Friday, January 26, 2007

You'll Grow Down In A Small Town

I grew up in a small town. Everything they say is true.

From the excellent Reed/Cale Warhol tribute 'Songs For Drella' (1990)

13 Songs


Seasoned readers will remember the High Fidelity-esque challenge foisted upon me after I acquired a mobile phone with MP3 capacity but tragically little of it; there was room for 21 songs - so what would they be?

In a similar spirit, here's a lucky 13 tracks I am liking right now. Because I know you love lists.

1. Green Fields - The Good , The Bad & The Queen (from The Good, The Bad & The Queen)
I wrote this song years ago
Late at night, somewhere on the Goldhawk Road
I was never sure how or why.
Before the war and the tidal wave engulfed us all, it's true
How the world has changed
And I was learning how to change with you

2. Teen Age Riot - Sonic Youth (from Daydream Nation)
1988 - ah what bliss it was to be alive at the very beginning of leftfield grunge...

3. E-Bow The Letter - R.E.M. (from New Adventures In Hi-Fi)
Patti Smith!

4. Wasted Little DJs - The View (from Hats Off To The Buskers)
Dundee's Arctic Monkeys. Kind of.

5. Primitive Painters - Felt (from Absolute Classic Masterpieces)
In which Felt's 'Lawrence', 80s indie auteur sina qua non, is joined on vocals by Ms Elizabeth 'Cocteau Twins' Fraser. Whom we rather like. Produced by Robin Guthrie too. Peel to the max!

6. 80s Life - The Good, The Bad & The Queen (from The Good, The Bad & The Queen)
Oh Lord can a stone be ballast for an aching soul?

7. Just Another Day - Brian Eno (from Just Another Day On Earth)

8. Trains To Brazil - Guillemots (from Through The Window Pane)
Was Richard Hawley robbed by Monkeys - or were they?

9. Word On A Wing (live) - David Bowie (from StationToStation - bonus tracks)
In this age of grand illusion you walked into my life out of my dreams
I don't need another change, still you forced a way into my scheme of things
Becoming, year-by-year, my favourite Bowie album.

10. Once I Was (live) - Tim Buckley (from Dream Letter - Live In London 1968)
Buckley pere shows us where the sprog got that 4 octave range from. Cracking live acoustic version of my favourite track from Hello & Goodbye.

11. Brompton Oratory - Nick Cave (from The Boatman's Call)
Stand-out track (from many) on an album of love songs done the Cave way (i.e. full of doubt, darkness, Jesus and the Devil).

12. Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon) - The Mamas & The Papas
Acknowledgements to An Aquarium Drunkard's 'LA Burnout' compilation - and RIP Denny Doherty, founder member and lead vocalist (November 29th 1940 - January 19th 2007).

13. Garlands - Cocteau Twins (from Garlands)
Chaplets see me drugged/I could die in your rosary
I hit 41, I go Gothish again. Weird. Their first album. Bassist Will Heggie, who left shortly afterwards, is very much in the Peter Hook school of doomy bottom end. Which is how it should be.

You must buy The Good, The Bad & The Queen NOW.

Trust me, it will be album of the year.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Something About England



Here's one The Ghost is really looking forward to: the debut album from Damon Albarn's latest (he says one-off) musical project The Good, The Bad & The Queen, featuring former Verve guitarist Simon Tong, Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen and ex-Clash bassist Paul Simonon.

On the tracks I've already heard, Albarn's voice and acoustic guitar are upfront in the mix, often 'treated', the rhythms are lovely, as we might expect, and the sound of that big dubby bass underpins everything.

Blur meets Sandinista??

The album is streaming here.
It's released officially on January 22nd.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Farewell Sneaky Pete

The list of musicians from important bands who were also stop frame animators must be a pretty short one. In fact, it would almost certainly contain just one name: that of 'Sneaky' Pete Kleinow, pedal steel guitarist with Gram Parson's Flying Burrito Brothers and movie effects wizard, who died in a Californian nursing home on January 6th, having suffered from Alzheimer's for the past year.

Kleinow began his career in TV and movies visual effects, but in his spare time sat in on pedal steel with various early country rock bands in the LA area, eventually becoming acquainted with Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons, both then of The Byrds. When the band wanted help in reproducing their new-found country sound in concert, Kleinow got the call.

Parsons and Hillman left The Byrds in 1968, and asked Kleinow to join their new band, The Burritos (he's pictured bottom left in the classic line-up above). His classically plaintive sound adds much to their debut The Gilded Palace Of Sin, especially on heartbreak ballads like Hot Burrito # 1 (AKA 'I'm Your Toy'); at other times, Kleinow uses fuzzbox effects to bring a contemporary edge to proceedings.

After working as a session musician throughout the 70s, Kleinow returned to special effects work in the 80s and 90s, contributing to movies that included Gremlins, The Empire Strikes Back and The Terminator.

You can invest in a copy of the excellent Gilded Palace, backed with follow up Burrito Deluxe, here.

The fascinating story of the music scene and musicians of the LA canyons in the late 60s and early 70s is chronicled in Barney Hoskyn's exhaustive Hotel California (Fourth Estate) available here.

Sample some of the music from the period at the Aquarium Drunkard's 'LA Burnout' posts.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Zen & The Art Of Concussive iPod Maintenance


In early December, my iPod Photo froze while I was listening to it. I dutifully attempted to reset it - and to do all the other things the Apple site says you should do - but to no avail. It struggled over and over to start up again with tragically wheezy hard disk movements, before giving me the old 'sad iPod icon' and falling into a deep, deep coma.

Despite this, something told me it might not be dead - for this had happened before, and Lazarus-like it had risen again. So I took it to the Apple store in Regent Street. Maybe it needed a replacement battery. Or something.

Sadly, the Apple Genius (sic), who was a very nice man, told me after what I guess they would call running some diagnostics, but which looked suspiciously to me like giving it a bit of a fiddle and plugging it into an iBook - that it had, and I quote, 'gone to iPod Heaven' (how lovely to think that there is an other-wordly afterlife for spent audio hardware).

My options (of course) were to swap it, and £150, for a reconditioned equivalent (which would have only a three month warranty) or buy a new one. Reluctantly and sadly (the old feller had been a fortieth birthday present from My Lovely Wife, *weep*) I bought a new one.

The old one sat on my desk while I thought about sending it off to one of those repair firms you see on the web: if they couldn't fix it they said, they'd buy it for the parts. Fine.

I got on with listening to the new one, and more importantly, with Christmas and New Year.

Weeks passed.....

And then....

And then, I don't know why but something made me plug it in. The Apple logo appeared, it lit, nothing wheezed or whirred: it worked. It worked!!!

But this was a false and cruel alarm.

Two days later, it died again.

I went back on the web, trawled the blogs and the chat forums, and this time the solution I found was brilliant! audacious! - and as it turns out, permanent!

If you have a busted iPod that responds to nothing and you seriously think it may be buggered and you have nothing else to lose - GIVE IT A REALLY GOOD WHACK ON A DESK.

This I did. The iPod is reborn. And so far, it shows no signs of dying again.

Read the thrilling testimonies of many who have done this with success here.
21st century technology my arse!

Friday, January 12, 2007

What's He Like?

Word reaches The Ghost that Kevin Rowland is working on an album of new material for release in 2007 - the first such to be issued under the Dexy's Midnight Runners name since 1985's 'Don't Stand Me Down'.
Rowland has posted a sample track 'It's OK, Johanna' - which he is calling a demo - on his MySpace page.
If it's a reliable indication of the quality of the rest of his new material, we are in for a treat - it's a characteristically heartfelt Kev monologue on love and beauty (Reminisce Part 3?) spoken over Moonlight Sonata (or Shangri Las 'Past, Present & Future'?) type piano, with a lovely break into a sung refrain that has his voice on top form. There's also a musical quotation from Marvin Gaye (with a joke), and a surprise ending that suggests the Dexy's horns are waiting restlessly in the wings.

We like the John Steed look Kev!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ex Fan Des Sixties, Petite Baby Doll

Jane Birkin turned 60 on 14th December.

Remembered in England mostly for recording 'Je T'Aime, Moi Non Plus' with her beloved Serge Gainsbourg, and perhaps by a few cult film fans for bobbing about in a state of undress in 'Blow Up' and 'Wonderwall', Birkin is something of an icon in her adopted France, and has carved out an idiosyncratic career for herself as an actor and singer, with recent North African/Arabic-influenced albums drawing a fair bit of critical acclaim.

This performance may be simultaneously the sexiest and silliest thing of its kind you have ever seen (nice that the set designers decided to use images of screen idols from the, erm, 1950s. DOH!).

Anyway, as you can probably tell, The Ghost loves her.

Belated Happy Birthday Jane.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Radio with SHOES in

As the Christmas and New Year holidays slip away from us as quickly as they arrived slowly - a sad kinda feeling I find (because I love Christmas...not so much New Year...) one thing's been keeping me, well, not just sane, actually - more Feeling Alive, Invigorated, Inspired, Amused, Entertained - and that thing has been Satellite XM's Theme Time Radio Hour With Your Host Bob Dylan which the lovely people at BBC Radio 2 are bringing at last to us British Bobcats.

This may be, without exaggeration, the best radio I have ever listened to in my life so far (possible exception - and maybe joint equal - John Peel shows in my bedroom while my parents watched god-knows-what on the TV downstairs, 1980-1983).

Why?

Because - well let's start with the obvious: this is BOB DYLAN DJing here. I mean, wouldn't you like a night in, chewing the conversational fat with Bob while he plays you some of his favourite records? Of course you would. And you know how funny and wise he can be.

Second - the concept is brilliant and simple: one hour, one 'theme' for all the music (the big ones guys - 'Weather', 'Drinking', 'Mother', 'Devil', 'Radio', 'Coffee') .

Third - THE MUSIC. Whether it's long lost 40s jukejoint R'n'B, blues, gospel, country swing, Southern soul, rap - dammit, even UK post-punk, the man's got it and the man plays it. A playlist that spans eight decades, minimum. The music of Bob's life and he's having a ball with it, you can tell.
A series of programmes to renew your faith in the eternal restorative power of good music.

As inciteful and personal a testimony from and into Dylan as any of his work.

In fact - I sincerely think this needs to be thought of as His Current Work.

Splendid.

UK people can, and really should, 'listen again' here.
From January, BBC Radio 6 Music takes up the baton.
This excellent fan-site has playlists for all the shows.

And finally, anyone out there with even a vague interest in, or affection for, Sir Bob should certainly invest in his marvellous memoir Chronicles - Volume One here.