Rock's Backpages Writers' Blogs » Alex Ogg Rock reviews, rock articles & rock interviews from the Ultimate Rock'n'Roll Library Sun, 19 May 2013 03:11:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 On The Road with Rabid Mon, 07 Mar 2011 12:05:37 +0000 Alex Ogg Continue reading ]]>  


A week ago I received an email from Jack Rabid, the editor of New York’s enduring Big Takeover magazine, to say that he was London-bound. An encyclopaedic print magazine (remember them?), BT has survived for 30 years covering any music that had, in its founder’s estimation, ‘heart’. Named in tribute to the Bad Brains’ song, it started out as a music-obsessed 17-year-old’s love letter to those lost heroes of the original Loud Fast Rules scene, the Stimulators. Jack concurrently played drums in Even Worse, immortalised on the cassette-only ROIR compilation New York Thrash (fellow graduates included the pre-rap Beastie Boys and Jesse Malin’s Heart Attack as well as the Stimulators).

But you could never cite Big Takeover as a genre magazine, or not for very long anyway. Its editor latched on to the Bunnymen, Sound, Chameleons and Comsat Angels in addition to a fast-developing domestic punk scene (Rabid was a fervent advocate of Seattle’s Wipers long before Cobain began to name-check them, as well as Husker Du, the Minutemen, Minor Threat et al). But coverage also unapologetically explored treasures of the past, including exhaustive pieces with Arthur Lee, Badfinger, the Pretty Things, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Iggy Pop and more recently Ray Davies and Brian Wilson. Along the way he was one of the first writers to acknowledge the Smiths in America, ditto Radiohead and Belle & Sebastian, as well as being a fierce advocate of REM, the Replacements, Wilco and Guided By Voices, to name but several.

His output was both prolific and effusive – for those he loved. I was able to tell him about the time I read three reviews of live gigs and realised that they were all dated the same day; which was not impossible given the staging times of shows in New York in the 80s and 90s. His writing remains infectious, direct, ‘felt’, and his advocacy of bands a refreshing change from a British music press too often focused on novelty and hipdom. So while REM and Radiohead have graced BT’s cover twice each, accompanying seriously in-depth interviews, others have featured the Catherine Wheel, Idlewild and other bands whose critical stock, at least in their native countries, had long tailed off.



Typically, Jack’s stay will be accompanied by some gig-going. He’s spied a show by a new London band, of whom I am gloriously unacquainted, who are rather inconveniently playing out of town. After meeting, greeting and eating with his wife Mary and three-year-old son Jim, alongside my partner and progeny and those of Steve Drewett of the Newtown Neurotics (one of those bands Jack’s always had a soft spot for), we have a frantic dash to the dreaming spires for some dream-pop – a less pejorative American appellation for the stuff British writers once dubbed shoegaze. Jack has decided he really digs the Ex-Lovers and so it’s a bus to Oxford and an unholy nightmare getting back across London at silly o’clock in the morning for both of us.



The idea of a road trip with Jack, a man whose knowledge of music is every bit equal to his enthusiasm, is a delight, though I’d kind of rather have the Rockies or Blue Ridge Parkway as a backdrop – well, anything but the M40. The conversation more than compensates, though. Over a three-hour round trip we take in the joys and restrictions of fatherhood (less gigs, but Rabid Jnr is already programmed with musical good taste), politics, artists we have mutually interviewed who are crotchety old sods, his late father and the economics of running a print magazine in a digital age. And all of it was much more engaging than I have just made it sound. I am also chided for my non-love of the Beatles – this is now customary – and learn his current reading includes Bad Religion singer and UCLA professor Greg Graffin’s book on evolutionary biology. The new issue of BT, meanwhile, has another perennial Rabid favourite, Teenage Fanclub, on the cover. Aforementioned print economics has meant he’s had to cut the interview down to a measly nine pages.



The Ex-Lovers are very good indeed; they certainly have a bunch of 4AD records stashed away somewhere, but there’s a pleasing echo of Simon & Garfunkel in the close harmonies and they finish on a quietly intense version of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’. The original, of course, featured a mellifluous guitar line conjured by Jimmy Wilsey, who once played (pretty incredible) bass for San Francisco’s Avengers. The latter are another of Jack’s all-time favourites, and were among an avalanche of bands to play at the Big Takeover 30th birthday party last year (Mark Burgess of the Chameleons, For-Against, Jon Auer of the Posies and Jack’s own band, Springhouse, featured). I remind Jack of this curious historical connection, though I am 100% sure that I cribbed said knowledge from a back issue of BT in the first place.

Jack’s revelry in his new discoveries increases through the show – he is particularly taken by new single ‘Blowing Kisses’. To such an extent that, at its close, he turns to our assembled company and issues a proclamation. “Can you believe they only pressed 500 copies of this? Well,” he continues, with a mock-accusatory smile, “I’ve got mine!” And Jack is 16 again, jumping the train to Manhattan and wandering down to CBGB’s to catch the Ramones or the A7 for Bad Brains before bunking on Allen Ginsberg’s couch. Happy as a sandboy, his sense of wonder remains, well, Peel-esque.



The Ex-Lovers new single is here

Big Takeover lives here

An interview I conducted with Jack a few years ago

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2011: A Real Space Odyssey Thu, 03 Mar 2011 14:39:01 +0000 Alex Ogg Continue reading ]]>

This is something I’ve written for academic publisher Intellect’s site, who will be publishing the first edition of Punk & Post-Punk later this year. In the meantime, I thought I’d give it a home here, as it has some sage words from your very own site proprietor.


Last week I was invited to join a group of students touring the London College of Communication’s impressive Stanley Kubrick Archive. Having navigated the Elephant & Castle’s bewildering subterranean underpass system – the sort of place you wouldn’t want to encounter any rowdy malchicks late at night – a temple to the visionary American film-maker awaits in the LCC’s lower depths.

Comprehensive to a fault, the care with which notes, drawings, photos, props and ephemera are preserved herein would surely impress the notoriously obsessive director. Granted access to the temperature-controlled storeroom, electronically operated doors slide open to greet us, recalling a space-age time capsule devised by the BBC special effects department. Short only of dry ice and a Cyberman sentry, row upon row of carefully arranged reference material awaits. It’s a hermetically sealed environment that would delight Dr Strangelove’s General Jack Ripper, given his aversion to alien bodies intermingling with our precious bodily fluids. Here the Kubrick student can graze upon the original faked newspapers used in A Clockwork Orange, or contrasting pictorial research gathered for films set in the Victorian age (Barry Lyndon) and the near future (2001: A Space Odyssey). Ornate masks used on Eyes Wide Shut are present, as are scripts, location notes and Kubrick’s oft-terse personal correspondence. Simply put, it’s an outstanding research facility.

But here’s my question. Why does popular music, across its numerous genres and equally rich cultural history, have no such archive? Where is our space?

Some students of popular music and subcultures can get very angsty indeed about the relative kudos afforded film in this country ahead of music, which by any definition of scope, impact and influence, is a more immersive and interactive culture. It’s an age-old snobbery. The use of the prefix popular being as pejorative as it is indicative (Kubrick’s films may have had occasionally lunatic horizons with respect to integrity of artistic vision, but they were not, by design, unpopular). It has its roots in class readings of art forms and their relative worth and we should really, really, be beyond all that now.


In contrast to the body of work produced by, essentially, one filmmaker (albeit a singularly important one), there is currently no true archival centre for popular music research in the UK. While America boasts the ARChive of Contemporary Music in New York, on this side of the pond the concept has never recovered from the closure of the ill-fated National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield. Extant for just over a year at the turn of the 90s, it squandered £15 million of funding (partially from the lottery, when everyone was still doing the lottery). Completely over-estimating its visitor pull, it was eventually turned into Hallam University’s Student Union centre.

Opened in March 2009, the British Music Experience resides at the O2 in Greenwich as a ‘permanent exhibition’. It’s a place where you can gasp in awe (depending on your generation and taste) at the Spice Girls’ outfits, Noel Gallagher’s guitar or Humphrey Lyttleton’s VE day trumpet. All well and good and there’s lots of ‘interactivity’, which helps if you’ve been brought up on game shows and 3D computer games. Yet it’s a highly corporate venture (supported by Sky, Harvey Goldsmith, O2 owner AEG) with a very limited focus. You might be able to Dance The Decades in the garish booth provided, should you place no store by your personal dignity, but you will not be able to access any of the true artefacts of late 20th century popular music; original vinyl discs.

There is, of course, the Institute of Popular Music (IPM) in Liverpool, established in 1988, becoming the School of Music (in association with Liverpool University) in 2003. While its focus is research, alongside a number of taught degrees in popular music, its phonographic library is necessarily limited; 20,000 LPs, around the same number of singles, and 5,000 78s. It sounds impressive, but I could name half a dozen private collectors with larger stockpiles of vinyl, and it’s dwarfed by the two million sound recordings held at New York’s ARChive.

The British Library Sound Archive is, of course, far more comprehensive, with over a million recordings. Yet herein popular music shares shelf space (digital or olde world wooden) with classical music, with drama and literature recordings and wildlife sounds. It’s about sound in totality rather than popular music.

The vinyl single and album represented an often highly individual artistic statement that, back in the day, was far more accessible and pluralist than film ever could be. I know first-hand, for example, of the haphazard processes occurring during the CD boom whereby music master tapes, from all but the biggest artists, were ‘baked’ to achieve transfer; a one-off process that was hair-raisingly hit or miss. Budgets were infinitesimal compared to those afforded the most canonically tangential Kubrick ‘rush’, and undertaken almost exclusively for commercial profit. I know of one master tape that was almost completely destroyed when shipped from overseas because of customs X-rays (although this may have been a sound engineer’s crafty excuse for leaving it too close to a radiator for all I know). I dread to think how many cultural artefacts we have lost permanently as a result.

It’s not just about the vinyl, though. In the UK at least, popular music was accompanied by vast tracts of ongoing critique. I’ll go out on a limb here and state that, during the 70s and 80s at least, the output of the NME, Melody Maker and Sounds amounted to the single biggest source of genuine cultural exchange in British life. Here at least endeavours are underway to preserve this rich tradition, under the auspices of Rocksbackpages.

Writer and Rocksbackpages founder Barney Hoskyns notes that, “Historically there has always been a snobbery; a supercilious attitude towards popular culture. Robert Warshow wrote a book called The Immediate Experience in 1962, and that was one of the first books to say – this is as valid as anything else; let’s lose this idea of high-brow versus low-brow culture and see it all as valid artistic expression. It is historically important. It can be discussed intellectually. My feeling is that we have come to the end of a cycle; the explosion of rock ‘n’ roll has subsided. It’s a period of cultural history that has a beginning and an end and we’re still living in the echo of Elvis’s big bang, if you like. So just as there are great scholars of jazz and blues, I think popular music, rock ‘n’ roll, is becoming part of the academic syllabus. It’s inevitable. One of the motivations for starting RBP was to say, look, there’s all this great content out there. Did I know that people would be writing theses on Robbie Williams? No, not necessarily. But I still thought it was important to organise all this material, and digitise it, in a way that would be entertaining for fans and consumers, but also useful for future scholars of pop culture.”

Hoskyns sees RBP as one attempt to redress the balance and to lend this particular strand of cultural endeavour a haven it has previously been denied. “I’m not pretending that all of the critical writing on Rocksbackpages is deathless prose, or F.R. Leavis. There is some very good writing on it, but there are also interesting interviews and material involving artists who now are recognised as being genuinely important. If you want to know the theory of rock ‘n’ roll, you can read about Syd Barrett and Todd Rundgren and Brian Wilson. If you want to look at it from a social or historical perspective, in terms of genre and political dissent, etc, you can research that. We see it as a great complement to academic writing on rock ‘n’ roll. If you are a conscientious student and you want to go to a primary source, and you don’t just want a regurgitated, diluted version of wiki-consensus ‘rock evolution’, you can go back and check.”

But RBP remains an exception to the rule. Within the specialist field I know best, ongoing curation – in terms not just of vinyl, but posters, fanzines, button badges and beyond – is being done at the hands of collectors. A couple are English, but the majority come from Italy, from Greece, from Japan. They are preserving our culture in a complex, albeit largely benevolent manner. It still rankles, however, that there is no facility that adequately supports academic reporting of popular music – arguably our finest artistic export economically, culturally and on other levels – within the UK.

The Stanley Kubrick Archive is a wholly laudable entity. I just wished it didn’t provoke such instant envy.

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A Punk Rock Christmas Carol… Tue, 21 Dec 2010 13:26:54 +0000 Alex Ogg Continue reading ]]>

Cast List:

Malcolm McLaren: Scrooge
Bob Cratchit: Jah Wobble
Mrs Cratchit: Poly Styrene
Peter Cratchit: Adam Ant
Belinda Cratchit: Ari Up
The two younger Cratchits: Joey and Dee Dee Ramone
Tiny Tim: Ian Dury
Jacob Marley: Joe Strummer
Visiting Gentleman: Glen Matlock
Ghost of Christmas Past: Iggy Pop
Ghost of Christmas Present: Johnny Rotten
Ghost of Christmas Future: Billy Joe Armstrong

Act 1


Rock ‘n’ Roll was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of popular taste that was the Record Retailer chart showed 1975 as the year of the Carpenters; of Rod Stewart; of the
Stylistics; and of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. And Pink Floyd’s name was as good as death on anything they chose to put their hand to. Rock ‘n’ roll was as dead as a doornail!

Act 2


‘At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,’ said the gentleman,  ‘it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time due to the pox that is illegal downloading. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries such as cocaine and groupies; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts on their riders, sir.’

‘Are there no reunion tours?’ asked Scrooge.

‘Plenty of reunion tours, sir, though attendance at Rebellion has been falling year on year,’ said the gentleman.

‘And the publishing houses and back-catalogue royalty collection agencies?’ demanded Scrooge. ‘Are they still in operation?’

‘They are. Still,’ returned the gentleman, ‘I wish I could say they were not insistent on an undue commission.’

‘The Treadmill of the I Love the 70s and Top Ten Punk Rock Bands clip shows are in full vigour, then?’ said Scrooge.

‘Both very busy, sir.’

‘Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,’ said Scrooge. ‘I’m very glad to hear it. Though if I hear Marco Pirroni bang on about the Bromley Contingent one more time I shall engender a serious mischief on his behalf.’

‘Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,’ returned the gentleman, ‘a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the impoverished punk elders some meat and drink, or Quorn Mini-Kievs for Captain Sensible, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want of Recognition is keenly felt. What shall I put you down for?’

‘Nothing!’ Scrooge replied.

‘You wish to be anonymous?’

‘What? And break the habit of a lifetime? I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘I can’t afford to make idle people merry. The licence fee costs enough: and those who are badly off must join the Never Mind the Buzzcocks’ Identity Parade and sacrifice their dignity while Phil Bloody Jupitus scoffs at the ravages of the ageing process.’

‘Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’

‘Oh,’ said Scrooge. ‘Rimbaud and his anarcho punk friends? Never trust a hippy. They’ll freeze to death at Dial House in good time if they don’t get their heating sorted. If they had rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, if that were possible, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.

Act 3


‘How now!’ said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever, ‘What do you want with me?’

‘Much!’ – Marley’s voice – with that old Pygmalian in reverse schtick – no doubt about it.

‘Who are you?’

‘Ask me who I was.’

‘Who were you then?’ said Scrooge, raising his voice. ‘You’re particular, for a shade. Didn’t you hang about with that Bernie Rhodes upstart?’

‘In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.’

‘Can you sit down?’ asked Scrooge, looking doubtfully at him.

Scrooge asked the question, because he didn’t know whether a working class hero so transparent might find himself in a condition to take a chair. And felt that in the event of its being impossible, it might involve the necessity of an embarrassing explanation almost as long and tedious as Sandinista.

‘You don’t believe in me,’ observed the Ghost.

‘I don’t,’ said Scrooge. ‘Strummerville my arse. You nicked all your ideas from Jamie and me anyway.’

‘What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Scrooge. ‘A Red Army Faction t-shirt?’

The spectre’s faux Cockerney voice disturbed the very marrow in Scrooge’s bones. But how much greater was his horror when the phantom, taking off the bandage round its head as if it were too warm to wear indoors, revealed his De Niro mohican circa Combat Rock.

Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.

‘Mercy!’ he said. ‘Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?’

‘Man of the worldly mind!’ replied the Ghost, ‘He who never sat round my famed Glastonbury bonfire. Do you believe in me or not?’

‘I do,’ said Scrooge. ‘I must. But why do punk rock spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me? And why Lily Allen. WHY?’

‘It is required of every man,’ the Ghost returned, ‘that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide, boring common folk with tales of derring do in ‘77. And if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world being cited in terrible biographies – oh, woe is me! And don’t get me fucking started on Green Day. I’ve been spinning in my grave so long it feels like I’m on some fucking celestial wash cycle.’



Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked out.

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost with a monstrously oversized mouth, who ran hither and thither protesting that if the kids were united, they would never be divided, to absolutely no reaction he could discern.

Another, looking like he had recently vacated an asylum, pouted and punched the air with a rebellious yell, though his paunch had begun to encroach over his studded belt in its own act of insurrection. A haughty woman pointed a black fingernail at some damned vampiric apparition as if disputing the cause of a carriage crash, or parental responsibility rights for Goth. Elsewhere a vicious white kid tried to escape the attentions of a corpulent biographer jumping his bones and showing him his latest tattoo.



‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.’

‘Long past?’ inquired Scrooge: observant of its leather-legged stature.

‘No. Your past.’

Scrooge made bold to inquire what business brought him there.

‘Your welfare!’ said the Ghost. ‘I have some excellent rates with Swiftcover.’

Scrooge expressed himself much obliged, but could not help recalling the visage had been busted over the fact that Swiftcover don’t insure musicians – it was all over PopBitch. The Spirit must have heard him thinking, for it said immediately:

‘Your reclamation, then. Take heed!’

‘Did you say head or heed?’ queried Scrooge, momentarily thinking his old brittle knees might once again save his skin.

It put out its strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him gently by the arm.

‘Rise! And walk with me!’

Scrooge matched his stride, though he was somewhat disconcerted at the creaking of leather that accompanied the spirit’s gait and what appeared to be a horse’s tail emerging from his nether regions.



‘Come in!’ exclaimed the Ghost. ‘Come in. and know me better, man!’

Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and piercing, a result of childhood spinal meningitis no doubt, he did not like to meet them.

‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. ‘Look upon me! I mean it, maaan!’

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust, the colour of its hair.

‘And what would you sell me?’ enquired Scrooge, with still unchecked cynicism.

‘Ahem,’ spake the shade, returning the block of Country Life butter he held to the folds of his robe.

‘Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’ ventured Scrooge.

‘That’s my line!’ came the shade’s retort.  ‘Is there nothing you won’t steal? I’ll see you in court.’ With that he turned on his heel. ‘Rambo, get me fags! Two more house calls tonight, Duffy and that wanker from Bloc Party.’



The spirit led him straight to Scrooge’s clerk’s.

Then up rose Mrs Cratchit, Cratchit’s wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown and braces, but brave in dayglo ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence.

And she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons but with a strange penchant for wearing her father’s Y-fronts atop her skirts.  Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes. Getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar into his mouth, he rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to show his linen, and white sox, in the fashionable Parks.

‘What has ever got your precious father then.’ said Mrs Cratchit, thinking he had once again been dallying with that mad shaven Irish bird.

‘Gabba Gabba Hey! There’s father coming,” cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. ‘Hide the gluebags, hide!’

In came Bob Cratchit with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!

‘And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs Cratchit.

‘As good as gold,’ said Bob, ‘and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He recited to me this very evening a lovely verse about a seasoned-up hyaena in the back of a Cortina.’

Bob’s voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more when he said that Tiny Tim, with his new boots and panties, was growing strong and hearty.

His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister to his stool before the fire, where he unfolded the copy of Razzle he had shoplifted and read contentedly.

Act 8


The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter the gloom of a future betrayed.

‘I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?’ said Scrooge.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with a hand decorated in dodgy schoolyard tattoos.

‘You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,’ Scrooge pursued. ‘Is that so, Spirit?’  Will we be forever condemned to retreads of old Clash songs by those who name their progeny after dead Ramones?  Will the young things never know their own purpose, discover their own music, just endlessly recycle the mistakes of the past?

The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head.

The Phantom guided him into a street where Dryden Chambers stood. Its finger pointed to two persons meeting. Scrooge listened again, thinking that the explanation might lie here.

He knew these men, also, perfectly. They were men of business: very wealthy, and of great self-importance. One, he realised immediately, was that swine Branson.

‘Old Talcy has got his own at last, hey?’

Not another word.

Act 8


Running to the window, he opened it; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious!

‘What’s today?’ cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who had loitered in the local park cottaging for the evening.

‘Today?’ replied the boy. ‘Why, Christmas Day.’

‘Dear boy, go to the shop and buy the biggest turkey you can find!’

‘But, Sir, the Slits album is sold out.’

‘No, my boy, come back with a REAL turkey!’

‘Sir, I do protest, even by their standards it’s a crock.’

‘No, you stupid boy. Come back in less than five minutes, and I’ll give you half-a-crown!’

The boy thought of pointing out that his customers usually paid at least double that for services rendered, but ran off anyway.

‘I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s!’ whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. ‘And if I can’t afford it,’ he conjectured, ‘some chinless wonder from the BBC will sub me half a million to narrate a new series about situationism!’

Act 9


Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more.

Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, though in truth for some mirth at his personage had never truly abated. But he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset. Though even he had to admit that Duck Rock was a stinker. And hence he would modestly take credit not only for ye olde punk rock, but also hip hop, Afrobeat, dance music generally, and remained giddy at the thought of any other passing bandwagon he might alight his bony carcass upon.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence of Truth Principle, ever afterwards.

And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!

Words: Alex Ogg
Photoshop: Steve Smith

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How To Rap Mon, 17 May 2010 13:48:39 +0000 Alex Ogg Continue reading ]]>

Paul Edwards’ new book on the Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC

“You want to be able to stand out from the others and just be distinct, period. A lot of shit sounds the same, so when you got something that can separate you from everybody else, you gotta use it to your advantage.”

B-Real, Cypress Hill

You can get a textbook for pretty much anything these days. The Weird Book Room collates such frightening titles as The Humanure Handbook, Bombproof Your House, How to Teach Physics To Your Dog and 50 Ways to Use Female Hygiene Products in a Manly Manner. So perhaps Edwards’ new tome (out through Chicago Review Press) tackling the mechanics and logistics of the MC’s art will not only find an audience, but given hip-hop’s worldwide penetration, is arguably overdue. For, while once teenagers the world over ‘Hank Marvin’d’ with a broomstick in front of the mirror, likely today’s youth has cast the guitar simulacrum aside and is spitting rhymes at their reflections and dreaming of the OG lifestyle.

Edwards uses a largely first-person narrative storyboarded by an impressive cohort of MCs, breaking it down between content, flow, writing and delivery. The Performing Live section, for example, has subsections as prosaic as ‘Rehearsing’ through to ‘Rocking the Crowd’. In the Content Tools section there’s some Eng-Lit nostalgia so you can remind yourself of the difference between conventions such as assonance and consonance. It’s often backed up by a primo example from the canon, sometimes illustrated in tabular form, right down to stressed syllables.

There are some revelations for those of us for whom a career in rapping is no longer (or never was) an option. Chuck D has always used baseball analogies, but here he confirms he envisioned his episodic interventions to be modelled on those of a commentator relaying the action play by play. Schoolly D opts for a quarterback simile. We learn that Gatling Gun hardcore MC Tech N9ne actually writes to a framework whereby his oxygen intake can be accommodated.  In terms of research, most contemporary rappers seem rather too trusting of wikiwisdom with the exception of Imani of the Pharcycde and Gift of Blackalicious, who will actually go buy or borrow a book to research his subject matter.

The devil’s advocate argument here is an obvious one – none of these artists arrived at this juncture by reading a book. They unanimously cite prior listening as the key to moving the art form forwards – a point on which of the Black Eyed Peas is particularly eloquent. But then no-one had ProTools or FL Studio back in the day either and hip-hop’s jackdaw mentality has always been about seizing what’s available. As Kool G Rap notes in his introduction, to be a great MC, “you gotta hear it, you gotta feel it”. Nothing wrong with some crib notes along the way, There are some useful insights here for the aspirant master of ceremonies.

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Songs for a Hung Parliament Tue, 11 May 2010 12:14:31 +0000 Alex Ogg Continue reading ]]> As Gord, Nick and Dave scrap it out, hard-pressed political researchers are self-evidently running short of sync ideas for soundtracking soundbites. Hence this quick list to accompany politico dithering.

1. Bucks Fizz – Making Your Mind Up

Awful, of course, but it had to be in there. You really don’t need the lyrics quoted.

2. Radiohead – Where I End and You Begin

X’ll mark the place / Like the parting of the waves / Like a house falling in the sea

Thom the soothsayer – our sixth form focus group provided the following explanation … “X being the vote, the house falling into the sea a metaphor for Parliament disappearing beneath the murky wash of the Thames … “

3. Paul Weller – Hung Up

And now I’m all hung up again / Just like a soldier from the past / Who won’t be told it’s over yet

Er… song for Gordy?

4. That Petrol Emotion – Big Decision

Economies gets weaker / Reactionaries stronger / As they get satisfaction on their knees

Very nearly up there with Thom for prescience, with the final quoted line particularly delectable in the circumstances (as one wag has noted, the economy may have been in freefall, but there’s been a run on kneepads down SW1 way)

5. Lethal Bizzle – Babylon’s Burning Down The Ghetto

Labour party’s full of shit / Cameron’s a fucking arse / Keep on talking shit, I’ll put your face through the frigging glass

Yes, Biz, we’ve all felt broadly similar

6. Ella Fitzgerald – Undecided

First you say you do / And then you don’t / And then you say you will / And then you won’t

Possibly likely to get more airplay accompanying parliamentary shadow boxing and horse-trading than Biz’s effort.

7. Sham 69 – Questions And Answers

Questions and answers / Honesty, lies / Yes, no you can’t, but you can if you know why

And where was Sir Jimmy Pursey’s name on my ballot paper?

8. Teddy Thompson – Change of Heart

Well, I guess you must have had a change of heart / You don’t treat me like you did at the start

Country music is all about betrayal after all . . .

9. New Order – Confusion

He’s calling these changes that last to the end / Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies / The past is your present, the future is mine.

It wouldn’t be too much of a twist to address this to the vexed PR issue . . .

10. Jay-Z – Politics As Usual

When it comes to this cheese / Y’all like Three Blind Mice

Probably the only relevant line in the whole song, but exquisitely so.

11. Husker Du – No Promise Have I Made

Tell me a story / Tell me just another lie / Well, I can tell you / Set Your Expectations High

The pitch . . .

12. The Tubes – No, Not Again

Once you are burned, you are twice shy / That’s a lesson that I’m still trying to learn / And it’s one I forget as you walk by / I’m tempted to ask you to return

Dave reels in the medium-term memory loss contingent

13. The Replacements – You Lose

Yea, You Lose / Yea, You Lose

Because it’s all playground stuff at the end of the day. Also, a gratuitous dedication to Nick Griffin and the former BNP councillors for the borough of Dagenham.

14. Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine – A World Without Dave

And the world carries on without Davey / It’s not a worse or better place / Uglier and safer maybe / But that’s a question of personal taste.

You know, just in case the mooted Lib-Con alliance falls and Broon manages to assemble his skittles.

15. The Rascals – People Watching

They’re all making a deal out of nothing / Decisions to be made, it seems so easy . . . And they’re reading into things without my say-so / And he’s sniffing his way to the top

In a nutshell.

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Gabba Gabba Hey: 25 Songs Mentioning Da Brudders Ramone Tue, 04 May 2010 11:09:53 +0000 Alex Ogg Continue reading ]]>

1. Motorhead – R.A.M.O.N.E.S

Bad boy rock, bad boy roll / Gabba gabba, see them go / CJ, now, hit the gas / Hear Marky kick your ass / Go, Johnny, go, go, go

2. Blubberry Hellbellies – I Don’t Wanna Get Thin

I don’t want to be as skinny as Joey Ramone / The folks wouldn’t know me when I got home

3. Spazzys – I Wanna Cut My Hair Just Like Marky Ramone

Did Marky ever get the chicks? / With his hairstyle and drumming sticks? / Leather jacket, Chucks and ripped jeans / That’s what he wears in all my dreams

4. Frank Black – I Heard Ramona Sing

I don’t care if they’re real or they’re pseudo / I don’t care if they get any higher / I hope if someone retires / They pull another Menudo

(note reference to Menudo, the famous Puerto Rican boy band with a ‘Logan’s Run’ approach to ageing process)

5. Heideroosjes – Ode To The Ramones

Sheena brought me to heaven / Pet Semetary brought me to hell / Mostly it took only two minutes / But I remember those minutes well

6. The Human League – The Things That Dreams Are Made Of

New York, ice cream, TV, travel, good times / Norman Wisdom, Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, good times

7. Sleater-Kinney – I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone

I wanna be your Joey Ramone / Pictures of me on your bedroom door / Invite you back after the show

8. Mr T Experience – End of the Ramones

We’re so sad cause we all know it’s the end of the Ramones / Joey is a vegetable, Dee Dee’s going bald / Johnny got kicked in the head but the kids still love them all

9. Eastern Dark – Johnny and Dee Dee

Johnny and Dee Dee / They’re My Heroes In Life

10. Helen Love – Debbie Loves Joey

They met in 1980 at the school disco / He kissed her for the first time on the last bus home / He said, you be Debbie Harry, I’ll be Joey Ramone

(see also the same band’s ‘Joey Ramoney’, plus ‘Girl About Town’ – ‘She got her picture in Rolling Stone, third from the left behind Joey Ramone’)

11. The Wildhearts – 29 x The Pain

Here, sitting in my room, with The Replacements and Husker Du / Like a rebel without a clue / And the Beatles and the Stones get to hang out with Ramones

12. Beastie Boys – What Comes Around

Why you wanna beat that brat with a bat / Why you wanna beat your girl like that?

13. Junior Senior – White Trash

We wanna dance next to Stevie and Ray / Underground chance like they do in France / And dance to the phone like Joey Ramone

13. Guitar Wolf – Kung Fu Ramone

(instrumental . . . apart from the title . . . but loud)

14. Wesley Willis – The Ramones

The Ramones really whoops a camel’s ass / You really whoop the horse’s ass.
You are the punk band king / The Ramones is excellent.

15. Boredoms – Noise Ramones

Ahem. Just like, white noise.

16. Milky Wimpshake – Chomsky V Ramones

I wanna read about media distortion / Of US foreign policy / But I also need dumb stuff / Like Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee

17. Rheostatics – My First Rock Concert

Aerosmith and Goddo, they were OK / But then I saw the Ramones / And it changed the way I saw the world

(The band’s Dave Bidini would go on to mention that he thought Paul Weller was Christ and Michael Stipe was “distant, but nice”)

18. Shonen Knife – Shonen Knife

Nick Lowe, Costello, Beatles / Redd Kross, Ramones, Buzzcocks / Shonen Knife is a cult band

19. The Boys – TCP

Johnny, Joey, Tommy, Dee Dee / T.C.P. will leave you pimple free … hey!

20. The Queers – Goodbye California

I’m going back home to see the Ramones / Get your ass off the phone, let’s go!

21. Courtney Love – But Julian, I’m a Little Bit Older Than You

Hey Gabba Gabba baby / Hey Gabba Gabba baby / I know where you live (Shut up!)

22. Stone Coyotes – American Child

Give us Jerry Lee Lewis / Give us Joey Ramone

23. Casualties – Made in NYC

They called you dumb / The punks heard the noise / The scene you created – street punk’s born

24. Sloppy Seconds – You Can’t Kill Joey Ramone

You can lead a horse to water / But you can’t get blood from a stone / And you can lead sheep to the slaughter / But you can’t kill Joey Ramone

25. William Shatner – You’ll Have time

Johnny Cash, JFK, that guy in the Stones / Lou Gehrig, Einstein, and Joey Ramone / Have I convinced you? Do you read my lips? This may come as news but it’s time / You’re gonna die

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Unpublished Transcript from The Hip Hop Years Michael Holman introduces Malcolm McLaren to Hip Hop Tue, 27 Apr 2010 10:46:53 +0000 Alex Ogg Continue reading ]]> I was hanging out with Fab Five Freddy and Freddy was telling me, ‘Oh, there is this thing called breakdancing. He actually hipped me to that and I went out trying to find it. I eventually found it, found kids who were doing it, and got more and more involved in it. I started bringing these kids to perform at the Mudd Club and different clubs downtown, and became like a small time entrepreneur, hustler, impresario. Stan Peskett, my friend, who is also quite a sub-culturalist, if you will, introduced me to Malcolm McLaren who at this point was promoting Bow Wow Wow and Adam Ant, and this whole romantic scene. I remember we were at a party together at this club in Union Square. Stan introduced me to Malcolm McLaren, who is still somebody I think quite highly of and who was always fascinated with his own role in popular sub-culture, the punk movement etc. Stan said this is the guy, me, who is in touch with this new thing.

Again, hip-hop was not a term that was being thrown around at the time. Malcolm always had a nose for the new thing and warmed up to me and said, ‘Hey, show me what this is about,’ so I said sure. A couple of days later I knew that there was going to be a big throwdown in the Bronx River Community Center up in West Bronx, thrown by Bambaataa, Jazzy Jay and a few other people. So I said, ‘Malcolm, let’s go up to this. I’m gonna show you something really amazing, you are going to get to see a new sub-culture emerging. So we planned to meet and we went up there in a gypsy cab. He was dressed a propos the whole pirate movement – which was kind of like, in America at that time, he looked like a clown. Which was kind of funny. I was thinking, Oh my God, we will never get out of this place alive! The way he is dressed, you know, big wide stripes and the whole pirate look!

We went up to the Bronx and we got to the centre of this giant projects pavilion and in the centre of this place and it was at night. Bambaataa had set up a turntable and he is playing his records, DJ Jazzy Jay who was his right hand man at the time was scratching and spinning records and one of his in-house MC’s was occasionally getting on the mic. Frankly this was a time in hip-hop’s history that MC’s weren’t that big a deal, nobody was paying attention to MC’s. I’m exaggerating a bit but MC’s weren’t that important, it was the DJ and a couple of kids were dancing. It was a big dance but it wasn’t a big B-boy breakdancing scene. It was mainly the DJing and the music and kids partying, but true to the Bronx, it was like an incredible melee of insanity. I mean people were having fights here and fights there, glass bottles were being thrown out of windows, it was chaos and I’d got Malcolm, this lily-white guy, and Roy Johnson from RCA Records, who was hanging out with us. I got them behind the ropes to be with Bambaataa and to experience this whole thing with the scratching, DJing and whatnot. You know, he was this petrified looking around at this incredible chaos of urban insanity. I don’t know how you would describe it – young kids just letting steam off and literally having fights and basically it was quite frightening – it really was quite frightening. But I was telling Malcolm, take a look at what the DJ is doing. Malcolm was like, ‘Michael, we have got to get out of here, we have got to get out – this is really dangerous.’ I was saying, ‘Malcolm, there is no way we are going to get out of here in one piece without their escort, so let’s just chill, wait and watch what this guy is doing. Watch what this guy DJ Jazzy Jay is doing.’

Bambaataa wasn’t a special effects DJ, Jazzy Jay was. Bambaataa would take really interesting soundtracks and create these amazing things from TV shows, Kraftwerk, etc. Jazzy Jay was a special mix DJ. And when Malcolm saw Jazzy Jay quick-cutting, and I believe there might have been a few breakdancers at the time doing something there, he was like – ‘Oh my god! What is this? This is really… this really is something new and really different.’ Malcolm had a great nose for this. So we eventually got out of there in one piece with escorts from the Zulu Nation, who put us in a cab. Malcolm was so jazzed by the whole thing, he was really, really turned on to it, and he really saw something big coming. He asked me at that point, ‘Michael, would you put together something to open up for Bow Wow Wow at the Ritz?’ I believe was late 1980. And I did. Actually, I had already at this point filmed the first breakdance film, a short film called “Catch a Beat” I had just finished it. I went and got the Rock Steady Crew, who I knew actually met through Fab Five Freddy, Bambaataa and Jazzy Jay and their MC, and put together this revue, if you will, this Bronx thing. This new sub-culture. I won’t bet my life on this, but it could have been the first collective hip-hop revue ever, where all these things came under one roof. So I am proud to say that and I thank Malcolm for giving me that opportunity.

With thanks to David Upshal

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Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time Songs Thu, 10 Dec 2009 14:46:50 +0000 Alex Ogg Continue reading ]]> Songs that were either unwise to begin with, or where events simply overtook them.

1. The Coup – 5 Million Ways To Kill A CEO

The sentiments of this track from Party Music might have been mistimed given the release’s proximity to the 9/11 attacks. The projected cover certainly was.

2. XTC – Mayor of Simpleton

OK.  You’re trying to win the girl.  The whole song is an open-handed gesture to that effect. So, you sing, ‘I don’t know how to write a big hit song.’ And you’re a professional musician, right?  It’s not much of a sales pitch, is it?

3. Nirvana – Come As You Are

Almost too obvious but, yeah, it’s that tragic-comic line about the lack of firearms in Kurt’s immediate vicinity.

4. Angelic Upstarts – Guns for the Afghan Rebels

When Mensi and co wrote this, the Afghans were immersed in a brutal war with the Soviet Union. Unlikely to attract much coinage on the mess hall jukebox in the current climate.

5. DJ Shadow – Why Hip Hop Sucks in ’96.

But M.O.P, Lord Finesse, the Fugees, Foxy Brown, Nas and Jay-Z all dropped in ’96, bro’!

6. Loudon Wainwright III – Rufus Is A Tit Man

Or not, as it would transpire. Kids, eh?

7. David Bowie – Five Years

Of a raft of apocalyptic songs, Bowie’s ‘Five Years’ was among the more prescriptive in predicting when the four horsemen would reach the starting stalls. He wasn’t right of course, but it would have saved us from Tin Machine.

8. The Bags – We Don’t Need The English

A fair enough sentiment from the female LA punk band. One to live down, however, when one of you ends up domiciled in Blighty married to the Damned’s Dave Vanian.

9. Alanis Morissette – Ironic

Irish comedian Ed Byrne does this better than we can. “The only ironic thing about that song is it’s called Ironic and it’s written by a woman who doesn’t know what irony is. That’s quite ironic.”

10. The Smiths – Paint A Vulgar Picture

Morrissey’s revulsion at the music industry’s tacky marketing practices.  Morrissey’s new album was released in the following formats: CD, vinyl, download, strictly limited edition deluxe CD, DVD, limited edition featuring exclusive filmed interview . . .

11. 2Pac – Hit ‘em Up

Hating on Biggie came back to bite Shakur big style.  Shit ain’t worth losing a testicle over, playa.

12. German Shepherds – Booty Jones

A disturbing song dedicated to kidnapper and child abuser Kenneth Parnell. The prosecution might have had a field day with it as singer Sandy Stark awaited trial for child molestation. Had he not hung himself first.

13. The Who – My Generation

The line ‘hope I die before I get old’ is probably the all time primo example of short-term thinking in popular music.

14. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – We Don’t Work For Free

Check your Sugarhill royalty statements, lads.

15. Townes Van Zandt – I’ll Be Here In The Morning

No you won’t.

16. U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday

How long must you sing this song? Knock yourself out Bono, but if you come out of your own shower that’s a deal-breaker.

17. John Denver – Leaving On A Jet Plane

Well, better that than a single-engine prop.

18. Schoolgirl Bitch – Abusing the Rules

Came horribly true when their bass player was revealed to be the Tesco Bomber.

19. Twisted Sister – You Want What We’ve Got

The IRS certainly did. Dee Snider filed for bankruptcy in the late 90s.

20. System Of A Down – This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I’m On This Song

Aside from the more obvious problems with this lyric, it tends to generate some profoundly weird cyber vernacular, i.e. “If you like the sound of This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I’m On This Song, please buy the CD to support System Of A Down.” These guys obviously have way too much money already. Of all the arguments against illegal downloading, impoverishing dealers isn’t the industry’s strongest suit.

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Listmania: Songs about Shoplifting Tue, 08 Dec 2009 13:48:23 +0000 Alex Ogg Continue reading ]]> Ladies and gents, ‘tis the season to be jolly (and stuff extra loot in your Safeway’s trolley). This is naturally an activity we do not in any way condone . But, with apologies to Tesco, Wal-Mart, five-and-dimes and corner shop proprietors everywhere, here’s a run down of the top choons for that illicit supermarket sweep.

1. The Slits – Shoplifting

The apotheosis of punk-feminist survival credo, in a field of one.  Distinguished by Ari Up’s sounding of that traditional call to the hasty retreat, ‘Do A Runner!’

Put the cheddar in the pocket / Put the rest under the jacket / Talk to the cashier, he won’t suspect / And if he does . . .  Do a runner!

2. Deviants – Let’s Loot the Supermarket Again (Like We did Last Summer)

From the Deviants’ ’68 album Disposable, featuring everyone’s favourite post-hippy insurrectionist Mick Farren.

Let’s get together and do this dance / Go loot the supermarket while we got the chance

3. Wilderness Survival – Shoplifting Books on How to Steal

Music by rich suburban white kids that rarely get laid. One is not being cruel – it says so on their website.  The title is a nice tryst on Abbie Hoffman’s hippy manual of the early 70s.

She likes to play all those games / I never thought that I’d play / She likes to say all those things / I never thought that she’d say

4. The Business – Do A Runner

South London herberts’ ode to over-running credit limits can easily also be seen as an invitation to alternative procurement methods.

When your flexible friend just don’t want to know / And the bank that says yes starts to say no / Do a runner / Have it away on your toes!

5. The Humpff Family – Shoplifting

Dour confessional by Scottish folkies on the subject of getting caught red-handed.

His eyes knew, by then / He saw me, He saw me

6. Ian Dury & The Blockheads – Razzle in my Pocket

An ode to that young man’s rite of passage, nicking his first porn magazine while the newsagent is distracted. Hey, that very nearly rhymes too. Helpfully includes sartorial advice for the well-groomed pilferer about town.

In my yellow jersey, I went out on the nick / South Street Romford, shopping arcade / Got a Razzle magazine, I never paid

7. The Smiths – Shoplifters of the World Unite

Whether this is actually about shoplifting is a moot point. Where’s that Simon Goddard book when you need it?

Tried living in the real world / Instead of a shell / I was bored before I even began

8. P.O.S. – Music for Shoplifting

Hip-hopper provides a soundtrack to retail misadventure.

We ain’t gotta worry / We’re tough / and we can deal with whatever comes up / This is for those who can’t pay the rent

9. Transmitters – Free Trade

Tucked away on Peel favourites the Transmitters’ ‘Still Hunting For The Ugly Man’ EP of 1979 was this, inspired by a shoplifting spree in Regent Street.

(lots of disembodied voices crying ‘It’s mine!’ pretty much)

10. The Briefs – Shoplifting At Macy’s

Speaking of upmarket theft, we have this from Seattle’s top noughties punk ensemble with a nice glimpse of post-cuffing contemplation.

Hand on my shoulder a voice says, son / I tried to run cos I never learn / There go my plans for the afternoon / I’m in a chair in the manager’s room

11. Kleveland – Jonny Is A Klepto

From Portland come feminist alt-rockers Kleveland and the story of a boy who can’t keep his hands in his pockets.

Taught me everything when I was just three / Stuffing that candy into my pants / Down at the Safeway, they never had a chance

12. Madness – Deceives the Eye

Though it’s not one of their best-known songs, it’s among their finest, and openly confessional.

In the earliest days of my shoplifting career / You could safely say I was filled with fear / It was nail-biting work from the very start / But several quick successes soon gave me heart

13. Angel & The Reruns – Shoplifting for Fun

Miles Copeland’s IRS led us to believe that this was an “all girl, all ex-con band”. They formed after watching re-runs of classic American TV while chumming up in county jail, apparently. All fibs of course.

Let’s go down to the mall / We’re shoplifting and we’re having a ball

14. Green Day – Shoplifter

Bonus track on deluxe editions of American Idiot talks about the inherent lack of ambition of your common or garden shoplifter

Shoplifter, you’ll never learn / With arms behind your back / Not a burglar or bankrobber / Just a kleptomaniac

15. Mott the Hoople – All The Young Dudes

The most famous song here though the below line is oft overlooked.  When Bowie recorded it himself he changed the M&S reference to ‘unlocked cars’ because he didn’t think it would ‘play’ in America.  Boo! Hiss!

And Wendy’s stealing clothes from Marks & Sparks

16. Straw – Shoplifting

Straw, those Blue Aeroplanes-affiliated Bristolians, riff more on the crime and punishment angle.

I’m trying hard to save your bacon / Time and time again you’re taking, taking / Shoplifting you go / A starring role in crown court

17. Anterrabae – Clever Shoplifting Tactics

Long Island metaller’s take on all this is somewhat oblique, but their dapper way with a song title gets ‘em home (though it’s not as good as their ‘A Shovel For Arch Stanton’, Sergio Leone fans should note).

I’d rather live by Sicilian proverbs than the words of a modern day saviour

18. The Beat – The Limits We Set

Two-Tone tribute to petty thievery.

Tell me which one would you prefer / One £100 fine / Or three months in prison / Me old cock sparra? / Shoplifting, shoplifting,

19. Steel Wolf – Shoplifting Bananas

What is it about Long Island and petty larceny? Their other song titles include ‘Exploring Uranus’, ‘Mistletoe Belt Buckle’ and ‘Spread The Love Mayonnaise’ – with its intriguing suffix, ‘Single Edit’.

She said thou shalt not steal / Although it’s got appeal

20.  Jane’s Addiction – Been Caught Stealing

This aria to asportation comes complete with handy ‘how to’ video as well as the ultimate klepto-chorus.

I enjoy stealing / It’s just as simple as that / Well, it’s just a simple fact / When I want something/ I don’t want to pay for it.

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Get a Studio, you two! Tue, 24 Nov 2009 13:17:24 +0000 Alex Ogg Continue reading ]]> Songs where you get the girlfriend in to do the backing vocals. A document of artistic as well as romantic congress, a charter for skinflints getting round MU small print or the shameless pursuit of duvet brownie points?

Qualification: Can’t be full members of the band. So no Abba or Alannah Curries, Linda Vegetarian Curries, New Order’s Gillian, Mark E Smith’s Brix or Billy Childish’s Nurse Julie. Or fancy pieces picked up on the dancefloor of the Crazy Daisy by men with strange haircuts, for that matter.

1. Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the Devil

Double bubble as it features both Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull. All together now, ‘Wooh, Wooh!’

2. Ray Charles – Hit the Road, Jack

If you wanted to be a Raelette, you had to ‘let Ray’, so the story goes. As for the backing singers involved, perm just about any combination from half a dozen candidates.

3. Gram Parsons – In My Hour of Darkness

Gram formed a relationship with backing singer Emmylou Harris as they toured with the Fallen Angels in 1973. Somewhat to his then wife’s displeasure.

4. The Stranglers – Paradise

Written by bass-slinger JJ Burnel about a nightmare holiday in the Seychelles with French society girlfriend Anna – who helped him sing it, apparently oblivious to the sentiment.

5. E.L.O. – All She Wanted

Most of the ‘choirboy with his testicles in a vice’ vocals on ELO’s output actually came from grown men. But this is one exception, featuring Jeff Lynne’s then girlfriend Rosie Vela.

6. The Style Council – Shout to the Top

This one features Paul Weller’s then squeeze Dee C Lee. A serial seducer in chorus line terms, he can be seen kissing Department S backing singer Lee Kavanagh on the video to Jam single ‘The Bitterest Pill’. Weller was last sighted in the tabloids Christmas 2008, having moved in with new beau, Hannah Andrews. His, erm, backing singer.

7. Notorious B.I.G – Notorious

With his homie and gal Lil’ Kim. We could have had their ‘#!*@ Me’ sketch, in which Biggie makes the beast with two backs to the soundtrack of Kim’s crude exhortations. But taste precludes.

8. The Beatles – Birthday
Yoko weighs in on the White album. Recommended related listening: The Young Fresh Fellows’ ‘Don’t Blame It On Yoko’.

9. Prince – 7
Recorded with backing singer turned wife Mayte Garcia. The video featured a theme borrowed from her former career as a belly dancer.

10. Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel of Love
Patti Scialfa caught the Boss’s eye while touring Born In The USA. Their sexual chemistry on stage during performances of ‘(You Can Look) But you better not Touch’ made a mockery of that song title.

11. Bob Dylan – Caribbean Wind
If we’re to believe Susan Ross’s kiss ‘n’ tell memoir, the Zimmerman has been no stranger to mixing up his dressing rooms down the years. Here he’s joined by Clydie King, formerly one of Ray Charles’ Raelettes, so she probably knew the score.

12. Sly & The Family Stone – Family Affair
Though stories of a procession of backing singers enticed into Sly’s web persist, the most notable inter-band liaison was between Leon Russell and Mary McCreary of backing group Little Sister. In 1975 they married and released The Wedding Album. Aww!

13. Bob Marley & The Wailers – No Woman, No Cry
Having spotted one Alpharita Constantia Anderson singing with the Soulettes in Studio One in the 60s, Bob made her Mrs Rita Marley and built his backing band the I-Threes around her.

14. England’s Glory – England’s Glory
Pete Perrett gave a berth to his wife and manager Zena Kakoulli on his pre-Only Ones album. Quite a family affair, what with brother Harry on bass and lil’ sis Mary also on backing vocals.

15. Neil Young – Quit (Don’t Say You Love Me)
“I’m with you Babe / I’ve always been” – ah, finally, a blow for romantic longevity among the revolving door entanglements of rock’s glitterati. It took Pegi Young 20 years from meeting her hubby in a bar in Santa Cruz before she performed backing vocals in public for the first time at the 1994 Academy Awards. She is also the subject of ‘Unknown Legend’ from Harvest Moon and much of 2002’s Are You Passionate? from which this is taken. Maxo muse points then.

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