This is The Parish Counsel, episode 196 – in which we consider the future for Clarkson; Zayn; James Corden; the Top Forty; and we review BBC2’s ‘By Reason Of Insanity’. Stream it, download it, listen and enjoy. It’s FREE!
The latest installment of the finest indie podcast on the internet. Stream it, share it, love it – this is Indie Wonderland 25, with Juliet Harris. Earlier episodes are also available here.
Last night, David Cameron and Ed Miliband – the front-runners in the upcoming general election – took part in a set-piece event, answering pantomime questions from Jeremy Paxman and rather more sober posers from a studio audience. Unsurprisingly, the subject of the NHS cropped up, specifically the involvement of the private sector in the organisation. Whether you consider it a good idea or not, it seems private companies are sure to have a hand in our treatment, whichever party succeeds. And what could possibly go wrong? Just look how affordable and reliable the railways have been since they were privatised.
Of course, free-market principles insist every profit-making opportunity is explored, and I’m sure those parties interested in a slice of the NHS pie are already considering ways to introduce innovative advertising techniques to medicine.
Ever keen to back the great British entrepreneur, here’s a few of my ideas they may wish to add to the mix …
“When this old world starts getting me down,
And people are just too much for me to face,
I climb way up to the top of the stairs,
And all my cares just drift right into space,
On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be,
And there the world below can’t bother me.”
I can relate to that. We all need somewhere, a space, whether literally, or conjured up in our minds, where we can escape the worries of the day. Indeed, somewhere where our cares just drift right into space.
Everyone needs some relaxation time. Some ‘me’ time, as the Americans would have it.
As we established on this week’s podcast, there’s a something particularly alluring about the rock and roll bass player. And sadly, one of the best took his leave of us this week. Andy Fraser played his first show with Free at just 15 years of age, immediately ensuring his name as a great musician and star. Here he is in conversation with Terry Rawlings of Delicious Junction, last year.
Do the teenagers you know talk excitedly about inequality, racial discrimination or pollution? If so, they may be exhibiting the first signs of drug addiction.”
Thus runs the opening paragraph from a pamphlet issued by a concerned religious group from Ohio.
Perhaps though we can carry a greater understanding of this concern when we consider the other end of the rainbow, where we find the ‘Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness’ where it is posited that, through the use of hallucinogenics, “differing levels of being can be achieved with a human’s nervous system”, according to an over-excited follower, Timothy Leary. To which many rather more enlightened individuals might respond, “You carry on mate, but leave my nervous system to me…”
Links between drugs, music and ‘young people’ have troubled society’s guardians for many a generation, and despite changes in attitudes, more liberal times, and wider understanding of the effects of drugs, the use, and ‘glamour’ of the (particularly illegal) potions continues.
Yet for those intoxicated or influenced by latter day drug buffoons like Pete Doherty, it may come as a surprise that they are inventing nothing that is new. It isn’t big and it isn’t clever, as any ancient Egyptian, his head filled with mandrake, opium or blue lotus, would confirm.
In researching this piece, and coming across a large volume of drug related songs from the jazzy world of the 1920s and 1930s, it seems odd that many biographers state with certainty that Ella Fitzgerald was vehemently against the use of drugs when one listens to her jaunty performance of ‘Wacky Dust’ in 1938:
“Oh I don’t know just why; It gets you so high; Putting a buzz in your heart; You’ll do a marathon; You’ll wanna go on; Kickin’ the ceilin’ apart.”
Ella’s first husband (it appears she married him on a whim) was a convicted drug dealer, and she soon had the marriage annulled. Her reputation has survived such quirks, but for Harry Gibson, recording a dope related song in 1947 proved to be a career buster. “Who Put The Benzedrine In Mrs Murphy’s Ovaltine?” might seem rather innocuous, even tame, in today’s world, and I have a passing suspicion that it was the rhyme that seduced Gibson, rather than the subject.
However, his young career was over, ostensibly, and as his own use of drugs extended rather farther than the relatively mild Benzedrine, it took a remarkable turn of events in the 1960s and 70s before he perceived a more laissez-faire approach to his views on the recreational use of drugs, and found himself playing in blues and rock bands in his fifties and sixties.
Back though, to Dr. Timothy Leary, for whom, of course, John Lennon wrote ‘Come Together’ as a campaign song when Leary stood for the Governorship of California.
Leary was also present when John and Yoko recorded ‘Give Peace A Chance’ in a Montreal hotel room. From these and other examples of Leary’s influence, it would be a simple step to assume that the taking of mind altering drugs inevitably leads to coolness and the capacity to write great, enduring songs of spiritual clarity and depth.
However, for every ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ there is also the hairdresser/psych/rock of the Moody Blues; and every ‘Itchycoo Park’ and ‘Astronomy Domine’ is balanced by the dull noodlings of the Grateful Dead or the pub-rock-psychedelia of Procol Harum.
The ‘Summer Of Love’, 1967, in Haight Ashbury, ended in the cool of the December of that year with many of the influx of young hopefuls, seeking help for addiction, suffering from malnutrition and attending clinics for a variety of unfashionable diseases.
If the link between brain changing narcotics and ground-breaking music wasn’t already dead by the end of 1969, then Charles Manson and Altamont were responsible for burying it alive.
By 1970, Syd Barrett, Peter Green, Brian Wilson; their artistry and in the latter’s case, their genius, stolen by paranoia, confusion, panic attacks and anxiety.
The legacy of the use of LSD by musicians was felt by those left standing in fields in Windsor and Aldermaston, watching Hawkwind perform from the back of a truck, the sound swirling away on the wind, with the hopes of the love generation, who by then, were either working for the council, in prison, or living in their mum’s attic.
There are arguments for the use of relaxing drugs; there are arguments for the use of prescribed drugs to help with specific conditions. In such cases, it is to be hoped that the user, or patient, retains control; but the damning indictment against Leary’s “turn on, tune in, drop out” is that it is the dropping out aspect that becomes the driver. Control is taken by the drug and not by the user.
And as soon as we lose control of our own minds, then we have no control over our artistry, our performance, our creativity, and most important of all, of ourselves.
Terence Dackombe – March 2015
The other day I fell into conversation with a colleague on the subject of radio presenters. ‘DJs’, we used to call them, in an era before Fatboy Slim and Judge Jules. My friend was in no doubt, the late Kenny Everett was the greatest ever; nobody would or could surpass him. I disagree.
Have you ever known a person who, through nervousness or shyness, always talks in a funny voice? Well, Cuddly Ken made a career out of that. But that’s not to say he wasn’t a pioneer. Before his shows began, comedy radio came in the form of sketch shows like ‘Round The Horne’ or the surreal antics of The Goons. Music radio tended to stick to the rigid format of link, record, link, record – and Everett deconstructed the format to mix sound effects, characters and gags with the discs. Because of their novelty and unpredictability, his broadcasts gathered quite a following, but that didn’t mean they were consistently hilarious and it certainly doesn’t make him the best DJ to ever appear on British radio.
Beware, if you’re a moderately well-known person, with political connections, and someone from the BBC’s ‘This Week’ television show calls you up, at short notice, and asks you to make a film for them.
A week ago, Asim Qureshi, from the rather odd ‘Cage’ organisation, was invited to make a somewhat benign insert for the ‘This Week’ programme and then sit on one of their tiny sofas to discuss the contents. However, he found himself, without warning, being put on the spot about a number of remarks he has made over the years, and Cage’s alleged campaign against the security services. Qureshi flustered and flannelled and looked overwhelmingly grateful when Andrew Neil brought the item to a close.
It wasn’t all Frankie Goes To Hollywood, y’know. ZTT was one of the great independent labels of the eighties and nineties and, while its biggest success was Frankie, it also released tremendous work by Propaganda, Art of Noise, Seal and others. Here, Trevor Horn talks to Paul Morley about ZTT’s history and output.
An old showbiz adage states ‘Where there’s a hit, there’s a writ’. This is the notion that any sufficiently successful musical endeavour will immediately attract the attention of a lawyer, claiming the credit and money belongs to their client. The motto may be old, but it hasn’t lost any of its relevance.
This week, a US judge found in favour of Marvin Gaye’s family and against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. Gaye’s people had brought a suit claiming Thicke and Williams had substantially copied Marvin’s ‘Got To Give It Up’ for their hit ‘Blurred Lines’. The verdict means significant damages will soon be swelling the estate of the late soul star. But does it signal anything more alarming for the wider music business?
“They’re entitled to protect their work, and that’s exactly what they did.”
Robin and Pharrell are by no means unique in feeling the sting of an adverse legal decision over a song. Although The Verve’s best known record is ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, the former members receive no income from the work. Thanks to a claim by The Rolling Stones, all royalties head in the direction of Jagger, Richards and former manager Andrew Loog Oldham. It’s the strings, you see. The Verve borrowed the violin figure on which ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ is based, from an orchestral version of ‘The Last Time’, without permission. This transgression was deemed serious enough to deny Richard Ashcroft and Nick McCabe any remuneration. You might argue The Glimmer Twins have money to burn and are therefore being a bit mean, but they’re entitled to protect their work, and that’s exactly what they did.
This was actually a rare instance of an open-and-shut case. The Verve undeniably pinched the section in question, and paid the price. Also, when Wet Wet Wet lifted a lyrical couplet from Squeeze, the theft couldn’t be disputed. But usually these things are far more nuanced – as Elastica discovered when they released the track ‘Waking Up’. Very quickly, m’learned friends were all over the band, insisting the song bore a marked and reckless similarity to The Stranglers’ ‘No More Heroes’. Although the dispute was settled before it reached court, Elastica were forced to make a financial contribution to Cornwell, Burnel and friends, who also carry a publishing credit (and therefore ongoing royalties) for ‘Waking Up’. Which just goes to show the subjective nature of such accusations. To my ears, the two songs are somewhat alike, in their rhythm and bass-driven tone. But they’re far from identical. Try them for yourself:
More recently, Brit Awards winner Sam Smith, fell foul of Tom Petty. Or at least the latter’s representatives. In 2014, Smith’s single ‘Stay With Me’ thrust him into the mainstream, but also drew attention to the record’s close resemblance to Petty’s ‘I Won’t Back Down’. Again, there was no court hearing, but we can be sure the settlement from Sam’s camp to Tom’s, would have been impressively large. In this instance, I can hear the similarity, but it’s not my ears that count and the line between inspiration and plagiarism is very mobile.
I’m no connoisseur of heavy metal (if you are, feel free to put me straight), but I would suggest almost every record in the genre borrows from Led Zeppelin. In turn, Zeppelin made free with the work of under-credited and under-rewarded Mississippi bluesmen. This is clearly a deeply unpredictable minefield we’re navigating. It’s also counter-intuitive.
“You can’t copyright a musical feeling. Or can you?”
When the result of the Blurred Lines case landed, several wags pointed out that Noel Gallagher must have been sweating, lest a call came in from The Beatles’ advocates. It’s a fair observation, although we shouldn’t forget Lennon and McCartney were themselves, enormously influenced by the R&B wafting over from America in the late fifties and early sixties. Their skill lay in translating that material into something uniquely their own, and the result was so groundbreaking, we can’t seriously blame Noel for paying homage. And besides, you can’t copyright a musical feeling. Or can you?
Have a listen to the Pharrell and Marvin songs:
They’re actually very different. They don’t share any lyrics, the former doesn’t sample the latter, and they’re not even in the same key. All they really have in common is a ‘feeling’ – the pared-back beat and ambient whooping. Indeed, it seems Gaye didn’t so much write ‘Got To Give It Up’ as improvise a vocal over a beat brought to him by a producer. They are, in fact, completely different songs. Yet a court has decided Thicke and Williams are plagiarists and must compensate the Gaye family accordingly. To evaluate the implications of this ruling, we must set aside any distaste for the sentiments of ‘Blurred Lines’. I loathe the record’s suggestion that women are prone to refusing sexual advances when they actually desire them. But it’s the court case which concerns us here, and the matter of its implications for the musician’s creative process.
The fact is, whether we examine punk, metal, indie, pop, house or hip-hop, nothing exists in isolation. Every song you’ve ever heard was written because the creator had heard something else. What’s more, when exploring house and hip-hop, the acquisition of other music is the very foundation of the form. Worryingly, what the ‘Blurred Lines’ ruling seems be doing is forbidding the use of influence or inspiration when writing and recording songs. Which is ludicrous.
The history of popular music isn’t segmented. No single, EP, album or performance is completely self-contained; rather it is part of a dovetail effect, whereby one successful group, record or movement gives rise to another. To legislate against that, is to legislate against creativity itself.
So, if it’s unmitigated musical originality the (U.S.) law now demands, then we’re going to have to accept random, unmelodic crashes and bangs as entertainment. Oh no, sorry. Apparently Lou Reed’s lawyers will have you for that.
Magnus Shaw – March 2015
He died twenty years ago this week. He was a clever man, but he could be difficult. Very difficult indeed. However, I was close to Viv when life was proving particularly difficult for him; so don’t judge him from my memories – they’re just a snapshot.
1974. The Bonzos had split up four years earlier and Viv Stanshall was not only at a bit of a loose end, he was broke.
One day, the agency for whom I worked, in that less than rock and roll environment of a mews in Paddington, found its rooms enveloped by a tall, eccentric looking, but immaculately dressed Stanshall. He wanted to go back on the road as a solo artist, but had neither a manager, nor any vague idea of what he would do if he found himself on stage. We took him on immediately.
Now I say he wanted to perform, but I was later to learn that it was, in fact, the very last thing on earth he wished to do.
Of course, everybody knew Nile Rodgers (and his musical partner, the late Bernard Edwards) had the magic touch, the very second they heard Chic. Or indeed works by Sister Sledge, David Bowie or Madonna. But nobody predicted the resurgence of Rogers in the second decade of the 21st century. And yet here he is, motoring on from those delicious Daft Punk licks to a brand new Chic collection, which he explains in this documentary. Viva Nile! The once and future funky king.
“Superfast broadband is much faster and more reliable than standard broadband. It lets you make video calls, do homework online and stream music, all at much higher speeds – and all at the same time.”
That’s what the Government says, and they’re right too. With online activity driving everything from booking a flight to publishing a novel, the faster one’s internet connection the more satisfying and productive one’s personal and professional life will be. For businesses, a nippier net would be a marked advantage, bringing greater efficiency and healthier revenues. There’s no downside to this – jobs will be created, economies will be invigorated, funny pet videos will be uploaded at an even greater rate. And it certainly seems a better investment than the tens of billions we’re going to be spending shaving seventeen minutes off the journey from Sheffield to St. Pancras. Indeed, ministers are so animated about the new-fangled rapid broadband, they’ve splashed out on a snazzy advertising campaign to promote it. Here’s the telly spot:
In a move which commentators are calling ‘unexpected’, Paloma Faith has announced left-wing columnist Owen Jones will be the support act at her forthcoming show in Brighton. Which set us thinking – which other political/rock bills would we be pleased to witness? Here’s ten we came up with…
It’s the voice, isn’t it? Piercing the eighties and nineties, that unmistakable falsetto became the trademark of first Bronski Beat, then The Communards. Jimmy Somerville is certainly one of pop’s most distinctive vocalists. A solo artist since the end of the latter group, Jimmy’s been busy recently – and is on the cusp of releasing a new album ‘Homage’. Here he is, fully bewhiskered and talking about the track ‘This Hand’.