Harvey does Hitler

It’s no secret that I’m a massive Alex Harvey fan and I’ve blogged about him here before.

Anyroadup, here’s a real treat for all fellow fans that I found on this excellent music blog – it’s a live version of ‘Framed’ and – even better – it’s the legendary Adolf Hitler version.

How I miss Alex…

PS – here’s Alex performing the Jesus Christ version of ‘Framed’:

 

As far as I know, no live recording of this version of ‘Framed’ exists but feel free to differ and please send me a link.

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Out and about today, I saw…

On a gig poster, a band called ‘The Chip Shop Boys’.

Also, a personalised number plate:

P1DLE

My 100 favourite albums – the top 20!

Here, by popular demand…well, Mr Rob’s demand anyway…is the remaining top 20 of my favourite albums.

This list has been in my bag since I left the UK so it’s contemporary with the rest of the top 100.

Please forgive the lack of formatting, but it costs to edit online so here it is, in all its naked glory, and in ascending order.

#20 – Chicago: ‘Chicago Transit Authority’ – the most successful attempt ever to merge rock with a jazzy big band horn section and still a regular listen. Forget their later top 40 AOR schlock like ‘If You Leave Me Now’. This is punchy stuff with some truly splendid arrangements, lots of Terry Kath’s guitar and some great songs. Only one duff track – ‘Free Form Guitar’ – but that’s not bad for a double album.

#19 – Foo Fighters: ‘The Colour and the Shape’ – I’m in awe of Dave Grohl – drummer, songwriter, guitarist, vocalist and all-round nice guy. He illustrates exactly what irritates me about rock dinosaurs like Clapton, Collins and Sting by his total contrast to them. Whilst they just churn out album after album of the same old stuff, what does Grohl do with the mega-successful Foos? He takes time off from them to join up with Josh Homme and John Paul Jones in Them Crooked Vultures and gets back on the drum stool again. As for this Foos album, if I thought that I’d written a song as beautiful as ‘Walking Back To You’ or ‘Everlong’ I’d die a happy man.

#18 – Aerosmith: ‘Pump’ – ‘Smith’s best album of their second ‘comeback’ period and what seems to be a perfect hard rock album with great chops, songs, production and humour a plenty; ‘Going down?’ Second only to Jagger and Richards as the quintessential singer/lead guitarist frontmen, Tyler and Perry ensure that every song is a winner and when you get tired of the balls out rock of ‘Elevator’ there’s always ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’ which reveals a sensitivity that their nearest parallel Guns ‘n’ Roses could never have achieved with schmaltz like ‘November Rain’.

#17 – Sex Pistols: ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ – An easy choice in many ways and although punk threw out some great stuff along with the shite I always come back to this album because it’s just such fucking great heavy rock. Steve Jones’ guitar produces possibly the best power chords ever in the history of rock and the rhythm guitar tracks are great enough on their own to insure its place here. Add in Paul Cook’s powerhouse drumming and John Lydon’s sneering vocals and you have a glorious brew which may have been part of a great swindle, but then again, most rock/pop music is anyway.

#16 – Little Feat: ‘Feats Don’t Fail Me Now – Lowell George’s crowning achievement with some superb singing, slide guitar and compositions all wrapped up with a production job which brought out all the subtle nuances of a band which kicked rhythmic ass in a way that the Meters had only managed hitherto. For fuck’s sake, even the conga playing is stellar! ‘Rock and Roll Doctor’ is the stand out track here with a veritable cross-rhythmic gumbo all topped off with Lowell’s vocals and slide.

#15 – Steely Dan: ‘Pretzel Logic’ – A difficult choice this time as I love every Dan album. Their last offering with the excellent Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter on guitar and their first using lots of session players. Fagen’s vocals have a cracked and world-weary vulnerability and deliver the usual knowing hipster lyrics beautifully. Suffice to say the playing is just plain fucking beautiful with the customary glossy production that sometimes approached the mildly bland on some later tracks. Favourite track? Christ…today, the title track – tomorrow, who knows?

#14 – The Butterfield Blues Band: ‘East West’ – It’s difficult to understate the effect that hearing this album had on my musical life as well as on rock music in general. The long title track with its jazz/Indian/folk music synthesis paved the way for rock to free itself of the very blues-based direction it was taking. Whilst Mike Bloomfield’s role as guitarist and explorer was huge in this ground breaking track, the whole band just picked up the torch and ran. There’s a CD available of 3 live versions of ‘East West’ which shows how they evolved the track into something quite unique and
experimental. A simply stunning for the title track alone. Listen to it – NOW!

#13 – The Byrds: ‘5D’ – In many ways, the stand out track of this album stands with ‘East West’ – praised to the rooftops above – as a pivotal moment in the development of rock from a musical form taking from one dominant style to a merging of musics. Roger McGuinn’s 12 string Rickenbacker on ‘8 Miles High’ channelled Coltrane and Shankar to produce twists and turns I’d never heard before (or since) and all adding to a trippy haze that opened up the late 1960s as a time of expanding horizons; both musical and spiritual. The rest of the album ain’t too shabby either.

#12 – Jimi Hendrix Experience: ‘Electric Ladyland’ – In many ways an typically indulgent double album, ‘Ladyland’ stands as a bold series of experiments during which Hendrix explored the possibilities of not just the electric guitar but also the studio. Modern music productions all starts here in many ways and Hendrix amply illustrated what the studio was capable of. Creating both dreamy soundscapes and heavy jamming, the whole album is a sonic trip and legal high. It’s all good stuff. Listen with headphones for the maximum effect on your cerebral cortex.

#11 – Radiohead: ‘The Bends’ – Nowadays as guilty as U2 of
overstating their own importance, imagining that rock music can change the world (it can’t) and producing some truly pretentious dog wank, this album remains their crowning glory with a depth that still reveals hidden treasures. Not a duff track, with ‘Street Spirit’ my current favourite. What still impresses me is that I hear sounds I’ve never heard before or since on this album. Above all, great songs with lyrics and melodies to die for.

Well, halfway through. Time for the top 10 and my own personal number 1 album…

#10 The Rolling Stones – ‘Exile on Main Street’ – In many ways a deeply flawed double album, the sheer energy of the band punches through the rather murky vibe of the whole deal. Recorded in ‘exile’ in France – but maybe with more fairy dust added afterwards than they’d like to admit – and fuelled throughout by a decadence that still impresses, this is a very sprawling album with that chaotic feel that the Stones always managed to rein in before the whole thing fell apart. Possibly the best live band of their times (maybe ever) the guitars have that same spontaneous feel and add to what sounds like a band just playing for the sheer hell of it. Current favourite track: ‘Tumblin’ Dice’. Raunchy and meshed rhythm guitar heaven.

#9 – Miles Davis: ‘Kind of Blue’ – I came to jazz quite late in life (about 15 years ago whilst in my early 40s) and this album in particular even later. I preferred Miles’ bebop playing and it took me a while to get what he was doing here with the underlying modal framework. In fact, once I’d understood the format it slotted into place as a precursor of improvised rock playing with its paradoxical combination of the freedom of the modal form and the complexities of improvisation that it offered. I always play the whole album at one sitting. I can’t listen to a single track in isolation. It’s all superb.

#8 – Jellyfish: ‘Spilt Milk’ – US power pop at its finest. Very Beatlish, but with enough originality of its own, this short-lived band produced some exquisitely beautiful melodic rock. Although pop alchemist Jason Falkner had left after the band’s first album, this second offering delivers enough lushness and power to make up for it, with the hit track ‘Joining a Fan Club’ representing all that makes this album a stand out. Great harmonies, complex production, crunchy guitars and witty lyrics are all Jellyfish hallmarks and well displayed here. Search this blog for my long article about the band.

#7 – XTC: ‘English Settlement’ – How the UK approached power pop and why Andy Partridge is a true genius. Yet another double album, this has filler, but there’s enough in the ways of gems to redeem it. It’s uniquely ‘English’ music with Partsy eschewing American influences yet still rocking out. ‘Senses Working Overtime’ is sheer brilliance with Dave Gregory’s chiming Rick 12, Colin Moulding’s virtuoso bass and Terry Chambers’ monster drumming all providing a perfect backdrop for Andy’s idiosyncratic vocals and lyrics. That the band languished for years whilst contractual difficulties were being sorted out is a true crime against art. Shame on you, Virgin Records!

#6 – Cream: ‘Fresh Cream’ – another musical influence on me and although patchy stuff, it contains enough superb Clapton playing to merit its place here. ‘I’m So Glad’ and ‘Sweet Wine’ alone are enough with their superb Clapton solos which, in many ways, remain unique in his canon with their refusal to remain rooted in the blues. Clapton had it all in his early days with Cream and he was playing highly original licks in a freewheeling fashion. Even when the band started jamming on stage Clapton rarely played with such flair and abandon. Listening to this album can be a really depressing experience if you compare his playing on it to his playing today.

#5 – Love: ‘Forever Changes’ – Simply, just a beautiful album with the band providing an understated setting for the late Arthur Lee’s puzzling but tender songs. An album of its hippie times hat still sounds good today and gives you an idea of what Hendrix might have sounded like had he been rooted in acoustic folk music and not electric blues. ‘Alone Again Or’ is impenetrable brilliance with its Mariachi brass section, Lee’s breathless vocals and its soaring melody. I don’t understand a tenth of what Lee wrote about, but it doesn’t matter – a true summer album and playing here as I type this, the sun shines and the crickets sing.

#4 – Al Stewart: ‘Time Passages’ – Al left folk music well behind when he recorded this work of brilliance. Still folky, it now has rock and pop punch with prominent electric guitars, saxes and keyboards. Not a bad track to be found from the hard harmony guitar rock of ‘Valentina Way’ to the pastoral orchestration of ‘End of the Day’. Al always writes great lyrics which often concern historical events and here we have Thomas More, the French Revolution and WWII submarines for subjects. Another perfect album with not one substandard track.

#3 – Beach Boys: ‘Pet Sounds’ – Overshadowed at the same time of release as the Beatles’ ‘Pepper’ album, this is a far superior work. Brian Wilson didn’t attempt to go all hippyish. Instead, he stuck to what he new – heartfelt lyrics, sublime vocals, superb marshalling of session men in the studio and clean and clear production. No gimmicks! ‘God Only Knows’ is crystalline in its beauty and is perhaps the finest love song of all time. The album even beats the aborted ‘Smile’ album project which followed ‘Sounds’ into production. Best listened to in mono – the way Brian intended.

#2 – John Mayall with Eric Clapton: ‘Bluesbreakers’ – the rock guitar-defining ‘Beano’ album with Clapton’s revolutionary playing. The Les Paul and cranked-up valve amp sound with heavy vibrato and controlled bends is still heard widely today and Clapton has to take the credit for this. His playing is exemplary throughout with heavy riffing, sustained notes and precision bends benefiting from Gus Dudgeon’s amazing production. Eric played at stage volume – fucking loud – and Dudgeon realised that recording it this way was the only way to get his unique sound. The whole album influenced my own playing massively and still colours my playing today. Modern rock guitar started HERE.

So, here we are at numero uno. My number one and possibly some other people’s, too. This is my true ‘desert island’ disc…

#1 – Bob Dylan: ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ – I’ve loved this since the day of release and gone back to it over and over again. It’s down to lots of things – Dylan’s superb cracked and laconic voice, his obtuse lyrics, the way the band used piano, organ and Mike Bloomfield’s guitar, the simple yet effective arrangements and production, the sheer exuberance of the playing…everything here gels into a seamless whole and a perfect work of musical majesty. Dylan wears all his influences proudly on his sleeve with blues, rock and roll and folk all combining to produce a sound and style that is uniquely his. I have several out-takes from the sessions which reveal how Dylan refined the songs – often abandoning an arrangement totally. In its released form, for example, ‘It Takes a Lot to Laugh (It Takes a Train to Cry)’ is a slow shuffle. Its earlier incarnations were much faster and with different lyrics. Similarly, the earlier versions of ‘Desolation Row’ feature Mike Bloomfield on electric guitar as opposed to the acoustic guitar on the final release.
Lyrically, the songs on the album rank amongst Dylan’s finest:

‘When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez in the rain when it’s Easter Time too. And your gravity fails and negativity don’t pull you through. Don’t put on any airs when you’re down in Rue Morgue Avenue. They got some hungry women there and they really make a mess out of you’.

Fucked, after some 45 years, if I know what it means yet, but it still speaks to me. I suppose this is why I rate the album so highly. It’s still not given up all its secrets after all these years and continues to draw me to find out more. A lifetime of listening in one album – can music really get any better?

So, there we go.

My own Top 100 Albums.

No Beatles and some other glaring omissions – also, I hope, some genuine surprises!

Ask me for my top 100 albums now and the list would be different again in many ways – and therein lies the beauty of the stuff we call music – you can take what you want when you want and it doesn’t matter one jot what you do.

As Uncle Frank once said:

‘Music is the best’.

It surely is.

My juicy fanny

Need I say more?

Or would that just be taking the pith ?

Update at last!

Well, after a struggle, I’m finally on the internet via an Orange 3G stick which took some getting.

A brief update…the move went well. Everything was taken away in a highly efficient manner by the excellent Hunts of Redditch – whom I can recommend without reservation – and we had an uneventful crossing.

We’ve been here just over three weeks and now have bank cards from Credit Agricole, we’ve registered with CPAM – the French health service – and viewed about 8 houses.

I can’t say we’re much clearer in our own heads about what we want to buy. We’ve seen old houses, new houses, ones ready to move into and ones that need some money spending on them…It’d be great if we could find somewhere fairly soon so we can move in about July or August. There’s certainly no shortage of properties!

Things generally got off to a slow start with Mrs Shark having a major Menieres attack whilst we were browsing Chateau Gontier’s Friday market – a week after we arrived here – but she’s just about over it now thank fuck. It’s a nasty condition with eventual deafness and symptoms of extreme vertigo and the consequent vomiting but it’s just got to be lived with and given time to recede. Hopefully, that’s it for a few months. Fingers crossed!

We were talking about the move so far last night and we really don’t regret it. We have peace and quiet here and a chance at a way of life we’ve both wanted for years.

I’ll try and keep this updated now, but this 3G stick is a bit slow and everything has to be written offline unless I sell a kidney to pay for top ups on it. It’s like being on dial up all over again!

C’est la vie!

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The Millennium Trilogy is now complete!

This is now out!

I got the second book in the trilogy earlier this year, then I had to get the first as soon as I started to read the second as I realised this was going to be best read in the right order.

Now the third and final part is out and I’ve just bought it.

I’m not normally a fan of translations, but it hasn’t been a problem with the Larsson books probably because the heroine Lisbeth Salander is just amazing – a dysfunctional punk computer whiz who has some very violent tendencies.

It’s essentially good versus evil in a contemporary and sometimes noir setting, but it’s the characterisation that makes this series great – Salander is simply one of the greatest hero figures of modern crime fiction.

Highly recommended…