Christmas posts 2013 part 1

Last Christmas

Yup, it’s four weeks until Christmas Day, so I am starting my annual Christmas posts now.

First up, ‘Last Christmas.’

‘Last Christmas’ was first a hit for Wham! in 1984, and nearly thirty years since it original release, it still holds the record for being the best-selling single not to go to No.1 in the UK. This was due to Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ which was the best-selling single in the UK from 1984 until 1997 when it became Elton John’s ‘Candle In The Wind 1997.’ Though the indie kids may have been clasping The Smiths to their collective bosom, in the pop charts 1984 was the year of Wham! and Frankie Goes To Hollywood (who’d been championed by John Peel anyway).

Whatever mistakes George Michael may have made over the last ten years, I was eight when this record came out, and Wham! and his solo career were definitely part of the soundtrack to my pre-teen years. So, no, I make absolutely no apologies for featuring this.

There have been numerous cover versions over the year, this rather lovely one is by ILikeTrains, which as far as I can tell never received a commercial release.

ILikeTrains-‘Last Christmas.’ mp3

Amongst the many cover versions available, the song has been covered by the Manic Street Preachers, All About Eve, and Jimmy Eat World amongst many others. These versions are available commercially, so if you like them, go and buy them.

The welcome return of the Manic Street Preachers


It’s now more than twenty years since the Manic Street Preachers appeared. In early 1991, they were completely out of step with the times, and revelling in it. In an indie world which had yet to completely get to grips with grunge, and was more involved with the post-Madchester fallout that was baggy and the far more interesting shoegazing scene, the Manics were articulate, intelligent and more than a little bit confrontational.

I was fourteen when they appeared, and even before I’d heard a note of their music (remember: no internet QED no spotify, iTunes or file-sharing then) I was mesmerised. It would be many years before I saw them live (alas, not until 1998 – but several times subsequently), and the band continued to grow.

Ironically, for a band who promised to release a double album and then split up (I had that on in the van at work today, Generation Terrorists has dated very well), they are shortly to release their twelfth LP Rewind The Film.

The first single to be taken from it is ‘Show Me The Wonder.’ The band have had a huge number of chart singles, and I don’t see why this shouldn’t follow. It’s gorgeous and summery, and manages to do what 2001’s ‘So Why So Sad’ didn’t quite pull off…

This, meanwhile, is the title track, featuring vocals from Richard Hawley.

Christmas Posts 2011 #23


On Saturday night, the Manic Street Preachers played what is apparently their last British gig for two years. I wasn’t there in London – but having seen them several times over the years, it is good to see that they are still going. Sure , some albums have been better than others, but anyone who thinks they have just been repeating themselves for twenty years clearly hasn’t been paying attention. They’ve been a more than regular soundtrack in my life over the past twenty years -and I think there’s nop doubt many others who feel the same, too.

This was a free track three years ago:

Manic Street Preachers -‘Christmas Ghost.’ mp3

There have been no shortage of excellent Manic Street Preachers songs over the years – off the top of my head I have heard them tackle songs as di’Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,’ ‘Velocity Girl’ ‘Umbrella’ ‘Take The Skinheads Bowling’ ‘Bright Eyes’…this is why some of us still love the idea of the single as a package, not just as a single download, for these wee gems that might appear.

This is a cover of THAT Christmas song (yes, that one!)

Manic Street Preachers-‘Last Christmas.’ mp3

…and seeing as it’s Christmas:

Manic Street Preachers -‘Umbrella.’ mp3

Album Review – Manic Street Preachers


Manic Street Preachers -‘National Treasures-The Complete Singles’ (Columbia/Sony)

It’s now twenty years since the Manic Street Preachers first appeared. Over the course of their first decade they went from being seen as four angry young men in Mascara (this really was as far away from the norm as possible in 1991) to being able to sell out the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on December 31 1999. The next decade saw their profile remain fairly if not quite as high, an ongoing addition to their legacy, so that being labelled national treasures isn’t too far from the truth. National being the UK as a whole (though they’ve always worn their Welsh heritage proudly) in the sense that they never majorly cracked other markets further afield.

It’s not the first Manics compilation either – nine years ago they issued Forever Delayed, which was much more focused on the big hits of their career -and indeed there have been many; over thirty of these tracks here were top forty hits. This compilation takes a different approach, running from their first single proper ‘Motown Junk’ to their latest, a cover of The The’s ‘This Is The Day.’ And sure, you’ve probably heard (and indeed, even own) many of these tracks. But unlike Forever Delayed, as well as the big hits – including two number one singles – there’s many that never had as high a profile, but were examples of why they had such a devoted fanbase. Perhaps the person in the UK high street wasn’t really aware of tracks like ‘She Is Suffering’ ‘Life Becoming A Landslide’ ‘Let Robeson Sing’ ‘The Love of Richard Nixon’ to pick just four, lesser known tracks here.

Bono has been questioning on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of Achtung Baby whether U2 still have any relevance (to which you get the feeling three middle-aged Irishmen are first in line to say that they probably would do if he could just put aside his Messianic complex and get on with what he did in the first place). There’s no question that two decades into their career, the Manics have certainly reached a number of high points, and they clearly still feel the urge to reinvent themselves, rather than quietly become a heritage act. But for a band who famously claimed that they were going to release one double album and then split up, they have done remarkably well. Sure, they are no longer so manic, and were never particularly street. But they preach from the heart, like those Preachers from the Valleys they hailed from, and for many of us, they’ve soundtracked the last twenty years to some degree or other. I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping that we haven’t heard the last of the Manic Street Preachers just yet.


National Treasures-The Complete Singles is released on Columbia/Sony on October 31.

Get a free download of ‘Love’s Sweet Exile’ here

Covers in honour of Glastonbury


OK folks…

this is not all Glasto-related, but unless you’ve been under a rock for the last six months, you will know that Beyonce is headlining Sunday night at Glastonbury this year.

There are people who think a pop act has no place at Glastonbury -they’re wrong. And three years ago, Mr. Beyonce, Jay-Z proved that he could blow the minds of the people at Glastonbury. I haven’t been in over a decade, but I enjoyed acts as diverse as Asian Dub Foundation, David Bowie, The Pet Shop Boys, Spearhead, Pulp, The Cure and Radiohead, to name but seven.

And if I was going this weekend, I’d be looking forward to Beyonce as much as Morrissey.

I hadn’t heard of Heike Has the Giggles until this morning, when their cover of Beyonce’s ‘Crazy In Love’ appeared in my inbox:

Heike Has The Giggles – Crazy In Love (BeyoncĂ© cover) by Foolica Records

Download it here

Biffy Clyro -‘Umbrella (Rihanna cover).’ mp3

Manic Street Preachers -‘Umbrella (Rihanna cover).’ mp3

(Seriously, Glastonbury should get Rihanna one year)

The Streets -‘Your Song (Elton John cover).’ mp3

Carter USM -‘Rent (Pet Shop Boys cover).’ mp3

Sons & Daughters -‘Killer (Adamski/Seal cover).’ mp3

James -‘China Girl (David Bowie/Iggy Pop Cover).’ mp3

Kaiser Chiefs-‘Golden Skans (Klaxons cover).’ mp3

Katzenjammers -‘Cars (Gary Numan cover).’ mp3

Death Cab For Cutie -‘World Shut Your Mouth (Julian Cope cover).’ mp3

Susanna -‘Lay All Your Love On Me (Abba cover).’ mp3

It’s Friday…so it’s covers time


Utterly exhausted here.

Sorry for lack of posts over the last few days -yesterday evening I burned my hand and was more concerned with trying to make sure I was actually going to be able to get into work today.

There will be more reviews appearing here over the weekend – but for now enjoy these…

Ash -‘Does Your Mother Know? (Abba cover).’ mp3

Black Box Recorder -‘Seasons In the Sun (Terry Jacks cover).’ mp3

Teenage Fanclub -‘Like A Virgin (Madonna cover).’ mp3

Placebo -‘Johnny & Mary (Robert Palmer cover).’ mp3

Manic Street Preachers -‘Suicide Is Painless (Theme From M*A*S*H)( M*A*S*H cover).’ mp3

Siouxsie & the Banshees -‘The Passenger (Iggy Pop cover).’ mp3

Mercury Rev -‘I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier (John Lennon cover).’ mp3

Flying Saucer Attack -‘Outdoor Miner (Wire cover).’ mp3

Primal Scream -‘Know Your Rights (Clash cover).’ mp3

Sonic Youth -‘Hot Wire My Heart (Crime cover).’ mp3

Christmas posts part 25


Bloody exhausted.

Two more sleeps to Santa, so here’s a bit of a hotch potch of stuff, if you’re still interested.

First up, that How To Swim Christmas EP is now available:

Meanwhile, my friend JC at the Vinyl Villain did an excellent post on Monday that I thought you should check, if you haven’t already and Aye Tunes continues to be excellent for Christmas-related music. And there’s this over at NME. And this.

A few tracks that have appeared here over the years…just in case you’re interested or missed them in previous years:

Manic Street Preachers -‘Christmas Ghost.’ mp3

Darlene Love -‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).’ mp3

The Knife -‘Christmas Reindeer.’ mp3

Tom Lehrer -‘A Christmas Carol.’ mp3

Tom Waits -‘Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis.’ mp3

XTC -‘Thanks For Christmas.’ mp3

17 Seconds Blog – The 1,000th post


Yes indeed!

Technically, it is more than 1,000 posts, on the grounds that I have lost a few posts after clashes with the DMCA last year, but here it is, the 1,000th published post on the blog.

So, what’s happened since I started the blog back in July 2006? I’ve reveiwed lots of albums, and quite a few gigs, interviewed some great bands, and started a record label. It’s been hard work, I’ve been driven to distraction, but I feel that there are lots of people who enjoy the blog, as it generally gets over 1,000 hits a day (1400 seems to be the record).

I’ve also enjoyed writing about bands that have come and gone – the posts on the Shop Assistants and Motorcycle Boy, for example, seem to have struck a chord. Hopefully one day those records will be properly re-issued.

Thanks is due, first and foremost to the wonderful Sam, Mrs. 17 Seconds, for all her love and support, and patience. As well as to all the readers (whether I know you or not) who have left feedback, artists who got in touch about stuff they are doing, fellow bloggers who supported me through thick and thin and linked to me, and anyone who sent me mp3s when I begged for them.

Many thanks to to everyone who has helped with the label – Mrs. 17 Seconds, my business partner Laurent, Scott for doing all the mailouts and support; my parents and brother; our five artists; Shona Donaldson, Bruce Finday, Julia Nicolle, for vital work and support; and the DJs who have supported us on the radio: Jim Gellatley, Tom Robinson, Iain Baker and especially Vic Galloway, and everyone who has come to the gigs, stocked our records, bought the music, written about us and supported us. Apologies to anyone who really should be on here that I have forgotten.

(And no thanks to the person who tried to use this against me. God is watching you.)

The song that started it all:

The Cure -‘Seventeen Seconds.’ mp3

The most popular song to appear on the blog:

Manic Street Preachers -‘Umbrella (Rihanna cover).’ mp3

One of the bands, gone but not forgotten that I have championed:

Motorcycle Boy -‘Big Rock Candy Mountain.’ mp3

…and proof, if proof should be needed after all this time, that this blog is not just about white men with guitars:

Nina Simone -‘Feeling Good.’ mp3

Bless you all XX

Some covers for Sunday night


Yup, a quick fun post of cover versions…

First up, posted these before but two great and very different versions of one of the best songs of the decade:

Manic Street Preachers -‘Umbrella.’ mp3

Biffy Clyro -‘Umbrella.’ mp3

Meanwhile…I posted Voxtrot’s cover version of ‘Love Vigilantes’ by New Order a couple of weeks ago; here are two other takes:

Hungry Lucy -‘Love Vigilantes (New Order cover).’ mp3

Laura Cantrell -‘Love Vigilantes (New Order cover).’ mp3

And almost New Order…three takes on foreerunner Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by two different acts…

Susanna and the Magical Orchestra -‘Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division cover).’ mp3

Swans -‘Love Will Tear Us Apart (Jarboe vocal).’ mp3

Swans -‘Love Will Tear Us Apart (Gira vocal).’ mp3

Finally, let’s finish off with some Kate Bush covers…

Placebo -‘Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush cover).’ mp3

Swimmer One -‘Cloudbusting (Kate Bush cover).’ mp3

The Futureheads -‘The Hounds Of Love (Kate Bush cover).’ mp3

China Drum -‘Wuthering Heights (Kate Bush cover).’ mp3

One of my favourite cover versions at the moment is X-Lion Tamer’s take on ‘Tugboat’ by Galaxie 500, available from all good download stores now…

Mutual appreciation society: The Horrors and the Manic Street Preachers


As you’re probably aware if you have much interest in guitar music and/or the UK indie scene, both the Manic Street Preachers and The Horrors have recently released new albums. The Horrors’ sophomore release Primary Colours has already made the UK Top 30 albums and will no doubt do very well at the end of the year in the end of year polls. Deservedly so. The Manic Street Preachers have just released their ninth album, Journal For Plague Lovers, which is based on lyrics written by the band’s guitarist Richey Edwards, who disappeared in 1995.

So there seems to be a bit of mutual admiration going on -which is fair enough, after all, they’re both great bands after all. The Manics have covered The Horrors’ song ‘Vision Blurred’ (a non-album track, in case you were racking your brains!) and The Horrors have remixed the Manics’ album track ‘Doors Clsoing Slowly.’ Neither of these tracks have been commercially released, at least so far as I can tell, but were originally made available by the NME website.

So give these a listen, and see what you think. And when I’ve had chance to get my hands on the Manics album, I’ll post a review here.

Manic Street Preachers -‘Doors Closing Slowly (The Horrors remix).’ mp3

Manic Street Preachers -‘Vision Blurred (The Horrors cover).’ mp3

Manic Street Preachers website/Manic Street Preachers myspace

The Horrors website/The Horrors myspace

As always, please leave feedback if you like what you hear!