B Is For Beta

Listening to Steve Mason’s recent solo album has led me back to The Beta Band. They were real one offs- maybe the only reason their second and third albums aren’t given their dues is because they set their standards so high early on with the three e.p.s, later anthologised imaginatively as The Three E.P.s.

I drove to Leeds Irish Centre to see them play at some point in the late 90s, on a school night as well. We’d got free entry by claiming to be reviewing the gig for a Manchester music/arts magazine or something on those lines. It was hotter than hot inside- the sort of heat where you can feel beads of sweat running down the inside of your arm and the small of your back. This made moving difficult. And I was driving, so couldn’t attack the heat with beer. Carl from Cud stood at the bar, his time long gone. The Beta Band were out of this world that night, versions of spooky trauma song Dr Baker and the trippy Needles In Your Eyes sticking in the memory for ages afterwards. And Dry The Rain of course.

Dry The Rain

Going Back To My Roots

Richie Havens, RIP.

I think we can all agree that this is one of those tunes. It was big round these parts.

Czech It Out

Julius Fucik was a Czech journalist and member of the Communist Party who was part of the resistance against the Nazis. He was imprisoned, tortured and killed by them in 1943. He has an untouchable national hero staus in the Czech Republic. And that is a really nice jacket he’s wearing. I’m sure I shouldn’t boil historical events and figures down to their dress but it is a really nice jacket.

British Sea Power are one of those bands who I like but who as someone said on Twitter recently have never completely lived up to their brilliant name. They look fantastic in their 30s mountaineering garb and with branches and stuffed animals on stage. It’s good when bands make an effort and BSP have always made an effort even if the songs have occasionally underwhelmed a little. This single, which is lovely by the way, was a limited edition release in 2004 and put out only in the Czech Republic and available at some gigs. It was produced in a run of 1942 copies (this being the year Nazi officer Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated by two Czech agents). The vocals are by Katerina Winterova of Czech band The Ecstacy Of Saint Theresa and the B-sides are both in Czech. Czech it out.

A Lovely Day Tomorrow

Marred

Last month Mrs Swiss and I went to see Johnny Marr at the Ritz (the Friday gig, first of two). We had a good night out, got out together (which doesn’t happen very often), had a few drinks, saw a living legend. I later tweeted…

‘Johnny Marr played the Ritz tonight. It was great. Crowd were a bit flat early on. Typical Mancs. Great encore. Cheers. Goodnight.’

Someone asked me recently if I enjoyed it and said I seemed a bit like I hadn’t. I did enjoy it- Johnny and the band were really good- the songs off the new album worked really well live and he played several songs I’ve been waiting two and half decades to hear him play (I never saw The Smiths). Second song in was London, one of my  favourite Smiths songs, and it rocked. He did Forbidden City, one of my favourite Electronic songs. Bigmouth. The encore included a great garage-y version of Getting Away With It, How Soon Is Now and finished with There Is  A Light. Other than The Queen Is Dead and Get The Message what more could I want?

What spoilt it a bit, as I think my tweet hinted at was the crowd and looking at the photo above it seems like there was absolute mayhem. The Ritz is a great venue, smallish, sprung dancefloor, good sound, bars on both sides. The crowd wasn’t all middle aged Smiths fans, but a mixture of those/us and younger folk. There is a problem at The Ritz that curfew is 10 pm because it turns into a nightclub afterwards, which means an early start, so less build up and expectation maybe. For the first few songs we stood two-thirds of the way back. In front of us were two couples. The two men talked to each other all the way through the songs, occasionally turning to look at the stage between songs and provide light applause. Their female partners watched the gig but these two youngish men (twenty something I guess) nattered all the way through. Between two songs I said (loudly) that there are good places for chattering, they’re called pubs, but it made no difference. Why would you spend £20 on a gig ticket and pay no attention to the performance. After a while we moved further forward, much nearer the stage where it was much better. Behind me then stood the tallest man in Manchester (and I’m not exactly a short arse), who filmed almost very song on his mobile phone, straight over the top of my head. Now I have been known to look at this type of footage on Youtube and often it’s a poor reminder of what a gig was like but sometimes it’s worth watching. Equally I’ve taken the odd photo. But filming something at length with your phone instead of watching it happen seems as daft as talking all the way through. You’re not in the moment. The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s tried to put their feet down about this recently, Jarvis Cocker made the same point and Ian Brown admonished people at Warrington Parr Hall last year for ‘making a film when you’re missing making a memory’.

I guess as well as the above, several gigs I’ve been to recently have been utterly memorable with complete audience participation and attention throughout- The Roses at Warrington was crazy from front-to-back, people almost in tears, dancing and complete elation, Justice Tonight and Half Man Half Biscuit (both at The Ritz) were full on, Heaton Park as well (and that was 70, 000 people in a field although admittedly I don’t know what it was like at the back). Sometimes Mancunian audiences can be a bit ‘arms folded, come on then impress us’ but Johnny Marr at a homecoming gig? So maybe I’ve been spoilt. I don’t go to enough gigs anymore to know for sure, certainly I don’t go to enough small gigs by up-and-coming bands. My brother-in-law says he won’t attend anything bigger than a few hundred now, as the atmosphere at anything bigger always suffers. It can’t be realistic to expect every show to be a life-changing spectacle, so maybe I should alter/lower my expectations. But audiences, and this is a familiar gripe I think, don’t always contribute positively and mainly need to put their phones away and shut the fuck up when people are playing.

The Draize Train (Live 1985)

Linotype Works

Along with Stretford’s Essoldo cinema this is another of my favourite buildings of south Manchester. The Linotype Machinery Works in Broadheath, Altrincham, built (you might just be able to make out) in 1897. The building manufactured machinery to produce text (basically the machines punched into linotype and then printed from it) and exported the machines all over the world. It’s grade II listed and this front part is offices today, so it appears to be pretty safe. The redbrick front with it’s inlayed lettering in terracotta is brilliant and the series of parapets hides the massive brick factory building that sits behind it. The factory part is used by various businesses and most of it seems to be occupied. Which is good. A working building, still working. I was dismayed to see while driving around there today that opposite the front they’re building a housing development- ugly, featureless, little boxes which will have a great view while spoiling the setting of this building themselves.

The view towards the Linotype Works from the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal, taken on my phone last year.

Down the side there is this side entrance, again with the inlayed brick lettering. There’s a matching one on the canal side too. I took this pic from the car in the rain today and am a bit concerned about the wooden buttresses holding this wall up.

Sorry if this is all coming across a bit Nikolaus Pevsner. You don’t need any music with this post do you?

Down On My Knees In Suburbia, Down On Myself In Every Way

Ah- England’s suburbs. One of those quintessential aspects of 20th century life- net curtains, garages, lawns and lamp posts, postmen and pillar boxes, commuters rushing for the train or bus, washing the car, walking the dog and boring, rainy Sunday afternoons. Alternatively celebrated as the heartbeat of England and the epitome of dreary conformity (and imagined as a hotbed of wife-swapping). Hanif Kureishi’s book The Buddha Of Suburbia was televised by the BBC back in the early 90s and David Bowie provided an album length soundtrack of songs, with this title track- which sounds surprisingly good twenty years later. It has a little self-referential Ziggy riff towards the end as a knowing joke and nod of the head.

The Buddha Of Suburbia

Moon Trails

This sort of thing really floats my boat at the moment- Moon Duo (longhaired, boy-girl, guitar heavy, Wooden Shjips offshoot) remixed by White Rainbow as part of a whole album of remixes available exclusively for Record Shop Day along with versions by Sonic Boom and Tom Furse from The Horrors among others. As a taster this one is being given away as a free download and is worth every byte. White Rainbow strip away the guitars and send Moon Duo way off into the cosmos- trippy, far-out, wonked out,disco with some very wonky keyboard. Hmm… too many wonkys in that sentence.

As I said- free download.