Thursday, 22 December 2011

Adam Ant


The explosion of Adam And The Ants onto the British music scene back in the 1980s was quite spectacular. The "Kings Of The Wild Frontier" album was massive with the iconic "Antmusic" catapulting Adam Ant to the kind of stardom and attention under the media spotlight rarely seen at that point. So big was the success that I remember Adam And The Ants going from a great post punk band to a kiddies chart band that were too uncool for us slightly older teenagers to like, although secretly the music remained a guilty pleasure. Who can't admit to liking "Stand And Deliver"? As a collector of rare records back then I was able to buy some of the singles as picture discs, a good excuse to buying some of the records you wouldn't admit to liking :) Now over 30 years on the music more than stands the test of time as is usually the case for artists who had a million selling single...


The subsequent solo career provided the wonderfully catchy "Goody Two Shoes" although it would have been impossible for any artist to have sustained the success of the "Ants" period. 


I never got to see Adam Ant back in the day, but in January 2012 I put that right and finally saw the man in action. It was an amazing show, very punkesque in style just the way live music should be played. I would highly recommend seeing him!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

R.E.M.


The demise of R.E.M. in 2011 seems like an appropriate time to write my little piece on the band. I followed them from the mid 1980s through to the end mainly on CD. In fact I only got to see them play live once way back in 1986 supporting U2 at the Milton Keynes Bowl.

My favourite song from the early years is "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)". A song that had everything in it for me at the time. A brilliant catchy melody, driving alternative guitars and these lyrics that came at you from all directions.


It wasn't difficult to enjoy the band's main period of world wide commercial success. The albums "Out of Time" and "Automatic For The People" were not just huge, but contained fantastic songs such as the "Losing My Religion" and "Everybody Hurts". "Losing My Religion" is a gorgeous song that can be played anywhere by anyone and is guaranteed to get everyone up and singing along.


During the latter years the band continued to release solid albums that may not have reached the commercial heights of the band's heyday, but always contained enough to keep an R.E.M. fan happy and interested. I always liked the way the band was able to write up tempo songs and classy slow songs sounding equally at home with each. The "Reveal" album of 2001 is probably my favourite overall R.E.M. album which had "Imitation of Life" as its lead single.


It does appear that there will not be a R.E.M. comeback anytime soon or possibly ever, but you never know these days with so many bands coming back from yesteryear. A truly great band and the recent compilation "Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011" is a great addition to any record collection. I can't believe I have now bought three R.E.M. compilation albums!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Wedding Present



The Wedding Present almost passed me by back in the day. By the end of the 1980s I had kind of stopped listening to nighttime radio and so my source of non-chart "decent" guitar music had pretty much dried up. It was not that I was unaware of them and who could have failed to notice the iconic "George Best" album cover in the record shops at the time.

The first material I bought were the "Hit Parade" albums which were the compilation albums of the twelve 7" singles released one every month over a year. The singles were all brilliant and had cover versions on the flip sides and I was to discover the band has always done amazing cover versions over the years. I originally had these albums on cassette, then on CD, and now finally as mp3s.

In 2010 I saw the band live for the first time finally! The 21st anniversary tour of "Bizarro". It was an album that had completely passed me by until then, and I got hold of it before the tour, and over the last 12 months it has to be the most played album on my IPod! Just fantastic energetic, melodic jingly jangly indie guitar songs. Another case of wishing I could write and put together such brilliant songs. Seeing the songs live was amazing and Dave Gedge and the band put on one of my favourite shows of recent years.


Bringing things right up to date as March 19th saw the release of the new album "Valentina", which shows that Mr Gedge has lost none of his songwriting skills, and this album stands out like a beacon in an era where we are swamped by cheap, trashy, plasticy nothing music everywhere. The track "Mystery Date" could have been written for me! Can't wait for the live shows later in the year.


Saturday, 20 August 2011

Laura Marling



Some of the music I have enjoyed over the years is not that far removed from the folk genre, but I would concede that in spite of my love for the sound of the acoustic guitar I have never really been into folk music. However never say never and the absolutely stunning song "Sophia" by Laura Marling that I first heard being played on 6 Music totally made me reconsider. It is a beautifully crafted song and probably was my favourite melody of 2011. How many times do you hear a song and wish you could write something a fraction as good. This is one of those songs...




Sunday, 31 July 2011

Dodgy



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

Showaddywaddy


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...


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

U2


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

Ash


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


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

Madness


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.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Billy Franks


One of the wonders of the Internet is being able to track down artists from a previous era, get in touch with fellow fans and reignite old musical passions. I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of all three of these when it comes to Billy Franks. I was a fan of his band The Faith Brothers from the 1980s. I heard pretty much nothing of Billy for 15 years or so and couldn't even find any old Faith Brothers music either. Then a friend of mine who I know through The Alarm told me about Billy Franks and his solo career. I went down to see Billy and his band play outside Guildford at some sports club and I have never looked back.

Obviously I was completely in awe of seeing him playing some old Faith Brothers songs after so many years, but I was immediately completely hooked by his solo songwriting skills and how these songs were presented. Not only on that night did Billy play this bizarre venue, but a coach load of his ever faithful fans came down as well from London.

I got myself acquainted with his solo albums all of which are beautiful in their own right featuring some wonderful songs. The first solo album "Mass" has the wonderful "Beautiful Heresy", "The Boy Who Was Afraid Nothing" and the simply wonderful title track "Mass". The 2nd album "Genius & Grace" was an album full of gorgeous songs including "Sleep A Little Easy When It Rains" and "Angel At Your Elbow". By the time the 3rd album "Sex Laughter & Meditation" came out I was seeing Billy play live in London on a regular basis. This 3rd album really is a brilliantly crafted album featuring classic songs such as "Girl Of Your Dreams" and "One Summer In New York". There was a long wait for the 4th and most recent album "The Turtledove Boutique", but it was well worth the wait and features a beautiful and haunting song called "50/50 America".

And as wonderful as the studio recordings are for me, Billy comes into his own when he is live on stage. The songs are taken to a completely different level. Billy's passion for music comes across and he gives absolutely everything to every song he performs. I defy anyone to go to one of his gigs and not come away having had a brilliant evening. What I like about him is also the way he is a humble and warm spirited man who has a great affinity with all his fans. He will always greet everyone at his gigs by their first name, give them a hug and take the time to have a chat. Many of these fans have followed Billy since The Faith Brothers days are friends first with Billy before being fans. His stories of his former years are funny, touching and hopefully coming out in a book soon. He also made a film "Tribute This" which documented the story of Billy and his three American friends trying to get famous artists to cover his own songs making a tribute album of said material. It is a wonderful film both touching and funny. Ultimately not one artist said yes and the real stars of the film were the normal people who played their parts in trying to help Billy and his friends along the way. Billy is just a normal guy bringing some wonderful music into this world that brightens up my life for sure. And I suppose for me that is what makes Billy Franks the man I think he is.


Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Alarm


The Alarm is my favourite band of all time. A band I have followed since early 1983 to the present day and the music is just everything I like music to be. Back in 1983 I was 16 years old and was recovering from quite a serious kidney illness, and musically I was searching for a band to replace The Jam who had just split up. I would have my little radio in my bedroom and I was listening to John Peel when I heard this wonderfully powerful acoustic stomping tune. It was "The Stand" which was the 3rd single by The Alarm.


I ordered the 7" and 12" singles from my local record shop in Maidenhead and for the only time in my life did I take records into school to play to my friends once they arrived. On the basis of that 4 of us went up to see The Alarm play at The Marquee in London in May 1983. I was blown away by these weird looking band members with spiky hair banging out tunes on acoustic guitars with such power and energy the like of which I had never seen before. Over the following months I saw the band in London at every opportunity and saw just the most amazing shows by these 4 guys. We missed last trains home, got stuck in car parks and went to venues I never knew existed. The old ballroom venues in London were simply magical.


The band for me were at their best playing live and studio recordings sometimes never quite captured the essence of those live gigs. The commercial success in the UK came with the singles "68 Guns", "Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke", "Spirit of 76" and "Rain In The Summertime" with the 1st album and my favourite "Declaration" going straight into the UK Top 10 albums on its first week of release.



For me the golden years of 1983-84 saw the band at their finest. I suppose the day Dave Sharp started playing with a white strat rather than the acoustic changed the sound of the band and for me some of the magic was lost. I remember the Christmas show at the Hammersmith Palais in 1984 when I think the band played just about played every song they knew how to play that night and it was one of the truly great nights. It was the year of Band Aid and when the song was played before the band came on stage the place was just a mass of bouncing people. I remember going to see the band play at Heaven in London and apart from it being my first experience of a gay venue I remember seeing the most blistering version of "One Step Closer To Home" I have ever seen. I think the band stopped during the intro and re-started the song as they wanted to really crank it up!

The 2nd album "Strength" saw the band being able to fill out the Hammersmith Odeon and I remember in May 1985 going to see the band play there direct from watching Arsenal play away at West Brom, and then outside the gig afterwards I saw my hero Charlie Nicholas leave so I chased him down the road to sign my football programme from that day. "Strength" was an album that always left me a little disappointed as it just seemed so so different from "Declaration". In fact it was only in more recent times when http://www.thealarm.com/ put out "Alternative Strength" which included demos showing how the album progressed did I finally understand and appreciate the songs more fully.

During this period I saw The Alarm support Queen at Wembley in 1986 and U2 at the Cardiff Arms Park in 1987 I think! I remember the Wembley show mainly as shortly before The Alarm came on stage we made our way down to front having to step over loads of picnics that the Queen fans had laid out for the day. The set was magnificent and "68 Guns" went down a storm as it was the one Alarm song that most of the crowd knew. Cardiff was very eventful. We got the train down to Cardiff and had a good liquid lunch in the bars around the stadium. On entering the stadium to my horror they were not selling booze and the only drink on sale was Panda Pops! I was tempted to leave and get a train home. Fortunately both The Alarm and U2 were amazing and it was a wonderful day. Having said this I am always happiest going to Alarm gigs in their own right.

I enjoyed the 3rd album "Eye Of The Hurricane" as it kind of moved the band back towards the acoustic rock sound I enjoy. I remember Gary Davies from Radio 1 really getting behind the "Rain In The Summertime" single at the time. The 4th album "Change" was another hard album for me to really love as its more blues influences I found hard to really enjoy. The single "Sold Me Down The River" remains a great song but I wonder as I did from time to time with Alarm single releases whether it was the best choice of single at the time. I do remember the "Change" tour coming to Reading so it was nice seeing the band locally as well as in London. The final album from the original line up was "Raw" and I have to concede having seen the UK tour gig at Brixton we decided not to go to the extra show back at Brixton at the end of the European tour as something had gone from the live performance at that stage. As it turned out that last show in 1991 was the moment Mike Peters left the band so I actually missed the dramatic event. But even during such a dark hour there was a moment of light relief. At a fan club convention in Leicester shortly after Mike Peters left the band they were doing a quiz on stage when a poor girl's chair leg slipped in a gap on the stage causing her to fall over backwards. We have never laughed so long and cried such tears over any event before or since. I have now been contacted by the unfortunate victim after all these years, and I am glad to report that Pauline Redman is alive and well.

I think its no coincidence that I spent the next 10 years "retired" in the main from going to London gigs and just tended to buy CDs rather than going to gigs generally. And when Mike Peters put a new line up together and started playing as The Alarm again I suddenly started going back to see live music again. The release of the complete back catalogue as a CD box set was a fantastic release for a mad fan like myself. The modern line of The Alarm have released some amazing albums... "In The Poppy Fields", "Under Attack", "Guerrilla Tactics" and "Direct Action" with numerous box sets complementing these releases. Singles taken from these albums include "45 RPM" and "Superchannel". I make the annual pilgrimage to The Gathering in North Wales where a whole weekend of live music and much more is put on for the faithful fans. The "In The Poppy Fields" album for me announced that as well as continuing to honour the songs of The Alarm past, that this band had plenty to say here and now and that the music could stand up in its own right along side those songs of years gone by.




What I like about the new line up is the freshness of the music, the amazing live shows and an ability to capture the live essence of the live songs in the studio recordings. If anything the songs now are faster and angrier than ever and as a song writer Mike Peters has come of age over the years. I think the music of the modern Alarm era shows that there is plenty of life left in The Alarm yet, and who knows what chapters could be added to the story of The Alarm in the years ahead.


Bring the story up to date I recently saw the band on the 30th anniversary Sound And The Fury tour which sees the band band playing all the classic tracks from the last 30 years and the live sound is amazing. An album was released in June 2011 of the same title featuring reworkings of Alarm / Mike Peters songs from over the years including a single of "Unbreak The Promise". The album stayed clear of the more well known recordings which was a brave and interesting idea. To finally get a studio recording of "For Freedom" after decades was brilliant.



The Alarm will always play a huge part in my musical life and I hope there remain many more chapters in the story. Could I name my favourite Alarm song? "Majority" always has been a huge favourite. The electric version of "One Step Closer To Home" and going back to the beginning I loved "For Freedom" and am so happy it is finally getting a studio recording release on the forthcoming album.

The solo work of Mike Peters and Dave Sharp will follow in other blogs as the solo work kept a connection going with The Alarm during the 1990s.

p.s. I am also the proud supplier of The Alarm printed carrier bags you get all your merchandise in :o)



Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Killers


I suppose much of my musical likes and influences are from the 20th century! But this doesn't tell the whole story and The Killers are a band from the modern era who I think are brilliant. They write catchy songs and supply me with the guitar dose that I need. "Mr Brightside" remains my favourite track by them and it's a song that would be on my IPod on a desert island.


I think The Killers really did it for me with their performance at Live 8 where they stole the show for me, and were probably the only band who captured the spirit of the Live Aid. "All These Things I Have Done" is a great anthem and was the perfect choice for that day.


The Killers four albums to date have all had their magical moments and they have managed in my opinion to produce three decent follow albums to the debut "Hot Fuss", and there by succeeding where many modern bands fail these days.

I was lucky enough to see The Killers at Hyde Park in London in 2009 and once again in 2011. They may have been away for a couple of years, but it was a blinding show and I chronicled my day out to Hyde Park on video.

video 


2012 has seen the long awaited release of the 4th studio album "Battle Born" and it sees The Killers doing what they do best, which for me is writing great rock/pop anthems. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to see them live at the Birmingham NEC on October 31st, and it was the first time I have seen them in an indoor arena. It was a stunning concert!

 

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Majority



The Majority is the band that has brought me the greatest music enjoyment, because it's the band I was / am in. The original line up was Lewis Porter (vocals), Adam Hodgson (drums), Tim Darvell (guitar), Rich Contrereas (bass) and Patrick Moritz (keyboards). Stu Phillips became the 2nd keyboard player when Pat decided to leave the band. Over the course of two years from 1985 - 1987 the band played a number of gigs with the annual gig at The Five Horseshoes at Remenham near Henley quite legendary.


The name of the band came from one our of biggest influences The Alarm. "Majority" was one of our favourite songs by The Alarm. Our sound was heavily influenced by The Alarm and U2 and although we wrote many tunes we enjoyed playing a few covers too.

video
Majority

Although the live period of the band was short lived, the band has continued to record occasionally over the years and many of the songs from back in the day have since been recorded along with new songs written in the years since.

video
Out For The Count

What the band meant for me was how I discovered a love for writing songs which I still have to this day. I enjoyed the rehearsals at Ad's folk's house probably more than playing on stage as we spent hours fine tuning the songs, laughing at ourselves endlessly and always ended up with a post rehearsal beer at The Royal Oak in Knowl Hill. They were wonderful times.

The friendships that grew within the band have remained close to this day, with myself, Lewis and Ad remaining the very best of friends with godfathering and best man duties playing their parts along the way.

The band alas never achieved the success or recognition I always thought we deserved, but when I look back we lacked ambition, direction and possibly leadership; Ad in particular got frustrated with that and the live era of the band ended when Ad went in search of a band with a more serious outlook and approach, and quite right he was too as the rest of us spent more time in local drinking establishments rather than looking to see how far the band could go. Eventually I got my creative juices flowing again and I threw myself into songwriting, and it was myself and Ad who have continued The Majority in more recent times by recording the songs of the day along with new ones, plus some unusual cover versions...

But the songs have not been lost. There is material to listen to on our Myspace page at www.myspace.com/themaj and those fortunate or unfortunate enough to have seen the band will never forget such classics as "Majority", "Out For The Count", "The Inquest", "Poseurs Paradise", "Out of Order", "Aggggh Me Head" and "The Xmas Medley"

Is there ever to be a Majority reunion? Will the 2nd album ever get finished? These questions are as yet to be answered...




Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Jam



The Jam was probably the first "guitar" band that I really got into. I wasn't there at the start in 1977 and my first purchase was the single "Eton Rifles" which had made it into to the top 10, and seeing the album "Setting Sons" plastered all over the record shops. The first album I bought was "All Mod Cons" which to this day remains one of my all time favourite albums which combines great melodies and a great guitar sound, and that works for me every time.


In 1980 the album Sound Effects was released and I remember the local record shop selling tickets for the Bracknell gig at £2.50! However I was not allowed to go to the gig and had to wait until the farewell tour in 1982 when at 16 I was allowed to go to see them at Wembley Arena. That was my first ever live gig and it was fantastic and the support band on those shows was Big Country.

The Jam had an amazing history in terms of single releases and many of their singles were not included on their albums. I think back at the time "Funeral Pyre" was my favourite single partly because I was so excited about its release and I got the school coach into Maidenhead on the day of its release and then walked 2 miles home with my copy. Over the years I would probably say "When You're Young" has just about become my favourite single by the band.


After the band split in 1982 I followed Paul Weller in The Style Council, but more out of loyalty rather than the material I have to admit. I enjoyed Rick Buckler in The Time UK and followed Bruce Foxton's short lived solo career. I have struggled to really like Paul Weller's solo material over the years. More recently I have enjoyed going to see From The Jam featuring Foxton and Buckler (now just Foxton). Songs such as "Down In The Tube Station At Mightnight", "Going Underground" and "A Town Called Malice" remain a big part of the musical soundtrack of my life.


Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Jags



"Back Of My Hand" by The Jags was the first 7" single I ever bought. I had saved up for months to buy a record player and once I had got it I was able to use my pocket money to buy as much music as I could afford. This song was medium sized hit in 1979 and I actually bought its follow up "Woman's World" too although that proved to be a commercial flop. This band were pretty much one hit wonders, but I did buy a compilation CD a few years ago "The Best of The Jags" which contained the songs from their two album releases. Whenever I hear the song on the radio it always reminds me of my first record player and the record itself is safely stored in the loft.


Blondie


My first ever musical purchase was a cassette tape of "Parallel Lines" by Blondie. In the late 1970s they were just about as big as any band with both "Sunday Girl" and "Heart of Glass" selling a million copies on the UK singles charts when singles sales still counted for a lot.

As a 12 year old boy like most boys of that time Debbie Harry was the girl in the chart we were besotted with and posters of her were all over my bedroom walls. But musically Blondie played an important part in my musical journey as the post punk new-wave guitar sound is all over "Parallel Lines", which is the sound that became the basis for all the bands I liked back then. And yet as an album it contains classic pop / disco influences which also shaped my liking for strong melodies.


It's interesting that Blondie's continual experimentation with their sound and pushing the boundaries possibly contributed to their commercial downfall, but "Parallel Lines" and it's follow up "Eat To The Beat" remain all time favourites of mine. "Atomic" was just about the perfect guitar / pop / disco song of its time.

They have a new album out now "Panic of Girls" which has a couple of classic Blondie tracks "What I heard" and "Mother".