This Is Pop…Outlandos D’Amour

By the end of 1978 the punk gold rush was coming to an end. A whole load of new bands had been formed and hastily named with The… followed by just about any noun that had not been taken. The smell of desperation hung heavy in the air not least around a bunch of muso’s who had been hastily formed around a Jazz Rock bass player and a Prog Rock drummer.

The Police were not policemen nor had ever been in the police or had any connection with the police or even been employed as security guards. It was a shoddy name which became even shoddier post internet when a google search would see them subsumed by proper emergency services.

And so, the credibility of The Police in mid-1978 was virtually zero. Formed when two ego’s collided namely Gordon Summer genuine working class dirt poor Geordie and spoilt American brat Stuart Copeland. They had some reason to be self-confident, they were both phenomenally gifted musicians. Sumner, who had been nicknamed Sting because of his stripy jumpers had been playing with Last Exit, a Newcastle based Jazz Rock band who were predictably going nowhere fast post punk. Copeland had been the last drummer in Curved air a kind of prog rock band who were as popular round the polytechnics for the charms of singer and Copeland’s girlfriend Sonja Kristina as their music. Sting had exchanged phone numbers with Copeland at a curved air gig as had Corsican guitarist Henry Padovani.

Realising the pointlessness of being in Newcastle’s answer to Weather Report Sting had located to London where he hooked up with Copeland and, by default, Henry Padovani. Copeland had realised that, for the moment at least, the smartest money would be in punk and persuaded the nakedly ambitious bass player to come along for the ride. Sting’s commitment to this was evidenced that he was also, at the same time, playing in Strontium 90 a band formed by ex-Gong Bassist Mike Howlett which one might imagine was firmly not punk.

And so, with a crap name, some crap songs and a crap guitarist The Police set out doing what every band used to do in the 70’s which was play any shitty venue that would have them. They were, of course, slightly ahead of the game by having a drummer who had been in a medium league band but also this drummer had a brother, Miles, who was making inroads into music management.

One of Mile’s first brainwaves was to get the band to back Cherry Vanilla an ex Warhol acolyte who despite being fairly talentless and now in her mid 30’s had enough rock chick history to stir up a frisson of interest in among the punk youth. For £15 a night and a support slot The Police were willing to offer backing band duties. The band also supported Wayne County and the Electric Chairs, a more credible if not musical experience. The pairing was fortunate for Padovani as he was about to be bounced from the band and would turn to the Electric Chairs for a gig more commensurate with his musical skills.

Growing frustrated with the limitations of punk, Sting was seeking to employ his Strontium 90 bandmate Andy Summers. Summers was a decade and musical generation older than the others having played with everyone from Zoot Moneys Big Roll Band to Neil Sedaka via Soft Machine and the Animals. If the Police had had any credibility Summers would have destroyed it but they didn’t, pretty much everyone saw them as desperate muso’s trying to hitch aboard the punk bandwagon. They had released one single with Henry Padovani which sounded like a punk band fronted by Jon Anderson of Yes. It wasn’t going to take off, but with Summers on board the balance of power tipped, Sting unveiled some new songs and Summers found some interesting things to play on them. Copeland found some hyperactive reggae beats and all of a sudden, the band weren’t so desperate at all.

I had been aware of ‘Roxanne’ their first proper single through a grudging play by John Peel but the first time a was struck by the band was on finding a copy of their ‘I can’t stand losing you’ single in Woolworths. I didn’t buy the record, after all it  probably cost at least 50p, but I was impressed by the sleeve which featured Copeland with a noose round his neck standing on a block of ice which had a two-bar fire in front of it. It would provoke a twitter storm today and a moral outrage in 1978 if the right papers had been paying attention.*

the-police-cant-stand-losing-you

This marked a turning point in the Band’s fortunes. ‘Roxanne’ had been a bit of a damp squib but now it was re-released and all of a sudden, The Police were the best new band on the block.

And so, onto Outlandos D’Amour, and what is noticeable about what a work in progress this album is. Miles Copeland still really wanted a credible punk band but he was very wrong. About half the album is still flirting with punk thrash, notably in the opener ‘Next To You’ which sound close to the Henry Padovani period band until Summer subverts it with a key change and a slide guitar solo. Elsewhere the likes of ‘Peanuts’ and ‘Born in the 50’s’ are solid shiny new wave offerings. 40 years on this has weathered well, far more so than the Dammed or Buzzcocks but also this is game changing material packaged for a mass market and ready to send to America.

This is a record that we will remember for a couple of great singles and the introduction of the Police Sound. It’s easy to forget that the album also featured ‘Be my Girl’ which features a spoken word piece (by Summers?) about an inflatable sex doll. Outlandos D’Amour is a typical debut album where a band hasn’t really decided who they are yet and as a consequence are producing some quite off the wall material. Even when the songs are a bit slight or just a bit irritating there’s still the pleasure of hearing three great musicians playing together. Copeland in particular can come up with more ideas in one song that most drummers come up with in a lifetime.

But, if there’s one song that encapsulates the whole Police masterplan it’s the hit that never was ‘So Lonely’. A bit of rock, a bit of reggae, a bit of jazz rock guitar solo and some great dynamics. We might regret it later but for a moment we were all in love with the band.

* Wikipedia claims the BBC banned it which clearly they didn’t as I remember hearing it…a lot !

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This Is Pop

A quick perusal of this month’s Shindig magazine has convinced me that 1968 is back in fashion. It’s 50 years ago of course and so it is time to convince the ageing punters that still buy CD’s that now is the time to but another version of Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake or The White Album or Electric Ladyland.

We all love nostalgia of course we do, I remember in 1976 that the New Musical Express was listing all the great albums that had been made in 1966. To be fair they had a point, it was a great year for music, but then 1966 seemed as far away as 1968 does to the present day.

And so, with my Futureispast head on I thought I would look at 1978 to see if it held the same sort of treasures as 1968. The latter, of course was when psychedelia and ‘progressive’ music was becoming heavy and ‘rock’ was being born. You can hear the Beatles doing it before your very ears on ‘Helter Skelter’ on the White Album.

So, onto 1978, a mixed bag as might be anticipated, the nearest to a classic might be Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town which has grown in stature over the years. A genuinely great British eccentric, namely Kate Bush was emerging and there was interesting stuff from the likes of Pere Ubu, Television and The Only Ones.

Inevitable there was going to be variety, these were interesting times, my overall memory of the end of the 70’s however was the emergence of post punk and the re-emergence of pop.

These days pop is hotbed of force-fed acts where the songwriter and producer are king (or queen). It is the sound of radio one and the X factor, I don’t like it, it’s too artificial. But then again, I am 60.

In the late 70’s however pop was a broader church, the weight of the Beatles still laid heavy on us all, they had been the ultimate pop band, they had spent years playing covers in clubs trying to entertain everyone with everything from showtunes to Elvis. There was a lack of snobbishness about the band but also a lack of desperation. The Beatles were happy to play pop.
After a couple of years of punk, we were beginning to consider there might be more to life than going to be insulted by a bunch of people who couldn’t play very well and risk being beaten up by whatever local subculture had turned up looking for a fight. However, Punk had opened some kind of door to other possibilities and one of these was the need for a bit higher energy playing.
All of a sudden, the time was right for a bunch of people who had been biding their time on the side-lines waiting, watching and making sure they could play their instruments. Notably  Glen Matlock’s Rich Kids were ahead of the pack. Since leaving the Sex Pistols Matlock was free to indulge in ‘wanky Beatle chords’ and this time we were willing to listen. In his new band he had recruited Midge Ure, a talented and opportunistic young Scottish Guy who would have been laughed offstage in 1976 but now was newly credible.
The Rich Kids were a very short-lived phenomena but others were in it for the long term (which in the 70’s was about 4 years)

Blondie had been lurking around as a kind of joke band since the mid 70’s. They had toured Britain with Television and during the attractive women shortage of 1977 Debbie Harry was everywhere. Blondie never got that good at playing live but Harry was a brilliantly charismatic front person. Their other strength was their songs were melodic and energetic. Likewise, Elvis Costello was transforming from county influenced  angry young man to angry young man with good pop songs. His Armed Forces was in the pipeline, chock full of tunes that had allegedly been deconstructed from Abba. Costello’s old producer Nick Lowe had released Jesus of Cool which mixed rock with pure pop. Spikey Swindon band XTC were on the verge of jettisoning their experimental keyboard player for Drums and Wires. Squeeze had suddenly revealed a real flair for melodic song writing as had Buzzcocks. The Police had now left their individual Jazz Rock and Prog Rock projects behind and after flirting with punk for a while had stumbled across a kind of pop reggae that would take over the world.
All of a sudden musicians seemed to be having a bit of a good time and getting paid for it. At the Polytechnic Disco we could dance to ‘Oliver’s Army’ ‘Heart of Glass’ ‘Can’t Stand Loosing You’ and ‘Making Plans for Nigel’ without any real self-consciousness. These were all proper bands with proper musicians who just happened to make great records. There was more to come, the Two Tone movement and then the advent of electo pop recognised the importance of tunes. We had a couple of years before it all started to get a bit silly or miserable.

But by then it was the 80’s

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2018

The Future is Past is all about the 70’s. It’s the time I was young free from ties, responsibility and medication. It was a time when music was being produced that we had never heard the like of previously a lot of it was progressive in the very best sense of the word.

Music is different now, it’s a bit like electricity, always on tap, if I wanted to listen to Trout Mask Replica now, at this very moment, I could do. That’s the main reason why music just isn’t as special as it was in the 60’s and 70’s there will never be the shock of the new, there will never be that sense of excitement of finding something that’s really special. Most people have a golden age of music, like I do, for a lot of them that’s enough and they can spend the rest of their lives listening to Abba or the Stone Roses with no desire to move on. For a few hardy souls there’s a lifetime of consuming endless new artists to be enthused about, listened to and then forgotten as, inevitably something new comes along. But even new music has to compete with cinema or theatre or travel or eating out for a slot in our leisure time.

The irony of course is that a lot of modern music is really good. I hate pop music now, but I have to acknowledge that it does its job pretty well. Where there is a gaping hole is a lack of credible bands who can play accessible music like the Police or Squeeze or Blondie or even (I have to say it) Oasis could, equally there are few contemporary rock bands who really float my boat although when it comes to hard rock, not my speciality, the music seems better than ever. I would take Mastodon over Saxon or Def Leppard any day.

So, there’s a lot to like, generally bands play better and record better. There’s more freedom as soon as you get away from pop because record companies are calling the shots less and less. Most modern artists have their feet on the ground because there is no way they are ever going to own a Leer jet. Best of all music is a lot more inclusive and no longer the province of sneery white men.

Since music is actually becoming worthless in terms of money, gigs are becoming a big deal. It used to be that an album cost a fortune and you could get into a gig for 50p. That’s been turned on its head but generally gigs are more pleasant, a smoke free environment, a PA that won’t induce tinnitus in 20 mins and a crowd that is less likely to break out into random acts of violence (partly because that are all al lot older)

And it’s usually all over by 10pm.

This year I have probably caught more live music than any other year of my life, this has been facilitated by quite a few free tickets, but this has evoked quite a scattergun approach to who I have been to see. Here is a random and far from comprehensive review of some of this year’s best live music.

Shonen Knife: Japanese trio serving up childlike punk. I was impressed by their total lack of guile. It seems they really do love Nick Lowe’s  ‘Cruel to be Kind’ and couldn’t wait to play it for us.

Penelope Isles: Lank haired psychedelic Indie pop from somewhere the south coast. The woman singer has an interesting voice and seem to be moving in a direction which distinguishes them from the other thousands of indie pop wanna bees.

Goat Girl: It was like the 80’s all over again with a surly largely female band with a muddy sound and passive aggressive presence. About 2 good songs.

The Dead South: An American Pogues for the new millennium. At least they looked like they were actually a band and an edgy one at that. Most of the British indie kids look like they’ve just popped out for a pot noodle during some Netflix binge session.

BC Camplight and David Ramirez .: Not on the same bill but two beery looking blokes with addiction/mental health issues who had some great songs about their addiction/mental health issues. One suspect things were about to turn messy.

Fairport Convention: I hadn’t seen these for 40 years (I managed to miss most of their Cropredy set a few years back) Surprisingly good, although drummer Gerry Donahue is now reduced to tapping on an electronic drum pad (more typing than drumming). This is a band with nothing to prove but still, despite all expectations delivering the goods.

Steeleye Span: Maddy Prior now dances like your mum or, more likely, your sister, or even you, but she still dominates. Where Fairport have gone all relaxed and semi acoustic Steeleye have become more metal. The fiddle player lets loose a stream of notes with no discernible purpose and there’s an overload of electric guitars. Not my favourite incarnation but I admire their spunk.

Richard Thompson: I’ve been banging on about him since the autumn, you don’t need me to tell you anymore.

St Paul and the Broken Bones: I recognised quite a few people  at this gig which makes me think that St Paul may be some form of breakthrough band for the over 50’s. Absolutely peerless playing and singing but not that engaging emotionally.

Truckstop Honeymoon: Husband wife and occasional family members doing a kind of send up of white trash culture. A funnier version of The Handsome Family.

The Furrow Collective: Alistair Roberts remains a firm favourite in my household. This is his regular collaboration with 3 like-minded individuals exploring the darker side of folk.

Deep Dark Woods and Kacy and Clayton: The only gig here I had to pay to see. Money well spent. This represents how bands must be innovative in saving money in touring. Here the bands combined, I suspect the last person on stage got to play bass each night. C&C’s album ‘The Siren’s Song’ was one of the best of the year.

There were more but I’ve done well to remember this many.  A new year beckons and it will be back to the 70’s as usual.

A happy new year to you all

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Christmas Day Squeeze

 

 

And so this is Christmas and it’s time for another super 70’s Christmas single.

‘Christmas Day’ is a single by Squeeze, you may not have heard of it and that’s got a lot to do with the fact that it’s not really very good.

 

These days Squeeze are a well-oiled machine, I enjoyed their headline set at the Cornbury Festival this year. Of course it’s not the original band, just like Blondie have done and the Kinks or Oasis will do if they ever reform, the band are essentially the two front men and a collection of very capable backing musicians. What people often miss about the band is something that became very obvious during a greatest hits show, namely how prone to a bit of jazz wank the band are. It happened as early as ‘Cool for Cats’ when a punchy song was interrupted with a bit of freak out jamming.

 

I assume it’s down to Glen Tilbrook who is technically a really excellent guitarist. It’s not always apparent but Tilbrook like Andy Summers from the Police and Andy Partridge from XTC has clearly absorbed the likes of Zappa but chosen to pay in a pop group rather than busting his chops with Soft Machine. As far as I can recall there is only one Squeeze song which is musically straightforward and that is ‘Labelled with Love’. All the other hits have little twists and turns, unexpected chords, detours into instrumental pieces and twisty guitar solos, it belies the fact that they are regarded as the ‘perfect pop band’, their songs all contain homeopathic doses of the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

 

‘Christmas Day’ is several bits of song bolted together but unlike a lot of their singles there’s also a lack of a hook or decent tune. The lyrics, presumably by Chris Difford , are a kind to reimagining of the Christmas story, it’s a good idea and a lot more radical in 1979 than it would be now. I can remember the band being interviewed and actually being asked is they felt it might be disrespectful to include Morecambe and Wise in the same song as Joseph and Mary. It seems bizarre now but in the late 70’s God was still in his Heaven which is why I had to travel all the way to Loughborough to see Life of Brian which had been banned in Nottinghamshire. All this was wasted on the general public as they either misheard or the song was censored to include ‘walk of the wise’ (what does that mean?)

Mary and Joseph drove into town,

Searching for a place to stay.

The moon was up, and his foot was down

A miracle was on its way.

 

They tried the hotels, the motels, the bed-and-breakfast

Locals, but no one seemed to have any room.

 

Better find a double room soon!

 

So where would Christmas be without

Mary and Joseph?

Walk of the Wise?

Laurel and holly?

Cracker Surprise?

Lights on the pine tree?

And more aftershave?

I’m not forgetting Jesus who was born on Christmas Day!

 

They found a place with the neon lights

TV, Pool, and Vacancies

The man at the desk didn’t hear them right

When the two of them booked for three.

 

They watched the TV

And deeply, she thought about the needing

Of the heavens to deliver this way

And it happened on Christmas Day

Christmas Day

Christmas Day…

 

Squeeze were in the ascendant, this was the classic line up Jools Holland, Gilson Lavis and John Bentley alongside Difford and Tilbrook. They had made the album Cool for Cats and were on the way to make Argybargy by which point the general public were noticing that here was a very good band indeed who were making some very good records.

‘Christmas Day’ had the kind of fun video like the Boomtown Rats or Squeeze themselves were starting to explore. The only thing not to like was the song itself

 

Here it is

 

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Finding Thompson

The end of the 70’s marked the end of the golden age of hitchhiking. As a child a hopeful hairy stood by the side of the road with his thumb out was more common than a Little Chef. My dad would never pick one up but neither could he quite ignore them so he developed a cross the body gesture which he seemed to think denoted he was about to depart the main road. It was fairly unnecessary as he usually had his wife and two kids crammed into a space approximately the same size as a chest freezer (and not a lot warmer during the winter).

And so, I grew up with the possibility of taking to the road at a moment’s notice for absolutely no cost at all. My first hitching experience came from a drunken agreement in the pub that we would all hitch to Southwold on the Suffolk coast for a lunchtime drink. It was agreed that we would travel in pairs and meet in the Sole Bay Inn. My hitching partner woke me at a ridiculously early hour and we made our tentative way south. To our amazement we could hitch! After a few trips and a lot of walking in the heat of the summer we arrived at our destination and waited in vain. We then hitched back and met up with the others. One pair had failed to even get out of bed, the other pair had got to the side of the road but panicked when a car slowed down and gave up and went home.

Hitching always required a certain psychological energy, once you had committed and got that first lift it was quite fun but until that point there also the lure of the bus or the train or simply staying in bed.

While I was at Trent Polytechnic I had my first opportunity to see Richard Thompson.

I have to confess at this point that I had been convinced for decades that this event had taken place in the winter of 1978 but concerts.wikia.com insists it was in February the following year so I may be getting things just a tiny bit confused in my unreliable memory but all this happened at some time honestly.

My old schoolfriend Phil was still at Warwick university although by this time he had moved out to Leamington Spa. Phil’s always found nice places to live and Lemmo was no exception. It contained quite an overspill from the university and from 8am every weekday the road out was lined with students of all sexes saving money by hitching to their lectures.

Richard and Linda Thompson were due to play the University

How we managed to co ordinate all this without phones let alone email, Facebook, Twitter etc remains a mystery. What also remains a mystery is how I managed to hitch down to Warwick university without a sat nav or, probably, a map.

The weird thing was that hitching was usually about as quick as taking a bus as long as there was a reasonable chance of a lift. I think the longest I ever waited was around 90 mins but quite often you could get a lift in 15mins or less. On the day in question (Thursday apparently) it took me the afternoon to get there, it was winter and light was fading fast. Apart from one van driver who looked like an extra from Mad Max everyone was well behaved. I met up with Phil, we had something to eat and prepared for the gig by drinking the statutory 4 pints.

At this point Richard and Linda were at a low point in their career. 1978 had seen the release of First Light, a candidate for the worst Richard Thompson record ever. They had only managed a handful of gigs in 1978 and but 1979 saw them back into relatively full-time musical employment. As was the vogue for ‘hippie’ bands we were all seated on the floor of the refectory or whatever, when the great man arrived, we remained seated.

In 1977 the Thompsons would only tour with Muslim musiciansbut that had now been jettisoned for some old mates. Dave Pegg on bass and JohnKirkpatrick on squeeze boxes had played with him off and on for the last 5years. On drums was a guy called Dave Sheen who I have never heard of before orsince. Lastly there was Sue Harris on oboe and (if my memory serves me well)dulcimer who, I suspected was slightly surplus to requirements. AlthoughRichard and Linda must have been in their late 20’s they seemed very grown up,Richard was dressed in the sort of clothes my dad might have worn in the 40’s,it was sensible but not stylish. Similarly, they weren’t going to rock out toomuch. They did play ‘Night Comes In’ at which point I got a bit tearful(probably the beer). On the other hand, at one point they went acoustic andplayed what Richard described as a ‘Ricky Nelson Song’. There were also thegood songs from First Light namely Layla (no not that one!),’Don’t Let a ThiefSteel into your Heart’ and ‘Pavanne’ which is a song just waiting for Adele tocover it as a theme for the next Bond Movie, really!!.

And so I popped my Thompson cherry, my overall memory was of a quite a warm gentle experience, they seemed nice relaxed people but I didn’t really imagine I might be writing about them in 40 years’ time.

I assume it was then back to Leamington Spa for a night on Phil’s floor. In the morning he headed off to lectures and I headed for the M1.

Soon I was on a slip road with my thumb stuck out into the sleet. A tiny well-worn car came to a halt, that wasn’t a problem, half the cars on the road were rust buckets and this only appeared to have the one driver who confirmed he was heading North.

‘Nice country you’ve got here’ was his opening line as soon as we had pulled off. The accent was either New Zealand or South African, if it was the latter I was in trouble, we were supposed to boycott everything from South Africa which might include free lifts. So, I didn’t ask I just listened to the driver’s complaints about England.

Apparently, he had been at a party the night before and hadhad some of his belongings stolen. This apparently included his car keys as,sure enough, the car had been hotwired. Worse was to follow, he decided he wasgoing to push the tiny car to its limits, forcing  to it to it’s limit trying to overtake thelorries which, in turn, were pushing out gallons of spray making visibilitypoor at best. My driver then revealed he had also had his spectacles stolen andhe could barely see where he was going and he needed me to look out the rear sohe could pull out safely. I had to try and make out if the road was clearthrough a misted frozen back window so he could lurch into the middle lane totry to overtake the thundering juggernaut that had been blocking our way.Inevitably, lurking in the murk would be another lorry coming up fast behind us which our own car struggled to reach overtaking speed.

It was a pretty traumatic trip, I was young and invincibleand still scared shitless. Luckily it was a fairly short journey, my driversoon pulled off at my exit. I jumped out into 6 inches of freezing water atwhich point the car engine finally surrendered. I asked if my driver needed a push ‘or something’. “It’s alright” he said “I’ll just sit here for a while”.

With frostbite setting in I relocated to a different roadwhere a nice warm car took me home in 15 mins.

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Goodbye Pete Shelley

It’s a compliment to Pete Shelley that his death has provoked some rather fine online tributes from his friends and peers. In the modern world where something along the line of ‘Pete Shelley, sad news, RIP’ is regarded as newsworthy it’s nice to hear the likes of Peter Hook genuinely stating that without Mr Shelley he would probably still be working the docks.
Shelly was an innovator and along with fellow Buzzcock Howard Devoto kickstarted the Manchester scene. I described their early adventures a couple of years back.

 

https://thefutureispast.co.uk/2016/11/12/meanwhile-oop-north/

After Devoto left the weight of keeping the band going fell heavily on Shelley’s shoulder. He wrote most of the songs and sang them in a slightly fey voice somewhere between Jilted John and AL Stewart, and when he wasn’t singing we was playing weedy guitar solos which had a slight beauty all of their own

 

The band were at the top of their powers at the end of the 70’s. ‘Ever Fallen in Love’ was deservedly their greatest hit, a great tune with lyrics we call all identify with. For 3 years they were a pop band just like One Direction or anyone else modern who I don’t care about. If you went to a disco you would people hear Buzzcocks along with Blondie, Squeeze, Boney M and the Bee Gee’s. They were punk and popular. ‘Ever Fallen in Love’ tends to overshadow their other songs but there were plenty to enjoy from ‘Orgasm Addict’ to ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’ .

That was Shelley’s legacy, the early albums had some interesting moments as did his brief solo career but like so many bands, a quick perusal of their back catalogue shows live albums and greatest hits and live recordings of their greatest hits outnumbering new product.

Buzzcocks were still touring earlier this year and as with Blondie the current line-up has probably been together a whole lot longer than the original but can still remember the originals names (‘Paddy’ Garvey and John Maher if you’re asking ) but haven’t a clue is on currently on bass and drums. The band continued to make the occasional record which were fine, but it would be a weird fan who turned up hoping to hear all of ‘The Way’(2014) or ‘Modern’ (1999).

And what a lot of the tributes illustrate is that this was the soundtrack to our youth and in a way that’s so much more important than the actual quality of the music. How great it was to have ‘ Fast Cars’ or ‘Promises’ or ‘What do I Get?’ as the music of our formative years, we were spoiled. In a way Shelley was lucky to have been in the right place at the right time but then again so were we.

And that still leaves the question why was he living in Estonia ?

pete shelley2

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Tracking Thompson in 5 videos

According to my WordPress stats no one watches any videos I post. I also know it’s a pain for my vast international audience who often find the video is blocked in their country. Still I’ve committed commercial suicide by dragging out Tracking Thompson beyond most people’s patience so here’s another nail in the coffin.

As Van would say , it’s too late to stop now !

There’s very little footage of Richard and Linda around, it wasn’t like we chronicled every last fart in the 70’s. So they managed to make 6 albums with no visual promotion. In this clip, predictably from The Old Grey Whistle Test, you can see why they weren’t immediately appealing to my 16 year self. These performers are in their mid 20s but frighteningly grown up. Linda’s emotionally bare vocal now seems stunningly beautiful. Richard is kind of background, nice hat though

https://youtu.be/DaEO_T9UAV8

Thompson is probably as well known as a folksinger as a rock guitarist and that attracts some people and puts some off. I would guess this is from the late 80’s simply because he’s yet to arrive at the trademark beret. ‘I Misunderstood’ is one of dozens of Thompson songs that could be performed by any competent guitarist. Predictably it’s pretty dark lyrically and a bit of a party killer.

https://youtu.be/_gyWTihnVjQ

I was a little critical of some of Thompson’s output around the turn of the century labeling it ‘dadrock’. I was right in a way but on this clip Michael Jerome is on drums and he kicked Thompson out of his slippers. Also present here is Pete Zorn who played everything but here has been given the tambourine as well as son Teddy Thompson who always looks a bit pissed of when he plays with dad.

https://youtu.be/fGKkhUkxvc4

A bit of a side step next.Thompson is so talented it’s easy to underrate him. He sings, writes song, plays electric guitar and acoustic guitar, often a variety of tunings. He’s also been known to play keyboards, mandolin, banjo and dulcimer. Here he is in a supporting role but if he just chose to be an acoustic guitarist backing traditional tunes he would be one of the best(not much money in it though)

https://youtu.be/ZxBZ5NPCzYI

For the final clip we are almost up to date. Pete Zorn is still present and alive (he died 2 years ago) but his current bass and drums are in place. ‘Can’t Win’ has been somewhere near the Thompson set list for 25 years at least but it is always intense and an excuse for him to get quite unhinged on guitar. There’s a parallel with Neil Young (Cortez the Killer,Cowgirl in the Sand) but much as I love Crazy Horse this band destroys them

https://youtu.be/aLypHd3hJdU

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