Andrex Extra Soft Blog Roll

It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

Special K

10469728_10152254959811378_1715836080619826648_nThe K series engine. It’s a bit of a misunderstood and maligned beast really. Talk of it on internet forums or “daaaaaaaaan the pub” and it will it will be met by OMGHGF (Oh My God, Head Gasket Failure in internetz speakz) and OMGALLROVAZISSHIT. This is because Armchair and Pub Mechanics know more than anyone whatsoever.

True, they have their issues. Yes, some suffer from head gasket failure but the way you hear the so-called experts harp on about it, you’d think the K Series is the only engine to ever suffer from head gasket failure. Aren’t we forgetting certain VW, Vauxhall, Renault, Fiat and Peugeot engines enjoy blowing them for a past time? The garage I worked at for ten years used to look after a lot of K series Rovers. Cornwall is retirement country and there are lots of people who probably should be dead already bought these K series Rovers. I found them as reliable as anything German that we looked after, but like anything they need routine maintenance. Keep on top of them and take care of them, they’re fantastic. Caution should be applied if no maintenance has been carried out.

A brief history of the K series
It was launched in 1988, fitted to the brand new Rover R8 200 series, then later powered the 400 and the Roverised Metro that appeared in 1990. Available in 1.1 single overhead cam and 1.4 twin cam versions, but later the range increased to 1.6 litre and 1.8 as Honda began to limit supply of their engines to Rover. The K series lumps were held together as a sandwich of components using long bolts which which held the engine under compression. The 1.8 was available with a Variable Valve Control (VVC) device that allowed more power, torque and performance. The VVC unit allows some form of witch craft to happen which allows the engine to be incredibly flexible and gives it a pretty much flat torque curve. And it red lines at 7,250 rpm! Later additions included the KV6 in 2.0 and 2.5 litre, 24 valve quad cam variants. Both the K and KV6 are still in production today, following the sale of MG Rover to China corportation SAIC, though they have been revised and renamed N Series and NV6, respectively.

My K-Series
My particular K Series, pictured above, is a 1.6 16v twin cam unit fitted to a Rover 25 of varying shades of blue and black. Today it clicked over to 119,000 miles and was treated to a service, its first service since 98,000! When I bought the 25 just over a year ago it was on 103,000 miles and has pretty much been neglected ever since. But to be fair, it has wanted for nothing. Up until today, the only attention the engine has needed is a tightening of the alternator belt. The cooling system is in fine fettle and the rest of the car has fared pretty well too, needing precious little to keep it going. It has performed brilliantly and reliably – it genuinely hasn’t put a foot wrong in the time I’ve had it. It’s a revvy, peppy, responsive engine and the service it had today has made it just that little bit better. I think the K series, especially the one in my car, is a cracker.

Really, if caught in time, a head gasket is not the end of the world. If repaired properly with good quality materials used, these units will soldier on. Like all cars there’s good and bad, but I still see a heck of a lot of K series Rovers on the road. Would I buy another? You bet your bottom booby I would.

OMGALLROVAZISSHIT? I won’t hear a word of it, thank you please.

July 6, 2014 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

Second listen: Split Enz – Conflicting Emotions

conflicting-emotions-504c7be878820Split Enz – one of my favourite bands of all time. They’ve had some fantastic albums, songs and singles whether head of creativity were the brothers Tim and Neil Finn or original co-founder Phil Judd. Early Enz takes a few listens to appreciate, later Neil-inspired work is more melodic and immediate. Conflicting Emotions falls into the latter camp. Largely claimed to be the Enz’ poorest album release throughout their long and ever-changing career, it’s also an album I always left on the shelf and never bothered to play more than once. I’d generally play a couple of the songs that were available on the excellent “Spellbound” retrospective compilation instead and basically ignored its existence. However, when looking for something different to play in the car on a journey this was one the LPs I picked up for a spin.

Conflicting Emotions would become the final Split Enz album to feature Tim Finn, and the album title was decidedly apt. Earlier on in 1983 Tim had released his debut solo album “Escapade” to commercial and critical acclaim. With some rumoured resentment over Tim’s solo success and tensions between band members, cracks were beginning to show. Tim had kept back most of his songs for his solo album and as such saw a shift toward Neil Finn as primary songwriter. Neil had already proved himself a pretty nifty writer with hits such as I Got You, One Step Ahead and History Never Repeats. However, this album seemed to lack focus especially when compared with the fabulous Time and Tide released in 1982. It also failed to crack the Australian Top 10

None of that really came to mind when I put the disc in the CD player. The album starts off with Strait Old Line and I’d forgotten what a funky little opener that song it is, and how catchy it is. You WILL be singing it for days after. And let’s not forget that this album also contains Message To My Girl, one of Neil Finn’s finest songs ever. It’s a heartfelt love song that McCartney would probably have wished he’d written. Another Neil-penned song The Devil You Know happens to be one of my favourite songs by anyone. So with that in mind, why did I bloody ignore this album?

Simple – Tim Finn! His songs on this album are bloody rubbish. I’m used to him belting out stuff such as Charlie, Bold As Brass, I See Red and all his songs on Time and Tide are superb. That and his solo album Escapade that came out before this album is very good. But here, with the exception of the bouncy Working Up An Appetite, which is a catchy number with an interesting rhythmic beat going on, they’re nonsense. I despise the title track, especially the introduction. Bon Voyage is equally hateful, and I Wake Up Every Night is okay to a point, but the brass sounds reek of cheap Casio keyboards. Neil isn’t exactly safe from criticism either with No Mischief being rather annoying, though through repeated playing I found myself warming to it and quite enjoy it now. Same thing happened with Bullet Brain and Cactus Head. Our Day, though, is brilliant.

So, to conclude, this is one of the most frustrating albums I have in my collection. Upon fresh listening, I absolutely love just over half of it but the rest of it isn’t even good enough for B-side material. However, there is a turn of events that make me appreciate this album a little bit more. To promote the album, The Enz needed to tour and to inject a bit of life into the band they held auditions for a new drummer. They ended up hiring the bloody wonderful and very sadly missed Paul Hester. Tim left shortly after, leaving the Enz in the control of Neil. The album See Ya ‘Round was released which had no content from Tim at all, and it wouldn’t be long before Neil disbanded Split Enz. Neil took Paul with him and formed a band which would later become Crowded House. Tenuously you could say that without this album, there wouldn’t have been Crowded House. I can’t (or won’t) imagine life without Crowded House, quite frankly.

Incidentally, the album artwork was created by Phil Judd, co-founder of Split Enz who left (for the last time) in 1977.

Enjoy Strait Old Line:

Enjoy Message To My Girl:

March 8, 2014 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

French car in “reliable for a year” scandal

A Peugeot named Edgar, literally some time ago

A Peugeot named Edgar, literally some time ago

I own a French car, so rather predictably I get the “all French cars is well shit lol don’t buy them cos dey break lol how many times your car broke LOL”, which is utter bollocks. The fact of the matter is, my French car is 26 years old, still on the road and is showing no signs of giving up yet.

The French car I’m talking about is Edgar. The name was chosen by my wife, and some friends have agreed this car is definitely an Edgar. I am, of course, talking about my 1987 Peugeot 205 Junior. I’ve had to tax it today, which means I’ve had it for a year now. It’s been a good year with the car. I love it to bits, it’s fun to drive and puts a smile on my face, is reliable and very cheap to run. It’s in fantastic nick for its age and is kept as much as possible in that condition. However, it is also a daily driver and first and foremost a work horse.

Quick it ain’t, only having 45bhp from its 954cc suitcase engine, but it’s lively enough around town and will cruise at about 65ish. But bloody hell is it economical and cheap to run. Sod all insurance costs, next to nothing on fuel and running repairs? Ha! Bugger all.

In fact here is a break down, if you’ll pardon the expression, of what has been done to Edgar the little Pug in a year:

– First week of ownership, it got a new set of wiper blades all round and a small engine service – cost £30
– Nothing until Christmas where for the first time it wouldn’t start. Damp HT leads and a fouled spark plug were the culprits. Nothing serious, no time to fix and zero cost.
– January: MoT time. Pretty much mate’s rates at the garage, so £25 for the test. It failed on one rear wheel bearing and one brake pipe. However, the other rear wheel bearing was an advisory and another brake pipe was getting a bit crusty. I had both brake pipes done as the fuel tank had to be lowered anyway. Whilst they were at it, the other wheel bearing was sorted out. A perishing CV boot was advised. Cost: £150
All quiet on the western front until April where for only the second time ever, it wouldn’t start properly. A new distributor cap and rotor arm sorted that at a cost of £11.00
Had a puncture a week later, hardly the car’s fault and whilst the wheel was off, had the CV boot done. Tyre: £25, CV boot: £30.

Excluding fuel, insurance and tax, the little 205 has cost me £671 in a year. That includes the purchase price of the car – that’s cheap. Factor in zero depreciation and it’s a winner. I’ve known people pay more than that for MoT repairs (usually on German stuff). Not bad for a French car, you know, the ones that continually break and fail. A French car that has got under my skin, become rather endearing and if it carries on like this will be with me for a very long time. I’m quite attached to it really.

 

 

August 3, 2013 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Top Albums: Jeff Lynne – Armchair Theatre

armchair theatre_2_jpg

The Preamble

Ah hello! Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea and welcome to my latest blog post. This week I have been mostly listening to Armchair Theatre, the debut solo album by Jeff Lynne. It has been given the remaster treatment, a freshen up in the packaging department and available on CD for the first time in well over ten years. Never heard of Jeff Lynne? Where have you been? Multi-instrumentalist, singer, song writer, producer and collaborator with some of the biggest names in music. More than that though, he was the creative force in the Electric Light Orchestra. He wrote, arranged and produced all the songs.

As we’ve established, this is Jeff’s solo debut. While there may have been a little over four years since the Electric Light Orchestra quietly disbanding after contractually obliged final album Balance of Power and the release of this album, Lynne was far from idle. He had written and produced with George Harrison on the Cloud Nine album which led to him becoming a Traveling Wilbury along with George, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. Co-writing and production duties on Full Moon Fever, Tom Petty’s fantastic first solo offering, beckoned soon after.

Upon its original release, Armchair Theatre contained eleven songs. Eight original compositions – one of which co-written with Tom Petty – and three cover versions. It also featured a stellar cast of musicians. First and four-most we have Jeff, who plays guitars, keyboards, bass, pianos and drums. In addition, George Harrison guests on a few numbers playing a cracking slide guitar and providing backing vocals. Ex-ELO band mate Richard Tandy appears throughout the album providing keyboards, guitars and backing vocals. Jim Horn provides saxophone on a couple of songs, Mette Methiesen drums on the songs Jeff doesn’t and Del Shannon crops up on backing vocals. And it was all recorded in Lynne’s home studio in Warwickshire, England.

My regard for the album is incredibly high. I originally bought the album over a decade ago on vinyl and had been searching for a copy on CD ever since. I had to “back up” the vinyl copy onto CD as the record became very, very worn as it became one of my most played albums in my collection. I’d spend many hours in second hand record shops (when they existed) looking for a copy to no avail. So, Christmas came and the gifts bestowed upon me included Mr. Blue Sky (I’ve already reviewed that) and Long Wave (I will be reviewing that). Within both of these was an advert card for forthcoming Jeff Lynne related releases. ELO Live, a remaster and re-release of Zoom and, at long last, a fully remastered Armchair Theatre. Release date here in the UK – 22nd April, the day before the birthday of yours truly. Excellent!

The package arrrived containing Armchair Theatre and Zoom (I’ll review that another time) and it’s been repackaged in a gatefold card sleeve more reminiscent of an old LP with a picture disc and full booklet. It also includes two extra songs that were recorded around the same time as the rest of the LP but didn’t make the cut.

What I do like are the sleeve notes by Eric Idle. Well, I use the term “sleeve notes” in just about the loosest term possible. It’s actually Eric Idle recalling a story about him trying to write the sleeve notes, coercing Billy Connolly into helping while all the time trying to convince Lynne that they had really done them. All whilst the three of them are having a meal in a restaurant eyeing up the waitresses.

One little quip from the liner notes: “How about we say originally it was a Virgin record? It had no hole in the middle.”

The songs

It’s a typically Jeff Lynne sounding album, with his trademark production sound, which is something I’m a big fan of. It’s more of a stripped back sound than many of the earlier ELO songs. The album kicks off with a bang. Well actually, it kicks off with Every Little Thing, which is a fantastic start with powerful drums and bass and then kicks into the verse with an effective saxophone refrain throughout. Good choice for the first single, too, though commercial success for the album and singles was never great despite the generally positive reviews received at the time. If the miracles of modern technology are, by some miracle, actually working then you should be able to see the video placed above. The real life and animated video contains cameo appearances by George Harrison and Tom Petty.

Next up is the first of three cover versions on Armchair Theatre, Don’t Let Go. Catchy, short rockabilly number originally written by Jesse Stone and featuring some great saxophone by Jim Horn. The other covers are excellent versions of September Song and Stormy Weather, the latter of which was recorded as a tribute to Jeff’s late mother. Both of these feature George Harrison at his slide guitar playing best and all three covers demonstrate that Lynne can do a decent cover version, simultaneously keeping the mood of the original but adding a little something.

Lift Me Up is a contender for one of the best songs on the album. The second and final single from the album, it is a piano and guitar-led ballad  and again showcases George Harrison’s soulful slide guitar. Hopefully, by the miraculous miracles of modern miraculous technological miracles, the video should appear at the bottom of the blog entry. If it doesn’t I’ve wasted my time writing this.

Nobody Home is, as far as I’m concerned is a bit of filler. I like it, but I do find myself reaching for the skip button every now and then so I shall cease writing about it. Now You’re Gone is an Indian tinged song, complete with Indian percussion and harmonies and a fantastic violin solo. Don’t Say Goodbye is a pleasant song that could have quite easily been recorded in the early 196os.

What Would It Take is, along with Lift Me Up, my favourite track on the album and is a fairly straight forward guitar-led song. Simple bass, simple drums, great vocals and a smidge over two and half minutes long. Blown Away was co-written with Tom Petty and wouldn’t have been out of place on Full Moon Fever. Has quite a hint of Beatles about it. Final song on the original album running order is Save Me Now which is a very short ecologically-minded acoustic number which did end the album perfectly. However, there are two bonus tracks that were recorded around the same time. Borderline is an acoustic strumalong, and would have made a welcome addition in the original album line-up. Forecast is, rather predictably, a song about the weather and is more than just a little Beatlesque. This too sounds too good to have been left off the album in the first instance.

I’ve bored you for long enough now, but it’s great to hear the album fully remastered and not just a “back-up” of a very worn out record. It rates in my top ten albums ever, and I haven’t grown tired of listening to it yet. My rating out of ten? Well, I have to skip a song so I’ll be fair and call it nine. I’ve kept you for long enough, go and make a cuppa and watch the video for Lift Me Up, below.

April 28, 2013 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Electric Light Orchestra – Mr Blue Sky

mrbluesky_300dpiI’ve been meaning to write about this for quite some time now, as it was one of two albums bought for me for Christmas – the other being Jeff Lynne’s Long Wave LP. I’ll deal with that one another day.

Now, I already own at least one ELO Greatest Hits compilation, the original releases from the seventies and eighties on vinyl and one from the late nineties on CD. Since then, a million and eleventy seven Greatest Hits compilations have been released. So why do we need yet another? This one is a little bit different as Jeff Lynne has, almost single-handedly, re-recorded the songs because the old ones didn’t sound as good or as tight as he remembered. Which started alarm bells ringing straight away. I’ve never really liked the idea of artists re-recording their earlier work. Indeed, this collection already has its detractors who have stated that this is nothing but a cynical marketing exercise. Would I think it to be the same upon listening?

I’ve always been more of a Jeff Lynne fan rather than out and out ELO fan and I find myself listening to less early ELO than I used to. The later synth-driven and stripped back stuff appeals to me far more. ‘Secret Messages’ and ‘Balance of Power’ are two criminally underrated albums, as is Jeff’s debut solo album ‘Armchair Theatre’. Same again with ‘Zoom’, which despite being released under the ELO banner, is essentially Jeff’s second solo album with help from fellow ELO bandmate Richard Tandy, George Harrison and Ringo Starr among others. I find the production of the earlier stuff a bit too over the top these days, especially the orchestral arrangements. Whereas I like the latter day “Jeff Lynne sound”, and the production work he has done for the likes of George Harrison (Cloud Nine), Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever, Into The Great Wide Open, Highway Companion), The Beatles and as a member of the Traveling Wilburys.

Anyway, back to this compilation.  The running order: Mr Blue Sky, Evil Woman, Strange Magic, Don’t Bring Me Down, Turn To Stone, Showdown, Telephone Line, Livin’ Thing, Do Ya, Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, 10538 Overture and new song Point of No Return. A line up of classics, basically. I’ve listened to this collection a couple of dozen times now, which must be testament as to what I think of it as if I hated it it’d be in the bin. I should have trusted Lynne and his production know how really, as the re-recordings are amongst his best work. Remember how bad the demo tape of the Beatles Free As A Bird was? The job Lynne did with the surviving Beatles was fantastic. He’s managed similar here.

What Lynne has basically done is use modern production techniques, modern tools and equipment to reinvigorate these old tunes. To my ears, and I’m not expecting everyone to agree (though granted, those who disagree are stupid) , he’s done the best possible job he could. He hasn’t buggered around with the arrangements at all, they are as you would remember them from years ago. There’s just an added clarity and they seem more focused. The production is brighter and clearer, which would be what Lynne was aiming for. With the exception of the strings and a piano bit here and there, Lynne plays all the instruments and to be honest does as good a job as the members of ELO did back in the day. The bass sounds more pronounced, the guitars are far clearer and the drums sound tight. His voice has matured a great deal and seems better on these recordings now he’s older. Christ, he sounds good for a 64 year old. Most of all, the orchestral arrangements don’t overpower the songs. Watch the promo video for Mr Blue Sky:


Mr Blue Sky doesn’t seem totally over the top anymore, though hasn’t lost any of its charm. Don’t Bring Me Down seems to pack a bit more of a punch and the guitars seem rockier. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, a fantastic song that I always found spoilt by its production is given a new lease of life here. Same with Livin’ Thing, a song I never got on with that much before has somehow become my favourite Lynne-penned song. Then there’s 10538 Overture, the song whose main riff Paul Weller pinched for his song “The Changingman”, really has been given a good buff and shine as it sounds clearer than you could have imagined. And if anyone thinks Jeff Lynne’s creative juices have run out, there’s new song Point of No Return hinting at what we can expect in the future It’s a cracking little pop song that wouldn’t sound out of place on A Hard Day’s Night.

Whatever you may think of this collection, it’s put ELO back in the public psyche and that’s a good thing. We need songs and musicians like this, something that isn’t a load of pre-packed nonsense. Lynne has managed to score three top ten albums in one week, with his solo album Long Wave, this compilation and people buying the old compilation, presumably to see just how much difference there is between the songs.

Still not convinced? Watch Jeff Lynne and Richard Tandy live from Bungalow Palace Studios (Jeff’s house) here:

March 5, 2013 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Terry Hall – Home

This is the first in a series I intend to keep up and write about and will probably never actually get around to, well, keeping up. I intend to write about some of my favourite albums. When I mean write, I mean waffle on endlessly like I normally do and the material within will be of no interest to any living being at all. So, with that in mind, I shall continue.

There are albums that are accepted as being some of the greatest albums of all time. I agree with most of them to be honest and some I think should be included. Some of what I write about won’t neccessarily be brilliant, revolutionary albums. They’ll just be the ones I like the most. This issue deals with an album that slipped under just about everyone’s radar. The album is Home, Terry Hall’s debut solo album. This is an album that upon release gained lots of critical acclaim but alas stalled in the charts. But if sky-high melodies, towering choruses and jangly guitars are your bag, which they are mine, then pray read on.

Now, most people know Terry Hall as co-front man of The Specials and The Fun Boy Three, then onto The Colourfield and then part-time collaborator with the Lightning Seeds. He has done so much more than that, but it’s Terry’s involvement with the Lightning Seeds that interests me the most and it set the scene for this album. Terry’s involvement began with the Lightning Seeds during the recording of the 1992 album Sense. Ian Broudie, chief Lightning Seed, had cited Terry as one of his favourite lyricists and requested to work together. Terry co-wrote a few numbers on the album one of which, the title track, became a top forty single. Terry even made a cameo appearance in the video. Fast forward a couple of years and we see yet more collaborations between Broudie and Hall. Hall co-wrote and sung on what would become Jollification, which included the co-written single “Lucky You”. We also see the recording of Terry’s debut solo album that would become Home.

A band of musicians, which included Ian Broudie on production duties and some guitar work, was assembled. Chris Sharrock (Lightning Seeds) on the Tupperware, Craig Gannon on guitars (The Smiths) and Les Pattinson on bass (Echo and the Bunneymen) provided the noise from the instruments. Add to the mix a select few co-writers such as the aforementioned Broudie and Gannon, but also Nick Heyward (Haircut 100), Andy Partridge (XTC) and Damon Albarn, and the album sounds intruiging.

Essentially, the album is ten (eleven on the 1995 re-release) well-crafted, well polished pop/rock songs. Now pop is a dangerous thing. When done properly, pop is fantastic. However, sometimes pop can turn out to be nothing more than pap. Throwaway nonsense. Thankfully Home is an example of pop music done properly. There’s little in the way of filler. Terry’s voice, which let’s be fair isn’t the most versatile in the business, is on form on this album thanks in large to songs with arrangements that suit his range. The dynamics and production work exceptionally well throughout. Yes it’s a well polished production, but it wouldn’t have worked any other way.

Powerfully kicking the album off is the lead-off single, Forever J. Written about Terry’s ex-partner Jeanette, it’s a highly infectious number and starts the album with a bang. Myself and She Who Must Be Obeyed have kind of nabbed it for ourselves, thanks in part to the lyric “She’s a bee with honeyed thighs, a living hell, a slice of heaven”. We’ve often joked about that. What’s more she’s called Jayne which is handy, quite frankly. Watch the promo video for the single here:

The next song is the first of two co-writes with Ian Broudie. “You” features an unmistakable Broudie guitar to introduce proceedings, and the song also features my favourite lyric of the entire LP. “If ifs and ands were pots and pans, you’d be a kitchen.” The next Broudie co-write comes next in the form of Terry’s version of Sense which is, if I’m honest, a better version. It’s a bit heavier and more guitar based than Broudie’s original even though Broudie’s presence can be heard quite distinctly on this. Watch the promo for the single here:

No No No and First Attack of Love are as good pop songs you’ll find on a record anywhere, and I Drew A Lemon is worth a listen if not for the lyrical content alone. Moon On Your Dress slows proceedings down a little, but plods along nicely with a bouncy bass line courtesy of Les Pattinson, galvanised as ever by Chris Sharrock’s drumming.

My favourite moment on the whole album must be track eight. Grief Disguised As Joy remains the most played song from the album. When I bought the album back in 1996, it was the song that stood out then and remains the song that sticks out to me now. The song has all the right ingredients. I love the mood, the sound of the guitars, the lyrics and Sharrock’s drumming (as always). It’s just the best song on the album by a country mile. End of.

However as much as I love this album, it isn’t perfect. The original 1994 release just about is, but in 1995 it was re-released with an extra song. A collaboration with Damon Albarn resulted in the song Chasing A Rainbow, which was initially found on the Rainbows EP. It did later find its way onto the reissued version. To be honest, the record company needn’t have bothered and should have kept it as an EP. It’s by far the weakest song and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the songs on the album. And whilst we’re on the subject of weaker songs, What’s Wrong With Me is pleasant. It’s not a bad song, don’t get me wrong, it just doesn’t really get going.

If you’re a Lightning Seeds fan, this album should already be in your collection. If you like well crafted, well performed pop/rock songs, you need a copy of this in your collection. That is if you can get hold of it as it’s long since deleted. It won’t be in your local Tesco. It won’t be in HMV. You’ll need to go to a good second-hand record shop (if there is such a thing still in existance) or look on the internet to find it. Trust me on this though, once you’ve found it, it’s worth it. Not many people really know about it which is a crying shame, as it peaked at 67 in the charts back in 1994.

So, to sum up: Home – pop done properly, and remains one of my favourite and most played albums.
Final rating: 9/10

March 2, 2012 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Music gets the best of me…

Music is, as you may have noticed, one my main passions. In fact it’s nearly as important as breathing. It certainly eclipses my other passion of cars by some considerable margin. Now aside from the usual batch of manufactured, X Factor-esque assembly line, music by the numbers, I’ll listen to just about anything. Which is why on my current playlist on this here Blackcurrant (which is odd as it’s white) phone thingy wot I be writing this on you will find The Corrs, Iron Maiden, Pantera, Crowded House, Lady GaGa, Depeche Mode, Jean Michel Jarre, Johnny Cash and Peggy Lee.

Before I go into why I love music so much I’d like to share my musical background with you. My love of music stems from a young age of listening to my Dad’s stuff. I was brought up on the Beatles, the Stones, Small Faces and The Who. Out of that lot, the Beatles and The Who remain two of my favourite bands. The Stones always seemed a bit contrived to me and the Small Faces were never in the same hemisphere let alone league as The Who. My favourite bands and musicians today include the aformentioned, but also many other acts that were around the time I was growing up. The Lightning Seeds will always be my favourite for many, many reasons. Crowded House is another favourite and I believe Neil Finn is one of the most underrated songwriters of our generation. I would become a fan of New Order very late in their career, so late they had formed in 1980 following the death of Ian Curtis, split up in 1993, reformed in 1998 for a festival gig and released the album Get Ready in 2001 before I really took any notice of them. I had known True Faith and Regret from before and were two of my favourite songs but didn’t associate them with any band. Peter Hook I also rate as one of my favourite bassists. Throughout college I got into more rock orientated music and started listening to some bits and pieces of metal, and as such Iron Maiden became one of my favourite bands, and one more than any other I’d like to see live. I also love a wee bit of classical music, especially Beethoven. But if you ever play jazz, especially modern shit, in front of me I may have to maim you badly.

After seeing videos of The Beatles and The Who and seeing Paul McCartney’s and John Entwistle’s bass playing, respectively, all I wanted to do was play the bass. So I started learning bass at school but fell out with the teacher. Plus all the school bands I wanted to be in had a bassist. But not a drummer as most of them had been sacked. So I picked up some sticks and found the school drum kit and found I could play a bit and generally keep in time. So I joined a band as drummer. And got sacked because of that old “musical differences” chestnut.

I then thought ‘fuck it, I’ll go solo then’, which I kind of did. Being a loner anyway and liking solitude, I hid myself in my bedroom with my basic computer sound recording software, cassette deck, mics, headphones etc and pissed about with samples, loops, keyboards, recorded some live drum tracks at a mate’s house and recorded enough songs to make an album. I laid down all the music and even had lyrics for each one. However I never sung on them, and that’s for a good reason – I sing worse than Sting.

However, college and learning to drive got in the way of my “musical career”, as did losing all my lyrics and losing my tapes. That sucked majorly. I gave up and retreated to merely listening to music, which is something I regret now. I wish I carried on making music mainly because it’s so much fun and it’s therapeutic. I also always wanted to be in a band and play live.

At the moment though, that is never going to happen being married with a 3 month old baby. I’m not saying that is a bad thing, far from it. However my good mate and all round good egg Alec has entrusted me with his bass guitar so I can “get up to speed”. Along with being a bassist, he is also a guitarist so when I can actually play something that sounds like something I very much look forward to having a jam with him.

I am fascinated with the emotional impact music has. How you can take someone’s song, turn it around and relate it to what’s happening in your life. How you and a friend or loved one can find the same meaning in a song. Or how a couple of mates or a group of you just happen to like the same riff so you can discuss it for hours. Or attempt to play it. How you can dissect a song and listen to those parts individually then as a whole, and then imagining yourself playing all the parts. How two people can find a mutual song that means something only to them. How a song can remind you of a time and place and bring memories flooding back. How a song can remind you of those close to you. How you can be be driven mental by one song, yet moved close to tears by another. I also enjoy listening to new types of music introduced to me by others that I may not have necessarily listened to before and I welcome the influence of others. I just love finding new music to take in.

I like bands. I like songwriters. I like it when people pick up an instrument and just play it. I like it when people sing because they want to and because they can, not just because they want fame and fortune. I like people who lock themselves in a studio and experiment with a load of gear they’ve not used before. But what’s best? Seeing a band play live.

There is nothing to touch that experience. I’ve seen a few acts live now, from Sophie Ellis Bextor to Saxon and each gig has been brilliant in its own way. My favourite gig? Well seeing Sophie in Plymouth was good and I got to meet her. Seeing Crowded House in Nottingham arena was brilliant as I got to go with my wife Jayne. Saxon with my mates in Falmouth was awesome in every way. The Lightning Seeds in Bristol was always going to be an important one for me, being my favourite band and all that, and going around the time of my birthday with Jayne and Alec made it better. But my favourite gig? Easy. Paul McCartney, Anfield Stadium, June 1st 2008. For a near 70 year old to sound and play THAT good for close to 2 hours 45 minutes was sublime, and the amount of different instruments the guy can play is amazing. His live band is tight, and special guest Dave Grohl for a few songs was a welcome addition. For putting on such a good show, captivating the audience for the whole time and for having such a rich back catalogue of material to play, hats off to you Macca.

My top 10 songs on my playlist currently (in no order):

Del Amitri – Be My Downfall
Fleetwood Mac – Gypsy
Lady GaGa – Again, Again
Volbeat – Heaven Nor Hell
Lady GaGa – The Edge of Glory
Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence
Astrud Gilberto with Marion Montgomery – The Girl From Ipaneama
Iron Maiden – Hallowed Be Thy Name
ZZ Top – I Need You Tonight
New Order – Your Silent Face

I can’t wait to be able to share my music with my son, play guitar with him or take him to a gig when he’s old enough. The same goes with Alec’s lads, would be nice if they got into music and have something else in common with our lad. We could all go to a rock festival, that’d be good! 

August 21, 2011 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

The Ultimate Definitive Essential Anthology of Greatest Best Of Hits

It has come to my attention through the very subtle means of TV advertising that two of my favourite bands have released compilations. ELO and Joy Division/New Order have released “The Very Best Of” and “Total” respectively. But it’s made me think to create my own compilation. A 5CD compilation that you would find in Tesco for about £3.00.

So, whilst my baby boy is settled and sound asleep and the wife is also catching forty winks I shall attempt this 100 song compendium. Yes, you’re about to witness something utterly boring. This is “Now That’s What I Call Paul’s Essential 100 Ultimate Songs Definitive Anthology As Seen Not On TV Collection In The World… Ever!”

Now the rules for this are only one song per artist. I have to do that otherwise I’d put countless Beatles, ZZ Top, Iron Maiden, Lightning Seeds et al and to hell with it.

1. Electric Light Orchestra – Dont Bring Me Down (Best rocker ELO ever did)
2. Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast (Really hard to choose, but this clinched it)
3. ZZ Top – I Need You Tonight (Not one of their well-known hits, but a superb track from the “Eliminator” LP)
4. Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild
5. AC/DC – Highway To Hell
6. Blue Oyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Awesomeness in a song, but you MUST have the full length version. The single edit cut out the entire guitar solo)
7. Rainbow – Since You Been Gone (Brilliant vocals by Graham Bonnet)
8. Boston – More Than A Feeling
9. Saxon – Wheels of Steel (How these guys aren’t as popular as they should be is beyond me). saxon – wheels of steel
10. Gary Moore & Phil Lynott – Out in the Fields
11. Queen – I Want It All
12. Volbeat – Heaven Nor Hell (Stomping song from their latest LP)
13. Motorhead – The One To Sing The Blues
14. The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again (Especialy in its full 8 minute glory)
15. The Offspring – Gone Away (Just brilliant)
16. Thin Lizzy – Dancing In The Moonlight (No, not that godawful Toploader song, this is bloody marvellous)
17. Thunderclap Newman – Something In The Air
18. Chris Rea – Looking for the Summer
19. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (The hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I hear this)
20. Wilson Pickett – Mustang Sally
21. Howlin’ Wolf – Smokestack Lightning
22. The Allman Brothers – Jessica (Yes, it’s the Top Gear theme tune, but before it was used for that it was a staple in their live shows)
23. 10cc – Rubber Bullets
24. Talking Heads – And She Was
25. Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (Fantastic. And I can play it)
26. The Smiths – How Soon Is Now
27. Stone Roses – I Wanna Be Adored
28. The Lightning Seeds – Change (Yes, my favourite band and one of the best singles)
29. The Stranglers – Golden Brown
30. The Jam – A Town Called Malice
31. Supertramp – Logical Song
32. Supergrass – Moving
33. America – A Horse With No Name
34. John Lee Hooker – Boom Boom Boom
35. Bo Diddley – Mona
36. Deep Purple – Black Night (Tell me this isn’t a great riff and I’ll slap you silly)
37. Cream – Sunshine of Your Love
38. The Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?
39. Blondie – Heart of Glass (Debbie Harry…. oh Debbie, my first pin-up. And I love the song. Obviously)
40. Sophie Ellis Bextor – Today The Sun’s On Us (Sophie… oh Sophie… my favourite pin-up. And again, I love the song. Obviously)
41. Calvin Harris – I’m Not Alone
42. New Order – True Faith (In my mind the best single and music promo video ever released)
43. Paul McCartney – Pretty Little Head (An obscure one, no one has heard of it. Experimental and fucking brilliant, end of)
44. OMD – Enola Gay
45. The Cure – Lullaby
46. Crowded House – Recurring Dream (Live favourite and B-side, never formally released until bits and bobs album “Afterglow”)
47. Electronic – Getting Away With It
48. Fleetwood Mac – Gypsy
49. Bob Marley – Three Little Birds
50. Split Enz – The Devil You Know
51. Terry Hall – Grief Disguised As Joy (You really should check out the album this came off, Home. Produced by Ian Broudie)
52. The Korgis – Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime
53. Blur – The Universal
54. Astrud Gilberto – The Girl From Ipanema
55. Peggy Lee – Fever
56. Imelda May – Johnny Got a Boom Boom (If you haven’t got into Imelda May yet, then why not?)
57. Tim Finn – Persuasion (Seeing this live is one of those goose-bump moments)
58. Suzanne Vega – Luka
59. Johnny Cash – One
60. Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill
61. The Corrs – Only When I Sleep
62. Queensryche – Silent Lucidity
63. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Refugee
64. Neil Finn – King Tide
65. Lindsey Buckingham – Trouble
66. World Party – Is It Like Today?
67. Ian Broudie – Song For No One
68. George Michael – Waiting For That Day
69. Stereophonics – Dakota
70. Goldfrapp – Rocket
71. The Chemical Brothers – The Private Psychedelic Reel
72. Faithless – Insomnia
73. The Prodigy – Climbatise
74. The Specials – Ghost Town
75. Space – Female of the Species
76. Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band – Canyons of your Mind (Youtube this today, it’s wonderful)
77. Stevie wonder – Boogie on Reggae Woman
78. Michael Jackson – Beat It
79. Lady GaGa – Again, Again (I cannot stop playing this)
80. Guns n’ Roses – Paradise City
81. Rolling Stones – Miss You
82. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama
83. Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing
84. Small Faces – All or Nothing
85. Paul Weller – Out of the sinking
86. George Harrison – That’s What it Takes
87. David Bowie – Ashes To Ashes
88. Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence
89. Monaco – What Do You Want From Me
90. Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule the World
91. Ultravox – Vienna
92. Outkast – Hey Ya!
93. Greenday – Longview
94. Therapy? – Screamager
95. Rammstein – Sehnsucht
96. Slipknot – Psychosocial
97. Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
98. Jimi Hendrix – All Along The Watchtower (So much better than Bob Dylan’s original it’s embarrassing)
99. Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven (‘Nuff said)
100. The Beatles – Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End (Medley) (Just about the best way to end an album ever)

Phew, finished. And it was a lot harder than anticipated. I’ve also come to the conclusion that I need to get out more. And on the flip side of that, get more sleep.
However, if you’ve got a top 100 CD compilation you’ve made like that, I’d like to see it. Send it across!

Night night for now.

June 11, 2011 Posted by | Music | 3 Comments

Electronic – Getting Away With It

Whilst I still have the chance to do so I shall continue my oversupply of blog writing that no-one wants to read. And for this entry I shall return to the world of music and for what I see as one of the best pop songs ever written, and for that I will accept no argument. The song – Getting Away With It by Electronic.

Electronic started out as a solo project for Bernard Sumner as he was frustrated with New Order’s lack of reception to his synth and programming ideas. Deciding not to go it alone, he but enlisted the help of Johnny Marr (The Smiths) with whom he had previously worked. Signed to Factory Records, who Sumner was already signed with New Order, the first creation of their collaboration was Getting Away With It.

It was released in 1989, a full 18 months before the debut album. It was written by Sumner, Marr and Electronic’s occasional collaborator Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys). Sumner and Tennant wrote the words, Sumner and Marr wrote the music. It received critical acclaim and was certainly popular, selling around a quarter of a million copies on its initial release. There were many versions of the song on a multitude of formats – different 7″ and 12″ vinyl versions and CD versions were available with remixes and instrumental takes of the song, scattered here and there. Two different videos were made, once of which you can watch at the bottom of this page. Don’t go there just yet, I haven’t finished boring you! Get back here! Thankyou.

With lead vocals sung by Bernard Sumner and backup vocals from Neil Tennant, it is quite a simple song with a piano and synthesized bass intro with live drums kicking in a moment later. Johnny Marr adds a lovely bit of understated rhythm guitar, and also gives us a rare guitar solo. The production is very glossy and is pretty typical of late 1980s/early 1990s. There’s also a full orchestra on the record, conducted by Art of Noise’s Anne Dudley. It has to be said though that the song and its sound has dated very well indeed.

It’s also got pretty dry lyrics too. As mentioned previously they were written by both Sumner and Tennant, but the story goes is that they are an attempt to parody the public persona of Marr’s old musical collaborator, good old fun-loving, smiley-smiley Morrissey.

So, we’ve established that it’s a pretty simple pop song with simple ingredients and dry lyrics. But that’s what makes it so compelling. I’ve played this song so many times since I first heard it and I have never, ever grown tired of it and never likely to. The verses are memorable and the chorus makes you want to play the song over and over. Which I do, probably to the annoyance of everyone around me but I’m not particularly arsed about that. Listen to it once and I defy anyone who won’t sing along with this song, or have at least the chorus stuck in their heads for weeks, maybe even years after. I still am twenty years after I first heard it.

The version to listen to is the original version. Don’t bother with the remixes, although the instrumental version is good to just hear the music. Original is best, so here it is ladies and gentlemen (why I’ve pluralized there I don’t know, that should read “so here it is my one regular reader”), the video for Getting Away With It. Enjoy…

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

Volbeat – Still Counting

Volbeat are relatively new band to me, only really being turned on to them within the last 18 months thanks to a mate. Vol who I hear you ask? Well, they’re a band that were formed in Copenhagen by Michael Poulsen and their musical style seems to fuse heavy metal with rockabilly, blues, rock ‘n’ roll and punk.

Since their formation they have released four studio albums. Their first album The Strength / The Sound / The Songs was released in 2005 to critical acclaim and some award-winning. Their follow-up second album Rock The Rebel / Metal The Devil was released in 2007, a year which also saw Volbeat support Metallica and Megadeth live. 2009 saw the release of Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood, again to much European success. Their most up to date album Above Heaven/Beyond Hell picks up where Guitar Gangsters left off and was released in 2010.

Having got the entire Volbeat back catalogue, there is one particular song that stands out. It is not necessarily my all-time favourite Volbeat song by them but it is up there. The song is “Still Counting” and is from the Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood album. Still Counting is probably one of Volbeat’s more immediate songs the whole song has great guitar and drum sounds throughout. It starts off with a great sounding guitar lick, followed by some simple drums then with Michael Poulsen’s distinct vocals coming in with a bang a moment later. Then at around 50 seconds it all breaks loose.

Why do I like it so much? Well, put bluntly it kicks ass. It’s the song that introduced me to Volbeat in the first place. It’s great to listen to wherever you are, but it’s one of those songs that is great to have on in the car. You know the scenario, back roads, summers day, window open, full blast, singing at the top of your voice (although when I am singing it at the top of my voice you certainly won’t want to be in the same car as me as I’m totally tone-deaf). What’s more, it’s also the song that got my wife into Volbeat. Even better than that, she’s eight months pregnant and my as yet unborn son reacts to this more than anything else.

What’s the best version? As with most kinds of music, hearing the song live is the best. There is a cracking version from 2010’s Rock AM Ring set included below, as is the studio version. I may have been able to comment on actually seeing it played live as I was due to see Volbeat live in Bristol last December with the mate that got me into them. Sadly, due to Michael Poulsen being ill and hospitalised they had to cancel. So I expect the next time they arrange a UK tour I’ll more than likely be at the nearest gig.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Still Counting:

Here is the studio version:

Catch a live version at the Rock Am Ring here:

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

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