Sunday, 29 April 2012

Shoot the Moon

No show for me last night as I had a rare Saturday night out with some friends. What is even more rare is that I was out on Friday night too. Two nights in a row, at my age; disgraceful! On Friday I went to see The Beat (Ranking Roger's version; my funds don't extend to jetting across the Atlantic to see Dave Wakeling.) I've seen Roger & Ranking Junior before a couple of times and they never fail to deliver. Last night was no exception and a good-natured Exeter Phoenix crowd went home happy.

I love seeing bands like The Beat and hearing tunes that have become like old friends but you can't beat discovering something new. That's why I love support acts. Admittedly some support acts are pretty dire, in which case you can always retire to the bar, or, if you're old and knackered like me, just find somewhere to have a nice sit down. Thankfully last night the support act were Shoot the Moon. I've seen them once before and was very impressed but this time they were quite simply superb. They played a set of original tunes that was highly energetic, musically tight and above all huge fun. Featuring three guitars (including the bounciest bassist I've seen in as long time), trumpet, sax & drums they combined frantic guitar-driven energy with big-bollocks brass & vocals strong enough to hold up well even on the Phoenix's less-than-state-of-the-art PA. I certainly won't be waiting for them to come to Exeter again to see them again, this is band well worth a trip up the M5 to see again.

I was impressed enough with their performance to treat myself to their two CDs in the break between their set and The Beat coming on (fiver each - pretty damn reasonable in my opinion!) In hindsight this was a mistake, not because the CDs aren't good - they're brilliant. The mistake was in spending the rest of the evening attempting to dance to The Beat with two CDs stuffed in my jeans pocket resulting in the CD cases periodically prodding me in the sweetmeats. My dancing is quite shit enough without any added handicap. However, despite having assaulted my love-plums I'm glad I bought them, just not too happy with my timing. The two CDs I bought are their 2010 d├ębut EP Get in the Van and this year's Skarocka. Expect to hear a track from each on my next SFR show but if you can't wait that long I'd happily recommend getting the CDs or downloads from their bandcamp page - you won't regret it!

Get in the Van EP
1: What a Beautiful Day to Lose Everything
2: Get Out While You Can
3: I Can't Make You
4: Get in the Van

Skarocka EP
1: The Eye
2: In Tongues
3: Doghouse
4: Floating Aaway
5: Loose Change

Saturday, 21 April 2012

SFR Soundsystem 21042012

Not as much new stuff as usual in the show this week - not for any particular reason, it's just the way I felt when I made the playlist. The newer tunes I played are belters though! We had some South West dub from the Backbeat Soundsystem and Riviera Rockers, a track off the brilliant new Skints album and a gorgeous bit of reggae-style jazz from YolanDa Brown. I also played tracks from a couple of bands that I've been following on Twitter for a while but not had time to check out properly: Avon Junkies & Janice Graham Band. I've been missing out - they've both got some cracking tunes. Enough waffle, here's the playlist:

  1. Desmond Dekker – It Mek
  2.  Marcia Aitken – I’m Still In Love
  3. Dawn Penn – Are You There?
  4. Marcia Griffiths – Feel Like Jumping
  5. Janice Graham Band – No Money Honey
  6. The Skints – Rise Up
  7. Don Drummond – Sam The Fisherman
  8. Justin Hinds & the Dominoes – Over The River
  9. YolanDa Brown – TokYo Sunset
  10. Ernest Ranglin – None Shall Escape The Judgement
  11. Jackie Mittoo – Soul And Inspiration
  12. Culture – See Them A Come
  13. Aswad – Warrior Charge
  14. Junior Murvin – Cool Out Son
  15. Avon Junkies – Thanks For Getting Fat
  16. Prince Fatty & Hollie Cook – And The Beat Goes On 
  17. Backbeat Soundsystem – One Step Forward
  18. Riviera Rockers – Rockers Skank
  19. The Skatalites – Dick Tracy 
  20. Toots & the Maytals – 54-46 (That’s My Number)
  21. Phyllis Dillon – Leave It In The Hands Of Love
  22. Hortense Ellis – Woman of the Ghetto
  23. Norma Fraser - Respect
  24. Johnny Nash – Stir It Up
  25. The Selecter – Mr Brown
  26. Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer – Redemption Song
  27. Bob Marley & the Wailers – High Tide Or Low Tide
  28. Sound Dimension – More Scorcha
  29. The Cimarons – We Are Not The Same
  30. Ferdie Nelson & Ivan Yap – Ska Down Jamaica Way
  31. Prince Buster – Hard Man Fe Dead
  32. The Specials – Skinhead Symphony

Sunday, 15 April 2012

This Is Serbia Calling

I picked up a copy of Matthew Collin's book This is Serbia Calling last week and have just finished reading it. The title caught my eye as it is a line used in the KLF's contribution to the War Child charity album Help

I bought the War Child album on cassette when it first came out and also on cd shortly afterwards when I went all modern and got myself a car with a CD player. It is an album I've played consistently since buying it and although not every track is a classic I think it would be one of the CD's I'd grab first if the house was on fire. That KLF track (listed as being by 'The One World Orchestra', although the CD & tape don't have track-listings) is by a long way the track I've played most often, so when I saw that the book was about underground radio in Belgrade I made the connection and bought it. 

The lines used in the KLF track are spoken by Fleka, a DJ at Radio B92 in Belgrade; the radio station which Collin's telling of the collapse & disintegration of the former Yugoslavia is built around. The full line Fleka recorded was "Serbia calling... This is Radio B92... Humans against killing, that sounds like junkies against dope... Message follows." Drummond & Cauty use this repeated line against a drum-and-bass beat over the Magnificent Seven film theme. The combination and contrasts of Elmer Bernstein's classic film music, the drum-and-bass beat and Fleka's gravelly, almost haunting voice is, for me, the KLF's finest work. It's disturbing, jaunty, triumphal, menacing, catchy and desperate all at once and a track I can listen to over and again, with the impact of the music depending on the mood I'm in. I never tire of it.

So having fortuitously found the book and made the connection with a much-loved tune it also piqued my interest as the subject matter is radio, specifically the underground / independent radio station B92 whose story is also that of Yugoslavia's splintering into smaller states warring not just with each other but with themselves too. Collin's book is a terrifyingly graphic description of Yugoslavia's descent into anarchy, chaos, war and hatred. B92's 10 year campaign of resistance to and agitation against the oppression and corruption of the Milosevic regime is an inspiring tale. It tells of how a group of determined and courageous individuals united by a love of alternative music and an absolute determination to remain independent and have their voice heard made a difference to the harassed, deceived and often terrorised people of Belgrade. I can't recommend it highly enough. It isn't an easy read - largely due to the weight of the subject matter. At times I found myself feeling claustrophobic, induced by the descriptions of living under arch-criminal Milosevic. It is, however, a thoroughly rewarding read. There are reviews on the web: here & here.

As there are more comprehensive reviews elsewhere - written by folks much brighter than me - I'll just mention one passage that particularly struck me. This relates to the station's music and news policies. The music policy was uncompromisingly, even defiantly alternative and anti-mainstream. The news policy was also uncompromising and sought to report the news that state-owned or regime-friendly stations wouldn't report. This led to tensions within the station as the music played was seen to be a turn-off to many listeners. Initially the station manager stuck to the no-compromise policy of not imposing a playlist on the DJ's, saying "Yes, they might be complaining about the music, but if I changed the music they wouldn't believe the news any more" (p140). However, after a listener survey found that many people tuned in for the news reports but couldn't abide the music which preceded and followed the news output it was decided to impose a playlist. To this end they drafted in an 'expert', a British radio consultant who had worked with commercial stations in the UK. This expert arrived with a copy of the Guinness Book of Hit Singles under his arm ("the Bible of a successful radio station") and attempted to persuade them that the way to go was with the 'tried and trusted' formula of "golden oldies, eighties hits and contemporary pop" (p141). B92  decided that a playlist did need to be imposed, but in accordance with their own musical preferences and definitely NOT those recommended by said expert. The station manager's response to this expert's gift was heartening to anyone fed up with the steady stream of bland, safe, mind-numbingly boring output of mainstream radio. He said of the book, "Of course I didn't open it. We will not play Mariah Carey or Phil Collins as he would have liked, but we'll play Massive attack and Pulp and Paul Weller."

To me this tale from a tiny station in a war-torn dictatorship many years ago can still be held up as an extreme and admittedly much-amplified example of the radio we are subjected to on the mainstream airwaves in the UK today. One of our SFR DJ's recently came up with an idea for a jingle along the lines of 'This is SFR, we don't have a looped commercial playlist' and it was those last three words that really struck a chord with me when reading the above-mentioned passages of This is Serbia Calling. My daughter goes to sleep listening to the radio every night. Her station of choice is Heart FM, not one I would choose but that's fair enough; it's her radio and therefore her choice. I always look in to turn her radio off before I go to bed and I'm amazed at how often I hear the same songs. Particular favourites seem to be Robbie Williams Angels and Move Closer by Phyllis Nelson - neither of which were decent tunes when they were made and surely should have been humanely put-down by now!

The radio expert mentioned above was horrified with what he found when he arrived at Radio B92, describing it as "pretty much a private music club" and "complete anarchy". Now that may not be everyone's cup of tea and if some people are happy with the same anodyne pap being dripped in their ears to sedate and mollify them then good luck to them. Me, I'll take the anarchy of the private music club every time thank you very much! The beauty of this private music club is that it isn't actually private. It's called internet radio. It takes more seeking out than just pressing auto-tune on your DAB set but for the discerning radio listener it'll open your ears and mind to the music you've always wanted to hear. I'm a lifelong music lover / obsessive but since I belatedly discovered internet radio a little while ago I have discovered more new music in the last year than in the preceding 40-odd years. Please don't take this post as a shameless plug for SFR or my own show, it isn't. My show is specifically a ska / reggae show; if that floats your boat then please have a listen but if your musical interest is elsewhere, do yourself a favour and get searching for indie radio on the web. You won't regret it, I promise.

I'm also fairly sure you won't regret getting yourself a copy of This is Serbia and the Help album too!

I had a tough time choosing another few tracks off the Help album to put on this post, as I said there are some cracking tracks on the album. I almost chose tracks by Portishead and Massive Attack but eventually plumped for these three:

Saturday, 14 April 2012

SFR Soundsystem 14042012

This week's show can be streamed on the SFR mixlr site: - just click on the Info page and then 'View showreel'. There is also a 'Subscribe on iTunes' link. I have had a few messages, however, from listeners who would like to stream or download the shows but can't or won't use iTunes. I don't blame them, I find all Apple stuff tedious in the extreme. Perhaps that is just because I'm old but as a result I have taken to adding my show to my Soundcloud page each week - usually on the Sunday morning after the show. So here's the playlist, no theme or items worthy of special mention this week, just 35 cracking tracks (at least I think so!)
  1. Ansel Collins – High Voltage
  2. The Bodysnatchers – Too Experienced
  3. Bad Manners – Inner London Violence (live – Dance Craze)
  4. The Specials – Do Nothing
  5. TheRiviera Rockers – Lo-Fi Brass in Dub
  6. Jimthe Boss – Roisin Dub II
  7. TheCrabs Corporation – Let It Go
  8. KeyserSoze – Double Up
  9. TheLiving Sound System – Let It Ride
  10. Rico & the Rudies – Brixton Cat
  11. Laurel Aitken – Mr Soul
  12. SKAOS– My Sharona
  13. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Rudie Can’t Fail
  14. The Beat – I Confess
  15. General Public - Tenderness
  16. Fine Young Cannibals - Blue
  17. Mudies All Stars – Let Me Tell You Boy Dub
  18. King Tubby – Dub to the Rescue
  19. Harry Mudie – Caught You Dubbing
  20. AggressorsB.C. – Far Too Long
  21. TheSkapitanos – By My Side
  22. TheRough Kutz – Mr Grim
  23. Desmond Dekker - I've Got The Blues
  24. Desmond Dekker - The Israelites (1980 Stiff records version)
  25. Desmond Dekker - Warlock
  26. Urang Matang - Boy Are You A Man Yet?
  27. Bang the Skillet - Bad Man Tango
  28. The Blues Busters - I Won't Let You Go
  29. Byron Lee & the Dragonaires – Too Experienced
  30. The Pioneers - Caranapo
  31. The Selecter – Bomb Scare
  32. The Bullets - Explosion
  33. NewTown Kings - Dynamite
  34. The Cimarons – Kick Me or I’ll Kick You
  35. Prince Buster – Don’t Throw Stones

The origins of 58 million YouTube hits

I'm sure this has been blogged to death already, but it amused me so I thought I'd do it anyway. This YouTube clip had had 58,623,999 hits at the time of writing this. That's the same amount as the entire world horse population. Apparently.

The Trashmen's Surfin' Bird tune is one of the highlights of the Full Metal Jacket soundtrack for me, although it is in danger of proving the saying that familiarity breeds contempt. There was a Facebook campaign a couple of years ago to get it to number one for Christmas. Personally I thought getting Rage Against the Machine to number one was brilliant but it's been done now. I'd much rather see some decent new music topping the Festive Hit Parade (it is still called that isn't it?) By 'decent new music', of course, I mean real, original music, created by musicians because music means something to them and not just some formulaic shite spewed out by a TV unreality show.

This YouTube vid of Surfin' Bird  from the Full Metal Jacket OST is currently on just over a million views. I suppose that may have been a bit higher if they'd spelled the name of the film right!

Surfin' Bird was made by combining two songs by doo-wop band The Rivingtons: Papa Oom Mow Mow and The Bird's The Word:

I think if anything I prefer the two Rivingtons tunes to the Trashmen's hybrid version; they seem less contrived to me somehow. However, if I was only allowed to have one version of the tune(s) though it would have to be this one: 

Like it says at the top of the page: nothing particularly insightful or earth shattering, but I finished my playlist for this week's show earlier than usual and had a bit of free time! 

Saturday, 7 April 2012

SFR Soundsystem 07042012

After starting last week's show with some sunshine music it's been bloody freezing here all week. I just hope kicking off this week's show with a track called Dirty Reggae hasn't jinxed anyone's love-life for the ensuing week. Stand-out track for me this week is the storming Call the Police - sent to me by Rich Mills (formerly of The Simmertones - check out Rich's blog here) - by Devon band The Humanitarians. Rich tells me the track hasn't been mastered yet; I have no idea what that actually means so I just nod sagely & try to look wise, sounds bloody good to me though! Seems they're playing in Exeter on April 20th, might have to get along to that - watch this space.

This week's 3-in-a-row artist was Jimmy Cliff. With such an awesome back catalogue to choose from I thought long & hard before choosing an old fave, a newer track off the Sacred Fire EP & a wonderful performance on Later accompanied by Jools Holland.

Among the other newer ska I played this week, The Bakesys, Cartoon Violence, Robb Blake & the brilliant Drewvis all have cd's available on Do The Dog records; all well worth looking up if you don't know them already. The Amnesiacs album Forget to Remember is available as a free download on Soundcloud. Finally, underlining my oft-stated opinion that Scotland is THE place for new ska at the moment, I played 2tracks from Bombskare & one each from The Begbies & The Cundeez - every one an absolute belter. Perhaps my enthusiasm for Scottish ska is catching on; I heard Bombskare played on Exeter's indie station Phonic FM on Wednesday night and I swear I didn't request it!

Apologies if anyone was offended by my telling of the Easter Story in Reggae. Actually, scratch that - it was a joke, lighten up! If I ever seem to be taking this a bit too seriously, please do me a favour and give me a virtual slap in the face; it's a hobby, just like bus-spotting - but without the acres of man-made fibres, post-pubescent acne & hard-core Dutch porn hidden in the rucksack (honest, they're all total pervs).
  1. The Aggrolites - Dirty Reggae
  2. Desmond Dekker - Beautiful & Dangerous
  3. Errol Dunkley - You're Gonna Need Me
  4. The Jamaicans - Ba Ba Boom
  5. Bombskare - Honeymoon Without The Wedding
  6. Drewvis - Drunken Words 'n' Dub
  7. Robb Blake - Ain't Got No Soul
  8. Junior Murvin - Judas & Jesus
  9. Ruben & the Diatones - Crucified
  10. Roland Alphonso - Musical Resurrection
  11. The Riffs - One Egg
  12. Crunch! - Fur Elise
  13. The Tennors - Weather Report
  14. The Skatalites - Malcolm X
  15. The Humanitarians - Call the Police
  16. The Bakesys - Looking for Love
  17. The Amnesiacs - Going Out
  18. Cartoon Violence - Teresa
  19. King Tubby - Ali Baba Dub
  20. Augustos Pablo - Keep on Dubbing
  21. Lee Perry - Fist of Fury
  22. King Stitt - Jump For Joy
  23. Dave Barker, Charlie Ace & the Upsetters - Shocks 71
  24. Jimmy Cliff - Hard Road To Travel
  25. Jimmy Cliff - Brixton Version
  26. Jimmy Cliff - Many Rivers To Cross
  27. Madness - Sign of the Times
  28. Bad Manners - Only Funkin'
  29. The Beat - March of the Swivelheads
  30. The Reggae Boys - Mama Look Deh
  31. Tommy McCook - Black Coffee
  32. The Gladiators - Sweet Soul Music
  33. Bombskare - Wake & Bake
  34. The Begbies - Loves to Pretend
  35. The Cundeez - One Step Beyond
  36. Prince Buster - Wash Your Troubles Away
  37. Jackie Mittoo - Mission Impossible
  38. Randy's All Stars - Mission Impossible