Tag Archives: BBC

Rocks In The Attic #729: Super Furry Animals – ‘SFA At The BBC’ (2018)

RITA#729The Super Furries have finally managed to do what every other British rock band of the last fifty years has done: released an album of their BBC sessions. Still, while it may seem like an establishment move, their execution of the release is very much in line with what you may expect from such a madcap band.

Released in limited numbers by Strangetown Records, and through pledgemusic.com, the packaging is just awesome. The 4xLP box-set (£85) I managed to secure was initially available as a run of 400, while an even-more limited 5xLP set was available in a run of just 100. Thankfully, this was sold out in seconds – I wouldn’t have been happy with paying a further £115 for three additional tracks. Buyer’s remorse is a very real thing in the world of record collecting.

RITA#729bThe outer-box and individual record sleeves take their design from the Golden Retriever Yeti stage-suits that the band wore on stage, with a lock of the stage-suit hair included in a hand-numbered envelope within. The 5xLP set goes one further and includes some of the Yeti hair actually pressed into the fifth disc. I guess that’s where the extra £115 went.

Despite selling out within minutes, Strangetown Records announced a second pressing of a further 500 copies of the 4xLP set. This led to a lot of complaints on social media, from buyers who were understandably a little miffed at paying for something that turned out not to be as limited as they were originally led to believe. Without apologising, Strangetown issued a response:

It has come to our attention that there needs to be clarity on the 2nd press of the SFA at the BBC box set. There is no difference between the first and second editions so if anyone is unhappy at the thought of owning a boxset that isn’t ltd to 400 copies then we are happy to issue a refund.

While I’m not too precious about owning something that exists in limited numbers or not, it does annoy me that they didn’t press more copies to begin with. There’s obviously a demand for it. They could have pressed thousands and still probably sold out; and pressing in smaller numbers just adds to the horribly negative ‘have / have not’ climate of record collecting. It’s also annoying to shell out for it in the run up to Christmas, when you think that hesitation will be punished.

The eight BBC sessions presented here take place between 1996 and 2001, covering the period between Fuzzy Logic and Rings Around The World, and were taken from a mixture of Steve Lamaq and Jo Whiley’s Evening Sessions, and sessions recorded for Mark Radcliff and John Peel. Not a band known for doing covers, it’s a rare treat to hear them covering a fairly respectable version of the Beach Boys’ Warmth Of The Sun, with this song chosen as they’re one of the only bands that they could all agree on.

The eighth and final side comes from Peel Acres itself, the Suffolk home of John Peel and his wife. As somebody whose musical interests were as weird and wide-ranging as the Super Furries, it’s fitting that Peel’s Brummie drawl is the last voice you hear after the final song:

If you come back again, which would obviously be wonderful if you did, we’ll move the football machine, and er, so there’s a bit more room. That would be handy, wouldn’t it, if we were to do that? Or perhaps we’d build an extension. <sings> BUILD AN EXTENSION! Er, but thanks very much for coming anyway, it’s been a real treat. All the best.

Hit: Something For The Weekend

Hidden Gem: Some Things Come From Nothing

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Rocks In The Attic #720: David Bowie – ‘Glastonbury 2000’ (2000)

RITA#720The year 2000. My second Glastonbury festival, aged 21.

My friend Vini came with me this year, and we got the train down from Manchester to Somerset. All of the other years I’ve been to the festival, from 1999 to 2007, I’ve driven. It was just the two of us heading down this year, but we were set to meet up with friends in the same area of the site we had camped the prior year.

The trip down to the South West was quite quiet as we were travelling down on the Wednesday morning, as the music and the festival doesn’t really kick off until the Friday morning. The only bit of the journey that slowed us down was a small queue at the Castle Cary station to wait for the shuttle bus to the festival grounds. It didn’t matter; the sun was out in force.

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Vini and I circa 2000

We got to the campgrounds and met up with my friends from University, Robbie and Natalie, and various other people they’d travelled with. We pitched our tents by the perimeter fence, between the Other Stage field and the Dance Tent field.  I seem to remember the year 2000 as being one of the last years before they started to curb down on campfires, so Thursday night found us stocking up on firewood.

2000 was the also the last year before the dreaded security fence went up, so it was probably the last Glastonbury with any ounce of anarchy in it. From the following year, it all got a bit safer, a bit more middle-class, a bit more Radio 2.

People started breaking into the festival on the Wednesday night. There was still a fence at this point – but it was still quite easy to get over, and wasn’t anywhere near the height of the megafence that went up by the time of the next festival two years later (2001 was a ‘fallow’ year for the festival).

By the Thursday night, the fence had been damaged near where our tents were pitched, and people were starting to spill into the grounds. By the time we woke up on the Friday morning, the fence had been completely breached, pushed aside, and people were just walking in. The security staff had given up trying to stop them, it was just too hard. The organisers sold 100,000 tickets, but it’s estimated that a further 150,000 entered without tickets.

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As a result of the increased numbers, the infrastructure of the festival started to break down. Toilets and litter started to build up, and lawlessness was in the air. At one point, as Vini and I queued up at a food truck, two gypsy teenagers got into a fight next to us. Well, I say fight, it was more like one aggressive gypsy was battering another gypsy, who wasn’t keen on being battered.

Vini’s tent got broken into at one point, and Natalie woke up to an intruder in the middle of the night. We would laugh at this whenever she brought it up in subsequent years – ‘Do you remember that year I woke up and this guy was on top of me going through my stuff?’ – and I’d jokingly apologise.

I saw lots of great bands that year, as I did every other year at Glastonbury: Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the Bluetones, Dark Star, Muse, Idlewild, the Chemical Brothers, Ocean Colour Scene, the Wailers, Live, Death In Vegas, the Dandy Warhols, Coldplay, Robert Plant’s band Prior Of Brion, and many, many others. Vini swears to this day that we saw one-time James Bond George Lazenby there, introducing Ladysmith Black Mambazo on stage, but I don’t remember that at all. It sounds like the makings of a fever dream.

By the time Sunday night rolls around at Glastonbury, I’ve usually had enough. Festival fatigue kicks in, sometimes with disastrous consequences – and I hate to think about the time I chose to miss Muse headline in 2004. In 2000 though, I was excited to see Bowie play; energy levels were high. This was the first time he had played the festival since its second year in 1971, so it felt like the festival and the artist were somehow coming full circle.

At that time, I wasn’t too much of a Bowie fan. I adored Hunky Dory and The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. But aside from a couple of other singles, I could take or leave everything else. I had heard that his live shows could be quite abstract affairs too, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. His last tour had been in 1997, promoting Earthling, but apart from a 50th Birthday concert at Madison Square Garden in that same year, he had only sporadically playing the hits throughout the decade.

Surely he wouldn’t do a greatest hits set on his return to Glastonbury. Would he?

RITA#720dHe walked onto stage to the opening bars of Wild Is The Wind from 1976’s Station To Station –starting a lifelong love affair with that song for me. So far, so deep-cut. He looked beautiful, with a long elfin coat and flowing blonde hair.

Then he played China Girl and Changes. Was this just an attempt to get the audience onside before he started playing Tin Machine b-sides?

Another Station To Station track was up next – Stay. The second of three Station To Station tracks played, with the title track being the third. This was undoubtedly to showcase the guitar playing of Earl Slick who had played on that album and was among the band at Worthy Farm that night. Perhaps this was the start of the setlist slipping into the esoteric?

Life On Mars?, Absolute Beginners, Ashes To Ashes and Golden Years left little doubt that Bowie was in fact doing a greatest hits set. Amazing.

Vini and I had been performing a cover of Ziggy Stardust in our band at the time, and while I thought it was unlikely Bowie would play the song, Vini was hopeful. “Nah,” I said. “He doesn’t do it anymore.” He hadn’t played it regularly in his set since 1990, although the excellent www.setlist.fm shows that he had played the song in a warm-up show in New York, nine days prior to Glastonbury.

Bowie finished the main set with Under Pressure, but despite all the big hits I was hearing, I was still sure I wouldn’t be hearing my favourite song of his. The band left the stage, and returned five minutes later for the encore. “It’s gonna be Ziggy Stardust!” Vini proclaimed. And BLLLLLLAAAAAAANNNNNNNGGG – it was!

Hands shooting up in the air, hugging, huge grins. Wow. We were ecstatic.

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My one blurry photo of Bowie on stage

Since Bowie’s passing in 2016, the Glastonbury set has taken on an almost mythic status. It was a watershed moment for the festival and its presence on the BBC. From that year, it became almost expected for the big headlining slot to be broadcast live on television (even the decision to show the Bowie set ruffled a few feathers at the Beeb).

I would never see Bowie in concert again. His heart attack on stage in 2004 led to a change in priorities, and big tours were taken off the agenda. I’m so glad I saw him when I did. It turned me into a Bowie fan, and I started to go back and listen to the albums I hadn’t heard before. There isn’t a period of Bowie’s career I don’t love now. He’s the ultimate artist with something for everybody.

Hit: ‘Heroes’

Hidden Gem: Wild Is The Wind

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Rocks In The Attic #698: Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits’ (1972)

RITA#698Put something happy on next, my kids said. I can’t blame them. Making them listen to Jerry Goldmsith’s Alien score first thing on a sunny Saturday morning doesn’t exactly scream golden childhood memory.

Who doesn’t like Simon & Garfunkel? Surely it’s impossible to like their brand of impossibly cheerful folk-pop. They should pipe this album into the waiting rooms of psychiatrists and mental institutions. I predict the world suicide rate would drop off a cliff overnight.

RITA#698aSpeaking of Simon & Garfunkel, I’ve finally got around to finishing the excellent BBC comedy Detectorists, written and directed by Mackenzie Crook. Two of my favourite characters are the antagonists played by the always excellent Simon Farnaby and the wonderfully underplayed Paul Casar. The recurring joke that the pair look like a poor man’s Simon & Garfunkel is one of my favourite things in the show, and it’s a shame – although completely understandable – that Crook won’t be bringing it back for a fourth series.

Hit: Mrs. Robinson

Hidden Gem: America

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Rocks In The Attic #672: Various Artists – ‘More Pennies From Heaven (O.S.T.)’ (1979)

RITA#672.jpgI think I might be reincarnated from some 1930’s Big Band musician or something; this kind of music really resonates with me for some reason. I always get the same feeling of intense familiarity when I hear Hang Out The Stars In Indiana from the Withnail & I soundtrack.

Either that, or I was asleep in my cot while my Mum & Dad watched this show after I was born in 1978. That sounds more believable I guess, with the old-timey music seeping into my DNA as they watched Bob Hoskins on the telly.

Hit: Cheek To Cheek – Lew Stone & His Band

Hidden Gem: Down Sunnyside Lane – Jack Payne & His BBC Dance Orchestra

Rocks In The Attic #506: Various Artists – ‘The Sounds Of Time A Dramatisation In Sound Of The Years 1934-1949’ (1957)

RITA#506I love records like this; time-capsules from another era. Back when this was released in 1957, the only way for a household to have such a recording was on a vinyl record. Television was still in its infancy, and video wouldn’t see mainstream acceptance for another twenty years.

It’s easy then to imagine the whole household gathering around the record player to listen to this recording. It’s nice to picture that kind of shared experience. One day, I might try and sit my daughters down and force them to listen to this. I’ll be lucky if they don’t roll their eyes and ask me to turn the boring talking off.

This record is full of famous moments, essentially the history of the Second World War, bookended by a couple of years either side. There isn’t a great deal of light relief, but it’s all fascinating stuff; some of it well-known, some of it new to my ears.

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is Desert Island Discs, a slimmed-down version of the Radio 4 broadcast. It’s essentially the same as what is transmitted live, except that the songs are shortened quite drastically for copyright reasons. A couple of years ago, one of the “castaways”, the novelist Vikram Seth, chose as one of his discs a recording of a Nightingale singing as a wartime bombing raid passes overhead. It’s a fantastic recording, the purity of the birdsong contrasting completely with the ominous drones of the bombers. I was so happy to find that a short clip of the recording is included on this record.

The story behind the Nightingale and bombers is worth sharing also. Every May, the BBC would record birdsong for live transmission. On the day in question – May 19th, 1942 – a quick-thinking engineer pulled the plug on the transmission, believing that the sound of the bombers could potentially forewarn German forces of the impending attack. A full recording exists, with the 197 bombers recorded on their way to Mannheim, and only 186 recorded on their return.

Hit: “Oh the humanity…” – The giant airship Hindenburg bursts into flames at Lakehurst, New Jersey, May 6th, 1937

Hidden Gem: Nightingale in a Surrey wood matches its voice against the drone of a thousand bombers striking at Germany

Rocks In The Attic #443: Johnny Cash – ‘At San Quentin’ (1969)

RITA#443Good old Granada Television. When I was growing up, ITV and its regional satellite broadcaters like Granada TV, were always viewed as the poor cousin of the BBC. The Beeb was high-brow where ITV was very much low-brow; all adverts and poor-quality viewing.

Since living in New Zealand for the last seven years, I’ve really changed my opinion of ITV and especially Granada. You think you’ve seen bad television? Come and watch New Zealand programming for an evening or two. I always say that this country only gets its culture from the dairy industry; they definitely don’t get it from the television networks.

No ITV, no Seven Up. No Granada, no Sex Pistols performing Anarchy In The UK on Tony Wilson’s So It Goes.

Cash’s San Quentin concert was filmed by Granada too. So, no Granada, no infamous image of Johnny Cash flipping the bird to the camera.

RITA#443aI’d give my right arm to sit for an evening and watch the ITV news, followed by the local news presented by Gordon Burns. Then, while I’m thinking of Gordon Burns, maybe an episode of The Krypton Factor, followed by Coronation Street, and then who knows what.

It’s funny the things you miss.

Hit: I Walk The Line

Hidden Gem: Wanted Man

Rocks In The Attic #425: Paul McCartney – ‘The Family Way (O.S.T.)’ (1967)

RITA#425Long before any cherries were spilt, this was the first solo offering by Paul McCartney – in fact the first solo offering by any Beatle. It is entirely un-Beatle-like, and offers nothing related to the fab four’s summer of love, psychedelic state of mind except for maybe a blast of brass before Sgt. Pepper’s band tuned up.

There’s nothing particularly mind-blowing about the score – most of it is simply a selection of cues to soundtrack a “nice little film” set in the north of England.  I haven’t seen the film by the way, and while I expect it would play on the BBC every once in a while, there’s absolutely no chance it would get anywhere over the cultural Berlin Wall of New Zealand’s borders so I’ll have to find it by other methods.

Certain sections of the score – which sound like they are used over city scenes showing ‘swinging London’ (London buses and Carnaby St miniskirts) – sound extremely dated with heavy bass and uptempo brass. It’s in the quieter moments that the soundtrack shines though, and while it’s not essential listening it’s definitely a must-hear for Beatle fans and completists.

Hit: Love In The Open Air

Hidden Gem: Cue 2M5