Song for Easter

Easter really is the best time of year, so preferable to the dank dark time around the over commercialised Christmas .

Here is another song to make you feel even better. I came cross this literally this week

on on a blog by Aphoristical

http://albumreviews.blog/2019/04/16/the-ten-best-songs-ever-according-to-me

It’s not from the 70’s but it is by 70’s band XTC who I covered earlier this year

https://thefutureispast.co.uk/2019/01/19/this-is-pop-statue-of-liberty/

At the time I said I would,one day, get round to listening to their entire back catalogue and here is a wonderful song that until just a couple of days ago I had never heard before.

If you want even more Easter muse here is last year’s song for Easter

https://thefutureispast.co.uk/2018/04/01/bridget-st-john-a-song-for-easter/

Remember, new music is just just music you haven’t heard yet.

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Posted in memories of 70s, rock music | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Everybody hates Bob Geldof

The world seems on fire with hate at the moment. Obviously I don’t go out in the real world to check this assertion. It’s far safer to stay at home with the internet. I should have learned my lesson by now just by clicking on the comments sections I can be transported from a woodland glade, dappled in sunlight to a fried chicken outlet on the wrong side of town. I ought to have learned by now that looking at comments rarely makes me feel better but I can’t always resist it, it’s like slowing down to look at a traffic accident.

On the internet ,of course, we are all equal, the views of stupid people are given the same weight as people who might know what they are talking about. In Britain we now have Brexit to polarise every debate, there’s not much middle ground just angry people making themselves angrier by trotting out clichés, it’s not going to end well!

A few months ago a came across a typically outspoken about Brexit by Bob Geldof, he was anti but to be honest Geldof’s opinions go off like a proverbial loose cannon, he has an opinion on every subject and they could go off in any direction.

Then, help me God, I clicked on comments, I don’t know why perhaps I thought there might be a sparky discussion of maybe my life was just an empty void at that moment. Anyway, all of a sudden I was in a den of hate. Never mind Brexit, Geldof was being blamed in no uncertain terms for the death of his ex wife, the death of his daughter and even the death of Michael Hutchence, literally everybody hated Bob Geldof.

I’ve said it before, but context is everything. Geldof seemed to explode out of Ireland in 1977 as lead singer with the Boomtown Rats but before that he had long been frustrated with the conservatism of Ireland and had already worked in England and Canada in such careers as factory work, a slaughterhouse and as a photographer and journalist. The rats under Geldof did everything they could to make an impression. Although by fortune they got lumped in with Punk they were initially an R&B band, an early photograph shows them posing in flares and flat caps, but they soon developed into a skilled pop band.

The biggest thing for me personally about the Boomtown Rats were they  were my sisters only favourite band and as such a became familiar of pop star pin ups of the band , well mainly Geldof, and also got to listen to their albums which became virtually the only records my sister has ever bought.

In their early days the Rats specialised in punky bluesy pop as evidence by their first hit ‘Looking after Number 1’ but there was also a trend towards slightly overwrought  dramas reminiscent of the stuff Springsteen was peddling in those days, ‘Rat Trap’ being the biggest hit of the genre.

Geldof was an engaging personality managing to charm NME journalist Charles Shar Murray which would guarantee some good reviews, and appearing about town with Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy at the time on a career high. On the other hand, his very appearance seemed to upset, he was confident and seemed to wind people up in the same way Jagger had over a decade earlier. Geldoff had a kind of simian swagger and a big mouth, we weren’t ready for an Irish Liam Gallagher in 76.He was punched out at an early gig by one of the oi crowd who had formed around the (subsequently) racist band Screwdriver. There were plenty of people who found him irritating but there were others who found him intriguing, it wasn’t just my sister.

Inevitably the band became more adventurous ‘I don’t like Mondays’ being the point where invention and popularity intersected. As well as music the band were experimenting with the new opportunities offered by video. Arguably the band were mastering the art of the new pop, in retrospect Geldof overshadowed the musical side of the band which kind of inhibits any real appreciation of their achievements.  ‘Banana Republic’ the band’s last significant single was a stinging criticism of the conservatism from religion and politics that had led to the band leaving their home country. I actually caught the band live in the early 80’s. They were on the way down and reduced to playing the University of East Anglia. I was only there as I had agreed to take my sister but from what I remember it was a pretty good gig and the band seemed to have some interesting songs.

By 1984 Geldof’s career was at a low ebb. The new kids at the NME all hated the band, no one was interested in a new release by the Boomtown Rats and it looked like they never would be.

And then Live Aid happened, and Geldof was the most popular person in the world, so popular in fact we even tried to forget he was Irish and wanted to give him a knighthood (we managed to fudge that somehow).

Nearly 35 years on its’s easy to be sceptical about Live Aid but it was a huge deal, partly because we just weren’t anticipating its eventual significance. I certainly didn’t, I only got out of bed because my housemates were blasting out Status Quo (the first band on) while I was trying to sleep. I then went out to buy a pair of shoes and missed Queen but that was the nature of the day, it was only after a few years had passed that I realised it’s importance. Post event we couldn’t believe what had happened, it was the 80’s Woodstock!

After that Geldof retreated to write his autobiography and hopefully make some money. ‘Is that It?’ was an honest and very readable account of his life to date and sustained our interest in the man the media was calling ‘Saint’ Bob. We even managed to be sufficiently interested in a solo career for a while.

But, context is everything, although he was becoming increasingly laden with honorary doctorates (Including one from the UEA) peace prizes and various awards, not even the Live 8 concerts managed to return him to our affections in the same way.

Just Live Aid overshadowed a musical career, his personal tragedies overshadowed Live aid. He came out of speaking openly about his pain and depression and inevitably made a fairly bare bones album dealing with these issues.

But perhaps the real issue with Geldof today is that an angry young man is just so much more appealing than a grumpy old one (believe me I know), he’s also reformed the Boomtown Rats which was a reunion that not even my sister wanted (probably).

Geldof was on TV a while back stating something along the lines of ‘every time a ‘paddy’ musician gets a platform they want to spout about everything apart from music’. There are notable exceptions to this but if we add Bono and Sinead O’Connor to the mix it makes some sense. It probably boils down to the face that it took an exceptional personality to carve out a significant career outside Ireland and those sorts of personalities wouldn’t be content just talking about their next album. And so they have big ideas and say things that might be contradictory or stupid or insightful, often in the same few sentences, and they piss of the sort of people who have never had an original idea in their lives but have unlimited access to the internet where all views are equal.

And that’s why everybody hates Bob Geldof

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The Boys are back in Town

On Wednesday evenings I have started going to a Jam night. Populated by elderly gents with officially more money than sense it’s a chance to play through some classic rock tracks and generally give everyone a chance to show off their expensive guitars, amps and effects pedals.

 

For anyone, well any man, over the age of 50 classic rock is a bit of a touchstone. It’s not something that’s really grabbed me but it’s in my DNA I can’t escape it. With anything up to 4 guitar widdlers and the drum seat already taken, I have elected to play bass. Bucking the trend for expensive equipment I bought a £70 squire bass from cash converters and I’m good to go. One of the great things about classic rock is that it’s pretty accommodating in terms of musical ability as long as you have some basic skills there’s a chance you can join in especially with a competent guitarist or two to do the difficult bits.

And so there’s a bit of Skynard, a smattering of Bryan Adams and a smidgen of Clapton, Free and Bad Company. But there’s one band that we come back to time and time again. The songs seem very logical to play on the bass, probably because they were written by the bass player, the guitars are a bit tricky but not beyond the reach of a competent pub player. It’s possible to make a pretty decent attempt on the songs at first run through, but there is one element that no one can copy, that’s the vocals. That group is Thin Lizzy, probably the archetypical classic rock band.  

The origins of the band are in the late 60’s of course. The band had had a hit with the traditional song ‘Whisky in the Jar’ in 1972. That was a very different band and a different era, the only available clip of them performing the song is in grainy black and white it seems ancient. ‘Whisky in the Jar’ was quite a remarkable interpretation due in no small part to Guitarist Eric Bell’s distinctive solo work but it wasn’t classic Lizzy. They wouldn’t play the song live, but now we were aware of the distinctive talents of frontman/bassist/songwriter Phil Lynott.

 

Lynott was a phenomena for the early 70’s, the fact that he was black in a very conservative country not known for it’s multiculturalism can’t be underestimated. The face that he not only survive but thrived in 60’s Dublin is testament to the force of his personality, he was destined for show business. Lynott was a good songwriter and a distinctive vocalist. A lot of his phrasing could be trace back to Van Morrison and he possessed the same lyrical sensibility in his lyrics. It was this uniqueness that would separate Lizzy from the rest of the rock pack.

 

Lizzy had three phases, there was the hippie Eric Bell era, Bell was a major force in the band initially but chose to get out when his drinking was getting out of hand. In the late 70’s and early 80’s there was harder rock years when the band were a major attraction but struggled with drugs and a revolving stable of guitarists. Sandwiched between the two were the band’s classic years.

 

Post Eric Bell Lizzy tried a couple of other players before settling for Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on guitars. There were no longer a strictly Irish band, now having American and Scottish members. They continued to tour and tour cropping up at festivals probably crammed in between the Groundhogs and Blossom Toes. They made records but apart from Lynott there wasn’t enough to distinguish them from the other lumpy second division bands.

 

Gorham had clearly listened to the Allman brothers and along with Robertson was starting to develop harmony guitar parts, soon Lizzy were sounding a bit special.

 

By 1976 there was something in the air we weren’t sure what it was yet but it was time for a change and the time was right for the band to up their game. ‘The Boys are back in Town’ had it all, from the opening power chords to the harmony guitar lines and engaging lyrics. It was a special single and rightly regarded as a classic. Admittedly the boys sound like a right bunch of bozos with their fighting and drinking and laughing at women but Lynott rescues it all with a bit of poetry at the end.

Jukebox in the corner blasting out my favourite song

The nights are getting longer and it won’t be long

Wont be long till summer comes

Now that the boys are here again

 

No one knows where the boys have been all the time they were away but the song’s been appropriated for any occasion when there’s any homecoming, notably for troops returning from various conflicts. The songs been played so many times on so many occasions that’s its recognisable literally from the opening chord.

It’s worth mentioning the role that drummer Brian Downey played in the band’s sound. Downey was an old school player versed in jazz and blues as most musicians would be in the 60’s. He could rock pretty hard and was quite up for using two bass drums, but he also had a lightness of touch which would probably be missing had he been born 10 years later. ‘The Boys are back in Town’ is actually a light shuffle which lifts it beyond the realm of heavy rock, despite the power chords the song just skips along rather than plodding or imposing a beat. Downey was a constant in the band from the his school days with Lynott and is one of the most underrated rock drummers of all time.

 

Any meteorologists will have spotted a glaring error in Lynott’s lyrics. Nights getting longer signals the start of winter not summer. Lynott was not a precise lyricist, his next signal would predict a Jailbreak ‘somewhere in this town’. In the field of rock, especially heavy rock, Lynott’s lyrics were exceptional however, drawing on the Irish literary tradition,romanticism,storytelling and influenced by the likes of Van Morrison and later Bruce Springsteen.

 

With the single and the Jailbreak album Lizzy would make the crossover from hard touring band to rock gods. Lynott would go onto a solo career in the 80’s including writing the new theme for Top of the Pops which was a big deal in Britain. In the short term he survived punk by being a fairly friendly guy who didn’t wear flared jeans. In the longer term he failed to survive heroin use and a rock and roll lifestyle.

 

The single the band released prior to Boys was ‘The Rocker’ I’ve probably heard it but I can’t remember it. Post Boys there was a deluge of memorable rock singles that people would still dance to in Discos and youth clubs. I’ve never really felt the need to own a Lizzie record or to make any real effort to listen to them but now I’m jamming their songs on the bass a whole musical legacy is sirring in my synapses. I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday but I can recall the middle eight in ‘Waiting for an Alibi or the riff to ‘Emerald’

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Rory Gallagher

Rory Gallagher was a constant throughout the 70’s. It was not that I would every get to see him, he was a little too big to play somewhere like Norwich. Occupying a place in the popularity ratings somewhere just above Budgie but below Status Quo, Rory was just there in the background all the time.

I cant remember his records being released with any great fanfare and it was debatable why anyone could make a strong case for preferring Deuce over Blueprint or making a pitch that Tattoo was a better record than Against the Grain. It sounds like damming with faint praise but the unassuming Gallagher was one of the greatest guitarists ever.

 

Firstly he was older than he seemed having been musically active since the early 60’s. For most of that decade he had been tucked away in Ireland and therefore invisible to the rest of the world. While in his teens he had been a mainstay of the Fontana showband  which he managed to mutate into the  Impact which in turn became more blues orientated and eventually became a trio which was to be Gallaghers’s preferred method of working.

 

By this point it was the late 60’s, he had barely turned 18. Already he was flying in the face of convention, the showbands were still pretty much the only outlet for music for most of Ireland and the blues may as well have been a Mongolian death chant for the level of popularity it could garner. It would take a pretty exceptional 16 year old to start to turn this around in conservative Ireland.

Gallagher was starting to play abroad which was the only way forward. Finding that a residency in Hamburg didn’t want to book his trio he sent them some publicity pictures with a friend behind the organ and then went anyway.

By the time he had formed Taste in 1966 he had pretty much arrived at the format for the rest of his life. Taste supported Cream at their farewell gig. I you want blues based power trios I would have picked them over Eric’s boys any day of the week.

 

As the 70’s dawned Gallagher’s solo career was underway, joining up with bass player Gerry McAvoy  who was to be with him for the next 20 years along with assorted drummers and an occasional keyboard player he toured and toured and toured. Gallagher was the antithesis to glam and prog and punk and whatever new fad came knocking. Almost always dressed in jeans and a check shirt and playing a severely distressed Stratocaster, allegedly the first in Ireland that he had bought in 1963,he was regarded as generally humble, decent and hardworking, not always qualities associated with rock gods. Significantly he continued to tour Ireland through what we quaintly called ‘the troubles’ (also known as a war) when most English rock bands simply would not have bothered.

 

If anyone wants a dose of the 70’s Gallagher experience I would direct them swiftly to Irish Tour 74 where Gallagher wows provincial audiences onstage before returning soaked in sweat to the rankest dressing rooms ever, night after night. It’s a real delight to see these purest of performances, Gallagher seems to get by on a guitar, an amp and a lead, there’s no pedal gazing and without any sonic trickery there’s some scarily accurate guitar playing, night after night.

Don’t take my word for it; here’s wings of Pegasus

 

  https://youtu.be/f-tGEQYZRfg

And there was more, Gallagher could play slide and acoustic and mandolin and harmonica.With Taste he even switched over to saxophone, and pretty good it was to!

I liked and admired Gallagher, who couldn’t but he never really moved me. I had an early compilation LP which, naturally was a bargain buy, and I liked it enough, but post Beatles there probably wasn’t enough for me in the actual songs. In my formative musical years I grappled to understand what made his music. Most people said it was blues but it wasn’t the blues like BB King or Clapton.It was only decades later when I began to understand more about folk music that I noticed the uniquely Irish take. Listen carefully and there’s an element of the ‘diddly diddly’, reels and jigs that he must have heard growing up.

Gallaghers’s reputation has grown steadily over the years. There’s a surprising amount of footage available of him in his heyday which is a mystery and a delight. He had a sad end, having survived the 80’s which were the kiss of death for organic music, his liver began to fail. There were mentions of him being a heavy drinker, but if that was the case it never seemed to affect his career which is pretty weird when you consider the amount of out and out drunks who are still with us. I had lost track of him, he still made good records and seemed to have avoided any attempt to spruce him up for the MTV generation. It was a real shock to me to find him in the pages of the glossy new Q magazine clearly ill and bloated on steroids and it was only when we lost him that I realised I missed him. Soon the blues would be back, and the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn would be celebrating the same simple formula that Gallagher has started.

 

Gallagher worked hard, he didn’t seem to have any other interests, his brother was his manager but there were no other significant relationships. His musical achievements are magnified by the fact that he came from a country that would do little to promote his talent when he started out. And his legacy is his music, there are no bad or even poor performances by Gallagher, you could pick any at random and be impressed.

 

So here’s one of them.

 

 

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Journey to Ireland 1979 pt 1

Summer 1979. Polytechnic had finished weeks ago and having returned to live with parents until a new term started time was starting to drag.

For reasons numerous and complicated my head wasn’t in a great place. Wellbeing had yet to be invented and in retrospect it wasn’t surprising I was a bit depressed and anxious although the general consensus was there was very little that couldn’t be fixed by more beer.

As weeks seemingly turned into years my old friends Phil and Dunk decided that we would all go to Ireland. They had both been the previous year and reported having a great time. It would all need to be on a budget of course but at least I discovered that if you gave the benefit office a contact address (it didn’t even have to be real) they would continue to pay you while you were away. Phil and Dunc had gone to the office first and informed them they were going on holiday in Ireland, the truth didn’t pay, their benefit was stopped for the duration.

It was still a financially tight operation, travel would have to be hitching, accommodation would need to be tents. Our young person’s railcard entitled us to a greatly reduced ferry crossing. Unfortunately, I had washed mine in a pair of jeans and was left with a barely legible scrap of paper. I decided to try and disguise this by making a pass holder which would hide the worst of the damage. This was pretty unconvincing and every time I needed to produce it I felt like I was smuggling a kilo of Hashish out of Turkey, this didn’t help my general anxiety and paranoia.

First rule of hitching is that single people travel fastest. Three people stood no chance. We decided Phil would make his own way there and Dunk and me set off from the Norwich ring road in grey early light. We soon got a lift though, things were looking up. Unfortunately, after about 20 minutes we came across a terrible car accident. A lifeless arm hung limply out of the window of a crushed car, as we navigated our way over broken glass. Our driver decided to relive the experience at regular intervals even inventing a back story of children waiting for daddy to come home. I was tempted to hitch back home and just go back to bed.

Things settled down a bit after that, but it was slow going. Realising it was getting dark and we had got no further than Oxfordshire we set up camp for the night in a random patch of grass. We found a pub, had a drink and fell asleep to the sound of traffic.

We got away pretty nifty the next day largely due to having nowhere to wash and no breakfast. The lifts started to arrive and on entering Wales we were picked up by the hitchers dream lift. A van driven by hippies with a mattress in the back. 40 years on this seems all rather suspect but hey, this was the crazy 70’s. Our hippy hosts had a supply of dope which they just about shared (I genuinely didn’t want any, but I was too uptight to refuse) as well as a supply of bootleg cassettes. And so, we puttered past the belching chimneys of Port Talbot to the sounds of The Tubes and a pleasant fug developing. At some point we picked up some more hitchers, female foreign students.

Now, however much we might have evoked the spirit of Flann O’Brien or James Joyce when planning the trip, the real adventure would have been to have consensual sex in the privacy of our tent with a similarly free spirit whom we had just met. Unfortunately for us this would have required a degree of personality or even charisma that neither me or Dunk possessed. As far as I remember this was the only time we spoke to a woman on the whole trip. The hippies were having such a good time they decided to drive us to Fishguard, as soon as they dropped us off on the quayside the students disappeared in seconds.

Sweating profusely in what was turning out to be a nice summer’s day we queued for ferry tickets, I was expecting to be rumbled with my dodgy travelcard which would have raised the dilemma of going into instant debt or hitching back to Norwich that same day. To my relief they sold me a ticket at a reduced price and in no time we were on our way.

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St Patrick’s Day

St .Patrick’s day coincides with my daughter’s birthday, and it’s for that reason alone rather than a desire to celebrate some weird version of Irishness I have been forced to brave the revellers on an annual basis.
If we were to celebrate Bastille day by dressing up in berets and stiped jerseys, bedecked with a string of onions and bladdered on red wine it’s just possible someone might point out this was all a bit, well racist really. There’s nothing the British public seems to like more though than putting on an emerald green hat in the shape of a pint of Guinness and just getting completely pissed though.

The 253rd annual St. Patrick's Day Parade

It’s all a new thing to me of course and that probably the only reason I’m grumpy about the whole ‘celebration’, when I was a kid, we didn’t even go trick or treating, I just find the rate at which new celebrations are developing is getting out of hand (I did enjoy data protection day a few weeks back though).

So, in an attempt to join in the fun, I’m going to dedicate a few posts to Ireland. Its not my specialist subject, despite being just a short ferry trip away Ireland remained a mystery for most of us English when I was growing up. In general, there weren’t any Stag and Hen trips to Dublin. Most of us, if we chose to fly at all would have gone to somewhere warm rather than damp.

Recently an old episode of Morecambe and Wise was uncovered which included, to our liberal horror, a sketch featuring Irish stereotypes. It was a sign of the times; Irish jokes were standard currency in every workplace and playground. What we knew about the Irish is they might be charming or illogical or bewildering but they were also a bit thick, we knew this because we were told it every day on the television.

There was a smattering of respected Irish entertainers, most notably Val Doonican. I’ve always had a soft spot for Val, he was the least edgy person ever and he claimed to have owned the first guitar in Ireland which just about seems possible. There were plenty of others, the Batchelors, Terry Wogan and an awful lot of Eurovision contest winners. Like the North of England Ireland seemed to produce a fair crop of singers and comedians.

In the rock world the pickings were pretty slim though. At the beginning of the 70’s there was Van Morrison in the North and Rory Gallagher in the South, and that was about it. Both of then had come up through the show band circuit. The show bands would tour Ireland playing whatever they needed to play, county and western, Elvis, ballads, if the public liked it they would play it. The best showbands were big in Ireland and totally unknown anywhere else in the world. They would play the length and breadth of the island playing church hall where the audience were patrolled by priests who ensured nothing untoward was going to happen.

It all sounded pretty grim and it probably was which is why, for most of the 70’s any musician who wanted to make a living beyond the showband circuit had to leave their home and move to England, usually London.

AL that was to change, it was that there punk thing again, by the end of the decade there were fanzines, venues and record labels and now Ireland’s a cosmopolitan kind of place that even allows gay marriage (I think)

But in the 70’s it was very different

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Sexism and the Stranglers

By mid 1977 punk really was setting the woods on fire. It wasn’t just people liking punk it was also people hating punk, it was something that no one was ambivalent about, there was a lot of anger around coming from all directions.

And as John Lydon would tell you, anger is an energy, and energy was one thing everybody needed. Punk was forcing almost everyone to up their game.

One band that benefited hugely from the energy of punk were The Stranglers. They were a rock band but they were aggressive and played short punchy songs. Everything about them visually suggested they should be playing country rock in a pub in Kentish Town, only bass player who sported the decidedly unpunk name Jean Jacques Burnel looked contemporary. The drummer was well on his way to 40 and had a beard, the keyboard (keyboard!) player had longish hair and a moustache, they had, at least dispensed with flared jeans.

The band was indeed a complete mismatch, formed by Guildford businessman Jet Black in 1974, the band was a chance for Mr Black to move away from business and back into playing the drums after a ten year break. He was joined, on guitar and vocals by Londoner Hugh Cornwell who had actually played bass in the early 60’s with guitarist Richard Thompson and future music journalist Allan Jones. On bass was classical guitarist JJ Burnel and a later arrival was Dave Greenfield a jobbing keyboard player.

Cornwell could write decent songs, Burnell was on his way to becoming a decent bass player but what marked him out was the tone and aggression of his playing. In the punk world where the bass player was there to make up the numbers and had probably only picked up the instrument a month a go, JJ really stood out. He was a major influence on many fledgling bassists. The thing that really set the band apart was the use of keyboards notably the Hofner Cembalet. for those of you who care about these things. There were a lot of comparisons with the Doors which were inevitable as Greenfield essentially soloed over everything just like Ray Manzererak did.

Being proper musicians the band were ready and waiting when punk was still crawling out of the primal swamp, they secured support gigs with the Ramones and Patti Smith, they played everywhere.

And so, The Stranglers became a punk band for people who didn’t like punk. To be fair that’s not what they set out to do, its likely they would have been a successful band whatever happened, there is no doubt that the band benefited hugely from punk. In interviews they came across as having a particularly ungrateful moan about media conspiracies against them but in reality the punks were having the smoothest career pace of anyone ever since the days of Tommy Steele, record companies were desperate for anyone they could market as punk and the band were soon signed and released their first record ‘Rattus Norvegicus’.

I had heard the band on the radio, their first single ‘(Get a)Grip (On Yourself)’ didn’t really convince me but the b side ‘Go Buddy Go’ was more my cup of tea and easy enough for me to play on guitar.

I read the NME review of Rattus of course where the reviewer lambasted the band for sexism but I wasnt too bothered, misogyny was a staple of rock lyrics, I could cope with that.

So I purchased the record, I had more money now I was working or claiming the dole.I played it a few times and enjoyed it quite a bit.

But something wasn’t quite right.

Firstly it was just to do with the band itself, for lack of a better definition they were boorish. From the early days they had been adopted by a bunch of football hooligans who they were now using as their own private army. There was an air of violence associated with the band which was not helped by Burnel continually proving that he had a black belt in judo or karate or origami or whatever. The lyrics of the album were beginning to seem a little uncomfortable.

There are nine track on Rattus Norvegicus out of which four have lyrics which are derogatory to women. This was the 70’s though, The Stones had just decided to promote their ‘Black and Blue’ LP with a picture of a beaten woman tied up, it was advertised all over the media until feminists started to point out that actually this was pretty awful. Dedicating almost 50% of your record to misogyny seemed quite a statement of intent however, it took real effort to be that sexist. It also felt like a challenge, in fact journalists who confronted the band were subjected to verbal and sometimes physical aggression.

I’m aware of the risks of judging the past by the standards of today but here’s the worst offender from the opening track, ‘Sometimes’

Someday I’m going to smack your face
Someday I’m going to smack your face
Somebody’s going to call your bluff
Somebody’s going to treat you rough
Sometimes there is only one way out
I’ve got to fight
Sometimes I get to feel so mean
Sometimes I get to feel so mean
Sometimes you look like you’re too clean
Sometimes I see the in-between
Sometimes only one way
I’ve got to fight
You’re way past your station
Beat you honey till you drop
You’re way past your station
It’s useless asking you to stop
I got morbid fascination
Beat you honey till you drop
Sometimes you’re going to get some stick
Sometimes you’re going to get some stick
Somebody’s standing in our way
Somebody’s gonna have to pay
Sometimes there is only one way
I’ve got to fight

And the track was otherwise brilliant. Musically it was a fantastic opener and possibly a contender for one of my all time favourite songs if I could have stuck with the lyrics, likewise ‘Hanging Around’ which ends side one or their next single ‘No More Heroes’ were wonderful songs.

The band is still with us today although without Cornwell who left for the most hopeless solo career ever. Jet Black is now something like 102 and can only play the drums for a few minutes but no one can deny that the band have been successful commercially and artistically.

Interestingly events like this were sorting out my own politics, I decided didn’t want to be like the Stranglers.

Something Better Change.. indeed

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