Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Live At Leeds (Deluxe Edition)– The Who


Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine

Hear samples of the album Here

I have a few live albums, most act as a good record of a band’s performance at the time, but rarely will a live album excite. This album is different, there is something very special about it.

Yes, it’s a great live document, but I think this album outshines anything The Who ever did in the studio. This is The Who, raw and naked. All four personalities are at the forefront on this album and you get to chose who you want to listen to without the rest of the band drowning out your attention.

Sometimes I may just chose to listen to Keith Moon’s drums on ‘Sparks’, Pete Townshend’s guitar on ‘Young Man Blues’, John Entwistle’s bass on ‘My Generation’, Roger Daltery’s vocals on ‘We’re Not Going To Take It/See Me Hear Me’! And here’s a notion, I may even chose to listen to all four on ‘Heaven And Hell’!!! You can take what you want from this album for the pure fact that it has something for everyone.

I originally acquired this album back in 1984. I didn’t buy it, I was given it by a friend who didn’t have a record player. The record itself had been re-release on a budget label, I know that as it still had the ‘Nice Price’ £2.99 sticker on it! My cheap, very flexible vinyl record was a re-release of the original album released in 1970 with the following track list;

Side 1:

  1. Young Man Blues
  2. Substitute
  3. Summertime Blues
  4. Shakin’ All Over

Side 2:

  1. My Generation
  2. Magic Bus

I always felt that the album didn’t have a natural running order, it felt like the tracks didn’t flowed into each other to transform the album into a single piece of work, it was all very ‘bits and pieces’.

In 1995 the album was remastered and re-released. This time the track list was expanded to include Heaven and Hell, I Can’t Explain, Fortune Teller, Tattoo, Happy Jack, I’m A Boy, A Quick One While He’s Away and Amazing Journey/Sparks.

Finally, In 2001, the Deluxe version was released. This included the 1995 remastered album plus a second disc which featured a live performance of ‘Tommy’, minus ‘Cousin Kevin", "Underture", "Sensation", and "Welcome" which were omitted from the live performance.

In the 2001 Deluxe edition I now feel that I am experiencing a Who concert at a time when they were most powerful. The album flows, you can feel the atmosphere (helped by the inclusion of chat and banter), you can imagine being there.

At the start of this piece I said that there are not many live albums which really excite, The Who Live At Leeds excites!

The Who Live at Leeds 2--BBC Look North

Monday, 26 January 2009

Zilch - Shack




Album Review – Shacknet

The Magical World Of Michael Head

Official Website

Surprisingly, not one track from Zilch was included on Shack’s ‘Best Of’, ‘Time Machine’. Surprising to me because this album meant so much to me, it was the soundtrack to my life as a 21 year old student living in Liverpool. I must have listened to it a thousand times back in 1988, it was never out of my tape machine. I knew all the words, all the guitar parts and living in Liverpool at the time, knew, most importantly, what the songs were about about and where they came from.

Stand out tracks – Well all of them!! Emergency" / "Someone's Knocking" / "John Kline" / "I Need You" / "Realization" / "High Rise Low Life" / "Who Killed Clayton Square?" / "Who'd Believe it?" / "What's it Like..." / "The Believers"

So how did I find Shack? Well it all started when I went to see Echo & The Bunnymen at the National Ballroom Kilburn on the ‘Songs To Learn and Sing’ tour. The support band that night were ‘The Pale Fountains’. I won’t go too deeply into this story as I want to save it for The Pale Fountains’ ‘From Across The Kitchen Table’ album, but let’s just say that when my friend, Robert and I, who played together in a band, heard The Pale Fountains for the first time, looked at each other and said ‘this is what we want to sound like’!

In 1986 I moved to Liverpool to study at the Polytechnic, now John Moores University. I found out that the Pale Fountain’s were playing at a club called the ‘Mardi Gras’ and bought my ticket. My memory fails me somewhat here, but it was either a few days prior to the gig or the actual night itself when I turned up at the ‘Mardi’ to find an A4 sheet of paper stuck to the upstairs entrance to the club announcing that the gig was cancelled. I then heard that they had disbanded. So that was it, no more Pale Fountains.

About a year later I was visiting my friend, Paul Morris. He’d been a Pale Fountains fan from the start, owning the 12”s of ‘Thank You’ and ‘Palm Off My Hand’ which, incidentally, I now own after swapping ‘Oblivious’ and ‘Still On Fire’ 12 inchers by Aztec Camera!!! He handed me a cassette of Zilch by Shack telling me that this was the new band of Michael and John Head, ex Pale Fountains. Paul lent me that tape which I kept for the next year. When I offered it back he told me that I could keep it, I’d had it so long that he’d gone out and bought a new copy for himself!

Other Shack related memories

One night at the ‘Mardi Gras’ I met a girl named Sarah Thomas,  short bobbed red head, think she was doing textiles at the fashion school. We became close and started going out. She was pally with the band so from time to time we’d go onto parties with them after the club had kicked out. I remember one night being loaded into the back of the band’s box van/lorry which had all their gear in it and heading across Liverpool to a party that we’d heard was on. Upon arrival we all bundled into the house to find about 5 people sitting in front of the TV watching a video! Suffice to say we drank all their beer and eat all their food and left!!


I remember seeing Mick and John playing an acoustic set at a Lesbian benefit in a club on Hardman Street. I still have the ticket! I remember being a little disappointed that it wasn’t the full band. That disappointment was washed away as soon as they started to play. It was brilliant and made even better by the intimate atmosphere. If I remember correctly, I nicked the set list that night and my mate Ian nicked a pedal switch thinking that it was an effects pedal!!!

On another occasion I saw them play at Bluecoats. I remember they had TV screens on each side of the stage showing a looped film of someone wearing a pair of Doc Marten boots, stamping. Think it was from the ‘High Rise Low Life’ single cover. The gig was packed and I had trouble seeing the band, to make matters worse Mick Head seemed to spend more time on his knees than I’d ever seen before!!!

Another memorable thing about this gig was that on the way in you could get the old ‘suede head’ cut from the most well known barber in Liverpool, Victor! I chose not to get my hair cut that night as Victor had cut it a few day previously! I wonder if he is still around???

Shack 1988 Interview with Mick and John Head – Includes Emergency and High Rise Low Life Videos

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim - Pixies



Album Review -

First of all let’s get the Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim issue out of the way. Yes I know that they are 2 separate pieces of work, Come On Pilgrim (mini album) released September 1987 and Surfer Rosa (debut album) released March 1988. However when I bought the album on CD, both albums were included on the same disc so I do not differentiate between the two, I see them as one brilliant and seamless album.

I was first introduced to Pixies in 1988 whilst living in Liverpool. One of my house mates, Tony Paris, had bought the tape of Surfer Rosa and lent it to me. I must have played that tape about a thousand times and probably wore it out! The music on Surfer Rosa was different from anything I’d heard before. The progression in chords, majors to minors, sharps to flats on places where they shouldn’t be! Of course now it’s common place, listen to Nevermind by Nirvana and Pixies influence is written all over it.

The image of the band was also different. Pixies were not trying to be rock stars or rock gods, there were just a group of very talented normal looking people who wouldn’t turn a head if you passed them in the street. In fact the reason they chose the name ‘Pixies’ is because the wanted the least rock n roll band name that they could come up with, joking that it was either ‘Pixies’ or ‘Lords Of Destruction’!

All of the songs on this album have something about them, all classics. Obviously I have favourites and least favourite songs, this does not mean that the least favourites are rubbish. For instance I’ve never really liked ‘Gigantic’ probably because my name is Paul and I always hated the way Kim Deal would sing ‘Hey Pawl, Hey Pawl, Hey Pawl, let’s have a Bawl’. But it is a pop masterpiece.


I’ve seen Pixies live many times. Here are a few memories of live performances.

First saw Pixies at Glastonbury at about 1400 in the afternoon. They had been on tour with the Throwing Muses as a 4AD package. At Glastonbury they played before the Throwing Muses as was the order of appearance on tour. As Pixies popularity increased it was Pixies who, by the end of the tour, were headlining!

National Ballroom – Kilburn (Doolittle Tour) – The band played their set backwards. They came on, played ‘Into The White’, their usual encore and then walked off for 10 minutes whilst we cheered and clapped, trying to get them back on the stage. They eventually can back on and completed the set list, backwards!!!

Gloucester Leisure Centre (Bossanova Tour) with Andy Tubb and Lizzie Weller. I remember sitting on the lighting scaffolding at the back of the hall whilst the support band ‘Bark Market’ played. To our left, sitting on the same scaffolding was Black Francis! I didn’t say anything to him, I just was very, very aware!

Reading Festival – 1990 (Bossanova) – Whilst trying to get the best view of the band we, or Lizzie ended up sitting on top of an Ice Cream van!!! (Lizzie can you verify this? Or was it The Fall??).

Other gigs included the Trompe Le Monde tour, Crystal Palace Bowl, supported by Ride and finally Reading 2005 after they had reformed.

Something Against You - 1988

Caribou - 1988

Ed Is Dead – 1988

Broken Face – 1986

Monday, 19 January 2009

Document – R.E.M.



Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine - 22 October 1987

Hear samples of the album HERE

My first REM album. I bought it whilst living in Liverpool on the back of hearing ‘The One I Love’. I loved everything about the song, the melody, the guitars (always the main attractor for me) and surprisingly, the voice. I’d seen REM a couple of years prior to the release of Document on ‘The Tube’ (Reckoning period), loved the music but hated the singer’s voice! Listening to Reckoning now I still try to work out what it was about Michael Stipe’s voice that I didn’t like, perhaps it was just a bad performance but to me he sounded like an Alabama Smurf!

As per usual, the purchase of this album lead to the purchase of the complete back catalogue. Listening to the albums you can really hear the bands development and trace the direction they were taking. These can be grouped into 3 phases;

1. Chronic Town, Murmur, Reckoning – Jangly arpeggio guitar. Songs like South Central Rain, (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville, Radio Free Europe

2. Fables Of The Reconstruction – Cross over between 1 and 3 – Heavier guitar sound introduces itself with Feeling Gravity’s Pull.

3. Life’s Rich Pageant, Document – harder guitar, edgier sound – Finest Worksong, Begin The Begin, Oddfellows Local 151.

Choosing between Document and Life’s Rich Pageant was difficult as both albums are brilliant but Document just scrapes it for me with songs like Exhuming McCarthy and Welcome To The Occupation, very tight!

In my opinion ‘Green’ was the last great REM album. They went downhill in my eyes after that. Even ‘Automatic For The People’ didn’t do it for me. It was not until  2008’s ‘Accelerate’ that REM caught my attention again. Let’s hope they have learnt their lesson! ;0)

The One I Love

 The Finest Worksong

Friday, 16 January 2009

Crocodiles – Echo and the Bunnymen



Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine - 16 April 1981

‘Surely you mean Ocean Rain’ I hear some of you say! Regarded by many as the classic Bunnymen album, but not for me, I never really liked it. There’s one or two good songs on it but for me it’s not the complete package.

‘Crocodiles’ on the other hand has everything! I listened to the album today whilst walking to work and again on the way home. The songs are as fresh as they were back in ‘81, they haven’t lost any of their edginess.

I suppose one reason why I prefer ‘Crocodiles’ to ‘Ocean Rain’, and this applies to a lot of bands, is that bands can move from new, fresh innovative sounds of there first recordings into a horrible MOR mainstream sounds pretty quickly. The sound on ‘Crocodiles’ is the sound that the band wanted when they started out as young musicians. The sound which attracted a following and eventual recording contract. An exciting sound! Once a band has an established career then they develop their sound and head in different directions, sometimes, as with Ocean Rain, in a direction that I don’t wish to follow. Good examples of bands who have fallen into this trap are REM, all that awful pushing of elephants up the stairs etc and my personal pet hate, The Killers! ‘Ocean Rain’ moved too far away from what I liked about Echo & The Bunnymen, ironically to the sound that they are best known for!

Reading back on this it sounds like I think that ‘Ocean Rain’ is dull MOR shit, which of course it isn’t , it just doesn’t have enough of what I like!!


Stand out songs are;

‘Crocodiles’ - first heard this when watching a televised concert in Liverpool, Crystal Day (see youtube clip below). Loved the way the band would bring the sound down whilst Ian McCulloch did his ’do you know how to dance like Bony Maloney, It goes like this, It goes like this, it goes like this, it goes like this!!!!’ the band building up until exploding into a guitar frenzy!! Goose bump time for me!!!

‘Rescue’ – Should have been number one in the hit parade, proper good song.

‘All That Jazz’ and ‘Villiers Terrace’ although this is not my favourite version, there’s a far better acoustic version on the B side of ‘Seven Seas’. (see youtube clip below.


I’ve seen Echo & The Bunnymen play many times over the years. Stand out performance for me was Glastonbury 1985 when they performed a set of covers. Television’s ‘Friction’, The Doors ‘Soul Kitchen’, The Velvet Underground’s ‘There She Goes Again’ and Dylan;s ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ to name but a few.

I also attended that final Echo & The Bunnymen gig (Liverpool Empire 1988) before Ian McCulloch left the band. This was a great gig and made even better for the fact that they played nearly all of ‘Heaven Up Here’!

Links - Great discography, has the lot

Echo & The Bunnymen - Official Site

Rescue – Live in Sefton Park 1982

Crocodiles – Crystal Days – St Georges Hall

Villiers Terrace - Broadcast on 25/09/1984 as part of Channel 4's Play At Home series.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Bakesale – seBADoh



Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine - 1st December 1994

Hear samples of the album HERE

Bakesale is not going to be the only album by Sebadoh to be found in my top 50, in fact I’ll be surprised if I don’t end up including all of them! Sebadoh are one of my favourite bands of the last 20 years, to me they are the lo-fi equivalent of The Beatles! I really rate them that highly.

I first heard Sebadoh whilst sitting in a pub in Shepherds Bush, I think I was going to a gig at the Empire, possibly Buffalo Tom. My friend Jason Tilbrook came in for a pint, he got out his personal stereo and said listen to this. The track he played me was a David Crosby song called ‘Burned’, Sebadoh had covered it on the seBADoh Vs Helmet album. From that moment I was taken by them. My liking for them was cemented when I discovered that the singer, Lou Barlow had been the bass player in Dinosaur Jr, That’s right the floppy haired one in the Freak Scene video!!!!

Of course me being me, I went out and bought the whole back catalogue and continued to buy albums as they came out.

Bakesale splits the song writing talents of Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein. Both have very different styles, Lou is sensitive and intense whilst Jason provides the louder, rockier songs, delivered with a surprising sensitivity that Lou would be proud of. Bakesale isn’t so much poppy as catchy in a poppy/non poppy way. All they song have great hook lines and great melodies. For me this is the first album where Jason Loewenstein’s song writing comes to the fore giving Lou Barlow a real run for his money!

Stand out track for me are Magnet’s Coil, Not Too Amused, Drama Mine and the beautiful Together Or Alone.

Bakesale Tour

I saw Sebadoh at The Garage, Highbury on the Bakesale tour. It was the 8th April 1994 the day Kurt Cobain’s body was discovered. Sebadoh where due to support Nirvana on the In Utero tour later that month. I remember Sebadoh dedicating two songs to Kurt, Soul and Fire (Bubble and Scrape) and Junk Bonds (Rocking The Forest), the latter being a ferocious drone rock rampage, very apt, very ape.


Loobiecore - Lou Barlow website - Jason Loewenstein

Sebadoh – Rebound

Sebadoh – Skull

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division




Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine - 28th May 1981

Hear samples of the album HERE

I got into Joy Division in a big way quite late on. I’d been aware of them for a long time but didn’t really know much by them and hadn’t taken time to really listen to them.

I first saw them on a Granada Tv compilation film featuring all the main punk bands who had played in the north, 1976 through to 1979. These included, amongst others, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Buzzcocks, The Jam, Elvis Costello and Joy Division.

The show included 3 Joy Division songs, Shadowplay, She’s Lost Control and Transmission all of which are included further down this blog. It was the first time that I had seen members of New Order in their previous band so gave all of my attention to them and not the man, centre stage doing the funny dance!

I had videoed the programme so watched it over and over again, switching my attention from Bernard Sumner’s guitar to the performance of Ian Curtis. The performances were so intense, so powerful and so exciting.


In 1988 I bought Substance – This is was my first Joy Division record, a ‘best of’ which was so accessible and immediate. Each song familiar on first listening. Songs such as Warsaw with it’s 3,5,0,1,2,5, Go! count in. The great thing about this ‘best of’ was that all the songs were pretty easy to play on my guitar. I spent hours playing along to the CD copying Barney’s guitar note for note. In fact I still play Leaders Of Men on my acoustic, Joy Division meets Fairport Convention!!


Now I finally arrive at Unknown Pleasures. Although I love Closer, this album is still fresh, still riveting. The build and layers of the music is simple and effective. It’s the kind of music that I would want to play if I was in a band. It’s inspiring and not at all miserable!

Ian Cutis liked this album, Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner did not! They were not happy with Martin Hannett’s production, taking away the biting guitars and the punk attitude. Listening to the Warsaw album (Demo’s and RCA sessions) I think Hannett got it right. Punk was on it’s way out, something new was just about to arrive…..


Recommended Reading 

Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures" (33 1/3) by Chris Ott

Touching From A Distance by Deborah Curtis

House Of Dolls by Ka-Tzetnik

Recommended Film


Joy Division - Directed by Grant Gee

Joy Division – Shadowplay

Joy Division – She’s Lost Control

Joy Division – Transmission (although not on Unknown Pleasure I just had to add it!)

Monday, 12 January 2009

Hunky Dory – David Bowie



Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine - 6th January 1972

Hear samples of the album HERE

So why Hunky Dory by David Bowie?? Well I was actually listening to this album when I decided to put my list together. A brilliant album packed with great songs, in fact there is not one song on this album I don’t like as opposed to other classic Bowie albums which have at least one dodgy track (The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust’s ‘It Ain’t Easy’, Aladdin Sane ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ and Diamond Dogs’ ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me).

Songs like Oh! You Pretty Things, Life On Mars, Quicksand and of course the song I love most ‘Queen Bitch’.

Mickey Mouse


I remember falling in love with Life On Mars as a kid all because of the line ‘It's on America's tortured brow that Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow’!!! I don’t think I really appreciated the song for what it really was, Mickey Mouse made the difference!!

Queen Bitch – Old Grey Whistle Test - 8th February 1972

Oh! You Pretty Things - Old Grey Whistle Test - 8th February 1972

Life On Mars?