A Day To Remember – The Psychedelic Furs 2018

Tuesday, June 12, 2018. An epic day.

In simple facts, I drove 2 hours to Leicester, went to a gig, caught a few hours sleep in a B&B then drove back home the next day. The truth, however, is so much more…

First of all, when I arrived I had to locate another place to stay, as the first one stank as if someone had died there. Literally. A quick search on booking.com found a cheap, but clean alternative. after checking in, a short walk through the park bought me to the O2 Academy on the Leicester University campus.

It was there that the day turned awesome. I met up with my good friend Paul Garisto, who had invited me up for the day. For those who may not know, Paul is not only an excellent chap, but he’s one of the most solid, creative and brilliant drummers around, plying his trade with The Psychedelic Furs. More about them later.

Paul and I sat in the park for like an hour, just chatting. Music, family, drums, politics, drums again, (quite literally ‘All Of This And Nothing’) which is the way I like to be – doesn’t matter if you share earth-shattering philosophies or complete nonsense, it’s about spending time. Thanks, Paul – it meant a lot to me that you’d take time out for me.furs 3

 

Back inside at 4pm for sound-check, and I met others from the band and beyond. The lovely Amanda Kramer, the awesome saxophonist Mars Williams, and Rich Good, a really great, really cool guy who was also so nice in taking time to talk with me.

I also met a couple of other guys who were such great company and whom I enjoyed spending time with – Jude Rawlins ( former Angelhead and Subterraneans frontman and current guitarist with The Lene Lovich Band – see HERE) and Kevin Hewick, a great singer-songwriter in his own right who works with artists on labels such as Sorted, Pink Box, and Botheration.

Sound check over (it was a little strange stood in the middle of the venue listening to the band at full volume) we had a little time to hang around, swap stories, me to grab a burger, and then it was time for the gig and the arrival of my great mate Pete Galer, who drove up to meet me.

First up –  The Phenomenal Rise of Richard Strange.

Richard Strange

Richard’s stage show was more than a show, more than a collection of tunes. It was pure theatre at its best. His roots go back a long way to his first band, Doctors of Madness. To give you a hint, they were supported by The Sex Pistols, The Jam, and Joy Division. Yes – supported. The album he performed with his band was originally written in 1981, but has eerie connections to modern day US Politics.

Then…… it was time for the main act.

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I’ve said this before, but there’s something about this band, this group of brilliant musicians, that I really… get. There’s great songs, with lyrics that appear at once simple and then phenomenally deep. There are driving rhythms and haunting melodies, unbounded energy and vibe, and the whole thing is sewn together by the two Butler brothers, Tim on bass and Richard with his unique vocals. These are guys who know their art – and it is art – and you never get less than everything.

Starting off with the seminal Dumb Waiters from the great Talk Talk Talk album, through songs such as President Gas, Heartbreak Beat, India, Heaven, Mr Jones, Into You Like A Train, and finishing with the iconic Pretty In Pink, they held the audience in the palm of their hand all night long.

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After the gig, I had the pleasure of catching up with Richard and Tim, along with their guest for the night, Roger Morris – an original member of the band way back in 1977. It’s true – hanging with your heroes is an awesome thing, and they are all just well-grounded, normal people. Although I had heard Richard’s joke about the hairdresser before – it just seemed polite to laugh…

They even signed my vinyl copy of Talk Talk Talk for me…

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Thanks guys – an excellent day, a brilliant gig, and a memory made for life. Until the next time, safe travels, my friends!

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Old movies, classic comedy and good clean smut…

There’s something quintessentially ‘British’ about going on a nostalgia kick.

In fact, there’s something quintessentially ‘British’ about using the word ‘quintessentially’, which I suspect is only ever followed by the words ‘British’ or ‘English’. You definitely never see anyone describing something as ‘quintessentially German’ – not even goose-stepping.

I’ve recently reconnected with a bunch of stuff from my youth, which leads me to write this epistle.

Here’s the ‘stuff’:

  • Vinyl records played on a proper record player with little tinny speakers
  • Black and white films, of the sort that always used to be on telly on a Sunday afternoon
  • 1960s BBC radio comedy – specifically ‘Round The Horne’
  • B-movie science fiction, generally from the 70s and early 80s

These items, in and of themselves, are fairly normal. You could easily read that list and silently – or audibly – go “meh”…

But it’s more what they evoke than what they deliver.

Take the vinyl records, for example. They, for me, demonstrate that great line from the movie ‘High Fidelity’, when, after Dick tried unsuccessfully to guess how Rob was rearranging his record collection (“Chronological? No… not alphabetical…”) Rob reveals his system will be autobiographical, so that “if I want to find the song “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac I have to remember that I bought it for someone in the fall of 1983 pile, but didn’t give it to them for personal reasons.”

I’ve not got many vinyl albums, but when I listen to the double live album Babylon By Bus by Bob Marley and the Wailers, I’m back home with my parents, them sat watching tv in one room whilst I’m sat next door, listening to one of the world’s greatest protest singers delivering a lyric so great, you don’t realise how revolutionary it was until nearly ten years later… but you remember the message. When I’m listening to Dare by The Human League, or Upstairs at Erics by Yazoo, I’m back in that post-school, pre-serious work period where everything was cool, and I was a part of it.

The old movies? Sunday afternoons in front of the telly were great – especially if it was raining outside, and we sat in front of the fire watching films like ‘The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw‘ with Kenneth More, or – if we were lucky – a Carry On film. All a part of those days when you could watch a film and part of your eight-year-old mind still believed it might be real. And if it was a sci-fi b-movie so bad it’s good, the knowledge that it most certainly wasn’t…

Round The Horne was something I got to later in my childhood, but the repeats of the show were always something I looked out for. The cast was brilliant, with the leader of the gang, Kenneth Horne, often playing the straight man (in all senses) to Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden, Bill Pertwee, and another ‘quintessentially’ BBC voice, announcer Douglas Smith. Listening to the show now, it’s remarkable how far they managed to push the boundaries of the BBC back in 1965, when the show was first broadcast. They had plenty of sexually repressed characters, innuendo by the bucketload, and the incredible ‘Julian and Sandy’, two unemployed actors taking on a range of different jobs. They were the most obviously gay couple imaginable, in an age when homosexuality was still illegal. The fact that they could get away with so much still surprises me, such as when they were working as lawyers:

HORNE: Will you take my case?

JULIAN: Well, it depends on what it is. We’ve got a criminal practice that takes up most of our time.

HORNE: Yes, but apart from that, I need legal advice.

SANDY: Ooh, isn’t he bold?

Comedy nowadays struggles to fit in single entendres, let alone the doubles that Round The Horne was liberally sprinkled with. Entertainment has changed, and not really for the better.

In this age of digital downloads, 3D blockbusters and so called ‘talk-radio’, I’d rather stick with entertainment that… well, entertained.

Will Rogers : Misfits

The latest album to drop into my inbox is the soon-to-be-released offering by Will Rogers, Misfits.

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Will’s music is an open, honest mix of lyric-driven acoustic rhythms, no more so evident than in the title track, which cocks its hat very much in the style of Barenaked Ladies. But this album has many more layers and dimensions to it that the simple desire to cram as many words as possible into two minutes and fifty four seconds. It comes over very much as a labour of love and an insight into the musician’s soul.

Take the first track, More, which espouses all of the collective fervour of Billy Bragg’s social utopia with none of Bragg’s annoying political overtones. It’s a great little sing-along song with catchy riffs and a tagline that sticks in the head, leading to those embarrassing moments when you find yourself singing aloud in public. Together with Thunder, Misfits and Take A Leap, there’s a positive, almost jaunty feel that dares the foot not to tap along.

Cogs hits a sombre, darker tone, with a lyric that comes closest to angst-driven unrest and despair. It shows that Will is far more than a one-trick pony, with the ability to deliver both lightness and shade.

My favourite track, however, is the final offering, Dangerous Words In The Dark. There’s a clarity of message that cuts through so clearly, telling of the challenge facing a man desperate to completely open his heart and soul to his true love. As a contrast to the rest of the album, it takes you by surprise and really makes you sit up and take notice.

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I’m really glad that I got the chance to listen to Misfits. Finding a new artist, and getting to understand a little of what makes them tick, is the best thing about writing reviews. And it’s even better when the material is as refreshing as this.

Misfits is released on Saturday, March 7, 2015. For more info, go to http://willrogersmusic.com/

EDIT: Misfits is OUT! You can get it through the link below (or in all the usual places, amazon, spotify etc.)

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/misfits/id970648939

Of Sins Present And Past by John Aulabaugh

 

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New Music.

It’s a phrase that evokes a range of emotions, but these days, more often than not it sadly throws up a depressing image of kids with computers in bedrooms remixing and self-producing in the hope of becoming the world’s next YouTube sensation. Which is why, when a new artist comes along that defies the stereotype, we should sit up and take notice. John Aulabaugh is one such artist.

His debut album, Of Sins Present And Past, dropped into my inbox this week.

John is a musician, a businessman, a father, a son, a husband. He’s seen life with all its triumphs and challenges, and with this album, John brings all his years to bear when telling a story.

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Of Sins Present And Past talks of addiction and recovery, of secrecy and deceit, of compulsion and hurt, pain and recovery. And just as that journey is full of ups and downs, John’s music hits you on unexpected, and at times slightly uncomfortable levels. It sings of despair, desire, destruction, desperation and the hope of ultimate deliverance, through well-written, meaningful lyrics and intelligent, carefully crafted melodies.

If you asked me to pull out a few tracks as standouts? It’s tough, because they are all good, but I’d say that having spent a few days listening, the tracks that I find myself singing are the wonderfully acoustic A Road Less Travelled, the darker, more compulsive Strange, the more laid back, rhythmic feel of Awake, and the beautifully haunting Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. That these tracks each have their own feel and flavor just highlights again how John Aulabaugh has delivered a welcome, refreshing breath of fresh air with Of Sins Present And Past.

This new kid on the alt-country block has been round that block a few times, and his music is all the better for it.

John Aulabaugh‘s debut album, Of Sins Present And Past, is a habit well worth indulging. Featuring such renowned artists as Jessy Greene and Rami Jaffee, it’s at the same time both personal and universal, and deserves all the acclaim it will undoubtably create.

Of Sins Present And Past is released on March 30, 2015.

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I’ve been listening to some new music today.

It’s so new, in fact, that it’s still in the process of final mixing. The release date for the album isn’t for a few months yet. But the tracks I’ve heard so far have been very good.

I’ll go into more detail over the next couple of months, but keep your ears open – or pop over to John’s website.

Of Sins Present And Past by John Aulabaugh.

You heard (about) it here first!

Buskers, Chuggers, and Big Issue Sellers

Usually, buskers are – to me – nothing more than a mild inconvenience. They generally fall somewhere in the middle of the annoyances that a stroll through a town usually provides. There are a few, and it’s worth listing them here, to put my blog article in context:

Chuggers.

Now, for those outside of the know, that stands for Charity Muggers. These are people, generally in green ninja-style ‘low-visibility’ jackets, who ask for a minute of your time, but who are really after a deep conversation about their pet issue – which is always something about which you could not possibly care less – and are also after the contents of your wallet in perpetuity. I have two easy ways to avoid them. First, is the generic ‘just received a fake call on my mobile phone‘ approach. This works far better than just keeping your head down, because if you are approached whilst on the phone, it’s them that are the inconsiderate oafs, and not you. The second way to deal with Chuggers is to identify their cause early on, and then apologise, but say you’ve just signed a petition with their arch-nemesis at the other end of the high street that will get them running off, foaming at the mouth. An example would be: “Excuse me, we’re with PETA, can I have a moment of your time?” “Oh, no – sorry. If only you’d caught me earlier, but I’ve just signed the petition of the Cosmetics / Tobacco / Pharmaceutical company at the end of the street, they are collecting because they have run out of beagles and monkeys…”

Big Issue Sellers.

Now I’ve bought my fair share of Big Issue magazines in the past, but whenever I look through them, there’s nothing there that’s really a big issue for me. To me, a ‘big issue’ is when my Sky TV reception fails, or when the car breaks down on the way to the gig, or even the crazy price differences for Apple goods between the US and the UK. So I’m not a regular purchaser these days, and a recent trip to Edinburgh confirmed why this is the case. I’ve seriously never seen so many Big Issue sellers in one place, and when I discovered that Big Issue has an office there – yet through the window I couldn’t see a single sleeping bag – I realised that if they can afford premises where nobody sleeps, they probably don’t actually need my two quid that much. The mobile phone approach works best, followed by the ‘apologetic smile and shake of head whilst patting supposedly empty pockets‘ method.

Buskers have, in the past, demonstrated that they are at least making an effort to give something back for your hard earned cash. And some are really good – but those will nowadays be found on YouTube rather than on the streets of your town. What’s left is the reason for this missive – the terrible quality of street musicians that is fast becoming a blight on the urban landscape of our once-great nation.

Bad buskers come in many guises. There’s the utterly predictable busker, such as the guy in the underpass with his guitar, cycling round the songs he knows, such as Cavatina, and…. well, Cavatina again. If I hear one more busker playing the theme to The Deer Hunter, I’m gonna start taking my chances on the dual carriageway instead.

Then there’s the ‘one man and his backing tape‘ busker. This is the guy in the rainbow jacket with the Bluetooth link between his guitar, his headset microphone, and his amp. Quite how he can afford something so high tech and still be begging on the streets for a few coppers defies logic. And the danger here is that simple avoidance is harder, as he can follow you at least fifty yards from his base. In his case you just need to keep your focus on the road ahead, or if that’s proving difficult, duck into a shop and then challenge him to follow you. You never know, having a mad busker chasing you around the interior of your local Ann Summers might be good for a few chuckles down the pub later on. Especially if he’s singing “I WANNA KNOW WHAT LOVE IS…. AND I WANT YOU TO SHOW MEEEE….” as he sprints past the furry handcuffs and transparent underwear on display.

Last week I saw two buskers that defied belief. Both in Dorset, which must be some kind of Busker Training Zone. Or maybe Twilight Zone.

First off, let’s call this one Busker A. I have to do that, because I really couldn’t tell whether the seventeen-year-old was male or female, so utterly generic was their appearance. Hair down to the waist and clearly unwashed, sweatshirt, jeans, trainers,you know the type. They were sat on an amp, from which was coming a generic early 80s slow rock backing track, to which they were adding the guitar solo.

Now guitar solos can be great. When they are, I love listening to a guitarist flinging his fingers over the fretboard. What I can’t forgive in this case, was the terrible quality. Not of the playing, because I have no basis to suggest they put a note wrong. Where the problem lies is with the ambition. The backing track never varied. I was in earshot for maybe an hour whilst walking around Weymouth, and the speed and energy never rose above a very slow dirge. And the guitar sound never changed from that typical soul-less Gary Moore whine. And all of this, in public, from a seventeen year old who should at least have been throwing in some Foo Fighters or Pearl Jam riffs.

Sad as this sounds, it was potentially topped by Busker B the following day. Sherborne’s a lovely little town, and a little street music should have enhanced an already pleasant afternoon. However, Busker B (definitely a male in this case) managed to avoid this obvious outcome in a brilliant way. Sat half-way along the High Street with his accordion, he played The Anniversary Song (better known as “Oh How We Danced” and recorded by such greats as Al Jolson, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra) – which should have been lovely. and would have been, if only he’d known the full song.

But no – he knew (and played) one verse. Well – almost one verse. He couldn’t quite finish it off, and so put an improvised ending to the tune, before looping back and starting again. Over and over. And over. And over….

There was a spark of creativity there, however. He managed to get the tune wrong every single time, but in a slightly different way. Just to keep his audience in their toes.

Needless to say, the hats were not exactly bulging with coins at the end, and nothing had been donated by me. Except this review of how NOT to play music on the streets. Which I offer free and for nothing.

Key takeaways? Well, to Busker A, my advice would be to play some different stuff, at different speeds, and expand your horizons beyond Gary Moore.  And for Busker B? Learning the one verse of the one song you can play would be a start…

Album Review – Degrees of Freedom’s PERFECT WORLD

It’s always a good feeling when you do something new – visiting a city for the first time, reading a new book, watching a new movie. So I was pleasantly surprised when my copy of the recent Degrees Of Freedom album, ‘Perfect World’ hit my doormat. Some new music by a band I’d never heard before was just what I needed.

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The story behind the album is interesting – it’s the culmination of guitarist John Aulabaugh’s mid-life crisis, which took a Blues Brothers twist when he decided to pull his band back together after a quarter of a century. I’m not sure if a 106-mile road trip or the Illinois Law Enforcement Agency were involved, but I’m sure the sunglasses put in an appearance!

As far as line-up goes, Degrees Of Freedom are guitarist John Aulabaugh, vocalist Michael Husler, Michael Murphy on bass and drummer Tim Murphy. In addition, the album benefits from guest appearances from Lydia Salinkova on keys and strings, Ken Barnum on bass and Paul Garisto on drums.

Perfect World is an eclectic mix of tracks, ranging from the rock to the melodic, from the driving beat to the tunefully pensive. Each tune has a slightly different flavour hinting at a wide range of influences and moods. My personal favourites are Again and Again, Overwhelmed, and Howlin’ at the Moon, tracks that show the best that Degrees of Freedom offer – great musicianship, a lyric that tells a story, and a tune that sticks in your head after the album has long finished.

The remaining tracks are all very good standalone tracks, including the title track, Perfect World, deliberately written in a mix of time-signatures so that it never quite settles into a comfortable groove in your head.

These days, it’s rare that you’ll sit and listen to an album from start to finish. I’m old enough to recall a time before people simply downloaded individual tracks, and then hit the shuffle button. Gone are the days when an album took you on a journey, with all of the tracks hanging together and taking you from A to B. And there’s the only problem I have with the album. Perfect World is, to me, an example of how nine great songs don’t quite hang together as a great album when played in sequence.

Now I’m very aware that I’m being picky here, but it’s that range of influences I mentioned before that possibly contributes to this. Don’t get me wrong – this is far better than most of the stuff you hear on the radio these days, and is worthy of a place on your shelf.

As a collection, Perfect World is excellent. As an album, it’s merely very good indeed…

Track listing:

  • Again and Again
  • Indifferent
  • Howlin’ at the Moon
  • Bring Me
  • Lie to Me
  • Mexico
  • Overwhelmed
  • Hand of the Devil
  • Perfect World