After years of listening to not much more than punk and goth music, my formative years were massively improved when I saw The Blues Brothers. The combination of great music and comedy combined to making it my favourite film of all time. Listening to all those quality musicians playing timeless classics – who could fail but be moved by them.
I’d hate to try to grade them in terms of which song / act is my favourite, but this track by Aretha Franklin is just awesome. She makes singing with such power, such passion, seem effortless. She doesn’t shout, but just seems to generate so much feeling in her delivery.
Don’t we all need to show – and receive – a little respect, especially in these days of online shaming and what seems to be a lot of hate and distrust. Enjoy this: the original was 1967, hence there’s no video!
OK, so this is another guilty secret of mine. I really like Melanie Chisholm’s voice (she’s better known as Mel C aka Sporty Spice from the Spice Girls). In this track I think it complements Bryan Adam’s rougher vocals and the contrast works really well. Someday I’d like to cover this in a band, as I think it’s just a great rock song which a lot of people probably don’t know they know, and will dance to it anyway!
Oh, and by the way, don’t read anything into the lyrics. I just love the song and thought Id share it with you this week!
Back in March I posted about how long it takes to recover from being at the front at a punk gig. I’m thinking now that maybe it was a one off, and here’s why.
Last weekend, the same band – Stiff Little Fingers – played a homecoming gig in Belfast, Northern Ireland as part of their 40th Anniversary celebrations. The venue was outdoors, in Custom House Square, and the capacity was around 5000. When tickets went on sale, over 3000 were snapped up in the first 48 hours – I got two, one for me and one for my friend S – and all 5000 were sold out long before the event. Dee came for the weekend but had decided that she didn’t want to join us at the gig.
The support acts were not too shabby: Belfast’s very own The Outcasts, Ruts DC (best known for Babylon’s Burning) and The Stranglers, who had their 40th Anniversary a couple of years back. I hadn’t seen the first two before, so I was looking forward to hearing them: I wasn’t disappointed.
S and I met up around lunchtime and took in some of the sights (pubs) in Belfast. It seemed like everyone in the city was wearing a tshirt or something related to one of the four bands, and the atmosphere was brilliant. We moved to the pub nearest the venue a couple of hours before the gates were due to open and joined the throng of cheerful fans.
For the last couple of years Jake Burns, SLF’s lead singer and only ever present in the band, has worn a black shirt with white polka dots when gigging. Someone on the SLF forum on Facebook thought it might be fun if fans turned up wearing something similar. Eventually it was decided that we’d all meet up near the gig venue an hour before gates opened for a polka dot photo. There were 50 – 60 people in polka dot shirts (S and myself included) who congregated at The Big Fish (officially called The Salmon of Knowledge) on the banks of the river Lagan, and everyone was in a happy and excitable mood.
Once photos had been taken, people either went back to the pub or, as S and I did, started queuing to get in to the venue. Once we got in, we headed straight for the merchandise stall and each bought a tshirt which had been specially produced for the gig: as it turns out, they were sold out very early on, such was the demand (more are being printed now, for a limited time only).
We then turned the corner and saw that there were hardly any people in ahead of us, so managed to secure a spot against the barrier at the very front, right in the middle of the stage. This was a prime position and we were very surprised to have captured it.
As the various bands came and went, the venue filled up and the press from behind grew stronger and stronger – but we didn’t lose our spot. Cue SLF, and the place went wild: there was a general frenzy of singing, pogoing, chanting – everyone totally blessed out on the music and the fact that we were there, in Belfast, where it all began for our favourite band. What could be better? What could ever top that?
From a music perspective, possibly nothing. But, the whole experience was enhanced by a couple of things. First off, at the end of the gig, I managed to get a hold of Jake’s set list, which is now framed and on my wall. Second, it turns out that the Ruts were staying at our hotel, and I managed to grab a few words with their bassist and got a couple of photos with him. Third, I found the exact spot – not far from the hotel as it happens – where the photo for SLF’s latest album, No Going Back, was taken: I of course had to get a photo of me taken there. And fourth, we found Hope Street, which is the title of a song and album by SLF.
At the end of the gig, the crowd dispersed, still on a high and in very good humour. Since then, my Facebook feed has been full of praise for the city of Belfast, for the welcome the fans received, and plaudits for how good the gig was. Just imagine that: a punk gig with 5000 people and no trouble, no fighting, no bad temperedness. Everyone was just glad to be there.
I described in my article in March how I’d been battered and bruised by being in the second row at the gig at the Barras, so how do you think I fared being in the front row at a gig that had more than double the attendance? I was absolutely fine. Other than temporary deafness which went after a day or so – and which would have happened even if I was further back – I had no ill effects. My legs were fine, elbows weren’t damaged and there were no bumps or bruises to speak of.
So, this begs the question – when I next go to an SLF gig, will be at the front again? You bet!
Last weekend Dee and I were in Belfast for Stiff Little Fingers‘ (SLF) homecoming gig on their 40th Anniversary tour. They had a great supporting cast of The Stranglers, The Outcasts and this week’s TBT selection, Ruts DC.
The original Ruts were also around during the punk days, and probably best known for Babylon’s Burning. Their lead singer died of an overdose, and their guitarist died about 10 years ago. Now a 3 piece band, with the original bassist (Segs Jennings) and drummer (Dave Ruffy), their set had some of their old classics and some newer numbers which sounded great. The DC in their name is from the musical notation Da Coda, or “go back to the beginning”.
I had the pleasure of seeing Jennings and Ruffy last year when they did an acoustic tour as part of Dead Men Walking, along with Jake Burns from SLF and Kirk Brandon from Theatre of Hate. That was a very intimate gig: Saturday’s was the opposite!
The gig was sold out, with over 5000 tickets for an outdoor event. The weather gods looked kindly on us, and the gig gods were even kinder. I spent the whole gig in the front row, right in the middle: I was in seventh heaven. And to cap it all off, Ruts DC were staying in my hotel and I had the pleasure of meeting Segs the next morning.
On the Dead Men Walking tour, they talked about this song, It was based on a real night out that they were at, along with Jake from SLF and others, where a serious fight broke out and all the various factions got involved. The song itself is very textured, and tells the story really well. I hope you enjoy it!
With my penchant for cover versions, it’s perhaps not surprising that this brilliant Simon and Garfunkel song should make an appearance along with Mrs Robinson from a few weeks back.
I love this version with its catchy guitar riff and layered vocals. I think it adds depth to the original, which was pretty good on its own.
I first saw The Bangles on The Tube a while before they really made their name in the UK. I think the song they played was Going down to Liverpool and I really enjoyed their sound. Even now it’s quiet unusual to see a band, playing instruments, which is entirely female: there definitely weren’t many back then.
I like the connection that Michael Steele, the bassist, has with Joan Jett and Lita Ford. They all played in The Runaways back in the 1970s with moderate success. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about music is the connection between bands and how people move from one to another.
Sticking with the punk theme from last week, I thought I’d share this classic track from The Clash. Not just because the bassline is excellent, but because the photo that goes with it has become iconic in its own right.
Paul Simenon is in the process of smashing his bass – presumably at the end of the gig – and I think the image has such powerful energy and makes a statement all on its own.
I played this track with a covers band a few years back, and had it as my ringtone for ages (I now have an AC/DC tune, but that’s for another week!). For all that the bassline is a classic, and is so much fun to play, I can also state from experience that if the guitarists don’t play with some attitude the song becomes a bit bland. The song is crying out to be played with passion, with a swagger, and if you don’t play it that way it loses a lot of its power.
I should probably state for posterity that, for all I like(d) punk, I was never a massive fan of The Clash. They just didn’t seem to “do it” for me in the same way that other bands – notably SLF, the Sex Pistols, The Damned or Siouxsie and the Banshees – did. It’s almost heresy to admit that, according to some fans, but we all like what we like, right?
It seems to me that there’s been an increase in vitriol and hatred around the world, from the US / North Korea posturing, to the far right protesters in the US, to comments closer to home on Facebook.
I live on a relatively new estate, and at the moment it seems blighted by vandals and antisocial behaviour. Just this weekend, different people have reported, via Facebook:
capturing some youngsters (12 or 13 year olds) on CCTV after midnight deliberately breaking trees in their front garden
that their brand new home has been vandalised a matter of weeks before they were due to move in
that the lights outside their house were stolen and smashed further up the street
finding a dirty nappy (diaper) in their garden, apparently thrown there by the toddler next door
The first three are criminal acts, but the last one was probably an accident as the toddler may not have known what the impact of they were doing was.
In all these cases, the comments left by others on the estate have been abhorrent, from suggesting that the youngsters have their legs broken to pushing the contents of the nappy back through the neighbour’s letterbox. Just think about it. Suggesting that children are deliberately crippled for an act of vandalism. Pushing excrement through a letter box because of something that was an accident, rather than talking to the parents. Really? What is wrong with these people?
As inflammatory comments were left following each report on Facebook, people seemed to be feeding off each other, off the negative energy. With the first incident, I asked if anyone had notified the police and / or got social services involved, but that was met with stony silence. More vitriolic comments followed, but to my knowledge the authorities were not contacted. Instead, the community just got more incensed, conveniently ignoring my suggestion.
We don’t know what circumstances have led to children of that age being out after midnight without their parents. We don’t know what drove someone to vandalise a nearly new house, or to take someone’s property and break it. Maybe it was boredom, maybe it was seen as “fun”, maybe there was a long standing connection between the perpetrators and the victims. The point is, until you know WHY something happened, how can you comment constructively or with any kind of reasoning? To comment without knowing the full facts from all sides makes no sense. It leads to people being judgmental based on their own biases and perceptions. That can’t be right, it can’t be helpful and it can’t be healthy for anyone involved.
Yes the vandalism and other acts should not be tolerated, but the best way to deal with them is to provide evidence to the police and let them sort it out, bringing in other agencies like social services if necessary. Mob rule and vigilante justice is just not on. We as a community should be better than that. We as humans should be better than that. Is this really the way to build a community? Is this really the way people want to live? Is this how to build a society we can be proud of? Try showing a little compassion and kindness instead.