Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of, with the Bakesys

No matter the subject, a lesson is only as interesting as the teacher teaching it. Johnny Ball did the impossible, he made maths fun! Likewise, but more modern, Terry Deary’s books and subsequent CBBC show, Horrible Histories made what’s often perceived as a dull subject by pupils, somehow entertaining, amusing even. If Deary was my history teacher, rather than a thick-rimmed speccy, bearded beatnik with leather elbow patches on his tweed jacket, well, I might just have taken heed of their wisdoms.

Equally, if you want to teach history to a bunch of scooterist skinheads, consider employing The Bakesys, for they are a skanking Horrible Histories, at least for this new album, released last Thursday called Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of.

Stu, Kevin & Bakesy onstage at Newbury College in December 1990!

Something of an elusive band despite twenty years presence on the UK ska scene, the early stages of The Bakesys reflected heavily on punk inspirations, such as the Buzzcocks, crossed with later developments of a definite Two-Tone influence. Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of takes it to whole other level. Akin to what On-U Sound did for dub in the nineties, sprinkling in a counter culture punk ethos, The Bakesys do for ska. It’s more upbeat than the usual plod of dub, but strewn with samples, heavy basslines, and drum machine loops, it has its elements.

From another angle though, as Dreadzone meld such influences into the electronic dance scene, there’s a contemporary sound, a mesh of offbeat influences with the Bakesys, more in line with the current ska scene. The flood of brass and chugging rhythms confirms its allegiance to authentic 1960’s Jamaican ska. What comes out the end is unique beguiling buoyancy, and it’s absolutely addictive.

Yet we’re only scraping the surface of why, the theme of the album is the kingpin here. Reflecting the era of its influences, subjects are historic affairs based in the sixties. The opening title track raps of Christine Keeler and the Profumo Affair. Get Your Moonboots on is on Apollo 11’s moon landing, and the third, most haunting tune, You are Leaving the American Sector takes newsreels of the Berlin Wall. One I’ve been playing endlessly the single of on my Friday night Boot Boy radio show.

Atomic Invasion explores the Cold War, yet, as with Keeler, this sublime set of songs often concentrates more on the personalities than facts of the events. The Space Race is up next, with a nod to Yuri Gagarin’s luminary. Then it’s the Cuban Missile Crisis with the numerous failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, Cassius Clay’s rise to heavyweight champion of the world, and Robert F. Kennedy’s assignation.

Despite these often-dark subjects, it’s surprisingly upbeat, as if, like I said, The Bakeseys are the funky relief history teacher, and your class is about get moon stomping! The last three tracks offers dub versions of the most poignant tunes on offer here, yet the album as a complete concept is nothing short of brilliant.

The third CD album released on Bandcamp, and quite the best place to start if you’re unaware of them. Keyboardist Kevin Flowerdew, has self-published the ska scene’s definitive zine, Do The Dog Skazine for many decades, which has released this under its label namesake, Do the Dog Music, so he certainly knows what makes a great sound; which this does with bells on.

Mark, Stu & Bakesy backstage at the Epplehaus, Tubingen during The Bakesys’ June 1992 German tour.

Song of the Day 38: Gecko

Never fails to bring a smile, Gecko breezes the feel good factor once again with this heartwarming, summery song. Backed up with the most wonderful video produced by Cas Janssen out of many quirky self portraits sent in from worldwide fans; how utterly brilliant can you possibly get?!

And that’s my song of the day!! Very good, carry on…..


Lost Trades; The Bird, The Book & The Barrel

Even though they put a man on the moon four years before I was born, I swear it’s the little things summoning me to a care-home for the terminally bewildered. I’m pre-empting what-they-can’t-do-these-days scenarios, but why so soon? All the years of diluting the kid’s squash, I observed they look rather stout of recent. My daughter calls it a ‘senior moment,’ pointing out, it’s double-strength squash. She was right too, says so on the bottle, in huge, unmissable letters.

In a way, it’s kinda like the highly anticipated album from The Lost Trades. Because, if in the past I’ve put them deservedly on pedestals as individuals, when they first joined together, they shimmed said pedestals closer, and nicely complimented each other’s voices. This can be heard in the three tunes which reappear from the earlier EP, Robots, Good Old Days, and Wait for my Boat; the first one being definitively Phil’s song while the latter two have the marks of Jamie. Awesome as these are, it’s the unreleased tunes which I need to draw your attention to, as they’ve balanced the pedestals atop of each other, like a daring circus act; the lines between them as individual performers are now totally absorbed, in both writing and vocals, akin to the double-strength squash, this is triple-strength!

If you’ve never known them as individual performers, you’d be forgiven for mistaking that they ever were, with these new set of songs. And with other tricks up their sleeves, The Bird, the Book & The Barrel exceeded my high expectation. Solving the conundrum of what else to write about a trio we’ve already covered so much on Devizine.

The Bird, the Book & The Barrel, released on Friday, the 4th June, can be pre-ordered, and you get two tracks in advance, if you cannot wait, which is understandable. With a rustic wood-cabin corporate identity they don’t waiver from, the essence of folk-roots of yore are embellished with modern themes, from which they project the perfect balance of vocal harmonies one could only compare to family groups. Save Simon & Garfunkel and The Drifters, who could do it, we have to think from the apt genre, of the Carter Family, to The Carpenters, and The Everly Brothers, but perhaps onto The Jacksons, for in soul their voices harmonised with similar perfection. Yes, it really works akin with the Lost Trades, I’m pleased to announce, and here more than ever.

And in this, the opening tune could be constituted as somewhat boastful about their precision, if not a simple premise of unification; only in sharing one vision will the world be ours for the taking; if you got it, flaunt it! One Voice sums up my own overall thoughts on the album, and makes for a beautiful introduction.

The second track is where the magic really starts. The fleeting romantic interlude of a fast-paced, maybe dodgy, roamer is the theme of Road of Solid Gold, which is as the road, solid and gold. An unusual composition, being the fiddle is habitually played during instrumental breaks, but here it accompanies the vocals. This violin mastery is performed by legend of folk, Peter Knight, a founding member of Steeleye Span, undoubtedly the most renowned group of the British folk revival alongside Fairport Convention, and secretly was Uncle Bulgaria of the Wombles band too! Additionally, this is where we hear the Trades really melding their voices into one, which occurs more frequently as the album progresses.

Elements combine, regardless if one takes the lead, or verses are harmonies too, it’s all a big slice of wonderful. The astute song writing weaves narrative timelessly, be it nostalgic-based such as Good Old Days, unification against the odds like Distance Brings us Closer, both where Jamie leads, and the most poignant, Kingdom Falls, a tale of the pen being mightier than the sword through the eyes of a prisoner of war.

Then there’s lighter subject matter, often where Phil leads, such as the trickling Your Winning Days, but his lead also offers one of most divergent tunes, Robots, an apprehension of automation, in which a steady guiro offers a pertinent clockwork effect.

At seven tracks in one could wonder where’s the girl power, but when Tamsin takes lead on Hope Cove, it’s been worth the wait. A heartfelt romance actualised as a geographical location isn’t an uncommon concept, but you know Tamsin handles it inimitably and spectacularly, like only the finest tunes of her solo album Gypsy Blood. Shanty theme continues with Jamie leading on Waiting for my Boat, equivalent to the sentiment of his classic solo songs, Not Going Anywhere and As Big as You, this is nothing less than sublime.

With just two tunes remaining, Silent Noise of the Mind sums my “triple-strength” notion of the progress of the Trades, fusing the vocals entirely throughout, the beauty of it embraces the air, drifting your mind like a feather in a gentle zephyr. Tree-hugging Oaks light-heartedly polishes the journey off wonderfully, with a ukulele exhaling a Hawaiian ambiance and a cheery whistle, it leaves you knowing you’ve arrived somewhere where you wouldn’t mind travelling to time and time again.

But I’d wager you knew I’d only have good things to say about The Bird, the Book & The Barrel, therefore I implore your faith in my honesty, it’s as amazing as I say, and a little chipping more.


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Thirty Years a Raver: Part 3: We Made Some Noise

Twas the night before my life done gone flipped upside down. It may not have been the colossal party the rest of the country were having, but Marlborough was, and always will be, lost in its own little world. Numerous attendees at the aforementioned Read’m and Weep rock concert on the common, just three years earlier, I’d suspect now joined us in marching up to the same common after the pubs called last orders, this time heading for an “acid house party.” Others, who failed to register or accept the change of era continued on their rocky road. No harm done.

With a fire at one end, and an older comrade who rigged a speaker to his Beetle at the other, blasting out whatever music he had which could be deemed as close to acid house as possible, it was a Marlborough-fashioned interpretation of an acid house party, and in rural backwaters you learned to make do.

The morning after undoubtedly the strangest of my life, for some reason everything I’d ever thought had been turned on its head. For the remainder of 1990 we continued with archetypical house parties, where gullible parents went away, but by the spring of 1991 we invited ourselves onto traveller sites, the first being the Belthane festival on Hungerford Common. And while it opened my eyes to see so many living on the road, they seemed unconcerned of our presence and were, on the whole, welcoming. If the urban raver story starts in clubland, note rural ravers didn’t have that luxury, least not without a vehicle.

Indeed, we had a small nightclub in town, but like many it favoured appeasing the old-hat drinking culture. If club owners were aware of rave clubs, they weren’t prepared to make the switch, fearing it’d only diminish their drink sales. At the time the closet place to head for was Swindon, where Extos held legendary nights at Hardings. By the time we’d scrouge a lift and arrived, the club was full, and we’d stand outside in blankets, waiting for a tip off to the party.

So, for a while, best my mate and I could hope for, was to loiter outside the pub, as going in would empty the wallet we needed to escape our town. As newfound ravers leapt in cars and soared off, one of us dared to ask, “alright mate, going to the party?” in hope of scrouging a ride. At art college I had a reliable source, two Oxfordshire individuals into the scene, with bob haircuts and a VW Beetle, one phone call would reveal a clue where to head, if only someone would give us a lift!

The Oxfordshire buddies listened to what we called, “bleep.” For many years I considered it, like ska, a description of the sound, but sources online class it as genre. Rave, or hardcore were the sweeping generalisations, and in 1990 little had been done to separate it into subgenres. There was mellowed vibes type rave, hardcore, house and garage, sure, but at the time it cured into one immense, chaotic noise. Subgenres would derive much later, as the scene exploded and separated. It was however, of small significance UK artists now created their own sound, aside acid-house styled bleep, German techno, which was stiff and structured but lacking soul, and the trancey Goa House, breakbeat house was looming on the horizon.

Here’s a thing; I argue with myself if we could even call all this a “youth culture,” rather class it a movement. Youth cultures of yore had a definitive uniform, musically and fashionably. Rave was a melting pot, electronics seeped its way into all genres, and new arrivals descended onto it from all walks. If the Northern Soul clubbers say it was them who inspired it, they’re not wrong. Neither are the travellers, punks and skins, new romantics, Rastas, or trendy eighties kids. What were once separate identities, rarely seen together, now flocked to the same party, danced and celebrated together, without fussing or fighting, save a mite of banter. This was the chief reason why I class this era as the most wonderful show of unification the nation had seen since the second world war, and I’m honoured to have been a part of. But I’m uncertain if it matched the definition of regulated youth culture, as previous mods, rockers, punks and skins did.

The music reflected this, a melting pot of inspirations, whatever angle you came at rave from, you added your portion into the mix. The upcoming trend derived from Britain’s ties with reggae through the Windrush generation, and the surging dancehall flavours we deemed “ragga.” Fused with the archaic hip-hop concept of breaking the beat, ragga and breakbeat house surged over bleep, and fast became the mainstay. X-L Recordings, Moving Shadow, Urban Shakedown and many other labels headed this change.

But here is the second thing; we were the throwaway generation, jilted, plastic population, and didn’t care for who created the music. There was no interest in holding a torch for particular bands or labels, unless you were master of ceremonies, the DJ. Leaving the choice to one person, it existed as a DJ culture, and they’d soon become the stars of the show. If it was genre-bending, we relied on their faith to perpetrate a certain style; when Sasha got on the decks it would be “fluffy,” whereas as when Easygroove did, it would be “hardcore,” with the upcoming breakbeat twist. That’s all we knew, and rightly cared about.

What swept at us as a trend became a way of life; we lived for the weekend, vaguely remembering to attend college or jobs in the week. Every weekend an ever-growing number roamed the roads at night, invading unsuspecting service stations, joining to convoys with a lead car who we hoped had an inkling where the party was. Bristol moved east, London moved west, meeting in the Shires, where police would be outnumbered and, rather prevent a riot, would grudgingly allow us free movement. Naturally there were times when they got flustered, upon service stations appropriations, for example, but suspect many appreciated the overtime, and left us to enjoy the ride.

At the Gloucestershire one fondly recalled as “the one with the haystacks,” someone drew my attention to the police standing on a ridge overlooking the site. To our amusement, and seemingly theirs too, they were imitating our dance moves, and you know what they say about imitation, sincerest form of flattery!

Despite the ruminates of bad blood with travellers, from the Beanfields and free festival movement of the previous decade, they tended to only throw their weight at them. Attempts to move them on, before ravers flocked to their sites turned hostile. Though if, as my friend and I did once at Pitton near Salisbury, ravers arrived early, they’d witness the true horrors of life on the road, as eviction resembled a massacre rather than a battle. There are shocking things I could tell, of which I’ve witnessed, effectively ethnic cleansing, destruction of a way of life, and homes. It was not the vision of Britain I pre-held, naïvely, reason enough for us to continue to rebel, when all we really wanted to do was party. Opps, some pig knocked off my rose-tinted specs.

Sorry to pop the bubble of happy daze, but there were downsides. Aside the growing harassment from authorities, which would see rave’s demise in the end, there was also comedowns, maintaining motivation for everyday life, failed attempts to find the party, else the event raided and broken up too early. The latter became greater with every weekend, as the sensation blossomed.

You see, we adopted a pyramid-selling technique, only wanted to spread word of our newfound love. Kids we hadn’t seen since leaving school would wander into the pub, they were looking for something, they didn’t know what, but we did. We had the answer, the escapism, and we welcomed them with open arms, took them under our wings and looked after them during their first rave experience. Then, the following week they’d shed their old identity, and we’d see them fully assimilated, like Star Trek’s Borgg, through the foggy morning, wearing a puffa jacket, round pink shades and diamond-cut trilby, giving it, “alright? I’m mullered mate, wot you done?!”

Thus, we all played a part in promoting the scene, until it got too big for the authorities to leave alone. Some weekends when we didn’t go party, somehow rave crept in. I ventured back to Essex to see old friends, and they’d have similar stories, of Raindance and other events there. One weekend we attended my mate’s brother’s wedding in Liverpool, only to find in the basement where the reception was held, a steaming club-rave. The sound attracted us, and we unbolted a fire escape to both gate-crash, and discover likeminded raves were happening nationwide. Meanwhile, his mum wondered where we’d got to, and wandered in to find us amidst a pumping party. Upon her return she’d been shocked, but happily reported the scene as “loads of kids, just dancing, having fun, no one fighting, no one drunk, and one gave me a hug!”

If a little old lady who accidently stumbled into a rave could see it for all its upsides and worth, why couldn’t the police and government? Why did it ever have to end? Because at the time we couldn’t envision that finale, we assumed it would go on forever.


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Song of the Day 37: Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse

At least I think it’s number 37, sorta spaced on the song of the day for a while there.

So what better time to reintroduce this quick feature where I generally waffle some crap and share a music video then when our friends Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse knock out an awesomely catchy rock n roll belter like this one?

Any objections and I’m not listening to ya, look; it’s even got a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it clip of them at our lovely Cellar Bar; nice!

And that’s my song of the day!! Very good, carry on…..


June: State of the Thing; a Monthly Guide to Last and This Coming Month of Devizine

So, who told the April showers that the lockdown applied to it? Come on, I want names! Last month of lockdown was dry and clement, as soon as things starts opening up again, it phased between drizzle and downpour; you can’t make it up.

Yes, I wrote this too soon; bang on cue, here comes the sun for June.

If May saw a gradual return to normality, pray it continues; June should explode, either way. We started the month with concerns over Calne’s Central Youth & Community Centre, and I attended a small protest in Rowde to save Furlong Close. Not forgetting local election would inevitably send me on the usual rant, but Wiltshire lays all its eggs in the same basket. And then, wham, had to rant twice in one day when Seedy pulled out of the PCC election, you certainly couldn’t make that up!

Save Furlong Close protest in Rowde

Musically, a couple of press releases from Sheer, announcing Salem’s national tour with them hosting Swindon’s Vic gig in October, and Frank Turner at Frome’s Cheese & Grain on both Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th June. But the best Sheer post was more about Kieran’s mum, jumping out of a plane, fundraising for her grandson.

I reviewed Cornish psych-punkers The Brainiac 5’s album Another Time Another Dimension, Trowbridge’s Sitting Tenants album A Kitchen Sink Drama. Also, Sam Bishop’s great EP Lost Promises, a single from Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory’s called Can’t Come Home, and a new track from the Longcoats, Nothing Good. We also did a great interview with Dave Lewis, one half of Blondie & Ska. Reviews in the next few days will be an EP of Celtic punk from Liddington Hill, some awesome punkish blues from Elli De Mon, and the new album from The Lost Trades, due on 2nd June.

Blondie & Ska

I started a new Sunday series, being the last one was so popular. No satire this time, just a reflection back thirty years to the era of the rave, from a personal angle; I’m having lots of fun with this, if it does make me feel old! This continues into June. So, without further to do, here’s what’s occurring in June.

Old Skool Rave

Firstly, staying at home we can entertain you too. I’m gradually working through writing promotional material and sleeve notes for our compilation album, 4 Julia’s House, which, as it sounds, all proceeds will go to Julia’s House. This has proved more work than I anticipated for me, due to the most amazing line up of talent who has kindly donated a song. The penultimate entry was an exclusive rock steady track by Blondie & Ska, and the latest entry is by none other than Richard Davis & the Dissidents. See what I mean now, don’t you? Absolutely fantastic, massively hugely massive this is going to be, over three hours of genre-crossing music; something for everyone on there. Okay, I’ll copy and paste the artists featured; hold onto your jawbone.

Richard Davis & The Dissidents

A mahoosive thanks goes to: Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall, King Dukes, Erin Bardwell, Timid Deer, Duck n Cuvver, Strange Folk, Strange Tales, Paul Lappin, Billy Green 3, Jon Veale, Wilding, Richard Davis & The Dissidents, Barrelhouse, Tom Harris, Will Lawton & the Alchemists, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective, Kirsty Clinch, Richard Wileman, Nigel G. Lowndes, Kier Cronin, Sam Bishop, Mr Love & Justice, Barmy Park, The Truzzy Boys, Daydream Runaways, Talk in Code, Longcoats, Atari Pilot, Andy J Williams, The Dirty Smooth, SexJazz, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, The Boot Hill All Stars, Mr Tea & The Minions, Cosmic Shuffling, Blondie & Ska, The Birth of Bonoyster, The Oyster, The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show, Julie Meikle and Mel Reeves, Meru Michae, Cutsmith, The Tremor Tones, Big Ship Alliance, First Born Losers, Dutch Money(s), and last but by no means least, Neonian, who is working on a track as we speak.

Phew, so, yes, who is as out-out as Mickey Flanagan in June? I know right, how surreal. I went to a pub, an actual pub, and heard live music last Saturday; down the trusty gate for those Daybreakers. Bloody fantastic it was too. Here’s some things to be looking forward to over this month. Note, this is in no way exhaustive, (which is what I’m going to be trying to keep up to date with it all!) You must continue to check our event guide, for details of all events listed here, updates of events, and even live streamed.

Half term sees us into June, ongoing from Tuesday 1st there’s holiday activities at Wiltshire Museum, which we welcome their reopening, and program of forthcoming events.

Also, back in business is the Nether-Street’s Farm Cookery School, who has a parent and child class called Cake Lady on Thursday 3rd.

The weekend sees The Devizes Lions Sports Coaching Weekend at Devizes Leisure Centre, IndieDay happening across Devizes town centre, meanwhile Devizes Southgate welcomes Texas Tick Fever.

There’s a Court Room Cabaret at Trowbridge Town Hall, Talk In Code play Swindon’s Level 3, with Atari Pilot, and Rude Mood are at The Vic.

Eddie Martin is live at The Bell in Bath, and we wish the Bath Reggae Festival a successful first event, let’s hope it’ll become an annual thing.

While we’re on about festivals, the following weekend, from Friday 11th is Kite Festival at Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire. Closer to home, Trevor Babajack Steger is at The Southgate, Devizes on Saturday, and don’t forget Lions on the Green in Devizes, Sunday 13th; let’s support their brand-new fund-raising event. Joh Griven also has a guided tour of the Heritage Walk of Devizes.

This sounds fun too, Mustard Brass Band live at The Bell in Walcott Street, Bath

Monday 14th there’s an important meeting online, a progress report on Wiltshire Museum’s hopeful move to the Assize Court.

Summer Solstice weekend, (solstice being 4:30 on Monday 21st) kicks off the Bigfoot Festival at Ragely Hall, Warwickshire. Closer to home, as it goes to press, the Kington Langley Scarecrow Festival is still happening. The HoneyStreet Barge presents Troyka, on Saturday 19th, Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround at The Southgate, Devizes and Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue with the Pete Gage Band at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

There are also two great charity fundraising events, Caroline Lowe as Amy Winehouse at Swindon’s Swiss Chalet, in aid of The Specialized Project, which acts as a fundraising portal for many charitable causes and projects. And at The Rose & Crown in Worton, Chloe Jordan, Mistral and the Celtic Roots Collective have a fundraiser for MacMillan Cancer Support.

To the last weekend of what will, finger’s crossed, be an amazing return to normality, on Saturday 26th, The Southgate, Devizes welcomes Blind Justice, and the brilliant Blondie & Ska play The Greyhound, Trowbridge. But I’m hopefully saddling up and heading east, for geetars and corset swinging fun at the Barge on HoneyStreet, where those Boot Hill All Stars plan to moor up, with Dry White Bones; that one will go off!

 As far as I know, the legendary Black Uhuru at Frome’s Cheese & Grain, and Sunday 27th Blondie & Ska will be at the Royal Oak, Corsham. But as I say, loads more will be listed by the time we know what’s what, and hopefully a summer to remember is on the cards; just have to take responsibility for adhering to regulations and observing social distancing. Have a great June.


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Nothing Good, Longcoats; I disagree!

Have no worries, Ollie, you’re a spring chicken, mate! Out this Friday, another dynamite single from Bath’s indie-pop trio, Longcoats, and this time it considers age. Subjective, isn’t it? I mean my boss calls me “young Darren,” but my daughter constantly reminds me I’m as ancient as ye gods. I have to wonder what Bruce Springsteen thinks of his nostalgia-related single Glory Days, written at the tender age of thirty-five comparably to his age now, seventy-two. Worse for the Who, they hoped to die before they got old, Daltrey still rocking at seventy-seven.

Similarly, this track, available across streaming sites from Friday 28th May, Nothing Good, reminisces of the golden teenage years, under the pretence “there’s nothing good about getting old.” What about a free bus pass, eh?! It’s as long-a-road as your coats, lads, enjoy it while it lasts, it doesn’t get any better than this. Think of a time when you’ve got more hair in your ears than on your head.

But if you should wish to look me up in my nursing home decades from now, and then let me know how you feel about the connotation of this track, it would be interesting to hear!

I thought I should clear that up, as the song title is ironic against the melody; everything is good about that, better than good, it’s pretty much fantastic. Filled with nostalgia though is the mainstay of this beguiling sound. The shift towards the classic eighties pop-rock sound complimented the previous single, Pretty in Pink, and continues here with this one.

Yet retaining that fresh, current vibe, I’m relishing in this trend, produced by the Longcoats, and other local bands such as Talk in Code, Daydream Runaways and Atari Pilot, I’m virtually contemplating getting my Now albums out to compare, volumes one to ten. As if you’d have heard this in that day of Rubix’s Cubes and Sinclair C5s, it would be astounding. Today, it’s just as great, as if time bypassed the comparatively melancholy indie vibe of the nineties.

It’s how to capture that uplifting, danceable sense within the gloomy theme that we’re not getting any younger, which somehow Longcoats just nail here. A highly enjoyable, layered track with a killer riff. Check it out on Friday. Me? I’m off to get some of those slippers with zips on the side….


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Thirty Years a Raver, Part 2: We Called it Acieeed!

A branch of a classy supermarket chain seems an unlikely place to start a story of one’s first rave experience. It was a shop which, on a later occasion, my mate and I decided to walk ten miles back to, to thank them for such a lovely pizza. Overlooking the fact, it was the extra topping of liberty caps we added ourselves which sparked the idea, and, in turn caused us to only make it a hundred yards out of the village before we collapsed in a hysterical heap. Just as well, given I worked there at the time.

Oh, for the time, I’m slipping down my rose-tinted specs again, but, while I’m grateful to those reading this who lived it, I’d rather those too young would too, who they need to understand the era leading up to it, to know why we did what we did……

A protest at end of term school disco, 1988. Teachers, thought they were “hip” enough to do the “in” thing, hiring a standard DJ to deliver the latest pop sounds. One year away from leaving the institution we saw ourselves as mature. Obviously not, but sufficient to warrant a plain and simple fact; the pop chart was not aimed at us.

A decade old now and electronica has become timeworn and abused by the Hit Factory and Stock Aitken Waterman. The formula was simple, derived from sixties bubble-gum pop, and aimed an even younger audience. An assembly line of drum machine synthpop churned out uninspiring samey trash, a monotonous drone promoting pop stardom to Australian soap opera actors, failing have-been musicians convinced by a fat cheque and dreadful teenage dreamboats. They punished the last part of the decade; they commercialised the once experimental epoch. It should have been a crime.

We all sat in protest on the dancefloor, booing, as the DJ spun, I Owe You Nothing by latest teen-pop sensation Bros, two brothers from Camberley with Pet Shop Boys manager Tom Watkins, stupid belt buckles and leather vests donning crucifixes, which seeing as what they did for pop, was actually quite apt. The only person left dancing was a good friend of mine, who took the ingenuity to bring a Sony Walkman, and he skanked out of time, through the protesters in his own little world, lip-syncing the words to Buffalo Solider.

For me, even my love of hip hop worn thin. While it still had a nostalgic place in my heart, as it spread out from the Bronx it seemed to be whitewashed, typecast far from the original ethos. Yes, Grandmaster Melle Mel rapped conscious lyrics on The Message, but that was the exception to the rule. Now, seemed every rapper had a chip on their shoulder, something to criticise, a plastic attitude and some serious bling. It was either this, or sell yourself like a cheap tart; take MC Miker G & DJ Sven rapping over Madonna’s Holiday as red for why hip hop lost its way.

 A far cry from the untroubled origins of hip-hop, where the idea was to throw your cares away for the duration and party. A notion closer to the new impending wave of electronic music, fresh from the underground.

In any case, at 14 I’d moved to Marlborough, where breakdance seemingly hadn’t the same impact as it had on my Essex town. Prior to starting school there, my mother suggested my brother and I attend a concert on the common, as promoted on GWR Radio, surprisingly. It may’ve been a tactic to encourage us to blend into our new home. What actually happened freaked me out. If I considered I’d descended time, back to the seventies, before this day, I certainly did now. I believe the band playing to have been popular local rock band, Read’m and Weep.

Looking back now, they were excellent, but through my trendy suburban Essex eyes I was shocked at the sight of scruffy rock kids perched on car bonnets, uniformed in black, smoking, drinking from bottles before me. I felt like the character Sam Emerson, the younger brother in the movie The Lost Boys, when they go to the beach fair. If one of these “weirdos” glimmered fangs at me, I was legging it.

In fairness, being bored with the direction of hip-hop, and annoyed with commercial pop, I had a sweeping overview of rock, as soft metal took the charts by storm. And as I emersed fuller into the cultural differences of my environment. I began to find it was the only musical avenue worthy of attention, and had to backtrack my knowledge to the classics. But as I was taking in Led Zeppelin, Hendrix and The Doors, in order to make friends at school, they became accepting of a new wave of electronic music called “house,” as it was, it had a commercial side, but looming was the psychedelic underground roots, sub-labelled “acid house.” We kind of met in the middle.

I find it amusing child-friendly raves have become a popular attraction recently. Organisers such Raver Tots and Big Fish, Little Fish attained a gap in the market with new parents who thought the stork has ended their raving days.

Ingeniously they create a pay-rave/soft play centre crossover, largely based on the hardcore era of the mid-nineties, as that’s the generation with easily persuaded toddlers. Way to go to push your diehard habits onto your saucepan and lids, but indulge now, as it doesn’t last! If you asked my daughter ten years ago what her favourite music is, she’d reply “reggae,” an obvious spoon-fed response. Now she’s engulfed by current pop, and you have to let them find their own path, their own thing. Pushy parenting backfires.

But that’s not the reason it amuses me, neither is the fact since the dawn of rave participants never take themselves too seriously. Yes, it’s “cheesy” by their own definition. Yes, there’s a childlike euphoria involved with raving too. Sucking of lollies, cuddling complete strangers, and dancing like a lunatic to a breakbeat sample of the Sesame Street theme. But it’s a notion the flipside, the “indie” kids could never fathom, in all their depressing reality-driven gloom; rave was never to be taken too seriously. It was quintessentially an escapism.

No, the reason it amuses me is thus, at the time rave was not the place to take a toddler and few did, save for perhaps the travelling folk who, for them, the sites were their home. Rave was illegal, primarily, until big businesses saw the opportunity to make a fast buck. Rave was daring, criminal and that’s what, unashamedly, made it exciting. In fact, the spread of the trend grew from a scare story, a tabloid attempt to frighten parents into believing every teenager, including theirs, was off their rockers in a dangerous derelict warehouse somewhere around the London orbital. Truth is, my friends and I hadn’t a clue about it, until now.

In fact, in 1988, just before some doughnut invited a lucky journalist to an acid house party, the scene was tiny, a secret association only a select few Ibiza diehards knew about. The desire to recreate their hedonistic holiday in the Balearics in London gained little attention, until one day the newspapers splashed it across their front pages. Needless to say, it backfired, now every teenager in the country wanted in on the deal. Including me.

As ever, the Sun was the main culprit, Gary Bushell pasting a light-hearted angle, often satirical and tongue-in-cheek but definitely in favour of the exploding trend, in order to sell their “acid house t-shirt.” Soon as sales dropped, they turned nasty on the surge they had a hand in prompting. It’s almost as if they deliberately blossomed a teenage rebellious phenomenon in order to flip it over and create hysteria, to sell papers; who knew they could be so callous?!

But it was too late. D-Mob sounded it out; We Call It Acieeed. Prior tunes to hit the charts never wrote it directly on the wall. It was always just about “house” music, pumping up the volume, or jackin’ your body. One could differentiate, draw a definite line between run-of-the-mill “house,” hence being commercial, or the evil, drug suggested “acid house.” At least to our adolescent mind. Truth is, it was all the same.

Yet meanwhile we were still convinced electronic music was sold out to commercialisation, therefore we’d rewound back to the space rock of psychedelic sixties and seventies. Unlike my peers though, I retained small penchant for the original hip hop, and swept house with the same brush. It was short lived, but I liked house for all the silly samples of Bomb the Bass’ Beat Dis. It was as if electro had turned full circle, and divided from the cliche of fierce rap styled US hip hop, particularly now the west coast had as much clout as the east.

It’s also worth noting, although we took its source as American, British acts like Coldcut were now producing house. As the media hysteria became old news and mellowed, by 1990, the average joe blogs could be forgiven for assuming it had all been a flash in the pan. Little did even we know the trend was growing, and since graduating from pupil to student, felt we had moral responsibility to check it out for ourselves.

Perhaps not just our age, but also rural Wiltshire was hardly cutting edge when it came to trends. So, two years on and the words on our lips were “acid house,” despite the term had metamorphosed into “rave.”

With local Tory backhanding secret social clubs’ slaps on the back, our school opened its doors and poured children into the only supermarket in town, where the branch manager welcomed weekend staff, he could offer £2.20 an hour to. I succumbed for want of my own pocket money. Surprisingly, it was there where my adventure into rave begun.

Yet it was there, working my Saturday job, allowing us the newfound financial freedom to maturely decide where best to invest our earning, which happened to be getting wasted. A friend, a year or so senior, dropped the killer bombshell, to which I hide my excitement and pretended to know all about. “You going to the acid house party tonight, up the common?” he inquired.

Well, my feet didn’t touch the floor before arriving at the opposite side of the warehouse below the store, where my buddy priced up tins of soup. Shocking to think barcodes were still some way off, and one would have to be like Clint Eastwood with a pricing gun. But nevertheless, he stopped as I told him the news, and his face lit up with excitement, and a slight evil grin.

1991 beckons next week, as I relive my rave honeymoon, be there!


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The Daybreakers @ The Southgate: OMG, a Live Music Review!

Shock, horror OMG and other unsuitable internet abbreviations, yes it happened. Like mutated survivors emerging from their underground lair in some post-apocalyptic movie, to snuffle fresh air once again, tonight could’ve been any other night two years ago, but with renewed captivation I sat in a beer garden, an actual beer garden, with a real pint of scrumpy, while the incredible Daybreakers played music. Yes, real, live music, which received not one applause emoji, but real applause, the like of human hands clapping and everything; how surreal.

I don’t ask for much these days, but let me tell you, it was both a relief and joy to feel somewhere back to normal, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate band to be there for the occasion.

Of course, It’s our trusty Southgate, the Devizes O2 arena. A rustic watering hole of sociability, hospitality and scraggy dogs. Fingers and toes crossed future Saturday nights will look like this, as blues-rock Leon Daye Band arrive next week, followed by Trevor Babajack Steger on 12th June and Jon Amor’s King St Turnaround on 19th.

Life isn’t fully repaired, expect table service, adhere to etiquette, remain seated wherever possible, and wear masks while moving around, but it is an awesome beginning. I’ve returned home, loaded up Word to pen a citation, but while it was booting, I worried; it’s been so long since I’ve knocked up live music review, is it like riding a bike?

Ah, bollocks. I was never much cop at either, anyway.

Unlike me, the professionalism of Gouldy, Cath and those Daybreakers, who lost no grip on their skills, played a blinder, seemingly thoroughly loving every minute of it. I arrived to hear the Jam’s Start, which was good start, ba-boom, and they continued through their plethora of wonderful era-spanning covers, from the Cure to The Levellers and OMD to the Specials, and so on; even adding their original song, I think they called The Wait. The masses of optimism in the cool air came to an apex when those Daybreakers burst into Dexy’s Come on Eileen just as it once, always did. And the wildcard, thrown in at the last moment, was a beautiful rendition of Ah-Ha’s Take on Me, believe it or not, yet as they have a tendency to do, they smashed it out of the park.

Hats off to them, and of course, Dave, Deborah and staff at the Gate. With their newfound roles of waiters and waitresses, I’m guessing not in the original job description, they catered to everyone promptly, with their charm and wit, and I’d imagine a smile under their facemasks. Here’s to many more perfect gigs at the Southgate.


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Tribute Acts Going the Extra Mile; Blondie & Ska

One surprise track contributed for our forthcoming compilation album for Julia’s House, (yes, it’s going sluggish but well, thanks for asking!) comes from Chippenham’s part-Blondie-tribute-part-ska-covers duo, Blondie & Ska. It’s a solid, rock steady original, with the added bonus it sounds as if it could’ve been an album track from Parallel Lines, Plastic Letters or another Blondie album at the peak of their game.  

It’s given me the opportunity to have a chat with Dave Lewis, one half of the duo, on how they started doing what they do, pondering if you just wake up one morning and think, I know, I’m going to be tribute act. If Blondie & Ska actually see themselves wholly as a Blondie tribute act at all, given they not only record original songs, but in a unique slant, perform classic Two-Tone songs from the same period. But most importantly, answering some conundrums I’ve had since hearing a tune with a similar concept by UB40 tribute Johnny2Bad, about tribute acts going the extra mile and recording tracks in the fashion of their inspiration. I mean, is it deliberate that it sounds akin, or simply natural method given the music is based around imitating the act?

Certainly, Blondie & Ska wasn’t formed on a whim. For a decade prior to forming the duo, Lorraine and Dave were both co-members of various bands on the same circuit. The idea, Dave explained, “occurred over a number of phases,” and expressed, as a mod, his love for The Beat. Anxious not to live up to expectations of his idols, Dave continued, “playing ska, was one of those things, because you love it so much, you don’t want to go that direction, but when we kind of got dragged into it, there was no stopping us, because the more we did it, the more we loved doing it, and there was no reason to be nervous!”

In the band as well, was Steve Edge, who co-wrote our song. “Steve and I used to write back in the nineties,” Dave explained, chuffed to be reunited to write this track specifically for us. “And we performed as an originals band,” he enthusiastically continued.

After the originals band, Dave joined his drummer and played in a local blues band called No Ties, which Lorraine also started in, while Dave concentrated on a secondary band aptly named Band Two, which Lorraine would later join. It was there where Dave suggested the concept of Blondie & Ska to Lorraine, in 2013. “She replied, hum, I fancy having a go at that,” Dave revealed. “It took about six months to get rehearsed. We did our first gig, and thought, why didn’t we do this before?” They’ve been performing weekly as a duo act from Land’s End to Barnsley since, clocking up hundreds or appearances together.

I moved onto the question, given recording originals and this mixture of lateral ska tunes added to the Blondie tribute, if they even classed themselves at ‘tribute act’ in the same light as the run-of-the-mill ones. “It’s weird one,” he admitted, “I kind of call it that Blondie and ska sound. Whatever we tend to do, people say I didn’t expect it to be like that, but that’s way things are. If I’m going to do something, we want to do it in a different way.” It’s also practical, using pre-recorded sections such as drums and horns, Blondie & Ska can accommodate the smallest of venues, unlike a large ska band with a horn section. “The other thing which is difficult, with signature bands, is it’s hard work keeping the bands together,” Dave observed, a notorious hindrance with ska bands in particular.  

Dubious it would work at first, during lockdowns alternate Saturdays have seen regular blossoming live streams from Blondie & Ska. “We had over 10 thousand viewers on one,” Dave delighted, “which is bonkers! I think it was just a sign of the time, everyone was just at their computer!” For your attention, next one is tonight at 8pm (Saturday 22nd May) on Facebook, HERE. “If people don’t know us,” Dave suggested, “it’s always a nice test. We’ve been surprised by the positive feedback.”

There’s the thing with Blondie & Ska, and I put it to Dave without trying to cause offence, that though it’s unique, nothing they’re doing is particularly ground-breaking. They’ve no stars in their eyes, but the niche is they’re two musicians having a whole lot of fun, doing what they love doing. And this is what comes across, and why it sounds so good. “Absolutely,” he agreed, suggesting the original blues band was tiresome. “I wasn’t really up for anything after that, and later wanted to get back into the action. We’re doing it now because we enjoy doing it. The Blondie & Ska stuff, you know, the more we play, the more people ask, and more bookings we get in ska clubs, and our repertoire is pushed in that direction.” I laughed, so prolific was the Jamaican record industry during the ska era, there’s always going to be one trainspotter, like me (!) who comes up and asks for some obscure Coxsone rarity!

But in turn, that’s precisely the ethos of both ska, and seemingly Blondie’s music. Aside the political unrest occasionally portrayed in the Two-Tone ska revival of the eighties, the memorable songs come from a carefree perceptive of jollity, and like Madness and Bad Manners, ska is eternally dance music, from the very roots. Likewise, Blondie rarely, if at all, socially commented about anything more than romance.

Dave was so enthusiastic to chat about the reasoning and history behind Blondie & Ska, about the technicalities of recreating the perfect tribute sound, and appeasing the aficionados, we could’ve chatted forever, but I feel you need to witness them in the arena they love, rather than waffle some!

An interesting story surrounding the chosen name for the duo we finished on, as while setting up for an early gig, the organiser summed up the sound on the blackboard by chalking up “Blondie & Ska,” under the premise a lot of blond girls and a lot of male ska fans had turned up. “I was standing there, looking at the name on the poster,” Dave explained. “Lorraine was saying, can you just get on and set up, cos we’ve got to be playing in an hour?! I said, but look at the name on the poster, and she was going, no, get on with what you’re supposed to be doing!” But Dave approached the guy, knowing him through many past gigs, to ask him if he could use it. “The girls danced to the Blondie songs, and the guys danced to the ska,” he noted. Story checks out, the mix works. Tune into their live streams to find out for yourself, or here’s hoping to catch them at a real gig soon.


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Sheer Music’s Mum to Jump out of Aeroplane!

Okay, it’s a funny headline, but a serious message is attached to it, all about Stanley.

Stanley was born too early, at thirty weeks gestation in August 2016, and was placed in NICU. Luckily, both he and his mum came home from hospital.

Unfortunately, having been starved of oxygen during the emergency caesarean he has been left with Cerebal Palsy affecting all four limbs. As a result of this Stanley is unable to walk at all and bunnyhops everywhere he goes.

He is being assessed for Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) surgery at Bristol Children’s Hospital and part of his treatment requires that he has as much physiotherapy as possible ahead of the surgery and for two years following, to give him the best outcome possible.

Unfortunately, he gets next to nothing in the way of physiotherapy from the NHS so it’s up to the family to fund this. The good news is, that this is working and his core strength is improving and he is now able to ‘stand’ on his knees for a short while.

To help with the cost, Stanley’s superheroic grandma, and mum to our good friend, Kieran of Sheer Music, is intending to jump out of a plane at 6000ft and freefall for 45 seconds at around 120 mph, as any gran would! “I want to add to his fund by doing something totally mad,” Teri explains, and that it surely is.

Teri is currently being treated for bowel and secondary Liver cancer, which she says is, “scary enough,” without the notion she’ll be free-falling from six feet let alone 6000!

I’m guessing she’ll be strapped to young, hunky skydiving type macho-man. I asked her this, but she didn’t reply, so as usual I’m making this little bit up! But best wishes to Teri, and if you could please sponser her in, as she puts it, “scaring myself stupid for my grandson,” every penny will go to her grandson Stanley. Thank you.

Follow this link to Teri’s campaign:


IndieDay is Back in Devizes

With a few i’s to dot and t’s to cross, the non-profit organisation Devizes Retailers & Independents announce a second IndieDay in Devizes on Saturday 5th June. With an aim to spread the word about all the excellent independent retail shops and small businesses in Devizes, last year’s event was well received and enjoyed, at such a crucial time.

Firstly, there will be trail maps, with the chance to win an indie hamper with goodies donated by generous independent retailers across Devizes. You can get one on the day from the Market Place, or pick a map up prior, during the first week of June, from any participating independent shops, or download one here. You need to post your entry form at the post office, at Cositas Bonitas or Tea Inc. by 4.30pm on the day.

Unfortunately, Devizine will not be arranging any live music this time, as we did last year. The need is must for our local musicians to concentrate on obtaining bookings for paid events, and I feel asking them to freely contribute their valuable time at this delicate moment is, quite simply unfair on them. Though we did have a wonderful day last time, and I reach out my eternal gratitude to Tamsin, Jamie, Cath and Gouldy, and particularly Mike Barham for setting it up.

Tamsin Quin, Mike Barham and Sound Affects @ IndieDay 2020

There will be lots of things to do on the day though. Youth Traders at Albion Place in Sidmouth Street, will be giving some young traders the chance to take part and experience running a market stall. Something worthy of supporting. Artist/picture framer Becky Hanney Art will be there, with amazing quality craftsmanship for wood turning and bespoke pieces from Jack Baldwin. Eyah Bakes Cakes brings some amazing cake creations that are like a works of art. With prints and postcards from Harriet’s Crafts & Creations, unique handmade works in wool from Vintage Cyanide Kira, and the promise for more to be confirmed.

Becky Hanney Art

The ever-important face painting still has to be found a space to make me into a lion, as is my preferred choice, or risk my tantrum! But we also have music at various locations throughout the day, organised by Jemma Brown. At 10am in the Market Place Take Five perform, TITCO at 11am, and Segregation 6 Brass at midday.

Will Foulstone

Meanwhile in The Brittox, find Devizes Jubilee Morris from midday. And at The Shambles from 1pm piano and cello with Dominic and Dori, and never to be missed, young Will Foulstone on piano from 3pm. It’s a sterling effort from inDevizes and Devizes Retailers & Independents to encourage local shopping at this tricky junction, but with everyone adhering to social distancing and regulations, let’s hope for a successful IndieDay on 5th June.


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Thirty Years a Raver; Part 1: Planet Rock & Tooth Extractions!

New short series of articles exploring rave culture thirty years on, from a personal perspective….

In the early eighties my nan and grandad stood at the head of the hall, preparing from requests they adlib a speech for their surprise anniversary party. My grandad did the standard honours, thanking everyone for coming, excusing any clumsiness with his words by suggesting, “we’re still at ten thousand feet with the surprise.” At this point my nan’s sister interrupted with astute cockney humour; “bit like your wedding night, eh, Carrie?!”

“No,” my Nan causally retorted, “there were bombs on our wedding night!”

It’s a sentiment which will live with me forever, how anyone can pass off bombs during their wedding, in jest. Most people nowadays get irate if rains on their special day. Because, whenever my grandparents spoke of the war and living in the east-end during the blitz, it was a joyous transcript, never revealing horrors we know happened. I ponder my own memories of youth, wonder if it’s the same rose-tinted specs, or if the era really was as utterly fantastic as my memory of it is.

And in this much, there’s a thing; nothing we did was particularly new-fangled. Tribally, ancient folk gathered to celebrate and hypnotically dance to drum beats, and the occurrence never trended or waivered. Though it maybe debatable, I think, with the introduction of computer technology in music, designer chemicals and enough chewing gum to keep Wrigley’s in business, we partied harder, faster and longer than any previous youth culture did, and probably ever will in the future!

We made party a way of life. We did not think politically until they came for us. Our only concerns were where the next party would be and if we’d have enough cash for some petrol and necessities. Our only motivation was the joyous unification of a tribal-like movement, or in other words, a fuck-off legendary party. Our only philosophies were how beautiful said unification was, and how we could promote it to the world. Yet, unbeknown at the time, the latter was most likely our downfall. No one makes some fucking noise anymore.

Often referred to as “you remember, the one with the haystacks!”

I do recall the fabled week of the second bank holiday of May 1992, how we gathered at a common in Malvern. I also recollect wandering up a hillside on the first morning, observing how large the event had grown, and I remember thinking to myself, nice as it was, they were never going to let us live this one down, they were going to have to attempt to put a stop to it, politically.

So, I’m drafting a series of articles exploring the time, from a personal interpretation, hoping to conclude, it’s a bit of both; rose-tinted specs, and the most explosive period of counter-culture hedonism ever. Individual because events and accounts vary vastly from person-to-person; how, where and why they “got into,” the sybaritic nineties trend of rave. Lots of memoirs I do read or see, like the most successful, Justin Kerrigan’s 1999 film Human Traffic, are set in an urban environment. Unlike these, we spent our youth in the Wiltshire countryside, and this I feel is a major contributing factor which differs our story from most, especially prior to passing my driving test!  Thumbs out, “you going to the party, mate?”

I’m doing it now because of the significance of the anniversary. Thirty years ago, I class my “personal summer of love.” It was 1991, I was eighteen, standing in an unidentified field somewhere in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, gyrating like a robot through the morning mist, eyes large as saucers, and a jawbone tremor you could break a walnut with. Imagine, not alone, but with countless likeminded others. In fact, I’d lost my mates an uncalculatable time ago, which mattered not one iota. How did I get here? Why did I go there? Where the bloody hell was I anyway? To reflect back with any hope of clarity is not only to understand the epoch and the time, but the mindset, and for this we need to go back further, much further.

I put my pre-initiation to becoming a “raver,” into two significant recollections. The first was in the spring of 1984, in my Dad’s Ford Cortina, heading for the Asda at the Chelmer Village outside Chelmsford. Growing up in Essex had one advantage to my friends in the west country, we had pirate radio, and I mean pirates. Anchored off the East Anglia coast were the legendary Radio Caroline, where BBC Radio headhunted many DJs, but who appeased their fanbase by continuing playing sixties and seventies songs, and its sister, the short-lived Laser 558, which toppled Caroline’s listeners by using American DJs which played a continuous mix of contemporary tunes.

Hard to imagine at the time we considered having a cassette deck in a car radio as something only for the gods. In fact, I went to edit that last sentence to call it a car stereo, but reflecting back it wasn’t even stereo, just the one speaker below the dashboard! Reason why my brother and I would screech requests from the backseats for my Dad to turn it up. On this occasion we were particularly demanding, as there was a song, I’d never heard the like of ever before. Sure, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte’s I Feel Love was timeworn, and we existed amidst the dawn of new romantic, the electronic eighties pop in Britain was governed by the experimental post-punks. They either got with the program or fell into obscurity, whinging about how Adam Ant sold out.

Nope, I hadn’t a Scooby-Doo what a Roland TR-808 was, but I knew what I liked. I wasn’t aware of Factory Records, but I knew what Blue Monday was, and I knew liking Duran Duran might make me more attractive to the opposite sex. But this American song was wildly different, it was like ultramodern sonic funk, it was Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force. I figured aside the Dr Who theme, this was the sound of the future, this was space-age, flying cars type stuff. And for the best part, I was right. Little did I know I’d be standing in a cold west country field seven years later, gnashing my teeth to electronic beats which made this sound old-hat.

I went out and loaded myself with American electro and early hip hop, discovering Grandmaster Melle Mel, Hashim, Newcleus et all, and we nagged Dad for a video recorder. My parents couldn’t see the point to recording TV, or hiring a VHS cassette, but the latter soon become a family weekend activity. We hired National Lampoons Vacation the first weekend, but prior to that, my brother rented the movie Beat Street, and everything, the Bronx culture, the graffiti, the breakdancing, the rapping, all fell into place.  

Before I knew what was what, we were breaking in the school playground to commercialised versions, Break Machine’s Street Dance, Ollie & Jerry’s Breakin’… There’s No Stopping Us and Hey, you The Rock Steady Crew. Well, I say breakdancing, but that was a showy skilful fad for flexible kids. As a shy, cumbersome one, surrounded by puppy-fat I ticked none of those boxes and made do with “body popping.” This was far simpler, just had to join hands with the kids in the circle either side of you and do a kind of connected wave. That will impress the fairer sex, we must have figured, least I don’t know why else we did it, but we did, and less said about it the better.

Just like our school playground….. or maybe not!

The second significant recollection as a pre-cursor to becoming a “raver,” was a trip to the dentist. I needed my four remaining milk teeth extracted. For this, unlike today where you stay awake, numbed but perceptible to the dentist tensioning a foot to the side of the chair while he wrenches into your gum full force, they put me to sleep using gas. The nurse held my hand and told me to count to ten, I remember feeling uneasy as the gas took effect, it felt strange, it was the first time I was high; destined to be a “raver,” I’ll leave it up to your imagination if it was the last!

Do come again next Sunday, for the second part; might actually get on to the party stuff by then!


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The Lost Promises of Sam Bishop

Five years on from Devizes six-form boy band 98 Reasons, we find vocalist and keyboardist Sam Bishop studying music in Winchester, while former Larkin partner Finely Trusler continues working with cousin Harvey as The Truzzy Boys and has become fresh new frontman for local mod heroes, The Roughcut Rebels.

Last week we were able get a valuable insight into Sam’s portfolio and progress, as he releases a five-track EP of new material across streaming platforms; Lost Promises. Seems education pays off; this is a dynamite of powerful pop, and showcases Sam’s vocal range with much more intricate and often daring arrangements.

But perhaps, what is more, there’s matured themes on show. Opening tune, Below the Surface is evidence enough, an emotionally-driven social issues context of two characters, firstly a young single mum thrown out of the family home and a motherless son turning to drug abuse. The haunting piano gathers a peek to courage against the face of misfortune, and it stings.

Relevance is key in a convincing performance of this style, personal reflection on your own words pulls the heartstrings. “I’m so proud of each and every song on it,” Sam says. “They all relate to a significant point of my life, when I was feeling a certain way. it’s the rawest and most explorative I’ve been as a songwriter.”

Image: Nick Padmore

Fallen Sky we’ve reviewed as a single last year, a dark, moody ambience, backed with a deep bassline, sonic piano and ticking drumbeats; as if William Orbit took boyband to dubstep. It characterises dejected teenage anguish and echoes the passion in early romantic interactions. While it’s a bromide subject at the best of times, Sam rests on it well, as was a time when we wanted Phil Collins to have a broken heart, so his reflection on it would be so powerfully crushing and relevant to our own life.

The back riff of Decide trickles, reminding me of the deep South American riffs of the Graceland shadowed Paul Simon sequel The Rhythm of the Saints, but its pace and catchiness makes it perhaps the most beguiling. As the title suggests there’s a romantic dilemma, again cliché subject, but you know Sam’s vocal penitence has it covered to perfection.

We’re lucky enough to have an acoustic version of the fourth track for our forthcoming charity album; I know, yep, I’m working on it, okay! Largely guitar-based, Wild Heart gives prominence in particular to my observation about trialling in Sam’s vocal arrangements, there’s some complicated measures to handle, and he does. Trust is a continuing notion, which makes a running theme, I guess where the title developed from.

The trick is the balance, and Sam’s a magician, but not without friends he thanks for assistance, “this EP wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of some of the best musicians I’ve had the pleasure to work with,” Sam continues, “Toby, Ellie, Martin, Robbie, Woody and Stephanie.”

As it suggests, The End is the perfect finale, a ballad of missing someone, praying fondness will prevail and it’s not the end. In this track, and in all, there’s a poignant concept, the mainstay of all good pop. Hey, teacher, Sam deserves top marks for this, it’s highly listenable and hauntingly deeper than anything previous, yet retaining freshness of memorable pop. Progress is sweet, and to prove it here’s Sam in his early days with a drumstick up his nostril. Something he’ll annoy for me adding, but honestly bud, you can’t unsee it now!


Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory Can’t Come Home

It’s not every day we hear a quintessentially hip-hop track with the magnitude of enriching classic rock riffs, say, as Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street or Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig in the Sky.

Agreeably the nineties downbeat and trip hop era unleashed some masterful acts, particularly of the Bristol scene. And there’s shards of precisely this too, of Massive Attack and Portishead, in Can’t Come Home, a new Wise Monkey single from Stockwell featuring Storm Jae and Nory.

If I retain through rose-tinted specs, a passion for those naughty nineties it’s fuelled by nostalgia; I was young, once! Can even recall some bits of it. But rather than the drifting layers sluggishly building of aforementioned trip hop, the wailing guitar here hits you full in the face, more akin to said enriching classic rock tracks.

Stockwell

Even all this said and done, there’s nothing content to rest in a time of yore here, as the alignment of beats, astute male rap and uplifting female vocals of Can’t Come Home is fundamentally fresh and contemporary. Enough, I feel, to cross the barrier from myself to my teenage daughter’s musical taste, and that rarely occurs! This combination makes the song especially unique and substantially epic.

Storm Jae

With the attitude and gumption of Stevie Nicks, and the mezzo-soprano range of Joni Mitchell, Storm Jae is a jolt in the right direction for an enveloping new era of singer-songwriters. Nory seems more elusive, I can’t find any information on! But teaming up with the trailblazing hip-hop-come-rock crossover musician and producer Stockwell is a match made in heaven, a heaven you can hear for yourself.

It’s agelessly sharp, emotionally elevating and an impactful grower, which will tease the palate of rock and urban adherents alike. If I make you wince to note Run DMC walked this way with Aerosmith some thirty-five years ago, or if you have to ask Siri what I mean by that, neither matters, this tune will appease either.


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Wiltshire’s Most Expensive Laugh; Seedy Out of the PCC Race!

Two opinion pieces from me in as many days; you lucky, lucky people! What I wouldn’t give to have two lofty opinion pieces from Devizine thrown at me once in a while!

As the news circulates that hunting bonkers Conservative PCC candidate for Wiltshire, Johnathan Seed is out of the race, we all can have a belly-laugh, especially Basil Brush. But rules are rules, and at this stage, seems WC will need to hold a second election, rather than the obvious, just pick the second-place candidate and roll with that.

I mean, if a horse falls out of the race, the race continues. You wouldn’t stop the race, pick another horse and rerun it, would you?

Without quoting sources at this delicate time, word on the street is another election will cost a cool million squid; who picks up this bill, the taxpayer?

Hinging on two conflicting allegations as to how this story came to light, one being Seedy declared his drink driving offence and suddenly decided he should pull out because of it, and the second that he was ousted when the offense came to light, one could argue if the latter, he, or the Conservative party should be liable for the bill, whereas the first means the electoral roll should’ve picked this up before running the election. Being Wiltshire Council is Tory run, you can bet your bottom dollar, the dollar is coming out of your pocket. In essence, it’s Wiltshire’s most expensive laugh.

Whatever, this does mean there’s time for the Conservatives to draft in a new candidate, which they can do. One who without even having to campaign, will, by current trends walk the show without the slightest insight or experience of the roll. So, if you thought every cloud has a silver lining, no, not in our Tory haven. But I must stress, that’s speculation.

Boom Boom!

If the race is yet to be won, there’s as much convincing as I can to be done, to sway you to consider voting elsewhere. We’ve interviewed Lib Dem Liz Webster, and we’ve interviewed independent Mike Rees. We ran out of time to chat to Labour’s Junab Ali, for which I apologise, but with this news, and depending on the date of the election, perhaps this is still on the cards, and I welcome Junab to chat with us.

Anyway, tonight will see the news break the local social media sites, where’s there’s a general feeling of relief. Johnathan Seed’s campaign has not been particularly popular. And if that has reflected in the current polls, who knows, we may not have to go through all this again.

Here’s what some people are saying online, which is what the Gazelle & Herod do for a quick article, I know, and if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for us!

“I’m sorry, but I’m losing no sleep over this one!”

“Apparently they’re going to put up a garden gnome with a blue rosette on it, they’re still convinced it will win.”

“It’s very frustrating, especially as it’s nothing new. He doesn’t seem to have been a popular choice so fingers crossed he doesn’t win and we can bypass another vote.”

“Good. Will Wiltshire Council send him the bill for having to rerun the poll?”

“This will give him more time to spend with the hunt and hounds..”

Right, that’s enough of that, this isn’t a public forum! Go figure!


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A Trowbridge Kitchen Sink Drama; Sitting Tenants

Wednesday, racing down to the newsagent on the corner on my Rayleigh Tomahawk, fifteen pee in sweaty palm. Pick up my Beano, six pence left for halfpenny sweets. The lady stood irritated behind the counter holding a small paper bag, as the kid front of the queue rubbed his chin pondering the crucial quandary. “You’ve got four pee left,” she’d calculate, while the boy finally opted for another flying saucer rather than a fruit salad chew.

If there’s something delightfully everyday about the subjects on Trowbridge’s Sitting Tenants lockdown album, A Kitchen Sink Drama, none more retrospectively thought-provoking than the fifth tune, the Newsagent, which encouraged the placement of this archived memory to my frontal cortex.

Unlike many a lockdown inspired project, this lives on the sunny side of the street, no matter how working-class notion of destitution. A semi-acoustic concept album, all from a shed in Trowbridge, as folk, as best pigeonholed, it’s acutely observational and mostly sentimentally mellow, perfect lazy Sunday afternoon music. Yet it never escorts you down a dark alley. Of people-watching in a back street pub, of a welcomed arrival of a letter from an old friend; subjects are ordinary, with an optimistic air of market town affairs. Even the album sleeve is a line drawing of Trowbridge town centre.

Released on 208 Records, usually reserved for garage mod-revival, still it retains something of that period in sound and particularly subject. Rob himself polished his skill fronting Swindon mod band Roundabout, some twenty-five years past. A band I do recall fondly. But even if you don’t, here is something indie-folky, with a taste of local excellence.

Revived since lockdown this garage-folk band’s fifth album was recorded in Rob’s garden shed, with only bassist Geoff Allwright, and using Ian Hunter’s lyrics. It’s beautifully peculiar, a mite psychedelic in as much as McCartney vaudeville moments on Sgt Pepper, engrossing as Nick Drake, quirky as Pentangle or The Pretty Things. It’s the Kinks jamming carefree on a Sunday, especially on the most upbeat Lincoln Green. It nods to Lionel Bart on the Austerity Street, John Martyn on The Tin Man, and incredibly on the captivating eleven-minute finale, Falling Backwards, where things do get acute, Ralph McTell.

Like a Ralph of Trowbridge, it’s like, why is this down the road but new to me? Why didn’t it post a leaflet through my letterbox instead of a pleading politician?


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Wiltshire Lays all its Eggs in the Same Basket

You’ve done it now, it’s too late for reason. My reaction to the local election results coming in; you really want to hear it?!

It’s not really news, and altogether unsurprising to see early results to the local town/village elections coming in, proving generally the majority population of Wiltshire is unable to consider change, and doesn’t much care for their neighbours. Yep, if you proudly tow the national party line, or if you waffle how the sheer ignorance, dishonourable and incompetent of the Conservative Party nationally doesn’t reflect your own opinions and views, if you painted your election leaflet blue, you more than likely won it by a country mile. Did we seriously expect anything less?

Face it, any other party, or independent candidate wouldn’t have stood a chance even if they offered everyone a free fish finger sandwich for every vote, and everyone, tory or sensible, loves a fish finger sandwich. To those who lost, it’s not a reflection on you, rather the ignorance of the silent majority. Not even mayo on the sarnie would’ve worked.

As impartial as I get, I offer my congratulations to the winning candidates, but it is with great concern for the wellbeing of the most vulnerable, the youth, the working class and usual victims of this totalitarian regime. Even if many themselves fail to see past their Daily Fail, fail to comprehend the buck stops at the top, and their neighbours, or their mass-media driven forged enemies are not to blame for the current balls up this country finds itself in, it is, nonetheless, proof Wiltshire loves to lay all it’s eggs in the same basket.

It’s not even a shiny new basket, it’s the aged wrecked one, where guaranteed the eggs drop out of the bottom and an expectant fat cat waits to lap them up.

I cross my fingers and toes that this sheer stupidity will not elevate to the Police Crime Commissioner role, due to be announced on Monday, but reflecting on today’s results, I’m not holding my breath. The most controversial and malevolent of all tory candidates standing has raised interest in this debatably inconsequential job. It all hinges on what we want from a PCC; a dedicated experienced man in the field, a politically-minded victim’s mother of a callous and brutal attack with an argument to boot, or a one-policy suspected criminal themself, with the financial backing of the wealthiest felons of blood sports in order to encourage police to turn a blind eye to brutally attacking wildlife for twisted kicks. Seriously, you think you’ll get justice for a burglary, an assault or theft, from a fellow whose only objective for the role is to turnaround the hunting act and roam the countryside on horseback yelling tally-ho and smearing the blood of slaughtered foxes on their face? Is that really the future prospective for policing in the county you crave?

Give me strength. There’s a level of blind folly which astounds my tolerance, it really does. Yet historically it’s a given thing, Wiltshire is Tory, always has been since the Cavaliers whipped the Roundheads; you face it head-on and bite your lip, or you follow suit, opt for the selection which takes no brainpower, and place your cross where you always do. Unreasoning contemporary alterations is a dangerous game, having an opposition is vital to democracy. I’m no politician, don’t pretend to be, don’t wish to be, but that much I do know.  

As this reflects national trend, I hope every successful candidate adheres to the lofty pledges and promises of change, rather than submits to the corrupt ethos of the current cabinet. Okay, so you used the blue platform to get to this point, despite bits of Bojo’s rash and forbidding outbursts, like the watermelon smiles, the post boxes, and now the bodies piling higher, don’t match your sentiments, but the motivation is surely to climb further up the ladder, that’s the philosophy of modern conservatism, and for which you need to kiss the rings of those in charge, and they do not accept a midrange, centre-right standing; you watched them get ousted in favour of far right and nationalists from other parties, remember? You are buying into oppression, whether you want to, or not, like it, or not.

There’s nothing wrong with Conservatism per say, as a theory, and one, possibly two Tories I can stomach, for they seem to have morals on the surface. Yet, it’s when there’s a, whatever the collective noun for self-centred arseholes is, they tend to bounce inconsistences to what’s righteous around, garnish them with wonky and selfish agendas, and generally, fuelled by expensive tax-free wine from daddy’s collection, conjure a plan to maintain the wealth for the wealthiest without concern for the trickling down of any leftover faeces for the common man to lap up.

This is good news for most of us here, this is an affluent area. But I urge you, when you next roll your 21reg Land Rover Discovery off your extensive loose chipping track and drive into the real world, stop to observe not everyone’s silver spoon is quite as polished and orally positioned, and everyone who serves you in Marks and Sparks, everyone who delivers your bespoke Lexington four-draw chest for your next refurb, or collects your recycling bin surely warrants a better day too. Enough to go round, isn’t there? Monkeys live in this jungle too, not just organ grinders.

Ah, same shitshow different day. For me it’s a no news day, and I’m waffling. I can’t even raise my optimism for the news the controversial head Wiltshire councillor Phillip Whitehead has resigned, for it’s easy to suspect another one will be along shortly, equally as vexed. I’m more flabbergasted, and slightly upset the sequel to my fictional story series needs a new thinktank, as those comical and sensitive Tories say!


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Gull Able

Ah, hope you enjoy my new Sunday series, something a little different…. To Be Continued………

Brainiac 5’s Other Dimension

And it is precisely that. Cornish psych-punkers The Brainiac 5 release this mind-blowing album of both reflective new tunes and lost archived tracks, today. Another Time Another Dimension bursts the cliché term genre-breaking to compose scattered influences, with this kind of low-fi garage style, which while loans to punk, even reggae, has the nod to acid rock of a previous psychedelia era. Most befitting a title, this is a tricky nugget to nail down, but it’s grower.

The band stress this is not a lockdown album, the impetus came from two other sources, namely a digging through the archives for unreleased material, and secondly, the passing of a long-time friend of the band, Martin Griffin. A supportive engineering assistant to the band in its earliest days, allowing them extensive use of his Roach Recording studio. Both reasons sparked the writing of some new songs, in this fifteen-track bundle of era-spanning and mind-expanding goodness.

I confess I was dubious at first, it’s as if The Beatles came after punk, but still recorded in a garage. It made me ponder the Clash singing “phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust,” and in turn the target audience, presumably a fairly eclectic bunch. As I said, it’s a grower, and I suspect I’ll be digging bits of “oh yeah, I get it now,” for many listens to come. But time has got the best of me, got to get this review out tonight.

“The four albums released during our second coming have all garnered many reviews noting our continuing desire to experiment and expand while still maintaining the basic psych/punk ethos,” they say, “Indeed, the three new tracks here do continue this tradition of experimentation. However, although it is clear that the band has grown and developed over the years it is remarkable just how much we were experimenting right from the band’s inception.”

The bulk of Another Time Another Dimension, then, are memoirs, lost archives from 1976-1980, in what the band name “our initial Cornwall period.” Taking John D. Loudermilk’s Tobacco Road to Hendrix proportions, yep, sure is blues to be found here, and the rough and ready cover of Move’s Do Ya revels in low-fi garage rock.

But it’s loud, proud and sonic trialling, denoting a path through dubby seventies roots reggae, with a few tracks which offbeat, such as I Call Your Name and though Our Devils is another, it reeks of avant-garde, a Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band-come post-punk Talking Heads. Then I return to thinking, definitely punk, I Feel Good a prime example. And then, wham, there’s freaky drunken Jim Morrison weirdness in tracks like Khazi Persona.

Though the ground here is bumpy at the best of times, your head doesn’t smash on the top; it may be raw, but blends with a flowing refinement of proficiency. “There is a lot of ground covered here,” they rightly explain, “hang on and enjoy the ride.” And there’s the very thing; once you’ve found your footing, it’s a fantastic, adventurous ride, just lacks suspension!

But, with the third eye being squeegeed so succulently as this, suspension is for losers, anyway. Another Time Another Dimension encompasses a past with a present, as if neither really happened, and that’s refreshingly effective against pigeonholing.


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Sheer Reveal Frank Turner at Cheese & Grain

To celebrate the release of his new single “the Gathering,” featuring Jason Isbell and Muse’s Dom Howard, multi-award-winning Frank Turner, one of the UK’s most successful solo artists of the past decade, selling over one million records worldwide and playing to over two million people from small venues to a sold-out show at London’s famous Wembley Arena, announces a UK tour. The good news for Turner fans is, Sheer Music nabbed the man himself for two dates at the Cheese & Grain.

Out via Xtra Mile Recordings of Polydor Records, The Gathering is his first new solo music in nearly two years. That said, we did review his Buddies sequel album with Jon Snodgrass not so long ago.

Launching today, The Gathering is available to stream now across all platforms, alongside are the exciting details for a series of nine live show ‘Gatherings’, headed by Frank and Xtra Mile Recordings and running over summer 2021. Tickets for all shows on sale from 10am BST on Friday May 7th.

It’s said Frank Turner didn’t want to write a lockdown song. Over the past year he’s written and rewritten songs, trying to steer himself away from the subject that will no doubt dominate the charts for years to come. But for a man whose life and career are so intrinsically linked to live music, not referencing the dearth of festivals and gigs started to prove impossible. Not least since Turner himself has spent much of lockdown playing virtual shows from his living room, raising over £250,000 to support endangered grassroots venues up and down the UK, many of which might not have otherwise survived the pandemic.

So, it’s fitting that Frank’s new single ‘The Gathering’ is an upbeat, Glam-esque stomp. It puts a positive spin on things, anticipating a return to normality. “It’s about that moment when you come together in a room full of people, and you lean on a stranger and sing along with the chorus and get the words wrong,” explained Frank.

Produced by Rich Costey (Biffy Clyro, Foo Fighters), who Frank worked with on 2013’s Tape Deck Heart, ‘The Gathering’ features pile driving drums courtesy of Muse’s Dom Howard and a triumphant guitar solo from Jason Isbell, who recorded remotely from Los Angeles and Nashville. The new track follows a number of huge life changes for the star, who left his beloved London for the Essex coast, also getting married after the release of 2019’s No Man’s Land. “The biggest thing for me about the lockdown experience was about identity,” he says. “I am the guy who tours, this is who I’ve been since I was sixteen. This is the longest period of time I’ve slept in the same bed continuously since I was seven.”

Set to change this summer, when, in celebration of the ethos behind ‘The Gathering’ Frank and label Xtra Mile Recordings will present a run of outdoor shows, helping to kick start the return of live music. It’s been a catastrophic year for the Industry as a whole, with the Covid pandemic dealing blow after blow for everyone in the sector. In true punk rock style, Xtra Mile and Turner want to take matters into their own hands with a set of versatile events that can either be socially distanced or full capacity depending on the maximum safety of the audience, performers and crews and in accordance with any national restrictions in place at the time of the event. Frank says; “At a time when the pandemic has wreaked havoc all across the live music industry, I feel like it’s important to get back to the basics – playing live music to entertain a crowd. This summer, with Xtra Mile and friends, I’m taking the punk approach – do it yourself, find a way. I can’t wait.”

2021 UK ‘Gathering’ Live Shows include Bideford in June, and Frome’s Cheese & Grain on both Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th June. The tour continues through July with dates in Liverpool and Gloucester, August at Manchester and Hull will need to wait until September.

The Guv’ of Sheer, Kieran Moore is keen to point out the Sunday is his birthday, so if you are going, take him a cake. I dunno, good question; add about 50ish candles I reckon!


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Save Furlong Close Campaigners Protest in Rowde

Rowde villagers joined for a socially distanced and peaceful protest today, in the centre of the village to show their support for the Save Furlong Close campaign.

More show of solidarity than protest, if “protest” is now a dirty word and standing up for your rights is to be considered illicit. It was good to meet those heading this campaign to deflect the closing of Furlong Close, home to 36 vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism and epilepsy.

Reflecting on a thought I’d said in previous articles on this campaign, campaign leader Trish specified how the residents of Furlong Close were a big part of the village community and would be missed if it was to close down. We also discussed that while the red tape between Wiltshire Council and the owning charity HFT continues, the opinions of both locals and residents are being ignored.

We’ve covered the tragic plans on Devizine at length, in the past; hearing direct from Mark Steele, a member of the campaign’s steering group, who has family at Furlong Close. The Gazette & Herald ran an edition with a wrap-around page campaign, and over a staggering 44,000 have signed the petition, therefore I do not wish to go over the same ground. We know this is a terrible decision, we are aware the residents do not wish to be dispersed and move into isolated and lonely single accommodations they’re unfamiliar with, we only need a workable solution.

Yet with the backing of many local councillors, Anna Cuthbert and Lib Dem candidate for Bromham, Rowde and Roundway, Mark Mangham in attendance today, the backing of the media, and in particular, the local people, I sincerely hope we can turn this around and end on a feel-good story. The show of hope and solidarity today proves this is possible. Mark said it was, “humbling to be among the campaigners, many related to residents and from beyond Wiltshire. Many Rowde residents are volunteers. This is what community feels like!”


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Song of the Day 39: Kirsty Clinch

Song of the day this fine Friday evening… got to be Kirsty, enough said! And that’s my song of the day!! Very good, carry on…..