New Year’s Eve

Right then, New Year’s Eve, an over-rated excuse for an enforced piss up if ever there was one. But staying in watching Jools, waiting for the clock to run down, is no good either.

Like many of you (us, the whinging, metropolitan, liberal elite out to deny the democratic voice of the British people) I won’t be too unhappy to see the back of 2016, a downer of a year in many ways. 2017 promises more of the same (in the shape of Trump if nothing else). All we can do is continue to rage against the dying of the light with good music, people we like and trust and a hope that things may get better. To celebrate seeing the back of the year here’s some tunes….

Durutti Column first, the combined talents of Vini Reilly and Martin Hannett, and a song to see the winter out- it’s getting a bit brighter every day and has been since December 21st. That’s something to cheer about.

Sketch For Winter

Some more guitars, this time the squealing, distorted and overloaded kind courtesy of James Williamson and Mr James Osterberg’s Stooges. The start of this song is phenomenal, like the engineer pressed the record button a fraction too late but the band went for it anyway.

Search and Destroy (Mono)

Now some proper four-on-the-floor house music from Chicago in 1987. It contains a spoken word section that has some of the best kiss off threats to the other girl ever recorded (see below)

You Used To Hold Me

It’s all about midnight, count it down. There, done.

Peaking Lights with some chilled out midnight dub sounds to ease 2017 in.

Midnight Dub

And to finish, because all nights should finish with this…

Come Together (Weatherall Mix)

Spoken word section from You Used To Hold Me…

Now honey let me tell you something about my man.
You know he’s a good looking sweet lil’ thing.
That man knows how to satisfy a woman
You know what I’m talking about?
Girlfriend let me tell you,
He bought me this fur coat
A brand new car and this 24 carat gold diamond ring
Ain’t it pretty?
Girfriend you know how it is,
When you got a good man,
You start doin’ things like wearing those high heel shoes
And the lace pocket with the garter belt,
And putting on that sweet smellin’ seductive perfume.
Hm hmm
But you know what?
I’m gonna have to put some lame brain in check honey
Cause she got her locks on my man.
But baby I ain’t givin up on this here good thing not for nobody.
Cause what that dorky chick got wouldn’t satisfy a cheese stick let alone my baby
She better take her big long haired butt and move on ’cause he’s mine all mine

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America’s Greatest Living Poet Was Ogling You All NIght

Back at the start of the year Iggy Pop released what may turn out to be his last album. Eight months later it still sounds like a good record and contains several songs that are as good as anything he’s done for ages. It also sounds like a record he wanted to make rather than a contract filler or something to occupy some time. The lead song was Gardenia, opening with a great tremelo guitar part from Josh Homme and then Iggy’s baritone voice comes in singing about Gardenia, a stripper he used to love/admire. The sound of the song harks back to Berlin period Iggy, mechanical and with groove The line about ‘America’s greatest living poet’ comes from a time when Iggy and Allen Ginsberg spent an evening in gardenia’s company, Iggy waiting decades to use this memory in a song.

Gardenia

We Learn Dances, Brand New Dances

I’m not sure if this is a 1977 themed week or an Iggy Pop themed week. Or if it’s a theme week at all. In 1981 Grace Jones covered Nightclubbing, from Iggy’s The Idiot- it was the name of the album as well as a cover of the song. Rhythm kings Sly and Robbie on bass and drums root the whole thing in dub coupled with a New Wave sheen and some hiss. In Iggy’s version he’s in the nightclub but dazed and distanced, an outsider looking in, numbed by party drugs. In this version Grace is imperious, glacial, in the middle of the dancefloor.

Nightclubbing

To Dusseldorf City

…meet Igy Pop and David Bowie.

The title track to their March 1977 release Trans-Europe Express. Peerless and perfect, a sound in motion. Invented pretty much everything that came after it.

Calling Sister Midnight

Iggy Pop’s The Idiot is a remarkable album. Released in March 1977 (and followed in the same year by Lust For Life) it is the first of the Bowie Berlin albums. All the songs on The Idiot are co-written by David Bowie and his fingerprints- words, tone, chords, structures- are all over it. The Idiot was Iggy’s first solo album and doesn’t really sound too like the rest of his work. No cartoon stagediving here, no songs chasing the sound of two chord Stooges. The Idiot sounds thought out, a piece of work. It is also sounds dislocated- Iggy and Bowie loose and lost in West Berlin. On most of the songs- just listen to Nightcubbing- the beat is always a bit behind where you expect it to be, a fraction deliberately late.

Opening track Sister Midnight is a blast. Played live by Bowie throughout his Station To Station tour, it’s a powerful opener, a punch. Bowie’s guitarist Carlos Alomar plays on it. Many of Bowie’s songs from Chateau d’Herouville and Hansa Studio have a certain funkiness and a lightness. Sister Midnight has Alomar’s wonderful guitar sound and playing but is murkier, with the synths and rhythm keeping it more earthbound. Three note bassline. Iggy in a hole looking out- ‘what can I do about my dreams?’ he sings at one point after a verse re-working Oedipus.

Sister Midnight

His voice is the human touch on an album inspired by the men-machines Kraftwerk, an album with a European heart moving away the blues base of the music of the 1960s and early 70s, written and played by men trying to kick different drugs. Sister Midnight re-appeared with new words as Red Money on Bowie’s Lodger album in 1979, the album generally considered to be the final part of the Berlin series, completing the circle nicely.

I Bought About A Hundred Candles

Most Iggy Pop albums, even the terrible ones, have something going for them. Avenue B, released in 1999, was a departure from the rock sound he’d cracked on with in the 90s. It had short spoken word pieces, reflective songs with bongos and acoustic guitar, a song in Spanish. It’s unfairly overlooked- it sold poorly and wasn’t well received by critics or many fans. Written in the aftermath of the break-up with his long-term girlfriend it was a man looking back, reflective, ageing, doubtful, wondering if he was still attractive to women. The song Nazi Girlfriend suggested he was still having some success in that department. The title track is a lovely, jazzy little tune with Iggy actually singing, almost crooning. ‘I am gonna need a miracle’ he sings, ‘on Avenue B’.

Avenue B

Johnny Yen

Johnny Yen is the main character in Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life- ‘here comes Johnny Yen again, with the liquor and drugs and the flesh machine, he’s gonna do another striptease’ is the song’s opening line, before beating our brains and Johnny’s with a pulverising Motown drumbeat and David Bowie’s beefed up ukulele riff. Iggy borrowed Johnny Yen from a William Burroughs novel- The Ticket That Exploded- where Johnny Yen is described as ‘the boy-girl other half striptease God of sexual frustration’. He is also known for hypnotising chickens. Iggy’s Johnny Yen is a self-destructive hedonist and therefore is partly/mainly Iggy himself.

 

Johnny Yen reappears in the James song of the same name, on Stutter in 1986. For Tim Booth Johnny Yen is a performer- ‘Ladies and gentlemen here is my disease, give me a standing ovation and your sympathy’, before going off and setting himself on fire again. Tim Booth further borrows from Iggy/Bowie by referencing the Jean Genie, and then goes onto suicide pacts, young men itching to burn and waiting for their own star turn. He then gets compared to Evel Knievel, hitting the seventeenth bus, before Tim urges someone to put Johnny Yen, the poor fool, out of his misery, to finish him off. I’m guessing that mid 80s vegan, yoga, indie-poet Tim Booth was despairing of the old rock ‘n’ roll cliches, with their leather trousered frontmen and drug habits, but by borrowing Johnny Yen he’s lining himself up alongside Iggy Pop and William Burroughs to some extent. The James song was from when they looked like a really interesting group, spindly, spiky, uncompromising, almost folky, indie-rock. They went on to become a stadium band, which I don’t hold against them by any means, but they sacrificed something when they expanded their line up and sound and began appealing to a wider audience.

Johnny Yen