Tomorrow night, St Patrick’s Day, I’ll be in Glasgow watching Stiff Little Fingers (SLF) play their 26th consecutive year at the same venue on the same night. I was there last year for their 25th, and am making the journey again this year as it’s part of their 40th Anniversary tour. It stands to reason that this week’s choice should be the first of their songs I ever heard, from the first album of theirs I ever heard: the band was 3 years old by then, and have been my favourite ever since.
Johnny Was is actually a Bob Marley track, and this version comes from the live album Hanx! To my mind, this is probably still the best live album, by any band, ever. At the time I listened to it, I wanted to be a drummer. This track was the first on Side 2 of the cassette (remember them?), which I’d borrowed from a classmate as I was going to see this band at only my second ever gig. Turn the volume up, dim the lights, and see if you can figure out why a wannabe drummer would love this, and why a fully fledged bass player would still rank this as one of his favourite tracks ever.
Johnny Was – Stiff Little Fingers
I thought I’d try to compile a playlist of songs that represent me, or that speak to me on some level, so here goes. They’re in no particular order.
- Gone Cold by Clutch. Probably the first “new” band I’ve heard in a long time, though I’ve since found out that they’ve been going since the early 90s. I listen to podcasts a lot when I’m driving, and one work related podcast features this song as the intro and outro music. It has a lovely, laid back feel to it, with vocals which drawl gently through the opening lines, but which reveal more of an edge when singing the lines around the song title. I think I am also pretty laid back most of the time, but can be steely as and when necessary.
- Doesn’t Make it All Right by The Specials. When you’re growing up in a pretty much exclusively white rural town in the Scottish lowlands, a song which is very much anti-racist sends a strong message, This song combines one of my favoured music genres (ska) with a conviction that I felt strongly at the time and still do. Oh, and my favourite band, SLF, do an awesome version of it.
- Boogie Chillun by John Lee Hooker. Cut down, raw blues with a wonderful hook, this song is just brilliant. the lyrics, about a child’s desire to break free and get lost in their music at times exactly how I feel. I go through peaks and troughs, and at their height I just want to be enveloped in listening to and playing great music.
- Born On The Bayou by Creedence Clearwater Revival. OK, I’m not entirely sure what a bayou is, and I’ve no idea what shoogling is (it’s one of the words in the lyrics), but this song has a similar sort of feel to me as number 1 above does. It’s quite chilled, but at the same time full of a sort of restless energy which breaks out from time to time.
- Panic Song by Green Day. This song is not long, and it’s not complex: but the intro is nothing more than a build up of energy which eventually explodes into action. In a lot of respects, my anger is like that: it takes a long long time to build, then (and only very rarely) does it get released.
- Soul Man by Sam and Dave. This mostly made the cut because a) the Blues Brothers did it, b) it’s a fab time and c) they say “play it Steve” (to Steve Cropper) and I am a Steve!
- Ballroom Blitz by The Sweet. Again, Steve gets a mention, this time in the intro, but I chose this because it was one of the first songs I remember by a band I used to really like. I think this and Teenage Rampage probably laid the path for me to follow in terms of melodic music with a strong drum line.
- White Noise by Stiff Little Fingers. As with The Specials number above, this is very much an anti-racist number, though oddly enough when it first came out radio stations refused to play it because it has a derogatory w-word in every chorus. If they’d checked the lyrics they’d have seen that it was protesting about discrimination for whatever reason, whether race, colour, creed or nationality. What a great message!
- In The Hall Of The Mountain King from the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg. I’m half Norwegian, half Scottish, and this is written by a Norwegian composer whose parents were Scots and has our hero encountering giants in their home.
- Donald Where’s Yir Troosers by Andy Stewart. This is a none too serious look at what it’s like to be a Scot from the sticks, and particularly when they venture down into the big city of London. I’m a Scot who made the move from a rural part of the country away to England and to a big down. Oh, and if you want an Elvis impression, there’s one on here too – uh huh!
This was harder than I had expected, but I think I got there in the end. I hope you like the list!
I didn’t get to post this last night as it was pretty late by the time we got home. Dee and I had been to see The Stranglers, who were playing much of their album Black and White on this tour. Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of JJ Burnel, bassist with The Stranglers, and he didn’t disappoint last night. I can honestly say that it’s the first time I’ve felt my nostrils close due to the bass vibrations! It was weird but awesome at the same time, and only for about 30 seconds during one song.
The support act was The Alarm, who I’d last seen back in the 80s. Mike Peters, their lead singer, was still flying the flag and going strong. I’d seen him sing with Big Country several years ago, but it was good to see him belting out his own tunes again.
By a weird coincidence, the last time I saw SLF in Glasgow before last week was in 1983: The Alarm were their support that night. Don’t you just love this circular world we live in? :O)
The other day I posted about being very excited, and this is why!
Yesterday was St Patrick’s Day, and for the 25th consecutive year, my favourite band played at Barrowland in Glasgow. Stiff Little Fingers had decided that to mark the occasion they would film the event and sell the DVD, and that they would use fan pledges to fund the venture. I duly pledged, and for my money got tickets and will have my name on the credits of the DVD (I did the same for their last album, No Going Back).
This was the first time I’d seen SLF in Glasgow since their “last ever” gig back in 1983, so Dee and I decided to make a weekend of it. We flew up yesterday, had some lunch then wandered along the the Solid Rock Cafe. There’s an auction of SLF memorabilia there every year, and the money goes to charity. This year the auction raised over £3200, more than half of that coming from a raffle of a signed cross stitch of the band.
After the auction, we stopped off at Maggie May’s for some dinner then on to the venue itself. The event was sold out, and the band were absolutely brilliant, as good if not better than I’ve ever heard them. We sang our hearts out, pogoed and danced the night away and all too soon it was over.
A quick stroll back to the hotel, a cheeky nightcap and the day we’d been looking forward to for months was over. Now we just have to wait for the DVD… I’m excited about that arriving too!
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.
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….
OK, so last week I wrote about having an earworm which was all about The Stranglers and JJ Burnel’s basslines in particular. The only way I could stop it was by playing a lot of their songs and booking tickets to see them next month. Tonight I’ve just started several earworms off at once.
I went to see The Blockheads at their first gig this year. It’s fair to say it was an intimate venue, and I was by no means the oldest person in the audience! Three words to explain the earworms which I know are coming: Norman Watt-Roy. Much as I love SLF and Ali McMordie’s playing, and JJ Burnel’s basslines for The Stranglers, I’m left in total awe of Norman’s energy, fretwork, speed and accuracy. As you can see from today’s image, I struggled to get a picture where his hands weren’t a blur! I do wonder sometimes whether he regrets having written such complicated and beautiful riffs in his youth.
If you’ve not heard much of The Blockheads (with or without Ian Dury), I can recommend starting off with Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick (which has been on my Bucket List of basslines to play and I can’t even get close), Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, What a Waste and Reasons to be Cheerful. Those and others are going to be rolling round in my head for quite a while I think!
As a band they obviously love what they do, and there’s a lot of interaction between the various members. There were a couple of hiccups but they dealt with them really well, laughing and joking with each other while continuing to knock out brilliant (and very familiar) tunes. As Dee said, it’s a bit surreal watching people you’d heard in your teens or even younger, some 30 or more years later, but they were brilliant!
A number of things have happened recently which have highlighted the fact that domestic abuse isn’t just physical – though unfortunately physical attacks appear to be on the increase. Emotional / mental / psychological abuse can be just as damaging, though obviously not as visible.
Continue reading Life hurts