Episode 5 While my podcast gently weeps

In this episode we discuss whether rioting should have a catchy soundtrack and wife swapping amongst bands. Oh, and albums…

  • The White Album, The Beatles (1:25)
  • What’s going on?, Marvin Gaye (16:30)
  • Rage against the machine, RATM (37:45)

Obviously you were impressed by this episode (Smug mode). Why not get on a roll and listen to even more amzing episodes?! Check out our episode guide!

Check out the 3 album playlist, listen along with us and then let us know your comments! We might even care!

Liege and lief

Liege & Lief is the heart-warming 1969 album from The Fairport Convention.

Possibly the first major British folk-rock album, it combines the nostalgia of traditional British folk with hints of electric guitar; another step towards the growing dominance of electric instruments in every nook and cranny of the musical sphere.

Suffused with drama, passion and eroticism, it comprises a mixture of traditional folk music (‘Reynardine’, ‘The Deserter’, ‘Tam Lin’) and original compositions (‘Come All Ye’, ‘Farewell, Farewell’, ‘Crazy Man Michael’) written and performed in Fairport’s electric take on the folk style, creating a work that is both familiar and new, traditional and forward looking.

Recorded in the aftermath of a tour-bus accident that had killed drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson’s girlfriend, the band wrote and recorded this album in 1969, however before it was released both Hutchings and Denny had left band: Hutchings to pursue traditional music with Steeleye Span, and Denny to form Fotheringay.

‘Come All Ye’ opens the album, and for me this was the greatest moment of a truly great album.  I’m not very well-versed in folk music, so I had little expectations going in to Liege and Leif.  This track creates a feeling of welcoming the listener back into a community that they have always been a part of, but perhaps not visited in a long time.

Like many of my generation (the ‘Millennials’) I was born in the 80’s in a mid-sized industrial English city and grew up with the usual cultural markers: Noel Edmonds House Party, Panini football sticker albums and the dream of owning a Sony Playstation.  Looking back on my childhood I can see there was something missing and listening to this opening track I felt that this might have been part of ‘it’.  This lively warm and welcoming folk music creates a sense of history and belonging.  I can’t explain exactly how it does this, but that was what I felt.

As the album progressed the stories of love, mystery, danger and injustice unfold, and I was drawn deeper and deeper into the nostalgia.  Matty Groves gives the account of an extra-marital affair that ends in the death of both lovers at the hand of the cuckold husband.  Reynardine an encounter between a beautiful woman and a “sly, bold” man who entices her back to his castle, and The Deserter; a tale of a man repeatedly forced into the army when he just wants to be free.  All these songs adding to the tapestry of a long deep history of England that we have lost as part of our shared cultural memory, but many of us quietly long for.

That said, I haven’t yet left behind my city home for a simpler life in the country; growing my own food and making my own clothes out of hemp sacks, and spending days rambling across the hills and forrests getting into adventures.  But this album opened a window to me and gave me an idea of a different way of life.  Maybe one day I will.

I really enjoyed the album, and at the time of recording the podcast I must admit I fired out a rating of five stars, however having had a little more time to consider and considering the fact that I haven’t had an inkling to listen to it again in the time since recording, I have revised this to a four, and at a four it stands. 

Trak of the album:  ‘Come All Ye’

Rating:  4/5

What’s going on?

It’s unusual that by the 11th album of your career you should suddenly go rogue, but that’s exactly what Marvin Gaye decided to do on What’s Going On?

The poster boy and statesman of Motown records saw the social problems both on the streets of Detroit and in the media, and like many artists at the time decided to make a record of it.

Head Honcho of Motown, Barry Gordy reeeeeeeally was not down with this. Motown had a formula, he sang the formula, the customers bought the formula…why rock the boat? Motown had evolved into a hit-making production factory…songwriters, house musicians, backing singers, the image guys etc – No protest albums here, thank you.

Gaye had been in a deep depression resulting from multiple misfortunes: the discovery that singing partner Tammi Terrell was afflicted with a brain tumour, a failed marriage and general disaffection with the conformist nature of his musical output.

Tired of being a man they put hair spray on and poked with a stick onto the stage, Marvin Gaye turned the tables:  he boycotted promotion of his music, grew a beard and [seriously] tried out for a professional NFL team.

Despite Motown’s protestations, Marvin Gaye and a skeleton staff  secretly recorded the title track and then presented the song to Gordy. He hated it. The factory ‘Hitsville’ hated it.

It is stories like this which really make you think of what would have happened if someone like Bob Dylan had gone to Simon Cowell – “He sounds weird, he looks weird, he doesn’t dance (I’m guessing) and keeps on singing about weird stuff and issues”.

Anyway, the single was released without Gordy’s approval and sold a boatload; and suddenly Gordy, ears suitably pricked, told him to get the album finished in 30 days. Gaye did, and it went on to be one of the biggest selling soul albums of all time.

This is the 9th paragraph in so I guess I should tell you about the music, I get distracted by the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff – It’s amazing to think of even the great Marvin Gaye having to employ guerrilla tactics to get his music released!

The first impression you get of this album is Gaye’s incredible voice – He is a true thoroughbred singer and uses every ounce of sublime silk from his vocal cords. The exquisite saxophone riff is regal and enchanting but weirdly sinister opening for ‘What’s going on?’. There is still that unmistakable Motown trademark of clicking fingers and backing vocal harmonies. The swooning strings are dream-like with blues walking bass and street conversation samples provide a sinister texture.

It’s a very disorientating sound – It feels like it should be a love song with so many sound associations but with darker lyrics you’d expect of a political folk protest song, sung by a super cool Motown singer. Dizzying.

So, pros – Amazing voice, outstanding musicianship, great opening track

Cons – The rest of the album is a bit……samey. And cheesy – The lyrics sound a bit overly gushy and, in some cases, even lazy. If we compare this to other protest songs of the era and previous years, this has none of the impact, confrontation, fighting spirit and venom of the New York Village or Southern rock.

However, this is may be a little bit harsh – I think Gaye wanted to keep that sound that worked so well for him and it was his style, that’s how he performed, and it does sound glorious.

As a protest album it succeeded in spreading its message to parts of the world other protest albums don’t; through the power of sweet melody, plush orchestral movement, funky bass and a superstar more at home on Soul train than Highway 61 this album.

Song of the album: What’s Going on?

Rating: 3/5

Episode 4 Don’t you shiiiiverrrrrrrrr-hoooowlllll!

There’s a time in every podcaster’s life where you have to just roll up your sleeves, put on your posh wellies and go and see Coldplay. At Wimbledon. In a gilet. Listen on for our entirely unbiased and fair review! How can a howling dog be wrong?!

Also we discuss what music sounds like if you take viagra before a recording session.

Albums:

  • Parachutes, Coldplay (2:14)
  • Purple Rain, Prince (18:18)
  • All mod cons, The Jam (28:49)

If you’re disgusted by this episode, maybe we can continue our insults with other episodes! Check out our episode guide!

Listen along with us and tell us if we’re senile!

All mod cons

By 20 years old, Paul Weller & The Jam had all but sewn-up pop punk.

None of the slickness of Blondie, none of the confrontation of The Clash, but 3 yoofs who had heard what the 70s had to offer and thought ‘naaah mate, not for me’.

All mod cons was the 3rd studio album from the Jam and was a make or break effort following a disastrous tour of the US with Blue Oyster Cult, in what was perhaps the worst match-up since the ill-fated pairing of chilli and sex lubricant (yes, it’s a thing apparently).

Adventurous night-time escapades aside, The Jam were now under the cosh to release something punchy and that would sell.

All Mod Cons delivers with singles a-go-go and outstanding complimentary tracks highlighting the quality of the singer-songwriter Paul Weller had matured into.

So many of the themes are class-oriented and reflect the problems of the 1970s – Hooliganism, City boys, public school and the growing up in a small town and the excitement and disparity with the big city. Paul Weller would get the train from Woking to London on a Saturday as a boy to wonder around, seeing the hustle and richness of downtown West London. This becomes apparent with ‘Mr. Clean’ examining the city trader wide boy on his way to create and destroy so much wealth.

David Watts covers boyhood heroes The Kinks – Another superb track of growing up, anxiety and idol-worship, covered with power and tempo as the band made their trademark.

Complimenting this is the tender and gorgeous-sounding English Rose. A stunning 3-minute love letter to his girlfriend, English Rose sings of a poet, punk and young man travelling the world with home in his heart. Soft acoustic strings draped over it in contrast the short, sharp punch of his trusty Rickenbacker.

There are numerous 3-minute power-pop-punk tracks like Billy Hunt and the Place I love. One thing that distinguished The Jam away from their contemporaries was that tune and melody, almost like a revved-up British Invasion rather than a punk-done-lite. The new mods are here and gave a new dimension to the anarchy and nihilism of the punk movement.

The Jam were champions of the 3 piece – A stripped down unit built for punk, Bruce Foxton And Rick Buckler making full 5 pieces seeming like musical amateurs.

A’ Bomb in Wardour Street delivers a hot streak of punk energy and finishes with the violent ‘Down in a tube station at midnight’ an epic anthem for London life. Paul Weller had a gift for putting story and the little details to music – the graphic setting of a dinner table by a loving wife crushed by hooligans.

The Jam went onto become one of the most influential bands in Indie and like a pure music idea, allowed themselves to expire before they were wheeled out to go through the motions. The Jam had lit the fuse for so much British Indie to come. From schoolboy band to Top of the Pops to UK music royalty, The Jam delivered.

Song of the album: Down in a tube station at midnight

Rating: 4/5

Back to Black

Potentially controversial, but to truly understand and enjoy Back to Black (B2B) I feel we must first revisit Frank.

Released 3 years prior, Frank established an audience with its new wave jazz, neo-soul and infused beat sound, so popular in the early 00’s. Unfortunately, to my mind, it failed to stand apart from its contemporaries, artists such as Jamie Cullum, Katie Melua, Bailey Ray and Norah Jones.

Perhaps it was the feeling that it was all a little too ‘manufactured’? Molded by a production team run by Simon Fuller. Who, in addition to Winehouse, also shaped the careers of the Spice Girls and Will Young. To varying degrees of success. So, it is a surprise to some that, from the birthplace of Pop Idol, came the fresh, rebellious, belligerent and strongly opinionated Winehouse.

Amy herself had little time for Frank once it was complete. Speaking to journalists in 2004 she admits – ‘Some things on this album make me go to a little place that’s fucking bitter…I’ve never heard the album from start to finish. I don’t have it in my house.’

Whatever the lessons learned on Frank, no one could have predicted the transformation the 3 intervening years would see. B2B was Winehouse’s Everest. An album so far removed from the ‘soft furnishing’ feel of Frank. An album that transformed the charts for years to come, as well as bringing the beehive back into fashion, for better or worse.

As well as taking complete ownership of B2B’s lyrics, Winehouse took a punt on relatively unknown producer Mark Ronson. His first action was to relocate the entire production to Daptone Studio in New York and crucially employ its house band, the Dap-Kings. An inspired decision that saw Winehouse’s snappy, expressive voice paired with their retro soul style to great effect.

Where Frank relies on jazz café infused style and over-stylised, scat vocals, clumsily reminiscent of the artists Winehouse adored, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn etc. B2B has a far grittier toughness, emphasised by the content of the lyrics and Hip-Hop influences.

A lot has been written about Winehouse’s voice; her creamy power and smoked-cackle huskiness left nothing on the stage, bearing her soul for her devoted fans. But in B2B you felt the stabilisers had finally been removed. Like her idols Winehouse had the ability to draw you in with pure soulful sensuality. Her expressive contralto could 180′ from quietly beautiful to bluntly ragged and sassy in the space of a lyric.

B2B’s title track is the epitome of this. A story of lost love, bitterness and hopelessness, it harks back to old school soul music and vintage 60’s girl groups such as Martha and the Vandellas. Inspired by the breakup of her own relationship to Fielder-Civil, who had left Amy for an ex. ‘Back to black’ is an admission to her relapse back into heroin addiction. It is testament to Winehouse’s writing that something so tragic could be so easily listened to.

From the ‘sass’ side of the scale we have ‘Tears dry on their own’. A far more upbeat tune that draws inspiration from Motown. Indeed, the main chord progression is sampled from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’. It’s a refreshing oasis on the album and comes just a little over halfway through.

Long since the cardigan wearing, singer-songwriters of the early 70’s, B2B opened the door again for artists to release soul-baring albums that were made to be ‘relatable’. And in a society where social media has made over sharing a sporting pastime, we lapped it up. By writing so frankly about herself and life, Winehouse unintentionally paved the way for artists to publicly air their nepotism in the name of art. Take a bow; Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Adele…

Whether we should thank Amy Winehouse for this is another debate. What isn’t up for debate is the quality of B2B. To date it has achieved 13-times platinum, having sold 3.94 million copies, it is the UK’s second-best selling album of the 21st Century so far (UK’s 13th bestselling album of all time)*.

In 2006, whilst Snow Patrol were Chasing Cars, Pink was reminding us ‘I’m not Dead’ and Oasis were literally trying to ‘Stop the Clocks’. Amy Winehouse and B2B was trying to remind us what it sounds like to really have something to say.

Song of the album: Back to Black

Rating 5/5!

Polly

*figures correct as of Dec 2019

Aqualung

If Henry 8th had a house band, it would’ve been Jethro Tull.

Jethro Tull were arguably Britain’s most commercially successful prog folk, blues, rock, metal, jazz group. A niche category, but the best nonetheless!

Aqualung was written as an album to make a significant breakthrough into the mainstream. The late 60s saw many folk-inspire acts, some better than others, but many were really part of the wider movement for the preservation of traditions, nature, sandals, ye olde cider….that sort of thing.

By 1971, the 60s was well and truly gone and the transition from twee kinks, rock n roll zep and psychedelia had turned towards a much darker sound in rock with the arrival of Black Sabbath. Led Zep had now gone to a similarly inspired sound in their fourth album…in fact Aqualung was recorded in a converted church shared with Led Zeppellin, though Jethro Tull got the cavernous sounding hall area, which adds a dramatic/epic sound to the whole album. The production values are excellent. There is no fear of overdoing the studio’s hand compared to the purity and raw sound of many of their 60s peers.

The album themes centre on an attack on organised religion – Possibly in a response to the burning their records by religious groups in America. This was reflected in other strongly religious countries like catholic Spain…but weirdly not Italy.

Anyway, the music! What you immediately realise about this album is the affinity traditional folk music has to heavy metal – Much of that folklore imagery and sound runs through both genres and what Aqualung does effortlessly is flitting on a sixpence between travelling minstrel troubadour and all out rock god riffing.

The album opens with possibly one of the best opening riffs on any album ever – Der-der-der-der-derrrrrr-der! ‘Aqualung’ is very dynamic – Straddling rock standard, anthemic ho-down, folk prog mystique.

Cheap day return and Mother Goose really show the pristine articulate sound of acoustic folk with quasi-medieval string playing.

Cross-eyed Mary has a psychedelic morris-dancing sound with soft jazz flute(!)…then techno fuzz riff-heavy Deep Purple-esque keys!

Up to me – A rare outing for blues flute with accompanying full blues chunky riffs.

During recording, Jimmy Paige popped into the studio to hear takes and you can feel his encouragement on the solos – this is guitar work that stands up against any axeman in a burgeoning era of guitar gods.

Hymn 43 is a stomping driving rock that sounds more at home with Creedance Clearwater Survival and Lynyrd Skynyrd and a different sort of homemade booze 😊

The album has a fantastic staggering of power rock and short, folksy pieces, which cements the versatile sounds – Jethro Tull are both a proper rock band, proper folk group and mash it up brilliantly.

Is it a concept album? Well, possibly – It depends on your view of combining two distinctly different sounds. Personally I’d say no…it just sounds too harmonious and blended. Many other concept albums of the decade had a pretentious and over-exerting effort to be different. This album just sounds like folk and rock/metal should really have been combined more!

Was it mainstream? Yes. Does it sound a bit niche too? Yes. Is the album cover creepy? Yes. Does it deserve to be on the 1001 albums list? Undoubtedly, yes!

Rating: 4/5

Song of the album: Aqualung

It should’ve made it to the list

It’s not on the 1001 list, but obviously they’re wrong. We sing the praises of those overlooked….

Bryan Adams, Reckless (1984)

Double denim never looked so fitting for Canada’s greatest contribution to music. Looking past novelty songs with singing mounties and a lady who flits between embarrassing aunty and tasteful Eurovision, Bryan Adams released his fourth studio in 1984 with sensational impact.

Now, it must be said….look past the cheese. No seriously, so much of Adam’s reputation has been checkered by student union rock nights and appearing on 90s soundtracks (amazing, by the way!)

So let me throw some hard science over that smear – 6 singles, all top 15 – Something that had only been achieved by MJ and Springsteen, had multiple tours, sold 12 million copies and was the launch pad for major success with ‘Waking up the Neighbours’ and that record breaking number 1 ‘Everything I do, I do it for you’.

The album opens with a belter ‘One-night love affair’ with Adam’s husky, gritty vocals, bright, thick chord riff and unmistakably 80s lead guitar. The entirety of side one could be a soundtrack to a coming of age or road trip 80s film in fact…just one fabulous track after the other. The night-time driving classic ‘Run to you’ with the epic opening riff, slow harmonic blues bend and anthemic chorus.

The tender and soulful ‘Heaven’ which shows amazing versatility for a proper love song and for true song-writing class, sounds just as good as an Ibiza dance classic remix – Sometimes melody is king.

At the time of writing, ‘Summer of 69’ had a shade under 500,000,000 listens – An incredible testament to a song capturing growing up and moving on.

A full-on heavy rock 2-minute wonder of ‘Kids wanna rock’ is pure hedonism with a real show of blues rock guitar skills and thunderous drums.

If that wasn’t enough…The grand lady of soul pop Tina Turner lets rip across ‘It’s only love’, cementing a grandstanding album.

It’s a crime that this album doesn’t appear on the 1001 list – Persecuted possibly for ropey fashion sense and that it is just pure enjoyment to listen to – No music symbolism, no academic importance, no social movements latched on to it… It’s pure song-writing, performed brilliantly and sold a bucketload. Av’ it!

Rating: 4/5

Song of the album: Summer of ’69

And just for fun…well cringe: Voted worst cover of all time

Episode 3 What’s brewing, bitches?

In Episode 3 we (Chris) explode the podcast, we get a visit from God, have our minds opened to jazz club (mmmmmmmmm…..niiiice) and read from the Bible.

We deep dive into:

  • The mis-education of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill (1:45)
  • Bitches Brew, Miles Davis (17:05)
  • Aqualung, Jethro Tull (30:30)

Depressed? Bored? Simple? You need podcasts! And lots of them! Check out our episode guide!

But whilst we have you in your sad, depressed and emotionally vulnerable state you’re no doubt very impressionable. That’s how cults work, always getting ya when you’re down. Then they give you playlists like the one below….

One of us. One of us. One of us.

Parachutes

Once there was a time when young scallys wore parkas, gazelles, cords and skin tight adidas….not for anything other than the love of being part of something bigger, a dream; a dream of belonging and that no matter what was going on in your life there was a presence of bursting crystalline guitar, greasy curly hair, anthemic choruses and the rebel-rousing live edition of top of the pops on a Thursday night and that was indie. Yeah, it isn’t rock, but it belonged to us, the kids who looked to Power, Gallagher, Brown & Squier, Frischmann, Witter, Marr, Morrissey, Sumner….fuck it, even Albarn and saw it was good.

Parachutes marked a turning point in the journey of indie music and indeed music. It was the day Britpop well and truly died. We accept that nothing lasts forever, but we don’t accept the weak strainings from a damp, musty tea towel, now bought from John Lewis that replaced it.

Coldplay were created in a lab – They were in fact the creation of a focus group aiming at the paper thin fragility of the newly arising beta male, the sort of person who looks like Mark Zuckerberg, the man who cries after wanking about his ex-girlfriend, the boy who was bullied by the school jock, the man who wails about the environment shortly before buying a Volvo 4×4, a man who wears a gilet. Their fans wear a straw hat and learn the uke-fucking-lele in substitute for a personality and vote for Cameron-ite Tories and probably went to Wimbledon. And enjoyed it.

So, to help you to get to know Coldplay I have devised an impartial quiz for you

The “Chris Martin is a nerd who worries about the unhygienic process of sexual intercourse and washes his hands after” quiz

True or false..?

  1. Their first EP was released in 1998
  2. Chris Martin and Johnny Buckland met during their ‘orientation week’ at UCL
  3. They wanted to call their band Pectoralz.
  4. The band determined they would fire anyone who used hard drugs.
  5. Chris Martin is a relative to at least 2 conservative politicians
  6. They once said a thing
  7. Coldplay share links with fellow edgy indie rockers Keane.
  8. Chris Martin once had a drink knocked over by a brickie in a pub.
  9. Coldplay made their live debut at a garden centre in Milton Keynes
  10. American tourists think Chris Martin is a fictional character similar to Harry Potter and is used in children’s stories to reassure young infants with anxiety and bedwetting conditions.

(Answers below)

Parachutes

What more is there to say other than there are warmed up greetings card lyrics, the Henman-like fist made when singing the rousing choruses fall like a wet flannel over an ill child’s head.

Look at the stars, Look how they shine for you, And everything you do

It is the male equivalent of the ‘life, love, laugh’ paraphernalia on the walls of women’s houses.

What is their impact on music other than to create something to play over the loudspeaker at B&Q on a Sunday afternoon? Or to have the horrendous sight of Londoners at Glastonbury in expensive wellies singing along like the radio 1 equivalent of American tourists at an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

But what this album is more than anything is the passing of the baton from the foot on monitor, the burly hairy-chested, sweat-ridden drummer, the action hero, the gratuitous widdle solo, confrontational front men, cowboy boots, double denim, TVs being launched from windows, wagon wheels, TFI Friday….replaced by nice people who take picnics from Waitrose to a local public park and have a nice afternoon listening to Coldplay.

Fin

Song of the album: Don’t panic

Rating; 2/5

  1. TRUE Safety EP. It didn’t chart.
  2. TRUE Chris went there after going to prep and boarding school. They all went to Red brick Russell Group Unis. Chris Martin graduated in Greek and Latin.
  3. TRUE Later changed to Starfish then to Coldplay.
  4. TRUE. Chris also stamped his rock star authority on the band by making it a voting democracy.
  5. TRUE It also means he is still nursed at the teet by his nanny
  6. FALSE No one in Coldplay have never said anything of interest, joy or of red blooded macho, gritty impassioned wit
  7. TRUE They also spawn with Hollywood actresses who write self help books based on questionable colonic practices.
  8. TRUE The brickie chuckled as he was leaving and Chris martin a song about the environmental impact of modern architectural design as a scathing revenge
  9. FALSE Their fellow Oxford educated manager got them gigs in Camden. Small ones.
  10. TRUE The children are reassured to know that adults are in a similar situation and are soothed by the non-threatening saccharine beige