Thursday, 11 January 2018

Not Fade Away

Cover version of the month #32

The Stones cover Buddy Holly

The Rolling Stones launched in June 1963, releasing a cover version of Chuck Berry's Come On, they would follow that with a Lennon and McCartney number I Wanna Be Your Man that the duo bashed out in 20-minutes to help The Stones and their manager Andrew Loog Oldham.  In search of original material there are stories that Loog Odham eventually resorted to locking Jagger and Richards in a room until they came up with something!

Their third release, in February 1964, was a scorching cover of Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away. They transformed the song, stamping their identify of rock n roll blues all over it. Brian Jones playing the mouth organ sounded a million times more exciting than when Lennon played his less than 2 years previously on The Beatles Love Me Do.

The original by Buddy Holly and The Crickets was written in 1957 and released as a b-side to the single Oh Boy and on the album The Chirping Crickets in 1958. The Stones keep the structure of the song but they turn it into raw and electric rock n roll. The difference is quite staggering, the drummer for the Crickets pounds the beat on a cardboard box! Through each recording you see the move from skiffle to rock n roll. No-one would ever look back.

The urgency in Jagger's voice is striking from the off. When Jagger sings it you believe him, you believe he's a lover and you kind of fall for him; hook, line and sinker.

I wanna tell you how it's gonna be, you're gonna give your love to me,
I wanna love you night and day, well love is love and not fade away

The handclaps, beats, Brian Jones on harmonica, the acoustic rhythm and the explosion of Richards on electric guitar sound incredibly exciting - even in 2018. The Stones transform the original and in under 2-minutes display the energy that captivated audiences across the globe.

Check the magnificent interview and performance from 1964 below and then the studio recording, followed by the original by Buddy Holly and The Crickets.

Previous covers of the month

Saturday, 6 January 2018

David Bowie Never Had To

One of the most pleasing things I have noticed in the Scottish music scene over the last few weeks has been a little bit of recognition for Pii 2, the second album by Stephen Solo, an artist I am incredibly fond of.

Readers of Is This Music? (another blog with a nod to Teenage Fanclub) voted Pii 2 second best album of 2017, The Herald highlighted Internet Song in their top 100 (17) songs of 2017, while Jock Rock also found Pii 2 to be second best album of the year.

Nothing crazy, but I know that it means a lot to Solo, an artist who recorded his debut album simply because he had found out how to use his iPhone and didn't need to limit himself to acoustic demos.

Solo hasn't even played two handfuls of shows in that time, so word of mouth is the way that his music gets known.

I've blogged about Solo a few times over the last couple of years;

Introduction and interview
The Pii 2 album launch at La Chunky
Pii 2 album review

Stephen is unique, using easily accessible and relatively cheap modern technology (his iPhone) to capture the songs, melodies and ideas that pour out of him on a regular basis.

The songs range from the gorgeous fragile Crying Because, to cinematic Soundtrack to Unfilmed, to Albarn-esque moments of beauty mixed with craziness, plenty of Beatles-y moments of homemade psychedelic wonder like Think Strange and LocoCoco and nods to Bowie, the harmonies of The Beach Boys, electronica via Kraftwerk to Hot Chip and even Scots comedian Limmy.

His 2 albums to date contain genuinely jaw dropping moments of sheer raw talent and imagination. No Pill For What I've Got and Secrets You Keep are spine tingling. And it is worth remembering that Solo no only wrote and played everything on these 2 albums, he recorded, mixed and produced it all as well - sometimes in his car, sometimes under the stairs and sometimes in the bathroom - even in the bath! Internet Song is so funny, captivating and catchy that is has recently prompted one fan to make a video for it.

There is one song on Pii2 that I listened to about half a dozen times in a row on first listen to the album. The talent, humour, cheek, imagination, stark reality and heartfelt plea to the artist who inspired it, the twist at the end, the little riffs.... David Bowie Never Had To is a quite incredible song, in fact it is more of a work of art.

As Glasgow celebrates the life of Bowie this weekend ahead of his birthday and anniversary of his passing, I thought I'd highlight this song that the great artist inspired. Stephen is a real Bowie fan and introduced me to Bowie's 80's classics Modern Love and Lets Dance.

Back to the song, that you can stream below. Pulsing electro synth and beats back Stephen Solo as he lists things that David Bowie Never Had To do;

Change kitty litter at 5am
Take out the bona after a gig still wearing his gig clothes
Switch to store brand breakfast serial for financial reasons

Carry a washing machine up 4 flights of stairs
Downgrade his home entertainment package because he is on a zero hours contract
Consider using his house keys as a makeshift weapon at a dodgy bus stop
Provide evidence of job searching for a job he doesn't want

Solo breaks off between verses for a glorious melodic and melancholic snapshot of his mind;

Don't want my own universe
But I'd be happy in my own little world

There is a lovely twist at the end as Solo finds himself having a conversation with Bowie from beyond his grave. I'll leave you to check that out yourself. Please do so and please check Solo's albums. He plays the Hug and Pint supporting The Gracious Losers at their single launch and I'm led to believe some friends will be joining him on stage to help recreate his incredible songs.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Scottish music scene in 2018

The Scottish music scene doesn't stop. We end each year with gigs, parties and club nights and then begin each year by going out to watch live music or dance. Scotland is a nation of people that love to socialise to music; be that in a tiny basement bar, at a legendary venue, at one of the worlds busiest venues, in fields, in yards, in art centres, in streets or in the grounds of a castle.

This blog takes a snapshot look at some of the things I'll be looking out for in 2018. As always, there will be lots more that comes up as the year progresses.

Emerging and developing artists
I always like to see Scottish talent developing. Gerry Cinnamon smashed 2017 out of the park and he promises to take things even further in 2018 with news of a tour coming soon and the main stage at TRNSMT already confirmed. I wouldn't bet against some more music being released either.

My sister has a single coming out in January followed by dates in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and London. Now recording under her name Carla J Easton after recent albums with her band TeenCanteen and a solo project under the guise of Ette; 2018 should see the release of a new album that she recorded in September of 2017 over in Canada, produced by Howard Bilerman who recorded and drummed on the debut LP by Arcade Fire. She is on a roll and her songwriting has really developed over the last couple of years. There might be a wee surprise in February as well.

L-Shape will be releasing their debut album later in the year and have already released some wonderful digital singles. I have extremely high hopes for this band. I fully expect them to be playing summer festivals as there is no-one else like them. They are visually and sonically superb. I previously described Blue Flowers (below) as Portishead meets Mazzy Star - sheer beauty.

The melodic reverby guitar offerings from West Princes is catching many an ear and I look forward to seeing them live in 2018 after missing one of their December shows. Check their single Wet Bark Is A Slug below. Reports from friends who have seen them recently say that they have progressed massively. 

I've mentioned Saint PHNX and KVASIR in previous blogs. I'm a fan of both and 2018 could see them both releasing albums. Saint PHNX go for the jugular with soaring anthems, while KVASIR has a great ear for melodic and euphoric electronica. Check out one of his tunes below.

BooHooHoo are another young band that I enjoy and I also expect new material from them. They are lovely talented people who get people dancing with their catchy electro pop tunes. They have a load up their sleeves and I hope they get them out to the world at large.

Siobhan Wilson released a gorgeous album in 2017 and is already planning her next; Emme Woods should be releasing new material in the first quarter of the year and look for Catholic Action to quickly follow up their debut album. I'm also keeping an eye on teenage guitar band Static Union who have been working hard and developing well.

'Buzz' bands/artists include the pop punk offerings from Rascalton who are causing a stir with their energetic live shows and singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi who is selling out shows across the UK and Europe.

Elsewhere I definitely intend to catch Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 live again after missing them in December. This is a band who can make you forget about everything for an hour or so in a blast of colour, humour, catchy hooks and fun. If you haven't had the good fortune to experience their live show then I can't recommend it highly enough.

Look out for more on emerging Scottish artists in the labels section of this blog and it is always worth checking Vic Galloway' list of artists to watch. I'm currently doing that as I write.

Established artists

Belle and Sebastian released the first in a trilogy of EP's in December, so look out for more from them in January and February with all kinds of touring going on including what is set to be a triumphant show at the SWG Galvanizers Yard in May.

Franz Ferdinand now have young Miaoux Miaoux in the band! They have already been playing around the world and arrive at the Academy on Saturday 17th February. Check the title track from their forthcoming debut album below. It's out on 9th February. Alex Kapranos has always had an ear for electro and when the beats kick in this really takes off, promising a great deal for the album.


Last Night From Glasgow - hotly tipped youngster Zoe Bestel will be bringing her debut album out on LNFG on Record Store Day. There is quite a buzz about this young girl and tons of support. 2018 is shaping up very nicely for her. Elsewhere expect an album from L-Space (mentioned above), The Gracious Losers, BiS, Radiophonic Tuckshop and the usual great nights and parties through the year. There will probably be a few surprises as well. LNFG celebrates its second birthday in style - taking over Stereo AND the Old Hairdressers on 31st March. Details HERE

Olive Grove Records have two new signings that we should expect releases from. I am very keen to see Pocket Knife live and hear more from them. Olive Grove have also signed youngster Jared Celosse, a 21-year old from England who is studying in Glasgow. Some demos found their way to Lloyd at the label and he snapped him up immediately and has been talking extremely highly of him.

Matthew Young's Song By Toad are on a bit of a roll; recent releases by Siobhan Wilson and Modern Studies have been warmly received in Scotland but they've also broken through across the UK. The label is now well established and recognised, with artists regularly getting coverage in high profile blogs and 6Music airplay. I've just discovered Zed Penguin (video below) whilst writing this blog and look forward to watching them live in 2018. Their album is out at the end of February. 2018 promises a number of releases including an album by the prolific and talented Adam Stafford.

Fuzzkill Records release limited cassette runs and have already seen Catholic Action and Spinning Coin progress from their ranks. I wouldn't bet against them discovering some other gems and they have created a real scene in the city.

Scotland is buzzing with DIY labels ranging from the boutique like Gerry Loves Records through to the more established. Chemikal Underground have gone pretty quiet, Rock Action led by Mogwai are always up to something and had an excellent 2017 with releases including Mogwai's Every Country's Sun and Out Lines Conflats album.

Festivals and Shows

Celtic Connections gets underway in mid January and lasts through until early February. There is an incredible amount of music and activity taking place across the city. Check the website for listings. The Hug and Pint has an excellent bill of shows whilst the 80-piece Grit orchestra performing Bothy Culture and Beyond at the Hydro with special live stunts by Danny MacAskill promises to be pretty special. Elsewhere the Roaming Roots Revue is dedicated to Tom Petty.

Electric Fields has confirmed 31st August and 1st September as the dates for 2018. This festival is set in beautiful grounds and has a real boutique feel to it. It is improving year on year and I look forward to hearing the first batch of acts to be announced.

Nile Rodgers is bringing his party style sets to Kelvingrove Park! After 2 sold out shows at the Bandstand, he is coming back for a weekend and he is in charge of the line-up! The FoldxFiesta promises to get people dancing their hearts out. Nile is responsible for one of my all time favourite shows at the Wickerman Festival. We may well plan our summer holiday around this!

SWG3 has already announced outdoor shows in the Galvanisers Yard by LCD Soundsystem and Belle and Sebastian, following on from successful shows by The XX last year. Look out for more super cool outdoor shows being announced in the new year. SWG3 is going from strength to strength.

TRNSMT looks like it is here to stay after a successful first year. T in the Park has pretty much rebranded and moved to the city. Liam Gallagher, The Killers and Stereophonics have been announced as the 3 headliners. There have been a lot of online debates in relation to the line-up, but T was never been about being cool, looks like TRNSMT won't be either - it's about giving people what they want..... and selling enough tickets to put on the biggest festival in Scotland. All reports from last year were extremely positive.

The Kelvingrove Bandstand shows are eagerly anticipated in my household and indeed my family. This magical venue has hosted some of my favourite shows in recent years and I sincerely look forward to going back in the summer of 2018. I'm holding out for The Charlatans being invited!

Belladrum - The Tartan Heart Festival is on to a winning formula and it sells out every year.

In Glasgow we have multi-venue festivals from PCL with The Stag and Dagger, confirmed for bank Holiday Sunday on 6th May, and the Tenement Trail from the team at Tenement TV.

SAY Award
The SAY Award goes from strength to strength. Will it be back in Paisley this year? It's not the easiest to get to! But this is such an important event for Scottish music, recognising the talent and diversity that the country continues to provide. I'll be hoping for an LNFG release making the shortlist. Elsewhere I think Siobhan Wilson should make the shortlist.