06 December 2009

Fortran 5 - Bike (Sid Sings Syd) mp3


Fortran 5 - Groove EP

Fortran 5 were an early 90s sampletastic ambient dance outfit, sort of like a cross between the Justified Ancients of MuMu and The Orb. Producing a broad mix of tracks and ideas, and remixing for bands as diverse as Erasure and Laibach, it is nonetheless the genius one-joke novelty of Sid Sings Syd that calls me back more than anything else they did.

You know that bit in the end credits of Spinal Tap where David St Hubbins is explaining the tapes he's listening to?

I've been listening to the classics, I belong to a great series. It's called The Namesake Series cassettes, and they send you the works of famous authors done by actors with the same last name.

So I've got Denholm Eliot reading TS Eliot, I've got Danny Thomas doing A Child's Christmas In Wales by Dylan Thomas. Next month it's McLean Stevenson reads Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island, I believe.

Fortran 5 painstakingly sampled Sid James to make him say the words of Bike by Pink Floyd. This was 1991. None of this was done by googling any samples, this must all have been from sitting there watching hour upon grinding hour of Sid James movies on VHS, occasionally exclaiming, "There! He said 'cloak'! Rewind it while I press record!".

There's an extra twist in the fact that the session was helmed by producer Stephen James, son of Sid. It was released on the B-side of the Groove EP, and later on the album Blues.

For their next project they moved a step closer to David St Hubbins territory, actually getting Derek Nimmo into a studio to sing Layla by Derek and The Dominoes. Genius.

download Bike (Sid Sings Syd) (7.8MB MP3)

16 November 2009

Wilson Pickett - Sugar Sugar & Cole Cooke and Redding mp3


Wilson Pickett - Sugar Sugar

Known to everyone for mid-60s belters like In The Midnight Hour, the late 60s found Wilson Pickett applying his gritty yawp to some unusual covers. The drawn-out anguish in his version of the Supremes You Keep Me Hanging On is just glorious.

More incongruous - and regular Dusters will know I'm a sucker for the weird shit - is his cover of Sugar Sugar, a bubblegum pop tune so twee the Monkees turned it down for being too cheesy, so it was released by a fictional band of cartoon characters, The Archies. It was the monster hit of summer 1969, and still high in the charts when Pickett gave it his solid soulful treatment. (For an equally unlikely take, check out Bob Marley's version, a Jamaican 45 that finally got worldwide release on The Complete Wailers box set).

For the B-side, Pickett did another bizarre recut. Abraham Martin and John was a late 1968 American hit for Dion, previously best known for turn of the 60s edgy-end-of-cleancut pop fare like Teenager in Love, Runaround Sue and The Wanderer. This song was quite different, a reflective ballad grieving the deaths of progressive public figures Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and John Kennedy. The verse simply replaced the name in order to draw a sense of moral lineage between the three men, adding a fourth verse for Bobby Kennedy.

Has anybody here, seen my old friend John?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good, they die young
But I just looked around and he's gone.

Here in the UK we best knew it as a top ten hit for Marvin Gaye, whose impeccable intelligent subtlety of phrasing and gliding molten chocolate voice perfectly suited the lyric's mix of stoicism and thoughtful melancholy. For reasons unknown (was Motown already showing a fear of Marvin getting into political ideas that would lead to such a battle to get the What's Going On album released?) this version was never released in the USA.

In his preamble to the song, Wilson Pickett credits Moms Mabley's then-current 1969 version as his inspiration. Pickett, however, remoulds it as a tribute to three giants of soul music who died young.

I have simultaneous contradictory feelings about it. On the one hand it's an inventive, touching and sincere nod from one soul singer to his antecedents, drawing on soul's gospel roots to address mortality.

Yet it also seems a tasteless belittling of the fact that dying of lung cancer, being shot in dubious circumstances or going in a plane crash aren't the same as being assassinated by reactionaries because of your political beliefs. You know Bob Dylan's comments at Live Aid about how it would be good if some of the money could go to help American farmers? It's a bit like that.

Whatever, it's certainly a great piece of vinyl era oddity, which is exactly what this blog's about.

download Sugar Sugar (4.3MB MP3)

download Cole Cooke and Redding (5.4MB MP3)

18 October 2009

The Spotnicks - Hava Nagila mp3


The Spotnicks - Hava Nagila

Several years ago I had my musical gland squeezed in the middle of the night by a track played on Charlie Gillett's show for the BBC World Service. He was playing a selection of tracks that first made the West aware of other musics, antecedents for what we call world music. The one that made me sit bolt upright, switch the light on and write the details down so I could buy a copy was Soul Makossa by Manu Dibango. It has a couple of killer funk-soul hooks but with this great spacey loose funk groove that was unlike any of the American funk or soul I knew.

That was the clue that 70s soul wasn't just an American affair, that there was stuff around the world that would be every bit as rich, dirty and face-twistingly funky.

Earlier this year my dear friend the venerable Gyrus sent me a copy of Nigeria Disco Funk Special: The Sound Of The Underground Lagos Dancefloor 1974-79. Like most various artist compilations it's not of consistent calibre, but fuck me when the spectrum ranges from the good to utter riproarers that's no bad thing.

Then more recently I found this page of 70s Iranian funk. Who'd have thunk the funk would be out that far? The authorities banned pop music in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution, but it seems up till then there was some magnificent stuff being made and played in Iran. As an extra reason to hate their vicious regime, the Iranian funk page gives us a clue to what musical talent has been suppressed.

Weirdest of all is the version of Hava Nagila, a traditional Hebrew tune of celebration. Iranians doing an African-American style version of a Jewish tune. It'd be worth hearing just for the on-paper incongruous nutness of it, but play it and hear that it stands tall and firm on its own merits too.

This, in turn, sent me off to dig out the version I already have, an equally improbable early 1960s Tarantino style surf guitar version done by a Swedish band who wore spacesuits on stage.

The Spotnicks in their spacesuits

download Hava Nagila (3.4MB MP3)

04 September 2009

The Freshies - I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk mp3

Razz (through MCA)
MCA 670

The Freshies - I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk

This fabulous piece of perky provincial powerpop faintly pestered the charts outside the top 40. Nice postpunk Skidsy guitars combine with 60s harmonies to give it a crisp playful momentum that matches the lyrics.

Mistakenly seen at the time as something of a novelty record, it's actually more the kind of indie wit that the Wonder Stuff would make a career of.

The lyrics are a fine documentation of that attitude, so common at the time but slightly mystifying now, that records were in and of themselves sacred and wonderful artefacts. And so, just like the way people disproportionately fancy bar staff due to some subconscious primal understanding of them as providers, we'd readily swoon at cool people working in record shops.

It takes the minimum of effort to have this song remind me of the woman who worked in Our Price in Southport. How I hoped she would be impressed by my pre-ordering cool records like Starfish by The Church. If she was, she hid it very well.

The Freshies continued that vinylophilic theme with their ploddy follow-up 45 I Can't Get 'Bouncing Babies' by The Teardrop Explodes.

But before that there was a problem to overcome with the Virgin Megastore single. This being the 1980s before everything was sponsored, and with the BBC putting masking tape over brand names when using cereal boxes to make stuff with sticky-backed plastic on Blue Peter, the namecheck in this single's title was a commercial hindrance. So it was recut as I'm In Love With The Girl On A Certain Manchester Megastore Checkout Desk. (Hear that version here).

Perhaps the rewording accounts for the words bring in the wrong order on this version's label ('Virgin Manchester Megastore' instead of 'Manchester Virgin Megastore').

Freshies mainman Chris Sievey later invented a Freshies fan, the staggeringly unfunny 'comedy' character Frank Sidebottom. Somehow he ended up doing Sidebottom for years on end, along the way spawning a cohort, Caroline Aherne's - who'd have thunk it possible - even less funny Mrs Merton character.

But never mind, because this single is such a glorious uplift.

download I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk (4.1MB MP3)

26 May 2009

Lunar Funk - Mr Penguin Pt.1 mp3

Bell (USA)
45 172 (Bell 1225 in the UK)

Lunar Funk - Mr Penguin

Over at one of my favourite blogs, The Quiet Road, Jim has posted a Youtube video of the Mothership Connection. I see no reason why we shouldn't let the funk seep on over to our place.

If, like me, you had never heard of this record before you saw a second hand copy, I sincerely hope you would feel as I did. Namely, any record called Mr Penguin by something called Lunar Funk has to be worth hearing.

Whilst it doesn't have the heavier sturm und thang delivered by some of their contemporaries, it grooves along with fuzzy guitar, trippy vibes and tricky rhythm.

Most importantly, it has what - as the venerable Adam Warne rightly observed - any track needs to be truly funky: a man with a deep voice saying funky stuff.

download Mr Penguin (4.1MB MP3)

If you're a funkafreak and want me to email you the Part 2 that appears on the B-side (pretty much another three minutes of the same), leave your email address in the Comments.

29 April 2009

Salford Jets - Who You Looking At mp3


Salford Jets - Who You Looking At

Dexys Midnight Runners' first album, a humid soul tangle, was brought to the limelight by the number 1 hit Geno. The second album, all that soul but with celtic folk sounds woven in, had it happen with the bigger hit Come On Eileen.

Then there was a huge wait before Don't Stand Me Down, a third album released with no flagship single and had them sat in corporate suits on the cover. It bombed. Yet it is every bit the equal of the first two, and in many respects excels them. A true lost classic.

To me, the giant on there is This Is What She's Like, one of the most extraordinary and brilliant love songs I've ever heard. A twelve minute epic, the lyric is a conversation, one party asking what 'she' is like and the other trying to explain. But he does it with non-verbal phonetics as words fail him.

Before that, he tries by listing a lot of disparate, curiously specific things that she's not. All those things that annoy, the things that denote people who are clueless and hopeless at root, things that make you want to give up on people, things that 'she' is such a refreshing change from.

Well you know how the English upper classes are thick and ignorant?

You know the newly wealthy peasants with their home bars and hi-fis?

People who describe nice things as wonderful.

And, first on the list, the kind of people that put creases in their old Levi's.

Imagine the level of tosserliness required to do it to the extent that your jeans have a discernible lightening down those creases. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Salford Jets.

Salford Jets EP cover

I find it heard to believe the crease could be lightened by mere ironing. What did they do, delicately paint down their kecks with a bleachy cotton bud?

The EP pictured is a 1979 collection of I Want To Hold Your Handish beaty pop, with an arrow logo and a couple of skinny ties to cash in on the waning mod revival.

Fed Up of Stalybridge had the main letter in last Thursday's Manchester Evening News. They complained young people had abused them in the street.

Such hostility to strangers is, they assert, getting 'increasingly common'. 'Have people always displayed such an aggressive "watchoo lookin at?" attitude?'

Manchester Evening News letter

To answer that question let us welcome back Greater Manchester's all-time most negligible band. Ladies and gentlemen, once again I give you the Salford Jets.

The year after the EP they released a single of breathtakingly brainless, affected spilt-pintery. Scraping into the charts at number 72, Who You Looking At? features two verses and a chorus of cod-punk twaddle. They even drift into that Estuary English accent so essential for pseudo-punk.

Who you looking at
When you're walking down the street?
Who you looking at?
You better not be looking at me
I said who you looking at?
Who you looking at?
Who you looking at?
It better not be me

Fractionally redeemed by a brief tasty organ break, nonetheless it's one of the most ludicrous, risible records ever manufactured.

download Who You Looking At (3.1MB MP3)

02 April 2009

Seventeen - Bank Holiday Weekend mp3


Seventeen - Bank Holiday Weekend

I said in an earlier post that I couldn't remember if I'd seen The Alarm in December 1985. Well, for those of you who who've bitten their nails to the quick awaiting an answer, relief is at hand.

A rummage around brings to light the ticket stubs. Saw them in November 84 (I remember hitch-hiking home and listening to the American election results on the radio. Reagan re-elected. Fuck.)

ticket stub, The alarm, Liverpool University, 6th November 1984

And again the following May.

ticket stub, The alarm, Liverpool Royal Court theatre, 1st May 1985

With another tour in December they certainly weren't slacking. And they undoubtedly did really good gigs, but by late 1985 my interest in them had waned. They were becoming a bit too straightforward, a bit - as it was known at the time - rockist.

They'd come through a couple of years earlier with several bristling singles and an aptly titled confident and earnest debut album, Declaration.

Lyrically they had broad-brush politics about justice, hope and the concerns of the ordinary person, a gift for terrace-anthem choruses, and a specific obsession with war imagery (soon adopting a splattery poppy as their logo).

Musically they had real gusto yet tempered it sonically with sweeping layers of strident acoustic guitars and emotionally with a melancholy tint.

The sound was thus intricate yet epic, bold and provocative yet ornate and even wistful, it could curl like a creeper vine or explode as big and startling as their hairstyles.

The Alarm

If you could repress your cynicism - or had yet to form any to speak of - then they were fresh, exciting and involving. I still stand by that first album as being all those things.

Though I'd personally lose interest as my tastes went a little toward darker and more oblique music (REM, The Church), at least The Alarm didn't go as dull as Big Country. And you've gotta respect a band that would cut their fourth album, Change, in two different vocal versions, one in English and one in Welsh. Especially a band from as anglophone a part of Wales as Rhyl.

But let's let the screen go into that heat-haze effect that tells you it's a flashback.

Before they were The Alarm they were a post-new wave mod band called Seventeen. Taking that Merseybeat brightness with a bit of solidly chuggy new-wave guitar, like The Members or The Chords or the Lambrettas, only they don't seem to have been as good as those ones. Who, in turn, weren't that good themselves.

(Before this, incidentally, singer Mike Peters was in a punk band called The Toilets. Worth doing it just for the name I reckon).

Seventeen issued a single, both sides written by the future Alarm mainstay team of MacDonald and Peters. The A-side was Don't Let Go, but it's the B-side, Bank Holiday Weekend, that catches my ear. You can see them trying to latch on to the mod iconography of bank holiday punch-ups on Brighton beach, but as its fifteen years later and they actually live in a seaside town they know that the truth is somewhat different. Bored families, tacky tat for sale, the deflation of something looked forward to being dull.

I've no idea, but I'm guessing this was their only release and quite possibly a DIY job, given that it has the catalogue number VD 001. I love that prefix. When I was in a band, our fake record company for what turned out to be our only release was Rampant Records, letting us use PANTS 001. You've got to take the opportunities for smut where you find them.

There's no clue at all that these people would go on to do anything of worth. In that way, it's opposite of the Johnny and the Self-Abusers single (a piece of slinky arty punk that, after a namechange to Simple Minds, gave way to one of the most vacuous and execrable careers in the history of eardrums).

download Bank Holiday Weekend (4.4MB MP3)

By the way, if you're some Alarm completist gagging for the MP3 of Don't Let Go as well, leave your email address in the Comments and I'll send it to you.

11 March 2009

Tom Robinson - Never Gonna Fall In Love (Again) mp3


Tom Robinson - Never Gonna Fall In Love (Again) picture cover

I found this in Oxfam in Headingley circa 1993. I knew Tom Robinson's raised fist classics (2468 Motorway, Glad To Be Gay) and the more thoughtful mysterious side (War Baby, Atmospherics), and that he'd just returned to form as an acoustic troubadour with a new batch of songs with his trademark mix of biting cynicism and warm hearted optimism.

But nothing prepared me for what I was about to receive. It's a smirky saucy swirly gay disco track with a hands-in-the-air chorus. This bright shiny setting is a great juxtaposition for Robinson's dry throaty vocal tone.

Never meant to be so friendly
Never made the room look nice
Never heed a word of warning
Never take my own advice
Ooh, I got a brand new problem
He's pretty and he's five foot ten
I've been in love three times this week
I'm just about to fall again

In a 2004 interview for the excellent radio show and online resource Queer Music Heritage, Tom said

In many ways one of my favorite gay songs of all the ones that I wrote that had a specifically openly amorously gay theme, I like "Never Gonna Fall In Love Again" because I sent the lyric to Elton John and he came back with the music for it, and so it was a collaboration between two gay artists. And he is a great songwriter, there's no question, so it's got good changes and a decent melody. And his version of course was a slow ballad and…a bit drippy to be honest.

And although he sent me back a demo which had all the pronouns as I'd written them, when he recorded it himself he kind of slurred them a bit, so where it's "I wish he didn't make me rabid" his is "I wish-he didn't make…" you know it was just a little bit on the ambiguous side.

Ah, but that's all right. That's where he was at the time and what Elton has done (A) for the gay movement, and (B) in the fight against AIDS, with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, you know, is fantastic and we owe a huge debt to the man, so I think he's allowed to slur a few of his pronouns here and there

A wild collision of talents, it's not only co-written by Tom Robinson and Elton John, but produced and engineered by Nick Drake's guy John Wood, and mixed by Sex Pistols producer Bill Price.

To make it stranger still, while the B-side is credited to Tom Robinson Band, the A-side is 'Tom Robinson With The Voice Squad'. Who might this shady group be? Er, it's the Tom Robinson Band.

According to Tom's official site

Although TRB were playing on the record, its hamfisted disco style was so alien to what the band was about that at the other members' request it was released as a Tom Robinson solo single and the group split shortly afterwards.

Robinson didn't let his step falter, swiftly putting on a solo gig of gay songs to mark the tenth anniversary of the Stonewall riots. That show was released as the Cabaret 79 album which, generous gent that he is, is available for free download from his site.

Whilst Never Gonna Fall In Love (Again) is not disco proper - crank it up and there's no Chic-esque bass whoomf - it's a great piece of perky cheeky pop-disco and a real unexpected delight.

download Never Gonna Fall In Love (Again) (4.6MB MP3)

The single donated all performance royalties to London Gay Switchboard, which is still very much in action. If you download the MP3, why not make a donation? Just £1 covers the cost of a ten minute call.

26 February 2009

The Charles Randolph Grean Sounde - Star Trek mp3

Ranwood (USA)

The Charles Randolph Grean Sounde - Star Trek

The Star Trek theme.

Disco version from the mid-1970s.

Oh yes indeed.

download Star Trek (5MB MP3)

11 February 2009

Faith Brothers - Easter Parade mp3


Faith Brothers - Country of The Blind cover

Over on my other blog I did a post about going to see the hybrid reunion-tribute band From The Jam.

In digging around to find old gig tickets from the 80s with which to illustrate it, I found this old listings flyer from 1985.

forthcoming gigs flyer, Royal Court theatre, Liverpool, 1985

I love the way bands are expensive in proportion to how long they've been going, and almost in inverse proportion to how good they are.

The cheapest gig on the list and the only one I went to was REM (with the possible exception of The Alarm, saw them a couple of times, can't remember if that Royal Court gig was one). REM's listed support act, as with a ton of gigs at the Royal Court around that time, was the Faith Brothers.

As Sly and Robbie told Michael Franti, reggae isn't a nationality, its a rhythm and it belongs to everyone. In the same way, soul is what you play and what you are, not where you're from.

The Faith Brothers were, like Immaculate Fools, a band who got a mid-80s Big Push from their record company (Virgin, using their Siren imprint) with a double-pack single, Country of The Blind.

They packed a political punch in bright bouncy soul and, despite the universality of musical styles, there was nonetheless something a little arch and polished, just a smidgen of The Commitments in them.

Still, coming out in the year of the miners strike as Thatcher's talons dug into the fabric of society, anything that proclaimed compassion with passion was welcome.

Tucked away on that extra single, Easter Parade is a world apart from the mainstay of their brass-augmented soul kick. Clearly written for just one acoustic guitar, it's propelled by Billy Franks' driven sincerity and - quite an achievement for the mid-80s - is given a subtle and haunting production job, doing justice to its subject, the six week long Falklands War of 1982.

It tells the story from the perspective of a soldier and, unusually for lefties of the time, it has sympathy not only with his injuries but also with him being there in the first place.

Dressed to kill one cool spring morning
Got on board the first from Portsmouth
On the crest of a rising wave
Of hate for strangers of our own kind
But the headlines, cheering crowds and flags
I must admit stirred something in me
That faded as we pulled away
And turned out to be only fear disguised

The bulldogs bayed
The pious prayed
I think it rained
On the Easter Parade

Down south the old and desperate men
Sacrifice the young and ready
On the altar of their crumbling gods
Mourning for a long-lost glory
For nineteen years you chart my life
With your morals and your incentives
In six weeks pull it all apart
For horror's real and you are far away

My mind ingrained
I came home maimed
So was kept away
From the Easter Parade

Hooked on a kind of freedom
I still need to hurt somebody
Too estranged to talk about it
Or get close to anyone

The mother of the nation cries 'Rejoice!'
And I can hardly shuffle
Struck down by what the mean can do
For political ambition
And now the truth begins to surface
Like a spectre from dark water
Rising up to bring them down
I can't take heart, only wonder why

Is our conscience lame
Is a fall to shame
All to be gained
From the Easter Parade

= = =

'The headlines, cheering crowds and flags I must admit stirred something in me'

As the ships sailed from Portsmouth for the Falklands there were vast crowds of union jack waving crowds. In these times of the ongoing unpopular wars of occupation, it's hard for people to realise how much we were still in thrall to jingoistic flag-waving bullshit back then. These days, saved for occasions like the football, it's lost much of its arrogant imperialist overtones.

It's surprising how the atmosphere has changed in a relatively short time. 1982 was only five years since the queen's silver jubilee, an occasion marked by public holidays and everything. I know of people who grew up in fervent Welsh nationalist households who still had a street party with red whit and blue bunting.

Yet look how underwhelming the celebrations for the golden jubilee were in 2002. Anyone over the age of five in 1977 remembers the silver jubilee, yet none of us can remember anything about the golden jubilee without looking it up.

As Thatcher talked to the press when the Argentinian forces had surrendered, you can hear the crowd in the background singing Rule Brittania.

That refrain 'rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves, Britons never never never shall be slaves' has a much more sinister meaning than first appears. Written in 1740 as the slave trade was peaking, with Britain the foremost slave-trading nation, it is not a song about our liberation. It is a song that declares our superiority over all others and that we shall never suffer the kind of slavery that we inflict.

'The mother of the nation cries 'rejoice!' and I can hardly shuffle'

On 26 April 1982 Thatcher stood outside 10 Downing Street as the Defence Secretary announced the recapture of South Georgia. Afterwards, she refused to answer questions, telling the press to just 'rejoice at that news'.

'I came home maimed so was kept away from the Easter Parade'

The jaw-dropping cynicism of Thatcher's victory parade still angers me today. It was to be an overtly jingoistic celebration. Troops who had fought were to march along with their bayonets fixed and buttons gleaming. Except the ones who'd come home with unsightly injuries. They - the ones who'd given the most for the cause - weren't invited in case they spoilt the jubilation with the horror of truth. After a media furore, some were belatedly asked along.

There are still resonances now. Even though we no longer have so much patriotic poppycock about our wars, we are manipulated. The American government makes sure their electorate don't get too riled by what happens to their troops. Just as Thatcher barred maimed Falklands veterans, there are no pictures allowed of American coffins and bodybags coming home from Iraq. Around a third of American troops in Iraq aren't American at all, they're foreigners who will get fast-tracked for American citizenship if they come back alive, thus reducing the pressure on American public opinion.

Timed for the autumn before a general election, the Falklands victory parade pushed Thatcher's popularity higher. It was calculated to do so - she took the salute of the troops, a job normally reserved for royalty.

The Labour party had just split (four senior members setting up the Social Democratic Party, which eventually merged with the Liberals to form the Liberal Democrats), and with it the Labour vote was divided. Thus a prime minister who came to power on a ticket of law and order and lowering unemployment yet presided over the worst rioting in living memory and a trebling of the number of jobless managed to get re-elected with the biggest landslide in 40 years.

Labour's bold manifesto - unilateral nuclear disarmament, nationalise the banks, abolish the House of Lords - and the fact that, in Michael Foot, they had the most untelegenic leader imaginable was blamed for their defeat, rather than the war and the fucking SDP.

A dashing charismatic young Labour candidate who entered parliament on that manifesto would sweep to power in 1997 on a pro-Trident pro-privatisation ticket. His successor entered parliament at that same election, and whilst he's done a little nationalising of banks under duress, he's still yet to make good on the promised House of Lords reform.

The musical lift into the bridge of the song ('hooked on a kind of freedom...') still catches the pit of my stomach every time like a rollercoaster, which is fitting for the words that allude to the personal disconnection, to what was then only just starting to have a name as post-traumatic stress disorder.

'And now the truth begins to surface like a spectre from dark water'

On 2nd May 1982 the Argentine ship Belgrano was sunk, killing over 300 men, around a third of the total killed in the war. The ship was outside the 200 mile exclusion zone around the Falklands and was sailing away at the time. In July 1984 a senior civil servant leaked documents proving the government knew this, and the ship had been spotted a day earlier than claimed.

The civil servant, Clive Ponting, was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act. His defence was that it was in the public interest to know the truth. The judged begged to differ, telling the jury 'the public interest is what the government of the day says it is'. Despite this the jury - being the public rather than the establishment - acquitted him. It was in this atmosphere that Faith Brothers frontman Billy Franks wrote Easter Parade.

Sadly, it was not the start of a flood of leaks on government lies, and Thatcher responded with a new Official Secrets Act that doesn't have a 'public interest' defence.

Truths still come out occasionally, though. In 2003 the government finally admitted that nuclear weapons had been on warships in the Falklands.

Clive Ponting resigned from the civil service and became an academic and a history author, writing a number of books including a critical biography of Winston Churchill and the classic Green History of The World, recently revised and expanded as A New Green History of the World. Check out this excerpt, The Lessons of Easter Island.

Billy Franks has continued songwriting, seemingly as committed and passionate as ever.

download Easter Parade (5MB MP3)

08 January 2009

Johnny Johnson & His Bandwagon - Mr Tambourine Man mp3

BLL 1154

Johnny Johnson and His Bandwagon - Mr Tambourine Man

Tony Macaulay was one of the great British bubblegum songwriters of the 60s and early 70s, but he was obviously in thrall to Motown and usually put a dose of soul in the mix to leaven the sweetness.

His first major hit - he was only 23 and had written the song two years earlier - was Baby Now That I've Found You by The Foundations, and then a year later Build Me Up Buttercup. In between there were a couple of singles you're less likely to have heard of, of which I strongly recommend Back On My Feet Again, another sunny stomper cut from the same cloth as the biggies.

He wrote a bunch of other singles in the same wide-eyed catchy bouncy vein usually recorded by non-existent bands such as Edison Lighthouse's Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes.

Meanwhile, at the same time as Build Me Up Buttercup, there was a punchy pop-soul band called The Bandwagon in the charts with Breakin' Down The Walls of Heartache. Subsequently something of a northern soul staple and covered by Dexys Midnight Runners on the B-side of Geno, this corker was released on the CBS imprint Direction.

The Bandwagon - Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache

You just know from the name and artwork that the label's a winner. Any time you see a single on Direction, unless it's a piece of Sly Stone perfection, it's something you've never heard of. And yet, if you like the tang of some later northern soul urgency, it rarely disappoints. If you come across anything on Direction, always give it the benefit of the doubt and buy it.

The talents collided in Love Grows' year 1970 with Macaulay writing and producing the (now 'Johnny Johnson and His...') Bandwagon hits Sweet Inspiration and Blame It On The Pony Express as the flagship singles for the Soul Survivor album.

The following year there was this single. You've got a real soul band and a bubblegum producer at the helm, so whether you're thinking Byrds or Bringing It all Back Home it's a scarcely recognisable version of Mr Tambourine Man. Bright, bouncy, brilliant and a bit baffling, it's a fabulous little corner of pop weirdness.

Later in the 70s Macaulay teamed up with another British bubblegum mainstay, Roger Greenaway, to do You’re More Than a Number in My Little Red Book and Kissin’ in the Back Row of The Movies for the Drifters.

Then he swapped soul for Soul, writing and producing Don't Give Up On Us, Silver Lady and other fucking awful sickly syrupy shite for the Starskyless Hutch gone dewy-eyed romance singer David Soul. They sold gazillions and clutter up charity shops to this day.

download Mr Tambourine Man (4.4MB MP3)