Tag Archives: vinyl

Rocks In The Attic #614: The Sex Pistols – ‘The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle (O.S.T.)’ (1979)

RITA#614.jpgI saw Alex Cox’s Sid & Nancy recently. I’d avoided it all my life, not being a particular fan of either Alex Cox films or the Sex Pistols. I like Never Mind The Bollocks of course, I think it’s an essential rock and roll record for any collection, but to borrow a phrase of my Dad’s, I wouldn’t spit on them if they were on fire. Which begs the question – if there was a fire at a Pistols gig, would the audience be able to summon up the required levels of spittle to extinguish it?

There’s an unwritten law that bands from lower socio-economic backgrounds can’t be intellectual. To be intelligent is to be phoney. As long as they’re wise to the fact that they’re downtrodden by society, that’s all that matters. So you get people like John Lydon – arguably a very bright individual – pulling retarded faces and generally acting like a buffoon to get attention.

That first wave of British punk – and especially the Pistols – seemed to cultivate this trope. They even fired original bass-player Glen Matlock for being ‘boring’ (read: intelligent and articulate). He also washed his feet constantly in the sink and liked the Beatles, two things forbidden in the punk handbook.

Matlock’s replacement, the oft-celebrated Sid Vicious, represents for me everything that’s wrong about punk. Brought into the band because he looked good and was a friend of Rotten’s, his short tenure in the band only served to fuel the band’s notoriety. To go back to the Beatles, Vicious was essentially the Stuart Sutcliffe of the Sex Pistols – terrible at playing his instrument, but a good comrade and one that looked appealing (even if he didn’t sound appealing). Even punk bands of today will use Sid Vicious as their archetype. Green Day, who like to think of themselves as a punk band, but are just as much of a corporate shill as Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, have traded for decades on the sneer and attitude of Sid.

Gary Oldman’s portrayal in Sid & Nancy feels spot-on, when you compare it to interview footage from Sid’s few years in the limelight. He’s a junkie idiot, plain and simple, and the really cynical thing about the film is that it seems to celebrate Sid – holding him up as a hero and a martyr for punk.

I haven’t seen The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle – the Julien Temple mockumentary that this album soundtracks. I might get around to it one day, but I’ve had my fill of the Pistols for the time being. The record stands for itself though, and makes for a pretty interesting listen – a double-record with lots of archival live rehearsals, combined with some oddities. Sid croons through My Way and succeeds through some rock and roll covers, there’s an early, weightier version of Anarchy In The UK, and for a bit of levity some off the wall Pistols covers by a disco group, a trio of French street musicians and Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs backed by Pistols guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook.

Hit: Anarchy In The UK – The Sex Pistols

Hidden Gem: Black Arabs – Black Arabs

Rocks In The Attic #613: Styx – ‘Styx II’ (1973)

RITA#613One weekend in May of last year I had great fun walking around Sydney, Australia with Styx’s Too Much Time On My Hands blaring out of my iPod. I had been introduced to the band through an awesome parody by Paul Rudd and Jimmy Fallon, which led me to seek out the Paradise Theatre album. I checked out a greatest hits compilation around the same time, and wasn’t overly fond of what I heard. Styx, like a lot of long-surviving American rock bands, had clearly seen the commercial appeal of releasing a multitude of power-ballads as singles.

So when I saw this record in the sale racks of my local record store – alongside the more celebrated Pieces Of Eight, which I picked up at the same time – I thought I’d give it a chance. The band sound young and hungry, but even on the prog-oriented moments of the album they threaten to break into a power-ballad at any moment.

Lady, a power ballad in everything including name, was a belated success for the band. The band recorded two more albums – 1973’s The Serpent Is Rising and 1974’s Man Of Miracles – before Lady hit #6 in the US charts in 1975 and sent its parent album gold. The band moved from Wooden Nickel Records to A&M as a result, and never looked back.

Hit: Lady

Hidden Gem: A Day

Rocks In The Attic #611: 10cc – ‘Bloody Tourists’ (1978)

RITA#611The band’s second studio LP following the departure of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, Bloody Tourists finds 10cc hitting full stride with their final number one single – Dreadlock Holiday – a song that might make you think they didn’t need Godley and Creme in the first place.

This is the 10cc of Live And Let Live – the live record recorded while touring 1977’s Deceptive Bends. If anything, the band sounds a little – not much, but a little – less whacky without the more experimental Godley and Creme. That odd music-hall influence has disappeared, and they now sound much more mature. There’s more of an AOR feel, and you can hear much more of that ‘Britain’s answer to Steely Dan’ comparison .

Is the post-split 10cc a less exciting proposition than the original four-piece version of the band? Yes and no. They can still surprise, but the surprises are fewer and farther between.

Hit: Dreadlock Holiday

Hidden Gem: For You And I

Rocks In The Attic #610: Muse – ‘Origin Of Symmetry’ (2001)

RITA#610.jpgThis is it. This is the one. Out of all of the albums I got behind during my twenties, this is the one that resonated with me the most. It still strikes a nerve today, sixteen years later.

I seem to remember the very late ‘90s being a desolate wasteland in terms of guitar rock. The homemade ethic of Grunge had drifted into stadium-filling Alternative Rock, but the punk vibe was still very much there. It was almost a crime to be proficient at playing the guitar. That’s just not cool, man.

The turn of the century gave us the Strokes and the White Stripes, both bands making guitars cool again. But for all their posturing, both of these American imports still took a simplistic approach to guitar playing; Jack White from garage rock, blues and folk, and the Strokes’ Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. from the New York City New Wave of Television, Talking Heads and Blondie.

Something far more interesting was happening in England. I had heard tales of a Devon band featuring a hot-shot guitarist with dazzling effects pedals. By the time I finally heard their first record, Showbiz, in 1999, I was an instant fan but I wasn’t bowled over. Sunburn was an awesome song, but there was a fair bit of mediocre filler throughout the record.

Fast foward a year or so, and a friend passed me an advance promo single for Plug In Baby. I played it that night during my DJ set at 38 Bar, and instantly fell in love. I hadn’t heard such an off-kilter guitar riff since Randy Rhoads’ Crazy Train. This Bellamy kid definitely wasn’t hiding behind those pedals.

The next day, I drove (for no particular reason) over to Hadfield, the Royston Vasey of The League Of Gentleman. I played the song over and over in the car, and just couldn’t get over how good it was. It felt like it had been written for my tastes in mind.

Thankfully the rest of the album was much stronger than its predecessor. New Breed and Bliss were both riff-heavy, and there was even a heavy cover of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good introduced with a lovely bit of Wurlitzer piano. The record does get a little tired towards the end – a good 15 minutes could have been shaved off to make a truly awesome 35 minute record – but it was still a damn sight stronger than Showbiz.

I saw the band tour this record at 2001’s V Festival in Staffordshire. They headlined the second stage, and I managed to get up close to the front. After the set, I turned round to walk back to my tent and realised how many thousands of people had also been watching. This little band I had followed for a couple of years had grown beyond my expectations. I wouldn’t seem them again until 2010, touring album number five.

Hit: Plug In Baby

Hidden Gem: Hyper Music

Rocks In The Attic #609: BBC Sound Effects – ‘No. 27 – Even More Death And Horror’ (1982)

RITA#609We’ve come a long way. Now that anything can be found online, it’s incredible to consider that people would buy LPs of sound effects like this. Kind of makes me want to get my video camera out.

Whether or not these tracks sound like the actual things they’re supposed to represent is arguable – I haven’t put a body into an acid bath, yet, so I wouldn’t know what it’s supposed to sound like – but they sound good enough to me.

Hit: Assorted Stabbing

Hidden Gem: Triffids – (i) Sting (ii) “Talking”

Rocks In The Attic #607: The George Baker Selection – ‘Love In The World’ (1971)

RITA#607K-BILLY’s “super sounds of the seventies” weekend just keeps on coming with this little ditty. They reached up to twenty one in May of 1970. The George Baker Selection: Little Green Bag.

How Quentin Tarantino found this song and picked it out of obscurity to be one of the coolest, era-defining songs of the 1990s is beyond me. Listening to the rest of this record – the second release by the George Baker Selection – there isn’t a great deal else to point to such a gem of a song.

If anything, the Dutch band seems to be a curiosity, lost between decades and difficult to classify. They’re half-late’60s pop rock (late-era Byrds, late-‘60s Kinks) and half-early ‘70s singer-songwriter rock, all jumbled up with a touch of pysch and a sprinkling of jazz. They make for an interesting listen, that’s for sure.

Little Green Bag was the first track of their 1970 debut (also titled Little Green Bag), and given that Wikipedia doesn’t even have pages for their albums beyond this, it looks like they peaked commercially right at the start of their career.

Even Little Green Bag is difficult to classify. After an extremely cool intro, the song devolves into a crooning cabaret song. The change in tone is startling – like a smoking Miles Davis groove taken over by a bravado Tom Jones vocal.

Hit: Little Green Bag

Hidden Gem: Suicide Daisy

Rocks In The Attic #606: The Ink Spots – ‘The Ink Spots In Hi-Fi’ (1957)

RITA#606I’d never heard of these fellas until my kids gave me this record for my birthday a few weeks ago. I’m glad they did, as it’s a pearler.

Finding fame as a vocal group in the late ‘30s and throughout the ‘40s, the group produced the kind of smooth ballads that Hollywood leans on every now and again to portray rural quaintness. It’s the sort of music that Martha Kent listens to while she washes the dishes in her Kansas farmhouse.

Their music is seen as a stepping–stone in the progression of rhythm and blues and doo-wop into rock and roll, and as a result the group were inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame in 1989 – a great accomplishment considering the ever-growing list of artists who haven’t been inducted.

Since the Ink Spots officially disbanded in 1954, more than 100 vocal groups have performed under the name – claiming to be first or second generation Ink Spots. I guess the legalities around intellectual copyright have come a long way in the last fifty years – I can’t image that sort of thing happening these days aside from a couple of ‘60s bands doing the circuits with only one or two original members.

The Ink Spots definitely found their formula and stuck with it. Nearly every song starts with a ascending chromatic riff on the guitar, before the vocal kicks in. The other thing to look out for is a piano part in When My Dreamboat Comes Home that was undoubtedly lifted for the main riff in the BusBoy’s Cleaning Up The Town from the Ghostbusters soundtrack.

Hit: Blueberry Hill

Hidden Gem: To Each His Own