Back – between new recording sessions for a project linked to The Adults – Jon Toogood will pop around a few spots in April to deliver his solo acoustic show. Shihad, Adults and solo songs, covers, fan favourites…
In 1995 I moved to Wellington, ostensibly for university, but in reality it was to start an enormous CD collection. Most of that collection has now been replaced by vinyl – and/or Mp3s. That’s because 1995 is closer is more than 20 years ago now. But at the time I was buying up music, having a blast.
I took the small handful of CDs that I owned (well, it was probably around 100 or so) and I added to that collection. Weekly. Not a week went by that I hadn’t bargain-hunted something I needed. Read More »
George “The Animal” Steele. He had a green tongue and made Robin Williams look like someone with Alopecia. He grunted and said only the word “mine”. But in The Truth and TV Guide you’d read, via the weekly updates, that he was actually a university lecturer. He was one of my childhood heroes. A pro-wrestler so utterly absurd in back-story as to be brilliantly intriguing. When I was 12 years old and in hospital my dad arrived with a George “The Animal” action figure. My big brother teased me about it being a “doll” but I gave no shit at all. I loved Superstars of Wrestling and George “The Animal” Steele was – alongside The Ultimate Warrior – also R.I.P.) – my favourite. I liked the most cartoon-clown/ish of the wrestlers. It was the great reminder that it was not real. You needed that in the early days. Or even if you didn’t need that it was fun to have the larger-than-life, the absurd, the grotesque, clowning around in the ring for your enjoyment, a spectacle, mad wonder, weird circus… Read More »
Fraser had been trying to fight the oncoming no-smoking laws that were about to hit NZ bars but it was a lost cause. Like the motorway had forced him to change Bodega’s location, he had to bow with the flow and sort us out a place at the new bar we could puff up large and so he put a couple of tables out in the carpark. It was there we mainly drank – outside in all weather.
There were quite a few of us regulars back in those days, keeping the spirit of the original place alive – the non-musical side of Bodega. It was a big part of my life then – I was single and damaged and it had become a solace-place with a big, strange disaffected cast of misfits floating around in various doses. Read More »
It was late in 1991, or maybe early in 1992 and I heard Two Princes – it had a slinky groove that I really liked. I wasn’t quite as fond of Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong but I must have liked it enough because next thing I owned the album.
I’m talking, yes, about the stupidly titled Pocket Full Of Kryptonite by the almost absurdly awful Spin Doctors. The lead singer looked like the son Ginger Baker disowned because of the stupid hat he was wearing and/or because of the really daft songs he was singing – and that really dumb way in which he wore the hat and sang the songs. Read More »
I know, I know – “no one pays for music! Not anymore…” – but for those of you who have (or even had) a CD collection I’ve got a question for you. It’s right there actually (already). In the title of this post. And the reason I ask is because…I was doing some CD-tidying the other day and I thumbed over my copy of Faith No More’s Album of the Year (always thought that was a great title). It had been a while – so I took it out for a spin (in the car). But I wasn’t so much interested in the album as the bonus disc. You see the version I have, from back at the time of the album’s release, 1997, comes with a six-track selection of remixes.
I was a Faith No More fan when I bought Album of the Year – I had everything they’d released up to the point of that, their last album. I’d been following them for the decade leading up to Album of the Year even. But it was the bonus-disc that won me over – at first – with Album of the Year because the album was released when I was working in a music store, a night-time/weekend gig I had as a uni student. And you couldn’t really play the new Faith No More album in store. But you could play the bonus disc since it featured a range of dance remixes. And this was at a time when dance/trance/acid-jazz/drum’n’bass was big. It was everywhere. It was sneaking into the mainstream too. There wasn’t a dubstep at this point. Some marketing geek hadn’t even – quite – come up with the “chill-out” genre at this stage. But the chilled out remix was a way in…
The opening track on the Album of the Year bonus disc, the Bigfoot and Wildboy remix of Last Cup Of Sorrow was, for me, as good as anything on the original album (and I liked Album of the Year, still do). But this track was something of a revelation – it wasn’t Faith No More. But it was. You could imagine the band being on board with it – and if they weren’t, well it still sounded amazing.
I remember distinctly that the Bigfoot/Wildboy remix sounded so good that we sold several copies of the album based on that remix; a track that – arguably – had very little to do with the spirit of the album, in terms of the artist’s muse/intentions.
So I gave the bonus disc a whirl round the track for the first time in years and – as you can see from the link above – went to YouTube to see if someone had been kind enough to load up that Bigfoot and Wildboy remix of Last Cup Of Sorrow. And they had!
Not every track succeeds but another wee gem was the Automatic 5 Dub of Ashes To Ashes – also, as you’ll note, kindly available on the YouTube.
I’m not talking here about reissues. I’m not talking about double-discs or 2-for-1 at a “nice price”, I’m talking about the add-on that wasn’t just an after-market con-job to get a mass audience buying an album three months after it had been released the first time – to justify the extra ad-spend. Three extra tracks, one a “remix”, the other two so obviously not good enough to be on the original album in the first place.
No I’m talking about the incredible bonus-disc – the one where you have your mind blown on a whole separate occasion. Away from – but tangentially linked to – the main album.
I was a late-bloomer with CDs – there was an early (and somewhat lingering) fascination with and commitment to buying cassette tapes. So when I got on board with buying CDs, finally, the 1990s were happening. Even if they weren’t, in the parlance of the time, all that happening.
One of the first CDs in my collection was Pure Cult. A great greatest hits compilation, one of the best by anyone ever – I’m convinced of this still. But what made my version of Pure Cult so great was the 9-track Live at the Marquee album that accompanied the greatest hits. A brilliant bonus disc.
Same deal, many years later, with The Best of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. I bought my copy of that – still have it too; it’s a car-favourite, because of the bonus disc. Another nine-track live album tags along for the ride: Live at the Royal Albert Hall. I have found myself listening to this more often than the Best Of album.
In a pattern of great compilations being tagged with even-better bonus discs I only bought The Cure’s Greatest Hits (I had all of the material on the disc anyway) because of the bonus-disc version, the hits performed acoustically. Many of them suit this treatment, and as a sampler-selection it plays better than the original hits disc.
Richard Thompson’s Dream Attic, an album I’d just caught up with after checking it out, in-flight, on a trip to Aussie. I bought Dream Attic after hearing it on the plane and being wowed by one of Thompson’s best sets in years. The iTunes purchase was a bit hefty but I did score a full acoustic version of the album. A nice bonus when you’re paying more money than you wanted to I guess. A clever justification at any rate. That’s the most recent bonus-disc I can think of – from my collection. (Even though, technically, it was a set of bonus files).
The memories of other bonus discs all came flooding back as soon as I pressed play and heard that Bigfoot and Wildboy remix of Faith No More. Let’s listen once again to it – click here – magic.
So, what CDs did you buy because of the bonus disc? Were you pushed to spend some of your hard-earned cash on a greatest hits album you didn’t want because it had a live or acoustic or dance-remix set tacked on the end that you did want? Or did you find, quite by accident and after purchase, that a favourite new album had a great-value bonus disc along for the ride?
What is your all time favourite bonus disc? What’s the best one you own? And is it still a reason to buy an album?
We were in America, this guy falls over in a weird, wacky kinda way and as he falls he tosses $500 towards me and yells, “here, keep it!”. I catch the fluttery notes and go “okay!” Katy immediately yells at me to hand the money back. The guy gets up – it’s Larry David doing some kinda performance art. I recognise him straight away and try to hand his money back. He yells, “it’s yours – moron! It’s yours! What, you think James Taylor’s got money like that to just throwaway, of course it’s me! Of course it’s my money ‘cept it’s yours now. It’s yours!” We hail a cab. It pulls up blasting “Danger” by Sharon O’Neill. I pay with one of Larry’s hundred dollar bills and tip the driver, saying keep the change. I add a thank-you for playing Sharon O’Neill. “Great song” I say. The cab driver is wearing a George ‘The Animal’ Steele T-shirt. I hand over the money. The cab driver snatches it from me, yelling “MINE!”
and even when sleep
has arrived it hasn’t
felt so great – as I have
at my son.
Never nice – doesn’t
feel good for either
of us – and I’ve gone
hoarse as a result.
It’s about the only thing
And so I tell him that.
He smiles – puts his
arm around me – and says,
“Daddy, will you one day
show me the little horse
that’s in your throat – because
maybe, maybe, maybe
one day I’ll get to ride
He has – of course – been
riding me, in some sense,
But at least, now,
it feels as
Legendary Australian band Midnight Oil announced today The Great Circle Tour – former politician Peter Garrett said “your musical heart never stops beating” and drummer and lyricist Rob Hirst confirmed that new songs were being worked on, suggesting “there’s a lot to sing about these days”.
A secret pub-gig in Sydney will launch the world tour – Sydney is the spiritual home of Midnight Oil.
The full tour will kick off in late April of this year. Starting in South America before taking in USA/Canada, Europe/UK, Australia and New Zealand…with two New Zealand dates scheduled for September (Saturday 8 Sept, Vector Arena, Auckland and Monday 11 Sept, Horncastle Arena, Christchurch). The tour concludes in Australia in October/November.
Scheduled for May is a series of box-sets featuring vinyl reissues and rarities – see her for details and pre-order opportunities.
The tour celebrates 40 years since Midnight Oil’s formation and the first full band tour since the early 2000s.
I’ve been enjoying the reissue of Ram, part of the current crop of Paul McCartney reissues that has recently served up lovely new extended versions of McCartney, McCartney II and Band On The Run as well as other Wings records like – Venus and Mars, At The Speed of Sound and Wings Over America.
But then, I was always sold on Ram – it’s long been one of my favourites. Raised on the records my parents retained – particularly Abbey Road and Band On The Run, also McCartney II (for more on that click here) I can’t remember the time in my life when I wasn’t under the spell of Paul McCartney’s seemingly effortless gift for melody, his endearing and ultimately enduring arrangements that move from the baroque sweep of mini-epics to country crooning and bash-it-out rock’n’roll – sometimes all within the same song.
A love of Band On The Run had me searching out more from Wings – and so I snapped up a cheap vinyl copy of Ram in my first year of university because I knew Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey from the Wings Greatest tape.
Ram had actually made an impression earlier than that, though. It was one of the records my dad played, part of what was left of his record collection (including the other McCartney/Beatles albums mentioned above). But I never knew it as an album, as such. I just suddenly recognised all the songs when I bought my own copy of it. Too Many People, Monkberry Moon Delight, Dear Boy, Smile Away, Three Legs, Ram On and Uncle Albert (“we’re so sorry!”) – all of these songs resonated. I knew them all.
So Ram was a special record to discover – it felt brand new to me as an album but I recognised every song.
And it’s never really left my consciousness – nor my turntable. I don’t really have any desire to upgrade to the new flash vinyl version (until my copy finally bites the dust). But I like that albums like this are given the chance to be rediscovered and – essentially – reinterpreted.
Yes, yes, it’s money-grubbing and it appeals, in part, to the last generation of record-buyers, a way to collect some revenue and all of that – but Ram is an interesting case for reappraisal. Chiefly because it never stood a chance at the time.
Savaged in the reviews, it was almost a case of how dare one quarter of the most famous band in the world and one half of the greatest pop songwriting partnership release an album that he wants to. He needs to keep The Beatles dream alive!
But as much as Paul ventured off and found his own sound – ever so slightly away from The Beatles and edging towards Wings – he was (in and of that move) paying tribute to his roots; the antecedents that inspired The Beatles. The rock’n’roll of his youth.
I’ve always loved Ram for where it sits. It is correctly placed. It is sharper and cleverer than the very demo-like/skeletal/sketch-book debut album, McCartney. And it is a hint at what would follow with Wings. But it occupies its own space – and probably, in some way, that co-branding, an album by Paul and Linda McCartney has helped it to achieve this space.
Linda was the muse – the partner in life, in music, in all things. And though it’s easy to take pot-shots at her musical ability Paul was probably paying tribute to her spirit, to the effect she had had on him, to the solidarity she provided. It was no cop-out to release this record as a husband and wife gig. It was a bold move. It showed the real separation from The Beatles – the hint that something new was going to happen.
You can laugh at the silliness of the album cover, or you can see it for what it is – Paul grabbing it by its horns…
There were fabulous post-Beatles albums offered by George (All Things Must Pass) and John (Plastic Ono Band) and maybe they are better albums. All Things is far too overreaching for me, but it’s totally understandable that Harrison, frustrated, would want to get all of this material out there. Lennon’s Plastic Ono album is a masterpiece, probably my favourite post-Beatles album by a Beatle. Pretty hard to deny its brilliance. But it’s an album that keeps you at arm’s length. It’s not an album that gives you a hug.
Ram is an album that happily, if sometimes/somewhat warily, will give you that hug.
It’s easy now to take pot-shots (pardon the pun) at McCartney for how his career has played out. Professional Beatles Jukebox, smiling/waving/peace-sign-making “it’s all good” perennially-happy/happy-go-lucky chump. Man who releases albums with titles like Kisses On The Bottom. Let’s face it. He’s the Ringo that retained his talent. Flag waver for the decade he couldn’t wait to escape.
But it’s been validating I think – as one of the few McCartney apologists in this world, seemingly – to see things, remarkable things, like Paul McCartney interviewed for Pitchfork about Ram. To read about skinny-indie-hipsters digging on McCartney II.
These are things that should be happening, of course. Because the influence is obvious, pervasive.
Too Many People, besides being a great, great song and a perfect opener for Ram, has a line that inspired Daniel Johnston. He pinched the bit about taking a lucky break and breaking it in two for his Worried Shoes.
Elsewhere McCartney would later steal from himself on Ram. The magical mini-symphonies contained within Uncle Albert would re-appear, framework-wise, for Band On The Run’s title track. Monkberry Moon hinted back to the rocking-out aspects of the “White Album” and Abbey Road but also turned up again on Band On The Run and later throughout Wings’ career. Monkberry Moon was perfectly rewritten, in a sense, stripped of its silliness, as Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five; which is really just a way to say that you can see how McCartney’s solo/Wings work evolved from the McCartney/Ram albums/era.
So I haven’t bothered with the flash new version/s of this Deluxe Edition. But Universal did send me the remastered version of the bog-standard single disc with new liners and packaging. And I have to thank them for that – because through playing the album over and over – all over again – I’ve focused in on that sublime closing track, The Back Seat Of My Car. What a gem. I knew it was good, of course, but somehow, in playing the record all these years I never quite got that song the way I should. It is so obviously a tribute to Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, a way of saying thanks for the music from Brian; music that inspired Paul, as direct competition compositionally and as a listener, a fan of music.
Go back to that album cover. This is Paul’s personal Pet Sounds.
That is what I like about reissue campaigns. You get to see/hear an album in a new light/new context. You get to read various takes on the album, people get newly turned on to it or re-approach to re-appreciate. Ram felt like a wee secret for a while. And now more people get let in on that secret if they want. I like that.
Ram, finally, is a kiss-off to The Beatles. And you hear that in the regret and agitation that is voiced. Nostalgia and a sense of (forced) moving on. So maybe that is part of why it was panned and written off as a lazy/home-grown album.
Sometimes lazy/home-grown albums are the best. McCartney made a few of them – many of them brilliant – before (really) resting on his laurels.
I’m looking forward to Back To The Egg getting the revaluation it so deserves. Then I can rest happy.
So what about you? Any Ram fans out there? Either from back in the day or newly turned on to this record? What are your favourite tracks and do you think the album was unfairly criticised back then? Or could you never get on board, back seat of the car, or otherwise?
The first album by The Blue Nile that I really engaged with – got really hooked on – was the band’s (at this stage) last. High. I love that album. I really dig A Walk Across The Rooftops (see here for my Vinyl Countdown story about that – even though it’s really about High also) and Hats. And though it’s just about never listed as the favourite I also like Peace At Last as well. But I don’t care if it’s sacrilege: my favourite album is High.
One of the great things about music is that it’s always there – the good stuff anyway. It can still sound great if you discover it later than anyone else and I like to remind myself of that (often) in these click’n’drag days when we’re all posting links on Facebook and being sent emails with music suggestions.
I first heard High when it was released in 2004 – I knew about The Blue Nile and had heard bits from Hats and Rooftops but High was the first full album experience for me. I heard it because I was working in a music store. Someone else working in the shop decided to play it. And I loved it as soon as I heard it.
High reminded me, in some (slight) way, of Leonard Cohen’s Ten New Songs. Mostly because that album had been a favourite – but I guess I heard in it something similar in the space the lyrics were afforded; simple instrumental treatments that offered room for the singer to breathe and for the listener to engage.
I like (a lot of) music that takes its own sweet time.
I like (a lot of) music that makes you do the work; that refuses to meet you halfway – you do the work as the listener, you are required to bring something, some form of understanding.
This was the case for me when I got hooked on the Kate Bush albums.
Maybe I felt a similar way about The Blue Nile’s High (at the time) as I did about Kate Bush’s 50 Words For Snow when that was released.
Leonard Cohen, Kate Bush and The Blue Nile might not all be obvious bedfellows – then again they might be. Certainly they share a confidence and commitment in the writing – think what you want about the vocal stylings, the wafting passages of music, the fact that some of the musical arrangements are borderline-laconic – it all hangs (and hangs together) because of the writing – and for the writing.
You listen to High by The Blue Nile and you hear a bunch of songs that would feel correct to experience at 3am whether you were the only person in the room, or if you were surrounded by some of your very best friends. Alone or in company – the loveliest sound as a happy, warm experience or as a sad and blue experience. Beautiful either way.
I remember thinking that when I first heard High. And every time since. The other Blue Nile albums (especially Hats and Rooftops) have something of that sound and mood too of course. But I heard it most (and best) with High. And that won’t change. I like that.
Can you think of an artist that you arrived at very late and it’s their most recent album that remains your favourite even if it did send you back to the earlier albums? You can like the early albums too, sure, but it’s that last album that you heard first that does the trick for you. There’s no need to rush. The good music will always be there to discover and fall in love with. And when you listen to anything by The Blue Nile you get the feeling that there’s no rush at all. I like that a lot.