17 Seconds Christmas Posts 2014 part 3

Courtesans

‘The Power Of Love’ was a 1984 no.1 hit for Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Subsequently covered by other artists (including Feeder), the fabulous Courtesans – Sinead La Bella (vocals), Saffire Sanchez (guitar), Agnes D. Jones (bass) and Victoria Brown (drums) give a fantastic take on it. You can stream it at the top of the page – and buy it from January 5.

They are absolutely NOTHING to do with X-Factor contestant Eileen Daly, who tried to trademark the name, a courtcase the band won.

And because this is also fabulous, check out their version of The Velvet Underground’s ‘Venus In Furs.’

However The Courtesans are for life and not just for Christmas, so here are two more tracks that you should check out (and buy, obviously)

17 Seconds Christmas Posts 2014 part 2

saint-etienne

Saint Etienne have been responsible for some truly glorious pop music since 1990. Having scored several hits by 1993, and that year having released the fantastic So Tough set (which may still be their best album), they finished off the year by releasing this duet with Tim Burgess of The Charlatans (who were then about to release their third album Up To Our Hips) ‘I Was Born On Christmas Day.’

It was a minor hit – and did result in a Top Of The Pops performance which can be seen below:

This track can still be bought online.

I’m in the middle of trying to rank my top tracks of the year for my annual Festive Fifty, which will hopefully appear in the next 48 hours…

17 Seconds Christmas Posts 2014 part 1

Wedding-Present-No-Christmas---12-11822

A few weeks ago, I did a mammoth post about the awesome Wedding Present re-issues that came out at the end of October. You can never write too much about the Wedding Present, so I start off this year’s annual Christmas posts with the final of the twelve 7″ singles that the band released in 1992 (artwork at the top of the page). Keeping in with the other eleven releases, side A was a Wedding Present original ‘No Christmas’ and the b-side was their take on another cover, in this case Elton John’s ‘Step Into Christmas.’

You can find both these tracks on the Hit Parade compilation.

In 2008, the Wedding Present released another Christmas-themed single entitled ‘Holly Jolly Hollywood’ featuring vocals from Simone White, and you can see the video below ( apparently some Weddoes fans didn’t like this – to hell with ‘em!):

You can still download it on iTunes and other online sites.

Interview – Steve Barron

Steve Barron

If there’s one person whose grasp on music and image defined the 1980s and the dawn of the music video, then that person has to be Steve Barron. He’s just published his autobiography Egg’n'chips & Billie Jean – A Trip through the eighties. It’s a fantastic read about a man who got to work with some of the biggest names in music – Michael Jackson, Madonna, David Bowie and Paul McCartney, to name but four, and created iconic, groundbreaking videos. By the end of the 1980s he was working on his second film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was to become the first independent film to gross over $100 million dollars. It’s an excellent read – and bolstered by the fact that there’s a wonderful sense of ‘I still can’t believe this happened!’ running right through the book. Here he talks to 17 Seconds about his memories of Adam Ant as a school prefect, and how hamburgers helped publicise music videos before MTV…

17 Seconds: Before you started making videos, you worked on several films as a camera assistant, including A Bridge Too Far and Superman. What are your memories of working on these films – and how did this lead to you making music videos?

Steve Barron: I remember as a teenager buying my first car from the cash I earned as a clapper loader — it was a second-hand ford corsair – 75 quid — I packed a load of luggage for a big trip to Holland working on A Bridge Too Far — the car conked out when I reached the hotel car park – it sat there for the first 6 months. I woke up one day and they’d dug a trench for a pipe and made it dog-leg around the car — I don’t know why thats relevant.

17 Seconds: The first music video you directed was The Jam’s ‘Strange Town’ (my favourite song by The Jam, by the way). What was your brief when you were making music videos in the late seventies? Was it easier or harder without MTV (never mind YouTube!) as a medium to get the video across?

SB: The videos would rarely get shown because there were no shows that looked to play them. Bands had to do top of the pops live or they probably wouldn’t get on [in 1979 there was no MTV in the US and there were only three TV channels in the UK].After The Jam’s ‘Strange Town’ it all went quiet. I tried selling hamburgers for a few nights at a mod club in Charing Cross. took a projector one night and played the crowd Strange town on 16mm on the wall. The kids went mad. Kept asking to see it again. I had to keep racking the film reel – again and again – didn’t sell many hamburgers!!

17 Seconds: You mention in the book at you went to the same school [St. Marylebone Grammar School] as Adam Ant, who you directed ‘Antmusic’ for. What are your memories of him at school?

SB: I remember Stuart [Goddard, Ant's real name] in school – he looked very grown up and sophisticated with his wire frame specs. He was a prefect, too. They were scary. A year older seemed like an eternity.

17 Seconds: When a video that you had directed the video for went to no.1 in the charts, did that feel like your no.1 too?

SB: No, it didn’t really feel like mine. It felt like ours, like our gang had done something good. Something famous. The first one was the best one -The Jam ‘Going Underground’ — seeing those white limbo studio images that we had actually filmed just a few weeks ago in a tiny studio with cameras and lights and Eastman colour and lunch and we had actually got proper crew to show up and work for us and take it seriously and who then gave us invoices that we could count and pay- and here it was on the telly in the middle of the evening looking like nothing else on telly in the middle of the evening. They actually played it! They had to play it. It was number one.

SB: Your ground-breaking video for Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ is often credited with breaking the ‘colour bar’ on MTV. Was this something that as a director based in England (Where MTV wouldn’t come for several years) impacted on you?

SB: I had no idea MTV might say no to ‘Billie Jean.’ It was a pop video of a pop song. A brilliant pop song. What’s to say no to? Seemed weird. Stupid .

17 Seconds: A-ha’s video for ‘Take On Me’ was another classic that you directed. How long did you have to work on the video for? Is it true the video cost £100,000 – which in those days would have bought a house in much of the UK!)?

SB: Yeah it was 100 grand budget – to do a proper animated vid! And more importantly we had as much time as we needed to make it – except that after four months they wanted it NOW! And there’s still a version on VH1 and Youtube that they bloody made me give them two weeks before we bloody finished!

17 Seconds: Is there a video that is your favourite above all?

SB: Fatboy Slim – Christopher Walken — great vid [‘Weapon Of Choice,’ directed by Spike Jonze].

17 Seconds: You had a fantastic eighties, from the sound of it in the book. Did you feel that people were unnecessarily harsh about it in the nineties when there was a major backlash against it and it was seen as the decade that time forgot?

SB: I wasn’t listening

17 Seconds: Which other music video directors do you admire?

SB: Spike Jonze, Russell Mulcahy – anybody who takes risks.

17 Seconds: The book finishes in 1990. After the battles you had trying to make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, will you write a second volume to let us know what happened next?

SB: Only by popular demand! Ha!!

17 Seconds: What music are you currently listening to? Do you ever see yourself making another music video?

SB: Milky Chance, Micah P. Hinson, Holly Cook, Damon Albarn — I’d love to do a video of any of their stuff! It would be great fun! I miss shooting to a melody – when film and music gel perfectly after a challenging slog of a shoot dragging a bunch of gear across muddy fields and trekking halfway up a mountain in the drizzle, there’s no buzz like it. Very little else can make me cry. ‘Oh Iona…’

17 Seconds: Finally, what are your current projects and what are your plans for the future?

SB: Just about to go to India to produce a comedy set in Bangalore in the eighties – very fun project. Am developing two big TV series, one with the BBC is with my mate Danny Kleinman – he came up with a fab idea 25 years ago over a Chicken Bhuna off the bone… fab ideas never die – they just simmer and come to the boil twenty-five years later.

Egg n Chips & Billie Jean: A Trip Through the Eighties is out now

Do not adjust your set

Due to router problems, I am currently unable to post.

I will be back online soon, with my now traditional Christmas postings, an interview with the legendary Steve Barron (director of some of the most legendary ’80s music videos), and my end of year charts…

Watch this space

Gig Review – Dominic Waxing Lyrical

Gig Review: Dominic Waxing Lyrical/Norman Silver & The Gold
Edinburgh Henry’s Cellar Bar, November 25

Henry’s Cellar Bar is exactly that – in the best possible way, it’s a bar, it’s a cellar and if the person in front of you isn’t taller than you, it’s close enough to see the whites of the performers’ eyes. And it’s a packed show for two excellent bands who make a wonderful noise on a cold evening in Edinburgh.

I must confess that Norman Silver & The Gold were a new name to me. But their wonderful mix of punk, country, surf and rockabilly would probably lead to a knees up in a graveyard. Their very nice guitarist Neil Lincoln Bateman actually gave me a copy of their last album, War Memoirs on vinyl before the gig (seriously, why can’t more bands be this generous to reviewers? We *might* be more generous in return!). They kick off their set with that album’s opener The Gathering Storm’ and it’s a welcome start. With other soongs like ‘Promised Land’ and ‘China Doll’ this is a band who make one helluva racket in a glorious, wonderful way.

It’s been eighteen years since Dominic Waxing Lyrical released their first album. I’m not quite sure what Dominic Harris has been up to in the last eighteen years, exactly, but having heard his forthcoming Woodland Casual album, he’s been writing some great songs. Though not officially out until next year, tonight is the launch party for Woodland Casual, which is a fantastic album, and if there is any justice, will be seen as one of the great records of 2015 (after the year I’ve had, I’m not sure there is much justice in the world, but that’s by the bye). With the help of his mates from Aberfeldy (guitarist Riley Briggs, drummer Murray Briggs and Ken McIntosh on bass) they tear into the album.

There’s a great amount of banter going on, and Dominic gives Riley a bell to ring if he goes on too much. Either way, it’s entertaining. They play the album through in sync – and at the moment, I think my favourites are ‘Scarecrow’ and ‘Janitor.’ The rumours around Dominic are legend – and given that the encore features him dressing as a bishop (without a mitre) and singing the first lines of various hymns – many of which I remember before my fall from grace – it ends an entertaining evening…

Getting ready for 2015 part 4: Wasted Wine

I must confess that these guys were new to new to me, but the seven-minute epic ‘The Post Office’ manages to combine US angst with gypsy and East European mystery, and then coda with a piano interlude which comes from nowhere. All of which makes their forthcoming album Wasted Wine vs. the Hypnosis Center, due out in February 2015, a rather exciting proposition.

The band have evolved since their inception in 2006, but they are currently Robert Gowan (front man/violinist/multi-instrumentalist); guitarist Buck Dollars (guitar NB this *MAY* not be his real name); Lou Buckingham (bass), and Tim DeLisle (drums). There are ‘occasional appearances by wayward vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Adam Murphy and most impressively, live the band is often accompanied by Discordia Arts, who add theatrics, dance, and fire. Presumably South Carolina has less stringest Health & Safety Nazis than we have in the British Isles.

The tracklisting for the album Wasted Wine vs. the Hypnosis Center is as follows:

1. [Instructions]
2. Fall Upon Me
3. Shoreline Senorita
4. The Strangest of Eyes
5. The Post Office
6. MFR
7. (Shoreline Again)
8. The Bourgeoisie
9. I Told You
10. Heaven
11. (& Etcetera)

Gig Review – Stanley Odd

Stanley Odd
Edinburgh Liquid Rooms, November 21

‘When I was ‘Stanley’ you say ‘Odd! STANLEY!’ ‘ODD!’

Edinburgh Hip-Hop collective Stanley Odd have just released their third album, A Thing Brand New, and even as a long-time champion, it’s clear that this is their best album yet. Their profile is continuing to rise and deservedly so. Not only because they’re working so goddamn hard at it, but also because they deserve to.

Frontman Solareye (Dave Hook to his family and friends) bounds on stage alone, freestyling (as he does throughout much of the gig) and joined shortly afterwards by the other five members. Tearing into A Thing Brand New‘s opening track ‘Get Back In The Basement’ they have honed their show to the point where they seem both polished and yet it comes over as organic. Modestly alerting us that this is only the second time they have played some of these songs live, it matters not one jot. They’re on home-turf and the crowd are here for them.

But if you see this as just preaching to the converted, this audience has been worked on over time. There’s still people who can’t get their head round the idea of people rapping in any accent that’s not American. More fool them. The album contains excellent tracks like ‘To Be This Good Takes Stages’ which could be seen as an accurate summation of where they are, along with songs like album highlight ‘Her Name Was Hip-Hop’ and ‘Draw Yir Own Conclusions.’

Earlier material like 2012′s ‘Get Out Ma Head space’ from 2012′s sophomore album Reject, gets an airing too, but one of the biggest cheers of the night is for album closer ‘Son I Voted Yes’ which deals with the recent Scottish independence referendum. It’s genuinely emotional listening to it live. Yet they absolutely tear up the place on early single ‘Think Of A Number’ for their closing moment.

And if you google Stanley – interestingly, Stanley Odd comes up before Kubrick. Just saying, likes…

Getting ready for 2015 part 3: Laura Welsh

To my shame, I must have missed a couple of emails about Laura Welsh, because this sounds brilliant. Gorgeous, soft-electro-pop the sort to delight daytime radio and trendies alike, if there’s any justice.

Staffordshire-born but London based, Laura Welsh worked with a number of big names on her forthcoming debut album, Soft Control including (deep breath!): ODev Hynes, Robin Hannibal (from R&B minimalists Rhye, Jonathan Lipsey (Alicia Keys, Amy Winehouse) on ‘Ghosts’, Greg Kurstin (The Shins, Beck, Lily Allen), Emile Haynie (Lana Del Ray, Kanye West), Scissor Sisters’ Babydaddy and Amanda Ghost. The album also includes awith John Legend, ‘Hardest Part’.

For fans of Florence and the Machine, Sia and Paloma Faith – but on the evidence of this, people might be saying for fans of Laura Welsh.

The album tracklisting for Soft Control, which is released on January 19, is as follows:

1. Soft Control
2. Ghosts (stream at the top of the page!)
3. Break The Fall
4. Unravel
5. God Keeps
6. Cold Front
7. Hardest Part
8. Still Life
9. Breathe Me In
10. Call To Arms
11. Hollow Drum

Three of these tracks can br streamed below: