Thursday, 29 October 2009

Happy Birthday

This blog is one year old today.

"I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring".
David Bowie

People stared at the makeup on his face
Laughed at his long black hair, his animal grace
The boy in the bright blue jeans
Jumped up on the stage
And lady stardust sang his songs
Of darkness and disgrace

And he was alright, the band was all together
Yes he was alright, the song went on forever
And he was awful nice
Really quite out of sight, really quite paradise
And he sang all night long

Lady Stardust by David Bowie
from the album 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars'

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Bryan Ferry: The In Crowd (a-side)

Bryan Ferry while still the vocalist and principal songwriter with Roxy Music started a parallel solo career in 1973. Initially specialising in cover versions of old standards, such as on the album "These Foolish Things" released in October 73.
Members of Roxy Music did play on Ferry's solo albums to some degree but Ferry's solo career eventually out lived the first coming of Roxy Music.

After tours to support the "Siren" album in 1976, Roxy Music disbanded, only to re-form three years later when Bryan Ferry's solo career was on the slide.

"The In Crowd" is a cover of the old Northern Soul song by Dobie Gray. It peaked at # 13 in June 1974 on the UK charts.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Roxy Music: Pyjamarama (a-side)

Roxy Music are an English group formed during the early 1970s by art school graduate Bryan Ferry. They are seen as one of the guiding lights of the glam period, and along with David Bowie one of its most influential.

The other members were Phil Manzanera (guitars), Andy Mackay (saxophone and oboe), Paul Thompson (drums and percussion) and Brian Eno (synthesizer and "treatments").

Brian Eno left Roxy after two albums to go solo, but would re-surface some years later to help David Bowie with his 'Berlin' trilogy of albums.

Their debut single was "Virginia Plain", which reached #4 in the British charts. The band's eclectic and colourful visual image, became one of the defining images for the glam genre in the UK. "Virginia PLain" was a stand alone single and not placed on any album, as was the follow up "Pyjamarama" released in march 1973, a #10 in the UK charts.

Pyjamarama is often over-looked when assessing the music of the band, but it is a great piece of melodic and rhythmic songwriting, with an instant and distinctive guitar chord intro.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Hello: Star Studded Sham (a-side), Son of a Gun: La Maison De L'Amour (a-side)

Other "second generation" glam acts who were having hits towards the end of the glam rock period include: Hello who had a moderate hit in 1975 with "Star Studded Sham" and Son of a Gun who also had a flop single the same year with the song "La Maison De'L'Amour".

The songs are a good example of late period glam, while not up to the standards of the songs produced by the'premier' glam acts, they are still under-rated songs in their own right.

Hello were discovered by Argent songwriter Russ Ballard and the Zombies' old road manager David Blaylock. Russ Ballards first attempts at writing songs for the band was not successful so Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, then riding high with hits by the Sweet, offered one of their own latest compositions, "Dyna-Mite".

Hello recorded a version of the song, only for its scheduled release to be cancelled by producer Mike Leander, in favour of the band's own "Another School Day." Chinn and Chapman took the song back, handed it to Mud and promptly scored a massive hit.

"Another School Day," on the other hand, went nowhere and Hello disappeared from recorded view for much of the next three years. Their debut album, Keeps Us off the Streets, was wrapped in a mock denim cover which looked great on the racks and the band's next single, Ballard's "Star Studded Sham" brought them another German Top 20 hit on the heels of a sell-out tour with Smokie.

"La Maison De L'Amour was produced by Phil Wainman one of the biggest producers in the country. He produced "Sweet Fanny Adams", the best Sweet album of the lot, he produced two albums for the Bay City Rollers, including both their British #1 singles (the second of which, 'Give A Little Love' he co-wrote with John Goodison), and he worked with Mud after they split from Chinn & Chapman.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

David Bowie: Holy Holy (b-side)

"Holy Holy" is a song by David Bowie, originally released as a single in 1971. It was recorded shortly after the completion of The Man Who Sold the World album.

This is a more frantic version of the song recorded for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album. It was dropped from the LP, but subsequently appeared as the B-side to "Diamond Dogs" in 1974.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Queen: See What a Fool I've Been (b-side)

Queen formed in London, England in 1971 following the demise of the band Smile. Queen consisted of vocalist Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor. In 1973 they signed their first record deal with EMI and released their first album “Queen”.

Mercury explained, "I thought up the name Queen. It's just a name, but it's very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid, it’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. It had a lot of visual potential and was open to all sorts of interpretations. I was certainly aware of gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it."
Mixing glam-rock with hard-rock, the group’s ornate, multi-tracked recordings stood out among other songs recorded at the same time.
But beyond the flamboyant exterior there was genuine power and daring in their music. Over the years their music has ranged from rockabilly and disco-funk to heavy metal and acoustic ballads. Their most famous song “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a densely layered rock operetta, that is among the most ornate and intricate productions in music history.

While promoting their debut album, the band were writing new material and anxious to record it. Several new songs were written immediately after the first album, and some dated from even earlier.
By August 1973 the band were back in Trident Studios to record what is generally considered to be one of their best albums, "Queen II". For an album as complex as “Queen II”, It was recorded in a relatively short time, taking only a month in total.

A full version of "Seven Seas of Rhye" was recorded for the album with the specific intention of being the album's leading single. After the commercial failure of "Keep Yourself Alive", which was taken from the first album, Queen decided it needed a single that did not take "too long to happen" (without a lengthy guitar intro). So, Queen and producer Roy Thomas Baker made sure that the song began in a way which would grab people from the off.

The b-side to “Seven Seas of Rhye” was "See What a Fool I've Been" which was a song left over from the Smile days (and was actually built around May's recollection of a blues ditty he had heard on a television program; the song was "That's How I Feel" by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.
“Queen II” was released in 1974. The album reached number five on the British album charts, and the Freddie Mercury written lead single "Seven Seas of Rhye," reached number ten in the UK. The band also toured as support to Mott the Hoople in the UK and US during this period.

Of all the bands and artists related in some way to glam rock, Queen are by far the most successful in terms of record sales, becoming one of rock’s most popular and influential acts.

As of 2009 their total album sales have been estimated at over 300 million worldwide, including 32.5 million in the United States alone, making them one of the worlds’s best selling artists. In 2006, their Greatest Hits album was found to be the United Kingdom's all-time best selling album. Their 1985 Live Aid performance was voted the best live rock performance of all time in a recent industry poll, and the band is also the only group in which every member has composed more than one chart-topping single.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Top of the Pops

Top of the Pops was the most iconic music chart programme on British TV. It was made by the BBC and originally broadcast weekly from 1 January 1964 to 30 July 2006.

It was traditionally shown every Thursday evening and each weekly programme consisted of performances from some of that week's best-selling popular music artists, with a rundown of that week's singles chart.

Additionally, every year there was a special edition of the programme on Christmas Day featuring some of the best-selling singles of the year.

The first show was presented by cigar-chomping DJ Jimmy Saville, and the first edition featured such greats as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield and the Hollies. Although the early shows were live, the acts actually mimed to their songs, and in most cases had to re-record the backing track with session musicians because of Musician’s Union rules.

It was in the 70’s, and especially the glam rock period, that the show came into its own. The advent of colour TV was made for the costumes and make up of the glam artists. The world outside may have been jobless, on strike or on the breadline but the ‘glamsters’ did their best to brighten up the nation on TOTP.

There are only four episodes left from the 1960s and it was not until 1977 that the BBC began to keep the show in its archives. So there is very little evidence of Top of the Pops from its colourful heyday, although a variety of clips can be found online on sites such as ‘You Tube’.

The most famous of the many theme tunes the show had was a version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" based on the C. C. S. release, but using session musicians. This was used as the show's theme tune for most of the period from 1972 to 1981, and again from May 1998 to November 2003

Friday, 2 October 2009

Mud: Last Tango in London (b-side)

“Last Tango in London” is a Mike Chapman/Nicky Chinn song written for Mud, that was released on the B-side of “Hypnosis” in June 1973. It reached number 16 in the British charts.