Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Beat

The Beat or The English Beat depending on which country you are in cemented my love of ska music as a teenager. What they managed to do possibly more than the other 2-Tone bands of the era was to bring guitars more to the forefront of the sound without losing any of the infectious ska rhythms. They did not shy away from political statements either and "Stand Down Margaret" was not only a massive anti-Thatcher statement of it's time, but a wonderfully melodic tune.

Their debut album "I Just Can't Stop It" is just full of great songs, "Mirror In The Bathroom", "Best Friend" and "Hands off She's Mine". Their second album "Wha'ppen" was more gentle in its musical style with a more reggae influence, but the band had still had their finger on the political pulse with songs such as "Get A Job". Their third and final LP "Special Beat Service" was much more mainstream in its music direction, but contains my favorite Beat song "Save It For Later". Just the most gorgeous melody and the song has been covered by Pete Townsend, regularly features in the live version of "Better Man" by Pearl Jam and more recently covered by The Wonder Stuff. All three albums have recently been reissued as 2 CDs + DVD each featuring extra tracks and videos. I didn't get to see the original line up, but have seen Ranking Rogers UK version. How magical would it be to see to the original line up again...

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Coldplay - Emirates Stadium 4th June 2012

Coldplay are a band that are not really my bag, but who come up with the occasional song that I really like. I decided to get tickets to see the band on the Mylo Xyloto tour partly out of curiosity and partly on a gamble that a girl I had seen a couple of times might want to go. Unfortunately things with the girl didn't go past a few dates, but that's a whole other story! :) 

Clashing with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee made the tube journey from Osterley across to Arsenal a bit of a nightmare as it was completely packed the whole way. I fed myself outside, knowing from experience how overpriced food is at the Arsenal ground and then I managed to get a reasonable price for the spare ticket outside the stadium The show was stunning! Yes I would prefer to be in a smaller sweaty venue watching alternative guitar songs, but credit where credit is due. The band bashed out hit after hit to an enthusiastic audience who knew the words to all the songs. Highlights for me were Fix You and Viva La Vida. The multi-stage set idea worked well, the oval video screens were impressive and the band came up with a nifty wrist band idea which lit up the stadium brilliantly in the dark. Giant inflatable balloons and ticker tape meant there was never a dull moment.

Sunday, 3 June 2012


My love of 80s guitar music meant there was a good chance that my musical path would come across The Levellers. I remember seeing the band in Reading on a couple of occasions. I saw them in the early days and then once again at the height of their commercial success at the Rivermead famously on the night England lost in Holland on the Graham Taylor "Do I Not Like That" night. I remember we watched the first half of the game at my place and then went down to the gig and the score was relayed to the audience by the band. More recently I travelled up to Birmingham to see the 20th anniversary tour of "Levelling The Land"

I am sure that I am not alone in saying that the second album "Levelling The Land" is my favourite album by the band. "One Way Of Life" was the song that really triggered my record buying period with the band. A stunning song topping an album full of brilliantly crafted alternative guitar electric folk driven classics. I bought the album on cassette, and played in to death literally. I recently invested in the remastered anniversary edition with all the extra tracks on mp3.

During the 1990s I kind of fell out of love with live music and so I tended to buy a lot of CDs instead and remember being very excited about the "One Way Of Life" compilation album with its new tracks, re-recordings and bonus CD, and it is a great introduction to the bands commercial chart period.

In more recent times the band released the magnificent "Letters from The Underground" album, which is a fine piece of work and summer 2012 sees the release of a new album "Static On The Airwaves".


I have nothing but admiration for The Levellers who have remained true to their values for over 20 years, a gigging band making music going through successful and not so successful (commercially speaking) times. My one remaining ambition is to overcome my aversion to camping and festivals and make the trip to the annual "Beautiful Days" festival held by the band in Devon.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Tim Burgess - Telling Stories at St. James's Church

To promote his autobiography, Tim Burgess lead singer of The Charlatans appeared at St. James's Church in Piccadilly, London. Over the last 3 years I have seen The Charlatans live in a number of different type of venues. The rain of Guilfest, the splendour of The Roundhouse, the intimacy of an Oxfam shop and the high energy Brixton Academy. This event really was something different as the audience got to hear Tim read from his book, endure a question and answer session and then get back to where he is comfortable at by performing a few songs. The church setting was beautiful right in the heart of the West End of London, and it was interesting to hear the occasional expletive ring out in the hallowed chamber!

One of the other bonuses about the evening was getting a signed copy of the book on arrival and judging by a quick flick through and from Tim's recital it promises to be a great read as the book pulls no punches addressing all the issues the fans will want to read about, but without losing a sense of humour. He admitted to feeling nervous about doing the readings, but it was brilliant and great to hear the words spoken by the author.

The Q&A session was both entertaining and quite poignant as it couldn't have been easy for Tim to answer questions about some of the darker times documented in the book.

The 5 song acoustic set was a great end to the evening with Tim being joined by Mark Collins. They played "The Only One I Know" and "Impossible" plus songs from Tim's forthcoming solo album.

There is sometimes more to music than just listening to the records and going to the gigs, and this event was a great way to get a unique insight into a great musician.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Discovering music happens in so many different ways. Swedish band The Soundtrack of Our Lives were literally given to me by a very good friend. He lent me their album "Behind The Music", which completely blew me away remaining one of my favourite all time albums, and I have never looked back.

Unfortunately for me their UK live appearances are rare, but on their last visit promoting the "Communion" album I got to see them at Bush Hall in London. I was expecting great things and it was without doubt one of the best live shows I have ever seen.

Their most recent album "Throw It To The Universe" released in April 2012 is classic T.S.O.O.L. Other great albums by the band include "Welcome to the Infant Freebase", "Origins Vol 1" and "Communion". The "Golden Greats No 1" compilation album is a great introduction to the band's work.

September 13th 2012 saw the band play their last ever UK show at Heaven in London (see video below). It was another live masterpiece, and absolutely tragic that it sees the curtain being drawn on a wonderful career. Roll on the reunion shows! :)

And to think I could so easily have missed out on this band completely...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Police

The Police played a pivotal role in my music tastes. In the late 1970s I was moving away from pop and the post punk new wave guitar sound was becoming something I really enjoyed and still do! If Blondie started the process it was The Police that bridged the gap. "Message In A Bottle" was not only a huge number 1 hit it contained everything I love. A great melody, a catchy guitar riff, with the unique Stewart Copeland drum beats giving the band their totally unique sound of new wave / reggae / ska.

The success of the fist two albums "Outlandos D'Amour" and "Regatta De Blanc" led to a quick rise to world wide stardom. Sting's ability to pen a chart topping song was evident throughout the career of The Police. "Roxanne", the a fore mentioned "Message In A Bottle", the million seller "Don't Stand So Close To Me", the pure pop of "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", to the world wide conquering "Every Breath You Take". Too many classic album tracks to mention but some of those lesser known album tracks are stunning!

I was a huge fan of the band and was a member of the fan club. I collected the singles in coloured vinyls, picture discs and just about any format that came out, many of which I still have packed away at home. The fan club enabled me to get tickets for the 1983 Wembley Arena shows in London getting seats 3 rows from the front. 2008 after 25 years I saw the band again on the reunion tour at Twickenham and it was wonderful to see the songs played live again after so many years.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Serious Drinking

During the early 1980s as I began to develop my own musical identify when I hit my mid teenage years, I came across Serious Drinking whilst listening to nighttime Radio 1. A band with a punk and ska sound. "Love On The Terraces" was the first single I bought by them and for me this was and still is what a great footie song should be all about. Football, drinking and romance! The next single I bought by the band was "Hangover" which being self explanatory was also very relevant back then and is today occasionally too! The compilation album "Stranger Than Tannadice - The Hits, Misses and Own Goals" is a great compilation of their two albums, and well worth adding to any record collection! :) My other personal favourites are "Spirit of 66" and the brilliant "He's An Angry Bastard But I Like Him".

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Simple Minds

Simple Minds are one of those bands that fall into the almost category with me. In fact by falling into a band I mainly followed on the radio through hearing their singles, I ended up missing out on so much of their classic material. I suppose this is the downside to the old 7" single as singles don't always fully represent the material of a band. If I was to be totally honest "Promised You A Miracle" kind of put me off Simple Minds and I don't really know why even now. I think back then I was really into my alternative guitar music and was not completely won over by the electronic element. This meant that during the hugely successful years in the 1980s for the band I pretty much only followed them on the radio. 

The first Simple Minds album I bought was the live album "Live in the City of Light". I was actually delivering some printed carrier bags to a record shop in Dorset on the week of it's release. I was given a cup of coffee and got the album at a very friendly price I seem to recall.

Picking out a favourite song by the band is difficult as there are the big hit anthemic singles right up there, but fortunately I have been educated in their back catalogue by friends over recent years and "New Gold Dream 81 82 83 84" has to take the top prize for me.

Interestingly in 2012 Simple Minds have re-released the 5 first albums over 6 discs, which has given someone like myself the perfect opportunity to delve into the band's back catalogue for a bargain price! The band are touring this release as the 5x5 live tour during which they are performing for the first time 5 songs from each of their first 5 albums released from 1979 to 1982. So finally after many years 2012 gave me my first opportunity to see the band live in London at The Roundhouse on the 5x5 tour. It was a stunning show although in some ways I felt like maybe I should not have been there as I got to see the band play songs some not played for many years that maybe more long standing fans would have deserved to see more than me. But hey I loved it especially as they ended the show playing "New Gold Dream"!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Bad Manners

Bad Manners were the fun side of British Ska music. In some ways maybe their music and its impact was slightly over shadowed by bands such as Madness and The Specials, but they had a hugely successful chart career in the early 1980s. My favourite song by them has always been "Special Brew", and I remember buying this as a teenage school boy in picture disc format from HMV in Oxford Street. This was back in the days when record shops were king, and the very occasionally treat was to save up pocket money and head into London as this was long before HMV and Virgin Megastore had stores in every major town.

What other band could have had a hit with "Can Can" selling bucket loads of copies. Just great fun pop music, and maybe a lesson here for bands of today when the fun element seems to have gone from music...

Fortunately the band in its various guises always with Buster Bloodvessel at the helm have continued to tour over the years. I used to enjoy their Christmas gigs especially. They would play at my favourite late night drinking haunt in Reading, The After Dark Club, and my biggest claim to fame was having a pee with Buster in the toilet just before he went on stage. He said "Alright mate!"

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Men They Couldn't Hang

Back in the mid 1980s I had a flirtation with "The Men They Couldn't Hang" more than likely because they would have been getting some nighttime airplay on Radio 1. In particular it was the single "Ironmasters" that inspired me to go out and get their debut album "Night Of A Thousand Candles".

The other amazing single from that debut album in fact the debut single was "The Green Fields of France".

I never followed up my initial interest in the band for some unknown reason. However recently they played The Gathering in North Wales supporting Mike Peters and The Alarm, and it gave me a welcome opportunity to reacquaint myself with the band. It was an absolute blinding set and over all too quickly, and I would highly recommend them. I hope to catch them live in their own right sometime soon.