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Saturday, 12 September 2009

Typical Girls - The Slits

Zoe Street Howe's biography of legendary Punky Reggae outfit The Slits is truly wonderful and a book that needed to be written. Over time people have assumed a lot of things about The Slits and most of them are untrue. Zoe sets the record straight, or rather she allows the band themselves and those closely associated with the band to set the record straight.

I had the pleasure of seeing The Slits a number of times (supporting The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Siouxsie & the Banshees and as headliners) and each time I saw them live they got better and better. The first time it was totally chaotic and whilst not so gifted as musicians the energy was outstanding. Ari Up, Viv, Tessa and Palmolive were a true force to be reckoned with. It would be a couple of years after their formation before they actually put something down in the recording studio and so we lived with their John Peel Sessions for a good age. Actually Peel regarded their first session as one of his favourites of all time.

Love & Romance (Peel Session)

When they finally signed to Island Records Palmolive was gone and Budgie was brought in on the drums. The result of working with Dennis Bovell as the producer was 'Cut'. What an incredibly glorious sounding album it was. No longer was there chaotic sounds of early punk rock but a refined Reggae rawness that brought their songs to life.

The cover of course was very provocative and I'm certain if Island had had their way they would have had a very different image in mind for the band. But whilst The Slits maybe never really got their due when it came to radio or even the press, the music on 'Cut' is a testament to their willingness to grow. Some of these songs had been around for a few years but when you compare them to say the Peel Sessions they are actually miles apart.

'Typical Girls' was of course their first single. Island had wanted 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine' as the A-side. The band stuck to their guns not wanting to be judged as a band that relied on cover versions to get them the success they had worked hard and long to achieve. Due to their contract with Island it was the band who had creative control and so on September 21st 1979 'Typical Girls' was released backed by 'Grapevine'.
Typical Girls Promo Video

If you get the chance to read one music biography this year I would encourage you to make it this one, 'Typical Girls: The Story of The Slits' by Zoe Street Howe (published by Omnibus).

Monday, 7 September 2009

The Beatles Remastered

So, I have a confession to make. I have never really been a fan of The Beatles and since I'm seeking to be honest I've never really sat down with purpose and listened to a whole album of theirs, until recently that is. In pretty much all the music magazines the spotlight has been shining recently on The Beatles and the release of their Remastered Catalogue that is due out in two days time. I have read with a lot of interest many of those articles and I thought I'd sit down and take some time out to listen to these albums and see what all the fuss was about.

The question most people would probably ask me is how on earth can you, a lover of fine music miss out listening to the band that defined pop music? My answer would be that I always found that The Who and The Kinks, and to a small degree The Rolling Stones (the 1960's version) much more interesting. It's the same issue I have with Elvis. I always thought that Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry were far more important when it came to classic Rock and Roll.

So, as I said I took some time to sit and listen to these albums by The Beatles. The first thing that surprised me was the fact that I actually knew an awful lot of these songs without ever really listening to them. Let's whizz through them album by album and I'll let you know what tracks I thought were decent.

01. Please Please Me (March 1963)
A pretty decent debut album if I may say (I'm a big fan of debuts and rarely I think does a band top its debut - though I think with a band like The Beatles that is not the case). Whilst the standout tracks in most people's minds would be the title track and maybe 'Love Me Do', I have to say that I actually like 'Chains' and 'Do You Want to Know a Secret'.

02. With The Beatles (November 1963)
This one I really enjoyed apart from 'Please Mister Postman'. 'I Wanna Be Your Man' and 'Roll Over Beethoven' are just great songs.

03. A Hard Day's Night (July 1964)
The first of their soundtracks. 'Things We Said Today' is great as is the title track.

04. Beatles For Sale (December 1964)
Their cover of Buddy Holly's 'Words of Love' is probably my favourite (though 'Eight Days A Week' is pretty close).

05. Help (August 1965)
Surprising thing about this album is the amount of good songs are on it. Soundtracks usually only ever have two or three decent songs but this one has a handful that are worth listening to again and again. 'Help', 'Ticket to Ride', and 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy' stand out.

06. Rubber Soul (December 1965)
Hard to imagine a band these days releasing two albums within the space of a few months and this one is maybe a little bit different to what has gone before. Not as many 'commercial' sounding tunes. 'In My Life' I really like and of course 'Drive My Car' is just classic pop.

07. Revolver (August 1966)
Out of all the albums it is this one that I probably rate as one of their best. Lots of superb tracks with 'She Said She Said' being one that I like a lot. 'Yellow Submarine' seems out of place and is probably the one song of theirs that I have no time for at all!

08. Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (June 1967)
I know that this album more than any of their others is seen as the ultimate Beatles album but I have to confess I just don't get it. There are a few songs ('With a Little Help From My Friends', 'She's Leaving Home' and 'A Day in the Life') that I liked but it really didn't move me at all.

09. The Beatles (White Album) (November 1968)
A bit like the 'Pepper' album apart from a few songs here and there it just didn't excite me. Probably 'Dear Prudence', 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', 'Helter Skelter' and 'Revolution' are the only tracks that really made an impression on me.

10. Yellow Submarine (January 1969)
'All You Need is Love' was really the only track that I thought was any good.

11. Abbey Road (September 1969)
Opening two songs, 'Come Together' and 'Something' were the songs that caught my attention here. As for the rest of it, well I had my finger on the skip button!

12. Let It Be (May 1970)
The end indeed. Only three songs stood out for me, 'Let It Be', 'The Long and Winding Road' and 'Get Back'.

On top of this the Remasters includes 'The Magical Mystery Tour' which was originally released in the UK as two EP's in 1967. Seeing that this is now considered an 'official' album I would say that this is probably my second favourite of theirs.

Also included are two volumes of the 'Past Masters' which are made up of non-album tracks and b-sides, and a DVD

The cost of the package is according to Amazon is £169.98 and you can even get the Mono version for £199.98!

I don't hate The Beatles so don't think I do just because I haven't bowed down and spoke so highly of every release. They just never registered on my radar!.

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