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ALBUM REVIEW – The Band Of Holy Joy “Funambulist We Love You”

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The Band Of Holy Joy
Funambulist We Love You 
Tiny Global

“Bring back those days” harks the refrain throughout ‘A Revivalist Impulse’, the opening track from The Band of Holy Joy’s latest long player Funambulist We Love You.

BoHJ have been ploughing their own unique furrow of alternative music for well over three decades now and there is still no need for them to succumb to the revivalist impulse about which they sing. For sure the band has changed, evolved over time, with singer and lyricist Johny Brown the one constant in a co-operative that has seen as many ups and downs as a trainee tightrope walker. However, this does not mean that the band’s best days are behind them; far from it.

Funambulist is a joyous record, as close to pop as BoHJ will possibly ever get, with the lyrical qualities and thematic support for the unlikely prevalent in the earliest recordings of the band still very much to the forefront. Here is a joyous collection of songs that finds Johny and his colleagues timelessly contemporary. The scratchy, patchy instrumentation of yore has been supplanted by a tighter, more conventional approach but the atmospheres remain the same.

There may be only eight tracks on the long-player, but the record is very much an ‘album’ as opposed to a collection of eight songs which in itself is something of a rarity these days. Lyrically Johny remains on top form, with subtle twists and turns when least expected (“You’re going to walk away from me” he sings on The Song Of Casual Indifference; “What can I do to make you stay/Away?”), whilst melodically the eponymous album closer is as beautiful as the band have ever written.

Perhaps Johny is writing about his vision of BoHJ in To Leave Or Remain when he sings “Nothing in this entire universe ever perishes/This thing may pass into that and that into this/Yet the sum of things remains unchanged”? There are certainly some metaphorical truths to be found in the album, and as The Band of Holy Joy stand high above the rooftops here, I too hope they don’t fall.

You can purchase “Funambulist We Love You” or check out BoHJ via the following links

Bandcamp: 
BoHJ Website:
Twitter: 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free. He is currently raising money to support men’s mental health charity CALM (@theCALMzone) at http://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-heed

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ALBUM REVIEW – The Salient Braves “Delusions of Grandeur”

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The Salient Braves
Delusions of Grandeur
Broken Down Records

After three EPs, well-received by those in the know, Barnsley indie pop outfit The Salient Braves return with their debut album on vinyl. Backed with a crowdfunding effort, it was released on September 22, 2017 by Broken Down Records. It’s a treat for the ears once again, marrying great melodies and guitar pop with songwriter Matt Bailey’s lyrical wit.

The gritty cover art and tracklist suggests there’s more of the familiar theme of social injustice. There’s clever wordplay on everything from depression and mental illness to addiction and domestic violence, but you wouldn’t necessarily take notice at first. Trademark harmonies, chiming guitars, and brass are at the forefront of the songs. Standout track “They Must’ve Seen Me Coming” in my opinion, is destined to become a classic indie pop tune.

The album is given musical balance with the dreamy My Alter Ego. And on the somber but stately Bangkok (think McCarthy) there are gorgeous strings laced throughout, but you soon find out that a relationship found on holiday doesn’t end well for him. The record finishes with the aptly titled Evening All (Satchmo’s Song). It starts off with a simple bass and piano, with the song continuing to build until Matt reads off a list all that Louis Armstrong did not get right with the world. Pure genius.

Thankfully, as I’ve stated before, The Salient Braves continue to wear their influences on their sleeves. This is one of the year’s finest releases, if done so with little fanfare. You’ll want to add this to your record collection and file it alongside the likes of The Wedding Present, The June Brides, The Brilliant Corners, The Smiths, you get the idea. A record that harks back to the golden era of indie pop but remains relevant in today’s complicated world

Broken Down Records: https://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/delusions-of-grandeur
Bandcamp: https://thesalientbraves.bandcamp.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/salientbraves/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/salientbraves

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A native of California, a wife and mother of two, Esther can be found escaping onto Twitter as @myrtleleaf to tweet about music, a life-long passion. She still mostly lives in the past. ________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you to Esther for a another wonderful review.

Watch out for further reviews, whether it’s re-issues or new releases. If you would like to review something yourself, you know where to find us.

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Interview – Johny Brown (Band Of Holy Joy)

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It is barely conceivable that purveyors of alternative and indie pop music will not have come across The Band of Holy Joy in some shape or form since their first musical releases into the public domain in the early 1980s when they began life in New Cross, London.

The main vehicle of Johny Brown’s musical vision are still very much going strong. A box set of early recordings released on the Flim Flam Label has just been released and, this October, The Band of Holy Joy release a brand new long-player ‘Funambulist We Love You’. We caught up with Johny in a café-cum-bicycle repair shop to talk about past, present and future.

EIO40: Let’s begin sort of at the beginning; on the 2011 album ‘How To Kill A Butterfly’ you sing about the North “why I Ieft I’ll never understand”. You must have left North Shields at the age of around 20 to come down to London; what were you thinking?

Johny Brown: “I just drifted down here. I came down to make music because there was no scene in Newcastle, there never had been a scene in Newcastle. I had friends down here who were making music and making art and I just happened down. I ended up in a big squat with loads of like-minded musicians and artists.

I used to come down to London from the age of 15, 16, bunking on trains to come to gigs and I sort of came down for a week, then a couple of weeks and sort of ended up living down here. I love Newcastle and I’ve got strong, strong ties with Newcastle but for what I wanted to achieve the action was down here.

EIO40: Those strong ties might explain why you returned to take part in The Great North Run a couple of years ago. That must have been quite something, running through the streets of your hometown?

Johny Brown: I did a run in London a few years ago, round The Strand and it was great; Sunday morning, the streets were all blocked off and I thought ‘This is great’. So I thought the next run I’ll do is The Great North Run, across the bridge. I thought it was running by the river, you know. But you get on it [The bridge] and you cannot move, it’s a crawl and once you cross the bridge it’s like a motorway down to South Shields and you can’t see a thing. But then you hit this hill and it’s ‘Wow! You can see the sea’ and then I was flagging a bit and there’s my home town North Shields, the Priory at Tynemouth… It’s just awesome.

EIO40: The Band of Holy Joy have certainly been prolific at times; 1984 to 1992 and then from 2008. What happened in the gap and at what point did you worry that you might have to get what my dad would call a ‘proper’ job?

Johny Brown: I got a proper job 10 years ago; that’s funded the band to keep going. I managed to avoid any gainful employment until 2008. A lot of the 1990s went by in a blur. I was quite footloose and fancy free. But in 2001 I had a brain tumour and I crashed. That’s when the band went out the window. The band went out of the window first of all cause we’d been touring endlessly for fifteen years, guys living in each other’s pockets. It’s not nice, you need a break.

Then we got back together, played a few gigs and it was going quite well but it wasn’t what I really wanted. And then I had the brain tumour and for two years was in quite a bad place. I was still writing my plays and DJing and then I crashed big time. And that’s when I got a job, and took the band back in hand.

EIO40: How much of the experience with the brain tumour influenced your creativity?

Johny Brown: None. Absolutely none. It did drive us towards working for MENCAP, wanting to do something useful with my life. I’d been on tour for twenty, thirty years, I didn’t have a clue. I started to do some DJ workshops for the Elfrida Society. I didn’t know what a learning disability was, but I really loved it. I soon saw that the energy I’d been putting into running the band and looking after twelve nutters on tour, as far as looking after needy people, I saw that I could direct and channel all my energies into working with people with learning disabilities and making their lives a bit more worthwhile.

My whole thing is social inclusion, it always has been, and this is social inclusion on a really meaningful scale. Giving people the chance to do things that I’ve done; I’ve had a great life, lived the life I’ve wanted to live, and I’m giving something back now.

EIO40: Wikipedia lists about 40 different members of the band over its history. Has it always been a collective, on an easy-come easy-go basis, or are you just The Fall’s Mark E Smith in disguise?

Johny Brown: I’m the anti-Mark E Smith! If someone wants to be in the band they’re in the band; if somebody leaves someone else comes, it’s just the joy of playing with people. I don’t think I’ve ever sacked anyone from the band… I think I sacked Karel a few times – the violin player – but he always sort of clawed back. The band started as a social thing, and more and more people came and joined us: “oh, you can play trombone, come and join the band.” Having said that, the line-up we’ve had for the past five years has been pretty stable.

The band had always been a cooperative, people had an equal say, whereas this time I wanted to pay for it myself and have more of a vision in the band. It’s still an equal share between six people but I’m a lot more focussed than I used to be. Now we bring out about an album every year that sell about 300 copies and when we do our CD-r’s they sell about 100 copies and it’s great: we’ve got our own little audience.

We’ve never really been in step with anything; we feel a kinship with the indie world, we’re on a level with The Bitter Springs, The Blue Orchids now and The Nightingales and that’s just a really great place to be.

EIO40: How did the collapse of Rough Trade affect you as a band?

Johny Brown: I’m really not sure… We had the option to do a third album with them, but I’ve got a feeling Geoff would have ditched us I think. I don’t think ‘Positively Spooked’ sold as many as he would have liked us to have sold. It sold quite a few, we were on track and in retrospect is was quite good.

Rough Trade folded, Geoff wiped the debt off we had a publishing deal with Chrysalis who let us use their studio and we amassed about 30-40 songs, 10 of which went into ‘Tracksuit Vendetta’ and it was ex-Rough Trade staff who set up Ecuador Records but it didn’t happen, ‘Tracksuit Vendetta’, for whatever reason. Then we sort of dwindled out… but during that time we toured Russia twice, we played around the world.

EIO40: After ‘Tracksuit Vendetta’ everything seemed to go quiet. One of the most appealing factors of The Band of Holy Joy was its disparate nature and there was nothing to fill the gap.

Johny Brown: There came a time I think where the NME just tightened up. The moment The Stone Roses came along it was game over. I’ve never really been able to explain it, but from then on everything became ‘format’, all with the eye on success whereas we really were a cry of pain, a cry of perversity and pleasure from the back of beyond.

EIO40: You got involved in the soundtrack to the ‘McLibel’ film. How did that come about?

Johny Brown: Franny was the drummer in the Holy Joy, basically, so when she made the film she used the music from Holy Joy tracks. Alf mixed them in the studio, took the vocals out and used them as backing tracks. I was hardcore vegan at the time, about four members of the band were vegan, Franny was vegan, I had friends who were A.L.F. Franny made the film, she was absolutely committed.

EIO40: As well as leading The Band of Holy Joy, you’ve written plays and have a radio show, Bad Punk [on London community arts radio station Resonance FM]. How does that come together; is it a similar process to putting an album together?

Johny Brown: It’s totally different. Me and James do it every Friday night. We do soundscapes, we bring actors in and writers, poets, and they do text over our soundscapes. We just take our favourite records – African funk music, Egyptian jazz, punk rock, put it all together and its just us having fun.

And then every now and again I’ll do a proper radio show, bring someone on and interview them. I’ve been doing it for fifteen years. It was one of the first things that gave me focus after my brain tumour. Every Friday night I’d do a show. They gave me a month of Fridays and said if you’re good you can do it.

And Resonance… it’s the best radio station in the world and I really enjoy it. I love radio. I’ve set up a radio station with MENCAP down the road so they can present their own radio shows. Its great, they’re communicating, their confidence grows.

EIO40: How did the collaboration with The Bitter Springs arise?

Johny Brown: I’ve no idea. I’ve really no i… actually, I do know: we’ve got an uber-fan in New York whose absolutely obsessed with The Band Of Holy Joy and he’s also obsessed with The Bitter Springs and he’s also obsessed with Morten Valance. He paid for us to go to New York about ten years ago and he introduced us to The Bitter Springs. I’d never heard them and I loved it. I like that strain of English bohemian, literary but quite working class music. That’s my bottom line.

EIO40: The new album ‘Funambulist We Love You’ sounds a very joyous record; the most seamless and coherent album you’ve released.

Johny Brown: Absolutely. We’ve been working towards this for the past ten years. ‘Love Never Fails’ was a smorgasbord of different sounds but I want albums to be really streamlined, to say something and be distinct from the last album. And I love making albums, I still believe in albums. If I was 21 I’d be making 23 second songs, thinking that would be it. This album we’re starting to nail it, and hopefully the next album we will nail it. ‘Funambulist’ is us making a nice poppy indie record.

EIO40: So what can we expect over the next few years from The Band of Holy Joy?

Johny Brown: I don’t know. I really don’t know. We’re going to make an electronic album, I know that; that’s on the cards. We’re going to make a ‘More Favourite Fairytales’ 4 or 5 which will purely be about London, now. But there’ll also be another album like ‘Funambulist’, which is more poetic and pop. The radio show will go on.

EIO40: After all the trials and tribulations along the way it seems as though now The Band of Holy Joy are right where they want to be?

Johny Brown: We’ve found a level we can work in. There’s no big expectations but we have the work ethic which allows us to do that, yes. We’re still curious, we still want to make really good records, and that’s the bottom line.

Interviewer: John Hartley


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The Band of Holy Joy’s new album ‘Funambulist We Love You’ is released on Tiny Global Productions on October 27th and is available for pre-order here

‘The Clouds That Break The Sky’, a 3-disc box set of early studio albums is out now on Tiny Global Productions.
A plethora of recordings by The Band of Holy Joy can be found at bandofholyjoy.bandcamp.com

Thanks to @Clive_Stringer, @MaScrievin, @darrenmjones and @Crowbiscuits for their suggested questions.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free. He is currently raising money to support men’s mental health charity CALM (@theCALMzone) at http://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-heed

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The Orchids “Who Needs Tomorrow…A 30 Year Retrospective” – Review

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Regular EIO40 reviewer and contributor Rob Morgan (@durutti74) managed to get his mitts on an advance copy of the new Orchids retrospective and has given it the once over in his inimitable style.

As is usually the case with any of Rob’s output he takes us beyond a mere review and on a journey, pulling in history and context, adding emotional ingredients, offering up tips and even reserving some space to throw in a heartfelt appeal.

So being aware of The Orchids and those glorious songs is not a mandatory requirement to hop on board. Whatever happens you’ll take something away from reading on, believe us. Rob himself was even rewarded with an unexpected revelation.

So over to an 18 year old Rob then….

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The Orchids
Who Needs Tomorrow… – A 30 Year Retrospective
Cherry Red Records

30 years? How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. 30 years ago this Autumn I was a callow 18 year old, settling into life in the halls of residence in Sheffield Poly, and I thought I knew it all. Sure, my hall mates were listening to Suzanne Vega, Sting, Whitney Houston and Marillion but I was listening to better music than that. Didn’t they read the NME or Melody Maker? I read both, cover to cover, every week and I knew what was going on.

The Smiths had just fallen apart amid much acrimony and their final album “Strangeways here we come” was my soundtrack for that season. Nobody else made guitar music as good as The Smiths, in my view. The whole C86 scene had passed me by, I thought it was jingle jangle nonsense, I always paused my taping of Peel when he announced another song by the Soup Dragons or the Wedding Present …. it just didn’t float my boat. Give me Wire, Durutti Column, Microdisney…. just don’t give me 12 string guitars and fey vocals, they say nothing to me about my life. And what’s the obsession with fanzines and flexidiscs? Get with the technology, people – I’d just bought a CD player, perfect sound forever you know.

How wrong could I be?

I may have been reading the music papers every week but I was ignoring them really. I wasn’t noticing what was happening, partly because there was too much going on (I did notice the acid house scene, after all a lot of the Hacienda DJs would regularly cross the Pennines to play at the Leadmill), but I missed a lot of the interesting music of the late 80s due to my blind prejudice against the jingle jangle. I should also mention I missed a lot of the other good music from that era (the MBV / Loop / Spacemen 3 noise and AR Kane dream pop) as I thought it was all music paper hype. What was I thinking? What was I doing to miss these seismic shifts in music?

Somehow I caught up. It was hearing “Sensitive” by The Field Mice on Peel’s ’89 Festive Fifty which caught me first, then buying “Temple Cloud” – the second Sarah Records compilation album – in the summer of 1990 changed my mind. I’d seen the name Sarah Records crop up in the music papers, initially rave reviews for their early single releases written by Bob Stanley in the NME, then sarky reviews dismissing every Sarah Record as the product of wimps feeling melancholy because girls weren’t interested in them. (I paraphrase of course, but some of the reviews really were horrible – check out the Sarah Records website where old music paper reviews are reproduced).

Two points struck me here. Firstly, I was kind of sympathetic to the viewpoint posited above re melancholic unrequitedness. Secondly the first song on “Temple Cloud” wasn’t like that at all. It was almost seven minutes long, it moved slowly and built itself up from simple synth washes, a sparse drum machine, a sleepy sounding vocalist and some sky kissing guitar work – pushing itself into a lethargic chorus of “That’s the way it goes, my friend….” This wasn’t what my perception of a Sarah Record should sound like. This wasn’t jingle jangle nonsense. This was a wonderful song. This was “Yawn” by The Orchids and I was immediately smitten.

The story of the Orchids is entwined with the story of Sarah Records. Their debut single “I’ve Got A Habit” was Sarah 2, issued simultaneously with Sarah 1 –“Pristine Christine” by The Sea Urchins – early in 1988. Before that hard vinyl release the Orchids had issued “From This Day” on a flexidisc during the autumn of 87. So they were there at the beginning and at the end too, playing a set during the August Bank Holiday Sarah Records Farewell Party, alongside other Sarah acts like Heavenly, Blueboy, Secret Shine and Harvey Williams.

Now those names seem legendary, the reputation of Sarah Records and their acts have never been higher – Michael White’s book “Popkiss” and Lucy Dawkins’ film “My Secret World” have raised the profile of the little label from Bristol two decades after it stopped operating. Hell, the NME recently  called Sarah Records one of the coolest indie labels of all time, which is some turnaround.

But what of the Orchids? Well they’re a five piece group formed in Glasgow in the mid 80s and still going strong, even if there’s been a few line up changes along the way. If you can forgive me the following appalling analogy…. if The Field Mice are the Beatles of the Sarah Records universe, then the Orchids are the Rolling Stones. The survivors, still going strong, only without the drug habits and tax exile. This analogy also falls over when Bob Wratten lengthy career is taken into consideration. I was never that good with analogies anyway. (By the way, to anyone at Cherry Red – how about a five CD anthology of Bob Wratten bands next? Just a thought).

Between 1988 and 1994 the Orchids issued three albums and seven singles on Sarah Records before taking a hiatus for a decade, reforming in 2006 and issuing more albums and a handful of singles and playing live whenever they can – they are due to play the Shine On indie festival at Butlins Minehead shortly.

As you would expect, their sound has developed over the years but constants remain – James Hackett’s soulful vocals, John Scally’s inventive guitar work, Chris Quinn’s powerful drumming, the playful call and response between lead and backing vocals (especially where Pauline Hynds is part of the mix) and the tasteful and sympathetic production of Ian Carmichael.

Now to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary they have teamed up with Cherry Red to issue a double CD “Who needs tomorrow?”.

Disc One is compiled from the Orchids back catalogue, starting with the woozy beauty of “Apologies” from Sarah 2. The early songs here show how quickly they grasped the idea of indie guitar pop – “It’s Only Obvious” and “Caveman” are timeless pop gems. They expanded their sound and their horizons too – Ian Carmichael introducing keyboards naturally into their songs and sprinkling production fairy dust over everything. The introduction to “Something For The Longing” still makes my spine tingle, like circling helicopters preparing to land, and a surging hopeful chorus .

There’s two songs from 1991’s perfect “Unholy Soul” album, including “Peaches”, one of their finest moments. In some parallel universe “Peaches” would have been number one in the charts for sixteen weeks during the summer of ’91, not that Bryan Adams song. “Tharmaturgy” – a single in 1992 – is another highlight, a melodic gem bolstered by a This Mortal Coil sample! The title track to their third album “Striving For The Lazy Perfection” bristles with urgent sequencers and drum machines humanised by the vocals of Hackett and Hynds.

The second half of the first disc picks highlights from their 21st century output and it stands up well next to their older material. “Another Saturday Night” – a highlight from their comeback album “Good To Be A Stranger” – builds to a powerful crescendo with some fiery guitar work from Scally and one of those unexpected chord changes on the chorus that I love so much. “The girl And The Soldier” is a beautiful heart tugging ballad, and “Something’s Going On” and “She’s My Girl” are equal to the best guitar pop being made by any of the young indie bands who have followed in the footprints of Sarah bands.

The final song “We Made A Mess” (from 2014’s “Beatitude #9” album) is a cool way to end the disc, looking back at the past ruefully and expecting better of oneself with maturity. Well that’s my view anyway, and I sympathise with the short and bittersweet lyric. Sure you could argue about what songs are missing, but disc one gives an overview of a band perfecting their art and maintaining it to a high standard over many years, and of course once you’re won over by these songs you’ll want to explore the back catalogue as soon as possible (hint – start with “Unholy Soul” and “The Lost Star”).

If Disc One is ideal for newcomers to the band (or a nice place to have some of the Orchids’ best songs in one place), then Disc Two is for the fans. It compiles together 18 rarities, demos, b sides and oddities, carefully constructed and organised in the same format as disc one. So it starts at the beginning again with “From This Day” from their first flexidisc and that was quite a revelation for me, because “From This Day” was slowed down considerably and extrapolated to become “Yawn”, that first Orchids song I heard back in 1990. And I never knew!

The second disc is full of treats and surprises like that. There’s glimpses of the creative process in progress – the demos of “It’s Only Obvious” and “Whitley Bay” show how a few small changes to phrasing words or changing keys can make all the difference. The acoustic version of “Welcome To My Curious Heart” may be better than the version on their third album, it’s more intimate and delicate. It’s great to have versions of songs recorded for Peel Sessions like “This Patience Is Mine” and “And When I Wake Up”, even if these are rough demos.

The tracks from their rebirth don’t disappoint either, starting with a live song recorded for Scottish radio before their fourth album was released, and a great cover of The Go-Betweens’ “Magic In Here” (the Go-Betweens were another band who had a wonderful second act of their career, just as the Orchids have).

Some of the demos (“One Last Cigarette” for instance) sound as good as real recordings, which shows how music technology has progressed in thirty years. The second disc closes with a brand new recording of “Underneath The Window, Underneath The Sink”, originally issued as their second single in 1988, a neat way to loop back to the start. It’s a lovely recording, everyone sounds older and wiser and the little tweaks to the arrangement (those violins!) work perfectly.

As we have come to expect from Cherry Red, the sound quality and packaging is exemplary. The booklet has fascinating sleeve notes from John Cavanagh and Ian Carmichael, full details of recording sessions for each song and pictures of memorabilia (nice to see the’ 91 tour postcard which Matt and Clare included in my first mail order package in May of that year).

All in all, this is a very attractive package which should appeal to a wide audience. If you’re interested in Sarah Records, this compilation will give you a taste of one of their finest bands. If you’re already a fan, this compilation will be a timely reminder of how great they are, plus a disc of rarities. The Orchids deserve their place in the pantheon of great Scottish music – a long list working backwards from Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand, Teenage Fanclub, through Orange Juice, Josef K, Simple Minds and back to the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and the Poets – and hopefully “Who Needs Tomorrow?” will secure their place in the hearts of many new fans, as well as pleasing old fans like myself.

Want to hear some of the loveliest guitar pop Scotland has to offer? Well this compilation is for you.

Peaches

You can purchase the Orchids Retrospective via Cherry Red here including signed copies

You can also check out The Orchids at these places:

Twitter

Facebook

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (https://agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.comand also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589).

He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Rob’s review. If you would like to review something new, whether it’s new material or a re-issue then please contact us via email indieover40@gmail.com or Twitter @IndieOver40

 

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Alvvays “Antisocialites” – Review

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Like a few of us in the EIO40 community John Hartley (@JohnyNocash) was rather enamoured with the new Alvvays album. So much so that he has taken it one step further and committed his opinion to paper.

So take it avvay (sic) John…

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Alvvays
Antisocialites

When I reviewed the eponymously-titled debut album by Alvvays I concluded that the band’s biggest challenge ahead was developing and building upon what was already a near-perfect pop album. My only quibble at the time was that some of the subtleties were drowned in the sound.

With Antisocialities Alvvays have managed to achieve what for many bands is unachievable: an even better second album. The mix is much clearer, the production has more definition and there are ten songs; one more than on the debut album (unless you bought the cassette…)

My pre-release copy must have got lost in the post, so by the time I listened on Spotify ( I will buy the album; I just couldn’t wait) quite a few reviews had already been written, many pointing to the sound of Teenage Fanclub within the ten tracks. To me that seems a bit of a lazy take, on the basis of some slight involvement by Norman Blake.

If a listener needs bands to refer to, then I’d like to mention the following bands who also sprang to mind during various bits of the album: Cocteau Twins, The Darling Buds, McCarthy, The Soup Dragons, The Sundays, The Sugarcubes… Basically, Alvvays are an indie band in keeping with the indie sound of the late 1980s.

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. Ten excellent songs, each taking the listener on a very different journey, some on a single winding road, others taking the scenic route and others yet still calling in at a selection of tiny yet distinct villages as part of a magical mystery tour.

Album closer ‘Forget About Life’ even takes a wrong turning down a cul-de-sac at the end. The subtle humour prevalent in the first album remains in tracks such as ‘Your Type’ (“I will never be your type/ you will never be ok/I’m an O and you’re AB”) whilst ‘Hey’ describes “Molly Mayhem on your doorstep at three AM” before heading directly to a made-for-moshpit ending.

It genuinely fills with me delight to state that this album disappoints in absolutely no way at all, and should be an essential part of anyone’s autumn listening. Having said that, perhaps there is one little gripe: it is impossible for me to hit Molly’s high notes whilst singing along over the washing up. But I can live with that.


You can purchase “Antisocialites” at Alvvays Bandcamp page and you can also discover more about them at these links

Website

Twitter

Facebook

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free. He is currently raising money to support men’s mental health charity CALM (@theCALMzone) at http://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-heed

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading John’s review. If you would like to review something new, whether it’s new material or a re-issue then please contact us via email indieover40@gmail.com or Twitter @IndieOver40

 

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The Indie Top Ten Songs about Dads

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In this regular feature we ask the Everything Indie Over 40 social media community to help us compile a top ten list of a chosen topic. Our resident curator John Hartley (@JohnyNocash) then ponders, disects and finally supplies the narrative.

In this edition:-

The Indie Top Ten Songs about Dads

Fathers, eh? Where would we be without ‘em? Same place we’d be without mothers, to be fair. The Indie Top Ten Songs About Dads was launched on Fathers’ Day. For the grammar pedants amongst you, I’ve put that apostrophe there on purpose, to represent the day belonging to all fathers, even though I wished my own particular dad a happy father’s day, as the day I was expressing my hopes for referred to him.

I didn’t get my grammar specificity from him; much more likely it was from my English graduate mum. I did suggest to EIO40HQ that we do a Mothers’ Day Top Ten but of course being a man, by the time I got round to suggesting it the moment had gone. Maybe next year. A significant proportion of the EIO40 community appear to be men, but in case you’re reading this and you’re not a man then I promise to try to be less tardy next year.

Anyhow, with all of the above in mind it is only natural that proceedings should commence with Weddings Parties Anything’s song ‘Father’s Day’, as suggested by @chumpski


What makes a father? As anyone who has watched a soap opera for a few weeks will be able to testify, there will always be a difference between the biological and the sociological aspects of fatherhood. Sometimes both roles are carried out by the same person; sometimes they are not. Whichever, this Top Ten is dedicated to the male person in your life who has filled the role you have most desired them to fill. It may indeed also be dedicated to you; as Welsh indie heroes Gorkys Zygotic Mynci noted, ‘Sometimes The Father Is The Son’, which was @tfdefence nomination. This title in itself could quite easily be the seedy storyline to a soap opera. However, I’d like to think it refers to those members of our community who are, like me, both father and son.


My own father was born in Ince, near Wigan, and started his career as a tailor’s cutter. When he retired a few years ago his employment was as an embalmer. There was a quiet satisfaction that he had managed to maintain his sewing skills throughout his working life, even if the things he was sewing together changed a little in between times. This year was the first time in over twenty years I got to wish him a Happy Father’s Day in person. His own dad (and therefore my grandad of course) died climbing down a mountain in the Lake District at the ripe old age of 79 in the early 1990s. It seemed quite old then, less so nowadays.

Anyway, in tribute to my dad’s dad, and all the other dads my own dad helped to look their best once they’d passed into wherever it is they have passed to, here’s the suggestion made by @rs1334 ‘Daddy’s Gone To Heaven Now’ by The Mission.


In a tale I have often bored readers of my writings with, it was down to my dad that I ended up indie. I suppose I may well have ended up there anyway eventually, given my mum’s propensity for the alternative, but it was a chance encounter with The Mighty Lemon Drops on the radio in the car as I travelled home from a Bolton Wanderers match that drew me into the circle of friends and their musical tastes that was to shape my record-buying future.

At the time my dad’s car was a blue Vauxhall Cavalier. I was fifteen, and it was the first car we’d had since I was six when, to help afford the new house my parents had bought, he decided it would be more cost effective to get the train to work and sold our dark turquoise Hillman Avenger.

Luckily for me I didn’t grow up with The Divine Comedy. If I had, then their excellent song ‘Your Daddy’s Car’ – the one put forward for inclusion by @call_me_cynical – might have been about my daddy’s car which would mean it coming to a rather unsavoury end decorating a local Oak or Sycamore.


My own children can also rest assured that it wasn’t written about their father’s car either. I don’t own one; indeed, somewhat controversially, I have not only never owned one but have never even driven one anywhere ever. The closest I have come is revving the engine in the garage to keep the battery ticking over when my dad was laid low with an abscess once.

I have often been asked why this state of affairs has come to be. It is only recently that I realised perhaps the lyrics of Half Man Half Biscuit have been a subliminal influence: “Dad can I have another pear drop/Dad can I have another drink/Dad how deep d’you reckon that is/Dad are we nearly there yet?” is the breathless questioning of a child in the back of a motorway-travelling car in the song ‘M6ster’.

I cannot begin to imagine how distracting that must be for a father who is trying to avoid being squeezed between a horn-blaring petrol tanker on one side and a caravan of caravans on the other. Although ‘M6ster’ does not qualify for this Top Ten, HMHB’s later single ‘Look Dad No Tunes’ most certainly does, so thank you to @bringitonskippy for suggesting it.


Next up in our Top Ten is Pavement, with ‘Father To A Sister Of Thought’, which was the choice of @cjl_73. By way of an aside, this song will forever be the song that made me realise that the pedal steel guitar was not exclusively the remit of those willing to bring the musical world into disrepute. It also made me wonder how it could remotely be relevant to a narrative about my dad. I love my sister dearly, but I am sure she would be the first to agree that she is not one of life’s great thinkers.

She and I are very different; despite sharing the same parents, same family home and same small northern hometown for 20 years we have very different tastes in food, music, humour… we don’t even have the same accent, bizarrely. Then I realised maybe it is I who is the father to a sister of thought.

Nocashette Jr, about to head off into the world of Higher Education to study sociology, is the very same three year old who looked out of the train window as we approached a dank and drizzly Manchester and said unrehearsed “Dad, what does ‘grim’ mean?” (This philosophical outlook wasn’t a one-off. Later in her life, and still before teenage years, she handed me a slip of scrap paper as I worked on school reports amidst the general chaos a houseful of young children brings. “What does ‘exasperated’ mean?” it read. I’ve still got that scrap of paper, lest I ever forget…)


Those of us who have chosen to become fathers will of course be familiar with the trials and tribulations which accompany being a responsible adult. These are often counterbalanced by the simple pleasures that can be brought about by our offspring. Their first word (‘mama’), the emergence of their first tooth (detected upon the edge of an index finger) and of course the first steps. “Come To Daddy” will be the pleading request of the father trying desperately to impress the relatives who have dropped in to say hello.

The reality of course is that the child will make a beeline for mummy. It’s just one of those crosses we men must bear. Conveniently enough, ‘Come To Daddy’ is also the title of a song by Aphex Twin, brought to our attention by @preservation76.


 

The role of father is often attributed to the presence of authority. The ‘father’ in the Christian church is the ultimate authority for those who believe: there is to be no messing with him, although he is supposed to be quite big on forgiveness if you do transgress.

There is similarly no mucking about with Old Father Time, unless of course you are Marty McFly but even that doesn’t necessarily end well. ‘Time waits for no man’, is the rather gender-specific old saying, and those 1970s working men’s club comedians amongst the readership of this site can insert their own punchline. There is plenty of muck in London’s famous river though, colloquially known as ‘Old Father Thames’. I’m not sure why fathers are always old, but there you go.

Anyway, with the role of authority figure comes the necessity to command attention and respect, usually through a deep, booming vocal presence. ‘Don’t Make Fun Of Daddy’s Voice’, suggests Morrissey in the song offered by @daznixon1989.

My children don’t make fun of my voice, I’m pleased to say. They do however mock my flat northern vowels. “Dad, say rarft” they implore in their southern accents. “RAFT”, I reply to smirks; the fatherly freakshow never fails to amuse.


I referred earlier to my dad’s dad, my grandad, who everyone knew as Billy. We did too, but not to his face. I remember his look of incredulity on seeing I had had my ear pierced whilst in my first year at University. It was still fashionable then, although I had to reassure him that just because I had a bit of metal in my lobe didn’t mean I was going to start throwing bricks through windows.

I did not confess, however, to an earlier life of crime which I am sure would have been an affront to his Methodist sensibilities (not that they ever stopped him enjoying a pint, mind). And whilst my answer to the question – posed in song by Dear Mr. President and nominated by @Clive_Stringer – “Hey Daddy Have You Ever Been Arrested?” would be an honest ‘No’, I still occasionally feel pangs of guilt for my part in the heist of a bag of plastic 5p pieces from the school maths cupboard, the entirety of which was used to fleece the village shop of the contents of its bubble gum machine. The owners sold up not long afterwards; I hope they didn’t go bankrupt.


On that bombshell, it is perhaps time to bring this Top Ten to a close. If I carry on writing who knows what other controversies and outrages might reveal themselves? I’m well aware that we all have skeletons in our closet but rest assured, at least I have never run through fields of wheat. Not knowingly, anyway. So, whether biological or emotional, living or dead, good or bad, there is no escaping we all owe our existence to a father, and what better way to bring proceedings to a close than this titular tribute suggested by @Axels96 and @clanofginger: here’s Stump with ‘Our Fathers’.


John Hartley

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free. He is currently raising money to support men’s mental health charity CALM (@theCALMzone) at http://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-heed

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Listen out on Twitter for further Indie Top Ten themes. We need your help.

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Gig Night – Mark Eitzel @ The Fleece, Bristol

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One of the overriding principles that underpins Everything Indie Over 40 is to encourage positivity when it comes to interacting about music. It’s the code of practice that embodies everything we do. From the simple sharing of songs to the features we run on social media and the articles and reviews we publish. There is enough hate going on in the world at the moment and we are certainly not going to contribute to it.

Which is why we normally shy away from getting involved in anything that we feel may be in conflict with our established principles. Gig Night, by it’s very nature, embodies those principles. A feature whereby a gig-goer, a fan, could write about a special night seeing their heroes in action. Why would it be anything other than benevolent?

However, as we all know, it is not always sunshine and roses. Sometimes your heroes can let you down.

When we read Tracey Bowen‘s review of a Mark Eitzel gig we couldn’t help but be moved by her account of what was clearly a night that held so much promise and high expectation for her, but that ultimately left her feeling emotionally confused.  We saw no negativity in the context of our carefully preserved principles. There was no hate here. Just raw feelings beautifully articulated and drawn straight from the heart. As far as we were concerned it had to be shared.

So with principles firmly set aside, here is Tracey’s Gig Night review of Mark Eitzel at The Fleece Bristol in March 2017

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You’d think, with a set book-ended by ‘Blue and Grey Shirt’ and ‘Western Sky’, that I’d be happy. But happy is relative. Relative to how drunk Mark Eitzel is and how far he will go to downplay his own genius in a room full of people who were quite certain of it when they set out at the start of the evening. Tonight, despite him swearing the plastic pint glass of red wine is half water, Eitzel appears pretty drunk and hell-bent on self-sabotage.

Believe me, Eitzel is in fine voice tonight. I’m thrilled to hear songs from his new album ‘Hey Mr Ferryman’, released mere days before this gig, live for the first time. The self-analysing lyrics of songs like ‘The Last Ten Years’, ‘An Answer’ and ‘Mr Humphries’ lend themselves well to the intimate setting of this diminutive Bristol bar. They sit seamlessly alongside his majestic back-catalogue. As for the old songs, I don’t think I’ve heard a more delicately rendered version of ‘Apology for an Accident’ as tonight. And it’s a joy to hear ‘Jesus’ Hands’, a song he’s long neglected on solo outings.

It’s a shame that we’re not to be treated, as the London crowd will, to a guest appearance from Bernard Butler. Butler produced (and played much of the music) on the new record and has been credited for its lush arrangements. But Butler’s absence doesn’t detract from the enjoyment. No, it’s Eitzels’ between song banter that does that. It breaks the spell. Breaks an unwritten agreement between performer and audience.

He announces his entrance on stage tonight as “Club Firefly – the premier Mark Eitzel and American Music Club tribute band” and proceeds to introduce his current backing band as Vudi, Danny and Tim (members of the classic AMC line-up – and definitely not present tonight). The Fleece is a popular venue for tribute bands and I suppose this was part of their pre-show tomfoolery, that they’re a tribute act rather than authentic. So we laugh; a joke between friends. Only he doesn’t leave it there. He stays in character for the rest of the performance (and believe me, a performance it is). It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s parody. And I guess that’s what he intends.

In-between heart-rending and heart-stopping renditions of American Music Club and solo output, he acts out the part of a fanboy who has direct access to the most intimate details of Eitzel’s personal life, spinning anecdotes of conversations with Eitzel from rehab, adopting a laboured raspy voice to denote the real Mark who tells us what a particular song meant to him. More facade, another mask, another cheap laugh at his own expense. Songs from the new album which they are, of course, here to promote, are introduced as “Club Firefly’s own material”.

Am I being po-faced or is the joke wearing thin? The girl behind me in the crowd doesn’t think so. She gasps and laughs in all the right moments; dutifully coos “beautiful” in a breathy voice as the last note of each song fades away. 20 years ago, hell maybe even as recently as ten, that girl would have been me; hanging on his every word and swooning with wonder even as he writhed and squirmed uncomfortably under the spotlight. But the self-deprecating act becomes tiresome eventually and I wonder where along the line he lost me, when my heart hardened beyond the point he could break it any more, when I became impervious to his words.

I realise now that parody is the new real. Club Firefly are post-parody. It allows Eitzel to treat his songs with contempt without having to take the blame. In another imagined phone call from rehab, Mark tells the Club Firefly singer to “play that song that means so much to me”. So they play the impossibly beautiful ‘Firefly’ to a hungrily appreciative and open-mouthed crowd.

I’ve thought for years that Eitzel displays an astonishing lack of respect toward his own body of work in a live setting. Maybe it’s my problem and I need to get over myself. Where do I get off thinking the songs belong in any way to me? But where does he get off behaving like they don’t? Is the “professional singer and ham” role the only way he can take something so personal on the road? If so, why bother? Because it pays the bills? I seriously doubt it does. Because he can’t do anything else? Possibly. Probably. But it’s clear the generally held reverence doesn’t sit easy with him. Never has. And perhaps his work here is done because I might finally be over my hero-worship of Eitzel the man if not the singer. Might finally let him down from his impossibly high pedestal. So here’s the deal: while the guy on stage pretends to be Mark Eitzel, I’ll pretend to be the girl behind me. We can both suspend our disbelief, just until the end of the gig. But we’ll both end up feeling like frauds. At best, it’s catharsis by proxy. At worst, an episode of Game For a Laugh gone wrong, “watching us, watching you, watching us, watching you”.

Early on in the set, he very nearly kicked that plastic glass of wine over, lurching perilously close to the edge of the stage whilst comically trying to unstick his setlist from the sole of his shoe. It was both a tragic and hilarious farce. You couldn’t write this stuff. Or if you could, it’d be the best Mark Eitzel tribute song never written.

Author: Tracey Bowen

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tracey Bowen is a yoga-loving computer programmer from Birmingham, now living in Tamworth, the ancient capital of Mercia.

She plays an odd assortment of instruments (accordion, omnichord, melodica & glockenspiel) for sometime pop-folk outfit Driven Like the Snow and has just embarked on a new lo-fi drone project with the singer/guitarist from Avrocar.

She can be found on Twitter at @INeedDirection usually very late at night tweeting maudlin indie nostalgia.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Tracey’s gig night. We would love to hear about your own gig experiences whether they are recent or in the past. Please contact us if you would like to contribute, via email indieover40@gmail.com or Twitter @IndieOver40

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Gig Night – Ian Prowse & Amsterdam @ The Greystones, Sheffield

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We were naturally delighted when Mark Whitworth told us he was going to see Ian Prowse perform Pele’s Fireworks album for it’s 25th anniversary and wanted to write about it for our Gig Night feature. If his last one for a Half Man Half Biscuit gig was anything to go by then we were in for a treat.

Safe to say he didn’t let us down. In fact he’s gone beyond the call of duty here. It’s more than just a gig review. It’s a personal reflection of what was clearly a memorable night for him & if you don’t know much about Pele, don’t worry. Mark has added some bonus features for you.

So thank you to Mark for sharing his Gig Night. Read on and enjoy……

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I think too much and I drink too much

Despite making only the most negligible inroads into the lower reaches of the charts (ha! – as if the charts were ever a barometer of decent music anyway), Pele were an ebullient fixture on the live circuit in the early 1990s. If you were a student during this era the chances are they played at your university, probably several times. (I was at Bangor myself though – the “best” we ever got was D:Ream. Strangely enough I was washing my hair that night).

Even though I was living in Runcorn at this time, just a stone’s throw from Ian Prowse’s hometown of Ellesmere Port, I don’t think I actually remember hearing them on local radio. As I recall I first came across them via Channel 4’s Teletext pages (remember those? Seems practically sepia-tinged these days) and their review of the Fair Blows The Wind For France single (if you’re not too familiar with Pele’s output, the chances are this is probably the one song you may have heard of). The review sounded good so I sought out a copy, and it was indeed, and still is, a beauty. But don’t take my word for it – feel free to judge for yourself.


The single was released in June 1992, and was taken from the album Fireworks which had come out in March of that year. It wasn’t long before I got hold of this too, and it was pretty much a permanent fixture in my cassette player that summer.
Sadly, despite a devoted cult following, Pele were to last just one more album, 1993’s The Sport of Kings, before disbanding amid record company turmoil in 1994. Fireworks, however, remains particularly fondly remembered among “Pele-people”, and thus the news announced last year than Ian Prowse and his current band, Amsterdam, were going to be touring Fireworks in full to commemorate the album’s 25th anniversary, was received with great excitement.

And so it was that a couple of hundred folks “of a certain age” (along with a pleasing number of younger people it must be said) sauntered along to The Greystones in Sheffield to witness this celebration. The Greystones is a smashing venue – a couple of miles out of the city centre, just past Hunters Bar (of Arctic Monkeys’ Fake Tales of San Francisco fame), it’s a cracking real ale pub with an intimate live music venue attached. I’d been once before, to see an unforgettable act by the name of Bob Log III (which is quite another story in itself), but was particularly looking forward to this one, seeing one of my favourite bands of yesteryear whilst simultaneously unencumbered by having to drive home.

The first order of business though was to get hold of one of the seminal Pele logo t-shirts which had mercifully been reissued for this tour. The Pele t-shirt has a particular significance for me, as I was wearing my previous one (in the days when I could still fit in it) when I first met my wife in 1999. (Don’t worry, sick buckets are provided at the end of this review). There are a surprising number of original Pele t-shirts adorning members of the audience tonight (although perhaps only surprising to me, that anyone can still get into clothes they were wearing 25 years ago!) In any event it was a relief to be able to get my hands on a brand new one as I was concerned that the “sizes for the larger gentleman” may have sold out.

Transaction duly completed, I caught the last couple of songs by the extremely agreeable local support band, Robberie (robberie.bandcamp.com). Their guitarist, Robin Byles, is a lifelong Pele fan, and was responsible for maintaining the band’s website and keeping fans up to date in the post-Pele years, for which Ian would thank him later during his own set.

Before too long, Ian and the gang take to the stage themselves, and it’s straight into not the opener from Fireworks, but the penultimate track, Monkey Scream, with its haunting Hammond organ intro. By my reckoning it’s 24 years since I last saw Pele live, and it’s clear from the get-go that even though the songs are being played by different musicians, they have lost absolutely none of their verve and energy – Pele’s songs were always known for sounding even better live than on their records, and this remains the case all these years later.

From here on they play the Fireworks album in full, in a different order to the familiar tracklisting. It’s absolutely brilliant to hear these songs again so many years after I thought I had heard them live for the last time. They are all nothing short of magnificent, and Ian’s tremendous voice is at its very finest the whole night; my own personal favourites are Searchlight, Megalomania, Oh Lord and the title track Fireworks itself.

Before the final song from Fireworks, however, Ian announces that he is going to leave us waiting for that for a while, and tells us that he is going to play songs “that you won’t know if you fucked me off after Pele, even though we got even better!” To my considerable shame, I have to include myself in this category (don’t tell him!) – while I know the odd Amsterdam song, it’s really only the most passing of acquaintances. After tonight’s show I am determined to remedy this. A handful of Amsterdam songs duly receive an airing, including the emotional My Name is Dessie Warren, a cover of a tribute to the titular trade union activisit, generally regarded as having been wrongfully jailed along with Ricky Tomlinson during the national builders’ strike in 1972.

The show continues with Name & Number, a Pele B-side which made its way onto their second album followed by, finally, the last song from Fireworks, the superb anti-monarchist rant Raid The Palace. But they’re not done yet – Ian says “we’re not going to do an encore, we’re just gonna stay here and play more songs”. This leads to an unexpected but brilliant cover of The Clash’s London Calling, followed by the last song on the official set list, Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?, another Amsterdam song and possibly one of Ian’s best known songs from his whole career, and well worth reading about here:

10 years today since ‘Does This Train Stop On Merseyside’ was released.

The evening is rounded off with a groovy version of The Word Is… , another track from The Sport of Kings, before coming to a close with, seeing as it is indeed March 17, Damien Dempsey’s St Patrick’s Brave Brigade, a tale of Irish expats who fought for the Mexican army against the US in the 1840s, and are revered today in both Mexico and Ireland as the Battalón de San Patricio.

And with that, the night is complete. Well, almost; there’s just time to get my picture taken with the great man. There are some artists who you might feel uncomfortable approaching for a pic, but Ian couldn’t be more affable, and we chat briefly about the proximity of our home towns and what have you.

(thank you to the band’s violinist Laura for taking the pic!)

It’s been a truly rousing evening and a great reminder, as if it were ever needed, of just what a gifted songwriter and singer Ian Prowse is. I’ll definitely be familiarising myself with the rest of his back catalogue before too long. Until the next time, if you want me, I’m at the bar.

P.S. Check out this brilliant documentary about Fireworks, made for the 25th anniversary.


Author: Mark Whitworth

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Whitworth is originally from Runcorn in Cheshire but now lives in South Yorkshire. He is the bass player in rock & indie covers band Dr Hackenbush, is shortly hoping to start a PhD in Linguistics, and once sold a Big Mac to Mr T. He can be found on Twitter at @bringitonskippy, usually arguing about why the correct term for a soft white bread roll is “barmcake”.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Mark’s gig night. We would love to hear about your own gig experiences whether they are recent or in the past. Please contact us if you would like to contribute, via email indieover40@gmail.com or Twitter @IndieOver40

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Gig Night – The Railway Children @ The Lexington

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Fresh from submerging himself knee deep in the world of The Railway Children courtesy of his wonderful item for Toppermost , John Hartley managed to keep the momentum going by checking them out in the flesh.

Here is John’s Gig Night review of The Railway Children at The Lexington, London on Saturday 18th March 2017…

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Up a narrow and steep steel staircase with perhaps one or two too many steps is a room filled largely with men of hair greying and thinning – where it exists at all – and waistbands expanded more than their owners might choose. At the bar a man begrudges the £5 price of a bottle of ale, whilst noticing the barely-discreet notices advising patrons that ‘Earplugs are available: just ask at the bar’. We’re getting old folks, we’re getting old.

The gathered throng, and there are a fair number of us, are present to greet long-absent friends, friends who only came back into our midst last year after a hiatus lasting well over 20 years. The last time I saw The Railway Children was in a rampant hometown gig on Wigan Pier. Buoyed by finally breaking into the Top 40 singles chart, the band were in great form, the crowd roared them on, bassist Stephen Hull departed stage left momentarily to be sick, and t-shirts cost a tenner.

At The Lexington in 2017 it feels like the band has never been away. Always a good-looking band they have aged as much as their music: very well. Sure, there may be a bit of stubble (shaving gets to be such a chore, doesn’t it) and silvery receding hairline, but not much else has changed. Gary Newby still looks youthful and sings with rich tone, Hull still plays the bass like it’s the easiest thing in the world, Guy Keegan still keeps impeccable time and drives the more uptempo songs along, and Brian Bateman still looks like he’s enjoying every minute of strumming Newby’s perfectly crafted pop songs, even when he forgets to change to the second chord of a two-chord song (the band’s debut single ‘A Gentle Sound’) within the first three bars.

With nothing to promote and no longer having to play the part of a mere cog in the wheels of the music industry machine The Railway Children can offer a relaxed and varied set. There is little room for chat – a wry “This was our hit single” introducing ‘Every Beat Of The Heart’ being as close to banter as Newby gets – but that means more time for songs. All three band albums are covered well, there’s the inevitable run out of most – but not all – the singles and, most pleasingly, space for some b-sides: ‘After The Rain’, ‘History Burns’ and ‘Darkness And Colour’ all get a run out.

As the set proceeds, so the performances get stronger and better. ‘Somewhere South’ sounds as good as it ever has, recorded or live. Slower songs such as ‘Big Hands Of Freedom’ are given space to breathe and flourish. Final album title track ‘Native Place’ shows Newby’s voice at its best. The tunes come thick and fast, culminating with “our last song, which was also our first song”: ‘A Gentle Sound’. A quick dash off stage, then back on, and we are treated to the almost inevitable encore ‘Brighter’, a song whose outro could go on forever and still not seem too long. And that’s it: off stage they head, the lights come on, the DJ’s playlist resumes and we all head home, some of us with a souvenir t-shirt that cost a mere £12 – another pleasant reminder that not everything has to change.

 

Author: John Hartley

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free. He is currently raising money to support men’s mental health charity CALM (@theCALMzone) at http://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-heed

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about John’s gig night. We would love to hear about your own gig experiences whether they are recent or in the past. Please contact us if you would like to contribute, via email indieover40@gmail.com or Twitter @IndieOver40

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The Indie Top Ten Songs With Famous People In The Title

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In this regular feature we ask the Everything Indie Over 40 social media community to help us compile a top ten list of a chosen topic. Our resident curator John Hartley (@JohnyNocash) then ponders, disects and finally supplies the narrative.

In this edition:-

The Indie Top Ten Songs With Famous People In The Title

“Fame, fame, fatal fame,” sang some bloke in a band once. “It can play hideous tricks on the brain”. I once met this self-same bloke. I say met, what I mean is that I stood next to him in the long-since defunct Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus. He was looking at CDs in the Bobby Vee section, and I was nosing at what he was looking at. As he said, fame plays hideous tricks on the brain.

Anyway, I became slightly concerned during 2016 that this particular bloke might be the biggest name to croak and I have to say that I am relieved that my prediction of mid-February last year did not come to fruition. That said, it was still alarming to say goodbye to so many of our heroes – musical or otherwise – during the last year, which prompted the suggestion at the back end of the year that the theme for this next Everything Indie Over 40 Top Ten be songs that recognise in name if nothing else those people we see as famous.

Such fleeting brushes with fame as the one described above seem to have peppered my life. I saw Brian May of Queen in the very same branch of Tower Records with his wife Anita Dobson (Angie from ‘EastEnders’, for those who may otherwise not know.) They both looked identical: shoulder length permed hair, long overcoat, matching red clogs: very bizarre. It would also be very bizarre to not include a Half Man Half Biscuit song in this Top 10, given that they have made a career out of their perfectly-chosen name drops.

There were several nominations for HMHB, but let’s start this Top 10 with the one song that celebrates the best way to spot a minor celebrity: in the supermarket. Here’s ‘Fuckin’ ‘Ell, It’s Fred Titmus’ – the famous cricketer in case you don’t know already – as suggested by @GLPNE73.


It became clear that I was destined for a life of mingling with the stars from an early age. One of my earliest memories of school was attending the summer fayre as a junior, one typically grey, humid Saturday afternoon in the North. I was especially excited to learn that the school fayre was being opened by an actor, one from ‘Dad’s Army’, no less. I still possess (somewhere, though Lord knows I can’t put my hand on it right now to prove it) a signed photograph – my very first autograph! – from Colin Bean. You know, Private Sponge; one of the supplementary cast who sometimes got the odd line to utter. Incredible, isn’t it.

Unfortunately, nobody has seen fit to write a song about Colin Bean, but @Wimon has identified Hefner as having written a song called ‘Alan Bean’, so that’ll have to do. Alan may well have been the fourth man to walk on the moon and an accomplished artist, but I bet he never stood in the same room as Arthur Lowe whilst the latter hissed “Stupid boy!”


From that point on my status as celebrity’s ‘plus one’ was cemented. Hardly a childhood trip to Manchester would go by without my mum pointing out Victoria Wood sat in the Royal Exchange café (just over there, behind you, a few seats away, looking down…) as we had a snack. I had no idea who Victoria Wood was at the age of 8, never mind what she looked like. And of course, Jean Alexander – or ‘IldarOgden’ as she was better known – sometimes caught the same train from Wigan as my dad.

And then there were The Houghton Weavers, local boys come good with their own TV show and all, just sat there at the cricket club on a Saturday. I know, I know: ‘Just Like Johnny Marr’, if you close your eyes, replace Westhoughton with Wythenshawe, and listen to Alpaca Sports as @Inalvsmat suggests.


And then of course there were the sports stars. This line of fame-by-association began at secondary school in the athletic form of British Olympic bronze medallist and namesake-by-marriage Donna Hartley, with whom participants in some sponsored event or other were invited to have their photograph taken.

Before too long footballers were also queuing up to make my acquaintance. First, former Bolton Wanderers and England player Peter Reid kicked off the staff v pupils football game in our open day, although the occasion got too much for him and he left before I scored my hat-trick.

And then, future Manchester City and England U-21 manager Peter Reid answered the door as I struggled to deliver his mum’s Saturday copy of the Bolton Evening News. It was summer, so he wasn’t playing. Like Colin Bean, Peter Reid hasn’t had a nominated song written about him either, but he did play in the same Everton team as incognito indiekid Pat Nevin, who stars in The Tractors’ effort ‘Pat Nevin’s Eyes’, as put forward by @PozNoz.


 Actors, sports stars… before too long I was inevitably to be found mixing with pop stars of the modern age too. Not content with seeing Happy Mondays dancer Bez coming out of a pub on the Salford/Manchester border one Wednesday lunchtime (he was wearing a suit, so I guessed he may have been up in court for some misdemeanour or other. I might have been wrong…) I was soon to be found assisting Manchester’s rock royalty in their hour of need. Making a quick getaway from Inspiral Carpets’ support slot with James at Manchester Free Trade Hall, Clint Boon found himself caught in a crossroads as his girlfriend’s Cortina broke down at the most inopportune moment. Lucky for him that my mates and I were in the vicinity to give him a push in the right direction.

This of course pales into significance with the time I turned up far too early for a BOB gig in Bolton and was invited to share a pizza with them. BOB’s debut single was called ‘Brian Wilson’s Bed’; unfortunately none of you suggested this, so you’ll have to make do with @SoxanPance’s nominated ‘Brian Wilson’ by Barenaked Ladies.


 By now, word of my emerging status of ‘person-the-celebs-must-be-seen-with’ was spreading quicker than a rumoured sighting of Lord Lucan, and it did not take long for the stars of the small screen to try and weave their way into my little world. Saturday mornings as an A-level student were spent working in a petrol station; Saturday afternoons were spent reading history books and preparing essays in a petrol station as the morning downpour of customers petered out into the occasional light shower.

One of these light showers sometimes manifested itself in the human form of Crackerjack’s very own Stu Francis, getting his petrol on account while it was quiet and nobody would hassle him for autographs. I had to hassle him for an autograph, but only because he had to sign for the petrol he had just taken. He rarely spoke, other than to say ‘thanks’ or occasionally utter some bizarre coded message, like ‘The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave’. Perhaps he was a fan of Butthole Surfers like @gigticket.


 I might have made the end of the last paragraph up. Anyway, my afternoons in the petrol station were clearly well spent as I was sufficiently studied to get a ‘B’ in my History (Social and Economic, if you’re wondering) and off I toddled to University in Newcastle. My daily walk into the city from the outskirts took me down back streets in the vicinity of St. James’ Park, and it was along one of these very streets that I would often see the players of struggling Newcastle United drive past on their way to training.

One day, a small, kindly driver stopped to let me cross the road, sacrificing thirty seconds of his team’s training to make sure I could get to my lecture on time. It was Ossie Ardiles, the club’s then manager, with a few players in the back of his car for good measure. Ossie is also famous for being the subject of a Tottingham Hotspur FA Cup Final song, as well as being an Argentinian World Cup winner. @WillieMcAlpine suggested a song by Kinski about one of Ossie’s compatriots, private dancer ‘Argentina Turner’. Ok, so it’s a play on words and not really a proper name, but it’s a good one so I’ve bent the rules slightly this time (only).


 Newcastle was not the most ideal place for sharing my life with the rich and famous, which is just as well as I was able to focus on the job of getting a degree without too much distraction. No thanks to Ant and Dec mind, who filmed ‘Byker Grove’ just up the road from my temporary home in Fenham, and came and gatecrashed my table in the Fox and Hounds for a spot of underage drinking. They were very civilised, though, and kept the noise down to a minimum.

I couldn’t quite work out what they were talking about, on account of me not listening. Perhaps at that precise moment in time they were plotting world domination under the guise of humorous and likeable TV hosts, via a brief pop career. On the subject of brief pop careers, thank you to @niamunna1: here’s Weezer with ‘Buddy Holly’.


 Degree out of the way with, and after a further couple of unemployed years spent convincing myself that a life of pop fame and fortune surely beckoned (given that someone at Rough Trade had quite liked a demo tape before they moved on to writing for Radio Times), I moved to the outskirts of London. Maybe the streets weren’t paved with gold, but they were littered with stars.

For eight years I largely resided in Stanmore. Madonna lived just up the road; so too did Tom Cruise, who was not averse to popping in to the local Blockbusters to rent a video. However, my first flat was in Hatch End, just around the corner from comedian Barry Cryer. His large house had a ‘granny flat’ attached and I used to fantasise that he kept Willie Rushton in there.

Bazza drank in our local, The Railway (although maybe it was us in his local) and one day I was sat next to him on the station platform when an oblivious passenger asked which train went to Willesden Junction. It was with great disappointment that I heard Barry not reply with “I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue”. Mind, if he had I would then have been disappointed that I wasn’t at that point carrying ‘Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder’, which also happens to be the title of an @BullAntics-proffered song by The Membranes.


These days I am much choosier about which famous people I allow to mix in my company. I would count as both friend and work colleague an actor who played a character in ‘My Mad Fat Diary’ and was recently the face of the Virgin Broadband advertising campaign, for example. And she went to a party once with one-time Celebrity King of the Jungle Foggy. She is equally aware of my spectral past as the artist known as Johny Nocash (the man in blue).

To preserve anonymity I lived under this pseudonym for over 20 years before being ‘outed’ by this self-same website. But that’s ok; I learned to deal with this inadvertent unmasking quickly, a task made much easier by the discovery of a Johny Nocash tribute act. I was, therefore, very pleased that this tribute act had himself been recognised, both by @NorwoodTrash, and by Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine who wrote a song about him. Ladies and gentlemen, your final song in this Top 10 Songs With Famous People In Their Title: ‘Johnny Cash’.


John Hartley

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free. He is currently raising money to support men’s mental health charity CALM (@theCALMzone) at http://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-heed

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