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Saturday 31 January 2009

Matlock and the Incredible String Band

I was fiddling about with the settings on the NeoCounter (the thing on the right that tells you how many people have visited this site), and discovered one that breaks the information down by town/city. It appears that 10 of the 42 people to have visited this blog so far live in Matlock, Derbyshire. Now I'm not a statistician, but I reckon it is pretty unlikely that nearly 25% of visitors would have come from the same town with a population of around 10,000 purely by chance. So clearly there is a particularly high concentration of sophisticated individuals with exceptional musical taste.

Citizens of Matlock, I salute you! I'm not sure which if any of the music I've posted here so far you've enjoyed, but let me know and I'll see if I can dig out more of that sort of thing. I'm a bit of a tart like that (no Bakewell jokes, please).

Today's track has a very tenuous Derbyshire connection. I have been a great fan of the Incredible String Band since coming across a copy of "5000 Spirits or the Layers of an Onion" in a charity shop in about 1980. They have been rediscovered over the last few years and most of their albums are now fairly easy to get hold of - and a new compilation of obscurities and unreleased material was released earlier this week. But for many years about the only way to get hold of a lot of ISB material was through an outfit called Pig's Whisker Music who were based in Chesterfield (there, I told you it was tenuous).

The conventional wisdom is that the ISB peaked early with "5000 Spirits", "Hangman's Beautiful Daughter", "Wee Tam" and "The Big Huge", and that after that came gradual decline into total worthlessness. I don't agree with that view. Some of the later albums were a bit patchy, and they were certainly less experimental musically, but if you ignore them you miss out on hearing a lot of great stuff. Like today's selection from their penultimate album "No Ruinous Feud": "Explorer"

And as a bonus treat, here is a wonderful clip of Mike and Robin performing "The Half-Remarkable Question" on the Julie Felix Show in 1968:

Friday 30 January 2009

Mighty Sparrow

To lighten the mood a little, here is something from the Mighty Sparrow, the greatest ever calypsonian. He is still going strong after more than 50 years and as sharp as ever, as those of us lucky enough to see him in action at the Barbican a couple of years ago can vouch.

Today's selection is "English Diplomacy", a tune from the early 1970s in which he makes the outrageous claim that an Englishman's silvery tongue is matched only by his reluctance to get his wallet out. It is plainly ridiculous, not least because our tongues are made of base metal compared to Sparrow's. Who else could come up with a line like "I cannot recompense you most adequately for the accomplished talents bestowed on me" and still make it swing?

John Martyn R.I.P.

I've been asked to post something to mark the sad passing of John Martyn. I'm happy to oblige. This is one of my personal favourites - his take on the traditional song "Spencer The Rover".

Thursday 29 January 2009

Nursery Rhymes

Here are two groovy 1960s remakes of traditional nursery rhymes. The first is a Northen Soul version of "Nik Nak Paddy Whack" by Lou Lawton, and the second is "Black Sheep R.I.P." by The Playboys. They were known as the Australian Playboys in the US, presumably so as not to confuse them with some other Playboys. A bit like The English Beat. However that is nothing compared to the indignity suffered by The Spinners of having to call themselves The Detroit Spinners in the UK so as not to be confused with a bunch of Scousers in woolly jumpers (although to be fair I would pay good money to hear a Motown version of "The Leaving of Liverpool").

Anyway, here is the music.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Whistling Special: Whittaker in 2010

We have an extra full post today: two songs and - for those of you who believe blogging can be a force for change - a campaign!

The theme is whistling, a much underrated artistic form.

First up is the Wizard of Whistle himself, Roger Whittaker. Although best known for "Mexican Whistler", he has recorded many other songs ending in the word "whistler" with various nationalities plonked in front of it: Australian, African, Paraguayan and this one - "Finnish Whistler".

The second selection is what these days gets called post-punk, although I don't recall anyone ever using the phrase at the time (but don't get me started on that): "Die Matrosen" by LiLiPut. Obviously compared to the old Prince of Pucker the whistling is rather amateurish, but I find it endearing and you have to admire these plucky Swiss lasses for giving it a go.

Finally, the campaign. While "researching" this post I discovered there is an annual International Whistlers' Convention held every year, usually in North Carolina. This is the website:

This year's convention is in April and it is not too late to enter. If you have not done so before you might be advised to read the "Suggestions for first-time whistlers" before going on to the more complex "Guidance for contestants and judges". The advice to novices includes the following: "The IWC has noticed that some judges expect classical selections to be treated formally. Suggestions have been to treat the music as would an opera singer with poise, grace and appropriate gestures. The IWC leaves the choice open to individual whistlers". It concludes: "Do not take whistling too seriously". Heaven forbid.

A quick look at the list of past winners reveals that 2008 was a particularly good year for the Benelux countries, with Geert Chatrou of the Netherlands winning both the Internatonal Male Grand Champion and the coveted Entertainer of the Year categories, and Bobbejaan Schoepen of Belgium being elected to the Whistlers' Hall of Fame.

And this is where the campaign comes in. The Hall of Fame is scandalously biased to the US and Canada, with only two people from outside North America ever having been elected. Almost unbelievably, neither of them are the Titan of Trill, Roger Whittaker. This needs to put right and, fortunately, working together we can do something about it. As well as the two songs I have uploaded the nomination form for the Hall of Fame. Please join me in bombarding the IWC to ensure that Roger takes his rightful place alongside the likes of Purves Pullen and Patty Ediger. We are too late to get nominations in for this year, but together we can make it "Whittaker in 2010".

Here are the songs and the form. Enjoy the music and GET NOMINATING NOW!

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Celebrity Corner: Colin Goldring

My friend F is very full of himself because he is being “followed on Twitter” - whatever that means - by Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson (also by the Pope although personally I suspect it may not be the real Pope). He thinks this is very exciting and for people who exist mainly in cyberspace perhaps it is. But those of us who have a long history of meeting real live celebrities – Dickie Davies, Peggy Mount, Avon from Blake's 7, Gary Wilmot and many, many more - are less easily impressed.

In the first of what may or may not become an occasional feature, this week’s celebrity is Colin Goldring, former lead singer with 1970s prog rockers Gnidrolog and punk band The Pork Dukes. By the time I knew him in the early 1980s he had given up the music biz for the more restrained delights of mooching round the University of Essex as a “mature student”. A very nice fellow and still going strong it would appear:

At the time I had never heard of Gnidrolog and, not being much of a fan of prog rock, never made the effort to find out more. When I finally came across their “Lady Lake” album many years later I was pleasantly surprised, particularly by Colin’s voice. Here is “Ship” from that album.

Monday 26 January 2009

Mpharanyana on Monday (1)

This is first of what will be a weekly feature (if I can remember) - Mpharanyana on Monday.

Mpharanyana was a South African soul singer from the 1970s. I have not been able to find out much about him except his real name was Jacob Radebe, he is dead, and he was bloody fantastic.

I go to South Africa every year to visit family and on the last few trips have managed to pick up four different CDs. Confusingly, three are called "The Best of Mpharanyana" (the other one is simply called "Mpharanyana"), and all four use the same photo, although the three "Best of"s do at least use a different background colour. There is virtually no overlap in the track listing, and all four are worth having.

I'll kick things off with "Nka Nako Ho Motseba" from "Mpharanyana". Rather cheekily he claims to have written it himself with West Nkosi (producer of Mahlatini, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and everyone who was anyone on the mbaqanga scene), but soul fans will recognise the tune as Percy Sledge's "Take time to know her".

Sunday 25 January 2009

She Sings Amazing Grace

A bit of country music for you today from the late Gary Stewart, to my mind one of the greatest honky-tonk singers of all time. Apart from George Jones I don't think there is anyone better at the drinkin' and cheatin' songs, with Gary's particular speciality being the "I'm drinkin' because you're cheatin'" song.

This one seems quite appropriate for a Sunday. It is called "She sings Amazing Grace" and it is about the marriage of Mr Saturday Night and Mrs Sunday Morning. "Hymns and honky tonks don't go together long", and yet somehow...

Saturday 24 January 2009

Psychedelic Soul

Double the fun for you today. Two soulful pop gems from UK psych bands of the late 1960s:

"The Painter" by Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera
"She taught me to love" by Andwella

Friday 23 January 2009

Big in Belgium

I had to go to Brussels for work yesterday and while there I popped into the music store in Brussels-Midi station. In the sale section they had a selection of CDs in the "Bel 80" series which, as the name suggests, feature Belgian music of the 1980s - one CD for each year.

Never having heard of any of the artists featured I was in a quandary about which year to go for. In the end I settled for 1983 mainly on the basis that it included a cover version of Public Image Limited's "Death Disco". Disappointingly that turned out to be an instrumental, making it difficult to point to anything distinctively Belgian about it, so instead you are getting "Gorilla Dans De Samba" by Aroma Di Amore. I imagine it is probably a hard-hitting commentary on the long-term damage done by their government's policies in the former Belgian Congo, or perhaps not. Either way, have fun.

PS If you like that, you can download a whole albums-worth of their stuff for free from

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Who let the flowers fall?

Today we can offer you a bit of New Wave from 1981. The band is The Act and the song is the A-side of their only single, "Who let the flowers fall?". They hail from that hotbed of musical talent, Sherborne in Dorset, home of The Yetties. Also Chris-Martin-of-Coldplay went to the public school there, but I don't think you can hold the town responsible for him, he would no doubt have been just as bad had he attended a different public school.

I was at normal school with a couple of these lads, and used to hang about with them a bit when they were still known as Society's Darlings. The singer, Simon Barber, went on to form The Chesterfields, who were moderately successful in indie circles later in the 1980s.

Anyway, this is a nice little tune, very much of its time:

And if that whets your appetite for the sounds of Dorset, why not visit The Yetties' website. Yertiz:

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Ti Ricorda Ancora

Imagine how thrilled I was, after just three days at this blogging lark, to have my first international visitor. Thank you, mystery Italian person.

I thought I should respond in kind by posting some Italian music. Unfortunately I have very little of it - an omission I must put right - but from my limited selection I have chosen "Ti Ricorda Ancora" by Fabio Concato. Apparently he was reasonably big in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s.

I was in Alberobello in Puglia about five years ago and it happened to be the town's Saint's day. The highlight of the festivities was a free concert by Fabio in the main piazza, and in such a lovely setting I was sufficiently enthused to buy the Greatest Hits CD being flogged at the side of the stage. Once the excitement had passed I found most of it rather too mellow for my taste, but I do like this one. According to the Babelfish automatic translation thingy "Ti ricorda ancora" means "It still remembers to you", but I suspect that may not be quite right.

Here is Alberobello:

And here is Fabio live in concert that night:

And finally here is "Ti Ricorda Ancora":

Monday 19 January 2009

Soule Ngofo Man

Some Afro-Zouk for you today. I must confess I am not entirely sure what Afro-Zouk is but from what I have heard I like it. I was in Paris a few months ago and with an hour to kill before boarding the Eurostar back to London I went for a stroll near Gare du Nord and found a record shop specialising in music from the French Caribbean and Indian Ocean islands. I splashed out on a compilation CD called "Top Generation Afro Zouk 2000", and very groovy it is too. Here is Soule Ngofo Man with "Femme Africaine" (which you linguists will realise is "African Woman").

Sunday 18 January 2009

They Crowned An Idiot King

At the risk of giving the impression that there is some sort of planning going on here, with the inauguration of Barack Obama a couple of days away now seemed a good time to post this tribute to the outgoing President. It is from the legendary Swamp Dogg and it's called "They Crowned an Idiot King".

Saturday 17 January 2009

Testing Testing

Evening All

The aim of this blog is simply to share a few gems from the dustier corners of my music collection. I don't intend to bore you with my views on anything else (but don't hold me to that).

Being technologically illiterate this is going to be a process of trial and error at first. I'm trying for file sharing but any advice on the best providers will be gratefully received.

As a test post here is some hippy nonsense from Rainbow Ffolly. The song - if you can call it that - is "They'm", and it includes the line that has given this blog it's name.