Food for Friday again today. Following on from honey, sugar, wine and lemons today I give you apples, a rich source of song titles.

Milltown Brothers were/are a five piece from Colne, Lancashire (not Burnley as was often said of them although apparently they were regulars at Turf Moor). They had bowl haircuts and an organ led sound that got them drawn into the fringes of the late 80s Manchester scene. They had some coverage from the NME including a single of the week (a much coveted award at that time), a near hit with Which Way Should I Jump? and then a major label deal with A&M in 1990. But what we’re here for today are apples, specifically Milltown Brothers’ 1990 song Apple Green which at this distance sounds pretty fresh, infectious 60s inspired pop, the work of a band who maybe got missed, chewed up and spat out back in the early 90s. They re-united in 2004 and have released an album as recently as 2015.

Apple Green

A Man Called Adam came through at the same time but from a different part of the country (Middlesborough, Teeside) and from a different background (dance music, 60s soundtracks, acid jazz and a Balearic epiphany). Their 1991 album The Apple is a Bagging Area favourite with several songs that are often palyed round here, Barefoot In the Head, The Chrono Psionic Interface and Righteous Life for starters. And the album’s opener…

The Apple

Also from 1990 (but here in a re-edited version from 2016 by Rhythm Scholar) A Tribe Called Quest  were part of hip hop’s second wave, part of the Native Tongues collective and had a real way with both tunes and words. Bonita Applebum was about a girl from high school who clearly stuck in the memory…

Bonita Applebum (Rhythm Scholar All Nite Excursion)

Manic Street Preachers burst out of South Wales in the early 90s, in a riot of mascara, feather boas and heavy rock. In 2009 they released an album called Journal For Plague Lovers which contained a song called Peeled Apples (a song I don’t think I’ve ever heard in its original form). They commissioned some remixes and Andrew Weatherall peeled the Manic’s apples further, a heavily percussive stomper with some guitar parts echoing through.

Peel Apples (Andrew Weatherall Remix)

Lastly, a Joe Strummer’s song from his Mescalero years, a top ten Strummer solo song for sure. Johnny Appleseed is a joy, with a rollicking rhythm on acoustic guitars, a full throttle vocal and lyrics about bees, Martin Luther King, a Buick 49 and Johnny Appleseed (a character from the early years of the USA, a pioneer who scattered apple seeds wherever he went). This song makes me really miss Joe Strummer.

Name Check

Every so often I get an email from Mark, the founder of the Quiet Storm family, asking for a suggestion. He’ll provide a theme or a photo and ask for a song. A while back he asked for songs that name-check other artists and the Quiet Storm family responded in spades. Mark has compiled and mixed the songs together into a 70 minute mix that is a hit from start to finish, as the tracklist below shows.
The songs I suggest for these mixes often end up being the last song, the play out tune. I don’t know what that tells you about me. That I like to have the last word? That the songs I choose are all end of night records? That I go for encores? This time it’s Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros’ Yalla Yalla, a favourite of mine since it came out in the late 90s. Joe spins out lines about Kool Moe Dee, The Treacherous Three and Brownie McGee.

1. Consolation Prize – Orange Juice
2. Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken – Lloyd Cole And The Commotions
3. You Get What You Give – New Radicals
4. Just Like Eddie – Heinz
5. You’re Right Ray Charles – Joe Tex
6. Aretha Sing One For Me – George Jackson
7. When Smokey Sings – ABC
8. Thou Shalt Always Kill – Dan le Sac VS Scroobius Pip
9. Daft Punk Is Playing At My House – LCD Soundsystem
10. Lighten Up Morrissey – Sparks
11. All Men Are Liars – Nick Lowe
12. Sweet Gene Vincent – Ian Dury
13. Faron Young – Prefab Sprout
14. Tinseltown To The Boogie Down – Scritti Politti
15. Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds – The Mountain Goats
16. Elvis Presley Blues – Gillian Welch
17. On My Way To Harlem – Gregory Porter
18. Yalla Yalla – Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros

Here’s Joe back in 1999

Without People You’re Nothing

Joe Strummer died on 22nd December 2002 and I’ve got into the habit of marking it here. God only knows what he’d have made of the events of 2016 but his famous quote that gives this post its title is as relevant as ever.

I finish work today for the Christmas holiday and I cannot remember ever feeling so tired. I’ll be raising a glass to Joe’s memory tonight. This song from Global A Go Go typifies Joe’s multicultural look at the world and his joy in other cultures.

Bhindi Bhagee

His bandmate and friend Paul Simonon turned 61 on the 15th of December so happy belated birthday to him too.

And They’re Ringing The Bells All Over The City

Yesterday was Joe Strummer’s birthday. He would have been sixty four. His passing in 2002 seems a long time ago now. I’ve no doubt he would have had a lot to to say about the world as it has unfolded over the last fourteen years, more songs to write and records to release, more places to tour, constant offers to reform The Clash. So it goes. This song does a typical Strummer trick, taking the commonplace (a nitcomb), building some versus and a chorus around it with some typically Joe street-poetry touches, and turning it into something affecting and real, a song of devotion.


Keep The Lantern Bright

It seems like it’s all going to pot at the moment. Maybe Joe Strummer has some answers…

Sandpaper Blues

This is one of those Joe and The Mescaleros songs where the band play three or four musical styles simultaneously and effortlessly (hand drums, African chanting, cowboy music…) and which reaches outwards, out into infinite variety of the world.

‘It’s gonna boom Mariachi
This really fine piece of madera
And this will be the counter
Of the Pueblo Tabacalera
Shape, it up, shape it up, shape it up, shape it up
All around the world

Oh, this keel could save a life
When the storms hit the Pacific
To make it really true
You really gotta be specific

Keep the lantern bright
Keep food upon the table
If you shape it well tonight
As well as you are able’

You Gotta Live In This World Diggin’ The New

On this day in 2002 Joe Strummer died of a heart attack at home after walking his dogs. I think he is still sorely missed, not just by his family and friends (which goes without saying really) but by his fans, his people. 1970s punk has had such a high profile over the last decade, autobiographies and documentaries abound, the clamour for a re-union would have been immense (especially as Paul and Mick both continue to record and perform), and his views on British and world political events would have been sought. Of his solo albums Rock, Art And The X Ray Style, released in 1999, was his step back into the world and it captures the spirit of Joe as much as any record he made since the Clash split up. On Tony Adams he sings about a power cut in New York over thumping timpani and pays tribute to Arsenal’s troubled captain. On Yalla Yalla  Joe and Richard Norris play electro-dub and raise their arms aloft. On Sandpaper Blues The Mescaleros shoehorn umpteen musical styles into four minute highlight with cowboys, African chanting, male voice choirs, hand drums and mariachi and Madeira. On Diggin’ The New Joe sings ‘You gotta live in this world, diggin’ the new’ and that kind of sums up the man up- always looking for the next thing, open to new ideas and experiences. I miss him.


This is a public service announcement…  my top ten Joe Strummer post Clash songs. After some consideration I’ve tried to get a spread from the end of The Clash through to Joe’s last Mescaleros record. Joe’s back catalogue is pretty badly served, with a lot of his solo songs, especially those from a variety of film soundtracks, out of print. A career spanning boxed set or double disc is required. Hellcat put out a three disc compilation of his final three Mescaleros albums plus some B-sides but it was download only. I don’t think Earthquake Weather is currently available either. Someone should sort it all out and put it all together in one place. Some of the rankings here a pretty arbitrary here, I could easily move them around if I did it again.

Island Hopping (from Earthquake Weather)
A gentle-ish acoustic guitar song with a story of the council chopping down the trees on Mango Street, together with some Latin instruments and percussion. the 12″ version Mango Street is worth seeking out too.

X Ray Style (off Art, Rock And The X Ray Style)
I think this may be my favourite Joe solo album, proof he was back and his fire hadn’t gone out. X Ray Style has some lovely ruminations on life, people and the universe and some very Joe references to things like rockabilly trains and be-bop guns.

The Unknown Immortal (off the soundtrack to Walker)
Joe spent much of the late 80s in and around films, with Alex Cox, various Pogues, Jim Jarmusch and others. The Unknown Immortal is Joe reflecting on the nature of fame and greatness, and losing it. From the epicentre of his wilderness years.

Tennessee Rain (from the soundtrack to Walker)
Another song hidden away on a film soundtrack Tennessee Rain is a lilting, rootsy thing. ‘I wish I was drunk in Havana, I wish I was at the Mardi Gras’.

At The Border, Guy (off Global A Go Go)
An extended dub influenced song with Joe stitching together lines from an old notebook while The Mescaleros organ, guitar and bass cook away slowly. One of my favourites from his solo career that seems to pull a lot of what he did best into one song and let it go.

Sleepwalk (Earthquake Weather)
Joe again full of self doubt, ruefulness and searching for something, vocals buried low in a muddy mix, acoustic guitars plucked and the Latin vibe going on. Joe almost croons on this one, asking ‘What good would it do?’ repeatedly, with no answer.

Yalla Yalla (Art, Rock and The X Ray Style)
Magnificent Richard Norris co-write and production, with acid house and reggae influences lifting it up and Joe’s vocal brimming with confidence again. I saw this one done live at least twice, a great set closer and a real return to form at the end of the 90s.

Johnny Appleseed (From Global A Go Go)
I’ve written about this one before, an almost definitive Joe Strummer solo single with the revving guitars, great playing from the band and Martin Luther King and a Buick ’49. Nice video too.

Burning Lights (from the I Hired A Contract Killer soundtrack)
The greatest of the great lost Joe Strummer solo songs, just a man with a Telecaster and some poetry about losing it. ‘You are the last of the buffalo’ he sings, to and about himself possibly.

Trash City (off the soundtrack to Permanent Record)
Cracking three chord riff, clattering drums and pots and pans backing from Latino Rockabilly War and some typically Joe lyrics- ‘in Trash City on Party Avenue, I got a girl from Kalamazoo’ is the starting point and it takes in ‘fifty seven records that you think you oughta own’ and ‘a hotdog in the nightmare zone’. Sounds like the best Joe Strummer song The Clash song never recorded.

Trash City

Bubbling under the top ten were Minstrel Boy, Coma Girl, Sandpaper Blues, and especially From Willesden To Cricklewood which is gorgeous.