve-er !!!)
PJ Harvey - let England shake - A popular mercury win for pj Harvey

These two seemed to appear at the top of a lot of end of year poll. The following I personally enjoyed and deserve further investigation if anybody needs a prod....

Panda Bear - Tom Boy
Foo Fighters - Waisting Light
Baxter Duty - Happy Soup
R.E.M - Collapse Into Now
(I seem to be the only person in the world to like this album, and that includes most of the band!)
Battles - Gloss Drop
Fools Gold - Leave No Trace
Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - Rome
Jonathan Wilson - Gentle Sprit
Beirut - The Riptide
tUnE-yArDs - WHOKILL
Iron And Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean
The Strokes - Angles
Foster The People - Torches
Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys
Charles Bradley - No Time For Dreaming
Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo
Jonny – Jonny
Miles Kane - Colour Of The Trap
Friendly Fires - Pala
Peter Gabriel – New Blood
The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
Tom Waits - Bad As Me

The Joanna Newsome ‘don't drive while listening to this album’ award goes jointly this year to Josh T. Pearson for Last Of The Country Gentleman and Bjork for Biophilia. You've been warned! Zzzzzzzzzzz......

Tracks

Baxter Dury – Isobel
Gruff Rhys – Honey All Over/Whale Trail 2
Manic Street Preachers – This Is The Day
Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks
Miles Kane - Rearranger
Noel Gallagher - AKA..What A Life
The Vaccines - Wetsuit
Bombay Bicycle Club - Lights Out, Words Gone
R.E.M. - ÜBerlin
Yuck - Get Away
Elbow - Dear Friends
Frank Turner - Peggy Sang The Blues

Live Music

Another big gripe that became bigger this year was the rise in the casual ticket tout. eBay has obviously been around for a while bit the Get Me In site takes touting to another level. Congratulations to ticket ba$tard for promoting this service. Tickets for highly desirable gigs (ie gigs I personally would have liked tickets for…Sufjan Steven's, Bon Iver, Noel Gallagher, Coldplay, Florence and the machine) - sell out in minutes and guess what, the 'Get Me In' service kicks in. Price up to £2011.00 within an hour of going on sale. This is where all those silly idiots buy tickets and all of a sudden realise "oh damn I can't make that date, never mind I'll just have to sell them at an obscene profit" instantly putting them up for sale at double the price+ what they paid for them. Ticket ba$tard rake their 20 percent on top of that (for VAT and the....SERVICE) what a good business. Of coarse it is supply and demand bla bla bla.. Everyone can become a ticket tout. No more standing outside venues on a cold evening shouting "buy sell tickets". How I'll miss that! And to think that the cheeky bastard record companies whinge about everyone and his dog illegally downloading music loosing money for them... So what is the difference?

When the Stone Roses announced a couple of gigs in Manchester for summer 2012, the touts had a field day. A few fans tried to scupper the touts by starting accounts with allies names and putting in bids of £1 million pounds on eBay. It might slow the bastard$ down a bit but sadly, I doubt if it will stop them.

It's not just ticket ba$tard, even the NME has decided to jump in with the devil. Just a quick browse I noticed that they have hooked up with Viagogo (a division of see tickets) ticket exchange. Some greedy sods were even trying to sell Kaiser chief tickets for over £100!

Had an interesting email from someone that will remain nameless for obvious reasons. He basically confirmed most of my suspicions concerning ticket sales. The person concerned is in the ticket selling industry and he is appalled by the behaviour of a lot of the industry. He told me about "Harvey's row" it's a row of seats that dose not appear on any seating plan, so tickets can be sold and no tax and presumably no money passes to the performer. This is a bigger scam at standing gigs. At Some of the bigger venues they can over print tickets for popular events to an unsafe number! The person that emailed me said the authorities have been informed about the scandal, but as yet has not acted. I wonder if they ever will?

Making money on top of the face value (which the promoter could have done) is ok by the record companies then. Withholding cash from the artist by selling on tickets is acceptable but downloading track for free is not. It must just be me, I must be missing the point.... Even I can spot ways to sort ticket touting out, (see previous bloggggs) but the industry don't want to or they would have done it by now, wouldn't they?

Another thought.. Why do ticket ba$tard and other agencys’ ask you to start an account, and to list all your favourite acts, then only seem notify you with loads of crap acts you have no interest in? Why do I just get advance notification for McFly The Wanted, Kate Perry, JLS, One Direction etc. and when I want advance notice for the likes of the bigger acts - Radiohead, Noel Gallagher or Coldplay, no such luck. Is it that they have trouble shifting those tickets?

It dose sound like I'm moaning a lot. I love the music.....but the industry ... They just give the impression that they should be excluded from the economic downturn while everyone else keeps them in a style they've become used to.

Not so many gigs this year mainly due to the reasons I outlined above plus a lack of desirable (i.e artists I'm interested in) bands gigging.

First gig NME big gig with Foo fighters. Best part of No Age set was the drummer flunking his exit from the drum riser at the end and ending up on his arse hahah. Ce lo Green did a concise set. The best of his Lady Killer album plus a couple of his Gnarls Barkley hits. Band of Horses also provided a solid set before Foo Fighters entertained us with a ‘Greatest Hits’ plus a few from the soon to be issued Wasting Light Album.

Next gig, Beady eye at the Troxy east London – the car unfriendly part of the city. Gallagher the Jr. insisted in keeping his parker on throughout resulting in a very sweaty boy! OK it was a lot better than I was expecting. Played for about an hour which included all the album plus a couple of B sides. Miles Kane was support. Did a good Beatles cover of Hey bulldog.

Elbow at the O2. Support by Villagers. Guy Garvey is not only becoming one of the UK’s best front men but a national treasure. With just the right amount of inter song banter, most of the songs performed were from the last two albums.

Loudon Wainwright III was the next gig. Still touring with his daughter Lucy who seems to have developed her fathers sense of humour since the last time I saw her. Vowing never to come back to Britain if she herd the word super injunction again before she left the country!

Seeing bands on their home turf outside London always seems to add an extra sense of occasion to the event. Elbow at the men arena a couple of years ago was special. The Manic Street Preachers in as near as damn it home gig in Cardiff was also a bit special.

Gruff Rhys's in reading was the next gig, sadly the venue was downgraded to the sub 89 club from the concert hall due probably to slow ticket sales. What's the matter with people. One of the true living greats and people just can't be arsed to go out on a Tuesday night! They missed a special gig. Playing songs from all of his solo albums plus his own brand of dry wit, what was not to like? Never mind Griff, it was Reading's loss.

The Arctic Monkeys at the O2 London supported by The Vaccines was the next gig. The Vaccines got things going with a run through of most of their debut album plus the new single tiger blood. Then the monkeys impressed with a selection of tracks taken from the four albums they have produced so far. This was the 3rd time I have seen the band, was also the biggest headline gig for the band under a roof. Alex even managed to orchestrate a bit of community singing! Biggest surprise was the omission of Cornerstone from the set. Miles Kane joined them for the final encore on guitar.

The delayed Friendly Fires gig in Southampton was a bit disappointing. The sound balance completely obliterated the vocals, which is a bit ironic as the gig was delayed because of throat illness! Just wish the sound was as polished as the visuals. Support from Chad Valley and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, demonstrates to me why live music from new bands is beginning to show signs of stress. Although the music sounds fine on CD/Record, who really gets excited watching someone sing into a laptop computer? Perhaps it’s me showing my age again….

No sound problems the following night for the Manic Street Preachers at the O2. James Dean Bradfield's  voice is so powerful, probably doesn't need a PA. 38 songs in 2 3/4 hours. All the singles that reached the charts over the last 20 years. Biggest surprise was Gruff Rhys joining the band to sing 'Let Robson Sing'. A slightly less obvious surprise was Nina Persson's duet with James on 'Your Love Alone Is Not Enough'. Nicky Wire even managed a wry joke about the continuing non appearance of Richie Edwards - He didn't make it again! A superb gig to end my year of gigs...


Reading Matter

Lowside Of The Road – Barney Hoskins – A Life Of Tom Waits. (2009)

With all the scare tactics that Tom & Kath piled on proposed contributors, it’s a miracle Barney didn’t just give up on the project. As it turns out, I didn’t read anything that the pair could get annoyed about. It is mainly a journey through Tom’s recording career detailing every recording he’s made to date. Offering no tittle tattle celebrity nonsense, just concentrating on the main subjects craft of song writing and his recording process along with the associated tours. After a few albums it may become a little laboured to a casual reader. But I found it a rewarding companion to re discovering many of his tracks that I had overlooked on some of his albums.

Ian Dury: The Definitive Biography - Will Birch (2010)

The book came out at about the same time as the Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll Film. The film is a very abridged version of the book. Birch acknowledges that because the subject matter was deceased, more people than not were willing to talk with him. A complete opposite that Hoskins had with the Tom Waits biog. The book, Dury comes across at best as a bit of a ‘difficult’ person to get along with. He used his disability to create confrontations and avoid being physically hit! – Especially when a tin of beer was opened in his vicinity! Lost count the times he and Chaz Jankel & Mickey Gallagher fell out – mainly over writing royalties. I personally didn’t realise just how many film rolls he did, including one with Tom Waits which is covered in this book and the Waits book. A good read even if you were not a big fan.


A Version Of Reason (in search of Richey Edwards) - Rob Jovanovic (2009)

Although no official interviews with the maniacs or the Edwards family contributed to the book, as far as I can tell it portrays an accurate just facts account of the life and final days of Richie Edwards life. Hopefully the troubled soul is still alive and living a normal life somewhere. The book dose not come with any conclusions but dose analyse most of the theories about his disappearance. Split into two books - his life and after he disappeared. I read the book while on holiday in Borneo and it got me thinking while seeing a European looking man about the right age with tattoos covering both arms plus long grayling beard pushing a shopping trolley with a young child in tow....hang on, would somebody obsessed with disappearing go to a country where he would stick out like a saw thumb! An interesting read for any maniacs fan or anybody interested in mysteries of disappearing people.

The complete chronicle of The Who - Anyway Anyhow Anywhere - 1958-1978

Any Neill & Matt Kent (2007 edition) orig. 2005.

Another HMV £3 buy. This is as a complete record of the band as you could wish for. Virtually a diary of every gig and recording session the group undertook. Tracks that completely passed me by were Dogs from 1968 and the rolling stones cover "The last time" from 1967. Had me rushing to amazon to order 30 years of r 'n' b box set. Any new bad should have a look at this book to see how much work they put in to make it. The number of gigs they did in the early years is mind boggling. All these bands ( coldplay, florance and the machine...etc..) that call 6 dates a uk tour - just give up... And all these people that feel a video on YouTube or an appearance on X Factor equates to a lifetime in Rock 'N' Roll .... you are d r e a m i n g

Touching From A Distance - Ian Curtis and Joy Division - Deborah Curtis - 1995

The tragic story of Ian Curtis from his be soon to have been divorced wife. Did his illness cause his erratic behaviour or was he just a bit of an ass hole? We will probably never know. Like Richie Edwards he ended it the day before he was due to tour America for the 1st time. Also like Edwards their were early elements of self harming and high academic achievement. At only 139 pages it covers concisely his short life, his controlling of his wife and her betrayal. The birth of Joy Division and their short lived career. The book is a more detailed account of the film Control. The book also contains his published and unpublished song lyrics.

Bob Dylan - Chronicles Volume one (2005)

Finally got around to reading this, another £3.00 er. The Mr Zimmerman - Elston Gunn - Robert Allen auto biography. Took a while for me to get into as he wanders through loads of his influences who were unknown to me in the first chapter. Also interesting to note that his early 70's albums were made for financial reasons. Not so much of a biography a snapshot of Half a dozen brief periods from his life including a section on how he come up with a vocal style in the '80's that managed to make every song he sings live sound the same! Find it difficult to believe the level of detail he recalled from fifty years on. Perhaps his talent for story telling in songs has transferred to 'novels'. There is a theory that someone embellishing stories with loads of detail is probably lying... Just a thought. I can probably wait for volume 2!

Michael Stipe - The biography by Rob Jovanovic. (2006)

Coincidentally I started reading this one the week it was announced in September that R.E.M were calling it a day. Ok nothing serious just another pop bad splitting up. One that has played a big part in my musical listening over the last 30 years. From their 1st album 'murmur' I was hooked. Only managed to see them the once, at Twickenham in 2008, must have been one of the last gigs they played in the UK on the Accelerate tour. After reading the book I was surprised just how few gigs the band did in the UK.

I am probably the only person - including most of the band - that really enjoyed their last album 'Collapse Into Now' that came out earlier this year. Always a tinge of excitement on the arrival of a new album from them, and for me they never disappointed. I always enjoyed the critically slated ones - maybe not as much as some of the critically acclaimed ones, but they always produced enough good material on each album to keep me coming back again and again. No doubt Stipe and co will carry on producing music individually in the coming years and I personally look forward to hearing it. Having said that, after reading the biography, the way Stipe works it's difficult to see any solo recordings from him any time soon. He seems more comfortable behind a camera or just jumping up on stage to help out friends or good causes.


So to 2012... Looking forward to new stuff hopefully from ... Franz Ferdinand, Vampire Weekend, Animal Collective, Paul Weller, and gigs from Elvis and the importers, Noel Gallagher, Kaiser Chiefs...

'till 2012....

Julian White ©2011


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Bloggggg 2010

Rocklistleaks… Just Too Hot For Wikileaks….

As the new year began the battle lines were being drawn up by the pro and anti legal downloading factions of the music industry. As Billy Bragg pointed out, the Music industry is in no trouble just, the record industry. Kids are going to start bands and make music without the record industry. They just upload it to mySpace or Youtube or facebook and if it catches people imagination, who needs record companies? Record companies will still be around but I guess they will be very selective as to what they will bring out on CD. All they will have to do is trawl the net for new talent – which is what they’ve probably been doing for a few years now anyway. – even more so now.

The best stocked CD stores I have visited this year have all been in Western Australia. But I guess it is only a question of time before they surrender to the Internet. While travailing around Oz love to tune into Triple J radio station – available all over oz on the FM network. It’s a sort of 6 music for Australia, with a big music input from Oz acts. As I seem to be there at a similar time of year most trips, the station announce their best Oz album of the year. This time Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker, worth checking out. Oz seem to have a vibrant new music scene. Every time I go there I can’t believe the amount of bands that are trying to make it big. A shame only a small amount of the music seems to filter through to the UK.

I seem to have become a refuge for unwanted CD’s this year. Whenever anyone known to me is throwing out the silver disks, it’s ‘give Whitey a call, he’ll give them a home’. So my collection has grown at a somewhat alarming rate. The discs are probably not the sort of thing I would seek out to buy, but I just can’t turn them away. A whole pile of Late Genesis and late sixties early seventies folk were added to my ever bulging racks.

I thought it might have been me but the November issue of Word Magazine confirmed feelings that I had harboured for many years. Yes there are albums that are hard to listen to and get to love. 2010 has thrown a few, up but my biggest ‘difficult’ album of the year is the Joanna Newsom ‘Masterpiece’.
WARNING – Do not try listening to “Have One On Me” album while driving. A couple of years ago all the reviews I read of her Ys Album had me rushing to the record stores – only to be completely underwhelmed. This year she treated us to a triple album. Again the reviewers invented new superlatives, I just couldn’t resist. How the hell did all these reviewers manage to review it? So far, after several attempts, I have failed to stay awake for more than 15 minutes of the 1st CD. Yes she has a fine voice, It is well produced, but to me it just sends me too sleep. Too many words with basically no tunes and no chorus to distinguish one track from another. It’s the vocal equivalent of Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music”, Get the picture!. Just long (tuneless) song cycles. If you were thinking of purchasing this album because it appears in many of the end of year lists, (No1 in Uncut) don’t believe the hype. Go and buy the wonderful and over looked Kathryn Williams album instead. It has the added bonus of you still being alive at the end of your car journey!

1st gig of my year – Vampire weekend at the shit hole Brixton… oh sorry the wonderful Brixton Academy. The most overrated music venue in the UK. If I lived around the corner from the place I might view it differently. But having to get there from the leafy suburbs of Surrey, it’s a bastard to get too. When you get there, their is no where to park, and when you get in, the souls of your shoes are pulled off as you try to free your feet from the heavily soiled carpet. Just what you want after a days work. However, the wonderful Vampire Weekend soon made me forget the traumas of the journey to Brixton and the crap food of the local Subway. As when I saw them 18 months previous at the Forum they were accompanied by a string quartet and the balcony must have an extra 150mm sag in it now.

Next gig was Peter Gabriel at the O2 with the 50 piece New Blood Orchestra. This was the 1st time since 1975 that I had seen Gabriel. In the early ‘70’s must have seen him a good dozen times with Genesis. From the smallest Gin Mill club at the Angel Hotel in Godalming, Surrey through to their 1st appearance at the Reading Festival. The O2 gig was in support of his wonderful Scratch My Back project. The 1st half of the gig was the album in full. The Second half was a selection of his ‘greatest’ hits rearranged for the 50 piece orchestra at his disposal.

My next gig was meant to be Florence and the machine at the Hammersmith Apollo. However due to a bit of a cock up in me completely forgetting, I booked a flight to New York for the day before!!!

Teenage Fanclub – Sheppard’s bush empire – unfortunately the layout of the venue downstairs means that the bar is directly in front of the stage and the idiots for reasons only known only to them selves buy a ticket for some £30 and insist in standing at the bar drinking overpriced shit beer and TALKING LOUDER THAN THE BAND. Just go to the fucking pub next door and save yourself a shit load of cash dickheads – Apart from that another classic TFC gig.

Gig week – The Hold Steady – Bumping into the band Outside McDonalds following them up to the venue as they asked the touts the price of tickets! By end of the evening from the back of the theatre, Craig Finn looked worryingly like Alan Carr – shit camp UK ‘comic’ entertainer! With the departure of Franz Nicoly, keyboards are now relegated to a minor role and additional lead guitar at times reminded me of Wishbone ash. Craig Finn’s guitar now merely a prop.

Elvis Costello – Oxford solo – Previewing some of the tracks from his soon to be issued National Ransom. A couple of weeks after performing at the White House with P. McCartney, he told the story about forgetting to pick up a much liked guitar, reckoning that the Obama kids stole it while his back was turned. A few weeks later her retold the story to Jools Holland, BUT by then the guitar had been returned.

The next night, Nick Lowe – Basingstoke - Pre festival season warm up gig – 1200 theatre with only 150-200 people! One of Britons most under rated singer songwriters. What’s the matter with people? Make him the star he deserves to be, not this shit X-factor dross. Otherwise he may be forced to make another Bay City Roller style tribute song….for Wagner!

Final gig of the week was Paul McCartney/Manic street preachers/Joy Formidable – Cardiff. Anyone dismissing McCartney is a fool. OK, you probably don’t line up outside the record store anymore the day of his latest releases, (his last two I picked up for £3 a couple of months after release) But they still have a handful of good tunes on them. Thousands of bands a year are formed. And the reason can be traced right back to Paul and his three mates who invented the modern popular culture. When I first saw him 35 years ago at the Empire pool in Wembley, Band on the run had just been issued and he was still fighting for his own identity outside the Beatles so only a few Beatles tracks were included in that set – similar to Wings Over America. This time, no such problem. Probably 55% of the set consisted of Beatle tunes. It left me wondering, One of the reasons quoted for the Beatles stopping touring was the inability to perform many of the songs they recorded in the late ‘60’s live. I know the technology has been around for a couple of decades now, but his five piece band had no trouble reproducing A day in the life…. Live. The Joy Formidable seemed a bit lost on the stadium and the Manic’s were only allowed to do 10 songs - shame

Mumford and sons at a sweaty Hammersmith Apollo in October. The highlight was the band being joined on stage with Kinks legend Ray Davis to perform Days/This Time Tomorrow, the track recorded for Ray’s disappointing collaboration project.

Manic Street Preachers & British Sea Power at the Bournemouth (Don’t let the advertising fool you , it’s in Boscombe!) O2 Academy. Never failed to give a great performance over the years I’ve been seeing them live. Played tracks from most of their albums but a majority from their latest opus. It was after this gig that James had to take a break of a few gigs for his voice to recover.

Badly Drawn Boy – Bloomsbury Theatre London. Arrived at the venue to be greeted by the sight of Damon Gough standing outside the front door with a drink in one hand and a ciggie in the other happily chatting and posing for pics with his audience. Luckily my wife decided not to take one with me and him. The gig, although we both enjoyed it, seemed a little down beat. Can’t put my finger on why!

We Are Scientists – Southsea. The US duo promoting their latest album, Barbra. Only they can get away with pleading with the audience NOT to sing along with the songs as it puts them off…

Blondie & The Pretenders – Perth West Australia. A couple of bands that over the years I Have liked a lot. Saw Blondie a few years ago at Guilfest so there were few surprises. A lot of fun though. Just wonder if that is a real wig she wears! The Pretenders were a real surprise. A band that I seemed to have missed out on seeing over the years. Still producing good new albums – Check out last years Breaking up concrete. Chrissie has a great voice. She did a tremendous version of Hymn to her. Not a mention of Nick Kent! – See below. A mention to Little Red the support act. From Melbourne. At the time just seemed a good support act. However, as mentioned above while travelling around Oz I like to tune in to Triple J. They played Little Red a lot. By the end of the trip had to call into JB Hi-Fi to pick up their album.

A lot more gigs would have been attended but my travel plans seemed to get in the way. Still want to see Arcade Fire, Band Of Horses, Sufjan Stevens,

Reading Matter

Nick Kent – Apathy For The Devil. A sometimes harrowing tale of rock journalism through the 1970’s.
Not many laughs. From his 1st articles in 1972 for NME through his failed relationship with Chrissie Hynde into the dark drug years. His friendships with Iggy Pop, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones plus a brief stint with an early incarnation of The Sex Pistols. A no holds barred account of his life in that decade.

Keith Richard/James Fox – Life – Although I found some of his hero worship for his inspirations a little laboured, a great read into one of the most colourful rock stars that is still around to tell the story. The drugs, the girls, the fights with Mick and not a dry seat in the house! A lot of detail on 5 string open tuning that created some of the most famous riffs of the 20th century.

John Lennon The Life - Philip Norman. Picked this hefty read up from HMV for £6! First published in 2008 and coming in at over 800 pages this is a well researched warts and all account of the worlds most famous rhythm guitarist in The Beatles. If this was a work of fiction, you would probably put it down as being too far fetched, but I would have loved to have read the original 350,000 word manuscript that it was edited down from. As much as a history lesson about Northern Britain in the 50's and 60's. You can not believe that the entire touring party in the 60's consisted of only the 4 Beatles plus Mal Evens & Neil Aspinall (The Rodies) and sometimes Brian Epstein! I only wish it had a happier ending.

Albums of my year

The NME album of the year was a complete surprise to me. Although I had ‘These New Puritans – Hidden’ and played it a few times I must admit It never grabbed my attention. Normally you can get a rough idea of what direction the writers are heading towards by reading the magazine regularly. Perhaps I was asleep that week. But this year it was a ‘where did that come from!’ However listening back now it dose have a sound unique to this year. It’s also another triumph for Domino records who have a good track record of finding original acts over the last few years. (Wild beasts, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic monkeys)


       


Vampire weekend - Contra
Gayngs - Relayted
Delphic - Acolyte
Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back
Band Of Horses - Infinite Arms
Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse – Dark Night Of The Soul
Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From A Young Man
Kathryn Williams – The Quickening
Tunng – And Then We Saw Land
Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz/All Delighted People
Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
Fang Island – Fang Island
Teenage Fanclub – Shadows
The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever
The Besnard Lakes – Are The Roaring Night
Field Music – Field Music (Measure)

Tracks

(It’s not war) Just The end of love – Manic street Preachers
Holiday – Vampire Weekend
Peter Gabriel – The Power Of The Heart
Blur – Fools Day
Doves – Andalucía
Band Of Horses – Factory
Little Red – Rock it
Gruff Rhys – Shark Infested Water

Looking forward to… The new Elbow album and tour.. the sound of Liam Gallagher falling on his arse…Arctic Monkeys return.. Plus new product from….Fleet Foxes.. Coldplay.. R.E.M… Kasabian.. Mumford and Sons.. Florence & The Machine.. Egyptian Hip Hop.. Gruff Rhys.. The Strokes.. Friendly Fires..


'till 2011......


Julian White ©2010