Monthly Archives: April 2013

Rocks In The Attic #244: The Rolling Stones – ‘Goats Head Soup’ (1973)

RITA#244This album gets a lot of stick, mainly because it has the nerve to the be the record that followed Exile On Main St. Well, one record had to be, didn’t it?

The highlight on this album – aside from the oft overlooked Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) – is the piano playing by Nicky Hopkins and Ian Stewart, on most of the tracks, but also some really nice clavinet parts by Billy Preston. Keyboards usually have to struggle for space with the ever-present guitars on a Rolling Stones record, but on Goats Head Soup, a lot of the tracks are full of piano. Is this is a sign that Keith Richards and Mick Taylor outdid themselves on Exile, and were taking a well-earned rest?

Angie definitely points to a more delicate change in direction, a natural progression from Wild Horses from Sticky Fingers, and basically the template for every future Stones ballad. It’s the perfect representation of the album as a whole – laid back, low-key and a sign that the band was starting to wind down after three or four intense years spent changing the musical landscape.

Hit: Angie

Hidden Gem: Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)

Rocks In The Attic #243: Moby – ‘Play’ (1999)

RITA#243I once read an interview with Moby where he described a game he plays whenever he’s in a stiff, crowded, cocktail party-type situation. With a friend, he’ll take turns walking through the crowded room, take his junk out of his trousers, and attempt to touch as many unsuspecting party-goers with the end of his disco stick. The one who touches the most people, without being noticed, wins.

Is that a funny thing to do, or is it just something you might expect from a socially awkward, introspective nerd who got very famous off the back of this, his fifth album? I’m not sure, but at least he doesn’t seem to be taking himself too seriously.

I bought this upon its release, mainly because of the amount of singles on it – which for a DJ is always handy. There are a staggering eight singles on Play, and the majority of them are of a pretty decent quality (so it wasn’t as though the record company was throwing a load of shit at a wall to see if some of it stuck). Since I stopped DJing, I don’t seem to listen to it half as much as I used to.

Much has been said that this is the first album ever to have all of its songs licensed for use in commercials, television shows and films. It’d be a cliché to say that makes him a sell-out, but I guess when you’re a musician whose biggest success was selling 250,000 records (of his third album, Everything Is Wrong), why not promote your next album as much as you can?

The key hook (or is it a gimmick?) is how Play melds beats and electronica with Alan Lomax’s field recordings of country folk and blues from the 1930s and 1940s. On paper it sounds like it shouldn’t fit, but it sounds very natural – almost too natural.

Hit: Porcelain

Hidden Gem: Run On

Rocks In The Attic #242: Derek & The Dominos – ‘Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs’ (1970)

RITA#242I understand The Yardbirds. I understand John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. I understand Cream. I (almost) understand Blind Faith. But I have trouble understanding Derek & The Dominos. It’s not that I think it’s a bad record, it’s just that it doesn’t really appeal to me like those other projects / records.

Layla is a different beast altogether – without a doubt it’s one of the best rock records committed to vinyl. But maybe that’s why I have a problem with the rest of the record. Compared to the frantic bombast of Layla, the rest of the album is bordering on easy-listening. It’s about as far as from Cream as you could get. I read an interview with Clapton the other day, and the interviewer brought up the subject of Layla. Clapton said he always has problems listening to it because it sounds so different to his usual self. He’s right – it’s probably the best thing, and most outlandish thing he’s ever done – but it also sounds like nothing else on this record.

Clapton and the band (Bobby Whitlock on keyboards and vocals, Jim Gordon on drums, Carl Radle on bass, and Duane Allman on lead and slide) even bother to record a turgid cover of Little Wing, one of my favourite Hendrix songs.

Robert Christgau rates this as the third greatest album of the 1970s. I just don’t see it.

Long and boring.

Hit: Layla

Hidden Gem: Tell The Truth

Rocks In The Attic #241: Midge Ure – ‘The Gift’ (1985)

RITA#241I’ve always had a soft spot for Midge Ure. He used to be in Thin Lizzy – very briefly – and he co-wrote and produced Do They Know It’s Christmas, one of my favourite festive tunes.

I’m not overly familiar with Ultravox, apart from the big singles that everybody knows, but this album – Ure’s first solo offering – is great. I expect it doesn’t sound a million miles from an Ultravox album, but that seems to be the curse of a debut solo album – especially from somebody who was the driving force of the band they’re making steps away from.

Lead single and opening track If I Was is as good as any mid-‘80s pop song, and a cover of Jethro Tull’s Living In The Past sounds awesome reworked as an ‘80s synth workout.

I actually studied Ultravox when I was at University…. I was a Midge Ure student.

Hit: If I Was

Hidden Gem: Living In The Past

Rocks In The Attic #240: Van Halen – ‘Van Halen II’ (1979)

RITA#240Given the energy that peppers the band’s debut album, it almost feels wrong when you put this record on, and you’re faced with the laid-back cover of You’re No Good as the opening track. It’s so laid-back it almost sounds like you’ve put a 45RPM record on a lower speed. The band eventually gets going, and you realise that yes, this is indeed a Van Halen record.

Big single Dance The Night Away serves as proof that the band can write decent pop songs, and the running time on the album – a very brief 32 minutes – is a welcome hit-and-run in the days before Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth started taking themselves too seriously.

Guitar-wise, to match Eruption from the first album, Eddie gives us a similar showcase in the shape of Spanish Fly – a virtuoso harmonics and tapping performance, but on an acoustic guitar. The whole of the album seems to be a departure from the previous album, in fact. Whereas that album seemed to be very two-dimensional in its guitar tone (a lot of it sounds as though it was recorded without Eddie changing any settings), this sophomore effort finds Eddie starting to experiment with guitar sounds – especially clean tones, such as the introduction to Women In Love…, which sounds very anachronistic for a late ‘70s rock record, and much more in line with their mid-‘80s creative peak.

The back and yellow guitar that Eddie’s is shown playing on the back cover of the album, is now buried with Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell, who was shot and killed on stage in 2004.

Hit: Dance The Night Away

Hidden Gem: Spanish Fly

Rocks In The Attic #239: Terrorvision – ‘How To Make Friends And Influence People’ (1994)

RITA#239Terrorvision were one of four British rock bands that I followed avidly in 1994 and 1995 – alongside The Wildhearts, Skin and Therapy? I’ve always disliked that question mark at the end of that Irish band’s name. If I mention them at the end of a sentence, it immediately looks like I’m doubting myself. But yes, I’m pretty sure it’s them I’m talking about! I managed to meet all four of those bands except- sadly – The Wildhearts, who were my favourite contemporary band at the time.

This album was very important to me at the time of its release – if only in that it proved to me that rock music doesn’t always have be serious and glum. It was also nice to introduce the album – and its big single, Oblivion – to my guitar teacher, who really got off on the jazzy Major 7 chords that guitarist Mark Yates peppers throughout his playing. It’s full of great songs too – five very strong singles even – which always helps, and the album cover is fantastic.

Speaking of Mark Yates, me and a friend spotted him once after a gig in Bradford’s Rio nightclub. I went over to ask him if I could have a photo, and being more than a little drunk, I held the camera far too close to our faces. The flash blinded us, and it even knocked me over I was so unsteady on my feet.

Incidents involving cameras and Terrorvision seem to go together. At a record signing in Huddersfield, the band’s singer Tony Wright stopped me, holding up the queue behind me, to ask me about my camera – my second-hand Olympus Trip gifted to me by my parents. He was very excited to see such a nice camera. When I asked one of the band’s hangers-on to take a photo of me next to the band, she cut me out of the shot so all you can is my left ear. Excellent.

It seems like I did a lot of stupid things when I was a Terrorvision fan. It must have been the band’s zaniness rubbing off on me. At one gig in Leeds – just after I’d sold a spare ticket to a tout, queued up, been searched by the bouncers, and was walking into the venue – I felt my inside (denim!) jacket pocket, and had a slight panic attack. That day, I had walked into university with the firm intention of removing a road sign next to the building where my lectures were. We had named our covers band at the time – Primitive Street – after this road, so it only seemed right that I should remove the sign to decorate my bedroom, or our rehearsal room. Walking into the Terrorvision gig, I suddenly put my hands on the bulge next to my ribs – a huge nine-inch screwdriver I had taken to aid my act of road-sign theft – and wondered how on earth I’d not only managed to get through the rest of the day without noticing it was still in my pocket, but more importantly, how a trained bouncer had missed it when he searched me. I tried to keep out of trouble for the rest of the night, but it wasn’t hard to mosh with such a hard and heavy tool about my person: is that a screwdriver in your pocket or are you just far too excited to see this band? etc, etc.

Hit: Oblivion

Hidden Gem: Middleman

RITA#239a

Rocks In The Attic #238: ABBA – ‘Ring Ring’ (1973)

RITA#238Even from the very first song on their debut album, ABBA sounds like ABBA. This is a fair few years before the band’s classic period of the mid- to late-‘70s, and as such it doesn’t have any of the songs that would be immortalised on ABBA Gold, but the vocal harmonies of Agnetha and Anna-Frid are just as recognisable, and the songs are still pretty catchy. I think I’m drawn to ABBA – as most people are – because of the melancholy that seems to be present in every song. They’re really adept at switching between major and minor keys, and I think there’s much more going on than their image, all blonde hair and smiles, implies.

This album has a staggering nine singles culled from it – six worldwide releases and three singles released only in specific countries. As none of these songs wound up on their hits compilations that would serve to sum up their career, it’s probably more of a measure of how desperately their record company was to market them at the time.

The front cover of this album – the blue cover, rather than the originally released cover – is pretty terrible – the band looks as though they’re modelling denim whilst standing at the docks somewhere. A closer inspection at the label on the girls’ t-shirts – Lois Jeans & Jackets – suggests that yes, the band are indeed hawking clothes, and we’ve caught them mid-shoot in that awkward ‘Swedish pop band modelling next to water’ pose. I guess even ABBA had to start somewhere.

Hit: Ring Ring

Hidden Gem: She’s My Kind Of Girl