Thursday, December 22, 2011

Love That Album Episode 9 - Matthew Sweet - Altered Girlfriend


For the final Love That Album episode of 2011, my special guest, Julian Gillis, and I discuss our fave albums of the year and then shoot the shit about Matthew Sweet’s two brilliant slices of power pop, “Girlfriend” and “Altered Beast”. These albums are musically sunny and lyrically overcast. There’s some complex stuff going on in Matthew’s head. Does he have stalker tendencies? What is his interest in Caligula? All this and more to be discussed. Plus a musical surprise from The Ice Haloes.
Download from iTunes (search for "lovethatalbum") or download / stream from this blogsite.

Happy holidays everyone, and thanks for your support this year in both blog entries and podcasts.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Love That Album podcast Episode 8 - Quadrophenia



This is a really big shooo. The longest Love That Album so far. I'm joined by co-host of the Silva and Gold podcast, Doctor Zom to discuss The Who's "Quadrophenia". We discuss in a lot of detail both the double album from 1973 (just re-released in November 2011 in a multi CD "Director's Cut" edition) and the 1978 film directed by Franc Roddam featuring a very young Ray Winstone and Sting in an excellent acting performance (filmed during the early days of the Police). Is this the Who's masterwork? Is it better than Tommy (yes!!!!!!)? Is the story celebrating the ideals of youth or is it about a bunch of self-absorbed prats with fashion sense? Listen in and hear Zom and myself ask these and more earth shattering questions. Send feedback to rrrkitchen@yahoo.com.au or leave feedback at itunes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Love That Album - Episode 7 - Joe Jackson Night & Day

For this episode of Love That Album, I’m working without the safety net of a co-host to bounce thoughts off. I discuss Joe Jackson’s album of 1982 “Night & Day”. Recorded only 3 years after his punky-pop debut “Look Sharp”, Jackson’s musical thoughts are miles away from his early style. More focussed on jazz, samba and piano ballads than punk, pop and ska, Night & Day is a modern musical masterpiece. I go through my thoughts on the album, career highlights, and his essay advocating smokers’ rights!!!! No ordinary civil rights advocacy for our Joe.
As usual you can download from this site, stream on this site (look to the right hand side of the page) or type in "lovethatalbum into iTunes.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Love That Album - Episode 6 - The Doors' L.A. Woman



I'm joined by Melbourne broadcaster and rock-guru Billy Pinnell for a discussion about The Doors' final album with Jim Morrison. Heavy on blues. No Oedipus allusions here. Was Paul Rothschild right to say Riders on the Storm was cocktail music? Is there too much focus on Morrison and not enough on Kreiger, Densmore and Manzarek? Was Morrison saying farewell to the Doors in song through this album?

As usual you can download from this site, stream on this site (look to the right hand side of the page) or type in "lovethatalbum into iTunes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Love That Album podcast episode 5 - Steve Earle "El Corazon"


Episode 5 of the Love That Album podcast sees myself and Earle fan Geoff Smith debating the merits of El Corazon, where it stands in line with his other albums and discussing Earle's passion for politics, Woody Guthrie, and a love song. The man knows a thing or two about love - hell, he's been married 7 times so he should!!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pat Metheny Group - First Circle





Apparently, Frank Zappa was quoted as saying that writing about music is like dancing to architecture. An article I read on Wikipedia has attributed it (or variations) to a number of quotable people. If that’s so, how much more difficult then is my task to write about an album without the luxury of lyrics? Yet, these articles are less music analysis and more how the music has made me feel. Could Zappa hold me to account for that?
Nearly 30 years ago, I made friends with a guy called Steve who, for the second time in my life, altered the bedrock I’d based all my musical perceptions on.
In a previous article, I’d described the first such change when a school friend played me the Beatles’ version of Twist and Shout, after I’d lived with mainly classical music for all of my then 10 years. Apart from some guidance my sisters and their folk records, I rampaged through the world of rock and pop – both good and bad – till Steve led me down a new musical path at the age of 17. When he scoffed at my love of artists like The Tubes and Rick Wakeman (or at least my perception that they were a genuine quality alternative to the Pina Colada song or whatever else top 40 radio was dishing out), he loaned me a record by the guitar trio of Al Dimeola, John McLaughlin and Paco DeLucia called “Friday Night In San Francisco”.
“Can people DO that with a guitar?” I kept asking rhetorically after listening to that album countless times? I had not yet entered the world of jazz or guitar histrionics, and this was like a nuclear bomb being dropped on my musical landscape. This was a supergroup. It was flashy and show-offy, yes, but there were melodies that I found absorbing. I bought my own copy and played it over and over.
Of course, it was only an evil side-step from the guitar trio to jazz-fusion with all its excess. Jean-Luc Ponty, Return To Forever….they were my new interests. However, to bastardise an interesting phrase, jazz-fusion was a brief madness.
Yet, I still hadn’t discovered other forms of jazz of which I eventually became smitten with. When the million notes per minute offered by jazz fusion became a bit tiresome however, there was an artist whose music wasn’t quite jazz, wasn’t rock, and wasn’t a fusion of the two. There were elements of the forms, but there were elements of country and Latin in his music. I’m talking about the guitarist with the world’s largest striped t-shirt collection – Pat Metheny.
My mate Rani loaned me an album called “Travels” by the Pat Metheny Group. Unlike traditional jazz which would have a form of the soloist playing a theme for a verse, a variation on the theme, improvising like crazy over the band, then returning to the theme at the end, Metheny’s music seemed to have a more compositional structure (if that’s a valid phrase). There were definitely moments for improvisation by Metheny and his long-time pianist Lyle Mays, but there was an almost classical structure to the frame of his music. With my lifetime love of classical music, it wasn’t too hard to fall for his music.
The Pat Metheny Group for all its ongoing personnel changes (and there have been many) have a sound that’s completely recognisable. Metheny’s guitar and Mays’ piano (the two consistent elements) help shape that sound. The other element that makes his music recognisable is the use of the voice as an instrument. From the late 1970s, Metheny would use very distinctive sounding vocalists starting with Nana Vasconcelos and then Pedro Aznar for a number of years. They always contributed to the ”Metheny sound”. 
Back in 1985, the Pat Metheny Group toured Australia for what (till now) has been their only tour here. They were touring off the back of what was to be their final album for the brilliant ECM record label – their final one for ECM - “First Circle”. We’re all used to tour advertisements with endorsements as to the “brilliance” of the artist. The posters for the Metheny tour claimed his guitar playing was like “the wind blowing through the trees of heaven”.  Normally, I’d roll my eyes at such a pretentiously worded accolade. In the light of the guitar machismo of some of the jazz-fusion musicians of the time, however, this made perfect sense to me about Metheny.  The music breathed, and was full of gorgeous melodies. Metheny could play the strings off any of his contemporaries (in my opinion), but he served the composition, not his ego.
The concert I saw in Melbourne opened up with the first tune from First Circle called “Forward March”. On record it didn’t make any sense. It sounded like a demented circus march of a herd of wounded elephants (I’ll return to the elephant theme soon) or a rehearsal by the Portsmouth Sinfonia. In concert, however, it was a perfect show opener.  Mays was on trumpet, Bassist Steve Rodby took the bass drum, and Aznar played a kiddie xylophone. Brilliant drummer Paul Wertico played march time on the snare, and Sgt. Metheny led them with one of his weird sounding synthesizer guitars. The members of the band entered the auditorium from the various foyer doors, not stage side. They all marched onto stage and their (deliberately) awful playing combined with the surprise of the entrance was funny. I can now happily listen to that on the album, thanks to the memories of that show.
Forward March” was definitely a novelty, and yet it had a purpose. While the Pat Metheny Group are all serious musicians, this was no hardcore jazz purists’ band. They want to entertain you. They want you to smile (I’ve never seen a musician look as happy as Metheny does). For all its novelty, “Forward March” made its audience smile right from the word go.
The album then launches into “Yolanda, You Learn”, an uptempo  4/4 tune. Paul Wertico sets the pace with a driving bass / snare / half open high hat rock combination playing sixteenths on the hats. The melody itself just sticks in your head, because it sort of sounds like a child’s nursery rhyme – set to a rock beat. Hugely catchy.
The whole album is beautiful and memorable, but allow me to bring two more highlights. The title track is a 9 minute ray of sunshine that works with clever time signature changes (well, they wanted to use their jazz chops somewhere). It opens up with the group performing a pattern of hand claps for a number of bars. It sounds like a bar of 6/4 followed by a bar of 5/4 (Jazz.com says the tune is in 22/8 – how could I have not picked THAT?). Pedro Aznar sings the main wordless melody over the claps in some sort of contra time (but I ain’t educated enough to work it out), and you just know that this piece is going to be special. The claps break away and there’s a section - a movement perhaps - with Mays and Metheny playing a gentle melody before the whole band launches into the main tune. Pedro returns to sing the main melody for the last 3 minutes or so, and he sounds like he’s reaching some sort of ecstasic peak. Word of warning – if you listen to this tune and don’t feel elated by the end, check your pulse.
The other highlight is the album closer, “Praise”. By this point, I really am beginning to feel that Frank Zappa’s description of music writing may be true. I can tell you “Praise” is in 4/4. I can tell you it starts in the key of D, then modulates to E. I can tell you it’s a medium tempo tune. None of this conveys what the tune is about. What I can say is that like First Circle, it makes me feel stupidly happy. There are some seriously beautiful melodies here. It may be the Pat Metheny Group, but “Praise” belongs to Pedro Aznar and his soaring voice. The word beautiful has been overused, but “Praise” truly is. Hairs standing on the back of the neck.
After First Circle, the Metheny Group left ECM and Pat divided his time between the PMG and many side projects playing with the likes of John Scofield, Brad Mehldau, Jim Hall and Ornette Coleman. I confess to not being a fan of his Coleman collaboration, Song X. The music sounds to me like elephants fornicating. I still respect him for making an album like that, though. The important thing is that Pat Metheny can’t be tied down to the one sound of the PMG, as brilliant as that sound is. He’s forever experimenting, and in an ideal world, his compositional and guitar playing skills would make him a household name. All I can suggest in the mean time is for you to search out First Circle, or any of his other wonderful albums and make yourself smile. Try to describe how it makes you feel…. but don't try dancing near a building while doing it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Love That Album - Episode 4 - Circus Animals from the East


CHISELLLLLLLLL!!!!! How many Australians who grew up in the early 80s would yell that out whenever one of their songs came on top 40 radio. How many of us still yell it out thanks to golden hits radio. Behind their iconic status however, was a band who played a passionate blues based rock with great musicianship, and keenly observant lyrics about growing up in Australia. Rolling Stone allegedly compared them (unfavourably!!!!!) to Ray Charles and Led Zeppelin. Sounds like great influencs to me.

In episode 4 of Love That Album, Jeff Jenkins and I discuss Cold Chisel and the music behind their two most popular albums, East and Circus Animals. Download it from this blog page or search for "lovethatalbum" in itunes.

Right click to download episode 4 here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Getting The Knack - Podcast episode 3




Yes, I know I've written a lengthy article on the subject, but in episode 3 of Love That Album, Jeff Jenkins and I discuss why Get The Knack is a classic album, and should not be reviled by the shoe-gazing, too-cool-for-school, Nirvana-loving hipsters. Think about it - if My Sharona makes the Knack a one-hit-wonder, what does that say about Smells Like Teen Spirit? Simply put, Get The Knack is a hook-drenched rock and roll album about lust - isn't that the essence of rock and roll? Listen and be convinced. Episode 3 is available either streaming or downloadable from the blogsite (look to the right hand side of the page near the top) or type "lovethatalbum" into iTunes podcast search.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Love That Album - Podcast #2 - sort of



Hey folks,

I have another podcast up....sort of. I recorded a great show with my good friend and fellow music enthusiast Geoff Smith with the intention of talking about the great John Hiatt album "Bring The Family". The show was divided up into a section where we just yakked about albums we'd been listening to, a section talking about Hiatt's history, and then the section talking about the album. During editing, I accidentally deleted that final section of the show. AAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHH. What a fucking knucklehead. I tried recording that section again with Geoff a week later and the recording software did something weird rendering the conversation unlistenable. Rather than do it again, I'm putting up the "shooting the breeze" discussion we have for your (hopeful) enjoyment. Download it on the right hand side of this page in the embeddable player, or go to iTunes and subscrive to "lovethatalbum". Next podcast will be out mid to late October and will work....I promise!!!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Songs that left me Speechless: Paul Simon - "Song About The Moon" and "The Late Great Johnny Ace"



As with a lot of folks, I owe a lot of my passion for music to my family. From my dad and my sister Sue, I owe my love of classical music. In particular, Dad loved operatic singers, be they the established secular singers like Enrico Caruso or Richard Tauber, or the cantorial singing (chazanut) of Moshe Kosevitzky. Dad passed on his love of this music to Sue and she did everything to encourage my love of these artforms -before I was bitten by the dreaded rock and roll bug.
While it’s true I didn’t listen to rock music before I was 10 years old, I was still exposed to more modern musical expression. My other sister Mary was a huge folk music nut. Joe and Eddie, Odetta, Peter, Paul and Mary, and early Dylan were the ones who got her imagination firing. For me, though, the kings of them all were Simon & Garfunkel.
When Mary got married and moved out, I’d visit her and always go straight to her record collection. My favourite of her albums was Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” album. In a way, I guess my pop education started there, as this record had more in common with the pop harmonies of the Everly Brothers than a lot of the earnest folk music of the day. Simon’s music was far more personal in nature than the songs of protest or death often sung about in folk. My love of Simon’s songwriting and S & G harmonies has continued to this day.
When I was in my teens I was given a brilliant (now long out of print book) put together by George Martin called “Making Music”. The ex-Beatles and Goons producer had asked many people in the music industry to write an article about their craft (musicianship, engineering, business). Paul Simon wrote a great chapter for the book on his approach to songwriting. An article like this had the potential to spoil the pleasure of listening to his songs, as he was taking away the magic of a song simply being there to describe in some detail how it came to be “there”. On the contrary – I revelled in finding out how he approached song composition. After reading too many interviews with songwriters who flippantly describe their approach, Simon described his workmanlike approach. He wasn’t waiting for inspiration. For him, a great song had to be assembled from hundreds of useless and useful ideas. Hell, if Brill Building luminaries like Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil could approach songcraft like a day job, it was good enough for Paul Simon.
In this article I want to refer to two songs - “Song About The Moon” (written about in great detail in the book) and “The Late Great Johnny Ace”. Both of these songs featured on Paul Simon’s album Hearts and Bones. Simon had performed “The Late Great Johnny Ace” a couple of years earlier as part of the S & G reunion concert in Central Park. Bizarrely, towards the end of the song, just as Simon sang a line about the murder of John Lennon, an audience member ran onstage before being dragged away by security staff. I’ve never heard what his intention was or what happened to the guy, but it didn’t look like he was there to request Simon to play “Sounds of Silence”. I’ll return to “Johnny Ace” shortly.
Simon went into some detail about how he wrote “Song About The Moon”. Lyrically, the song serves as a masterclass for how to write a song. Ironically, while Simon infers that it’s easy to write a song if you follow some basic steps (“presto – a song about the moon”), the chapter in Martin’s book indicates anything but. He claimed that he can take months  to write a song – maybe weeks if he’s on a roll. There’s no “presto” in his approach.
Regardless of the simplicity or otherwise, his approach is definitely well thought out, and follows classic rules of song construction.
The structure of the song is three verses and a middle 8 (or AABA as Simon refers to it). Verse 1 starts off with instructing that if you want to write a song about the moon, you should use a metaphor. The potential violence of a city serves as his example:
If you want to write a song about the moon
Walk along the craters of the afternoon
Because the shadows are deep and the light is alien
And gravity leaps like a knife off the pavement

The next verse follows a similar structure but uses a different subject for a potential song – love. Of course, Simon has cleverly not ditched the original starting point either.
If you want to write a song about the heart
Think about the moon before you start
By coming back to the idea of using the moon as a metaphor for love, he’s introduced new subject matter to make things interesting for song advancement, but not to the extent where he’s lazily ditched the original purpose of the song – i.e. how to write a song about the moon.

The middle 8 seemingly goes down a different path altogether with a final line:
The laughing girl she laughed so hard, the tears roled down her face
Huh???? Where’s our continuity gone? Aaaah, look at the first line of Verse 3.
If you want to write a song about a face….
Once again, Simon has kept the verse structure and linked middle 8 back into the theme of the song. Inevitably, Simon once again will argue the case that if you really want to write a song about a face, you’re affectionate about , one you truly love ….well, write a song about the moon. Game, set and match – Mr Paul Simon. Which makes me wonder, if you want to write a song about tennis, should you just write a song about the moon?

So the structure here has been to take three distinct subjects – the moon, love and the memory of a face – and linked them to form a cohesive whole. The beautiful thing about this song is it’s clever without being too clever for its own good. No “Blonde On Blonde” Dylanesque lyrics. It’s straightforward, but no less clever for all that. It’s a lovely melody and lyric that really knocks me out whenever I hear it, but I can also appreciate the work that’s gone into it. The same holds true for the aforementioned “Late Great Johnny Ace”.

Johnny Ace was a 50s R & B singer who died as a result of playing Russian Roulette. I love his wonderful song “Never Let Me Go”, but I’m not that familiar with his music.

Structurally, this song is a little different to “Moon” . The Paul Simon song is not so much about Ace, but about Simon’s reaction to the death of three Johns:  Ace, Kennedy, and Lennon. He starts off with two verses devoted to the news of Ace’s death in 1954, and how Simon sent away for a photograph, feeling bad after hearing the news.

Simon then moves forward 10 years when he moves into the bridge. He’s recalling the time he was living in London and brings up images of the day (“it was the year of the Beatles / it was the year of the Stones / it was 1964”). How does this relate to the theme introduced at the start? A few lines further we find out – “A year after JFK “. Our second John.  JFK is mentioned here in more of a passing reference, but the lyric is very clever, because Simon has preceded this line with invoking memories of an exciting time in young people’s lives. The new music would invoke memories of how the times were changing, but then JFK is brought up, and all the grief that went with his death is recalled in one short line.

Finally, Simon moves forward 16 years to the final verse. The added bass instrumentation gives a feeling of dread and menace compared to the plain melancholy of the first two verses:

                On a cold December evening
                I was walking through the Christmas tide
                When a stranger came up and asked me
                If I’d heard John Lennon had died
                Then the two of us went to this bar and we stayed to close the place

Johnny Ace’s death was sad for Simon, who confessed he wasn’t a great fan, but John Lennon’s death takes on a much darker tone musically. Obviously Lennon’s death hit Simon and New York very hard.

There’s a coda on the recorded version of the song written by Phillip Glass for a small string section. It’s not present on the version presented at the Concert In Central Park. The coda to the Park version is lovely, but does sound like Simon didn’t know how to end the song. The Glass coda wraps up the theme of the three Johns into a bundle of a beautiful piece of musical melancholia. It’s real “hair standing on the back of the neck” stuff, probably best listened to late at night. It’s very different to “Song About The Moon”, but the idea of taking three subjects and cleverly linking them via reference to the song’s first idea is common between them.

Paul Simon has had a very popular career to be sure, but I think he’s not given his due often enough as a songwriter. His songbook doesn’t seem to be revered in the same way as Lennon/McCartney or Dylan which is a shame. His best rivals a lot of their output, and the songs don’t deserve to merely be relegated to the golden oldies pile. Paul Simon’s album of 2011 “So Beautiful So What” shows he still has incredible songwriting chops. The album’s highlight “Love and Hard Times” is one of the best songs I’ve heard all year. Maybe that’s a subject for a future article

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"The Tubes" - The Tubes




Back in the early 80s, I have recollections of coming home from school and, like many other kids I knew at the time, turning on the TV to the ABC (there was just the one ABC channel back in the day, kiddies) to watch the Kenny Everett Video Show and The Goodies (or Wayne and Schuster if one of the other shows was on hiatus). Both shows seemed so anarchic in comparison to umpteen repeats of Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on the other channels. How we looked forward to seeing Kenny do a Brother Lee Love  routine or to see The Goodies' Bill Oddie hit someone with a black pudding in the name of his martial art, Ecky Thump.

Every day, for a time, before these shows would start there would be a rock video clip to fill in time. Whoever was the pop 15-minuter of the day (Adam Ant, Racey). One particular week, the clips were all devoted to a band I'd not heard of called The Tubes.

After that week, they would never be far away from my record player.

They had just released their latest album, The Completion Backward Principle, and had recurited video director-of-the-minute Russell Mulcahy to direct a video album to accompany the record - this may well have been the first one of its kind. Not that I was to know it yet, but The Tubes had been around for a while and were very much into theatrical shock-rock, like say, Alice Cooper. Unlike the Coop, the emphasis was less on horror and more on society parody of manners. Their act got them banned in someplaces (I have a feeling that included Australia, but am not sure), so it was no wonder that the clips shown that week on the ABC were more tame than what they were usually known for. Still, "Sushi Girl" in the 6.30pm time slot was pretty incredible for the day.

In fact, The Completion Backward Principle saw the band at Capitol Records with them trying to take a more commercial bent than previous records had been. The sheen that producer David Foster gave them gave a slickness absent from their earlier more creative records. They might have wanted top 40 success, but on their terms. Still, the first single, "I Don't Want To Wait Anymore" didn't garner (in Australia anyway) huge success.  Maybe a song with a lazy lyric like "Trapped in the freezing cold / Barely alive, had to make love to survive" didn't deserve to make it. Maybe the world didn't want another Toto.

If we only go back a few years prior to 1975 however, The Tubes released their first album eponymously titled on A & M, and it was a million miles away from the -admittedly very catchy - pop of Completion Backwards Principle. "The Tubes" had songs of bondage, bored spoiled rich teenagers, sex, rampant consumerism, floating in space, and even a song about themselves. There was one love song, but of course The Tubes would not do anything conventionally. It was an old mariachi number.

The seven piece band were all incredible musicians, and were led by the charismatic and energetic Fee Waybill. He had a number of stage personas with more costume changes than Barbara Streisand. The Tubes definitely believed in putting on a show, not just a concert.

So what's happening musically on their first album? I've already mentioned mariachi, but there's all sorts of art rock touches with crazy time changes. That statement could put many off, but it's not supposed to. Whereas a lot of the art rock or prog rock was taking itself very seriously with lengthy songs and keyboard solos all out of proportion (and I say that as a Rick Wakeman fan), The Tubes used their musicianship to serve the song, not their egos. Melodies are very strong on this record. They definitely share a sense of humour with Frank Zappa, but are far more interesting musically here than anything I ever heard from the Mothers of Invention (don't shoot me down, but I can't whistle a Zappa melody).

Before I get to the two obvious highlights of the record, I'll mention a couple of other gems. The album opens with a strong statement of intent with "Up From The Deep". The band are offering their audience an introduction to themselves and want to please them  ("This is how you want it / Then that's how we'll play it"). It plays like a mini symphony and has a shitload of weird time changes, but is nothing like Yes. It's not taking itself seriously, but is still musically majestic. Their sesne of humour comes to the fore with the catchy and yet sardonic "What Do You Want From Life?" Their statement on consumerism and peoples' superficiality in general is still funny enough to not make us feel shitty about it. It's also possibly the only pop song to make mention of "a baby's arm holding an apple".

Ostensibly, The Tubes were a very visual band and it's probably in a live context that they worked best, certainly with these next two songs I wish to mention: "Mondo Bondage" and "White Punks On Dope". Yet, these songs are both so forceful, that even if you never saw them live, the theatre of your mind can present images that might have made Fee Waybill himself blush. Certainly watch them on Youtube (the band should have sued) - with no kids around, of course - but the songs without visuals still stand up. WPOD is their take on bored rich white Californian kids of the early 70s (though it's probably still applicable now, and is certainly not geographically specific). I guess Billy Joel did a similar thing at the time with "Captain Jack". The Tubes' song is more a tribute to excess (with Waybill dressed in platform shoes, wig, and early 70s Elton John glasses) as well as a mockery of those who partook, whereas the protagonist in Jack actually sounds bored and lives just to score his next hit. On stage, WPOD looked like an inspiration for Spinal Tap!!!

As for Mondo Bondage, if the song wasn't so good, you'd feel guilty listening to it or watching a clip. Surely some sleazy 1970s ...ahem...adult film has used this song as its soundtrack. On the surface this could be a song about feeling one is tied up in life and wanting to break out of a rut. On the other hand, it's probably just a song about bondage. A very intense frightening song - but I'm sure the band thinks we're supposed to find it funny.,and it is....sort of.

I'm sure that when music critics are writing about the bloated excess of 70s rock, it could be all too easy to include this album and this band in general as an argument in their favour. That, however, would be doing discredit to The Tubes who were really more about taking the piss (no jokes on any Genesis albums that I can recall) - they just happened to do it with a myriad of time signature changes. Search this album out,or view them on youtube.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest

I got to thinking about the previous albums and songs that I’ve been writing about. Most of them are rooted in rock and roll history – which confessedly is a blip on the radar in terms of overall music history. I’ve only tackled one album and one song that crossed into the 21st century. With that in mind, I’ve decided to get contemporary and write about my favourite album of 2011 thus far. The problem with that is….well, thw music sounds more old timey than anything else I’ve written about.
Yes folks, I’m referring to the new album by the duo of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings called “The Harrow And The Harvest”. As a side note, I once heard Gillian Welch say that her albums are not released in her name as a solo act. She’s in a “band” with David Rawlings and the band just happens to be called Gillian Welch. I’ll return to this point soon.
For an artist that’s not on the mainstream media radar, there appeared to have been a fair amount of interest (at least from where I see it) in the lead-up to the release of the album. Notwithstanding the album she and David did in his name “A Friend of a Friend”, it’s been 8 years since the release of her last long-player, “Soul Journey”. Does this album live up to the high expectations? In summary….yep, and then some.

Gillian Welch (the individual or the band - take your pick) has always provided light and dark in her songs. For instance, Orphan Girl (a song I first heard beautifully covered by Emmylou Harris) with its gospel tinge, takes a subject that would be milked for all tragedy by other artists or in other genres. From the pen of Welch it combines slight sadness but with faith and the hope that when the time comes, she'll meet her family again at God's table. Like Judee Sill before her, she can write a song of faith without alienating those who don't necessarily share that faith.

The name of the new album The Harrow and The Harvest implies duality - joy and sadness, hope and resignation. Indeed, a number of these songs deliver on that premise.

In The Way It Goes, the singer is recalling the fate of friends, presumably from her youth - financial hardship, drugs, death. Everyone goes their own way and friendships go missing in action. Instead of grieving over the tragedies, the singer is resigned to their and our fate ("Still there was a time when all of us were friends"). The music may be old timey, but the lyrics unfortunately deal with a timeless subject. The song reminds me of "Needle and Thread" by Richard Thompson. Unlike Gillian's protagonist, Richard won't just be resigned to his characters' fate - he needs to "sew his soul back together again".

The Way The Whole Thing Ends takes a slightly different approach to life events. Gillian's character chastises a former friend for not sticking to the ideals they'd originally lived by. When deserting the ideals doesn't lead to the success they hoped for, Gillian unsympathetically tells her character tough luck - "that's the way the cornbread crumbles".

Now once you had a hook and ladder / Up into the headless night / And once you had a motorcycle /
But you couldn't ride it right / Standing in the doorway crying / Now you're gonna need a friend
That's the way the cornbread crumbles / That's the way the whole thing ends

Gillian's former friend is hoping for forgiveness but instead gets disdain. Maybe the album should be called The Harvest and The Harrow. Another song with a good argument for that name reversal is Hard Times. The song starts off with a man who ploughs his land,has a donkey to help him, and is happy enough with his lot to not let "hard times rule my mind". Of course, being a country song, a positive ending is not how this cornbread crumbles. By song's end,he's a shambolic figure that's didn't realise hard times didn't care for his mind - just his life and circumstances.

It's not completely clear to me if Scarlet Town is a murder ballad, but the character is certainly singing from the grave to a former lover who promised her the earth, but left her to rot in it. He should watch his back though because she's "looking through a telescope from hell to Scarlet Town". He thinks he's lived his harvest, but hell hath no fury like a lover wanting to impose harrow - or something like that.

I haven't even cited the album's highlight yet - Tennessee. The song is about self-destruction. The protagonist has spent her life trying to live well and be "apple pie", but loses out to temptaion every time. "I had no desire to be child of sin / Then you went and pressed your whiskers to my cheek". There's that theme of duality again.

To this point I've spent more time talking about the lyrical themes on this record (now I'm really getting old timey) than the music. As per usual, Gillian and David's melodies and arrangements are haunting and beautiful. There is not a note out of place and there is not a superfluous note anywhere on this album. As I think it's been stated before, David Rawlings is a master of the understated guitar performance. The band Gillian Welch live to serve the songs and stories they tell about in gorgeous close harmony. They are so locked in sync that Gillian's statement about the two of them being a band (that just happens to be called Gillian Welch) is no whimsy.

These songs are indeed about hard times and the characters in the songs face sad circumstances (is that a female version of Dexter in Dark Turn of Mind?) Yet, after multiple playings of this great album in the short time it's been available, I've never felt anything less than exhilirated from the haunting beauty of these melodies and their scary lyrics. These characters face harrow, but my enjoyment of these songs is the harvest.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Love That Album - The Podcast


Hey folks,

Well, it wasn't enough to tackle the written word - I had to open my mouth and talk about the same sort of crap I was writing about. Yep, I've joined the world of podcasting. On "Love That Album - The Podcast" Episode 1, Melbourne music journalist Jeff Jenkins and myself debate life's most important question - which of Bruce Springsteen's albums between "The Wild, The Innocent & The E-Street Shuffle" and "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" is better? The answer is the former of course, but listen to the discussion anyway.

If you look close to the top of the page on the right, you'll see an embedded mp3 player to listen to the show while streaming, or you can right-click on the link below the player to download it to your mp3 player of choice. I haven't quite worked out how to submit this to iTunes yet, so I hope by the next episode that will be in place. I'd love to read any feedback you have. Like the show? Hate it? Better albums to talk about? Let me know.

The written articles will continue on a more frequent basis than the podcasts.

Cheers,
Maurice.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Beatles - Penny Lane EP

The Beatles,Penny Lane E.P. - Reissue,Australia,Deleted,7

For those of you reading this outside of Melbourne, there is an iconic pub called the Esplanade Hotel in the seaside suburb of St Kilda (no one who lives here needs that introduction). A grand old building - open for more than 130 years, I’m led to believe - it reeks atmosphere and is a heavy supporter of live bands. When my previous band The Shambles got a gig there, I felt I never needed to perform again – unfortunately, so did the general public. This venue is truly beloved of music-mad Melburnians.

For the last few years, one of its rooms has been the home of another beloved Melbourne institution - the TV music trivia show, Rockwiz. For those of you unfortunate not to have seen it, features a crack band, local and overseas guests as both performers and contestants, comedians as host and adjudicators, and ordinary punters fuelled by beer and bravado to have a shot at their Warholian 15 minutes as contestants. Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to have my own 15 minutes.

Before the quiz proper begins, the show’s host, Julia Zemiro, asks each contestant what was the first record he or she purchased, or what was the first concert they attended. I was asked the former. Other contestants could proudly proclaim Cosmos factory, Sgt. Pepper, or Physical Graffiti as their first purchase. On national television, I sweated profusely as I had to confess.....

.my first purchase......



with my own money.....



was........



“100 Years of Strauss Waltzes”.

If I hadn’t been so truthful (and indeed, sacrificed the good value of a laugh), I could have proclaimed my first serious purchase as the four track Beatles EP, Penny Lane. It featured Penny Lane and Eleanor Rigby on side 1, with Strawberry Fields Forever and Yellow Submarine on side 2.

It's a dangerous thing to write an article about the Beatles. Millions of words have been written about the Beatles and their music. There's no way I can add anything truly meaningful about their music to the mountains of words already composed in tribute or in smug, revisionist doubt of their true worth. I just want to describe what it meant then and what it means to me today.

After 10 years of listening to (almost) exclusively classical music, a school friend had played me his Twist and Shout EP. I've used the word "epiphany" before in a previous blog entry, but I definitely had one the day I heard Twist and Shout, especially the four-note chord build up to the Lennon scream. This was the music for me. This was the band for me. If only they hadn't broken up 5 years prior.

I bought this Australian-only EP as a 10 year-old, about 8 or 9 years after it was originally released (the Beatles singles and EPs never went out of print). I saved up and went to Pitts Record Bar near my house. The music was completely removed from Twist and Shout, but still sent my 10 year-old brain into a complete spin. Can you remember what it felt like to hear Strawberry Fields Forever for the first time? I recall the first time I heard the horns, the backward tapes, the string section, the words that made that made no fucking sense, the false ending...It's no exaggeration to say I played that song hundreds of times. I used to go over to my neighbour's house to listen to this song. They had a Danish state of the art stereo system. Heaven was listening to Strawberry Fields Forever through headphones on their stereo.

This was different to the music I'd spent my lifetime listening to. It was different to music the Beatles themselves had made 3 years prior. For the record, my favourite music to that point had been Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, Dvorak's New World Symphony,and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade. Still listening to these songs, there was the use of orchestral instrumentation, adventurous songwriting, the French Horn on Penny Lane inspired by McCartney hearing the Bach Brandenburg Concertos. Maybe it wasn't so far removed from my previous music listening experience.

The thing that made this EP special was the actual combination of these songs - three "serious" tunes and a novelty tune. The Beatles had a tradition with novelty tunes - "You Know My Name", any of their Xmas fan club records, "Revolution 9" (a song for Australian Idol perhaps?), and Yellow Submarine's own bastard son, "Octopus' Garden". The three "serious" tunes were songs of tribute to childhood memories either in their hometown of Liverpool, or more broadly relating to life in WW2 England.

Still none of that mattered to me as a 10 year old. Forget the lyrics. I just know that these compositions and their brilliant execution set me on the path for a wider love of music than I'd experienced to that point. I approached each Beatles record that I bought over the next few years with the same level of excitement I imagine people that bought them upon initial release might have felt. I got Abbey Road for my 12th birthday, and I still get apprehensive about the approaching cut-off ending on "I Want You (She's So Heavy)". Still, it all started with the Penny Lane EP as my first purchase......Strauss notwithstanding.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Judee Sill - Judee Sill


I'm sure you've read the articles about favourite musicians where they declare things like "I don't like to classify my music" when asked what style or category their music can be fitted into. I don't know about you readers out there, but that's not an answer I feel comfortable with.

Musicians don't like to be put into a box or want to feel constricted that what they do today is what they'll be doing next year. Fair enough, but if you're playing pop, what's wrong with saying so? Instead they feel they have to say that they're creating a concoction influenced by many styles. This is something I've discussed before with reference to Pentangle. Being influenced by the music of Duke Ellington doesn't mean you're a jazz musician.

So where would I put the music of Judee Sill? A difficult question to be sure. Allgedly, she called her music "country-cult-baroque" - an interesting moniker. Singing songs about Jesus as a cowboy (more on that later) with a little steel guitar in the background doesn't make this sound much like anything Loretta Lynn came up with, I tell ya. Baroque? Well, some of the songs DO have refrains that sound like she's been listening to Bach, I guess. Given the lyrical content, she could also be classified as Christian pop -and yet this is NOTHING like the lyrical or music content coming off an Amy Grant record, for reasons we'll go into soon. She was around at the time of other female songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Tapestry-era Carole King. While the music does have melodic elements of that so-called West Coast sound, she's attempting different things with orchestration, and certainly with the lyrics. So where does she fit in?

Judee grew up with a very hard existence. Broken home, drunk parents, abusive stepfather, reform school, drugs, holding up liquor stores (according to the liner notes of the re-released albums, she was afraid of saying "this is a fuck-up, mothersticker") and turning tricks. So superficially, this would not appear to be the life one leads that is heading towards the creation of an exquisitely beautiful form of art - but that's exactly what Judee Sill's music is.

I only came across her music about 5 or 6 years ago when it was being played over the system in a CD store in Melbourne. The two albums that had been released in her lifetime, "Judee Sill" and "Heartfood" had been packaged as a 2CD set with a swag of demos and live tracks as extras. When I heard the song "Jesus Was A Cross Maker", I was sold. Not being Christian and having no knowledge of Christian theology, might have made this a strange choice of song for me to be drawn to - yet, my impression is that this is not the sort of song you'll be hearing in church any time soon. The fact that she drew inspiration for writing this after reading The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis (which caused much controversy for imagining Christ as mortal) comes as no surprise. "Crayon Angels", the album's opener sounds like Judee wants to believe in something. The truth of this world isn't satisfying, but she's not sure that religion has all the answers - but she'll keep an open mind ("Guess reality is not as it seems....Holy visions disappeared from my view,
But the angels come back and laugh in my dreams......So I sit here hopin' for truth and a ride,
To the other side").

Her second album "Heartfood", is more highly regarded by fans, although I prefer the simplicity of the first. However, it contains two absolutely exquisite songs in "The Kiss" and "The Donor". To Judee, locked lips joining in "communion of a kiss" is the most beautiful pure thing that can be done. With her achingly beautiful piano and vibrato-free sweet voice, you really believe her words. The Donor musically combines piano, tympani, bells, and a chorus of voices. The lyrics are dream-like and speak of unsettling sleep. The chorus, such that it is has Judee singing "Kyrie eleison" - Lord Have Mercy. Judee explained that she wrote that song at a low time and was asking for God to give her a break.

So how do I classify this music? Is "uplifting" a genre? She turned her own difficult life and turned it into something wonderful for her art. You don't have to be Christian or believe in any deity to appreciate what's going on here. You just have to prepared to believe in beauty - whatever you want to call it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Songs That Left Me Speechless, Part 3 – This Is Where You Ain’t by Glenn Tilbrook


I believe there’s a misconception about happy songs being played in a major key with sad songs being played in a minor key. There are many sad songs in a major key (The Beatles’ “For No One”, The Beach Boys’ “Warmth Of The Sun”, Neil Young’s “Helpless”) and happy songs in a minor key (“Hava Nagilah”, The Hollies’ “Bus Stop”). For some reason, be it by association with film scores or possibly some neurological explanation (not that I’d know), we still tend to associate (in Western society anyway) major-happy and minor sad.

One explanation for the examples of major-sad given above could possibly be due to tempo. I’m not sure I can think of too many sad major-key up-tempo songs. “From Above” by Ben Folds and Nick Hornby sort of fits the bill. However, Glenn Tilbrook’s “This Is Where You Ain’t” certainly fits the bill.
Tilbrook and songwriting partner, Chris Difford, had to endure the tag of being the new Lennon- McCartney when their band Squeeze first appeared on the scene in the late seventies. Who wants to live up to that? It is true that they could write insanely catchy songs. (Come to think of it some of their songs could fit the bill under major-sad-up-tempo). “Up The Junction” is about a broken relationship with a vivid description of being financially up the creek (or junction!!!!) “Some Fantastic Place” is dedicated to a recently departed friend. “Pulling Mussels From A Shell” is the catchiest song about wanking since Pete Townshend got off from “Pictures of Lily”. “Last Time Forever” is a major key song about spouse abuse. Difford and Tilbrook had an insanely catchy way with a melody and clever lyric.
When Tilbrook recorded his first solo album, he possibly topped the lot at confusing our collective neurons by recording “This Is Where You Ain’t”, the album’s opener. When I hear this and close my eyes, I picture the Motown house band. I think of the Four Tops. I imagine ever so slight but tasteful soul singer’s choreography. It’s a song with a happy major key melody over a catchy beat.
It’s also a song about the aftermath of divorce.
Tilbrook’s lyrics evoke his feelings after the separation from his wife. He seems regretful it’s come to this and he’s sitting alone with the memories of previous good times.
                This is where we had some fun
                This is where we ate
                And now the fact I have to face is that
                This is where you ain’t
Tilbrook’s wife ended up moving to Australia from the UK with their children:
                I’m a long way from happy, you’re a long way from home
Of course, we’re only getting the poetic side of the story. There could have been shouting and dishes thrown and neglect, but that’s not how Tilbrook conveys his feelings here. One minute it was all good times, and the next it was all incredibly sad – and it’s all done to a deceptively happy sounding melody with a catchy beat.
Of course, if you’ve not heard the song and are just going by my description, it could be fair to say, “Maybe Tilbrook had it wrong. Maybe he should have slowed it all down or changed it to E minor”. Look, I can’t explain it in technical terms, but I think the melancholy the song conveys in its recorded version could not have worked if he’d changed anything about it. I don’t know how a great songwriter can successfully relay a downbeat story to an upbeat melody, but Tilbrook does it. A clever album compiler should put together an album of songs of this ilk and call it “Dancing With Hankies”.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Richard Thompson & The Art of the Break-Up Song


I’ve not done a comprehensive survey, but over a lifetime of listening to pop music, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of songs in popular stylings relate to matters of the heart. They might be songs of being in love or songs of being out of love. However, both sides of the subject have been a well-mined source of subject matter for tunesmiths since Adam said to Eve, “Wanna hang out?” I’m sure, dear reader and song-fan, there is nothing new in anything I’ve said so far.
I’m sure that someone attempting their PhD has written some lengthy piece on why we continue to listen to the same subject matter over and over again. Of course, there have been other song-writing movements over the last 50 or so years that have proved popular – songs about slaying dragons in Middle Earth (hey nonny nonny), getting high, telling the older generation they suck (funny how Roger Daltrey is still singing  My Generation in his sixties), and transvestisism.  Still, the songs about being in and out of love don’t quite go away.
I came to the music of Richard Thompson relatively late, about 1990. An announcer on Melbourne community radio continually raved how Thompson was the second coming. The claim was that Thompson was a guitarist’s guitarist (Eric who?), a songwriter who could really tell a story and convey a mood, and he even had a wonderful voice. My interest was piqued. I had to look into his music for myself.  I went into a store that had a copy of a new 3 CD Thompson anthology called “Watching The Dark”, and asked to listen to one of the discs.
The first song I heard was called “Al Bowlly’s In Heaven”. This was a moment in my life I will never forget.
Each verse is like a chapter of a great book that hooks you in from the opening line (“We were heroes then, and the girls were all pretty / and a uniform was a lucky charm that bought you the keys to the city”). The song tells the story of a returned World War 2 soldier, who finds that life in peace time affords him none of the respect he is due and he received during the war. He goes from being revered to being ignored by society, not even having a place to lay his head on at night. During leave he would attend dances, and  Al Bowlly, the big band leader, represented all that was good in the veteran’s life during the war. Now Bowlly’s gone, the war is over, and society has ditched our narrator to the dustbin of recent history as they try to grapple with the difficulties of rebuilding their lives after war. Thompson’s narrative is riveting – and I haven’t even referred to his superlative musicianship.
But that’s not the song this article is about.
In fact, I wish to talk about three songs, all connected thematically - they could even be joined to form a concept album - but all taking a very different approach. The start of this article referred to songs covering matters of the heart. So many pop songs, refer to the aftermath of a relationship as a time of great sorrow or a time for the song’s protagonist to move on. Thompson doesn’t take such a simple approach in his songs.
The three songs I wish to address are:
Razor Dance” shows the nasty aftermath of a relationship gone very wrong.
After the death of a thousand kisses
                Comes the catacomb of tongues
Who cans spit the meanest venom
                From the poison of their lungs
Each party to the separation “dances” dangerously around the other one to see what they can get away with, first passive-aggressively, then with full-on aggression as “gravity pulls them in”. The music reflects this tension with Thompson’s guitar playing continuous quavers in an ominous staccato fashion. “Take your partners for the razor dance” Thompson calls, but when does the band call time?
For Shame of Doing Wrong” was recorded by Thompson with his then-wife Linda on vocals, but for me the better interpretation is by ex-Fairport Convention lead singer (and Thompson cohort), the late great Sandy Denny. Thompson himself has sung it live, but Sandy’s interpretation gets to the heart of the matter. The song is sung from the perspective of someone who sees an ex-lover and unburdens herself with complete remorse over having done them an unspecified wrong.  She recalls the ideal times before “we went our separate ways”. There are always constant visual reminders of the good things she used to have, and implores her ex to not pay “for her deceiving heart”.
 On the surface, my description could be about any number of pop songs. However, this is a Richard Thompson song. The complete and utter regret of the singer is completely believable. This ain’t an ordinary “I know I’ve done you wrong, but please take me back” song – it’s a Richard Thompson “I know I’ve done you wrong, but please take me back” song. The singer knows she doesn’t deserve forgiveness, but begs for it anyway. The chorus contains one of the saddest lines I’ve heard in a lover’s lament  - “I wish I was a fool for you again.” When Sandy Denny sang this, and by extension Richard wrote it, you really believe it. The music is mid-tempo and in a major key, bus still somehow maintains the melancholic regret of the lyric.
Then there’s “Tear Stained Letter”. This is a funny aftermath-of-a-break-up song. It’s performed with Zydeco leanings (and was covered by Zydeco star Jo-el Sonnier) and sounds happy. The lyric betrays that with that with the wariness of the protagonist who’s broken up acrimoniously with someone, has decided to get on with his life, but lives in fear for the constant tear-stained letters left under the door. Keep an eye out for your pet rabbit!!! This isn’t a song that says, “We’ve split up, I miss you”. It says, “We’ve split up, now can you piss off?”
Have I mentioned this song is funny? When our protagonist is describing his violent ousting from the couple’s shared lodging, he sings that she “danced on his head like Arthur Murray (if you have to ask, you’re too young – trust me it’s a funny line). This is the only rock song I know of that rhymes “tea” as such: “I like coffee and I like tea / but I just don’t like this fiddle-dee-dee” Listen to the whole song. It’s clever and funny.
So Thompson has taken the one topic, and approached it from three different avenues. There’s the  dramatic approach of a mutually agreed acrimonious breakup. There’s the incredibly sad mournful regret of a relationship that could have continued if not for a wandering heart. Finally, there’s the humorous approach of a man fearing for his life from an unstable ex (that doesn’t read right, but it’s essentially true).
As suggested earlier, these songs can be connected as the one story. There’s the initial mutually agreed acrimonious breakup, followed by a period of mournful regret by one of the partners, but the story is taken up by the other partner who just want to move on without loss of life or limb. A Richard Thompson musical in the offing?  If lesser songwriters can plunder their back catalogue, surely RT has a winner with a musical based on drama, suspense and humour. Richard, if you’re reading this, my management services are at your disposal.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Get The Knack - The Knack

Our world is full of causes:

Save The Whale.

Freedom of Speech.

Smokers have rights (yeahhhhh, good one Joe Jackson).

Knuke the Knack.

Hang on, back up there. Was there really such a movement? Knuke The Knack? We’re talking about the “My Sharona and other songs of lust” type Knack?” Yep, believe it or not there was such a movement. How the hell did that come about? Well, let’s back things up a bit before getting to that.

First of all, I want to get something straight. I’ve loved the first two albums by this great band “Get The Knack” and “..But The Little Girls Understand” (line from the Willie Dixon song, Back Door Man) for 30 years or so. They’ve ALWAYS been great and important records in my life. The other records (and there ARE more) aren’t too shabby either. I’ve always been aghast at the thought that supposed fans of rock music dismiss these albums as “not serious” or at best, as guilty pleasures. “Get The Knack” should be no more a guilty pleasure than “Exile On Main Street”. I’m not comparing the albums per se’ – I’m just saying that neither album is one that any rock fan in their right mind would be embarrassed to own. How did things happen in this cockamamie world where well-earned respect became repulsion from the “too-hip for thou” crowd?

According to a great DVD documentary on the band called “Getting The Knack”, journalists who were pissed off at the band’s management for not allowing them to do interviews turned on them. On the “Rock And Roll Geek” podcast episode where Berton Averre is interviewed (episode 399 if you want to look it up), he suggests it was more likely attributable to resentment from the in-crowd for their meteoric rise to fame. The same folks had supported them in their brief period in the clubs before the public at large knew of them. During this time, musicians like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen were volunteering to make guest appearances with the band.


If Averre is right, The Knack were victims of tall poppy syndrome. A bona-fide movement against the band was started called Knuke The Knack. I shit you not!!!  


The reaction against the band sure as hell couldn’t be about the music. The purpose of this article is to make that case.

“My Sharona” has two of the most recognisable pair of riffs in all of pop music. It has a drum riff AND guitar riff that everyone on the planet will recognise in a nanosecond. But “Get The Knack” is not just about that one brilliant song. On the afore-mentioned “Rock And Roll Geek” podcast, the host suggested that the record is a concept album dedicated to the subject of “blue balls”. 


What did the band's detractors actually say?
(i) Their songs were sleazy and sexist.
(ii) The music was a Beatles rip-off.
(iii) There’s the issue of the aforementioned bitterness towards the band’s lack of interviews.

I'm not going to make long winded statements to countermand these points - I will merely make the same assertions using language reserved for bands deemed to be more fashionable by the taste-makers:

(i) The songs are raw, savage, exciting and are about sexual angst. No one ever said the Rolling Stones were not to be taken seriously because of "Satisfaction". Mick Jagger wasn't claiming he couldn't get Satisfaction because his copy of the Guardian hadn't been delivered!!! What about anything from the Prince back catalogue?


(ii) Some of the songs are Beatlesque (with a reigned-in Keith Moon on drums). No one ever accused Teenage Fanclub of being Beatles rip-offs.


(iii) They were not media whores.

Now for the album itself.

(a) Get The Knack opens up with Let Me Out, Your Number Or Your Name, and Oh Tara - one of the best trio of tunes to ever open a rock LP. Let Me Out alone would knacker (pun intended) most musicians, but not our boys. It's a statement of intent about the band and the record we're about to hear. The incredible thing was this song was actually the B-side to My Sharona. Weren't B-sides supposed to be forgettable? No one told that to these guys. Bruce Gary's drumming is straight out of the Keith Moon Drum Manual.


Your Number sounds like Fieger had been living and breathing the first 2 or 3 Beatles albums all his life - remember, in my book that's a positive. Oh Tara is the album's first song of sexual frustration. When Fieger sings, "You squeeze my heart and then you let it flow", it's not a sappy lover's lament. It's a guy complaining he's not getting any. Oh did I mention the killer guitar riff?

(b) She's So Selfish has another killer pairing of drum and guitar doing a more intense variation of the Bo Didley beat. Thematically, this should have been My Sharona's flip side, as it's also about Sharona - the object of Fieger's lust and scorn. Two sides of the record and two sides of the Fieger.

(c) Maybe Tonight was necessary to give the listener a break from the aural assault. After the vitriol of Selfish, Maybe Tonight was the one gentle moment on the record. It's so beautiful that it sounds like a love song. Don't be fooled, sports fans - it's still about lust. The wolf in sheep's clothing. But isn't that so like real life?

(d) No such trickery for Good Girls Don't. Pure lust, with those Beatlesque harmonies and John Lennon harmonica. Why was there a cleaned up version for radio? It would have made more sense if ALL the lyrics changed or the title was changed to something like "Eat Your Soup". But changing a line like "wishing you could get inside her pants" to "wishing she was giving you a chance" is not turning Last Tango In Paris into a Disney production.


(e) My Sharona - no point in me writing about this song. You either hit your head in amazement and wonder why YOU couldn't come up with a song as great as this (killer riff, killer guitar solo, REAL rock and roll lust) or you're deaf!!! You're probably reading this article because of THIS song anyway, so you must love it. Right?

(f) Why should I go on. Just listen to the rest of the damn album. Every other track is a winner. I've either sold you on the album, you already agree with me on its greatness, or you don't like great rock music. Of the remaining tracks, in particular, listen to the album closer Frustrated. Poor Dougie (like poor Mick before him) still isn't getting any satisfaction.

So after the release of Get The Knack, the inevitable downhill slide occurred and the band were history within a couple of years (with a couple of reformations along the way). Fieger finally got what he wanted - his muse - and that too had a typical rock and roll lifestyle downhill slide.
None of that matters. All that's important is that this album gets re-evaluated as a bona-fide rock and roll classic. I'm going to get myself in trouble here, but I don’t understand why Never Mind The Bollocks (or Nevermind for that matter) are revered and this album isn't. Steve Jones is on the record as saying that The Knack were one of the SexPistols' favourite bands. Foes that earn brownie points with so-called "serious" rock fans and historians? 

I want to see making this album revered as MY cause.