Sunday, 31 July 2011


Back in the early 1990s I picked up on "Dodgy" before their commercial success and I always find this is the best way of getting into bands and going with them on their journey. I was still listening to enough nighttime radio to pick up on them and it was not long before their material was on daytime radio too. The first single I picked up as a cassette single was "Water Under The Bridge" which I thought was  a fantastic song with its wonderful jangly guitar sound and the wonderful trademark vocal and harmonies. I think if I was ever asked which band did it vocally for me I would certainly put them right up there and the harmonies are just wonderful...

The 2nd album "Homegrown" contains my favourite single "So Let Me Go Far". Just an awesome song with the perfect harmonies complementing a beautiful melody. To this day it is still frequently played on my IPod.

Dodgy will be best remembered for their huge hit "Good Enough" in 1996. A huge top ten hit from my favourite album by them "Free Peace Sweet". In fact my cassette of that album was played so much it wore out. When the IPod age began it was the very first album I bought on ITunes.

I was lucky enough to see the band live in Reading during their early days at my favourite late night drinking haunt back then, "The After Dark Club". The original line-up is back recording and touring and a new album in February 2012 so it promises to be an exciting time.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


One of the first musical debates I can ever remember having was at my primary school when the question was who was the best.... Showaddywaddy or Abba??? Most people will  say Abba and their sales and discography would tend to support that. However I am not ashamed to say at the time as an 8-10 year old I loved Showaddywaddy and certainly enough to buy a greatest hits many years later. A near million selling record in "Under The Moon Of Love" would suggest that there was a time when this band was shifting some vinyl!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Power Of Dreams

Power Of Dreams were a band that I thought were going to be absolutely massive. I remember hearing "100 Ways To Kill A Love" on nighttime Radio 1 and loving the fantastic melody and thumping guitar sound. That kind of band would always be a winner with me. I ordered the single on vinyl and then got the 1st album "Immigrants, Emigrants And Me" which I loved. This album was recently re-released as an expanded double 20th anniversary CD, which makes it even better than the original which I never thought would be possible.

The 2nd album "2 Hell With Common Sense" remains one of all my time favourite albums and has the perfect indie pop anthem on it "There I Go Again" which should have been huge! Never have I have been so disappointed that a single didn't make it into the UK chart... Foolishly I lent my copy of this album to Adam Hodgson (named and shamed) who kept it so long and wore the tape out the bugger! I subsequently managed to get the album on CD and hopefully this one will last me until the hopefully to be released 20th anniversary edition of this album.

Following a couple of EPs I kind of lost track of the band and only realised some years later through my good friend Pete Cole that a third album "Become Yourself" had been released. Unfortunately back in the 1990s I had kind fallen out of love with live music and in love with drinking myself silly, and so I never got to see the band play live. However with the 20th anniversary release of "Immigrants" in 2010 came a tour too, and I finally got to see the band play live twice over one weekend in London and Guildford. An amazing and unforgettable experience, and I hope to see them play live again one day fingers crossed. A best of compilation "1989" was released in 2010, which really is a great introduction to the band and contained a gorgeous new track "1989" too so it was a must have purchase.

The band had a big influence on my own songwriting especially in the way they used guitars and the sound they achieved. I remember myself and Ad recording one of our own songs called "Majority" at the end of 1990s and very much setting out to do it in a Power Of Dreams like way...

Lead singer Craig Walker's debut album "Siamese" released in 2009 is a wonderful album. It is really interesting to hear how a songwriter can develop their craft over the years and this is a shining example, and if the new Power Of Dreams album comes to fruition I am sure it will also be an absolute classic.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Big Country

I saw Big Country at their start, middle and end and now again at a new start! I first saw the band support on The Jam's farewell tour at Wembley Arena in 1982 and I was impressed if a little bemused by the bagpipe guitar sound. When "Fields Of Fire" exploded into the UK singles chart in 1983 I thought it was an outstanding track and still do. The debut album "The Crossing" is a fine album and remains a favourite of mine.

During their mid career I saw the band tour the "No Place Like Home" album at Reading University and I can still remember this gig as I had spent the whole of the Sunday in bed with one of the worst hangovers of my life and almost didn't make it to the gig! But I was glad I did as it was a was great evening and I always enjoyed Stuart Adamson's banter with the audience.

By the time I saw the band on the "Final Fling" tour at Milton Keynes in 2000 the band was struggling to achieve commercial recognition. The final studio album "Driving To Damascus" is superb and if you can't achieve any success with a record like that it must make you wonder what you need to do to achieve success. A live CD "Come Up Screaming" of the final UK gig at the Glasgow Barrowlands is a great live tribute to just how good they were and there are just so many great songs to enjoy.

The tragic death of Stuart Adamson in 2001 shocked me greatly...

And now in 2011 Big Country are back touring with Mike Peters of The Alarm on vocals and young Jamie Watson on guitar. I saw the band in January at the annual Alarm Gathering in North Wales and I was greatly impressed as the sound is awesome and Mike Peters does a magnificent job on vocals; it was great to see all the old songs played live once again. There is also promise of new material in 2012 so it looks like an interesting future for the band.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Vapors

I absolutely loved The Vapors back in the early 1980s. Like most people at the time it was their huge hit "Turning Japanese" that hooked me in. The fact that Vic Coppersmith-Heaven producer of The Jam was producing meant there was a distinct similarity in the sound which I loved.

The follow up single "News At Ten" was probably my favourite song they did. A brilliantly melodic guitar driven sing with a great catchy bass line underpinning the song. The cover of course had to pay homage to the iconic ITV News At Ten clock.

A single I didn't get hold of at the time was "Jimmie Jones". Back in days of vinyl once these singles were deleted it was very hard to get hold of them. In desperation I wrote in to Mike Read on Radio 1 who was doing a feature where lost records were replaced and told a little porky about my copy being pinched at a party. Some months later I received a copy of the record so my story obviously made it onto his show!

Fortunately in the CD and digital age their material has since been reissued and I frequently have The Vapors blasting out on my IPod... The real gem I discovered was the track "Letter From Hiro" a slightly slower song but absolutely gorgeous. My one regret is never seeing this band live...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Carter USM

"Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine" was a band who were to have quite a big musical influence on a number of levels. For someone who really loved live indie guitar music this band should have caused me problems. A drum machine for starters... My view was drum machines were ok for bands to use for song writing and demos, but proper bands should have real drummers! However I first got to see "Carter" live at Reading University in 1990, and the show blew me away. A dislike of drum machines were irrelevant as Jim Bob and Fruit Bat belted out a set that was awesome, full of raw energy and cracking songs with the drum machine playing a full part! I can remember Dave "Horace" Hicks stage diving, and the crowd parting letting him crash to the floor as it would take a brave man to catch Dave in full flight being the size he is! Also their use of sampling is something I previously was very much against back at that time. But their clever use of sampling made me appreciate how clever an art form it can be... Of course it's very much common place these days...

My favourite songs are from the earlier part of their career. "Sherrif Fatman" "Bloodsport For All" and "After The Watershed" are classics! They are definitely a band whose clever lyrics sat comfortably on great melodies. The "30 Something" album remains a favourite of mine and the "30 Something" logo remains one of my favourite pieces of musical artwork for it's powerful yet simplistic make up.

The 2nd time I saw "Carter" was at the Reading Rivermead, and by that time they riding high in the charts and able to fill much bigger, but less personal venues and for me part of the magic had gone, although it was still a great show and the band continued to release great indie anthems and "The Impossible Dream" is a gorgeous cover version. The band occasionally reform for the odd show and this year after around about 20 years I finally caught them live again on November 19th 2011 at the Birxton Academy, London! It was a blinding show!

Finally mention has to be made of the classic audience chant of "You Fat Bastard", which needs no explaining to those who know and love the band, and for those who don't have a watch...