A Motley Mish-Mash of Melodious Musical Merriment

Since the turn of the year, I’ve been listening to a variety of music – new and old – and in a variety of formats. I’ve never been a fan of streaming, but I’m trying to get into the 21st Century and using these formats where there isn’t an alternative.

I’ve been playing catch up on music I’ve been sent over the last few months as well as listening to Christmas presents and recent recommendations from friends.

Speaking of recommendations – I recently wrote a blog about Jason How, if you haven’t already checked him out. I’d recommend a listen, regardless of what “genre” you normally listen to. It’s a musical treat to the eardrums.

The Secret Life of a Teenage Punk Rocker – Andy Blade

Over the last week I also finally got around to ordering Andy Blade’s audiobook version of “The Secret Life of a Teenage Punk Rocker: The Andy Blade Chronicles”. Narrated by the man himself, the book is an entertaining romp through his teenage years and the formation of Eater. I’m only a couple of hours in at the moment, but already would highly recommend it to anyone. I say this whether you are a fan of Eater or not, even if you aren’t a fan of punk, you don’t need to be.

Andy Blade - The Secret Life of a Teenage Punk Rocker
Andy Blade – The Secret Life of a Teenage Punk Rocker

Andy has a great way of telling a story and has me engrossed and laughing along with him a lot of the time. Whether that be due to an in-depth tale of “stalking” The Runaways at their Bayswater Hotel as a 14 year old, his comparing his feelings about dancing to teenage sexual urges or even simple asides about Tennents Lager cans. It is fascinating to hear a first-hand account from someone who was a fan of and involved in the scene as a band from the outset. I’m listening in the car on the way to and from work and I’m disappointed when I get to my destination! Looking forward to my next car trip…

The Fall, Gerry Cinnamon, The Skids

From a music perspective, as well as working through The Fall complete singles and b-sides (what an amazing body of work!). I’ve also found myself listening a lot to Gerry Cinnamon. His album goes to prove that in this day and age, just because you pick up an acoustic guitar you don’t need to sing insipid love songs about some girl or other being “between my arms”.  (When I hear that song, am I the only one who conjures up a picture of Sheeran standing with arms outstretched in front of him and some lassie standing in front of him “between” his arms?).

I’ve also been enjoying the new Skids album which arrived last Friday after what seemed like aeons since I pledged for it. It has been well worth the wait and with some songs co-written by The Filthy Tongues Martin Metcalfe and produced by Youth the album stands up well with their classics. Having seen them live a couple of days prior in King Tuts, the band proved that they still have what it takes to get a crowd going, even if Jobson still can’t dance (still, that is part of the charm). They were tight, the musicianship was fantastic, some amazing drumming from Mike Baillie, a brilliant night was had by all. And of course they ended the night with the “worst song we ever wrote”, TV Stars.

Buzzbomb Sixty Miles of Open Road

Buzzbomb – 60 Miles of Open Road

On the album front, another new release that deserves your attention is the third album from Bathgate’s Buzzbomb. Not only do I love this band’s music, but the cover art on the new album by 2000AD artist Patrick Goddard is a joy to behold too. I pre-ordered the vinyl to ensure I get the full effect of the artwork (and also the fact that I love vinyl) but have been listening to the download in the meantime.

The album, “Sixty Miles of Bad Road” is a high-octane thrill ride that doesn’t let up for a second for a breath. I don’t know if anyone recently watched the B-movie style TV series “Blood Drive” (a futuristic schlock horror blood and guts TV series with a murderous race involving cars that are powered by blood – you get the picture). Maybe it’s a combination of the music and the cover art, but I could easily visualise the high-adrenaline psychobilly/punkabilly music of “Buzzbomb” sound-tracking the series.

Buzzbomb band
Buzzbomb

Only one of the tracks disappoints me slightly, their cover of “Born to Lose”. I’m not averse to bands covering classic songs, but something about this version leaves me cold.

High Adrenaline Thrill Ride

However, that aside, the rest of the album delivers blow after blow and hits the target every time with a dead-shot. From the intoxication and chanted chorus of “Blood and Whiskey” via the breakneck reality that is the banding having an “Existential Crisis”. Leaving “Wreckage” (One of my favourites on the album – “Forget yesterday, learn to walk away”) in their wake, all the way through to the 100mph drumming and buzz saw guitar of the “All that I have and all that I believe in refrain” of “Russian Roulette”. I’m exhausted by the end of the album – in an exceptionally satisfying way.

With a number of dates already secured including Michale Graves another support date for the Kings of Psychobilly, The Meteors, 2018 already looks good for Buzzbomb.

Tunay Akdeniz

Another album that was sent to me via my blog, was a re-release of old tracks from “Godfather of Turkish Punk” Tünay Akendiz. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know of his existence before the link dropped into my inbox with a bit of background. However, from what I can glean from the press release and a couple of quick internet searches he appears to have been somewhat of a maverick in Turkey.

Tunay Akdeniz The Godfather of Turkish Punk
Tunay Akdeniz The Godfather of Turkish Punk

“Tünay Akdeniz”

Ironhand Records is proud to present one of the greatest legends of Turkish rock music:

Tünay Akdeniz was quite a figure in 70’s music scene in Turkey with mocking lyrics, punk-rock image and bad boy attitude. He had once used giblets for accessory in a photo session, had sued state television for not airing his music, used the title “punk-rock” first time in Turkey and had earned the title “big rocker” as he made cassette copies of hard ’n’ heavy albums for younger generation who lack resources to find originals with mail order for years.”

 What you get on this album is 14 tracks in all, 8 different tracks (6 of the tracks are instrumental versions of tracks on the album)

Bear in mind that this was in the 1970s, when in the UK we were struggling with strikes, 3 days weeks, unemployment, the winter of discontent and a heatwave in ’76. In Turkey, the decade was book-ended by military coups in ’71 and ’80 and much political violence from 76-79 resulting in over 5000 deaths. If you bear this in mind as a backdrop to the times, the activities listed that he undertook in 1970’s Turkey would have seemed fairly radical and extreme, even if they don’t seem so now in modern day UK.

Attitude

Tunay Akdeniz
Tunay Akdeniz

The music is of its time, not an overtly “punk” sound as you would necessarily classify it, but you need to remember a lot of these songs pre-date punk as we would know it. If you believe that punk is an attitude more than a style of music and way of dressing as many of the punk police would have you believe, then yes, Tünay could very much be described as punk.

I can’t really vouch for the lyrics to songs as I don’t speak the language, but there are some good wee tunes in here. “Nicin Seni Seviyorum” (which if google translate serves me right translates as “Why I Love You”) musically has a “Roadrunner” feel to it while some of the other tracks have more of an early 70’s sparse rock sound incorporating disco/funk guitar effects (“Dişi Denen Canlı” / “The Creature Called Female”) or an almost Johnny Cash/country guitar (“Mesela Mesele” / “For Example The Matter Is…”). The aforementioned “Babam Yazdı Ben Besteledim İşte Aşkın Tarifi” (“Daddy Wrote the Lyrics, I Composed the Music, That’s the Recipe of Love”) has perhaps my favourite translated song title on the album.

Certainly not an unpleasant listen and has also given an insight into alternative/protest music scene in another culture during the 70s.

The Apparents

Moving to the here and now, and punk as it is today, The Apparents have a new EP, “The Face May Change” out on various download and streaming sites.

These Scottish protest-punks have presented 5 tracks of in your face punk rock with some accomplished guitar playing. The majority of the tracks have an angry edge to them – whether that be  directed to the government (Tory Boy), a rant about the proliferation of reality TV (Reali-TV), Indyref related (This is Scotland) or religion (Fuck Religion – which brings to mind the Fire Exit classic – Religion is the Cause of all War).

Open in Spotify

However, for me both musically and lyrically, the stand out track on the EP has to be the one with a more positive vibe, “Nothing is Set in Stone”. With pulsing guitar and messages about making the most of life, “Don’t take life for granted – it can all be taken away” I’d like to hear more of this side of The Apparents in the future.

The Dunts

Another band that have been on the go since 2016 but I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing yet are The Dunts.

Describing themselves as Council Punk, I’ve been enjoying the 4 tracks on their “Not Working is Class EP” on Spotify. All tracks are high voltage with clever and often amusing lyrics (“Hampden Cabs”) with a similar style to Slaves, Idles & Eagulls.

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Voicex

I’m also enjoying the song available on Spotify by Voicex –“Never”. A tasty collaboration between members of various bands from the alternative scene in Scotland – Scars, Boots for Walking and Heavy Drapes, with words provided by performance poet Suky.

The song is a jubilant post-punk romp with shades of the Velvet Underground. Suky delivers a passionate performance and the song has been on repeat in my ears a good few times over the last few weeks.

I look forward to hearing more from Voicex in 2018

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WHITE

I’m late to the game AGAIN, but I’ve been listening to WHITE recently too. They have been going at least a couple of years, but I’ve been enjoying listening to their album “One Night Stand Forever”. It is more poppy than a lot of stuff I listen too, but I can hear enough in their sound that appeals and makes it interesting. Occasionally there is a bit of a Billy McKenzie twang to it, especially on tracks like “Future Pleasures”. Elements of the guitar hark back to early 80’s angular post-punk bands like Josef K, Fire Engines and the like, with a bit of Sparks and Hot Chip thrown in for good measure.

Open in Spotify

There are a few bands that I would love to have seen in the New Year series of gigs in King Tuts in January, but have had to make do with listening to their output available online at the moment. These bands are The Ninth Wave, Motion Poets and Sway.

The Ninth Wave

The Ninth Wave are an interesting proposition. They have an EP available just now, “Reformation”, which I have been listening to on repeat. Their wide open sonance bringing to mind vast landscapes, with rich atmospheric electronic keyboards adding to the sophisticated layers. Vocals in places not unlike Propaganda and the delicacy of Shellyann Orphan and complemented by the huge dark powerful sound of noughties bands like White Lies, whilst also encapsulating 80’s goth rock god, Robert Smith.

Open in Spotify

The Motion Poets

Hopefully 2018 will see Edinburgh based band The Motion Poets follow up their first single from 2017, the extremely catchy “One Too Many” with more of the same jangly indie-rock guitars and drums bounding along and hooking you in along the way,

Open in Spotify

Sway

I’ve mentioned Sway in a previous post with their latest single “To Be a Man” and I’m still listening to this along with “Planet Earth”/”Give You it All”, all available to stream on Spotify. Their songs, at least the sound and passion of “Give You it All”, takes me back to Whipping Boy & Power of Dreams gigs in King Tuts in the ‘90s.

Open in Spotify

I’m hoping to catch all of these bands during 2018 at some point. I listen to a lot of music by bands of a certain era and even many of the current or newer bands I listen to are made up of “older” musicians. It is good to hear some new music out there that I enjoy, made by the younger generation who aren’t stuck in the bedrooms communicating virtually only. I include the aforementioned Dunts in that list too.

Always open to new music – any recommendations?

Jason How – Four albums of Psychedelic & Pure Power Pop Genius

Jason How

I’ve only recently been introduced to the music of Jason How (cheers Joe Whyte). I’m so glad I am no longer a stranger to his music. Jason is a prolific songwriter, releasing an album per year over the last 4 years.

It would be difficult to pin Jason down to a specific music genre or style as there is a great variety of influences across the albums. His influences are apparent in the music, US West Coast psychedelia standing out, but also with the influence of 70’s punk/power pop and 80s indie.

Certain elements come together and bring to mind different bands and/or singers. Sometimes the combined elements together sound like Buzzcocks, others reminiscent of purveyors of perfect Punk/Power Pop, Duncan Reid and the Big Heads. It all depends on what album and what track you are listening to.

One thing is for certain. They all have big tunes, are hook laden, lyrically clever and sometimes eccentric and cover a wide array of subjects.

Suffice to say the fruits of Jason’s labours are eminently listenable.

Who is Jason How?

For anyone else to whom this might be an introduction to Jason and his music, I asked him to give me a bit of background on who he is:

Well my father started Rotosound Music Strings in the 1960’s and I have been Chairman since 1996.  

As you say I have been around music all my life and never really been that good a guitarist  so I thought I would try writing songs which I really enjoy and seems to come fairly easily to me.

I play guitar, bass, keys and vocals.

My real trade is in engineering I have designed and built most of the new string winding machines at Rotosound over the last 20 years. Following on from when my father died in 1994. 

Passionate about keeping the manufacturing in the UK!

….all about the strings!

www.rotosound.com

 When did you first start playing music? With the Rotosound connections you obviously have been brought up close to music:

 Started listening to music from an early age, my dad used to bring home all the albums by the bands Rotosound were dealing with in the 70’ s. From bands like ELO, Queen, The Jam, Wreckless Eric etc. Quite an eclectic mix.  

That eclectic mix is something that has obviously influenced Jason’s own music. Jason has his own distinctive sound but you can also hear a variety of influences within the albums.

What instrument did you start playing? What was the first song/tune you played?

 Started playing the guitar when I was 15. I remember that ‘A Legal Matter’ by The Who was the first guitar riff I learnt LOL! I remember picking out the guitar riff on “A Legal Matter by the Who as my brother had just lent me “Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy”, the early Who compilation.

I had an old Aria acoustic guitar, started writing tunes on my dad’s old Wurlitzer organ, just sort of instrumental things. Then started writing tunes on the guitar and finally adding lyrics.

My mate Jim Bishop and myself wrote a tune called ‘Lost my words in the mountains’ when we were about 16, then we formed a band called Wicked Cooker (terrible name) and wrote a lot of weird stuff with song titles like ‘Stop eating your chocolate biscuits’ and ‘Soapsuds in my binoculars’

Bootlegs are available for your further listening pleasure……

 That would be an interesting listen I’m sure.

The Music of Jason How

Where do you get your musical inspiration to write from?

I love the late 60’s psychedelic scene from the West coast in the US, bands like The 13th Floor Elevators, Chocolate Watch Band and The Strawberry Alarm Clock. The Doors obviously.

 Also the 70’s punk scene I love and a lot of underground Indie from the 80’s especially a lot of the Glasgow bands like The Close Lobsters, The Vaselines (etc) and others like The Church, House of Love and Robyn Hitchcock!

 Lucky enough with my job to know some of these guys like The Stranglers, Wreckless Eric, Bruce Foxton etc….

As I said earlier, musically I can hear that range of styles/influences across the albums & just from the initial listen to “The Eve of Oban” I can see some obvious targets in your lyrics – corporate suits, political /government themes. What else inspires the themes of your lyrics?

Of late the political is as you say an easy target so I really write exactly what I think.

 I do try and add in some English whimsy and create some kind of mood with the music and lyrics. Eve of Oban was a stripped down lo-fi affair that could have been done in mono for a bit of fun!

I think running the business gets you thinking with regards to politics etc…. you try and see it from both sides but is quite difficult sometimes!

You’ve released 4 albums to date. The Tall English Sun (2014), Speedboat on a Magic Sea (2015) & The Eve of Oban (2016) and the latest Viscount Spoon Plays Sounds from the Cheeky Warm (2017). What is next on the horizon for you?

Had a bit of a hiatus this year (2017) as I feel like I have gone all out over the last 5 years so have just tried to empty my head and get back into it in 2018.

 Still trying to work out the next vibe for the next album. I have a lot of older songs knocking around but I hate going back to them. Would rather write new material if possible…….

I believe you pretty much play all the instruments on the albums – any thoughts of getting a band together and taking the songs out on the road?

Would love to do that at some stage I think it would only happen if the right group of people came together naturally. They would have to be into the music etc…

Doing the music alone is a double edged sword, you can do as you please but then there’s nobody to bounce ideas off and keep the quality control at the highest level.

 There you go, if the right group of people are out there…

Who are you listening to personally at the moment? Any recommendations?

Sad to say I’m still listening to all my old favourites although I am having a bit of a completist moment with Van Morrison right now…. “Astral Weeks” such a classic!

Also most of my fave artists are on the website! (Read about Jason’s favourite artists on his website http://www.jasonhow.com/)

Not sad at all, I often listen to my “old favourites”. Don’t get me on completist. I’m no-where near as bad now but back in the 80’s when the record companies released a 7”, 12”, 2 CD singles and maybe even a cassette single, all with different b-sides, mugs like me had to buy them all.

Thanks to Jason for taking the time out of a busy schedule to answer the questions.

Reviews

As I alluded to earlier, Jason’s albums are a joy to listen to and bring a smile to my face when listening in the car on some miserable drives to and from work.

The Tall English Sun

The sunny psychedelic influences of 60’s West Coast US bands is most apparent on debut “The Tall English Sun” (also featuring Keith More and Martin Johnson) with beautiful harmonies, tambourines and song titles like “Summer in Eden”,  “April Rained Forever” & Viaducts of Your Dreams” reflecting this too.

The whimsy Jason mentioned earlier is also apparent and there is a certain eccentricity to many of the songs and lyrics across all the albums adding to the appeal.

“Speedboat on a Magic Sea” continues in a similar vein where “The Tall English Sun” left off, complementing its harmonious psychedelic influences with three minute melodic power pop/punk – such as “Sunset in Deutsche Town” with the political comment starting to come to the fore in some tracks.

Speedboat on a Magic Sea

Songs like “Run like Falling Stars” are stand-outs with a rich acoustic intro building into a beautiful song with warm fuzzy melodious guitars and elongated outro.

Many of Jason’s songs across his output hark back to days gone by. “Looking Glass of Time” is, unsurprisingly based on the title, one of those, referencing 1969 and lunar moon landings, and spending days riding bikes and climbing trees.

Can Jason predict the future? “If I Could be President” could have been written by Trump, but with a great deal more intelligence and flair. With lyrics like “everybody’s gonna know who I am, everybody’s gonna hate what I am”, “I’d change the rules of the game” and “I’d gas all the scum, you’d be on the run” and a post punk feel, like a cross between Teardrop Explodes and Wire with its keyboards and angular sound.

 Eve of Oban

Album three, “The Eve of Oban” has a melodic late 70’s punk feel a la Buzzcocks on tracks like album opener “Tricked by the Blink of an Eye” (a brilliant opening to the album with its catchy refrain) and “Decoy”.

The political and corporate lyrical influences add an edge to some songs – “F**k the Government”, “Can You Feel the Benefit” and “C**ts in Suits”- while still maintaining the stirring feel of the music and injecting a bit of humour to lighten the mood.

As I indicated, one of the key proponents of power pop/pop punk in recent years has been “Duncan Reid and the Big Heads” mastering their sound over 3 albums to date. Jason’s intonation from time to time is similar to that of Duncan and this adds to the comparison. The exuberant sound of both bands is a pleasure to listen to.

Viscount Spoon Plays the Sounds of the Cheeky Warm

“Viscount Spoon Plays Sounds from the Cheeky Warm” is his latest album and sees a return to the more psychedelic and eccentric element of his repertoire, maintaining the power pop/pop punk leanings. Jason is in reflective mood on this album with the subjects for many of the songs harking back to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

“Records from the Past” makes me want to do exactly what he says in the song “I just want to spend my Sunday afternoons, listening to records from the past”. It sounds like a perfect Sunday. Throughout the song there are references to a variety of the bands Jason has liked over the years from 60’s (Velvet Underground), to the 80s (The Smiths via House of Love). While slow burner “Badge Boy” builds into a melodic 60’s treat to the eardrums.

On “I Used to Think I was Mr Benn” Jason evokes memories of childhood and the aforementioned cartoon character. Anyone who reflects back now on Mr Benn will recognise the certain psychedelic element to the cartoon. Straight-laced Mr Benn in suit and bowler hat visiting a shop where “as if by magic the shopkeeper appeared” and provided him with an outfit and a magic door taking him on a variety of adventures related to said costume. Remarkable cartoon and striking song.

Linking back to 1985 again as he did on “Records from the Past”, Jason is in contemplative mood again on, funnily enough, the brooding melancholic acoustic number that is “Back in 1985” when “all of the colours were alive”. The iconic “girl with the elegant curls” gets her own tribute on “Oh! Diana Dors” summarising her sometimes tragic rollercoaster life in four minutes of brilliance.

Final track on the album is a strangely (based on its subject matter) uplifting song “3 Day Week” about the winter of discontent. The song has a jangly guitar intro which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the indie discos I used to attend back in the 80’s.

All told, four albums of pure pop genius. I look forward to album number 5 Mr How.

Explore for Yourself

…. All about my music! http://www.jasonhow.com/

New post Brexit demo here….

https://soundcloud.com/jason-how/voice-of-democracy15

Albums available on iTunes.

https://itun.es/gb/Pmb1W

“Viscount Spoon…” is available on CD and also up on Reverbnation.

https://www.reverbnation.com/jasonhow/album/171575-viscount-spoon-plays-sounds-from

 

The Red Eyes – Man and Boy – Alan Bishop

Alan Bishop – The Red Eyes

2017 was a big year for The Red Eyes. They released their 4th album – the masterpiece that is “Man and Boy” and marked their 20th anniversary with a tremendous gig in Audio playing 2 sets – one with original 90’s line up and their headline “Man and Boy” set. The Red Eyes were joined on the night backed up by Fudgie McFadden’s “Strung Out Nights” and Heavy Drapes, who are due to release their debut album in 2018.

Man and Boy launch gig
Man and Boy launch gig

I caught up with Alan Bishop to find out a bit more about his thoughts and experiences of the last 20 years.

20 Years going strong

You celebrated 20 years as a band last year, what have been your highs and lows over that period?

Hi Neil, The first thing is I’m amazed the band is still going after 20 years.

Highs include recording all 4 albums and 2 EP’s. I enjoy the whole recording process and hopefully we’ll do more in the future.

All the great support slots we’ve had with loads of my favourite bands….SLF (9 times – 4 times at Barrowland), Theatre of Hate & Spear of Destiny, UK Subs, 999, Undertones, The Alarm, Goldblade, Sham 69 and loads more.

Playing the Wasted, Nice ‘n’ Sleazy and Rebellion Festivals plus loads of great all-dayers!

Lows include losing band members and struggling to replace them. The last couple of years have been particularly frustrating as hardly played any full band gigs.

Playing at poorly attended gigs particularly if you’ve travelled hundreds of miles can be a bit soul-destroying at times even tho’ the odd gig like these can turn out great.

Tell me about the current Red Eyes line-up.

The Red Eyes 2018 line-up is myself Alan (Vocals / Guitar)…Alex (Lead Guitar / B. Vox)…Brad (Bass)….Jan (Drums).

Changes

What changes have you seen over the last 20 years, both from the way music is consumed, but also in the live music circuit (specifically in Scotland/West of Scotland).

What do you make of these changes – positive and negative?

Obviously the whole download culture. I’m just old skool and prefer to have a product in my hand….i.e. vinyl or CD.

The internet is great for advertising gigs now…how the hell we knew what gigs were on pre-internet I’ll never know lol…must have been the music papers only. I actually feel there is more places to play in Glasgow now than before. In the 90’s we struggled to get gigs in Glasgow. We used to book The Halt Bar a lot and put our own gigs on in there (the UK Subs turned up at one of our gigs…was my 31st birthday and played a set in The Halt….great night….Charlie Harper bought me a chocolate cake with candles).

Still no money for bands playing original material so nothing changed there.

I’m in exactly the same place regarding physical product, give my some lovely vinyl anyday or at least a CD. And UK Subs turning up at a gig and playing a set, brilliant. Another highlight I’m sure.

Red Eye Studios

You run/own Red Eye Studios in Clydebank, you must have some idea of the local music scene from the use of the studios. What can you tell us about up and coming acts? Tell us more about the studios and how any budding bands/singers can get in touch to book?

Yeah I’ve now ran and owned Red Eye Studios in Clydebank for nearly 7 years. We have 3 great rehearsal rooms and recording facilities.

The last Red Eyes EP and the album “Man & Boy” were recorded at Red Eye (I get a discount lol).

Studio is open 7 days a week ’til midnight every day. Takes up a lot of my time as I usually work 6 days with only the one day off!!!

There’s been a bit of a change in the bands coming into the studio over the last few years. Less original bands and more Cover / Tribute bands. Not complaining about that, just an observation. Hopefully a few younger bands will start coming in again.

In the past we had a few bands that went on to play T in the Park (Blindfolds & Waiting For Go) but unfortunately they have both split. The rock band Mason Hill are doing really well at the moment and Joe Bone & The Dark Vibes (have always liked what Joe does since first seeing him in We Are Jawbone then The Coffins and now The Dark Vibes). The Ronains are doing great as well.

For anyone looking for rehearsals or recording call us on 0141 951 1554 or message our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/redeyestudios.clydebank/ Thanks for the opportunity for a wee plug Neil.

From the Outside in cover
From the Outside in cover

You’ve released four albums to date, personally I think you have grown with each album. I didn’t think you could surpass “From the Outside In” with tracks like “This is My Life”, but Man and Boy is a masterpiece both musically and lyrically.

Thanks for that. I think every album has been an improvement on the last one. Not just the production but the songwriting and playing as well. I spend more time on lyrics these days and really pleased with Man & Boy. All the reviews have been great so far.

Hateful

I know you are good friends with fellow punks Hateful, with Alex King playing with The Red Eyes on and off. Hateful released a phenomenal album last year too in “Noize from the Streets”, how do you see the future of punk in Scotland?

Hateful - Noize From The Streets
Hateful – Noize From The Streets

In my opinion Hateful are one of the best UK punk bands. How they’re not Rebellion regulars is a mystery. Their albums and live performances are always great. Kev Mac from Hateful played drums on Man & Boy and Alex King has been in The Red Eyes on and off for 10 years (on at the moment).

Like most people I’m enjoying Heavy Drapes and looking forward to their album as the EP is superb. They were our special guests at our 20th Anniversary / Album Launch.

Reaction, The Zips and Fire Exit always great! My mate Alan Kyle’s band Blacklist are one to watch as they’re barely a year old but have an EP already (Alan was the original guitarist in The Red Eyes).

New bands forming all the time so things seem quite healthy. I don’t get to many gigs now due to working at the studio.

Man and Boy

I know most bands will say their current album is their best/favourite, is this the same for you? What are your favourite tracks from Man and Boy and tell me a bit about the story behind the songs?

Yeah I do think Man & Boy is the best thing we’ve done but I still like the other albums. I’d like to get the first 2 albums mastered properly which would make a huge difference to how they sound. That’s the only disappointing thing about the early albums…the sound!

I like all the songs but probably the title track “Man & Boy”, “Nowhere Boy” and “The Man Who Thinks He’s God” are my favourites.

The title track is about my Dad who unfortunately passed away when I was 18 (he was only 43) so just about how much he has missed out on things particularly in my life. “Nowhere Boy” is really about coming to terms with reaching 50…dunno why…mid life crisis probably lol.

The song “No More Tears For Daddy” at the end of the album probably throws a few people and I think it was a brave move to put it on the album. I’m glad we did as everything has been positive about that particular song. I’ve played it for years in my solo acoustic set and wasn’t sure if it would “fit” on a Red Eyes album. Alex King did a great job with the string arrangement. The song was about British troops who’d died in Afghanistan being paraded in their coffins in the village of Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire so family members and the public could pay their respects. You would see young children there who’d just lost their Fathers and it seems such a waste of life, as all war is. They’ve now stopped the parades, think the last one was 2011.

The Red Eyes in 2018

What is next for The Red Eyes? I know you already have some gigs lined up for 2018 – a Glasgow pre-Damned show in Audio and also a great line up towards the end of the year in Manchester including UK Subs and Loaded 44.

Next Gigs….

Sunday 28th January – Damned pre-show in Audio, Glasgow in the afternoon – Free Entry!

Saturday 24th February – Shugfest 2 at Audio, Glasgow.

Friday 13th April – McChuills – gig for my 50th with support tbc.

Got a gig at the Dreadnought in Bathgate – 2 dayer 28th / 29th September – day we play tbc.

Sunday 2nd December – Star & Garter with UK Subs, Loaded 44 & Benefit State

Man and Boy review
The Red Eyes Man and Boy album cover
Man and Boy cover

The Red Eyes masterpiece. An album packed full of massive tunes and thought-provoking lyrics. Alan Bishop is one of Scotland’s strongest songwriters and the album demonstrates all that is good about the punk/alternative music scene in Scotland.

Previous album “From the Outside In” was in itself an incredible work including what was my favourite Red Eyes tune to date, “This is My Life”, with Man and Boy, Alan and co. have surpassed themselves.

The Red Eyes have a classic late 70’s punk guitar sound that is distinctly theirs and has been honed over their 4 albums. This album a splendid assortment of songs relating to relationships and all aspects of the human condition. Including the family dynamics of the aforementioned “Man and Boy” and “No More Tears for Daddy” two of the strongest tracks which bookend the album. Both songs have a similar, but different, theme and are also musically very different.

“Man and Boy” is one of the most personal songs on the album (see Alan’s interview), along with “Nowhere Boy”, with a chorus that is both emotive and musically stirring.

“Face the Truth” touches on father/son relations again, this time mentioning the passing down of behaviours from father to son. The song tackles the age-old problem about religious bigotry, especially linked to football in the West of Scotland, and asks why this is still a problem in the 21st Century as no-one seems to want to tackle it head on.

The album mixes songs with the full on harmonious guitar, bass and drums assault of the eardrums you may associate with late 70’s punk including shades of SLF and the Buzzcocks, with more melancholic numbers bringing acoustic guitars in the mix. “You Fade Away” starts with a delicate acoustic intro which is maintained throughout the song which then builds up layers around the melody creating a strongly touching song. Similarly more human relations are tackled in “Friday Girl” with a melancholic acoustic intro that soon bursts to life

https://theredeyes.bandcamp.com/track/the-man-who-thinks-hes-god

Like many Red Eyes songs of old, there are a heap of songs with great arrangements, lyrics and refrains. “The Man Who Thinks He’s God” is no different and has you singing along to the chorus and the outro nod to Joy Division. Similarly the 2 minute fast paced, in your face “Regrets” starts by paraphrasing “My Way” but changes the age-old line to too MANY to mention and with the chant of all those wasted days, wasted years, wasted nights and wasted tears it is a full pelt statement of remorse for the all that squandered time.

https://theredeyes.bandcamp.com/track/no-more-tears-for-daddy

Tear-jerking album closer “No More Tears for Daddy” complete with keyboard and strings is different from the rest of the album but no less potent for that. In fact, the song is potentially more potent because of the lack of guitars and possibly the most compelling song on the album. Alan’s voice is commanding and filled with anguish. When the song ends with sombre voices singing the refrain which segues into the Last Post, the full weight of the song is cemented.

An outstanding collection of songs covering all of the vagaries of life.

The Red Eyes – Man and Boy is available now from bandcamp as are previous albums and the “You Sold Yourself E.P.”

The band is also on Facebook

Red or Dead – Trotsky Waltz – New Album

Red or Dead

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Red or Dead are:

Rob Murray – Guitar, Mandolin and Vocals.
Emma Sunerton-Burl – Cajon mandolin and Backing Vocals.
Gala Elvira – Vocals.
Dave Sunerton-Burl – Bass, Guitars, Backing Vocals.

The band met protesting outside a UKIP conference mid 2015. They ended up playing an anti-UKIP song Rob had written and made the first item on the BBC 6 O’Clock News that night.

Since then they have had some high profile support slots. Including Hugh Cornwell, Mike Peters, Ferocious Dog and the Christians (Twice).

Musically their heroes and inspirations are The Clash, The Stranglers, X Ray Spex, The Pistols, Iggy and so on.

The new album is a passionate comment on society from a socialist viewpoint.

Rob: “I personally feel that this is the right time to stand up and speak on things we believe in”

Being a lover of songs and lyrics that mean something, having to listen to mainstream radio every day at work, I couldn’t agree more with Robs other point:

“Mainstream music is full of young boys with acoustic guitar singing twee songs about some girl leaving them or some such shite”

Rob goes on:

“Music needs to be raw and angry again and there is definitely a ground swell in live music at a grass roots level.”

Again, having seen the top selling albums and tracks of 2017 , and a follower of the live music scene in Glasgow, I also concur with that sentiment.

What’s next for Red or Dead?

“We hope to build on some great live shows with a few festival appearances and a couple of great supports and we will be playing some live shows to promote the CD from late January.

Trotsky Waltz

Unsurprisingly, given the name of the band, the album and how they came together, the album is a socialist commentary on today’s society.

The songs are robust and thought-provoking acoustic folk-punk. With lead vocals shared by Rob and Gala with sweet female backing vocals and harmonies. Take the sentiments and ideals of Billy Bragg, the passion of Joe Strummer and a sound somewhere between the Levellers, Roughneck Riot and The Tansads and you have Red or Dead.

Rob and Gala both have strong voices with the female lead vocals on “No-one is Innocent” kicking in with a fair impression Poly-Styrene. A powerful driving track reminding us that we are all part of the problem. “No-one is innocent, no-one is pure, we all poison the land while we look for the cure”

The call to action for today’s youth that is “Take a Stand” is aurally reminiscent of The Levellers “Another Man’s Cause”

Strummer and Burnel

With the poignant and memorable “Strummer and Burnel”, the band make reference to their late 70’s punk heroes. Hankering back to the days when “the world was going to change, we were going to blow them all away” and lamenting the fact that no-one protests or makes a stand as they did before. While the demise of British industry is lamented in “Steeltown”. With both Tory and Labour governments lambasted for the downfall.

The energetic “A New Day” is a massive two fingered salute to those in charge of the country. A prayer for a new day coming to ring in the change. Ending with the words I’m sure many would like to say…

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Trump administration is a gift that keeps on giving for bands writing politically influenced music. Red or Dead are no different in this respect with a song cataloguing everything that is wrong with the most powerful country/man in the world with “In America”

Overall, the album is an eminently gratifying listen. Importantly it has something to say. It is an outstanding antidote to the vacuous acts that make up the majority of mainstream radio playlists and the “charts” these days. Oh dear, I sound like my Dad.

Anyway, want to find out more and get hold of the album?

Red or Dead are on Facebook, and have a website.

Their album is available to purchase from bandcamp.

Razur Cuts

Razur Cuts

 

Razur Cuts IV
Razur Cuts IV

Compiled and produced by Derek S, Razur Cuts is for fans of stories, poetry and music and caters for those who yearn for the days of self-published fanzines. Get your hands on Razur Cuts IV before it sells out.

With its glossy cover it is a bit more high-tech than the old photocopied fanzines of old but the principle is still there. And it’s something tangible for those who still prefer a physical magazine or book.

The magazine features contributions from a variety of people, both new or more established, showcasing their short stories, poetry, interviews and articles.

Musically, past issues have included features on bands such as The Media Whores, Shatterhand and the Bucky Rage amongst others.

Razur Cuts IV

The latest issue (Razur Cuts IV) features the usual diverse mix of contributions from a variety of writers and musically an interview with Scottish music legend Martin Metcalfe (of Goodbye Mr McKenzie, Angelfish, The Filthy Tongues (with and without Isa) and The Fornicators).

The issue of poor mental health is also tackled in an interesting article by Danny Coyle.

To get your hands on a copy, get it through PayPal to deeko1963@googlemail.com – a bargain at £4.

If you are interested in having one of your poems, stories or features printed in a future publication contact razurcuts@gmail.com.

Find Razur Cuts on social media on Facebook and Twitter as @razurcutsmag.

thegingerquiff – 2017 – Looking Back

Looking back on 2017

It is that time of year when everyone reflects on their “best of” lists for the past year. Why should I be any different? I may as well join in.

I’m not going to write lists as such, or limit myself to a top 5/10 or whatever. I’ll just go with the flow and shout out some of my personal favourites of the year…

I only started thegingerquiff blog in August and have enjoyed many albums, singles and gigs since then that have featured on my blog, but there were plenty from earlier in the year though too.

So, here goes in no particular order (apart from no. 1)

Dead Hope
Dead Hope – Songs from the Second Floor
Album of the year – Dead Hope – Songs from the Second Floor

Debut album of the year for me and one of my most listened to of the year was by the magnificent Dead Hope. Their album “Songs from the Second Floor” is packed full of nihilistic post-punk scorchers delivered with passion and fervour. I reviewed the album and launch night gig earlier in the year. They were also the last gig of 2017 I attended, at Nice ‘n’ Sleazy in Glasgow on the 29th December. In fact that gig consolidated for me that their album wasn’t just debut album of the year but for me it is my ALBUM OF THE YEAR. The gig was a joyous occasion where a packed Sleazys greeted every song with enthusiasm. Despite my description of the band as nihilistic post-punk, the music is uplifting and gives great joy. The solid rhythm section on Andy and Keith on bass and drums respectively are complemented by the array of magnificent noise created by Scott on guitar with his selection of effects pedals.

And the Rest

Talking of album launch gigs, another album highlight of the year was The Red Eyes who launched their latest and most accomplished album “Man and Boy” in Audio. I thought they had reached their peak with “From the Outside In” with tracks like “This is My Life”. However, “Man and Boy” exceeded all expectations with tunes aplenty and provoking and passionate lyrics. The band were celebrating their 20th anniversary and played 2 sets in Audio – the first featuring the original line up from back in 1997 and a headline set from “Man and Boy” featuring Alex King from Hateful in the line-up. As mentioned, the album has some of the best song-writing I’ve heard in a while with thoughtful subject matter and accomplished musicianship. The support on the night came from Strung-Out Nights, who released 2 fantastic EPs this year and also the omnipresent Heavy Drapes. I may have seen them more than once this year…

https://theredeyes.bandcamp.com/track/its-over-before-it-even-began

Whilst on the subject of Hateful, I was late in coming to the party in buying “Noize from the Streets” but it is a fantastic album packed full of brilliant tunes and song-writing. It has everything from sub 2 minute punk songs, intro and outro instrumentals that had me reaching for & listening to the Skids “Monkey McGuire Meets Specky Potter behind the Lochore Institute” and epics tracks with strings and the works. I feel both this album and “Man and Boy” deserve a feature of their own on my blog at some point soon. Watch this space.

Tarbeach Showcase – Kiss This

Back to Heavy Drapes who also played as part of a Tarbeach Records Scottish showcase gig featuring label-mates, ReAction and The Zips. The gig was a triumph with people travelling far and wide to catch the 3 bands. ReAction threw in a handful of new songs which went down a treat and have whet the appetite for forthcoming sophomore album. Heavy Drapes introduced new bassist Paul Research in a temporary with in the band – with the recent good news that Jerry Dangerous has now returned to the fold to take up bass duties again. Paul has recently released debut single with new band Voicex – also featuring Richie from Heavy Drapes. The Zips played tracks from their extensive back catalogue including early single “Don’t Get Pushed Around”. The great news is that all 3 bands have EPs/albums due to drop in 2018.

Broadcast was also home to “Back in the Garage” earlier in the year. The gig had a stellar line-up including The Media Whores, ReAction & The Zips with a rare Scottish headline appearance by External Menace. Unfortunately I was …ahem… tired and emotional by this point and missed their set…

Back to debut albums, I also thoroughly enjoyed Delinquents debut “About Last Night” a fairly eclectic collection of pop-punk tracks that brought a smile to my face. You’re sure to catch them gigging around the UK in 2018. See my review of the album here.

https://delinquentsdundee.bandcamp.com/track/never-gonna-fit-in

Savage Cut released one of the songs of the year in “Andy from Accounts” featuring Leyla Josephine on vocals and followed it later in the year with a tremendous album of collaborations with a variety of vocalists. “A Ricochet off the Moon” doesn’t disappoint and due to the nature of the collaborations provides a great mix and variety of songs.

Another album that brings a smile to my face on every listen is the latest, and in my opinion one of his best, release from Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders. “Scenery for Dreamers” is an exquisite album of sublime melodies, memorable lyrics & hooks and lush guitar riffs. The album sees Daniel team up with some quality musicians well known in the Scottish music scene in Neil Sturgeon, Johnny Smillie, Jim McCulloch to name a few and the result is exceptional.

Gig of the year – Duncan Reid and the Big Heads

Duncan Reid and the Big Heads continued to prove a treat to the ear-drums with third album “Bombs Away”. The melodic and sophisticated power pop/punk played by the band is second to none and builds on the quality of their previous releases. I had the pleasure of seeing the band live in Glasgow’s Nice ‘n’ Sleazy with 3 Minute Heroes and Heavy Drapes. Like the last gig they played in the city (in Audio with support from the magnificent Media Whores and omnipresent Heavy Drapes) this was probably my GIG OF THE YEAR.

An honourable mention to The Media Whores here. Although “Dangerous Minds” was released in 2015 it was long-listed for this year’s Mercury Music award. To me, this is one of the most important albums of the last few years with its topical subject matters from police and political corruption to mental health and eating disorders, tackled in an eminently listenable way. The band have played some noteworthy gigs securing prime support slots along the way. See my feature on the band here.

LIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Talking of Audio, Martin Metcalfe & the Fornicators recorded an acoustic live album in the venue. Unfortunately I missed the gig but the fruits of the evening’s labours have recently been released in the form of 10 track live album and it is my LIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR. Tracks feature from throughout his career, from Goodbye Mr MacKenzie classics like Candlestick Park through to The Holy Brothers from last year’s brilliant Filthy Tongues album “Jacob’s Ladder”. The Filthy Tongues also played a storming support set to The Skids in the O2 ABC in Glasgow. A treat for anyone who turned up early. Which to be fair was a large chunk, the draw of the Filthy Tongues was apparent. The Skids also treated us to a fantastic show, proving that the old punks can still cut it. I also wasn’t disappointed as Jobson put on a great display of Dad-dancing as usual.

“Damage and Joy” by The Jesus and Mary Chain was a welcome album of new material for one of my favourite bands and they played a magnificent gig in the O2 ABC to support the album. Unfortunately that gig also goes down in my memory was the one at which I experienced the biggest number of knobs. I’ve still to publish a blog on gig etiquette if there is such a thing… That aside, some of the new songs like “Always Sad” and “War on Peace” stand side by side with the Mary Chain classics of old.

Two throwbacks to the 90’s saw releases that were a complete “pleasure” to listen to. Gun released their best album in years in “Favourite Pleasures” and perennial touring band, Shed Seven’s first album of new material since 2001 was exactly as described in the title an “Instant Pleasure(s)”.

The Fall have gone through an almost endless list of band members through the years. Some of the ex-members led by Brix Smith (ex in more ways than one for Brix), Brix and the Extricated released one of the albums of the year in “Part II”. With a classic indie-rock sound the album was for me a welcome return to the music scene from Brix whose previous incarnation, the more Voice of the Beehive sounding Adult Net, I also thoroughly enjoyed.

Legendary Kilmarnock goths Southern Approach finally got round to releasing their debut album “Restitution”. An accomplished album of massive soundscapes and powerful vocals from Davie, with beautiful harmonies provided by Shirley. Originally called Legion after the Theatre of Hate song of the same name, 2017 also saw them supporting said band at a cracking gig from both bands in the Bungalow, Paisley. Watch out for more rare gigs from the band in 2018. Also hoping for action from Outstandifold and the Wettygrippers in 2018 (One of the other projects including David and Barry from Southern Approach)

I enjoyed some US punk/ska-punk too this year in the form of Rancid’s new LP “Troublemaker” which was released without much fanfare. Being a Rancid fan it is no surprise that I enjoyed the album. I think I have only missed one Rancid gig in Glasgow, so I was also looking forward to seeing the band live on Glasgow Green in a line-up that included Green Day, The Skids and Slaves. Unfortunately due to “the weather” the gig was cancelled at the last minute. The less said about that the better.

Slaves second album was a major disappointment, but to make up for it Idles similar style in their debut “Brutalism” made up for it in waves.

I’ve also recently been introduced to Jason How and have been listening to his 4 albums with relish. More to follow on the blog…

Re-releases/Compilations

There were a few re-releases/compilations of note this year too.

“Reissue, repackage, repackage, re-evaluate the songs”. The Smiths took their own advice with a CD and LP box set of The Queen is Dead, including alternative takes and live concert. In my opinion, it is still one of the best albums ever released. It’s a pity Moz is a bit of a tosser these days…

The Fall helped me keep up with their extensive back catalogue by releasing an extensive box set of all of their single releases and B-Sides. Until you see them laid out in front of you, you can easily forget how many memorable songs and hits the band have had in their history. I didn’t get to see the band live this year but it was a shame to see the way Mark E Smith is looking just now. Get well soon.

The multi-talented Alex Lusty (Happy Martyr, Rats from a Sinking Ship) released a compilation songs from his hip-hop/rap incarnation Frigid Vinegar. Titled “Lou Ferringo” the album is lyrically eccentric, think of a hip-hop Half-Man Half-Biscuit and you’ll get the idea. I shudder to think what goes on in his head! Look out for a longer feature on Alex and his various projects as Rats go on tour again in 2018.

Also worth your time is The Membranes 5 CD box set “Everyone’s Going Triple Bad Acid, Yeah!”. It is a completist’s dream as it compiles all their releases and documents the bands journey from 1980 to 1995. The band continue to record and tour with more recent album “Dark Matter/Dark Energy” becoming their most successful. I look forward to future planned dates as I missed their December Glasgow gig.

Gary Crowley’s Punk and New Wave compilation is a superb listen. It takes a different direction than many other punk/new wave compilations which churn out the same tracks over and over again. This 3 CD box set features many lesser known acts interspersed with a few bona fide classics – among them Altered Images best song, the Siouxise and the Banshees-esque “Dead Pop Stars”, 999’s “Emergency” & The Boys “First Time”. The compilation also features Glasgow punk legends and one of the hardest gigging bands in Glasgow, The Zips with “Take Me Down”.

Tarbeach Records continued to release some gems this year, releases by GIFTSHOP, Monkey Don’t Care and The Pepper Kings to a stripped back acoustic “19 Forevva” by Jonzip (of The Zips) and the magnificent “Old School Rules” EP from ReAction. The EP shows all the sides of the band, from the old school(!) punk of “Out of My Head”, the sophisticated 2 part “Street Fight” and the dub of “Crystallised Radio” (remixed from the album Accelerator) to their version of the External Menace classic “Someday”. It was a striking appetiser for the forthcoming second album (did I mention that already?).

Tarbeach also released a brilliant compilation CD (“No Animals Were Harmed”) to raise money for Sonny Vincent’s family (more about this here), but is also a great introduction to various bands on the labels roster (the only place you can currently get Heavy Drapes “Nightrippin’”) and others mentioned here and on my blog previously – such as Thirteen, Hateful, Texas Mod Crushers and so on.

And to the singles of the year

Some of the other singles/EPs I’ve been listening to time and time again this year have included what can only be described as feel good song of the year “Ehm Feelin’ Teckle” by Cundeez. From the opening cymbals all the way to the end I defy you not to smile. You’ll want to jump up and skank.

Single of the year – GIFTSHOP

Back to Tarbeach and GIFTSHOP who released my single of the year, a double A sided blue vinyl single featuring two different but equally stunning tracks. The in your face 2 fingers romp that is “Despicable” and the more restrained almost 50’s rockabilly crooner “Dontcha”.

An enormous slab of industrial strength post-punk came on the form of Drunk Gods double A single “Found the Lord and Lost Ma soul”/“Pet Hate” with its Killing Joke-esque sound and Ewan’s unique vocals.

As well as publishing his debut novel “A Rainbow in the Basement” Ian Donaldson has previewed his solo album due to hit the shelves in February with top track “Ticker Tape Parade”. I’m looking forward to the album and live launch dates.

Albums of the Year

Dead Hope – Songs from the Second Floor
Duncan Reid and the Big Heads – Bombs Away
Daniel Wylies Cosmic Rough Riders – Scenery for Dreamers
Delinquents – About Last Night
Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy
Crimedesk – Louder…..Faster
Red Eyes – Man and Boy
Hateful – Noize from the Streets
Shed Seven – Instant Pleasures
Gun – Favourite Pleasures
Martin Metcalfe and the Fornicators – Live
Brix and the Extricated – Part II
Savage Cut – A Ricochet off the Moon
Southern Approach – Restitution
Rancid – Troublemaker

Singles/EPs of the year

GIFTSHOP – Despicable/Dontcha
Cundeez – Ehm Feelin’ Teckle
Reaction – Old School Rules EP
Drunk Gods – Found the Lord & Lost Ma Soul/Pet Hate
Jonzip/The Zips – 19 Forevva/Barbara Wire
Strung Out Nights EPs
Ian Donaldson – Ticker Tape Parade
Duncan Reid & the Big Heads – Bombs Away/C’mon Josephine

2018

And so to 2018, and loads to excite. The Skids “Burning Cities” is due in January, albums and EPs are due from Heavy Drapes, ReAction, The Zips and Ian Donaldson. There have already been too many gig announcements to mention, filling the calendar and making it hard to choose.

An intriguing announcement is due from Brian Setzer/The Stray Cats on 2nd January – do I look forward to a Glasgow re-union gig to make up for the cancelled farewell gig? Fingers crossed.

A massive thanks to all those who have read, supported and contributed to my blog in 2017, feel free to share far and wide.

All the best for 2018.

 

The Price of Progress?

The Price of Progress?

I was listening to a news story on the radio the other day about technology, specifically around the music industry.

Spotify logoIt was on the back of publication Spotify executive’s salaries and the way we access music in the 21st Century. The general gist of the story was that the Apple store will probably disappear in the next 5 years as people won’t own the music but stream only. It all smacks to me that the changes are for those high up in Apple and Spotify and less to do with the artists or giving the public what they “want”.

There were a lot of assumptions mentioned during the piece. Along the lines of no-one wanting to own music anymore, albums dying and as people are no longer interested, they only want to access the tracks they want to hear.

The more I listened the more pissed off I got.

Streaming

Who decided that no-one wants to own music anymore? I didn’t. Generally, I hate downloads and I hate streaming even more. Yes, I use Spotify on my blog, but first and foremost I will buy a hard copy on vinyl and/or CD. I suppose at least with a download I own the music, but I still like a hard physical copy. Yes, I know, I’m a curmudgeon.

VinylI yearn for the days when you saw a poster, heard on the radio or read in a magazine that a band you like were going to release a single or album in the coming weeks or months.

Buying Vinyl

The anticipation waiting for that release was immense, and the hiatus in hearing about it and the record actually coming out built up the excitement. Making the trip to the local record shop was an event. Getting there and picking up the record sleeve, reading the sleeve notes and track listing and admiring the album cover was part of the enchantment. Before I bought it, I might only have heard one song on the radio so the anticipation to get home so I could listen to the rest of the album was intense.

The journey home was part of the overall experience, sitting on the bus or train and reading the inner sleeve notes and lyrics. Then, finally getting home, slipping the vinyl out, the feel and the smell of the vinyl then the sound of the needle hitting the groove and the music starting. Bliss. I just loved getting lost in the music and immersing myself in the whole experience.

The instantaneousness of streaming or downloading isn’t the same – click – done. No experience, no gratification.

The public gets what the industry wants…

The whole argument about giving the public what they want doesn’t wash with me. The industry strangles us and gives us what they want. My kids stream tracks because that is what they are told they want. It is all they really know (well, if they didn’t live with me surrounded by CDs and LPs). Surely the revival of vinyl is an indicator that people still want this whole experience?

I feel sorry for today’s youth that all they know is this instant accessibility for everything. Streaming or downloading “tracks” rather than listening to an album as the artist intended. Or should I say these days the way the programmer and Autotune intended… But it is not just music, its TV box sets, social media, photographs, even ordering from the likes of Amazon and Argos and getting it delivered the same day. EVERYTHING is NOW NOW NOW.

I also fear for the future of bands and live music. Ok, so I don’t think it will ever die out, as the majority of the bands I listen to these days do it for the love of music. The majority are unlikely ever to be able to make a career out of it. It is a hobby rather than a career. That makes me sad. The industry has changed so much. Gone are the days of massive signing fees and bottomless pits of cash from record companies. How are the bands supposed to make any money from streaming if the figures I read are true?

I know it isn’t always all about the money, but if you’re making nothing and everything ends up costing you, how long can that be viable? I’m no industry expert but I do read horror stories of how many streams are required for artists to make any sort of return.

Is all change progress?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Luddite – I’m writing an online blog after all! I do wonder sometimes whether so called progress is always necessarily a good thing.

I’m not anti-change, but are there always valid reasons for change? Industry will always argue that there are reasons, but most of that is to do with cold hard cash. Fuck people. Who cares about them!

Things seem to change at such a pace these days. Take TVs – my parents had the same TV for many years. Did that have an adverse effect on us? Absolutely not. Now there are new models out every 6 months/year and you are told in no uncertain terms that your model is out of date and it is going to have a massive adverse impact on your life if you don’t upgrade. Phones, computers, tablets… The list goes on and same message goes for all of them.

Slow Down

Sometimes people just need to slow down and relax. Modern society doesn’t seem to want this though.

What are the drawbacks of technology and change?

Well, this started about music so from what I’ve already mentioned there is an impact on the bands and artists themselves.

But widening this out, technology and change are sold as opportunities for people to make the most of their leisure time. Is there not a catch 22 here? The more automation and change that happens, the more leisure time we’ll have as everyone will be out of work and as a result won’t have the income to do anything with their leisure time and all this fantastic technology…

Mental Health & the Modern World

I like to write about the music I love, but my blog is also about mental health concerns. From a personal perspective, I need to ensure my behaviours are right and I do the right thing for myself. The modern world doesn’t always help someone with anxiety and depression issues in dealing with them.

Slowing down is always a consideration. Everything, everywhere goes at 100mph. People want things yesterday. One of the things that has the potential to bring on my anxieties and panic attacks is the expectations (often self-imposed) that everything needs done NOW. That may be work related or outside work – DIY, stupid tasks around the house, anything and everything.

The feeling that you have so much to do and so little time and the feeling of failure when you don’t achieve what you THINK you needed to achieve.

Instant gratification

This culture of instant gratification for everything, people not seemingly able to wait for anything and trying to get everywhere as quickly as possible doesn’t help this. Neither does modern technology. Yes, I don’t disagree, it is great that you can find information straight away using Google (other search engines are available), learn a new skill via YouTube (ditto…).

It is however, almost impossible to escape your work or be off the grid with laptops, tablets and mobile phones being part of everyday life. Remember letters? Even faxes. You got a chance to receive and read these then compose your response before replying. Your inbox these days is constantly pinging and the pressure to respond immediately can be intense.

Slow Down

The world is obsessed with doing everything faster, cheaper and more efficiently. I can appreciate that margins are tight and why businesses want to save money but does there not come a time when we have to say stop? After all, is the economy not a man-made notion and influenced by the few at the top. It is not a naturally occurring phenomenon

Are we so obsessed with cutting a few minutes off journeys that we are prepared to risk people’s lives? Look at high speed trains. Look what happened this week in the US.

Amtrak high speed train crash
Amtrak high speed train crash

Roads. Yes, it can be frustrating waiting in traffic, but who has created that mind-set? Do we really need to be constantly building new roads, reducing the time it takes to get places, increasing the amount of traffic on the roads? Why is everything so focussed on time, time, time – faster, bigger, more…

Nothing ever closes

We have a 24/7 society and it is difficult to switch off. Supermarkets open 24 hours, shops opening earlier and closing later. Banks closing left, right and centre because they have forced us down the internet route and now no-one wants to use the branches. Until they close and then everyone realises the impact it has. The internet never closes.

And automation – these robots coming over here and stealing our jobs! Self-service check-outs, self-driving cars, internet shopping, social media even skype. Bloody hell, with “Alexa”, you don’t even need to get off your arse and switch a light on/off or type something into your keyboard. What have we become? Great, these innovations may all save time and money. They may make things easier for us. But are we losing the ability to communicate with others? When do we find the time to interact with fellow human beings?

What does that all mean to our mental health? Or indeed or physical health. Is it any wonder there is an increase in obesity? Are we surprised we have more lonely people about? Is it any wonder that there are increased levels of anxiety and depression? Unreal expectations, automation taking away human interactions, reducing people’s skillsets, feelings of worthlessness, inability to cope with the all pressures that go along with modern life.

Live Life

There is no escape but there are things you can do. What will I do?

I’ll continue to buy my music on vinyl or CD (no matter how much my wife complains about space!)

I’m going to continue to support new bands and artists if I can – promoting them, buying their product, going to their gigs when able.

I’ll use the tills with people on them, who cares if I have to wait in a queue for a few minutes, I’ll get to talk to someone and not encourage continued automation.

Take the slow train. Read a book, listen to music! RELAX

I know I need to be more active – not only for my physical heath, but for my mental health. Take a break from the pressures of 21st Century life. Realise what is all around me. Take a step back to think and observe what life is really about.

I need to switch my phone off when I’m in the house. Writing this I realise how often I check my e-mails, my messages, Facebook, Twitter in the course of a day. What will happen if I don’t respond immediately? The world won’t come to an end.

Breathe – and I mean that literally. Sit down, breathe and notice my breathing. Notice the sounds around me, notice what is happening to my body. Relax.

So, stop reading this blog on your phone, tablet or computer. Go and talk to someone. Switch off your tech, read a book, listen to some music (on vinyl!!), go to a gig. But most of all slow down, chill out and relax. The world isn’t going anywhere. Enjoy life. Don’t let it pass you by.

The Dark Side of Christmas

The Dark Side of Christmas

At this time of year, we tend to get caught up in our own bubble. While Christmas is a time of joy and happiness for many, it is also a struggle in countless ways for too many others.

In recent weeks, I have seen a lot of posts on social media promoting things like “Sleep in the Park” and “Social Bite” to support rough sleepers and those without a permanent address. It is great that so many are supporting others. Where is the government?

Social Bite
Social Bite
Rough Sleepers

However, I have also seen some appalling & callous comments on Facebook from people who have no sympathy for rough sleepers: “I have no sympathy”, “give them a shovel” and “it is their choice”.

Rough Sleeping

What a crock of shit. I urge these reprobates to walk a mile in these people’s shoes before making comments like that. How do they know what their circumstances are? They have no idea how they ended up where they are presently. Do they really think these people would be where they are now through “choice”? Have they seen the weather?

There may very well be an extremely small number of people that live their lives in a certain way through choice. The majority would surely prefer to have a warm bed, a hot meal and a job giving them a steady income so they can support themselves and their family.

It Could be you…

There are a myriad of reasons why someone may find themselves in these circumstances. Indeed many of us are only a couple of month’s income away from being unable to meet our own commitments and the hardships that may result.

Some of us are lucky and have family and friends who could/would help. But what if you have no-one? What if the problem is your family and friends? What “choices” do you have? Addiction and mental health problems can send some down a road that they find it hard to come back from. What if your mental health problems stop you from asking for or getting the help you need?

It is hard to put yourself in someone’s shoes if you haven’t been there yourself. Don’t judge.

Christmas can be an impossible time of year if people don’t have the means, support or coping mechanisms that will help them through. That could be money worries or a lack of roof over their heads. It might be that this time of year exacerbates addiction problems. Or Christmas (or should I say everything that surrounds Christmas that makes it difficult) brings on poor mental health through stress, anxiety or depression.

Fortunately, I have never been in the position of having no permanent address or had to sleep rough and I haven’t had to rely on food banks or the charity of others to feed my family. I am all too conscious though that it could happen to anyone. I would urge anyone to do whatever is in their capacity to support by doing what you can, but not just at Christmas, to support your fellow human beings.

Christmas and Mental Health

I can, however, relate to people who may be suffering from poor mental health. I can also see how that may be magnified at this time of year. Some of my past issues with anxiety and depression could easily be exacerbated by Christmas. I have a fantastic family and friends round me & I have been in the fortunate position of getting support through employee’s schemes at work. These have enabled me to gain the knowledge and skills to be able to recognise when my self-belief, thoughts, actions and behaviours are taking me down the wrong route and this helps me to take the right action to turn around. Unfortunately, the same levels of support aren’t accessible to everyone

I love Christmas and don’t find it to be a problem, but I could see how someone who does struggle with anxiety and depression could hate this time of year.

What do I mean?

Take social anxiety for starters. If you are someone who suffers from social anxiety, I can totally understand how Christmas party season could be hell. Be it a works Christmas nights out and parties having to constantly be around people, talking, joining in, laughing, joking, generally having a good time. Sounds like hell doesn’t it?

For someone who has never suffered from this, it will be difficult to understand, but yes this could be like hell. Being in the middle of a crowd of 100 strangers is sometimes easier, and preferable, to being with 20 people you know. You can hide, and you don’t need to talk to anyone!

I you are suffering from anxiety, and faced with a social situation you will start questioning everything. What will I say to them? I’ll look like an idiot if I say the wrong thing? What if they have more to say than me? What if they disagree with my opinion? I am inferior to them all, and if I say the wrong thing that will confirm it. You then open your mouth and speak. Oh no what did I say that? They must think I’m a dick? What can I say to make it better? How can I excuse myself and leave?

Add that over-thinking and over-analysing to the mix and you have dug not a hole, but a pit for yourself that you can’t climb out of.

These thoughts may not be logical but can either make these events unbearable or result in bizarre or inappropriate behaviour. Perhaps drinking heavily to cope or to build up the courage to join in, which of course can end up in acting the fool and the next day, week, month become an excruciating exercise in over-analysing and thinking the worst.

In more extreme circumstances, it can also mean isolating yourself and avoiding these social circumstances altogether, coming up with various excuses why you can’t attend events. This only makes things worse, especially if your anxiety means that you need the acceptance of others, you have created a lose-lose situation for yourself.

ingrained self-beliefs

Many anxieties are brought on by ingrained self-beliefs – such as a feeling of worthlessness or failure and trying to over-compensate by being a perfectionist and setting unreal goals. This could be in any situation work or otherwise. I used to do it constantly in work, set myself unrealistic goals that would ensure EVERYTHING would be perfect. Of course, nothing is ever perfect, but that didn’t stop me dwelling on it, beating myself up and either working harder to make it happen, which often a waste of time and energy and only had the result in driving my mood lower, or almost giving up – that feeling of “what is the point, I’ve failed – I can’t do this”.

I could see how Christmas could easily have a similar impact on someone who has low self-esteem. Christmas movies all ultimately have a happy ending where everything turns out perfectly. Unreal expectations. If those outcomes aren’t replicated for someone with anxiety – they can feel they have failed. TV adverts show perfect Christmas dinners with smiling family and friends. Another potential unreal expectation – nothing ever goes that smoothly. You can plan your perfect Christmas as much as you like, but would you not be better just taking things as they come and enjoying it as much as possible? Think about why you are doing something, why are you having that thought, what has brought it on? What would be the result if you didn’t do something?

Add to that equation the money worries. TV ads again encourage people to spend what they don’t have to keep up with the Joneses. That may not have an immediate effect on mental health. I’ve experienced something similar, just not at Christmas. Spending money you don’t necessarily have on “stuff” in a vain attempt to lift your “mood”. It works momentarily, but come the month of January when the bills hit…

That’s just scratching the surface. Once you add fatigue into the mix too – managing your normal daily life and making lists of other things you “must” do to make it the perfect Christmas – get the decorations up, write cards to all and sundry, shop excessively, tidying the house for visitors. Physical exhaustion can have a bearing on how someone manages their mental, spiritual (in a non-religious sense) and bodily health. Lack of sleep, over-tiredness and lack of the right exercise can impact your ability to think the right way, make the right decisions and ultimately take you down “that” path, which for many people is one way journey.

Loneliness

Loneliness has also been in the news. I’m sure people aren’t just lonely at Christmas though. Why are we only supposed to care about them for a couple of days a year? Another thought though, lonely people aren’t just people who live on their own. You may know someone you work with or live with who is constantly surrounded by people but still feels dreadfully lonely. They feel they can’t relate, they feel worthless and although they may be in company they cut themselves off. They stop communicating, their mood changes, maybe their behaviour is not normal? It can come on over time and is sometimes not easy to spot in yourself, but perhaps sometimes others can see a change.

I can see how, without the support network of family, friends, employers, colleagues around them, someone could easily spiral. The impact of that could be serious – relationship breakdowns, inability to work, loss of income. It is easy to see how someone could end up on the streets or worse. Is that a “choice”? I don’t think so.

Does the government even care?

I do believe that those in authority do very little to support a lot of these groups of people. How low does the temperature have to go before they do anything? How many people will have to freeze to death?

How many empty homes and office buildings do you see around your area that could be opened up even as temporary refuge to people who are rough sleeping? How much is being spent on social housing? I see plenty of luxury homes being built. What about housing for those for whom that type of property is and will only ever be a dream?

That isn’t enough in itself. There needs to be a whole programme of support to put a roof over people’s heads, temporarily to get them out of the cold, but ultimately permanently but this needs to go hand in hand with money & work advice and support for other issues such as mental health and addiction problems. Without this, many will end up back where they are.

However, what are the authorities interested in? To me it seems they are more interested in spending billions on pointless tram systems, superfast trains (part of the issues of the modern world – everything needs to be instantaneous – maybe if we slowed down and chilled out it might help?), fancy bridges, fixing big clocks and archaic buildings, automating everything to save time and money and buying new nuclear weapons. Oh and there is the self-promotion interests form pro- and anti- MPs, focussing their all on Brexit and forgetting the basics about looking after their citizens NOW.

No amount of lobbying seems to make a difference. Just watch an MP in full flow – every excuse under the sun will be thrown out as to why it is not a simple solution. If they had the desire to do anything, they would. They all have an excuse, no matter their political persuasion and so it comes down to people power.

Care for each other

We can only what we can, but make sure it is not just at Christmas. Be a caring human who cares for their fellow human all year round. Don’t be like the unfeeling morons on Facebook who make blasé and frankly disgraceful comments about people they don’t know and have no idea about how they have got to where they are. Ditch these fools.

It could be as simple as speaking to someone. Find out how they are and if there is anything you can do. Buy a coffee and hot meal for someone rough sleeping. Even stopping for 5 minutes to say hello. Make a donation to a local food bank.

No matter how simple it seems it makes a difference to someone.

Find out what is happening locally that you can support – food banks, restaurants serving Christmas dinner to people who aren’t able to provide their own, charities or individuals providing sleeping bags & warm clothes to rough sleepers.

But don’t forget those close to you.  Has their behaviour changed, do they need support from you but they just don’t know how to ask?

Remember, Christmas isn’t a competition. It should be spending quality time with family/friends, not about who spends the most on presents, has the biggest turkey or the flashiest tree.

And no matter how much I enjoy Christmas, it is only a day. There are 364 more in the year. Don’t put yourself under financial or emotional strain for a day. Enjoy your time with family and friends.

Merry Christmas.

Mental Health Hotline 0800116123 (Samaritans).

Marilyn Manson – Heaven Upside Down tour – Glasgow O2 Academy – 5th December 2017

Marilyn Manson Live in Glasgow
Marilyn Manson Live in Glasgow
MARILYN MANSON – Heaven Upside Down

Manson recently released his 10th studio album “Heaven Upside Down” signalling a return to form after a few lack-lustre affairs. He injured himself on-stage in New York at the beginning of October when an oversize gun which formed part of the stage-set fell on him. Add the sacking of long-term band-mate  Twiggy Ramirez at the end of October due to rape allegations from his ex-girlfriend, this was building up to be an interesting night in the company of Brian Warner.

And so it proved.

A little bit broken

After the elongated intro-music of The Cure’s “Killing an Arab, followed by The Door’s “The End”, the curtain dropped. The band launch into a blistering “Revelation #12” and revealed Manson sporting a cast on his right leg and in a customised throne-like electric wheelchair.

He remained in said chair for “This is the New Shit” after announcing that he may be “a little bit broken but you won’t break me”. He also thanked us as he’s “got a little bit of Scottish in me”.

This prompted him to a shout a mildly irritating “Glasgow” (rhyming it with cow) for the first time of what seemed like several thousand throughout the course of the evening.

Marilyn Manson Live in Glasgow
Marilyn Manson Live in Glasgow
Orderlies

Throughout the set he had two personal roadies (or should I say “orderlies”) on stage appropriately dressed in scrubs. They were there to helped him around stage and changing costumes. For most of the set he was on a half crutch strapped to his knee. While this made him fairly immobile, it didn’t stop him putting on a great show with his voice better this time than on the last few occasions I’ve seen him.

Marilyn Manson Live in Glasgow
Marilyn Manson Live in Glasgow
Kill4Me

“Disposable Teens” and a fierce “mObscene” followed before another cut from the new album “Kill4Me” with added groupies stage front. I have to say the newer songs were among my favourites that he played in tonight’s set.

“Deep Six” and “Day Three of a Seven Day Binge”, two of the stronger tracks, and the only ones making an appearance, from previous album The Pale Emperor followed.

Classic Manson

Then we were treated to a trio of Manson classics. The band started to play “I Don’t Like the Drugs (but the Drugs Like Me)” before cutting and Manson stating “that was 100% a lie”. They then launched into one of his best songs “The Dope Show”.

This was followed by his bruising take on the Eurythmic’s classic “Sweet Dreams (are Made of This). This song signalled his injury in New York. In Glasgow he writhed on a hospital trolley like a patient in a secure unit, overseen by his 2 orderlies.

Marilyn Manson Live in Glasgow
Marilyn Manson Live in Glasgow

“Tourniquet” (“the last song I played the first time I played here”) was the 3rd classic Manson track in a row.

We Know Where You Fucking Live!

He then transferred back to a wheelchair with all the house lights right down and kicked off the next song with a torch/mic combo searching the audience. An appropriate intro to the menacing fury of the full-scale assault that is “We Know Where You Fucking Live”.

The bombastic theatre continued with him donning a big coat for the latest song in his ongoing God vs Satan debate with “SAY10” from Heaven Upside Down.

Then it was almost over with the wall of sound that is crowd pleaser “The Beautiful People” was the thrilling main set closer.

Marilyn Manson Live in Glasgow
Marilyn Manson Live in Glasgow
Encore

Of course things were not quite over and the encore saw him come back to an extravagant lit-up mic stand covered in white stars and play my particular favourite song from the new album, “Saturnalia”, followed by perhaps one of my favourite Manson compositions, a potent “Coma White”.

As he left the stage again, the lights stayed down there was uncertainty whether he would return. However the strains of his cover of Johnny Cash “Gods Gonna Cut You Down” split the air and it was show over.

For someone who was not fully fit it was a stunning show. And to someone who thought he was possibly past his sell-by date, I was impressed

Christmas songs

Its Chriiiisssssstmas

For many it is now that dreaded time of year when they are bombarded with Christmas songs everywhere they go. Actually, for many it is just that dreaded time of year.

Christmas itself is a great divider of opinion. I could go on at great lengths about commercialism and consumerism, the continued Americanisation of our culture (Black Friday) slowly turning us into the 51st state. Or the age-old religion versus paganism debate about where many of the Christmas traditions came from and what they symbolise. However, I wanted this blog to be about music.

Not all wine and roses

It did get me to thinking though. For many, the season is a time of coming together and having fun with friends and family. However, for too many others it can be a time of loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression & money worries. For people with poor mental health, the whole season can exacerbate everything for them and is often not a time to be relished.

That doesn’t even touch on those that through circumstance are living on the street or without a fixed address. People who are rely on the charity of others through night shelters and food banks to just merely survive the festive season in the most literal sense.

This is where society  often has its priorities so wrong, and I include myself in that group. Spending too much on gifts that aren’t really needed, overindulging on food and drink and generally being self-centred.

Let me give you an example. I was in a well-known supermarket at the weekend. The specific intention was to buy Christmas pyjamas for my daughters. When we arrived there were volunteers for the Trussell Trust handing out leaflets at the door. I took one and didn’t think much more at the time. Then my daughters started arguing over clothes. “You can’t have that, that’s the one I want” – you get the picture. That moment made me realise how wrong our priorities were. They were arguing over pyjamas and I had a leaflet in my hand asking for donations of food for people who can’t afford to feed their families.

The shopping trip immediately changed focus and I was on a mission to get everything on the list I had been handed. Despite moans of dismay from my daughters. Even they eventually realised what was going on and how wrong their attitude was and calmed down.

While that assuaged my guilty conscience for a while, it’s not enough. In 21st century Britain, this shouldn’t be a problem. We are living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world and our governments can’t even be bothered to look after our citizens that need the most help and support. Of course their self-serving policies and making Brexit happen are more important.

Christmas songs
Merry Christmas Everybody - Slade
Merry Christmas Everybody – Slade

So back to my reason for writing this blog. I am not for one moment suggesting that these are not important consideration and I’m not ignoring them or trying to be flippant, but that is a massive debate for another blog.

When I started writing this blog post it was intended as a celebration of my love of Christmas songs – old & new, traditional but probably more with the less so!

I am a lover of all things Christmas and obviously a big part of that is Christmas songs.

I grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s and from my rose-tinted memories, Christmas songs were a big thing – the 70’s glam of Slade, Wizzard & Mud (the first single I ever bought was Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody) to the likes of Wham, Jona Lewie, The Pogues and of course Band Aid in the 80’s into the 90’s.

Back in the day, Christmas music specials were all over the TV. From the likes of T-Rex to the ever-present Val Doonican and his famous rocking chair and cardigans. The Christmas Day Top of the Pops was a must watch for all the family with its review of the year and Christmas songs dotted throughout.

Val Doonican
Val Doonican

Going further back, the old classics by the crooners Sinatra, Martin, Crosbie and the likes of Nat King Cole and his ilk are timeless songs.

Christmas Number 1

The battle for Christmas number one was always something that was watched with anticipation – Who would it be? Would it be a Christmas song?

That anticipation has largely disappeared, well, totally disappeared for my part. I have no idea what is in the charts these days, is there even such a thing?

Why is that?

Obviously the manufactured “artists” churned out by X-Factor is one big reason for this – for as many years as I can remember there has been no battle for a Christmas number one. (Apart from the year of the anti-Cowell campaign where Rage Against the Machine reached number 1. How festive!) Nowadays, It’s probably a shoe-in that Simon Cowell will own the Christmas number 1 (and the artist, their family, the pet dog..) with an act who will be famous for 10 minutes. Then, having served the purpose of being a puppet for the egocentric Cowell, they return to working in their local McDonalds a few weeks later.

The X Factor
The dreaded Simon Cowell self promotion vehicle The X Factor

I may be totally off the pace but then again, I did say I have no idea what happens in “the charts” these days. Does anyone actually care?

It used to be like a religion for me on a Sunday afternoon listening to the charts with my C90 in my battered ghetto blaster. My fingers on play/record ready to record my favourite songs and hoping whatever eejit DJ was doing the chart rundown didn’t talk all over it.

The way “the kids” access their music these days on all the streaming platforms and not buying physical records makes a difference too. I don’t see the same excitement from fans for singles coming out and fighting for their chart positions. The instantaneousness of it all takes away the excitement of waiting for weeks to go into the local record shop and buy the shiny vinyl you’d been waiting for.

Christmas music sucks?

However, all of that said, back to Christmas music. It is definitely still around, and very much a thing – from early November in some shops. Maybe now its more Christmas albums than singles though . Everyone and their dog seems to be releasing one. If you’ve been on the TV for more than 5 minutes, you may as well go for it…

This is nothing new either. I remember my Mum listening to Johnny Mathis and Cliff Richard Christmas albums when I was growing up. The range of Christmas albums is now vast – from the traditional choirs, through the crooners (old and new) to punk, psychobilly, rap – the whole gamut.

I personally have a vast playlist of Christmas songs that cover a wide range of genres. I can totally appreciate those who work in a retail or customer service environment hate Christmas songs. They are subjected to the same small playlists of the obvious standards day in/day out. This must grate on them, even a Christmas lover like myself would balk at that.

There is an interesting article on this in The Guardian. I have been there too. I worked in a bank for 20 years. One year we had a promotional video on loop daily for the month of December. It only had 3 songs on it, all sung by children’s choirs. If I ever hear “It’s a holly jolly Christmas” nowadays, I begin to twitch.

I however, am happy to subject myself to a variety of Christmas songs throughout December.

Christmas songs are a bit of fun, they are a distraction from the shit of daily life (obviously some have served a greater purpose over the years – Band Aid for example – but again, that’s a different topic altogether).

Some people get all po-faced and critical about bands releasing a Christmas song/album. “They’ve sold out, they’ve released a Christmas song”. By the way, I never did understand that whole selling out thing. Do you want your favourite band to be successful and popular? To make enough money to keep going as a band and releasing singles and albums for fans? Or do you want them to disappear into obscurity because only you and 2 of your mates knew about them? But Christmas songs, lets not over-analyse, they’re a bit of fun – aren’t they?

Must Be Santa

I was shocked a few years ago when a well-respected and serious artist like Bob Dylan released his Christmas album, but I was pleasantly surprised and now “Must Be Santa” is one of my favourite Christmas songs.

In the Mood (for Christmas)

Some artists have made it a career move. Brian Setzer has several albums of Christmas songs and now tours his big band extravaganza across the US from November right up until Christmas.

Love ’em or hate ’em

I also find myself listening to bands/artists who I normally wouldn’t give the time of day because I like their Christmas songs (Mum, I’ll still listen to Johnny Mathis but I draw the line at Cliff!)

Christmas songs are for enjoying, bringing a smile to your face and adding some fun to the proceedings. They are never going to appeal to all and are hated by many. That’s fair enough the world would be a boring place if we were all the same. Vive la difference.

So, I’ve lost all the bah-humbuggers by now. OK, they probably didn’t read beyond the title. If, like me, you love Christmas, and you love Christmas songs, dig a bit deeper than the “Now That’s What I Call Christmas” compilations and you might unearth some gems you love and won’t sicken you of the whole season by hearing the same old songs over and over.

31 Days of Christmas songs

I could share a massive playlist, but as there are 31 days in December, here are some of the tracks I love, some are well-known classics, others not so.

El Vez – “Feliz Navidad” – a Merry Christmas all the way from a Mexican Elvis with a massive debt to PiL’s Public Image. Lets face it. It is just Public Image with different lyrics…

Glasvegas – “A Snowflake Fell and it Felt Like a Kiss” – Glasvegas’ James Allan once stated his favourite album of all time was Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You. He and his band recorded a mini album of Christmas songs taking that as their inspiration. The rest of the mini-album touches on topics such as homelessness and relationship breakdowns, so not the album you want to play at your Christmas party probably.

The Yobs – “Tommy the Christmas Tree” – The alter-ego of 70’s punks The Boys released an album of Christmas tunes (The Worst of the Yobs). This is one of the cleaner ones – poor Tommy. Warning – I don’t recommend listening to their 12 Days of Christmas in front of the kids.

Siouxsie & the Banshees – “Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant” – Just because its Siouxsie. The video which you can find on YouTube from a French TV. Robert Smith on cymbals looking as if he’s about to drop off to sleep.

Toyah – “I Believe in Father Christmas” – originally from a David Essex Christmas TV show, Toyah does her take of the Greg Lake classic. If you know me you know how much I love Toyah. Ha ha.

The Futureheads – “Christmas Was Better in the 80s” – because the lyrics remind me of growing up and the family Christmases as a kid in our house. (Although you better make that 70s’s/early 80s).

Bob Dylan – “Must Be Santa” – as mentioned earlier from his surprisingly good Christmas album, this became an instant Christmas classic.

Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight)” – Because how could you not like it – it’s the Ramones. (see also Joey Ramone and his version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”.

The Greedies – “A Merry Christmas Jingle” – a good fun romp of a Thin Lizzy/Sex Pistols collaboration.

The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl – “A Fairytale of New York” – my ultimate Christmas song. Not a sugary coated saccharine song of sweetness but a tragic take of love and hope gone wrong. All the more tragic following the death of the mega-talented MacColl.

Cocteau Twins – “Frosty the Snowman” – Liz Fraser’s ethereal vocals – what else do you need?

The Primitives – “You Trashed my Christmas” – 90s indie stalwarts Tracy Tracy & co with their contribution to the festivities.

The Wedding Present – “Step into Christmas” – Their take on the Elton John classic, from the b-side of “No Christmas” the 12th single of their year of releasing a 7” single a month in 1992.

SLF – “White Christmas” – You can’t have Christmas without Stiff Little Fingers White Christmas!

TV Smith – “Xmas Bloody Xmas” – One of the hardest working men in music. Mr TV Smith with a tale of consumerism and all the stuff I talked about at the start of this blog…

Julian Casablancas – “I Wish it was Christmas Today” – Me too…

Jona Lewie – “Stop the Cavalry” – An anti-war song not written as a Christmas song but one of the best known now.

The Wildhearts – “Geordie in Wonderland” – not really a Christmas song, but I love it and it makes me think of Christmas.

The Dickies – “Silent Night” – not so silent from these US punks

Coffin Draggers – “Jingle Bell Rock/Jingle Bells” – just to throw in a psychobilly Christmas tune. From one of a number of Psychobilly Christmas compilations out there.

The Fall – “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” – Mark E Smith singing a Christmas Carol – why wouldn’t you?

Brian Setzer – “Getting in the Mood (for Christmas)” – Big Band sounds from the rockabilly master.

Half Man Half Biscuit – “All I want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit” – Because its HMHB and I couldn’t resist.

The Waitresses – “Christmas Wrapping” – Just a great song.

Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – from Phil Spector’s Christmas Gift for You. Many would say the best – or the only – Christmas album you should own.

Goldblade and Poly Styrene – “City of Christmas Ghosts” – John Robb and the much missed Poly get together for this punk stormer. See also Poly Styrene’s “Black Christmas”.

Frankie & the Heartstrings – “(Too Right) Its Christmas”. Christmas from the North East – too right – Its Christmas.

Low – “Just Like Christmas” – Just a lovely song.

Peter & the Test Tube Babies – “I’m Getting Pissed for Christmas” – I’m sure they’re not alone.

Sinead O’Connor – “Silent Night” – That voice!!!!

Bubblegum Lemonade – “White Noise Christmas” – Well, I know him….

Bubbling under (see what I did there – Bubblegum Lemonade…) Weezer, Eels, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Time of the Season, Pretenders – 2000 Miles, Frightened Rabbit – Its Christmas so We’ll Stop, Run DMC – Christmas in Hollis and so many more…

Merry Christmas Everyone (yeah that one too).

Open in Spotify