Classic Albums No. 3 – White Noise (Gary Numan)

The 3rd of my Classic albums is a live one! I set my rules specifying no compilations, but as this is a live album of a tour I think that I’m okay. And it’s my series, so I can break the rules if I want! So – number 3 is White Noise, by Gary Numan – a record of his Beserker tour. Good live albums are hard to come by, but Gary Numan is one of those rare artists whose live recordings are much better than his studio albums, – of course this is only my opinion (and I have 3 of those albums!).

I bought White Noise in 1985 when it came out and I can remember putting on the cassette as I settled down to do some homework (well I was only 16). Right from the moody instrumental intro to Beserker I was hooked. The man knows how to be dramatic with his music. You know there is something about to happen and you just have wait to find out what comes next. I didn’t get any work done, then again I rarely did, but this was different. It was like being at the concert.

There are 17 tracks plus the intro, so I won’t go into all of them, but it is an excellent live album that shows Gary Numan’s ability. My Dying Machine  thumps out an relentless beat with Cedric Sharpley on drums pushing the song along with the rhythm of a steam engine. This is a precursor to industrial rock. Then there is the hint of early 80s jazzfunk  with saxophone and funky rhythms on This Prison Moon and This is New Love. There is the middle-eastern tinged violin on Cold Warning and the ever present synthesiser on I Die: You Die. The bass guitar on Remind Me To Smile also has the funk sound to it. And all the while Gary Numan’s distinctive voice is pushed along by that industrial strength drumming and the backing vocals of Karen Taylor. Songs such as Cars and Down in the Park keep the pace up with dark edge. The album finished with Are Friends Electric which is really the pinnacle of the performance as the crowd joins in.

This album, like all good live albums, has high quality musicianship. It can’t be successful without that. John Webb, RRussell Bell, Chris Payne, Andy  Coughlan, and Karen Taylor do great work. And this album shows why Gary Numan was the first person to really succeed with synthesiser –based music. His early life in the punk era meant that guitars were used to good effect, the drumming was real – not synthesised, and he took in other influences. Some songs are really stripped back, some more complex, but they all work; they all get the feet tapping. He is an adaptive artist that knows how to meld it all together with great stage presence. It works best live – White Noise is a classic live album. There is drama in this album, changes of pace. It’s dark, it’s moody, and it’s magnificent.

You can listen to it here –

Time for a Quick One?

Yes…I am a bit short of inspiration at the moment, but just for the record I have now set up my author’s page which showcases my publications . Details of my 3 current books, shortly to be 4 are included.

And just to be going on with, a short poem

Somewhere in the Desert looking for Gold

From my point upon the hill,
I gaze upon the land and fill
my cup with water as I ponder
the next direction I must wander.
Over there, north-east I think,
which will bring me to the brink
of yet more of these blasted ridges
up which I’ll climb and dream of fridges
stacked with tempting ice-cold beer.
Perhaps I’ll go insane this year?

In this hot and dusty region
too hostile for the Foreign Legion
there’s no-one else, there’s only me
with mad dogs for good company
and nothing but the desert’s song
to send me nuts before too long,
run naked through these open spaces
sunburnt in my tender places.

But the desert’s voices keep me sane,
advising me to not complain,
and jump right off reality’s train,
dance in this imaginary rain.



Classic Albums 2 – All Over the Place (the Bangles)

In the long and sometimes arduous quest to replace my long-gone cassette collection (only a few remain) with CDs, I finally replaced my copy of All Over the Place by the Bangles. They really hit the big time with Different Light, containing hits like Manic Monday, Walk Like an Egyptian & If She Knew What She Wants, but I reckon that their first album was their best.

Anyhow, it had been a long time since I’d sat down and had a listen, so once my copy arrived I did just that. And then I played it two more times!

All Over the Place, like many debut albums, just shines. While Susanna Hoffs is widely thought of as the lead singer (and as readers of my blog know from my Classic Singers series, she is one of my favourites), all of the girls’ talents are showcased here, both vocally and musically. Vicki and Debbie Petersen crank out the tunes and do their turn on lead vocals, while Michael Steele also performs strongly although she doesn’t sing lead on this album as far as I could tell.

For me, the stand out tracks are Going Down to Liverpool (a cover of a Katrina & the Waves song that in my opinion the Bangles made their own), which was the first of their songs I came across, and Dover Beach, which is still one of my favourite Bangles songs. But there is also Tell Me, which is a delightfully upbeat song with rock-a-billy influences and a cracking good bass from Michael Steele. It’s short and sweet with loads of energy. I’d love to see it played live. The 60s inspired Restless follows – the guitar intro is a little bit 70s, but then the 60s feel kicks in (a bit of Beatles or British invasion influences perhaps?).

The album kicks off with Hero Takes a Fall; this was the first single. It combines some signature jangly guitars, great harmonies, and solid rhythm. Live comes next, a cover of the Merry-Go-Round’s song from 1967. It’s a slower easy-going composition that, for me, encapsulates the 60s vibe. It’s a real foot-tapping number. James cranks up the pace with some great guitar work. I have a soft spot for this song, it’s catchy rhythm and sunny demeanour always makes me smile.   He’s Got a Secret has a great melody, a talent of the Bangles that infuses the whole album along with the seemingly effortless harmonies. I can’t fault the musicianship – the band works as tight unit. Silent Treatment has more of a late 70s feel, almost a bit of punk (in a tender sort of way).

All About You has a meandering intro that promises something laidback before a frantic drumbeat takes hold of your feet. The album winds down with More than Meets the Eye to ease the listener out with some good strings and vocals and a reflective mood to the song.

I like this album more each time I listen to it,  especially the conspicuous lack of unnecessary production – often a problem in the 80s and since then. There is space in the music that allows the band members to show their talents and provide some honesty to the songs.

You can listen to the All Over the Place here

Another poem… On the Train to Stafford (OMG)

On the Train to Stafford (OMG)

While the Leicestershire countryside
ambled by the window
(Oh my god!)
it’s lush green hues and rolling hills
sparkling in the sun’s glow
(Oh my god – no!)
beneath old church spires reaching
up into an azure sky
(Oh. My. GO-OD! You’re kidding?)
that soared above thatched roofs of quaint
villages that passed on by
I thought about the peace and quiet
that made these journeys such
(No! No! No! OH-MY GO-OD!)
a pleasant memory of my youth
before the advent of touch
(EEIIUUW!!! Oh my-god)
screens and mobile phones on trains
to distract from scenic country lanes
Omigod! Omigod!
Oh my god!

Classic Albums 1 – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (Arctic Monkeys)

It’s now 2014 and time for a new series of posts. I have been thinking about my favourite albums and came to the conclusion that I could do a series of 10 Classic Albums.

First question is  – what constitutes a Classic Album? Always difficult, so I’ll settle for – whatever I say it is! This is, after all my, blog! There will not be many recent albums included, not because I don’t like contemporary music – I really do – but because I’m not going to call something a classic album until I am still listening to it at least 5 or 10 years down the track.

So the first one off the list is Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not by the Arctic Monkeys. A mate of mine, Nathan, back in 2006 told me that he thought I’d like this album given his knowledge of my musical taste. And he was right. This is a gloriously raw sounding debut album about adolescence. It has clear punk influences mixed with more contemporary styles. It kicks off with high energy right from the opening track The View From The Afternoon with it’s heavy guitar riffs. Then it goes into the hit song I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor – one of the best songs on the album with its infectious chorus and upbeat rhythm. Fake Tales of San Francisco is a slower song about all those who bullshit in conversation – love it.

Dancing Shoes is another with an infectious rhythm, a song about being tongue-tied at the disco. Like all the songs on this album it isn’t chock full of unnecessary production and relies on the energy and lyrics to make its impact. This is also true for the next track You Probably Couldn’t See For the Lights but You Were Staring Straight At Me – wonderfully short at 2:11, and followed by Still Take You Home. Most of the tracks are short – around 3 mins or less. Nothing wasted here – just songs packed into brief energetic delivery.

My favourite song on the album is Riot Van – which is much slower and reflective, but at the same time with more impact than the rest. All about dodging the coppers on a night out. This shows the melodic and mature side of the band as does Mardy Bum.

The quality continues right through the album with Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured and Perhaps Vampires is a Bit Strong But… both lyrically strong with great rhythms. Another hit single When The Sun Goes Down comes near the end of the album – this is a story about streetwalkers and pimps that manages to convey the sleazy desperation. After a melodic start the song gets into a foot-tapping beat that must be acted upon. The last two tracks are From The Ritz To The Rubble and A Certain Romance round of the album with two more of my favourites off the album. They illustrate a certain rage at the sameness of life, a desire to escape camouflaged in acceptance of the everyday experience.

This album combines gritty lyrics and stories of growing up in northern England, but could apply to many places in the world. The feeling of this album is of rage mixed in with genuine affection and a bit of cynical humour. I love the contradictions that it brings as these make the songs almost hypnotic and give them credibility. I still put this album on 7 years after I bought it. Personally, I don’t think that the Arctic Monkeys have matched it since.

Listen to Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not here

They closed the pub!

Okay – I’m grumpy (again). I went back to England for Christmas – to visit my family. I hadn’t been back at Xmas for 20 years. The place was much the same, that place being Weeping Cross in Stafford. I had a wander around – the old bridle path was still there with it’s stile where I used to sit and stare out over the fields (albeit with a few extra ugly houses added to the scene) and I ticked off the houses of the people that I went to Walton High School with – Rebecca, Mike, Paul, Rob, Emma, Andy, Anne, Jonah, Stevo,  and many more. I went for a walk on Cannock Chase and enjoyed being out in the fresh air among the trees and Sherbrook Valley. On the way there I passed Milford Hall Cricket Club – a haunt of my teenage years. But the thing that hit me was that the Lynton Tavern was closed.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this pub was not an out there pub, a superbly memorable pub, or even a great pub at all – but it was my local pub. I spent many a Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, Friday Night, assorted weekday nights etc in this pub. When I went back to Stafford with my wife to visit my mum – we wandered up there and had a drink in the late afternoon on many occasions.

But it’s now closed.

The adjacent row of shops is still there – with a classy butchers (M. Mottishead’s) a hair dressers, small supermarket, news agent, backers, fish and chip shop. But there is no pub. In fact, there is no community central point. If the pub had become a café – then at least there would have been a meeting point for the locals – that would have been good, but it just stands there empty.

Perhaps it didn’t make enough money – I don’t know – but a suburb without a pub is dead – or at least dying. People have to leave it to go and meet over a beer or a coffee.

I’m really pissed off that they closed the Lynton Tavern, and not just because I had to walk down to the Radford Inn for a pint (I still call it The Trumpet – I prefer the old name being the grumpy of man that I’ve become), but because it sucks more life out of Weeping Cross – and there was little enough of it there in the first place.

So – bollocks – they closed the f**king pub! A pox on whomever ‘they’ are.

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