Still

Johnny Marr looks the business in this photo- the black barnet, drainpipes, denim jacket and white shirt buttoned all the way up (from The Smith’s appearance on the Oxford Road Show). As does his songwriting partner next to him, but Marr’s look was always a bit more streetwise.

Johnny’s been promoting his new solo album with his band, playing the 6 Music red button thing this week. I haven’t got Playland yet so can’t comment. But the version of Still Ill was first rate.

Still Ill (6 music live)

Still Ill is a reminder of what an inventive guitarist he is (and he wrote it aged about 18) and also of how stunning Morrissey’s early lyrics were. This song has more great lines than some people manage in an entire career- ‘I decree today that life is simply taking and not giving, England is mine and it owes me a living’ for starters. And whatever your opinion of Morrissey it is sad and unpleasant that he has been having treatment for cancer.

Getting Away With It was Electronic’s masterclass of a first single. Marr and his band played it live at Maida Vale. Opinion seems to be split on this live version but I think it’s alright. Watch it quick, these red button sessions have a habit of being taken down.

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Klactoveesedstein

Blue Rondo a la Turk were a briefly hip bunch of baggy suited, jazz-funkateers from the early 80s who unwittingly paved the way for the likes of Matt Bianco. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything by them until recently. Jazz-funk was pretty low on my list of interests in 1982, aged 12. And it has been ever since really. They were mainly known to me as the band The Smiths supported at their very first gig at The Ritz and almost every account of The Smiths’ rise uses Blue Rondo a la Turk as symbolising the old guard and old ways about to be shoved aside by Morrissey and Marr with their faded Levis, quiffs, flowers and Rickenbackers.

Blue Rondo’s 1982 album Chewing the Fat has been released on cd for the first time with a second disc of extras, the main draw for me being the Andrew Weatherall remix of Klactoveesedstein (or Klacto Vee Sedstein, I can’t work out which it is). I downloaded, legally I should add, the Weatherall ¬†remix a couple of weeks ago. I keeps the ooh-ooh-ooh-oh-ah vocal part and turns jazz-funk the down and machine-funk up, adding an upfront bassline, pretty good really if not as earthshattering as some of Lord Sabre’s recent remixes. I can’t find a listen only or streaming version of it on the net, no Soundcloud or Youtube file, and seeing as it only came out in the middle of June I don’t think I should share it as an mp3 yet. But you can buy it at the usual digital places for 79 pence/99c if you’re an avid Weatherall head. Instead, here’s the original.

Klactoveesedstein

Lord Knows It Would Be The First Time

This American TV performance of Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want is a beaut. I saw Johnny and his band at The Ritz back in March and the reviews have been gathering pace and praise ever since that tour. Johnny turned 50 at the end of October as well. Looks well for it doesn’t he?

This was a cover of a Rabbit MacKay song, a 60s hippie anthem, for a compilation lp from a few years ago and is one of the best things Johnny has done solo. Especially the guitars.

Tendency To Be Free

I’ve Read It In Books

Nice aren’t they? This is The Teardrop Explodes (co-written with The Bunnymen, when they all got on. Hated each other but got on).

Books (Zoo Records Version)

You Gotta Believe

Explorer and pioneer Sir Ernest Shackleton, second left in the dark jumper, led the Endurance and its crew into the Antarctic in the winter of 1915. They were trapped by ice and lost the ship. Camping on the ice floe and in a twenty foot lifeboat they survived and were rescued in the August of 1916. Without a single man lost. That, reality TV show contestants, is a back story.

Explorer and pioneer Lovebug Starski began work in 1971 as a record boy and by 1978 was playing a key role in the nascent hip hop scene in New York djing and later producing and making records. he had a regular spot in the rooftop roller rink in Harlem during the 80s and made this record in 1983, which somewhat surprisingly was one of the key influences on Johnny Marr when he was recording How Soon Is Now? with The Smiths in 1984.

You Gotta Believe (12″ Instrumental)

I’m not saying the two men’s experiences were comparable. It just amuses me to put them together and I’ve got to do something to keep this whole thing blog thing interesting.

There Is A Light And It Never Goes Out

The good people at Google’s Blogger service have deleted The Vinyl Villain today- not just a post, the entire blog. Two and half thousand posts, over six years work, gone into the internet wind. This is a cause of great sadness and of a lot of righteous anger. The record industry still can’t see that music blogs are places that promote music and therefore the sale of music. They see us as the enemy. Important message to the music industry- we are actually helping you; you are going down the drain really fucking fast and we are helping you to stay alive, because we love music too. 

There’s a post at Drew’s place and a long comment conversation about it you could have a look at. Thankfully JC (The Vinyl Villain), an inspiration to a lot of music bloggers including this one, has fired up a new Vinyl Villain. You can find him here (and in the links below to the right). Pop in, say hello and offer your support if you like.

Marred

Last month Mrs Swiss and I went to see Johnny Marr at the Ritz (the Friday gig, first of two). We had a good night out, got out together (which doesn’t happen very often), had a few drinks, saw a living legend. I later tweeted…

‘Johnny Marr played the Ritz tonight. It was great. Crowd were a bit flat early on. Typical Mancs. Great encore. Cheers. Goodnight.’

Someone asked me recently if I enjoyed it and said I seemed a bit like I hadn’t. I did enjoy it- Johnny and the band were really good- the songs off the new album worked really well live and he played several songs I’ve been waiting two and half decades to hear him play (I never saw The Smiths). Second song in was London, one of my  favourite Smiths songs, and it rocked. He did Forbidden City, one of my favourite Electronic songs. Bigmouth. The encore included a great garage-y version of Getting Away With It, How Soon Is Now and finished with There Is  A Light. Other than The Queen Is Dead and Get The Message what more could I want?

What spoilt it a bit, as I think my tweet hinted at was the crowd and looking at the photo above it seems like there was absolute mayhem. The Ritz is a great venue, smallish, sprung dancefloor, good sound, bars on both sides. The crowd wasn’t all middle aged Smiths fans, but a mixture of those/us and younger folk. There is a problem at The Ritz that curfew is 10 pm because it turns into a nightclub afterwards, which means an early start, so less build up and expectation maybe. For the first few songs we stood two-thirds of the way back. In front of us were two couples. The two men talked to each other all the way through the songs, occasionally turning to look at the stage between songs and provide light applause. Their female partners watched the gig but these two youngish men (twenty something I guess) nattered all the way through. Between two songs I said (loudly) that there are good places for chattering, they’re called pubs, but it made no difference. Why would you spend ¬£20 on a gig ticket and pay no attention to the performance. After a while we moved further forward, much nearer the stage where it was much better. Behind me then stood the tallest man in Manchester (and I’m not exactly a short arse), who filmed almost very song on his mobile phone, straight over the top of my head. Now I have been known to look at this type of footage on Youtube and often it’s a poor reminder of what a gig was like but sometimes it’s worth watching. Equally I’ve taken the odd photo. But filming something at length with your phone instead of watching it happen seems as daft as talking all the way through. You’re not in the moment. The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s tried to put their feet down about this recently, Jarvis Cocker made the same point and Ian Brown admonished people at Warrington Parr Hall last year for ‘making a film when you’re missing making a memory’.

I guess as well as the above, several gigs I’ve been to recently have been utterly memorable with complete audience participation and attention throughout- The Roses at Warrington was crazy from front-to-back, people almost in tears, dancing and complete elation, Justice Tonight and Half Man Half Biscuit (both at The Ritz) were full on, Heaton Park as well (and that was 70, 000 people in a field although admittedly I don’t know what it was like at the back). Sometimes Mancunian audiences can be a bit ‘arms folded, come on then impress us’ but Johnny Marr at a homecoming gig? So maybe I’ve been spoilt. I don’t go to enough gigs anymore to know for sure, certainly I don’t go to enough small gigs by up-and-coming bands. My brother-in-law says he won’t attend anything bigger than a few hundred now, as the atmosphere at anything bigger always suffers. It can’t be realistic to expect every show to be a life-changing spectacle, so maybe I should alter/lower my expectations. But audiences, and this is a familiar gripe I think, don’t always contribute positively and mainly need to put their phones away and shut the fuck up when people are playing.

The Draize Train (Live 1985)