Monthly Archives: July 2012

Rocks In The Attic #105: The Police – ‘Outlandos d’Armour’ (1978)

Rocks In The Attic #105: The Police - ‘Outlandos d’Armour’ (1978)As far as debut records go, this has to be one of my favourites. It’s a little bit punk, a little bit reggae, and all wrapped up in a minimalist pop recording. People don’t tend to like The Police because of Sting’s later crimes against music, but I prefer to ignore his faux-bohemian noodlings and concentrate on his work in this band.

They’re just a perfect band: in Sting, you have a bass-playing, pop song-writing vocalist (with an unmistakable, high-register voice that’s very difficult to emulate); in Stewart Copeland, you have a jazz inflected drummer, who’s not scared to try something new (his timing and beat on Roxanne takes it uncharted territory for a pop song); and in Andy Summers, you have a slightly older guitarist (he played on stage with Hendrix, and counted The Animals as one of his former bands!), with a very progressive approach to chord progressions.

Those sort of attributes can sometimes weigh a band down – but probably because they’re all as equally talented, you don’t really hear anything too weighty or self-indulgent. I’ve heard David Fricke from Rolling Stone magazine say that after the assassination of John Lennon, the next big event in pop music to have a global impact on the youth of the day was when The Police split up in the mid-80s. Although they became a watered-down version of themselves on their later albums, you can understand, with this debut, how they made such an impact.

Hit: Roxanne

Hidden Gem: Next To You

Rocks In The Attic #104: Nirvana – ‘MTV Unplugged In New York’ (1994)

Rocks In The Attic #104: Nirvana - ‘MTV Unplugged In New York’ (1994)Released following Cobain’s suicide, I guess this is the first example of Geffen Records cashing in on his death. None of the other contemporary bands that recorded an Unplugged performance on MTV went on to release them on record (except for Alice In Chains and Alanis Morrissette) – the tracks usually found their way onto singles as B-sides (or existed in full only on bootlegs). An Unplugged album was more of a classic rock thing to do – hence the releases by Clapton, Dylan, Bryan Adams and the Page & Plant reunion.

I wasn’t a fan of Nirvana at the time this was released – mostly because I didn’t like that he wasn’t particularly a good guitarist. Learning the guitar will give you crazy notions and put you off bands like that. I later realised that it’s far more important to be a good songwriter than it is to be a good guitarist; a guitar solo is never going to change anybody’s life.

Trying not to like them, and failing miserably as this performance was getting a lot of airplay on MTV, the songs started seeping in and I started to become a Nirvana fan, purely by osmosis.

You know those famous questions – ‘Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated?’ or ‘Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell?’ – the first such question I can remember in my lifetime was ‘Where were you when Kurt Cobain shot himself?’ The answer: travelling home in a taxi, on a Friday night, leaving Middleton and just reaching Chadderton. We asked the taxi driver to turn the radio up, and still shocked, had to explain to the taxi driver who had died.

Hit: Come As You Are

Hidden Gem: Oh Me

Rocks In The Attic #103: The Clint Boon Experience – ‘The Compact Guide To Pop Music & Space Travel’ (1999)

Rocks In The Attic #103: The Clint Boon Experience - ‘The Compact Guide To Pop Music & Space Travel’ (1999)Ex-Inspiral Carpet and local boy done good Clint Boon started this band as I was playing in a band in Oldham at the same time. They even used to use the same rehearsal rooms as we did (but then again so did Thin Lizzy, but that’s a story for another day). Being the only venue in Oldham dedicated to Indie and Britpop, the band also used to come into 38 Bar / The Castle on weekends, where I would DJ. One such evening got me Clint’s autograph on this record.

I think I only bought this album on the strength of White No Sugar, which really is a decent tune (although the mix on the re-release version of the single is far superior to the mix on this album). The rest of the album isn’t that great – it’s exactly as you would imagine an organ-based Britpop album to sound like.

The most grating thing about this album is the opening track – an eight minute poem about Oldham recited by Boon’s American wife against a jazz inflected background. Sheer indulgence and a track that immediately turns you off the album as soon as you’ve turned it on.

I remember DJing once, and in the bar that night was Richard Stubbs – bass player in The Clint Boon Experience, and a bit of a prick thinking he was the local rock star (although I later found out that only Clint was signed to a record contract – the rest of the band was simply hired help). Stubbsy’s girlfriend walked over to my booth and asked me: “Can you play a song for Stubbsy. It’s his birthday. You know, Stubbsy – from The Clint Boon Experience.” “Who?” I replied, “Ken Boon? Never heard of him.”

Hit: White No Sugar

Hidden Gem: You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down

Rocks In The Attic #102: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – ‘Smash Hits’ (1968)

Rocks In The Attic #102: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - ‘Smash Hits’ (1968)I remember buying my first Hendrix record – the mid-90s compilation entitled The Ultimate Experience – which I played to death on a winter holiday in Scotland. There have been many Hendrix compilations, but this one – 1968’s Smash Hits – was the first.

This is the kind of behaviour that exists nowadays – bands releasing greatest hits when they’ve only had a couple of albums out – and given the fact that this album collects Hendrix’s first four singles – including the b-sides – and a raft of album tracks, you do get the idea that the record company was scraping the barrel slightly while waiting for the band to finish Electric Ladyland.

Hit: Purple Haze

Hidden Gem: 51st Anniversary

Rocks In The Attic #100: Aerosmith – ‘Toys In The Attic’ (1975)

Rocks In The Attic #100: Aerosmith - ‘Toys In The Attic’ (1975)It only seems apt that as I covered Aerosmith’s Rocks as the 50th entry in this series, I would need to do Toys In The Attic as the 100th, completing the name of the blog which took inspiration from these two albums.

So the story goes that not long after I was first exposed to Aerosmith – via an Aerosmith music video weekend on MTV – I went on holiday with my parents to Cornwall. I had, by this time, bought Pump on CD – in fact, I think I bought it the following weekend after that MTV weekend, from the Our Price that used to be next to Boots on Market Street in Manchester.

These, however, were the days before CD players in cars had become commonplace. I think we travelled down to Cornwall with a taped copy of Pump playing on the car stereo. When we landed in Newquay, the first thing we did after checking in at the Bed & Breakfast, was to walk down the road and pop into the little adjoining row of shops. In that row of shops was a second-hand record store, and in the row of tapes on the counter was a second-hand copy of Toys In The Attic. I snapped it up, and alongside Pump – which I’d probably played too much on the journey down – Toys In The Attic became the soundtrack to that holiday.

To me, Toys In The Attic and Rocks are very much like Rubber Soul and Revolver – two back-to-back albums with a very high watermark, and indistinguishable enough to be double albums in their own right – hence Rocks In The Attic as the name of this blog (or I guess to take the song from Rocks, the alternative to this would be calling it Toys In The Cellar).

Of the two, I believe Rocks is the better album, but I prefer Toys In The Attic. It’s a little looser, and has a bit more light; whereas Rocks is the shadier, more serious of the two. Rocks really doesn’t let up, and you can almost hear the cocaine on it. Toys on the other hand, sounds like it was only made with the assistance of a joint or 200.

I love this album so much, I have it on CD twice – one of those being the 1994 collector’s edition gold disc version from Sony’s Mastersound 20-Bit Super Bit Mapping Series; and I also have it on LP twice – one of those being a Japanese pressing with an Obi strip. I probably still have that worn-out copy on cassette that I picked up in Cornwall too.

Hit: Walk This Way

Hidden Gem: Big Ten Inch Record

Rocks In The Attic #99: Thin Lizzy – ‘Johnny The Fox’ (1976)

It took me quite a while to track this album down on vinyl. When I eventually found it, in Manchester’s vinyl exchange, I realised why. Most record shops over a decent size won’t store this album in the Rock & Pop section, as you might expect – instead it gets lumped into the Breaks & Beats section, all because of the very cool drum intro that opens Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed on the second side of the record.

Although it’s not as popular as the Jailbreak album, I think I prefer this album. There’s only so many times you can listen to The Boys Are Back In Town and Jailbreak – and although this album doesn’t really have as big a hit as those two songs, the biggest hit on the album – Don’t Believe A Word – is a really nice, short sharp slice of Phil Lynott’s poetic lyrics.

I came across an amusing comment on this album on Wikipedia:

The album also includes two tracks with the name “Johnny” in their titles as well as the album title itself, a character by that name having already appeared in earlier songs such as Showdown and The Boys Are Back in Town. Guitarist Scott Gorham noted the name’s proliferation: “Phil should’ve been this guy’s publicity agent, as he was cropping up everywhere!”

There’s a story that my Dad always tells that happened to him in the early 90s. At somebody’s wedding reception or 50th birthday party, in a function room of a grim working man’s club somewhere in Oldham, a lady walked over to my Dad and said “Pete – I think the lead singer of Thin Lizzy is sat in the next room. He’s sat having a beer.” “You mean Phil Lynott?” asks my Dad. “Yes,” she says. So my Dad rolls his eyes, and goes and takes a look. On his return, he says to the lady “Well, I don’t think it’s Phil Lynott.” The lady looks disappointed. “Why not?” she asks. “Because,” he replies, “Phil Lynott’s black, and that guy’s white. And Phil Lynott’s been dead for five years!” It was later established that the honky at the bar was Oldham resident, and latter-day Thin Lizzy keyboard player Darren Wharton.

Hit: Don’t Believe A Word

Hidden Gem: Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed