Week 22 Play List
Welcome to week 22 of the Isolation Room Listening Booth, songs as chosen by RPM club members week ending Friday 21st August. In the order that it happened to get typed up in, it’s over to…..
"Dear RPM Gang.........this week I’ve been helping Bob on to the road to recovery from his kidney transplant. So, I decided to choose 3 tracks from ‘That’ll be the Day’ Soundtrack (1973) for a bit of good old rock and roll- which is his favourite music. Keep well and safe everybody."
"Dub me crazy man!!! Time to slip on those 'phones and relaaaaaaxxxxxx......................
Playing an old 'dub' album t'other day (the mighty 'African Dub Chapter Three') reminded me of some of the attempts by 'rock' musicians to try to successfully utilise/integrate those techniques into their music. Generally they've failed... sometimes magnificently, sometimes less so!! However, over the years there have been the occasional successes and here's three of my favourite 'rock' tracks which, in my opinion anyway, incorporate dub techniques to great effect. "
Kevin Ayers- 'Interview' (From 'Bananamour' LP released May 1973).
"Perhaps one of the most 'English' of English rock musicians, Ayers spent his early life in Malaysia before returning in the late 50's to a comfortable life in the country as the step son of a British diplomat. The mid-sixties saw him as a founder member of the Wilde Flowers alongside Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt (plus future members of Caravan). Ayers left the band to start working with Daevid Allen and was soon joined by Hopper and Wyatt to form the original Soft Machine line up with Mike Ratledge. The band, minus Allen, became regulars at London's underground psychedelic clubs and released one of the earliest UK psychedelic singles, 'Love makes sweet music'. Heavy touring saw Ayers leave the band, retire to Ibiza to become a part time member of Allen's Gong and start writing his own solo material. Signed to Harvest, his first three albums fully qualified him as a 'cult' artist alongside good friend and ex-Floyder Syd Barrett. From his slightly more 'commercial' fourth album, here's one of the best tracks which sees Ayers with a settled back line of Archie Leggett and Eddie Sparrow enhanced by Steve Hillage, ex mersey-beater Howie Casey, Liza Strike, Doris Troy, Robert Wyatt and, featuring strongly on this track, Mike Ratledge. From the mid part of the track it's his novel organ work, coupled with some great 'clanging' guitar from Hillage which really makes this something special and has echoes of the concurrent dub work by Joe Gibbs, Lee Perry, King Tubby and others which was proving popular with 'white' rock audiences at that time. Centerpiece of the album, however, was 'Decadence', an unkind portrait of (ex?) friend and 'paramour' Nico who, strangely, became the vocal foil with Ayers on his next albums titular suite, the superb 'The confessions of Dr Dream and other stories'."
Orange Juice- 'Lord John White and the Bottleneck Train' (non-album single B-side to 'Flesh of my flesh'. Released May 1983).
"Tucked away on the flip of the second single from the 'Rip it up' album is this dub heavy experiment by Edwyn Collins and his cohorts. 'Rip it up' had been the band's biggest hit (number 8) but 'Flesh of my flesh' returned them to the chart regions achieved by both earlier and follow up singles (number 41) and, as a result, this beeside probably escaped a lot of people's attention. The track was produced by Dennis Bovell, at that time the go-to London based reggae producer who had been a member of Matumbi and founded the groundbreaking Jah Sufferer Sound System. He would also go on to produce Orange Juice's final album, 'The Orange Juice' as well as other left field bands The Pop Group, the Slits and more 'conventional' releases such as Madness and the Thompson Twins. Here though, the top side of the single is reversed, Collins excels on guitar whilst relating the tale of a fictional old blues player and the track is given a thorough seeing to 'dub stylee' making for a head spinning extravagant mini epic, the style of which the band rarely successfully attempted again. Pity!!!"
Portishead - 'Cowboys' (From 'Portishead' LP released September 1997).
Generally, and perhaps lazily described as one of the progenitors of 'trip-hop', Portishead should be recognised as a true genre busting band. What started out as a predominantly local style of music centred around the Bristol area was initially popularised by Massive Attack and followed closely by Portishead and Tricky. 'Trip-hop' can be seen as a dense mélange of funk, dub, soul, psychedelia, R&B, Chicago house, sampling, scratching and electronica to create a highly experimental, multi-headed hybrid new form of music (with, perhaps, Neneh Cherry, the Pop Group and Siouxsie being the only antecedents?).Portishead topped off their sound with Beth Gibbons icily detached, jazz influenced vocals and their debut album (1994's 'Dummy') immediately garnered critical acclaim and multi-platinum sales exceeding 3.5 million. Their self titled follow up in 1997 saw the band honing the style and being rewarded with 'Album of the year' by the NME, Melody Maker, Q and, in the US, Spin. The album went top 10 in over a dozen countries (reaching number 2 in the UK charts) but, perhaps as a result of what critic Barry Walters observed as a "darker, deeper and more disturbing" style, the album only achieved sales topping a million! The opening track ('Cowboys') is, to me, a perfect summary of the band's aims featuring an unsettling mix of electronics, scratching and guitar and one of Beth's finest vocal outings. Twenty three years later, we only have the live double and 'Third' albums with Beth seemingly content to record the occasional solo outing, including the rather excellent 'Out of season' with Rustin Man from 2003. Founder Adrian Utley is equally unproductive regarding solo recordings and it's left to the bands percussionist/programmer Geoff Barrow to release the majority of new music since 2008. All three, however, have contributed to many other artists' recordings , including those by Marianne Faithfull, Tom Jones (!!), Jane Birkin, Alison Moyet and Arcade Fire as producers, mixers, vocalist or instrumentalists.
"Hiya..........Hope all is well. Back to being an RPM contributor, not just listener, yay!
Made some notes about thoughts that popped up as I was glistening to other RPMers choices, but seem to have mislaid them..oh well. Gone classical this week, as it's mainly what I've been listening too....."
Thunderstruck performed by 2 Cellos - "Who knew cellos could be subversive. These guys rock! So talented..Sooo many bows shredded! They've done cover versions of Led Zep, Nirvana, even (*whispers*) U2. Highly entertaining."
"Greetings all.............I bought all of my choices for this week’s selections on 45 RPM singles, but I think that somebody might have flicked the switch to 16 this week.... (Can't get my arse in gear at all).
Each morning before Jayne gets up, I brew some tea and, as I drink the first litre, I have taken to listening to music on radio 3. Often just before a break for news there is a an interesting folk track played. (Probably because it is short and fits in a slot which would otherwise have to be filled with Kathleen Ferrier's warbling). I have been inspired to seek out a couple of good ones, including a fabulous album dedicated to the work of the music publisher, John Playford. ‘1651' by Andy Cutting. Which contains 'Kettle Drum' one of my recent choices here in the isolation room listening booth. Still a proper treat.
So, this week we have three of many of the tracks which I have bought after first hearing on the Radio. Two of these were first encountered on John Peel’s late night 'Perfumed Garden' on Radio London. One of which was banned by the BBC for encouragement to the youth of Britain to indulge in Satanic ritual and drug use… (I never found the references even though I even used to buy my clothes at ‘Granny’s'). The final one was first heard on pre-rerelease, on a BBC Radio 2 programme presented by Andy Kershaw. Who also went on to be banned from the BBC!"
"Greetings and best wishes from Swanton Morley to all RPMers. This week I have mostly been back in the 1970s, so I've chosen 3 blasts of primo guitar action from that era........"
That Lady by The Isley Brothers - "......the lead track from their very wonderful 1973 album, "3+3", that acknowledged in it's title the full integration of two younger brothers and a cousin into the group. Ronald croons mellifluously while little brother Ernie takes off and soars on his magic guitar."
Rock'n'roll Doctor by Little Feat - "........from the 1974 album, "Feats Don't Fail Me Now," the last of a trio of truly great Little Feat albums where Lowell George was in control of the band's direction. There's something about the way he laid lazy slide guitar over funk rhythms that is mesmerizing. "Two degrees in be-bop, a PHD in swing, he's a master of rhythm, he's a rock'n'roll king." A self-portrait perhaps? I've chosen the album version over their celebrated "Whistle Test" appearance for superior sound quality."
Who Says A Funk Band Can't Play Rock by Funkadelic - "........from their commercial peak, "One Nation Under A Groove." (1978). This was after Eddie Hazel's time in the band, so the guitarists are Gary Shider and, on the twiddly lead bits, Mike "Kid Funkadelic" Hampton. I love Pedro Bell's artwork on this album- especially the raising of the R & B flag (on Iwo-Jima?). I think by the end of the track they've made their point."
"All the best to all RPMers - I look forward to the time when we can all meet back at Elsing VH. Until then, I'm enjoying our weekly 'exchanges'. Here's what I've been listening to in Week 22...."
A Song For The Times by Sean Gallagher - "This is a song about dealing with lockdown by my friend Sean. We first met in 1977 when we shared a flat together. After about a year we went our separate ways but we kept in touch. Sean settled in Nottingham but we've still managed to enjoy quite a few good times together throughout the intervening years."
I Can't Write Left Handed by Bill Withers - "This is from a compilation CD released in 2003 called 'A Soldier's Sad Story', subtitled 'Vietnam Through The Eyes Of Black America 1966-73'. The inlay booklet reveals as many heartbreaking truths as the songs..... if not more. Powerful stuff."
"Hi ya all...........hope you are all well . Here’s my fave 3........................"
"Here’s a trio of tunes that caught my ear this week............a selection courtesy of Radio 3’s Night Tracks. If you have the chance, find somewhere comfortable with the drink of your choice, close your eyes and drift away………"
Lamyra by Jo David Meyer Lysn & Mats Eilertsen - "From the 2020 album Kroksjø (Norwegian for Oxbow Lake). All tracks on the album reference oxbow lakes or small places near them. JDML (guitar, pedal steel, turntable, synth) ME (double bass, effects)."
".......3 favourites of the week."
"As I hinted last week, I'm selecting 3 blues tracks this week. Each of these artists was supreme in their individual field. Best wishes to everybody and stay safe ."
Walking the Blues by Willie Dixon - "Willie Dixon was a hugely influential Blues musician and player. He wrote for many of the great Blues players but his own output wasn't extensive. Along with Muddy Waters he helped to define the Chicago blues style. Willie played bass on many Chess classics and wrote a shed load of songs now regarded as standards. Not bad for an ex-boxer."
Bye Bye Bird by Sonny Boy Williamson - "Sonny Boy was a gifted blues harp player and I've picked a track that majors on this skill. His singing was also very distinctive."
Let's Pull A Party by Lightning Hopkins - "Samuel "Lightning" Hopkins was a renowned guitar player with a very complex style of playing which didn't need the addition of bass or drums - he managed to supply his own when needed using his whole instrument to stunning effect. He had a prodigious output of singles and albums during his lifetime and in his obituary in the New York Times he was described as "one of the great country blues singers and perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players"
"Here's mt three............."
“So,….yesterday I finished the book I’d just started reading at the end of last week, Hawkwind: Days of the Underground, which examines the band first 10 years…..and played the last couple of 70s albums today; guess what the exclusive soundtrack for this week has been, then? Nothing else has been played…..it’s not a conscious theme……it’s just how it IS.
There’s a couple of points proffered by author Joe Banks that I’d just like to mention here. Firstly, that the band have lasted so long because they exist in a self-formed genre of one, having always done exactly what they wanted to do with a singular vision (especially as Dave Brock increasingly became Captain of the ship), and haven’t worried about what the latest fashion trend happened to be, an outlook I totally empathise and identify with, btw. Secondly, this has led to them sometimes pre-empting or unconsciously running in parallel with current musical trends, even producing music, especially the more electronic based, which would plant alien-like seeds germinating and mutating later into subsequent musical forms. Going back to the first point, their attitude is pretty much the DIY stick-it-to-the-man spirit and ethos which empowered punk…….which explains why HW fans include John Lydon (Sex Pistols / PIL), Brian James and Captain Sensible (Damned), Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks), Jean-Jacques Burnel (Stranglers),Tony James (Generation X / Sisters of Mercy), Jah Wobble (PIL….describes himself as “ absolutely besotted…the first band I heard that didn’t make polite little songs and were really avant-garde” ), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys….”No Holiday in Cambodia without Hawkwind,” he insists), Stephen Morris (Joy Division / New Order) and Youth (Killing Joke) who sees a “direct legacy from the free festivals to the rave era to the birth of psychedelic trance in the 90s . It’s all an underground counterpoint to the mainstream”, (which concurs with my 2nd point). It also explains why Hawkwind, despite the best efforts of the music press, emerged unscathed by Punk’s culture wars. Oh, and also, if you didn’t want “re-heated blues rock or endless keyboard solos” and if “noise and simplicity was your thing…then Hawkwind were the only show in town” during the early 70s, notes Banks……………
I could go on and on………but I won’t. Last week we saw the band in hippy busking mode on the last track from their debut LP; the next 3 songs will show different facets of the band spanning the 70’s decade.”
Lord of Light by Hawkwind (Nov. 1972) – “This is the band in full-on "space rock" mode and my favourite Lemmy bassline for HW; it’s melodic but muscular and drives the song along brilliantly. This particularly uplifting track is found on the Doremi Fasol Latido (3rd) LP, the tour of which gave birth to the Space Ritual live album. This is where some folks have a problem with the band; what’s the point of all the sci-fi imagery? Well, the album and tour were conceived as a “space opera”, so as a show and spectacle, that was the point. Bowie used similar sci-fi ideas and imagery throughout the 70s (Space Oddity, Starman, Saviour Machine, Ashes to Ashes……) and got away with it, hailed as a “star” (pun intended) and visionary, in fact. Hawkwind subsequently continued to use the sci-fi concepts and imagery to varying degrees, (sometimes set in deep space, sometimes within earth bound dystopias), as a mechanism to highlight all that is wrong with this world, both ecologically and socially. Having said that, this particular song is a bit hippy and seems to be about earth energy and leylines……..but as I say, it was written as part of overall album / show concept………..just enjoy the bass playing!
Back on the Streets by Hawkwind (7” single released 28 Jan. 1977) – “Failing to break into the charts, this crunchy slab of garage trash rock was described in the NME at the time as “more punk than the Stranglers”. This is the band with their feet back on Earth, getting back to their urban roots of playing community gigs underneath the Westway, and hustling on the Portobello Road.”
Uncle Sam’s on Mars by Hawkwind – “With rocket engines thundering, the band’s “motoric” drum beat once again propels them skywards. Thought I’d choose this one as it’s still relevant today, what with the recent missions launched to the Red Planet in July 2020, plus I love the track anyway. A live recording was used as the basic backing track with studio overdubs recorded in Januaruy 1978 for the PXR5 album….which eventually arrived in June 1979. Bob Calvert, Hawkwind’s resident space poet is on fine speculative form here; having f***ed up the Earth, let’s move on to other planets and do the same to them rather than sort ourselves out, is the essential theme. He also has a swipe at American consumerism which he identifies as the bridgehead of homogenous globalisation….how true that has proved to be! See? There’s a lot you can say within the “sci-fi” trope.”
“Promise no Hawkwind next week...............” 😉