Review: Leave the Capital by Paul Hanley

leave the capitalI didn’t know what a Graham Gouldman fan I was until I made my way through this book. To be fair, I only have two speeds: not interested and totally obsessed. Unfortunately, the obsessions can be really off kilter and sometimes I’m running so fast after the thing that I think is interesting, I don’t stop to question the assumptions passed along the way.

Like 10cc=Godley & Creme. Ha!

10cc (and Godley & Creme)  has been one of those fading in and out interests. Of course Consequences because of the Peter Cook obsession, but one of my top fave singles as a youngster was ‘I’m Not in Love’ and yet it didn’t really sink in that the song was ‘written by band members Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman.’ Ditto ‘Things We Do for Love’ which was the only 10cc record I bought at that time. I know: eejit.

But it goes back further. On my scratchy hand-me-down but beloved Herman’s Hermits LP the best song by a mile (much as I enjoyed all the bubblegum) was clearly ‘No Milk Today’ which of course is also Gouldman. So I’ve been catching up on his solo stuff and kicking myself for being obtuse.

Now about the rest of this book: there’s tons of reviews here and there, and some great interviews (including this new one with Real Gone), so I won’t drone on about the usual things. It’s an inventive angle (A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings) which really brings out the deliberate desire of many Mancunians to ignore London and its machinations as much as possible.

It doesn’t matter that this London isn’t entirely real. The fact that the elitist, greedy, insular, condescending Emerald City exists as much in the collective minds of the North as it does on the streets of the capital doesn’t make its rejection any less important.

The intimacy of the recording tradition in Manchester has a lot to do with it starting small — minuscule even — but also that it’s rooted in the musicians and sound folk wanting to give back to their community. Hanley contrasts this with the whole-hearted embrace of the capital by groups like The Beatles, who not only set up there but in the richest neighbourhoods, too. Savile Row and Mayfair certainly radiated ‘success’ but left them a little rootless.

It’s worth emphasising this again, when Eric Stewart first pondered the possibility of building a professional-standard recording studio outside London, he was completely alone. The thought hadn’t struck anyone else at all.

Strawberry Studios became a nexus of creative sound for the next three decades, an influence that’s still felt. ‘You could tell it was built with love rather than profit in mind,’ the studio’s first female engineer, Julia Adamson, told Hanley.

It’s a fascinating look at pop music, recording, musical influences and the history that binds together any given record made in the city in these formative years. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a terrifically funny book. I read most of it on the train then on a cross-Atlantic flight and I’m sure I annoyed the people around me by constantly chortling at Hanley’s mordant wit (cf footnote 161). What might have been a dull listing of names and dates instead sounds like the best pub conversation you ever overheard.

 

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Song for a Saturday: Back of My Hand

Swore I used this before. Maybe not. A bittersweet twist of the knife in every spin. Enjoy Record Store Day.

2016 Sounds: Round-Up

This was another fantastic year for great sounds. Sad to have lost Pauline Oliveros, though glad I got to see her perform in September one more time. There were so many discoveries I may have to end up just linking to great stuff.

Without a doubt one of the best things to come out this year was this Cherry Red collection Sharon Signs to Cherry Red. What an amazing cornucopia of sounds! The sheer wealth of material suggests there is so much more to dig out from this time when we just keep hearing the same old hits. Mind you, I was astonished to hear my punk rock gal in the senior seminar was unaware of the Slits and the Raincoats (:-O) but I know how she feels being smacked in the face with new amazing sounds. Sure there’s some folks you know here — like The Mo-Dettes, Mari Wilson and Strawberry Switchblade and folks that went on to bigger fame under other names — but there will be plenty to delight and probably surprise you. Seriously, Caitlin O’Riordan’s band before the Pogues?! This set is in the car and has been spinning a lot.

On a Fall-related note, there was the Blaney release Urban Nature, which got the most press for having the ever irascible Mark E. Smith collaborating on vocals for a few tracks. Between managing the band and running the Salford Music Festival, you might wonder how he found time to record but the disc has a great variety of sounds that will delight folks beyond the city itself, drawing in besides Jenny Shuttleworth and Jim Watts, as well as Blaney’s daughter Bianca. That family & friends ambience lends a real sense of place — relaxed enough to experiment, but not slipshod in anyway. Tight: check it out.

Just last January and still a groove: check out Lys Guillorn’s Sunny Side Down, which I wrote up before.

The head of the incomparable Linear Obsessional Recordings, Richard Sanderson, has come out with a recording of his own that to my mind embodies the kind of thing that would delight Oliveros. A Thousand Concreted Pearls offers up the kind of meditative experimentation that really rewards attentive listening. If you think ‘accordion’ and immediately blanch, this is the album to change your mind forever as to what the instrument can accomplish. Endlessly fascinating and engaging.

 I just got this and am completely captivated; check out everything by Linear Obsessional and you’re bound to find something to fascinate you, too.
And if you’re of a folk horror turn of mind, may I recommend:
For the more experimental:

TOA/V: Tutti Frutti

I had heard of Tutti Frutti for years but figured it was lost to the VHS oblivion, but I happened upon a DVD set in an Oxfam shop that was in pristine condition — down to including John Byrne‘s postcards for the characters. Byrne — playwright, artist, father of Tilda Swinton’s twins — brings a freshness to the well-worn idea, a band on the road by giving it a few twists. Robbie Coltrane plays the original lead singer of a band with some 60s fame and his brother who takes over the role after his death. Emma Thompson plays the love interest with a credible Scottish accent. Richard Wilson plays the dodgy manager (a hoot of course).

It starts out going for the wacky humour but after a while the story gets rather dark between the sadness of the clubs they play on their ‘Jubilee Tour’, vicious and violent exes and the squeamishly awful attempts by their ‘sexy’ guitarist Vincent Diver (Maurice Roëves) to hang on to his youth. There’s an absurdist sensibility that never gets lost though between Coltrane’s running commentary on the increasing disasters (the recording session is hilariously painful) and the final concert triumph that flames out spectacularly.

And Thompson looks unbelievably fabulous as a Teddy Boy.

See the roundup of overlooked A/V over at Todd’s, who will be stunned I actually did one of these.

Song for a Saturday: Jaqui & Jeanette – 194 Radio City

A track from Sharon Signs to Cherry Red (review forthcoming). Via the ‘tube:

Track from the compilation of Liverpool musicians “Street to Street Vol 1” released in 1979 on Open Eye Records (OE LP 501).

Written By, Guitar — Ian Broudie
Vocals — Gary Dwyer, Jaqui, Jeanette, Steve Linsey
Bass — Ambrose Reynolds
Drums — Budgie
Keyboards — David Balfe

Info from http://music-isms.blogspot.com

“Jaqui & Jeanette: The only song by the band ‘194 Radio City’ was composed during a jam session over an original idea by Ian Broudie, who plays guitar, together with Budgie (ex Big in Japan/Slits) on drums, Dave Balfe on keyboards, Ambrose (of Walkie Talkies and later Pink Industry) on bass. Former Deaf School Steve Lindsey sings with Gary Dwyer, (drummer with the Teardrop Explodes) behind the female duo.”

Jaqui has also sung on the single released by Hambi & The Dance “Too Late To Fly The Flag”, and backing vocals on their Heartache album both on Virgin. She has also recorded under the name JaQe.

Jeanette has released an album (Hum0 and a couple of 12″ singles on Premonition records (Lady Blue, Leo). Also a single (In the morning) and album (Prefab in the sun) on Survival records.

Review: When the Music’s Over by Aidan Thorn

WHEN THE MUSIC’S OVER
Aidan Thorn
Number 13 Press

“Benny had taken his first life. That meant he’d thrown away what was left of his, too. He’d known that the moment he decided Harry Weir had to die.”

When Benny Gower murders his business partner few people doubt his good reasons for doing so. Unlike Benny, it’s not as if Harry Weir was popular. But he was the heir to Birmingham’s most violent and dangerous criminal organisation.

For Wynn McDonald, dragged out of retirement for the sake of his old gangland accomplices, motive doesn’t matter. All he cares about is tracking down the nightclub manager turned killer. But before Wynn can extract necessary vengeance he’ll need to turn over every stone on his way to finding answers. And not everybody’s going to be happy with the truths that come crawling out.

Thorn’s novella rips along with action from the first page: we follow first time killer Benny Gower and seasoned killer Wynn McDonald in alternating chapters, then jump back to the past to see where the bad blood started. I don’t think the Birmingham tourist bureau is going to be clapping Thorn on the back any time soon, but he brings the city to vivid (albeit criminal) life.

There’s a little bit of head hopping in the ’90s section but it’s not much of a distraction because Thorn captures the hungry band on the edge of success so well. Even the aged and jaded hired gun finds himself captivated by the secrets of the past — and the brutal payoffs they set in motion.

Great fun, a meaty read but still short enough to read fairly quickly — which is good because once you start, you won’t want to stop until you get to the end.