Them And David Bowie

The crazy, beautiful stream of all things David Bowie related this week has been both wonderful and very sad. The sheer amount of music is one thing, the words and memories another and then there’s the pictures. This one of two South London boys enjoying a beer backstage at Shea Stadium popped up. As did this one below…

Big Audio Dynamite in New York in 1987, with Bowie, Peter Frampton, Jimmy Cliff, Dave Stewart (ugh) and Paul Simonon again (Havana 3am supporting B.A.D.) One of the later B.A.D. line ups did a cover of Suffragette City which I thought I had a digital file of but don’t. I can’t find it anywhere on the internet and can’t rip my vinyl right currently either. You’ll have to imagine it. The influence of Bowie on the punks is well documented. This picture of a pre-Sid Vicious Simon Ritchie on his way to see Bowie at Earl’s Court has been widely shared too…

Bowie was enormous in 1970s Liverpool. Pete Wylie tweeted this week that Liverpool’s 70s youth had to reject their city’s homegrown music and find something new- and that was Bowie. Wylie’s old mucker Ian McCulloch released an album of acoustic songs called Pro Patria Mori in 2013, coupled with Bunnymen songs done live at the Union Chapel. This was Mac’s tribute to the Thin White Duke.

Me And David Bowie

And just because a Bowie post isn’t complete without some music from the man himself, this is an absolute highlight, his best moment from the 1980s, a soaring, romantic song from a widely panned 1980s film, plucked out of nowhere with a hastily scrambled together bunch of musicians sometime in London in 1986. A favourite of mine (and Simon and Drew’s too).

Bowie with Absolute Beginner Patsy Kensit. I had a bit of a thing for her in 1987.

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Ceremony

On July 19th 1986 New Order headlined a show at GMEX (formerly Manchester’s Central railway station, for much of the 70s and early 80s a derelict carpark. We used to park there when shopping in town and my Mum and Dad got all of us kids back in the car on one occasion and drove off, leaving one of my brothers standing forlornly where the car had been, aged only three or four. Don’t worry- they realised before leaving the carpark). The show was the highlight of the Festival of the Tenth Summer,a Factory organised event celebrating ten years since punk and the show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall where the Sex Pistols set into motion everything that has happened to Manchester since. The Lesser Free Trade Hall, also the venue where Bob Dylan was accused of being Judas, is now a swish hotel. The Festival of the Tenth Summer had its own Factory catalogue number (FAC 151) and had nine other events including a fashion show, a book, a Peter Saville installation, an exhibition of Kevin Cummins photographs and so on. Very Factory. Support for New Order at the gig included The Smiths (billed as co-headliners), The Fall, A Certain Ratio, Cabaret Voltaire, OMD, John Cale, John Cooper Clarke and Buzzcocks. Not a bad line up really.

During their set New Order were joined on stage by Ian McCulloch who sang Ceremony with them. This clip shows that meeting, the only drawback being it’s less than a minute long.

There’s an audio only version of the whole song here. Ian sings in a register closer to Ian Curtis’ and certainly gives it his best shot. The bit where Hooky joins Mac at the mic is great.

Ceremony was Ian Curtis’ last song, intended for Joy Division but recorded and released as the first New Order record. The first two New Order records actually- it was released in March 1981 by the three piece New Order and produced by Martin Hannett. It was then re-released in September 1981 in a newer, slightly longer version with Gillian Gilbert on board and with a different Saville sleeve. If you want to get really trainspottery about it, the run out groove on the first version says ‘watching love grow forever’, while on the second version it has ‘this is why events unnerve me’.

New Order and Echo And The Bunnymen toured the USA together along with Public Image Ltd throughout 1987, billed as The Monsters Of Alternative Rock. The Melody Maker reported from it as the picture up top shows. According to Lydon’s autobiography ‘Bernard Sumner was having problems emotionally and looked a bit the worse for wear’ and describes him being tied to a trolley to sing at one gig as he was unable to stand. ‘Nice fella’ though says Lydon. Bernard’s favourite tipple was ‘a pint of headache’ (Pernod and blackcurrant).

Pro Patria Mori

This Latin song title challenge is turning out to be difficult. I suspect if I was into Metal I’d be alright- I have a feeling metal bands give their songs Latin titles quite often.

Ian McCulloch digs me out of a hole today with a track from his 2012 solo album Holy Ghosts, a fine record full of sweeping strings and that voice, with nods to the 80s but here in the present. Julian Cope, as has been well documented, is not a fan. In a recent interview he described McCulloch’s career as the universe having a hiccup. A bit unkind Julian.

Pro Patria Mori

The two disc edition of Holy Ghosts came with some good orchestral versions of solo and Bunnymen songs recorded live at the Union Chapel, worth shelling out on if you’re a fan. The title comes, obviously, from Wilfred Owen’s famous poem Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Call It A Day

Ian McCulloch had a solo album out last year which I didn’t spend too much time with (for unknown reasons, time probably) but have rediscovered recently. Pro Patria Mori was a good single lp but was also available as a double. The second disc was recorded live at the Union Chapel, a mixture of Bunnymen songs from Rescue through to Nothing Lasts Forever, and songs from Pro Patria Mori, reworked acoustically and orchestrally. The fringe and the chin may not be what they were but the voice is in rich form and there’s some lovely chugging Velvets rhythm guitar along with the strings. Angels And Devils, in the grand tradition of 80s indie rock, was tossed away on a B-side.

Angels And Devils (Live at the Union Chapel)

It Must Have Been Because, Because, Because…

Ian McCulloch’s got a few hidden gems in his solo back catalogue- this song Proud To Fall being one. There’s nothing particularly clever, experimental or far out going on, just a guitar pop song with all the correct structure- verse, chorus, middle eight, etc, home in time for tea- and lyrically it’s very Mac. It’s just one of those songs that’ll improve your day a little bit.

Proud To Fall

The picture shows a linocut by Claude Flight of ships in Liverpool dock being painted blue, silver and pink during the First World War to protect them from German U-Boats. These ships were known as Dazzle Ships (later, much later, an album by OMD). I went for a walk the other Saturday and passed Sale library (we still have a library, and it opens all day on Saturday). Wandering in and having a mooch about a book (actually the catalogue from an exhibition) called British Prints From The Machine Age, 1914-39 caught my eye. It’s full of linocuts by a group of artists who founded Vorticism, the first forward thinking, modernist British art movement of the 20th century. The prints are brilliant, stunning and fresh, capturing modern life in early-to-mid 20th century Britain- speed,  movement, sport, leisure, machines, vehicles, people. A lot of them are pretty abstract, the sort of thing we take for granted as design now.

I was leafing through the book at the kitchen table on Sunday. ‘Is that a library book?’ daughter E.T. asked. ‘Yep, due back soon too, I might renew it’, I replied. I turned to the front page and the borrowing stamp sheet- ‘I think I’m the only person who’s ever taken it out’ I said. E.T. asked what the title was. ‘British Prints From The Machine Age, 1914-39’ I said.  ‘That’s why you’re the only the person who’s ever taken it out’ she muttered.

I like to feel I have taught her well the art of the sarcastic response. And now she uses it against me.

I Got Lost Inside It All

After escaping The Bunnymen Ian McCulloch released his solo album Candleland. It led with this single, a perfectly formed little song with typically McCulloch lyrics. In truth it also sounds like the last blast of the old days of the mid 80s, before 1989 turned into something else for fans of guitar bands. Still, it sounds pretty good today, twenty three years on. Yep- twenty three.

Proud To Fall

The Days Grow Short When You Reach September



Don’t they just.

In 1984, with The Bunnymen at the top of their game with Ocean Rain, Ian McCulloch decided to nip off for a solo single, which probably didn’t do much for fragile band relationships. Taking Kurt Weill’s September Song, a crooner’s standard, Ian gave it his best shot. This being the mid 1980s the 12″ had a long version to use up those extra five inches. Backcomb what’s left of your hair, wrap up in something warm (a raincoat maybe or long black woollen coat), take a stroll around some moody landscape and wallow in to Ian’s version of September Song, while contemplating the fact that yesterday’s Model 500 song was released less than a year later.