Tagged: baggy

Staring At The Shoes Of Giants

Back in 1991 Damon Albarn claimed that Leisure, blur’s début album, as going to ‘kill…baggy‘, the genre popularised by the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays which had also spawned Northside. As it turned out Nirvana killed grunge but blur were right about one thing – baggy wasn’t the major influence on Leisure, shoegazing was.

I was reminded of this fact after hearing a recently re-discovered demo version of Setting Sun by Oasis. The track was released as a single by The Chemical Brothers, with Noel Gallagher on vocals but it now seems that, rather than writing them specifically for that track Noel must have done an Aphex Twin*.

Whereas the version released by The Chemical Brothers sounded like a modern reworking of The Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows this demo has more in common with Oasis’ with the tracks on Leisure. It is, basically, a shoegazing track. Washed out but amped up guitars, a slightly hazy feeling and a nasally vocal. It’s shoegazing 101. The scene may have been almost universally maligned but its impact was felt far and wide.

As mentioned, the debuts of both blur and Oasis owed massive debts to the likes of Ride, My Bloody Valentine and pretty much everyone else on Creation Records which was basically the official label for the shoegazing scene. And whilst many of the bands who briefly shone during the late 80s & early 90s, such as Slowdive, Chapterhouse and Revolver rarely made a dent on the charts, others fared better.

A bunch of lads from Wigan called Verve** took the washed out guitar sounds made popular by shoegazing bands and added a dollop of Doors’ style mysticism; having refined this mix over three albums with a twist of northern attitude, they went on to outsell Oasis with Urban Hymns.

Ride, another Creation signing, were one of the first bands from this scene to properly crack the mainstream; two of their first three EPs broke the Top 40 (the first Creation releases to do so, 7 years after its formation). Their debut album, Nowhere, fell just short of the top ten but Leave Them All Behind, the first single off of their second album hit number ten.

As with The Verve, Going Blank Again saw the band building on their roots, with traces of The Who and even The Byrds to be found, alongside samples from Withnail & I. Highlighting the connections, bassist Andy Bell went on to join Oasis.

Of course Ride’s efforts in the charts would pale in comparison to Oasis after they too had been signed to Creation. But whilst they were often compared to the likes of The Beatles or the Sex Pistols, in their early (and best) work, Oasis had, as I’ve said, clear links to the (generally Southern) bands who were often mocked as being ‘The Scene That Celebrates Itself‘. Adorable, one of the last signings to Creation before Oasis, have often struck me as being a prototype for the latter with a good looking, cocky front-man and songs that melded melody and razor-sharp guitars brilliantly.

Looking back at Oasis now, I can’t help thinking that if they had stayed truer to these roots their later releases would have been less like a successful Bootleg Beatles than they were.

*Aphex Twin once handed in one of his own tracks having been paid to remix a Lemonheads song because he had forgotten to do the remix.
** They added the ‘The’ after being sued by American jazz label Verve; the band’s initial offer to change their name to Verv, thereby ‘dropping an e for America’ was rebuffed.


Primal Scream – Screamadelica (Dixie Narco EP)

Ahhh, never was a truer word spoken than when a wise man once said ‘A nostalgic 30-something muso and his cash are soon parted’.

I’ve just got back from a trip into Dublin and am now the proud, if slightly embarassed (by the cost) owner of the 20th anniversary edition of Screamadelica by Primal Scream. Like the similar reissue of The Stone Roses it’s a beautifully packaged piece, with both CD & vinyl versions of the albums, remixes, prints and, possibly best of all, the Dixie Narco EP which was the only release to include the song that gave Screamadelica its name.

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It’s incredible really that Screamadelica wasn’t included on the album of the same name: it encapsulates the best of what the band were trying to do, and would have been the best track on the album, which, when you consider what did make it on there, is saying something. It starts with a gentle bongo beat, a vibey melody and a sample that appears to be of a scouser encouraging someone to enjoy a trip, which is probably what it is.

The track rolls on for 10 minutes, soulful & euphoric, and you can almost smell the air of an Ibiza unspoilt by Ministry of Sound package holidays and pissed-up lager  louts. Denise Johnson sings the title of the song as if it were some sort of mantra, and in many ways it was & is. 20 years after its release it still stands up alongside Flowered Up’s Weekender as one of the finest tracks of the 90s and in many ways is the buzzed-up, optimistic ying to Weekender’s twisted, cynical yang.

The only thing that I don’t like about Screamadelica is that it reminds me that I had tickets for Primal Scream’s, now legendary, all-nighter gig at Brixton Academy just after the album was released. But because, the week before the gig, I had sneaked out to see a girl despite being grounded, I wasn’t allowed to go. I’m guessing the band would have approved, but it doesn’t make me feel any better.


20 Essential 90s Albums

In its ongoing bid to have more sub-brands than any other media owner, Absolute Radio recently launched a new niche-station, this time one tailor-made for those of us currently experiencing the dizzying pangs that come with realising nostalgia isn’t just something that happens to your parents: Absolute 90s. And, as part of the ongoing celebrations of the launch, they’re compiling a list of the Essential 90s Albums.

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Now, anyone who has ever read this blog before (Hi Mum!) will know that I love a good list and so, taking Absolute 90s compilation of such a list as a challenge, I thought I’d have a go myself. And here, after much thought, is my 20 essential albums of the 90s. It was hard enough keeping it to 20 (and they’re likely to change) so they’re in no-order other than chronological. I’ll happily admit that it tends to skew towards British music & hip-hop, but it’s not my fault that most grunge was shite.

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Anyway, for anyone that cares (Hi Mum!), here’s my 20 essential albums of the 90s.

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Now, the observant amongst you will have noticed that the list above only has 19 entries.So, I want you to make suggestions as to which album should fill that space and I’ll choose one of the suggestions and add it to the final list of the 20 Essential Albums Of The 90s.

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I should probably warn you now that it’s very unlikely that I’ll add any album that had a picture of a baby chasing a dollar bill on the cover. Just thought I’d mention it.


The Stone Roses – Waterfall

There’s really not much I can add to this video, if anything. It’s introduced by a cultural genius & saviour of modern Manchester (seriously – if it weren’t for him & the IRA making regeneration a necessity, the place would still be a ghost town) and features the band responsible for the best British début album of all time in their beautiful, arrogant, youthful prime: where the bloody hell did the last 20 years go?

Ladies & gentlemen, I give you The Stone Roses introduced by Tony Wilson.

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Waterfall by wwarby on flickr


themusicbod – Made Of Stone (Stone Roses Cover)

Continuing my wallow in 1989-shaped Stone Roses nostalgia, comes this rather amazing cover of Made Of Stone. It was brought to my attention by Claire and is, in a word, beautiful.

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It’s an instrumental cover of the 4th single by The Stone Roses (and the first one to be taken from the iconic debut album), and is entirely played on the piano by someone who goes by the name themusicbod. This makes what was always one of the band’s more mournful tracks even more eery. It positively oozes regret, a bitter-sweet sense of sadness and an air of mournfulness that perfectly suits the tune. What make the whole thing even more effecting is that this cover version of Made Of Stone is accompanied by video footage of Spike Island, the scene of the Roses’ biggest ever gig.

For those who are too young to remember, Spike Island was meant to be the Roses’ finest moment – a Woodstock for the baggy generation. Instead it was beset by sound problems and considered a bit of a let down by most of the music press. But seeing the place now (it’s a reclaimed toxic waste site – hardly the most romantic venue for a gig), all empty fields and empty vistas, as themusicbod’s haunting version of Made Of Stone plays, it’s hard not to think about what happened to the 27,000 souls who went to see the Roses play on that August day 20 years ago.

As I said in my post on the version of I Am The Resurrection from The Empress Ballroom in Blackpool, The Stone Roses ended up blowing it and this amazing cover makes me wonder about the hopes and dreams of the audience at Spike Island. I wanted to go but having not even turned 15, wasn’t allowed. People who were 20 then would be almost 40 now, whilst any hip-young 30 year olds who made the trek to Spike Island would now be 50: where are they now? Do they still love The Roses as much as they did? I’m guessing they do – The Roses are like a religion.

Anyway, I’m probably getting a bit deep now. I’ll stop and allow you to enjoy the magic that is the original version of Made Of Stone.

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Made Of Stone cover image from MusicStack


The Stone Roses – I Am The Resurrection (Live In Blackpool, 1989)

Next month will see the 20th anniversary of the release of the iconic eponymous debut album by The Stone Roses, one of the greatest ever albums and arguably the best ever debut album by a British band (along with offerings from Tricky, Massive Attack & Oasis to name but a few). I was planning to host a night to celebrate the fact (though I should probably be mourning the fact that I first really got into music 2 decades ago) but will now be in Dublin. Because of that I think that I will try to pretty much dedicate the blog to the Roses and other great stuff from, or inspired by 1989 (a great year for music by the way).

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And to kick it all off, what better than this, the version of the Roses’ best song from what many claim was their best ever gig: I Am The Resurrection performed at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool. Whilst the recording highlights the fact that Ian Brown always sounds better in studio recordings than he does live, something I can vouch for having seen The Roses twice (though without Reni) and and his solo act once, it also shows exactly why they made a generation think that these were their Beatles.

Whether it’s Brown shouting fortune-cookie style soundbites (Who is & who isn’t? Who is & who isn’t?), Reni’s impossibly funky drumming or John Squire’s Hendrix-esque solo, this was a band at the top of their game. Of course, like all the best bands, eventually The Stone Roses blew it. But maybe if they hadn’t this wouldn’t feel so special now. Whatever, it’s bloody amazing. Enjoy.

Big hat-tip to Paul Delaney for sending me an MP3 of this version of Resurrection.

Stone roses image by GorupKa on flickr


(Nearly) 20 Years Since The Stone Roses

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I was out with some friends the other night and we were chatting about the passing of time. As we reminisced about this & that something came to me which truly made me feel old. I realised that next year will be the 20th anniversary of Stone Roses eponymous début album.

It only seems like yesterday that I was sitting in my mate’s bedroom, looking out of the window at the glorious summer sun (remember when we used to get that) listening to Ian Brown singing as Mani, Reni & John Squire all made the most beautiful noise I’d ever heard. And here I am nearly 20 years later with The Stone Roses playing on the office stereo and still sounding just as good as it did when I still had things like GCSEs to look forwards to.

Of course 1989 didn’t just see the release of The Stone Roses: it was also the year that De La Soul changed hip hop with 3 Feet High & Rising, Beastie Boys went all alternative with their lost classic Paul’s Boutique, 808 State gave house music a Manchester twang with Ninety whilst the amazing Happy Mondays released Halleljuah. Not a bad year all round then.

Anyway, whilst chatting with my mates we decided that we should do something to mark such an important date in our formative years. So, on March 13th 2009 I plan to organise some sort of a do to mark this amazing album, and all the others than came out in that momentous year (apparently some wall came down as well): if you like the sound of the idea, keep a tab on things here as I’ll have more details nearer the time.


Anthony Wilson RIP (1950 – 2007)

I haven’t blogged enough recently, but the terrible news about my hero Anthony Wilson, has spurred me to do just that. He was the 4th most important name in 20th Century British music…

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Anthony Wilson as played by Steve Coogan in the film 24 Hour Party People

I’ll blog about some of Tony Wilson’s best acts later, but for now all I can say that it’s tragic how young he died, but that in his short time he probably did more to change British music than anyone other than The Beatles, David Bowie & The Sex Pistols; by founding Factory Records and giving a home to Joy Division, New Order & many others, he more or less shaped the British indie scene for the next 20 odd years – no Anthony Wilson, no Oasis, simple as that.

Here’s a video of one his finest acts, and the band that truly changed my life, The Happy Mondays.

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Happy Mondays – 24 Hour Party People

Anthony H. Wilson obituary by Paul Morley


Flowered Up – Weekender

Described as the Cockney Happy Mondays, Flowered Up never quite made it – except for Weekender, which could well be the greatest 12″ single ever…..
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Flowered Up – Weekender (Part 1)

At the height of the baggy scene there were many attempts to find a Southern response to the Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets and other great Northern bands who were ruling the indie world. The only ones who came anywhere near were Flowered Up.

Signed to Heavenly (later to be the original home of the Manic Street Preachers) these boys had, it seemed, everything. A lairy front man called Liam (years before Oasis could say the same thing), some dirty great singles (Phobia in particular boded well), nonsenical lyrics and, perhaps most importantly, a bloke dressed up as a giant flower when they appeared on stage (beat that Bez!)

But, after being signed to a major, their debut album A Life With Brian was a resounding disappointment. Back with Heavenly they released Weekender, a 13 minute epic of a record following the life of a young man in early 90s Britain – living for the weekend, with nothing else to live for. As a depiction of the ecstasy culture of the time you’ll be hard pushed to find better.

For a bunch of young Cockney scallies this was a record of incredible ambition – moving from guitar led rock, to dub, to house, to incredible white-boy funk at the end. Liam’s vocals had never sounded better – spitting scorn and loathing at anything & everything – building up to the killer line of the entire song (Weekender f*ck off, f*ck off and die!). And just in case that wasn’t ambitious enough, the video was an actual short film documenting a young man’s working week, and partying weekend.

Needless to say it all went wrong – after a week-long launch party for Weekender in a Surrey mansion (they didn’t own it, they took it over) attended by everyone from Kylie to Hanif Kureshi, the band imploded under the weight of their drug consumption. Not long after I saw Liam, back on Camden Market selling dodgy tapes. They may not have lasted long, but in one song they accomplished more than most bands do in several albums. If you don’t have it already – get Flowered Up’s Weekender as soon as you can!

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Flowered Up – Weekender (Part 2)