Archive for February, 2013

Shamefully, I just plain forgot to mention in my autobiography – and I don’t know why – the importance to me of The Byrds, not just for their own fabulous music but for the musical directions in which they pointed me. Hearing their 1968 LP, Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, in my teens in the mid 1970s, alerted me to the possibility that there was more to country music than the deadly dull George Hamilton IV, who was a fixture on UK television at the time.

sweetheart

SOTR was a genuinely groundbreaking album – an established “pop” group defying the prejudices and hostility of its own audience by making a record celebrating the band members’ country enthusiasms. It created the genre of “country-rock”. Released in the summer of ’68, it was made by a Byrds line-up (ever-shifting) which included, briefly, Gram Parsons (more from him to come, here…) and, as a session musician, the ridiculously hot bluegrass lead guitarist, Clarence White (The Kentucky Colonels).

Already, in March of ’68, The Byrds had stunned the rock world by playing on the Grand Ol’ Opry at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the spiritual home of country music.

Gram Parsons, who wrote One Hundred Years From Now, sang the lead on the original recording but, in post-production, his vocals were removed and replaced by those of Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman.

Hit it!

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For much of my childhood and youth I’d fled from folk music because of the constant presence on television of The Spinners – a group of cardigan wearers who did much to smother the form with comfortable blandness.

Then I heard The Oldham Tinkers, whose songs were, I guess, the first UK folk recordings I really liked. (They were also local heroes when I was growing up in Rochdale and going to school in Oldham). Earthy, humane, often bloody funny, the Tinkers were also – and remain – singing social historians.

I still find this song very moving, recalling the massacre, by mounted cavalry, of peaceful pro-democracy, anti Corn Laws and free trade protesters at a rally of working people on St Peter’s Fields in Manchester on August 16th 1819. The Free Trade Hall was later built on the site and named in memory of their sacrifice.

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Today (Sunday 17/02/13) is the 70th birthday of John Howarth of the Tinkers, who sings this ballad. Happy birthday, John. Long may you run! And the Tinkers.

And well done, whoever put together this instructive little video.

Now, run along and buy my book via the BUY THE BOOK link up there on the top menu bar.

“Sensational. Wildly hilarious. An amazing read.” – Stephen Fry.

Hearing the double album, Willie & Family Live, in 1979 was my introduction to Willie Nelson – and a real ear-opener. The quality of the songs, the musicianship of the Family Band, Willie’s casual – almost off-hand – delivery, and the self-evident humanity of the guy made me an instant convert and evangelist for this maverick giant of American music. There are few artists I admire as much as Willie.

In May 1998, I invited him, via his record label, to come and perform live on my BBC Radio 1 programme, never expecting he’d agree. He said yes. (Radio 1 management then tried to stop his appearance on the grounds that Willie was “too old.” I told them to fuck off). The full story is in my book but – in short – he came on and played throughout the two hour show, with the whole band. And he was just as I hoped he’d be – a lovely bloke. When he walked into the studio, – small, wiry, humble, serene – I swear he had a saintly glow around him. What followed is still one of the real high points of my 29 years in broadcasting.

Kersh-nelson

The photo above was taken that afternoon, with my original copy of the album. The song (below) is a track from it – the jaw-dropping Till I Gain Control Again, written by Rodney Crowell, and with Emmylou Harris on backing vocals. This is soul music!

Please share it if you agree.

Unavoidable this week, really. A track which did much to fire my enthusiasm for English folk music. Almost a hit single in 1978 and – implausible but true – a Simon Bates Record Of The Week at the time (that outbreak of good taste did not last long). In the chorus is a Who’s Who of UK folk music. Facebook friend, Graeme Taylor, plays some wonderful lead guitar on it too. Lead vocal by the great John Tams.

The original, an 1955 R&B song, written and performed by Richard Berry, concerned a Jamaican sailor returning to his girlfriend on the island. When it was recorded by The Kingsmen, from Oregon, in 1963, it lost that meaning (in fact it lost all meaning – and the FBI even investigated the song for possible obscenity) but it became the standard for garage bands everywhere.

In the early 1980s, I was booking the bands and running the concerts at Leeds University. This short extract below from my autobiography, No Off Switch, recalls an unforgettable Louie Louie moment at an Iggy Pop gig I staged in the legendary University Refectory (the Refec) on Thursday 2nd July 1981. The photograph is of Iggy on stage that night. Now read on…

 

Iggy

If we had reason to expect misbehaviour from any visiting rock star, it was Iggy Pop. Less than ten years on from the mayhem in Detroit, caught on his Metallic KO bootleg, there were lurid accounts of riots at other Stooges gigs, Iggy slashing his own chest on stage, a troubling heroin appetite and a fondness for pulling out his considerable plonker. He was the embodiment of true punk and, allegedly, a genuine Wild Man of Rock.

On the afternoon of the gig, approaching soundcheck time, I saw the familiar huddle that was always the band’s arrival making its way down the Refec towards me and my Crew buddies by the stage. I stepped forward to introduce myself. It was Iggy all right and I extended my hand and said hello to him and his band members. He was charm itself.

During the soundcheck we were standing together by the stage, Iggy waiting to try out his vocals.

“Do you still do Louie Louie?” I asked him.

It was one of my favourite rock & roll songs, I explained, fail-safe in its simplicity, that I collected versions of it and I told him how much I’d enjoyed his reading of it on Metallic KO.

“Nah, I’m afraid not,” he said. “We haven’t played that in a long time.”

Cut to seven hours later and the Refec floor is bouncing and booming as thousands of feet pound the parquet for an encore. The band climbs back on stage, the crowd goes wild again and Iggy, now stripped to the waist, leans on the microphone stand and leers at his disciples. There is a hush. He looks across at me, winks, and turns to the band.

“Okay, you guys. How about we give ’em Louie Louie and get outta this goddam fucking whorehouse?”

BA-BA-BAM, BA-BAM, BA-BA-BAM…

The Refec goes nuts.

A few minutes later, winding past my position by the house lights, and on his way downstairs to the dressing room, Iggy gave me a hard, friendly punch in the chest. And a big grin.

“Betcha the best fucking gig we ever played, Andy!”

Iggy Pop – Wild Man of Rock. And an absolute poppet.

The same could not be said of Bob Geldof…

 

Do Share this extract if you enjoyed it. And get the whole book, via the BUY THE BOOK link on top menu bar, for just £6.29…

Kersh

Since I first heard Loudon, and fell in love with him, when I was about 15, he’s always had – spookily – a song which has mirrored perfectly every stage of my own life, from the “blaspheming, booted, blue-jean baby boy” of School Days, to this – one of Loudon’s beautiful songs about parenthood. That continual soundtrack of appropriate songs is, most likely, an indication of the breadth, honesty and humanity of Loudon’s songwriting.

He’s heard here playing A Father & A Son, live on my BBC Radio 1 programme, in 1998. And the photo up above (a demonstration of Parenting – The AK Approach) was taken at the Cropredy Festival in the same year – with Loudon, Robert Plant and my lad, Sonny, in my arms. (The cheeky monkey’s nicked my fags, bless his little heart!)

‘Scuse me – I must have got something in my eye…