48 Thrills?

Today is my 48th birthday. I suppose I have to face facts that I am now late 40s rather than mid-40s and that 50 is bearing down on me. Age may well be nothing but a number but also you have to come to realise that you are not a young person anymore, you are in fact middle aged and increasingly so as each year passes by. There aren’t many songs with 48 in the title- but there is this one which promises me 48 thrills this weekend. Maybe.

48 Hours

Due to a pile up of other events and commitments this weekend my initial plans have not come to fruition. Andrew Weatherall and A Certain Ratio shared a gig at the Hebden Bridge Trade’s Club last night (which I wanted to go to but couldn’t). Steve Cobby and Darren Emerson were DJing at Band On The Wall last night too (which I wanted to attend as a back up to the ACR/Weatherall gig but couldn’t) and tonight Weatherall is doing a Wrong Meeting event at the Golden Lion in Todmorden but I can’t attend that either. So without any of those plans coming off I shall have to take it a bit easier and be a bit more local, a bit more sedate and a bit more middle aged about my birthday.

Kiyadub 45

I don’t remember being consulted about the aristocracy holding their wedding on my birthday either. A member of the British royal family is marrying an American. I will not be watching it. I believe the royal family should be abolished and that having a monarchy is not just undemocratic but anti-democratic, that we can never really even pretend to have a goal of a fair and just society when we have a monarchy. I am quite cheered by opinion polls that suggest a majority of people are at best ‘politely disinterested’ but also, y’know, stuff your street parties and the idiots with union flags camping out on the streets of Windsor, cheering on an institution that does not care about them a single jot. Rant over, as Drew says.

Elizabeth My Dear

Actually, rant not over. The FA Cup Final is on today as well, kicking off at 5.30 between my club, Manchester United, and Chelsea. My opinion, seeing as I’m giving them out today, is that Jose Mourinho is a bad thing, an outdated, negative, narcissist who wants the praise for himself when they win and blames the players when they lose, a man who thinks spending massive sums of  money is a substitute for coaching. I didn’t want him to get the job 2 years ago but we’re stuck with him for the moment and obviously I’ll still be wanting United to win.

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Stop Wasting Time

Sunday night ended up with a bit of an impromptu gathering in our garden due to it being a bank holiday Monday the following day and very warm and sunny. The drinking started at about 5pm and carried on through til late. The neighbours were all given the benefit of various albums and compilations playing from inside the house out into the garden, starting off with the Mastercuts Classic House comp (vinyl, sounding a bit crackly and worn in places), then the first four sides of Sandinista!, with the switch from Voodoo Ray to The Magnificent 7 working very well indeed. Sandinista! works really well on cd, and Mick Jones’ remastering on the Sound System edition is spectacular, revealing new delights with almost every listen.

Side 2 of Sandinista! is essentially a Clash mixtape, opening with Rebel Waltz, a much overlooked moment of brilliance, a Mose Allison cover, some sweltering Simonon dub (The Crooked Beat), a blinding rock song (Somebody Got Murdered) and then The Clash and Mikey Dread kicking it out in a proper reggae style with One More Time and it’s dub sister. One More Time is Strummer’s depiction of ghetto poverty and the civil rights movement of the 60s, with the band on fire in the Electric Ladyland studio. It is followed by Mikey Dread’s heavier dubbed out version.

One More Time
One More Dub

Mickey Foote

Mickey Foote has died. Mickey was The Clash’s live soundman and the man who produced The Clash’s debut album. The raw ferocity of Mick Jones’ guitars and Joe’s guttersnipe vocals, the mad dash through Janie Jones and I’m So Bored With The USA, the snarl and bite of What’s My Name, the thumping Career Opporitnities and the trash reggae of Police And Thieves, all owe something to Mickey. Amusingly Mickey was sacked as producer by Strummer, despite being a friend since the 101ers days, for the punk crime of speeding up the 7″ mix of Clash City Rockers (because studio trickery like varispeed was just not authentic, maaan). He also produced the brilliant Ambition by Subway Sect. In recent years Mickey was back in the press for being one of the faces of a campaign against Donald Trump and his decision to despoil the Aberdeenshire coastline with a golf course.

RIP Mickey Foote.

Garageland

Shaking Single Engine Planes Traffic King Stereos From Cuba

Opinion seems to be that The Clash’s final album* Combat Rock is a major label attempt to break the band in the States and shift some serious units. The hit singles and the production seem to suggest that this was an album where the Sandinista! style experimentation was off the agenda in favour of stadia and the top 40. Maybe that’s partly true but Combat Rock also contains some songs that only The Clash could have made and only The Clash could think were commercial. Straight To Hell goes without saying. Ghetto Defendant (with Allen Ginsberg) is a reggae blues anti-heroin lament. I’ve written before about the record’s closing song, Death Is A Star, a 6 minute excursion into modern jazz and the nature of fame. Opening song Know Your Rights is a call to arms, a rant against government and police forces, crunching two chord agit-pop. It is followed by Car Jamming.

Car Jamming is a treat, everyone playing their part with some of Joe’s most Strummer-esque lyrics. Topper sets up a tub thumping rhythm and is joined by Mick playing post-punk guitar, both paying some kind of tribute to Bo Diddley but in a very early 80s way. Paul’s bass is a descending roots reggae line, low in the mix. Joe’s lyrics are the icing on the cake- funky multi-nationals, King Kong, Agent Orange, gorillas and hyenas and Lauren Bacall- ‘I swear fellas, Lauren Bacall!’ All as seen from the window of a New York taxi in a traffic jam. And I love the way he closes with ‘ah, yeah, positively, absolutely’, every syllable separated.

*The proper line up’s final album that is, not the rump Clash’s Cut The Crap

Car Jamming

You Said You Stand By Your Man

Under Bernie Rhodes’ tuition Joe Strummer and The Clash were encouraged to write about the world around them, real things that mattered. Joe said as far as love songs were concerned ”subject covered” and he had a tendency to be a bit sniffy about Mick’s love songs. But as Viv Albertine pointed out in her autobiography Clothes Music Boys in some ways it’s Mick’s love songs that have been among the most enduring of The Clash’s tunes, Train In Vain and Should I Stay Or Should I Go among them.

Train In Vain was a last minute addition to London Calling, added right at the end after the sleeves had been printed (which added to the notion that the group were embarrassed about love songs). It was also intended for an NME flexidisc but that never happened so onto London Calling it went. Train In Vain rides in on a railway rhythm and Mick’s twin riffs- harmonica and guitar- and the country and western inspired lyric, which may be about Mick’s relationship with Viv which broke down around the time of the London Calling sessions. It was also the first single that got into the top 30 in the USA, the country they were bored with and enthralled by. Throughout his time as leader of Big Audio Dynamite Mick barely wrote a love song, in either incarnation of the band- in fact I can’t think of a single one off the top of my head.

I saw on Twitter over the weekend that it is now 6 years since the Mick Jones/Pete Wylie/The Farm tour that played Clash songs up and down the country. It was a great moment to see Mick play Train In Vain and do his little shuffle and grin on stage at The Ritz. Later on Ian Brown and John Squire turned up for the encore, their first appearance on stage together since announcing the Roses reunion. Train In Vain is a great little song, one which always raises a cheer when I hear it.

Train In Vain

BAD Birthday

Mick Jones turned 62 years old last week so this is a belated happy birthday from me. The photo was taken for a music press interview (either NME or Melody Maker) c.1989, after Mick had recovered from a life threatening bout of pneumonia. Those Stussy bucket hats were highly sought after around this time (and still are today).

Mick was on a roll around this time, despite slipping out of fashion, with Megatop Phoenix coming out in 1990, a hit single with Roddy Frame and The Clash hitting number 1 on the back of the Levi’s advert. BAD II’s Rush was on the B-side, a good Mick song and one of the best the second line up recorded. It was a decision which go down very well with Joe and Paul apparently.

This song was the B-side to the E=mc2 single.

This Is Big Audio Dynamite

Any Frontier Any Hemisphere

Traditionally a British camping trip should combine sunburn with hours of pouring rain and this one delivered on both. Friday evening was gorgeous, the tail end of a day where the temperature gauge in my car read 30 degrees when I left work. Saturday afternoon was spent around and in a tarn on top of a hill near Water Yeat before at 3.30 pm the heavens opened and it rained all night. Sunday gave us sunshine and sunburn around Coniston Water followed by more rain of biblical proportions yesterday. But its definitely worth getting away from the world, going offline and spending evenings sitting round a fire drinking booze and talking bollocks with friends, especially so after the events of the past week. A dripping wet tent that needs to be dried out is a small price to pay for living outdoors for a few days.

Back in the music world I’ve been spinning this a few times recently and prompted by my friend Meany offer it for your delectation today, Horace Andy’s cover version of The Clash’s Straight To Hell. I’ve written about Straight To Hell recently, a Strummer song of immigration, refugees, suffering and dislocation. Horace recorded it many years ago but was never happy with the rhythm. A conversation with Eric Blowtorch led to the pair digging the track back out and fixing it (out now, 10% of all proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders and a Big Youth dub on the B-side). This is reggae roots style, Horace’s vocal floating over the organ, bass and drums. Campfire music.