Tuesday, 27 June 2017

What I miss about listening to music old school




I have two kids – boys aged 13 and 15. Both sweethearts and they both love music. They spend hours with those fizzy earbuds plugged into their ears listening to God only knows what. Sometimes I listen to a bit of it myself and it scares me. This is a good thing. My parents were horrified by my Queen LPs, just as their parents were equally distressed by Mel Torme. Imagine that – Mel Torme as the corrupter of a nation’s youth… But I digress. As a music teacher and full time music fan, I’m curious about the stuff my kids are listening to and I ask a bunch of dad questions – “Who is this?”, “What else have they done?”, “Is it from an album?”…you know. Dad stuff. My kids couldn’t tell me. Like the vast majority of their generation, they’ve plucked music out of the air and out of context and they treat it like chewing gum.

I got my first album for Christmas in 1976. It was Queen’s “A Night At The Opera”. I’d only asked for it, because a schoolfriend had bought it into class and I completely fell in love with the way it looked. It was like a work of art from another planet. I begged for it and I got it and the joy I felt when I saw that skinny, square package leaning up against our fake Christmas tree was like nothing else. I played it constantly. Mom and dad had recently upgraded our coffin shaped record player (purchased just after the second world war…) to a super-duper music centre with a record player and a built in tape recorder. Swanky eh? I’d put that record on and take it all in. I didn’t skip any tunes. That was cheating. I was there for the duration. I’d flip that cover over and over, staring at the pictures of the exotic creatures that made this music, poring over the lyrics, the credits…everything. It was my musical education. When I got more albums, I was delighted when I recognised names from previous purchases. “Roy Thomas Baker” was the coolest name I’d ever seen. He cropped up a lot. The cover, the credits, even the matrix number by the label were important. They had to be, or what were they doing on this amazing piece of art that was blowing my mind on a regular basis?

So, what’s my point?

It’s to do with context. Today, we can listen to anything at any time in any place. This is cool. But it means that we completely bypass the context. The 13 year old Queen fan that I was in 1976 would not dream of skipping over tracks on “A Night At The Opera”, because that was like travelling to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and only looking at her nose. Some tunes popped out straight away – “Bohemian Rhapsody” obviously and “You’re My Best Friend”. God, I loved those tunes. But after a while, other songs percolated to the surface. And guess what – those are the songs that I enjoy the most when I play that album in 2017. I put the time in and I get more pleasure from that record now than I did at 13. Who knew?

An album is a journey.

That’s not New Age tomfoolery. That’s a real thing. The best albums take you from Point A to Point Whatever, taking in a whole heap of stuff on the way. You may not understand it all, but some of those challenging bits are there to make the good things even better. If you listen to “Revolver” and skip “Yellow Submarine” you’re doing yourself a bit of an injustice… that’s the yin to the yang of “Here, There and Everywhere” and a moment of respite before we go psychedelic with “She Said, She Said”.  It’s there because it has to be there. The road may be bumpy, but it’ll smooth out later. 

An album is an education. 

I love MP3s. The convenience is incredible. I can walk around with hundreds of hours of music in my pocket. If I want a bit of aural wallpaper, MP3’s will do. But that’s not listening. That music is happening in spite of you, not because of you. If I want to listen – really listen - then some ritual is involved. The album goes on (I’m a CD man myself, but please don’t hate me, vinyl aficionados…) and I get ready to immerse myself in it. I need to know who’s playing bassoon. I need to know who the assistant engineer was. Who took the photographs? It’s like reading a book. You need to know who the characters are and what they do, because one of them might crop up later and do something that’ll change the story. That’s why having a physical, tangible thing is SO important. You read and learn. We have a generation of music fans who are growing up and having no clue what a producer or engineer does. Or even who the singer in the band is. All those amazing technicians are wrangling beautiful noises from the ether and no one knows who they are or what they do. How the hell has that been allowed to happen? No George Martin – No “Sergeant Pepper”. No Max Martin – No Britney Spears. These people deserve our respect. 

If you need any further proof that an album is an education then I offer myself up as an example – I read those liner notes and immersed myself in that music. I’ve been teaching Popular Music and Media in schools for the last twenty years. I’m still learning

In my Brave New World, it won’t be compulsory to clear your diary every time you want to crank some tunes, but active listening should not be a thing of the past. We need to get back into the habit of putting an album on with no distractions other than the art that accompanies it and really listening. The details. The sound of the room that the musicians who made that music were in. Don’t skip tracks. They are there for a reason. Thom Yorke put “Fitter Happier” on “OK Computer” because he says it belongs there. Do you wanna argue with that guy? 

Musicians spend a lifetime perfecting what they do, just for us to semi-ignore it while we’re cooking pasta. Maybe we need to pay closer attention to their art. If you’re still on the fence, try this True Life Story: Following a tragic onstage accident which left him a quadriplegic, Curtis Mayfield didn’t give up on music. To make his 1996 album “New World Order” he had to record his vocals by lying on the studio floor, singing two or three lines at a time as that was the only way his lungs would operate. He worked tirelessly with the musicians, overseeing every note and every production decision. All he had was his voice and an incredible mind. Knowing that, when you listen to “New World Order”, how could you possibly flip around the album as if you were looking for the sports channel on TV? Curtis deserves your respect. 

Respect. For Music. That sounds good. Let’s do that.




Saturday, 17 June 2017

Fingers crossed...

...that all the links now work. Let me know if any won't connect or are linked to the wrong files.
Hopefully, it's now business as usual...

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Be Bop Deluxe MegaPost

I've cleared up the old individual Be Bop Deluxe live recording links and plopped them all here for your convenience. You really should grab them all, 'cos Bill Nelson is ace. I've removed a couple of recordings which are now available as part of the "Be Bop Deluxe at the BBC 1974-1978"  set, but I have included their mega rare first Top gear session.





Top Gear Session: 09 73
(Decent quality recording of the first Be-Bop Peel session with two unreleased tunes - essential)

John Peel intro
Axe Victim
John Peel intro
Bluesy Ruby
John Peel intro
Tomorrow the World
John Peel intro
___________________________________________
14 06 75 London Hippodrome
(Fantastic quality BBC recording that's not on the official compilation - shame)

Stage whispers
Third floor heaven
Adventures in a Yorkshire landscape
Sister seagull
Piece of mine
Maid in Heaven
Axe victim
___________________________________________

09 03 76 Detroit Ford Auditorium
(Reasonable audience recording, notable for the inclusion of the rare "No trains to Heaven").

Fair exchange
Stage whispers
Life in the air age
Sister seagull
Maid in Heaven
Ships in the night
Blazing apostles
Band introduction
No trains to Heaven
___________________________________________

21 04 76 Chicago Riviera Theater
(Rather "thin" sounding recording possibly soundboard?)

Fair exchange
Stage whispers
Life in the air age
Sister seagull
Adventures in a Yorkshire landscape
Maid in Heaven
Ships in the night
Blues improvisation
Blazing apostles
___________________________________________

06 07 76 London,
(Recorded for "Rock around the world" - decent version)

Intro
Life In The Air Age
Sleep That Burns 
Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape
Sister Seagull
Blazing Apostles
___________________________________________

02 10 76 London  Hammersmith Odeon
(Broadcast by K-HOUR - a more complete version of show that appears on the "At the BBC" collection)

Life in the air age
Orphans of Babylon
Sister seagull
Made in Heaven
Bring back the spark
Kiss of light
Fair exchange
Twilight capers
Modern music
dancing in the moonlight (all alone)
Honeymoon on mars
Lost in the neon world
Dance of the Uncle Sam humanoids
Modern music (reprise)
Forbidden lovers
Terminal street
Blazing apostles
___________________________________________

03 12 76 Philadelphia The Cathedral
(FM recording - slightly murky, but still listenable)

Radio intro
Fair exchange
Stage whispers
Life in the air age
Cryng to the sky
Ships in the night
Sister seagull
Maid in Heaven
Blazing apostles
No trains to Heaven
___________________________________________

06 12 76 New York Calderone Hall
(WLIR-FM Broadcast -  good quality - recommended)

Life in the air age
Fair exchange
Sister seagull
Ships in the night
Adventures in a Yorkshire landscape
Forbidden lovers
Terminal Street
Blazing Apostles
___________________________________________

19 03 78 Oxford New Theatre
(FM broadcast - runs a little slow)

New precision
Dangerous stranger
Superenigmatix
Lovers are mortal
New mysteries
Panic in the world
Forbidden lovers
Love in flames
___________________________________________

04 09 78 Pawtucket
(A rather "distant" audience recording of their opening slot for the Tubes - a few rare gems in the set tho')

New precision
Possession
Superenigmatix
Shine
Ships in the night
Speed of the wind
Dangerous stranger
Panic in the world
Forbidden lovers
Love in flames
____________________________________________





Sunday, 11 June 2017

Adam West


Adam West could have invented a cure for everything, brokered a deal which lead to world peace and correctly deduced the ingredients of McDonald’s secret sauce, but for my generation he’ll always be Batman. 

Every Sunday afternoon, sometime in the late sixties, I’d be glued to our tiny, LoFi TV waiting to see how Batman and Robin had extricated themselves from whatever bizarre contraption the Joker, Riddler or the Penguin had lured them into. It may be camp and kitsch now, but it wasn’t then. It was life and death. You can wax lyrical about any of the pseudo film noir versions of the character that have appeared in the last few years, but you’ll never get more than a grudging “s’alright…” from me. There’s only one Batman – spoiler alert – it ain’t Christian Bale. 


I met Adam West once, in rather unusual circumstances. I worked in A Very Big Record Shop for half of the eighties and we’d often have in store signings by artists desperate to prop up their ailing careers or newer artists trying to drum up support for some piece of tawdry nonsense they were attempting to sell to people who should know better. Anyhoo, some marketing genius decided the time was right to issue the first Batman movie on VHS. There will now be a short pause, while younger readers Google “VHS”. To promote this momentous event, Mr West was dusted off and sent on a signing tour of Very Big Record Shops, one of which was the one I worked in. The day duly arrived for him to appear and much to my chagrin, I had drawn the short straw and I was timetabled to be in a different department to Batman. I sulked off to the staffroom and started to make myself a peanut butter sandwich, while scowling and muttering. I thought I was alone in the room. I wasn’t. I turned around from my terrible pre-school lunch, only to find Adam West – my pre-school hero – staring intently at my sandwich. We looked at each other for about 10 seconds, which seemed to last about an hour before I spoke. “Would you like a sandwich?” It was the best I could do, under the circumstances. Batman remained silent, but a confused look spread across his face. He considered my proposition for a quite a while, before he replied “Do you think I’m hungry? Do you think I need food?” Not in an aggressive way – he was genuinely asking me if he needed something to eat. It was that point that two of his minders/assistants/nurses appeared and led him gently, but firmly onto the shop floor. On the way however, he scribbled over every one of those insurance and public liability documents that shops are legally bound to display, thus rendering them null and void. What a guy. 

I did get him to sign my copy of the Jan and Dean version of the Batman theme tune tho’. 
When he appeared as the fantastic “Mayor West” character in “Family Guy”, I was delighted. I was also thrilled that his on-screen persona matched exactly that of the man I had a brief and bizarre interaction with sometime in the eighties. 

So farewell, Batman. The final Batsignal has illuminated Gotham’s sky and you’ve answered the call. Chief O’Hara thanks you. Commissioner Gordon thanks you. The grateful citizens of Gotham thank you. 

And Rushbo thanks you.  

Friday, 2 June 2017

Moonlighting...

http://www.gigsoupmusic.com/author/rushbo/

https://www.rockerzine.com/author/ian-rushbury/Some lovely, foolish people have asked me to write some reviews for them. Ha! They'll learn. But in the meantime, here are some links to what I get up to you when I'm not here...



Many thanks to Erin Amar at Rockerzine and Paul Smith at Gigsoup for the webspace. Yer both ace.

GIGSOUP

ROCKER




Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Worst Gig Ever' #2: The Breedon Bar

The late, lamented Breedon bar. Oh the memories...

I’ve played in a lot of bands. I’m serious…a LOT of bands. Most of these were pretty groovy – nice chaps, good tunes, some enjoyable roadtrips and a hatful of good memories. Obviously, no riches or enormous fame or I’d have one of my uniformed minions type this for me whilst I snacked on a Swans Neck Kebab, but some good times. With the good, with depressing inevitability, must come the bad. Hot on the heels of my last ‘Rushbo’s Guide’ post, here’s part two…just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, along comes…The Bikers Wake.


It’s very rare that any of my Pop Combos are in the right place at the right time, but it did happen once. It’s the early 90s and everyone is tearing holes in their jeans, buying Fuzzboxes and generally ‘Rocking Out’. And so was I. This time around I was the Bassist in the delightfully named ‘Diabolo Go’. Our speciality…Pearl Jam meets the Manic Street Preachers, topped with some pseudo Jim Morrison-esque lyrics. We ticked all the right boxes and the only thing that held us back was the fact that we hailed from Birmingham – then about as hip as Pat Boone. But we rehearsed our butts off and we were a decent little Rockin’ band.

Ah rehearsals…we shared a local rehearsal space with a local (and very successful) Prog Rock band called Ark. Very big in Italy they were, apparently. The facility was run by an affable chap called Fin, notable for being the Bassist in a Metal band called The Handsome Beasts. Never has a band been LESS aptly named. Now this is where the story starts…

It was a Tuesday night and probably drizzling outside. Not that we would have known as our lock-up was untroubled by natural light…or ventilation. But we liked it that way. We were halfway through one of our thinly veiled excuses for a Wah-wah freakout, when in runs Fin in a state of high excitement, waving his arms for us to stop. ‘Lads, lads…I’ve got a gig for you! No money, but a massive Rock audience. Get in the Transit van, we’ve only got an hour to get there!’  No money. There was never any money. Excited by the opportunity to play in front of something other than Arks intimidating and expensive Italian funded equipment, we loaded our gear into the back of Fin’s van and set off. Uncharacteristically, I blagged the shotgun seat and started to get a few details about this mysterious, impromptu gig. Apparently, the organisers had been let down by a band at the last minute and the venue owner turned them on to Fin. ‘Sounds plausible’, thought I. He was a bit more reticent about the remaining arrangements, but I was prepared to let that go. After all, it was a gig in front of a ‘big Rock audience’.

The gig turned out to be at The Breedon bar. A great venue – I’d seen a ton of bands there and some of my heroes (American Music Club! Green On Red!) had graced the stage. So far so good. We pulled into the car park which was FULL of expensive and opulently chromed motorbikes. Proper motorbikes. ‘Easy Rider’ motorbikes. Oh jeez…it’s a bikers gig. Now for some reason, I’ve never really got on with the biking fraternity…I am sure they’re all lovely people who spend freely at the bar and do tons of charity work, but I just feel incredibly uncomfortable in their presence. And there were about 200 of ‘em in pretty small space, right here. We unloaded the van and my apprehension was shared by the rest of the guys in the band. No one seemed to be having a lot of fun – in fact there was a really sombre air in the place. Wait a minute…why are all these guys wearing black armbands? Yep. It was a wake. Fin had tricked us into playing a wake. No wonder the other band had pulled out.

"It just needs cleaning..."
We unloaded the gear. ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ played over the PA and no-one smiled. Occasionally a glass smashed and voices were raised, followed by an uneasy d├ętente. This was not going to be a good night for anyone, especially us. I dutifully set up my trusty Bass, taking care to put it into dropped D tuning for our first, epic number. Satisfied, I left the stage and hid in the toilet for about 20 minutes. It was in there that I heard the sound of music…not ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ which had been playing on a loop since our arrival, but a Bluesy jam. I left the safety of the urinal, only to find three bikers had ‘borrowed’ our gear and were jamming away in the key of A. All apart from the guy on the Bass – sorry, MY Bass, who was looking bemused. I jumped on stage and told him the Bass was in a weird tuning and maybe I should carry on from here. He grunted and thrust the Bass back at me. I strapped it on and ploughed through ten minutes of lack-lustre 12 bar strummage. After that, we had a few minutes before showtime, so I raced to the bar to get something to take the mania off the whole sorry affair. It was there I met the erstwhile Bassist who told me the back story to the gig. Apparently, the wake was for a biker in a local chapter who had come off his bike in ‘dubious circumstances’. ‘See them?’ he pointed at a group in the corner. ‘They reckon he was killed by them’. He pointed to an equally dour looking bunch. ‘But they…’ he pointed to a third group ‘reckon it was them’. He pointed to a fourth. ‘So why aren’t they beating each other up?’ I asked, nervously. ‘Truce’ he replied. ‘Until midnight tonight’. I checked my watch. 10.50pm. Shit. I quickly shared this information with my bandmates and we ran on stage to get this over with. We waited patiently for ‘Stairway To Heaven’ to finish as we thought we’d be beaten up if we interrupted that… Finally, we caught our breath and lurched into song number one. And so it began….

The first song had a great ‘car crash’ ending where we all played the final chord over and over, finishing off with a highly choreographed KA-BLAMM! accompanied by a heroic, Iggy-esque leap into the air. One person clapped. It was Fin on the sound desk. We raced through an hours worth of material in 50 minutes. It was at this gig we realised that almost all of our songs had the words ‘Death’, ‘Ghost’ or ‘Murder’ in the lyrics, which were hastily changed on the fly by our quick thinking and terrified lead vocalist. After a few songs, even Fin stopped clapping and the only noises we heard between songs were the gritting of teeth, glasses breaking and the odd scuffle…and the occasional muted sob from our drummer.

'The good news is there's a big crowd out there.
The bad news is they're all carrying machetes and
baying for your blood...'
At 11.45, we finished. As the last chord rang around the room, we started yanking out jack leads and tossing equipment into the back of the van. ‘No time to put it into cases boys, just get it outta here!’ As we were frenziedly throwing stuff off the stage, a large biker collared Chrissie, our drummer. He gesticulated sharply to the aged Piano to the right of the stage. ‘Ay mate, d’yow play Pianner?’ Relieved that it wasn’t a death threat, Chrissie smiled and shook his head. ‘Y’ow can’t play the fuckin’ Drums either’ came the less than friendly retort. I have to admit that even under the shadow of doom, that made me laugh…under my breath, of course.

By 11.58, we were all in the van, bloodied but unbowed. Fin put his foot to the floor and we raced out of the car park. It was a while before anyone could speak, so the usual post gig autopsy would have to wait until another, less stressful night. About two miles down the road, we passed a fleet of Police cars racing in the opposite direction, blue lights flashing. I checked my watch. The time was 12.04