Tag Archives: punk

Week 33 – TBT – London Calling


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?  

Anyhow, here it is: enjoy! 

London Calling – The Clash

Week 32 – TBT – Nice ‘n Sleazy

One of the tunes I use when warming up prior to rehearsal or practice is this one. Only the intro, but it gets the fingers and hands moving well I think. The sound is unmistakably The Stranglers, and is a really dirty, grungy tone which I love. I’ve written before about how much I like JJ Burnel’s playing, and this is one of the classic examples that illustrate why. The first few notes are enough to give me goosebumps. I hope you enjoy it too!

Nice ‘n Sleazy – The Stranglers

Week 31 – TBT – When your heart stops beating

I can’t believe this song is 8 years old!  Where has all that time gone?  Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus from Blink 182 are the rhythm section of a band called +44, and this is arguably their only “big” hit.  I’m not sure why they named the band after the international dialling code for the UK, but it’s short and punchy, and I guess followed a bit of a trend back then for band names with numbers in them – or at least being called “The” something…

The song is pretty short but full of dynamic energy: the video shows Barker’s drumming power and complex rhythms really well.  I particularly like the break in the middle where the instruments each have a go, and a form of musical tension is built up.  This would be really interesting for a live band to play, as they’d need to be very tight to pull it off properly.  

Hope you’re ready for a good pogo and jump around – I am!  

+44 – When Your Heart Stops Beating

Week 23 – TBT 2017 – Smash It Up


Did you know that the first punk single released in the UK was New Rose by The Damned? Or that their brilliant double LP, The Black Album, had one side which was recorded live and which isn’t included in the CD version? I listen to that album a lot, and really missed the live side – until I found Spotify. Smash It Up (Parts I and II) is on there, and for as long as I can remember I’ve loved the bass line in Part I.  

This version on the video is a studio version, but it’s almost as good as the live one.  

I was lucky enough to see The Damned when I was in my teens. They released their Friday the 13th EP on the same day as I saw them, and the gig was memorable for a couple of reasons. There was a power cut during it, so Rat Scabies (the drummer) played a 10 or 15 minute solo while they got everything working again. Captain Sensible (guitarist) swapped his jacket with someone in the crowd because his original mohair one looked to be covered in spittle (not mine!) as was kind of customary (and gross) at punk gigs in those days. The support act was the Anti-Nowhere League, who found notoriety by having the B-side of their Streets of London single banned as an obscene publication, and they were very growls and menacing. 

I still follow The Damned and Captain Sensible on Facebook, though I’ve not seen them since the very early 80s. Listen to the track, and see if you can hear why I think the bassline is brilliant. 

Smash It Up (Parts I and II) – The Damned

Happy Valentine’s Day – Image #45

Today is traditionally the day (in some cultures anyway) when lovers shower each other with gifts and cards and demonstrate their love for their partners in many different ways.

For my part, I bought my lovely Dee a Help for Heroes bracelet (I got one for myself too) because we both like to show our support for those who gave so much to protect our way of life, and a teapot.  How romantic is that?  Well, I get that to be honest, but it’s not just any teapot.  We’ve spent a lot of time in the last year or so at a Buddhist monastery called Samye Ling, and in the tea room there they use cute little coloured teapots with built in strainers for loose tea.  The fact that they say For Life, and Samye Ling is one of Dee’s favourite places meant that buying her one of those has earned me Brownie points I think.  Oh, and as she’s an archer, and her card had arrows on it, I’ve done well in the thoughtful stakes I reckon!

In return, Dee had made me a card, so it’s unique.  She’s just started making cards and is very talented I think.  I love my card, because there is no other card like it in the world, and that’s very special.  She also bought me a boxed compilation set of songs she was pretty sure I’d love, given that it’s called The Greatest Ever Punk and New Wave – The Definitive Collection.  As might be expected, I have some of the songs on it, but not all, so I’m delighted to have this to add to my collection.  I’m not sure I’d class the likes of Madness or The Specials in either genre, and there’s no mention of the Sex Pistols or The Clash, but all in all it’s a great selection of songs over 3 CDs.

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Retailers in general and the card industry in particular try to make us feel guilty if we’re not being extravagant and to spend more and more money every year.  Personally, I don’t like that approach, and would much rather something that had taken thought, preparation and care.  Thoughtfulness and consideration for what the recipient might like is to me a lot more important than how much money was spent. I wonder what the price difference is for a bunch of roses bought yesterday compared to tomorrow….

What is live music for?

Isn’t music a strange thing? All human emotion can be portrayed through it, whether it be a couple of notes or a whole passage, sometimes subtly and sometimes with great force. We’re exposed to that range from a very early age: think about cartoons and animated movies. I find it quite strange that though our early exposure is mostly to the instruments found in an orchestra, whether singly or en masse, for the most part we “grow out of” liking “classical” music and instead largely turn to more modern or contemporary genres. Do we ever recapture the joys of when a piccolo was used to indicate that the mouse has appeared in a cartoon, or the tuba whenever Reggie Perrin’s mother in law (younger readers may need to look this up!) is mentioned?

Movies are often successful in large parts due to their soundtracks. Just think of Jaws, Star Wars, Titanic, Pulp Fiction etc – just the mention of those makes you think of the music (and am I the only one who starts whistling The Great Escape only to end up with Indiana Jones?) Soundtracks can change your perception of the movie, but also change you for life. Imagine my surprise when, having existed almost entirely on punk and goth for years, I watched The Blues Brothers and was compelled to go out and buy blues and soul by all the artists in the film. It’s still my favourite movie ever.

My own musical journey is, I think, quite odd. When I was growing up, the radio was rarely on, and my parents didn’t have a collection of records, cassettes or 8-track cartridges (it’s Google time again youngsters 😀). But nearly every week, I would eagerly sit down to watch Top of the Pops and, later, The Tube. I’ve no idea why music had the effect it did, but I’m very happy that was the case. I didn’t often listen to Radio 1, so I wasn’t really exposed to what the youth of the day was listening to – TotP hardly covered it, did it? One of my earliest memories is of seeing Chuck Berry perform (the soon to be banned) “My Ding-a-Ling” on TotP.  I got into trouble for singing “Crazy Horses” at school (I know, The Osmonds – what was I thinking? But saying that, I so want to cover that in a band some day!) and my first favourite band was The Sweet. Cue Eurovision and Abba came along – I was hooked. I won’t say much more, other than “Arrival” was the first album I ever owned (hopefully redemption can be found in the fact that the first record I ever bought was “Funky Gibbon” by The Goodies) and a few years later salvation appeared in shape of punk rock.

I have to admit I’ve never been a big fan of The Clash – sacrilege to some, I know – and I’m not sure why. The lyrics were awesome, bass lines were brilliant, but there was just something I couldn’t quite get. In comparison, I thought the Sex Pistols were brash, but seemed to keep things on a more simple level. The whole movement was antiestablishment, in your face, and shocking, but if you listen to the music now? Straightforward rock with attitude, no messing about. I still love listening to the Pistols today.

Out of this new found music style, there was a new experience to be had – going to see live bands. And I have to say, that sealed music into me. Seeing people who were passionate about what they had to say, who enjoyed what they were doing, entertaining others and mixing with other people who were like me, fans – what’s not to like?  The first band I saw was the UK Subs at Carlisle Market Hall when I was 14, followed soon after at the same venue by Stiff Little Fingers, who promptly established themselves forever more as my favourite band ever.

At about the same age, the inevitable happened – I had to become a musician! So I bought a battered old 3 piece Premier drum kit from a friend for £40, hung a couple of metal biscuit tin lids from the ceiling cos I wanted more cymbals, and started trying to play. I joined a band, which rehearsed in my attic, every Saturday. I think it’s fair to say we weren’t that good, and the drummer was shocking! I could keep a beat, was a good timekeeper, but that was as far as it went.

I also bought a Kay’s catalogue Rickenbacker bass copy, with amp, from another friend, but couldn’t really get into it. In the space of 18 months I learned a couple of tunes – the UK Subs’ “Warhead” being the first of those and, incidentally, when I picked up bass again some 25 years later, was the first song I played: I still play it when warming up or sound checking.

Inevitably, the bass was sold, the drums were burned (after I well and truly trashed them while listening to The Who), and I restricted myself to watching from afar. Initially sticking with the music I knew and liked, then branching out into other genres, live music invaded my being. Whether it was pubs and clubs or theatres, open air events in the park etc, I’d go and watch just about anyone playing just about anything. Having seen Big Country at Ingliston, and Simple Minds at the SECC, I realised that I didn’t like big venues where you struggle to see the band unless you join the crush in the mosh pit. Years later, I saw Green Day at the Milton Keynes Bowl, and Muse at Wembley, and that just compounded that view. I just don’t get the same vibe or feeling from a big venue.

About ten years ago I picked up the bass again, and pretty quickly regretted having ditched it all those years ago. I made a point of trying to learn, or at least try, as many different styles as possible. I found that irrespective of what I was playing, all other thoughts, worries and doubts left me and there was just the music. That’s still the case today. I may struggle to play some pieces, I may worry about making mistakes or letting my band mates down in some way, but at the heart of it all, the music takes me and I can forget about the rest of the world, in a way that I’ve rarely experienced other than when out hillwalking. I now pay more attention when I go to see people play, to see what I can learn, what are good things to do and what are bad, which means I don’t relax quite as much as I used to at gigs, but I view it all as a positive learning experience from people who enjoy what they do.

If you’re in a pub, club, beer garden, whatever, and there’s a band playing, please make sure you applaud them after every song, and at least show some kind of appreciation. At the end of the day, those guys and gals up there have put in time and effort, and have had the courage to get up there and do something for our entertainment. They are worthy of our attention and encouragement.