So Much Confusion

‘…When October comes around’ said the Pet Shop Boys in My October Symphony. Later on Neil Tennant asks about whether we should ‘remember December instead or worry about February?’ I guess February just rhymed. I haven’t got any songs on the computer named after February and can’t think of many with lyrics referring to the second month other than this one.

My October Symphony is from Behaviour, 1990’s PSB tour de force. Produced by Harold Faltermeyer using analogue synths it mixes full on pop, rave influenced pop, ballads and what got called adult pop- musical, reflective, lyrically grown up, classy instead of teenage (which could sound a bit dull but Behaviour is an album that could never be called dull. Inventive, subtle, wry, expansive but not dull). My October Symphony chucks many things into the pot besides Neil’s lyrics- a blast of a male voice choir, house inspired backing vox, sweeping strings and a funky guitar part played by Johnny Marr. I always felt it’s a song about autumn really (and wanting to move on and change) but according to a PSB fan site- ‘Neil adopts the role of a Russian composer who has dedicated his life and work to the ideals of the revolution but now feels confused and betrayed in the wake of the collapse of Communism’. So there you go. On the same site Janet Street Porter claims it is about a lingerie model. Which one Janet?

My October Symphony

In 1991 they released a stand alone single, DJ Culture, partly to promote their singles compilation Discography, partly as a comment on the Gulf War and how George Bush borrowed from Churchill’s wartime speeches just as artists sample each other (with a reference to Oscar Wilde’s trial thrown in too), and partly because they’d recorded what was a very good pop song. As a single it kind of went missing, despite reaching number 13 in the chart.


The Priest

You don’t have to go very far at the moment in this country to see the impact of the social policies of the last Conservative government and the current one. Go into central Manchester (or any British town or city) and take a walk around and you’ll be confronted by homelessness on a massive scale. It became unavoidable in Manchester city centre some time ago, people living on the streets in huge numbers. The public’s reaction to it is appalling too at times- I saw three young men stop, point and laugh at a homeless man sitting on the street recently. Out here in Sale, a 15 minute tram ride from Piccadilly Gardens, 4 miles from the city centre, there are people sleeping in the precinct, on the steps of an electrical substation and in the doorways of Boots and Sainsburys.

Johnny Marr and Maxine Peake have collaborated on a track called The Priest, highlighting the problem of homelessness, based on the poetry of a Big Issue seller Joe Gallagher.

Johnny Marr is finishing a third solo album. In an interview about The Priest and the forthcoming solo album he said this-

‘Because of what had happened with Brexit and Trump and everything, I came into this record really determined to not let those fuckwits impede on my creative life. But you’re living in this world and you can’t do anything about it. So much of the record is about dislocation.’ The full interview is here. There’s an internet meme that goes around which is ‘Be more like so-and-so‘ and in this case it stands up- be more like Johnny. Be more like Maxine.

Different Days

The Charlatans have a new album out tomorrow, Different Days. The single came out at the end of April, a chiming and clanging guitar led tune with some of the six string magic down to Johnny Marr.

The new album has all kind of special guests on it-Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert from New Order, Paul Weller, Anton Newcombe, Ian Rankin, ACR’s Donald Johnson and Kurt Wagner among them. I hope it doesn’t get weighed down by this multitude of guest stars. The previous album, Modern Nature, was a stunning record, full of songs shot through with sunshine and loss, a band writing their out of tragedy (the death of drummer Jon Brookes). The single above sounds like a Charlatans song to be played on sunny days from your car stereo or heard through open shop doors and windows. That’s good enough for now.


We Can’t Stop What’s Coming

Fresh up on the net after the limited vinyl release for RSD, The The with a one off reunion of Johnny Marr, James Eller and Zeke Manyika (1989 line up with Johnson, Marr and Eller pictured above. Johnny Marr’s hair and clobber was pretty much what I was trying to achieve at that time). A tribute to Matt’s brother, Andy Dog, as I’m sure you all know. This is a very special piece of music.


It Don’t Bother Me

After work tonight I’m heading up the M6 for the first international bloggers summit in Glasgow where a weekend of middle aged men talking nonsense and drinking awaits. Tomorrow afternoon some of us are going to the Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie to watch the mighty Diamonds play Queen’s Park and hopefully secure their position in the play offs. Before that, record shopping at Monorail (and maybe a pint or two).

I have been to a Scottish football match before I now recall, on a 6th form weekend away in Edinburgh in 1987. A bunch of us went to Easter Road to watch Hibs play Aberdeen. We wandered down to pay on the gate, avoiding various scuffles on the way between supporters of Hibs and the Dons. At half time almost every single person on the home end pissed through the fence onto the steps that led up to the turnstiles. An elderly man standing next to me shouted abuse at Aberdeen keeper Jim Leighton all the way through the second half. Truly, these were the days. I don’t know what Jim had done to earn this abuse other than be in goal. The old man made repeated reference to Leighton’s bandy legs in conjunction with a part of female anatomy. Within weeks Jim Leighton signed for my club Manchester United where he kept goal until being dropped for the 1990 FA Cup Final after one howler too many.

Bert Jansch was born in Glasgow in 1943 and is widely regarded as the king of British folk guitar. This track has just surfaced online ahead of some re-issues, a song recorded with Johnny Marr, the king of indie guitar, in the early 2000s. Lovely stuff.


The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Johnny Marr and Billy Duffy were mates from Wythenshawe, south Manchester before either of them got famous. Billy, a few years older, sold Johnny his first amp and gave him a pink shirt stuffed in the back of the amp that Johnny had been pestering him about. Marr formed The Smiths (Duffy having introduced him a couple of years earlier to Morrissey at a Patti Smith gig at the Apollo). Duffy became guitar-slinger in The Cult. The picture above shows the pair reunited in 1990 backstage at a Depeche Mode gig at a baseball stadium in L.A. Electronic were about to play support, despite not having worked out how all the songs went. The pair recorded a cover version of Ennio Morricone’s famous spaghetti western theme in 1992 for an NME cassette celebrating the music paper’s 40th birthday, the two duelling it out over a drum machine.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly


Free Christmas

Christmas Eve- where did that come from? Crept up slowly and suddenly it’s the main event. A few years ago Johnny Marr gave this away from his website for free- Free Christmas. It doesn’t seem to be there anymore so I’ll share it here, a largely instrumental present for yuletide with a nice baritone guitar line running through it. See you in a few days. Have a wonderful Christmas- wherever you are, whoever you’re with and whatever you’re doing.

Free Christmas