Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Shortwave Set aim for Eurovision

After failing to be nominated for win the Mercury Music Prize, The Shortwave Set are aiming to follow in the footsteps of Gina G, Sonia, Love City Groove, Nicki French and Black Lace by carrying the flag for Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Their new single is possibly the best thing they've done. If they can do an album as strong, and do something more on stage than play The Debt Collection lp with a lot of pre-recorded music, they'll be contenders. Not necessarily for Eurovision (the UK will have to withdraw from Iraq and move to the Balkans to maximise its vote-winning potential for that) you understand.

According to a press release that winged its way over here a fortnight ago (nothing if not responsive here):

Roger Dunwoody, The Shortwave Set’s legendary manager, has unveiled his latest plans for the band as recording commences on their eagerly awaited second album.

Whilst many consider the band’s debut LP, “The Debt Collection”, to have been criminally ignored by this year’s Mercury Music Prize judges, this is not a view shared by Dunwoody himself: mainly because he has never actually heard of the award. Instead Roger prefers to cast his eye towards the prestige and glamour of music’s premier prize, the Eurovision song contest.

Bringing to bear all the managerial skills which led to his acts virtually dominating the Tattenham corner live scene (between 1969 and 1973), Dunwoody is considering an audacious plan to team his South London upstarts with the pride of North London (no, not the mighty Arsenal) in an ‘assault’ on the 2007 event. Details are sketchy, but Roger has assured us he has ‘had words’ and talks are ongoing.

Meanwhile at their South London HQ the band remain blissfully unaware, preferring to concentrate on their recording schedule, and the limited edition 7”, Casual Use/Billy which is available on Monday 20th November in reputable establishments while stocks last. “Billy” is also available now from Rough Trade Shops’ new digital empire.(

Following the acclaimed success of the Pawn Shop club nights in Soho, The Shortwave Set end the year back on home turf with a South-East London Christmas knees up at The Montague Arms, New Cross. This will be taking place on Friday 1st December from 8pm. The tax is £4 (an additional £2 if you wish to sit on Santa¹s knee). The Montague Arms, 289 Queens Road, New Cross, SE15 2PA

Monday, November 20, 2006

No Music Day - A Con Like The Million Quid

Tomorrow sees another day of Bill Drummond's wheezes - perhaps this will be a good time for the government to bury some bad news, so if somewhere in the middle east gets nuked, we'll blame Drummond - in which the prankster or, as those less charitable than me might call him, a wacky funster - pulls another stunt from his tired old hat with his No Music Day.

Sorry, Bill, but there'll be plenty of music round FET HQ. Nothing special like an all-night party as waking up the neighbours is so Bryan Adams, but rest assured nothing will change just because you've been given the oxygen of publicity again.

This No Music Day is tiresome, but it's not as tiresome as that Million Quid con you and Cauty pulled 12 years ago.

Fine if you'd really burnt a million quid, but you didn't. You burnt a million quid in pounds sterling, yes, but it was just paper. Money doesn't become legal tender until it's been exchanged for goods and services etc. Until then it has only the potential to be money. All you got was a relatively small fine from the Bank of England for destruction of property. That - about £25k, wasn't it? - was all you lost.

So enough of the hard-luck stories, like whingeing last year, "It's a hard one to explain to your kids and it doesn't get any easier. I wish I could explain why I did it so people would understand."

Play plenty of music tomorrow. I'll be sticking on Bill Drummond Said by Julian Cope a few times, I reckon.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Robert Forster gets new career

Robert Forster has a new career, it would seem. After winning the Pascall Prize for criticism for his work in The Monthly, he said, "With the passing of Grant I've had to reassess completely where I'm going, what I can do and what I want to do. This prize, if I needed one more piece of encouragement - that's it.”

Forster did say, after Grant’s death, that the last Go-Betweens album had been made, last gig been played and last song been written, but I think many assumed he’d carry on making music, despite the fact that during their 'solo' years, Forster and McLennan regularly got back together for gigs. Now, playing live, Forster wouldn't be able to play a Go-Betweens song again...and most of Danger In The Past was written while the Go-Betweens were still together; many of the songs were played at their (original) last-ever show, in Sydney, December 1989 (and yes, I do have a tape of it; and no, I haven't got a clue how to digitise audio tapes...), so he wouldn't be able to play a good deal of his - so far - best solo album live.

Like most songwriting teams, Forster and McLennan worked best together. They wrote their songs separately, but upon completion, one would take it to the other, who would then ‘suggest’ changes, embellish it and after whatever alchemy it was they had worked its magic, the finished song would be much better than when originally completed.

Out of Forster’s solo albums, it’s only Danger In The Past and Warm Nights that I revisit. I’ve never really come to terms with him releasing an album of cover versions, I Had A New York Girlfriend, as that always seems to be the refuge of the failed songwriter who wants to ally himself with the greats. Forster was – as he proved again when The Go-Betweens reformed – so much better than that.

McLennan might have been an obvious choice for the kind of journalism that Forster’s now succeeding at. He made quite a name for himself writing film reviews at Queensland University, and only joined his best mate’s band as he was too young to enrol in film school. In one of his monthly columns, Forster discusses Grant’s erudition and polymathic ways:

“…I knew I could ask him anything, on any artistic frontier, and he’d have an answer. He had an encyclopaedic mind of the arts, with his own personal twist. So, as he worked on the coffee, I could toss in anything I liked – something that had popped up in my life that I needed his angle on. I’d say, “Tell me about Goya,” or, “What do you know about Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry?” or, “Is the Youth Group CD any good?” And, his head over the kitchen table, he’d arch an eyebrow just to ascertain that I was serious, which I always was. Then he’d start. Erudite, logical, authoritative and never condescending – not one ounce of superiority came with the dispensing of his opinion. God. I’m going to miss that.”

Forster took four weeks to write the full, 3000-word article on McLennan. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, you should find the time.

On a lighter note, there’s this exchange between Nick Cave and Grant to finish this entry:

N.C : I'm like you in that I'm very interested in classic songwriting, creating songs that have a classic feel to them. I mean, I don't think either of us are really concerned about doing anything that's new, or breaking new areas of music. We're far more interested in writing purposeful and soulful and well-constructed songs, and, as you go, you get more tools to be able to do that.

G.W : Where I grew up there is an annual picnic race meeting where the people from the surrounding cattle stations come and race their horses and relax. Whenever I'm there I get asked to play some songs but I find it really difficult because I don't know any of the songs they like. If I play my own, especially the early ones, they say "do you know any with a tune?" (much laughter)

N.C : I'd love to be able to play guitar and be able to sing, to stand on the back of a truck or around the campfire and entertain people in that way. I can't do that, unfortunately

.G.W : You could if you wanted to. You used to have an old guitar in London which I wrote "Cattle and Cane" on.

N.C : So that's why I could never write anything on it.

G.W : I ruined it for you. Did I steal its only tune? I'll give you a credit next time I see my publisher.

(Nick Cave interviewing Grant McLennan for Esquire)

Candle Records RIP

Sorry to hear that the Candle label is closing for business early next year. Australia's always been a fertile ground for great music - there's a very supportive network among bands, and live music is in the blood of all Australians - but there have rarely been decent labels that have managed an international profile.

Summershine was the last Australian label to bring great local bands to a wider audience. It released British and US bands, too, the latter in what seemed to be a timeshare arrangement with the fine Slumberland label (what a great period that was; the early 90s were particularly fecund for US labels, as if - well, no, in fact - they'd actually picked up the baton of the C86 movement and ran with it for a few years).

I'll miss Candle, I'll miss its tours, the excuses to go to Australia (ok, my bank manager has reason enough not to let me even get a one-day travelcard these days...), struggling bands like Mid-State Orange, with a couple of low-key releases under their belt, getting a leg-up by Candle putting out their album a few months ago - and what a fine album that was, too.

There's no other Australian indie about to make an impact as far as I'm aware; if anyone knows of, say, the next equivalent to Easter Records hiding out there, do let me know.

An old (1991) interview (excerpt below) with Chris Dunn of the Waterfront label, gives some good reasons why the larger-scale indie operations are so few and far between in Australia; we can only speculate on why there might not be another one.

"Well in Australia it's even more", says Chris, "Because for an American band, like on the east coast, you can fly to London for like 200 bucks, and then on to Europe. Australians are like a thousand or 1500 dollars before they even get out of the country. So that's an incredible hurdle. Here it's the first thing they think about is "when am I going to go overseas?" That's the band's first thought. Because Australia has a population of only 17 million people, and so many people from overseas forget that. Especially when you're trying to license a record. In America there's 250 million people and Australia has 17 million people. It's like selling records in Switzerland, or Norway might be the closest country to our size. But because it's such a vast land mass and it's so far away a lot of people have the idea that Europe is Europe and the US is the US and Australia is another market altogether. But it's such a small market. And so it's very difficult to make a living out of music here. You can do it in the States and Europe, but if you're just going to do it in Australia it's just impossible. The guys from Died Pretty can make a living because they've got American and British things, but you wouldn't call them a big band by any means. But Brett and Ron can live off their songwriting royalties. But it is a very hard thing to do to go over that mountain.
Chris Dunn, Waterfront Records, 1991

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

7" singles for sale

A mate of mine, who runs the fine and reputable Beats Workin' record shop just off Brick Lane in east London, has come into a collection of 7" singles that people who read this blog would probably have an interest in.

All records are in at least excellent condition. Contact details (don't contact me - I'm not selling them) are at the foot of this entry. Mike, the record shop man, takes paypal, UK cheques and hard cash. Prices are in red.

Galaxie 500- Blue Thunder/Red Crayola - Hail (Rough Trade split artist promo) (8)

Gene- For The Dead/Childs Body (4)

Gene- Be my light, be my guide/I can't help myself - SP 294 (4)

The Chills- I'll only see you alone/Green eyed owl (this is the limited 7" that came with Creation's release of Kaleidoscope World album) (5)

Embrace- All you good people (5)

Bodines - God Bless/Paradise CRE O16 (test pressing) (6)

Jesus and Mary- You trip me up/Just out of reach NEG 13 (6)

Astro Chimp - Draggin/She's my summer girl (2)

Smash- Rest of my life/ Tidal Wave - popcor 009 (2)

The Smiths- Heaven knows (White label test) RT 156 (20)

The Stars of heaven- Clothes of pride/all about you - HWS 853 (2)

The June Brides- in the rain/sunday to saturday (6)

14 Iced bears- inside blue suit/cut (original Frank release in the candy-striped paper bag) (8)

The Chameleons- in shreds/nostalgia (3)

Magnetophone- and may you..../chance to... (2)

The grand opening- Dont drop off/so be it (2)

The lightning seeds- Pure/Fools - GTG4 (2)

Slaughter Joe- I'll follow you down/Napalm Girl - CRE 19 (6)

No-man - Clolours (2)

Mercury rev- If you want me to stay/the left handed... (6)

The jesus and marychain- Upside down/ vegetable man CRE012 (10)

The Chills- I love my leather jacket/the great escape COLD006 (5)

The Chills - Heavenly pop hit/ whole lot ... Slash 22 (2)

Soul Asylum- Tied to the tracks/long way home TTR 8560 (3)

Free Kitten- Guilty pleasures/John starks blues (3)

The Smiths- Panic/vicar in a tutu RT 193 (3)

The Smiths - Shakespears sister/What she said -RT 181 (3)

The Smiths - Shoplifters.../Half a person RT195 (3)

The Smiths - Bigmouth.../Money Changes Everything RT 192 (3)

The X-men- Spiral girl/ Bad girl - CRE 013 (7)

Echo and the Bunnymen- seven seas/all you need is love KOW 35 (2)

Children's Hour - Ya Ya Ya/washed away/stuck pig (pre-Headless Chickens on Flying Nun) (5)

The Woodentops- every day living/ why (2)

Johnathan fire eater- The public hanging of a movie star/the cakewalk... PCP028 (2)

Sticky Filth- At least rock 'n roll .... (5)

Morphine- Sexy christmas baby mine/ Cure for pain SOL-356-7 (2)

Blueboy - popkiss/chelsea guitar (3)

Trembling blue stars- doo-wop music/ now that thers nothing in the way (3)

Choo Choo Train- This perfect day/happy bicycle (7)

Miracle legion- Little drummer boy/Blue Christmas (5)

Pavement- Demolition plot J-7 (10)

The nation of Ulysses- The sound of jazz to come/presidents of vice (2)

The Field Mice - The Autumn Store Pt1 and Pt2 (Sarah 24 and 25) (6 each or 10 for both)

Felt - Penelope Tree Cherry 59 (9)

Wolf & cub- Thousand cuts/Spirals (3)

The Bodines- God Bless/Paradise (6)

Celebration- Diamonds/Ancient animals (2)

Mew- Apocolypso/Drown EVIL02 (2)

Mew - Special/like chaser (2)

The icicle works- Nirvana/lovehunt sirocco WORKS001 (4)

The Delgados- Monica webster/Brand new car (promo CHEM 001) (3)

Carter and jeffries- Knocked out or whereabouts/spark off a wire (2)

Phone: (11am - 7pm, Tues-Sun) 020 7729 8249
Email: mail@beatsworkinrecords
beats workin' records
93-95 sclater street
london e1 6hrt

A Whiter Shade of Pale

The continuing kerfuffle between Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher over the songwriting credits to A Whiter Shade Of Pale, highlighted in court this week, could be resolved very easily: give the money to Percy Sledge.

A Whiter Shade Of Pale owes more than a little musical debt to When A Man Loves A Woman. Both songs, of course, are based structurally on Bach’s Air On A G String, although neither is a direct copy. The problem here, though, is that Bach’s out of copyright and – I think you’re one step ahead of me – very much dead; the writers of When A Man Loves A Woman are said to be various, although the credit goes to just two men, neither one of them Sledge, so that loses its impact.

The Beatles, as ever, are recognised as an inspiration, with 1966’s For No One providing the chord structure influence (again, though, courtesy of Bach). The solution to this legal battle isn’t simple, although you have to wonder why it’s taken Fisher almost 40 years to bring the legal case. That’s a lot of money he’s missed out on over the years.

I’m sure the lyrics are quite heavily indebted to an old poem by Sidney (or Spenser; I get so confused these days) which I read a long time ago and thought, ‘I’ll remember that, so I can be a smart arse.’ I have, you’ll notice, forgotten (and saved myself from being a smart arse…) but I’m left with the feeling that A Whiter Shade Of Pale is a rip-off in its music, its lyrics and even the idea of taking that piece of classical music and making it into a pop song.