Christmas Posts 2012 #19


No, not son 17 Seconds, who’s a little bigger than that these days, but a very Happy Christmas from all of us here.

Enjoy these songs -and please, leave feedback!

The Fall -‘(We Wish You) A Protein Christmas.’ mp3

Sultans of Ping -‘Xmas Bubblegum Solution.’ mp3

Rilo Kiley -‘Xmas Cake.’ mp3

De Rosa -‘Under The Stairs (Xmas Reverie).’ mp3

James White -‘Xmas With Satan.’ mp3

Badly Drawn Boy -‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’

ILikeTrains -‘Last Christmas.’ mp3

Damned -‘There Ain’t No Sanity Claus.’ mp3

James Brown-‘Please Come Home For Christmas.’ mp3

XTC-‘Thanks For Christmas.’ mp3

Sonic Youth-‘Santa Doesn’t Cop Out On Dope.’ mp3

Yo La Tengo -‘It’s Christmas Time.’ mp3

Love Your Libraries Day


Today is Love Your Libraries Day or National Libraries Day in the UK.

I feel pretty strongly about this for several reasons: I would maintain that reading is perhaps the most fun you can have by yourself, music helped open me up to reading even more, and I work for Library Services.

Amongst two events I’ve been responsible for helping organise today are events just outside Edinburgh: the appearance of Comedians Frankie Boyle and Miles Jupp at Dalkeith Library (which lead to this rather cool article in the local paper) and two 17 Seconds Records bands playing at Penicuik Library – The Last Battle and Matt Norris and the Moon.

So today is a music and book-related special here on 17 Seconds.

My favourite band, The Cure not only gave their name to this blog and the label (the title of their 1980 album is Seventeen Seconds, do keep up), but they also took inspiration from literature. Their debut 1978 single, ‘Killing An Arab’ is not a racist rant, but is instead inspired by Albert Camus’ existentialist classic The Outsider (L’etranger in the original French, for those of you who like your despair to be even cooler). Not surprisingly, they did have problems with the title and idiots who misinterpreted it – interestingly on their most recent live album the title has now been changed to ‘Killing Another.’ Sadly, possibly rather wise…

The Cure -‘Killing An Arab.’ mp3

The deliciously haunting children’s book ‘Charlotte Sometimes’ by Penelope Farmer gave the inspiration -and indeed most of the words for the Cure’s 1981 single ‘Charlotte Sometimes.’ A fine book and single – the hair on my arms is literally standing on end just thinking about it, the single was a minor hit, but a firm favourite amongst Cure fans, and also inspired two other Cure songs ‘Splintered In Her Head’ (b-side to ‘Charlotte’) and according to Wiki, ‘the Empty World’ from 1984’s The Top album.

The Cure -‘Charlotte Sometimes.’ mp3

It wasn’t just Camus who was essential reading of choice for the raincoat brigade. Both The Fall and Josef K took their names from Franz Kafka’s books: in the case of The Fall, this is one of his novels, and Josef K. is the main protagonist in The Trial.

The Fall -‘Spoilt Victorian Child.’ mp3

Josef K -‘Endless Soul.’ mp3

Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis was an avid reader and film-watcher, the opening track on the bands’ sophomore (and sadly, final) album Closer takes its’ name from J.G. Ballard’s book Atrocity Exhibition (though according to Wiki, he only read the book after writing most of the lyrics).

Joy Division -‘Atrocity Exhibition.’ mp3

This could, of course, go on and on as a list: William S. Burroughs got an entire post of his own on this blog several years ago: Soft Machine took their name from one of his novels while Steely Dan got their name from Steely Dan III from Yokohama -a strap-on dildo referenced in The Naked Lunch.

Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ takes its name from the Emily Bronte novel, whilst ‘Infant Kiss’ is (ultimately) influenced by The Turn Of The Screw and ‘Cloudbusting’ as inspired by Peter Reich’s autobiography Book of Dreams, about his relationship with his father, Wilhelm Reich.

So, let’s sign off here – with these two tracks:

Belle & Sebastian -‘Put the Book Back On the Shelf.’ mp3

Echo and the Bunnymen -‘Read It In Books.’ mp3

Christmas 2011 Posts #8


Whatever your views on religion, chances are if you grew up in the UK, at some point you went to a Christmas Carol Concert.

And much as I would no more wish to hear tuneless singing of these perennial favourites than many of you will, Christmas Eve’s essential soundtrack has got to include Carols from King’s College, Cambridge to hear them done well.

So, for today’s post, a selection of half a dozen songs you might hear at a Christmas concert done in the bands’ own inimitable styles. There may be many more of these out there, though I drew the line at posting Cliff Richard’s version of ‘O Little Town Of Bethlehem’ or Bros doing ‘Silent Night.’ There’s post-modernism and then there’s being stupid.

Can -‘Silent Night.’ mp3

Belle and Sebastian -‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel.’ mp3

Bare Naked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan -‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.’ mp3

Blondie -‘We Three Kings.’ mp3

Fall -‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.’ mp3 {Mark E. Smith above)

Camera Obscura -‘Little Donkey.’ mp3

The Fall at HMV, Picturehouse, Edinburgh, November 3, 2011


Mark E. Smith on stage at the HMV Picturehouse, Edinburgh

I think anybody who knows me and/or reads this blog is probably aware that I really rate the Fall as a band, and go to a fair amount of gigs. However, last night’s Fall gig at the HMV Picturehouse was frankly, a travesty.

This was going to be a review. Thing is, nearly 24 hours later, I’m still so cross about so many things that I want to get off my chest.

First things first. The support act was Tragic O’Hara. He was brilliant. To come on stage with just your acoustic guitar when you’re supporting a guitar-driven band takes balls. To do stuff that’s a capella is risky and a risk that paid off. His voice and guitar medley of Cypress Hill’s ‘Hits From The Bong’ mixed with Dusty Springfield’s ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’ was nothing less than sheer genius. I hope to be seeing more of Mr. O’Hara.

Now, the bit I’m dreading. The Fall. I last saw The Fall at The Queen’s Hall in 2008, and they were phenomenal that night. There was a gig at Edinburgh’s Studio 24 which has passed into notoriety around Edinburgh. That I wasn’t at, so I won’t repeat the stories here. The gig started off well, the band sounded tight and together (actually, they did the entire night). Mark E. Smith’s arrival on stage was greated rapturously. However, it quickly became apparent that something was not well. I was right down at the barrier for the entirety of the set, so while my version of events is only one perspective, it was not gleaned from the back of the hall or hearsay or YouTube.

Mr. Smith gave the impression of being drunk. I don’t know if this was actually the case but it seemed like it (part of the act? you say. What a load of crap). He staggered around the stage, altering the volume on the amps. Then he went off the stage to deliver his vocals from the side of the stage. After a few songs he re-appeared before leaving his mike in the bass drum and disappearing off stage. The band continued playing, at first filling in and then looking more and more worried, and the booing between songs got worse.

Eventually the band walked off. Elena Poulou (keyboardist, and for what it’s worth Mark’s wife) came back on stage to explain that Mark had really bad wounds on his feet, and that was why he had walked off. The way sections of the crowd behaved towards her was appalling, telling her to fuck off, in addition to the beer glasses (thankfully plastic) that were thrown in her direction.

The atmosphere became unpleasant in the hall for a while – some frustration, some people who clearly haven’t got a fucking clue how to behave in public. Clue: if you think it’s acceptable to go out in public and be drunk and abusive, then you need to go and see a Doctor and probably a psychiatrist. * Not a rock gig. The band came back on (still minus MES) who then started jamming. There was a slightly surreal part of the gig when one character got on stage and started doing a MES-style freestyle (according to the ‘net buzz, it was one of the tattooists from Red Hot and Blue Tattoo, which is close to 17 Seconds Towers). Though Elena was happy to pass him the mike, security were not having this and bundled him off (non-violently as far as I could tell.) Mark E Smith eventually returned to deliver an awesome version of ‘Mr. Pharmacist’ before the band finished for the night. See below

Most people so far as I could tell were pretty pissed off. There were some people who seemed to think Smith’s behaviour marked him out as a legend (probably the same people who go to see Pete Doherty’s gigs in the hope of seeing just how fucked up he is this time). There was a queue of people trying to get refunds, and all the poor staff at the box office could do was take email addresses. One person behind me had come all the way from Wigan and was not amused.

Now, invariably over on the Fall’s online Forum there has been much discussion. There are those who seem to think that it’s all part of what you pay for with The Fall. Some who seem to think that if Smith invaded another country he would be completely within his rights, and the bizarre assertion that anyone who criticised the gig doesn’t get what The Fall are about, and probably wrote the review before they went. If Sisyphus wants to push that rock up a hill for eternity and is happy to do it, good on him ** but ‘part of the act?’ Please: do not spit in my face and tell me it’s raining. I rang the NME to ask if there’d been any story about the meltdown. The person on the other end just said ‘well, he’s a bit of a character isn’t he?’ Prick.

Maybe he does have problems with his feet. Not comfortable to do a gig with. But: the sensible thing to do would be to:

a) postpone the gig and re-schedule
b) do the gig from a wheelchair (he has done a US tour from a wheelchair after breaking ribs before now
c) Cancel the gig and give us our money back

Whatever, an apology is due to us. Yes ‘Mr. Pharmacist’ was great and I moshed for the first time in years at a gig. It showed that MES could perform. I was pissed off at his lack of professionalism. I am still angry at the pathetic behaviour of some of the ‘fans’ at the gig last night. And yes, I want a refund (thus far, a fair amount of buck-passing is going on).

Thing is, there is an economic crisis on at the moment. To expect people to pay £20 for a gig is one thing -and people can chose not to go. But if you have saved up your money from your job -or your dole money- and you get a piss-poor performance form the frontman, that is an insult. There are rumours circulating that the band were not going to get paid. It would be grossly unfair on the other band members.

This morning, I went for a walk and listened to ‘Kicker Conspiracy’ and ‘Wings’ on my iPod. Still awesome, brilliant songs. The Fall have been great for over thirty years on record, and are still responsible for one of the greatest gigs I have ever been to. But last night, Mark E. Smith showed contempt for his audience, some of whom clearly have no respect for other people, especially women (no: that’s not political correctness, dickheads, it’s called RESPECT.)

It isn’t because I am a hater or I don’t ‘get’ The Fall that I write this. It’s because they’re one of my favourite bands. And that’s what leaves me feeling short-changed and very, VERY pissed off.

*I don’t drink at all, so…

** Maybe you should read more

Thank you for these, John


Seven years since John Peel died (as I pointed out yesterday).

A handful of tracks from acts that he championed. If you like them, do go and investigate further.

His favourite band…my favourite place to live:

The Fall -‘Edinburgh Man.’ mp3

There was stuff before Punk, y’know…

Led Zeppelin -‘Whole Lotta Love.’ mp3

He knew that there was stuff further than just England…

Jesus and Mary Chain -‘Upside Down.’ mp3

Stuff from further afield than Europe and America:

Bhundu Boys -‘My Foolish Heart.’ mp3

Bob Marley & The Wailers -‘Waiting In Vain.’ mp3

Some stuff shoulda had a much wider profile:

Matching Mole -‘O Caroline.’ mp3

Some utter classics:

The Smiths -‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.’ mp3

…later covered in radical style:

Schneider TM -‘The Light 3000.’ mp3

He certainly knew that it wasn’t just about guitars:

Aphex Twin-‘Girl/Boy Song.’ mp3

…and I don’t think anymore needs to be said about this, other than…ENJOY:

The Undertones -‘Teenage Kicks.’ mp3

What was it about Peel? This was my contribution to Fresh Air’s special:

To me, John Peel was the radio DJ that all others were measured by. His sense of humour and passion for music – ‘I just want to hear something I haven’t heard before’ was infectious. Right up to the day he died, here was a man who cared about music.

The list of bands he championed from early beginnings who went on to have a massive impact – even if only for a while – is very long but would include artists as diverse as Led Zeppelin, Kelis, Captain Beefheart, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Nirvana, The Cure, White Stripes, Happy Mondays, Queen, PJ Harvey, David Bowie…He took flack from the far right for playing reggae. He played the Sex Pistols when no-one else would touch them. He championed styles from Prog-rock to Dubstep to ‘world’; happy hardcore to folk to death metal. As a teenager I would listen under the bedclothes trying to stay awake until the end of the show (in 1992, if you missed a radio show, that was it, there was nowhere to go to listen again, unless someone happened to have taped it).

I’ve only done a handful of shows on the radio but when people say to me that they can hear the Peel influence, I’m flattered. It is not over-exaggerating to say that without John Peel the musical landscape of the last forty years in the UK (and indeed further afield) would have been vastly different were it not for him, and all the poorer for it.
I missed the night he read my name out on there, but fortunately by this stage the internet had come along).

If I’d ever been in a band that had got beyond the gigging and demo stage, given the choice between a Peel session and Top Of The Pops I would have chosen the Peel session.

Would I have been begging him to play 17 Seconds Records’ acts on his show? D’uh!

Some covers for Friday


…time it was that Friday usually was cover versions day round these parts.

I never consciously made the decision to stop doing it, but I thought it might be fun to start doing more regular cover versions posts around here.

So…there is no real theme here, just a handful of cover versions I enjoy. I hope you will too!

Jimi Hendrix -‘All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover).’ mp3

The Fall -‘Victoria (The Kinks cover).’ mp3

Arab Strap -‘You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC cover).’ mp3

Six By Seven -‘I Want To Destroy You (The Soft Boys cover).’ mp3

Le Tigre -‘I’m So Excited (Pointer Sisters cover).’ mp3

Bauhaus -‘Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie cover).’ mp3

Wedding Present -‘Back for Good (Take That cover).’ mp3

Kathryn Williams -‘All Apologies (Nirvana cover).’ mp3

Cat Power -‘Wonderwall (Oasis cover).’ mp3

Mogwai -‘Sweet Leaf (Black Sabbath cover).’ mp3

Lethal Bizzle -‘Police On My Back (Eddy Grant cover).’ mp3

Christmas posts part 24


Absolutely bloody exhuasted. The end of the week cannot come fast enough.

However, have just come back from seeing Aberfeldy for what is quite possibly the twelfth or thirteenth time, and as ever, they were excellent.

For another legendary band, much believed at 17 Seconds Towers, ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Fall:

The Fall -‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ mp3

The Fall -”(We Wish you) A Protein Christmas.’ mp3

Albums of the year to follow very soon, I promise…

It’s that time of year…yet again!


August in Edinburgh.

The International Festival, The Book Festival, The Fringe (Film Festival now takes place in June)…an extremely busy time for the city, but one I look forward to every year.

And then proceed to grumble about when tourists get in my way, and I spend my life saying ‘No I don’t want your flyer.’

Quite forgetting of course, that I arrived here nine years ago, knowing no-one in this City, to see my brother doing his stuff on the fringe…and I stayed. And earned money by flyering. And if some of my dreams crashed and burned, then many of them came true. I met my wonderful wife of three years and married here, met some of my best friends, started interviewing and reviewing bands, DJing, worked in various record shops, and started my own label. Not a bad outcome for a week’s holiday.

Mark E. Smith lived here for a time twenty years ago, so this song has a sorta resonance for me.

The Fall -‘Edinburgh Man.’ mp3

Thank Fall it’s Christmas


There’s actually a fair number of Fall-related Christmas songs, so let’s get cracking…(well, they’re almost seasonally-themed).

One of the first (sorta) was the track ‘No Xmas for John Quays’ (clever pun). There’s even less Xmas for Pharmacists than John Quays, as a Pharmacist very close to me is working both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

Anyway, this early song has appeared in several forms, firstly on their debut Live At The Witch Trials and also both in an early Peel session from 1979, and a few years later on one of the many Fall live albums Fall In A Hole.

The Fall -‘No Xmas for John Quays (Peel session).’ mp3

The Fall -‘No Xmas for John Quays (live).’ mp3

This was an album track in 1991…on the album Shiftwork

The Fall -‘Xmas With Simon.’ mp3

These two tracks come from a 1994 Peel session:

The Fall -‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing (Peel session).’ mp3

The Fall -‘Jingle Bell Rock (Peel session).’ mp3

This was an single in the earlier part of this decade…

The Fall ‘(We Wish You) A Protein Christmas.’ mp3

33 1/3 Part 14


The Fall -‘This Nation’s Saving Grace (Beggars Banquet, 1985)

The Fall are a band I first saw in 1987 on long-forgotten ITV show The Roxy, performing ‘Hit the North.’ . It wasn’t a road to damascus type moment, but i thought they sounded pretty cool. Throughout the next twenty years I slowly fell ever more for them, eventually actually managing to see them live in late 2008. I’ve lost count of how many of their albums I have, and whenever I think I’ve got somewhere, there’a whole load more.

The Fall seem to be a band that you either get or you don’t (Matthew at Song, By Toad and the good Mrs. 17 Seconds, two people whose opinions I respect very deeply cannot stand them). And we know whose favourite group they were. But there’s something oddly addictive about The Fall, a world that drags you in; word that seemingly make no sense whatsoever, and lots of sense, often at the same time.

There are many great Fall albums I could have singled out – but I’m going with this one. A present on my 18th birthday from my friend Paul (cheers!), this just hangs together so well as an album. It’s where the poppiness that started to creep in once Brix Smith joined and they signed to Beggars Banquet (whatever Mark E. Smith might say) join together perfectly. It starts off with ‘Mansion’ – a wonderfully gothic track (the Fall were never considered a goth band per se, and yet…). Some of the tracks on here aren’t just ‘alternative dancefloor fillers’ -ha! – damn it, they’re anthems.

Thanks to this album, I started to investigate The Fall albums in ever greater detail, started to understand music that wasn’t just off the beaten track but off kilter, and the reward that that’s continued to bring. Paul told me ‘Spoilt Victorian Child’ was his favourite track on the album, and I think it’s still one of my favourite tracks to this very day. Mad situationist rockabilly, and all the better for it. To my shame I don’t think I even knew who Damo Suzuki was when I got this. Oh well, I know now…

If you want to start with a Fall album that showcases them at their very best and isn’t too inaccesible, start here. Then just keep going…and going…but you’ll always find yourselves coming back here.

The Fall -‘Spoilt Victorian Child.’ mp3

The Fall -‘L.A.’ mp3