Wednesday, 22 June 2011


It's probably fair to say that U2 will touch most people musically at some point or another. I can't pretend to have been there at the start but it is the first few albums that remain my favourites out of their vast repertoire. "I Will Follow" from "Boy" remains one of my favourite singles and it was a song our band The Majority used to cover way back in 1985 which certainly does make me feel old. "New Years Day" from "War" was another song we covered and it remains just about my favourite U2 song.

My first experience of seeing the band live was in 1986 at The Longest Day gig at the Milton Keynes bowl which had the added highlight of being able to see The Faith Brothers supporting. I remember the rain taking hold during the afternoon and the queues at the bars! By the time U2 came on we were soaked through, but in spite of one or two sounds issues due to the weather I remember it being a great gig. We had to beg the driver of the mail train for a ride on the late night train home to Maidenhead as we had missed the last train home.

"The Joshua Tree" is of course a classic album and contains the beautiful "With Or Without You" which is simple in chord structure, but genius song writing. I saw the band twice on that tour. I must admit at Wembley I had consumed a fair few beers and had trouble in knowing where the stage was! At one point someone asked me if I knew what the Tricolour was, and I seem to recall managing to get the word "flag" out of my mouth. It was a slightly disappointing show for me and so when we went down to see the show in Cardiff I was a bit nervous as I so wanted the day to be great. A few beers in Cardiff set us up for the show and we entered the stadium only to find no booze on sale! Just Panda Pops and I must admit I wanted to leave the and then! But with The Alarm supporting and they played a blinder it was all good. Credit where credit is due the U2 performance the was fantastic; one of truly magical sets I have seen any band play.

I enjoyed Achtung Baby although the move away from the traditional sound of the band kind of meant I had come to the end of my real fan period with the band. I found the Zooropa Really hard to get into and the Zoo TV tour was just too much of departure from a real live show for me to enjoy. That was to be last time I saw the band live for many years.

I would enjoy some of the material the band produced on the "All That You Can't Leave Behind" album as it was more a return towards the traditional U2 sound that I loved. The most recent offering "No Line On The Horizon" persuaded me to go to see the 360 tour at the new Wembley and what an awesome show it turned out to be. So my return to the band had come full circle and was complete.

I could not finish without mentioning the legendary Live Aid performance at Wembley in 1985. There was a magical couple of hours during the late afternoon early evening period and the U2 set was just about as good as it can get.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Milltown Brothers

The Milltown Brothers were a band who I really thought were going to hit the big time in the 1990s. I remember buying the single "Which Way Should I Jump?" which got a lot of radio airplay, and then bought the album "Slinky" which was and remains a favourite album of mine. Who can also forget that another single "Apple Green" from that album was used as the theme tune to the wonderful BBC comedy drama series "Preston Front". I got to see them play live on just the one occasion at Reading University. The second album "Valve" was slightly disappointing for me as it never really lived up to the potential of the first album, although I believe by this time the band had a record company that was neither supporting them or allowing them a free hand. And there after the band disappeared and I would often wonder what had happened to them. However in 2004 a third album was released on the band's website entitled "Rubberband". I could not resist buying it and what a wonderful album it is full on stunning tracks a real hidden gem of a masterpiece if ever there was.

The good news in 2015 is that album number 4 is on the way, and hopefully an opportunity of seeing them live for a second time after a gap of 25 years or so.

Saturday, 18 June 2011


My decision to include Ash is based on hearing "Dare To Dream" on BBC 6 Music. What a glorious tune and kind of reacquainted me with the band. I bought a number of singles back in the day starting with the classic indie guitar driven pop anthem "Girl From Mars" in 1995. The single "Sometimes" has probably been my favourite track until recently. The A to Z single series which saw the band release a single every two weeks over a 52 week period 2009/10 is a fantastic collection of singles with just brilliant song after brilliant song, which brings me back to "Dare To Dream". It has wondefully rich guitar sounds complemented by a brilliant vocal and worth a place in anyone's record collection he says using a somewhat dated term showing his age!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Charlatans

The Charlatans are a band that I rediscovered in 2009 through my great friend Jules. I had always enjoyed listening to their songs on the radio and had a few of the big singles on various indie compilation albums. Who doesn't have "The Only One I Know" on some album somewhere in their collection? In the summer of 2009 I saw the band live for the first time at Guilfest and they blew me away. For the first time I heard their material in a completely new light and the live versions took everything to a new level. There is no doubt that live music at its best cannot be surpassed! I started to gradually listen to more and more of their material and in May 2010 I saw them at The Roundhouse doing the 20th anniversary tour of "Some Friendly" their debut album. That particular show was amazing as the place was rammed and from the front to the back people just were so into it so it was a joyous evening. And then in September 2010 the most amazing musical experience happened when myself and PW went along to see the band play in an Oxfam shop in Dalstin as part of the Oxjam gigs. Talk about intimate and apart from having a band play in your living this was about as close as you can get to a band. A few weeks later at the other end of the scale I saw the band at Brixton on the "Who We Touch" tour and a very different gig to Oxjam, but awesome as well.

In terms of choosing my favourite tracks well "Sproston Green" is a track to die for absolutely amazing. I love "My Beautiful Friend" probably my favourite single by the band and more recently "Oh Vanity" which is a belter.

2013 saw the devastating loss of the band's drummer, Jon Brookes, who passed away following a long battle after being diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2010. It is perhaps fitting that in 2015 the band have come back with a stunning new album, "Modern Nature", which stands as a wonderful tribute to Jon, and contains some of the very best music I have heard made by this band.

Its weird how you can be aware of a band and yet never really truly know them until a huge fan sets you on the right path. So this one is for you Jules :o)

Monday, 13 June 2011


ABC might seem a strange choice with all the guitar bands that I have been talking about. However in trems of pure pop singles "The Look Of Love" stands right up there from the 1980s as a wonderful glorious pop anthem and back in 1982 I suppose I regarded this song as a guilty pleasure, although today in 2011 it is just a great pop song and nothing to feel guilty about liking or so I reckon :o)

Sunday, 12 June 2011


I loved the whole 2-Tone / Ska period of the late 70s early 80s. It gave me a route into "pop" music and for the first time a style of music away from the alternative guitar sound that I was loving at the time. Madness were just the most amazingly entertaining band and continue to be so over 30 years on.

The sound they have is unique, the ska influence and almost fairground style has never been recreated or surpassed. I think the lyrical content of some of their songs has sometimes been underated as serious issues have been covered in the beautifully melodic songs with "Embarrassment" talking about teeenage pregnancy being a perfect example. And no-one around back in the 1980s will forget the Madness music videos, which were pioneering and may look somewhat cheap and basic compared to the videos of today, but at the time they were groundbreaking and without any of the wonderful special effects that can be used today. They are the one band who I have still never seen live. I was supposed go in 1983, but suffered a kidney illness so was in a hospital bed rather than at the concert. I can't believe that I still haven't seen them play live and that is something I must put right very soon indeed.

In the 1980s they could do little wrong commercially and it was just hit after hit single and a string of successful albums. Their debut album "One Step Beyond" was the first vinyl LP that I ever bought at Woolworths for £4.99 having saved up my pocket money. But it was the 2nd album "Absolutely" which is my favourite Madness album and is probably still one of my favourite albums ever. It's not so easy to choose a favourite single. "My Girl", "Baggy Trousers" and "It Must Be Love" probably are my top three.