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Sunday 31 May 2009

A Fish

Back from Madrid. El Rastro was a bit of a disappointment. It may be my memory playing tricks on me but when I was last there 15 years or so ago it had seemed bigger and more distinctive. Now 90% of the stalls were the ones you find at every weekend market in Europe these days - mind you the same goes for my local market, Brick Lane.

However my shopping spree on Saturday more than made up for it. I discovered a load of second hand record shops in the streets off Calle Arenal, which is very central (close to the Plaza Mayor, Sol etc). Pride of place goes to Discos La Metralleta in Plaza De Las Delcalzas. It is underground and has three parts - top of the range, mid-price and a genuine bargain basement which has a huge selection of LPs and 12"s going for one or two Euros - expect to hear from the Denver Mexicans, Bordon-4 and Conde Manga here at some point when I clear the backlog of vinyl to be digitalised (I have a large pile of Irish country LPs to get through courtesy of Mrs F, mother of Mr F).

There is a small but stylish record fair on Saturday mornings in Plaza 2 De Mayo (near Tribunal metro) - including one stall that had a job lot of LPs by 1980s German pop acts (I resisted) - and I was also able to pick up some good stuff in a sale at FNAC (their equivalent of HMV) including a two CD "best of" Joan Manuel Serrat, who I've featured here previously.

But it wasn't all fun, there was culture too. I went to the Reina Sofia, the modern art gallery. The best known exhibit is "Guernica", but there are plenty more familiar pieces including Dali's "The Great Masturbator", posters of which adorned many walls in my student days. As well as the big names such as Picasso, Dali and Joan Miro there are plenty of lesser known cubists, surrealists etc.

Which brings me to today's selection. From 1986 here are Surreal Estate with "Midas Touch".

I don't know anything about them but I assume they were from Liverpool as the 12" single this comes from was released on Probe Plus and produced by Will Seargent of Echo and the Bunnymen.

Here is some more music inspired by art:

P.S. If anyone can explain the significance of today's title there will be a prize of some sort (he said rashly)

Wednesday 27 May 2009

More Gypsies

Following up yesterday's "Electrick Gypsies" post, here are three versions of the old British folk song telling the story of how Gypsy (or Black Jack) Davey lures a titled lady away from her husband, child and worldly possessions. There are many more versions of this knocking about, but three is probably enough to be getting on with. Here they are:

The first two are perhaps not all that unexpected coming as they do from what might loosely be described as the UK folk-rock boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s: "Gypsy Davey" by Fotheringay, from their second album that was never completed at the time but had the final touches put to it and was finally released last year with the title "Two"; and "Black Jack Davy" by The Incredible String Band, from 1970's "I Looked Up" LP.

The third one came as more of a surprise to me when I found it on a Sun Records compilation, but I suppose it is just more proof, if proof were needed, that many of the American mountain ballads were originally brought over from the UK. It is Warren Smith - responsible for such gems as "Ubangi Stomp" and "Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache" - and his version is called "Black Jack David".

All good stuff, eh? And that is it from me for a few days - I'm off to Madrid tomorrow for a couple of days work followed by a bit of sightseeing over the weekend. I'm hoping to get down to El Rastro, the enormous flea market, on Sunday morning for a bit of what the young people call "crate-digging" before I fly home, so watch this space.

PS When I get home on Sunday I will be taking all the links for March down so this is your last chance to grab some of those goodies:

Tuesday 26 May 2009


The power supplies at work were up the creek today. During the first power surge I got stuck in the lift, which was fun as you would imagine. When the second surge came we lost power completely, setting all the alarms off and requiring us to evacuate the building. When we got back in they had only restored power to half of the building, leaving those of us in the wrong half to search for free desks with working sockets to plug ourselves into. So there we were, roaming the floors like a raggle taggle band of "Electrick Gypsies".

Steve Hillage wrote a song about the same thing. Here it is.

That was on his album "L" released in 1976. It is a load of old hippy nonsense of course but I have always had a soft spot for it. As well as "Electrick Gypsies" it includes cracking versions of George Harrison's "It's All Too Much" and Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man". Here is a great clip of him performing the latter live:

Electricity was obviously topical in 1976 - was that the year of the power cuts? From the same year, here are 5000 Volts with "Dr Kiss Kiss":

Monday 25 May 2009

Sunshine Day

It is a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK, and for the first time since records begun there has been no rain at all (at least not in London) - with just a few hours to go it has so far been pretty much non-stop sunshine.

It won't last so to try to capture the moment while we can here are some smooth summer sounds from South America.

First, from Brazil, Tim Maia with "Venha Dormir En Casa" (1977)

Second, from Venezuela, Los Amigos Invisibles with "Cachete A Cachete" (1998)

And from a different planet entirely, here is a Latin American standard:

Sunday 24 May 2009

Kevin Coyne

How about a couple of songs from the late Kevin Coyne?

Some of his stuff was pretty peculiar, which may have led some people to give up on him as "too difficult", but there was a side to him that was musically much more conventional, while always engaging.

Very much is the first camp is "Mona, Where's My Trousers?", a B-side from 1976 which turns up on a couple of compilations as well.

In the latter, "The World Is Full Of Fools" from 1979's "Millionaires And Teddy Bears".

Here they are:

And here he is on a (probably not terribly funny) Dutch comedy show in 1974. Watch out for the surprise ending:

Saturday 23 May 2009

The Work Of The Devil

When doing yesterday's post I noticed that the visitor count stood at 666 - the Number of the Beast. When I checked in this morning it had moved up to 668 - the Neighbour of the Beast.

These numbers are not significant - the 666th visitor came from Greeen Bay, Wisconsin which I imagine is about as far removed from Hell as it is possible to be while still remaining on Earth - but it did prompt me to dig out this little gem from way back when (1982): "The Devil Lives In My Husband's Body" by Pulsallama.

Somewhat to my surprise, I was able to find the original Pulsallama video in YouTube:

I have actually visited Hell. It is a short train ride from Trondheim in Norway and the only reason to go there is so you can go to Trondheim Railway Station and ask for a ticket "to Hell and back". Unless things have improved in the 15 years or so since I went there that will be the highlight of the trip. At that time it consisted of a garden centre, a fly-over and a petrol station where you could pay 10 kroner to get "Hell" stamped on your passport.

Friday 22 May 2009

Otis Was Cookin'

I had an excellent night on Wednesday at the "What's Cookin'" club at Leytonstone (for the benefit of our international readers that is in east London - perhaps best known as the birthplace of Alfred Hitchcock).

"What's Cookin'" has been going for about five years but I only got to hear of it recently, so this was my first visit. It certainly won't be my last. It runs most Wednesdays and Saturdays in the tarted up upstairs function room of "The Sheepwalk" pub, and features mostly country and rock 'n roll acts. There is no admission fee but they have a whip-round during the show and you contribute whatever you think it was worth - an approach which encourages you to try out acts you have never heard of as you don't have to fork out £10 or more on the off-chance you'll enjoy them. There are more details at their website (link below) and I would encourage anyone who lives in the area to give it a go.

What made my first visit even better was the fact that the headline act was Otis Gibbs, the pocket-sized Steve Earle (in his current bearded incarnation). He played a solo set. Great songs and - some disparaging remarks about black pudding apart - great banter.

Here are a couple of Otis songs: "The Farmer Is The Man" (from 2004's "One Day Our Whispers") and, from his current album "Grandpa Walked A Picketline", "To Anyone".

And here is a clip of Otis doing "Karluv Most" earlier this year. This was his final encore on Wednesday, which - having strolled round the room playing it - ended with him standing precariously on a rickety chair in front of me. The effect was a mixture of pleasure at the song and fear that he might fall on me.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Brief Refrain: Ukraine

In the end Eurovision was won by a lad with a fiddle from Norway. My own vote went to plucky Azerbaijan, who finished a creditable third.

The songs weren't great, but there was some eccentric choreography to compensate. A lot of attention has been paid to the Albanian entry, which featured a young girl singing while what appeared to be a green Spiderman and two midgets in Ben Stiller masks gyrated around her (you can see some of this in a compendium of clips Mr F has put up on F-Life! - see links on the right).

But my personal vote for most bonkers choreography went to the Ukraine for this effort:

Roman Soldiers! Women on Stilts! Giant Metal Things! It had everything going for it except a tune. Which is a bit of a handicap, and not something that could be said of the piece of Ukrainian music I bring you tonight.

When in Odessa a few years ago I picked up a CD by a band called Vopli Vidopliassova. Most of it was fairly dreary rock, but tucked away near the end was this marvellous bit of martial loopiness. Roman soldiers would really work with this, maybe with a few buxom wenches in traditional Ukrainian costume. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you "Pidmanula".

Monday 18 May 2009

Feeling Lowe

Unfortunately due to illness I wasn't able to make the Nick Lowe gig tonight, but there is no reason why you lot should miss out as well. So here are a couple of personal favourites from his catalogue, one old and the other relatively new.

From 1985's "Rose Of England" LP, Nick's version of John Hiatt's "She Don't Love Nobody".

From 2001's "The Convincer", "Let's Stay In And Make Love" (or in my case "Let's Stay In Bed For A Completely Different Reason").

Here is a clip of Nick a couple of years backdoing another personal favourite, "What's Shaking [also probably coughing and wheezing] On The Hill".

Sunday 17 May 2009

Looking back, looking forward

Looking back:

The March downloads are still available but I will take them down at the end of the month, so this is your last chance to grab assorted hippy, South African and Irish delights (amongst other things). Here they all are:

Looking forward:

Tomorrow night I'm off to the Royal Albert Hall to see Nick Lowe, which should be good. To add to the pleasure Ron Sexsmith is providing support. I'll post some Nick on Tuesday, but in the meantime here are a couple of tracks from the warm-up act: "Strawberry Blonde" (from 1997's "Other Songs") and "Drifters" (from an all-Canadian Gordon Lightfoot tribute album).

And here is Ron's video for "Whatever It Takes" from 2004's "Retriever":

Saturday 16 May 2009

Swamp Dogg

By now I imagine some of you are thinking "Enough of this Euro nonsense, let's have some proper music". Well, OK.

It doesn't get much more proper than the legendary soul singer, songwriter and producer Swamp Dogg (or Jerry Williams Jr as his Mum would know him). He made his first recordings in 1954 and he is still going strong 55 years later, with his most recent album - 2007's "Resurrection" - being generally considered one of the best of his career.

He has a reputation for being eccentric, which is perhaps understandable when one album cover featured him riding on the back of a giant white rat, but it would be wrong to dismiss him as "just" eccentric. He has created some great party sounds, and many first class loving and/or cheating songs, but there is also a thread of social and political commentary running throughout his work. It is that aspect of his career we are going to feature today.

The link below contains three songs:

From "Total Destruction In Your Mind" (1970): "Dust My Head Color Red".

From "Cuffed, Collared And Tagged" (1972): Swamp's version of John Prine's song about a Vietnam veteran, "Sam Stone".

And bringing it right up to date, from "Resurrection", is a heartfelt tribute to a recent US President: "They Crowned An Idiot King". This was one of the first songs I posted here but most of you will have missed it and it is worth another listen.

To complete the circle, here is a clip of Swamp on tour in 2007 promoting "Resurrection" playing another song from the "Total Destruction To Your Mind" album: "Synthetic World".

Friday 15 May 2009

And the Douze Points go to...

For me there can only really be one contender for the best recent Eurovision moment, because it was directly responsible for one of the best holidays I have ever had.

The 2004 Eurovision was won by Ruslana from Ukraine with "Wild Dances". If you look at her performance I'm sure you'll understand the appeal:

As a result of her victory the 2005 contest was held in Kiev. To celebrate the occasion, the Ukrainian government announced that it would lift the usual visa restrictions for European visitors for the duration of the contest and twelve months afterwards.

The competition was won by Greece, but the act that caught my eye were Zdob Si Zdub from Ukraine's neighbour, Moldova. Their song was called "Boonika Bate Doba", which translates as "Granny beats the drum". It was a great song with an excellent performance featuring a real live Granny with a real live drum. Here are the download and a clip:

Lord Roper and I had been planning to visit Eastern Europe that Summer and the combination of the Ukraine's slightly eccentric decision and Granny's toothless grin convinced us that we should head to the Ukraine (Odessa) and then on to Moldova to see if we could find her.

Odessa was good but Moldova was fantastic and we had some memorable times - a karaoke lock-in singing Boney M songs with some drunk locals, bonding with a man called Vlad at the local heavy metal club, experiencing some wonderful rural hospitality and two separate stays in the self-proclaimed republic of Transdniestr. So thank you Zdob Si Zdub.

We never did find Granny, but we did find a woman with a giant vegetable. And here she is.

Thursday 14 May 2009

Dix Points: Bosnia

Having rambled on at great length yesterday I'll keep this brisk and business-like.

For number two in my top three moments from recent Eurovisions we go back to last year's contest held in Belgrade. The competition was won by some forgettable song from Russia, but for me the highlight was the entry from Bosnia & Herzegovina: Laka with "Pokusaj". It finished a respectable tenth, thanks in part to it receiving twelve points (first place) from the hosts Serbia - just proving that music heals all wounds.

I genuinely like the song, in a poppy/proggy way, but it was the extraordinary performance that really sold it. It manages to be both highly symbolic and totally incomprehensible at the same time. If any of you have any idea what it is meant to mean please let me know - surely the mad girl, the washing line and the knitting brides can't be completely random?

Anyway here is the download and a clip of the performance.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Huit Points: Iceland

For the benefits of our non-European readers: the Eurovision Song Contest is an annual event for all countries in Europe (plus some that arguably are not, like Armenia, and one that definitely is not - Israel). Each country performs a song on which they all vote to decide the winner.

It has been going 50 years or so and at one time would feature acts that were already established (like Lulu or Cliff Richard), or would go on to greater things (like Abba or Julio Iglesias). These days it is mainly characterised by terrible music and very dodgy voting with every country favouring its neighbours and political allies, and everyone giving Russia a few votes so we don't get our gas cut off. But despite that there are still good reasons to watch - the costumes, the choreography, the ethnic folk instruments, the belly dancing and, very occasionally, a decent tune.

This year's event is on Saturday and to mark the occasion over the next few days we will be featuring my top three Eurovision moments from the last five years.

For third place we go back to the 2006 contest in Athens, which was a bit a vintage year by recent standards. Not only did it have a deserving winner - the Finnish metal monsters Lordi with "Hard Rock Hallelujah" - it also included "We Are The Winners" the Lithuania, which consisted of six men shouting "We are the winners/ of Eurovision" over and over again with a fiddle break in the middle during which a baldy man in a suit danced dementedly.

But I haven't chosen either of those. Instead I have gone for the Icelandic entry: "Congratulations" by Silvia Night. Here is a download and a clip of the performance.

Despite having perhaps the catchiest tune in the competition, Silvia never made it past the semi-final stage (there are now so many countries entering they have to eliminate half of them in order to keep the final show down to three hours or so). The reason was nothing to do with the tune, or even the fact that she upset the organisers by including the f-word which went against the rules of the competition (and if they understood the golden shower reference they probably weren't mad keen on that either). Mainly it was because she behaved appallingly from the moment she arrived in Athens - slagging off the other competitors, swearing at the stage hands and abusing her Greek hosts.

And she carried on in the same vein after going out (Warning: this is not for those of you with squeamish ears):

Now it transpired afterwards that "Silvia Night" was in fact not a real person but a sort of Icelandic Borat, a character developed to parody pop divas. The subtlety of this was rather lost on the rest of Europe who understandably came to the conclusion that if it looks, sounds and acts like a diva it is probably a diva. It appears that the Icelanders were trying to be a little too clever for their own good (a trait that unfortunately seems to have extended to the management of their economy).

To cheer you up after that depressing observation, here is a bonus video from the Lithuanians I mentioned earlier:

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Spain: Brief Refrain

Last week I mentioned that I had picked up a couple of Isabel Pantoja cassettes while in Spain. My dear friend Mr Jackson has kindly digitalised them for me so I am now able to share a couple of tracks with you.

Isabel is considered the Queen of Copla (which I understand to be Spanish ballad form) and judging by her biography is quite a girl. She was married to a bullfighter who died in the ring, she had a subsequent relationship with a dodgy politician which resulted in her being arrested in a money laundering scam, and she was involved in a Madonna-style adoption scandal in Peru. Or as it says on her own website "Isabel's personal life is a romantic melange, a life with a soundtrack where happiness is tinged with tragedy". As you would expect with such a trooper, she is still going strong.

Today's selections are from her second album "Que Dile Y Dile", released in 1976. What I like about that album is the poppy arrangements, almost as if they had one eye on a possible shot at Eurovision (speaking of which, tomorrow we will start a three part run-up to this year's event on Saturday). I have chosen "Yo No Se Que Hacer" and "Embrujer Por Tu Querar".

And here is Herself in action:

Sunday 10 May 2009

Tsonga Weekend Part 2

Part 2 of the Tsonga double-header features Joe Shirimani, who has appeared here a number of times before and whose two CDs account for 50% of my Tsonga Disco collection. Today's tracks come from a "best of" compilation released in 2003. The first is "Sathani", while the second - "Hambanini" - is one of a number on the CD to include a guest appearance from Joe's old mate Penny Penny, another big name on the Tsonga scene (and so good they named him twice).

In my previous Joe Shirimani posts I have included his YouTube videos but I have now run out of those. So instead here is my other favourite Joe:

Saturday 9 May 2009

Tsonga Weekend Part 1

To recap for our newer readers, the Tsonga people (also known as the Shangaan) live mainly in southern Mozambique and the Limpopo Province in the north east of South Africa. Their language is also called Tsonga.

I know little about their music apart from the fact that I bought a couple of Tsonga Disco CDs while in South Africa over Christmas and found I liked it a lot. I have now splashed out on a couple more, which are the ones being featured this weekend.

Judging by what I have been able to discover, Thomas Chauke is one of the biggest names in Tsonga music. He has been making records for 30 years or so - usually with the Shinyori Sisters who feature on today's selections - and his albums usually go gold or platinum. According to his MySpace page, which looks a little out of date, he won the "Best Tsonga album" category of the South African Music Awards in nine of the first twelve years it was awarded (of course it may have been a very small field). The album I have is a "best of" from 2002, from which I have selected "Nyoresh" and "Baji".

I'm not sure whether he considers his music to be Tsonga Disco or just plain Tsonga. To my inexpert ears it sounds a bit more traditional than the other CDs in my extensive collection. On the first couple of listens I think I prefer the full-on Tsonga Disco, but there is some good stuff. Have a listen for yourself and see what you think.

Tomorrow: Joe Shirimani

Friday 8 May 2009

More Of That Sort Of Thing

Tomorrow and Sunday will be Tsonga Weekend here at 27 Leggies. But to warm you up...

I was checking the thingy that tells you how often different tracks have been downloaded and discovered that Little Milton's version of "Tupelo Honey" is particularly popular - the second most downloaded after the original Tsonga Disco posts in fact. So here is some more from the Great Man:

"We're Gonna Make It" (one of his biggest hits, released by Chess in 1964)

"Let Me Back In" (Stax, 1975)

Hope you enjoy them - hard to see how you could not.

Thursday 7 May 2009

Is Ruth really stranger than Richard?

I am currently reading "Bad Science" by Ben Goldacre, in which he looks at various claims made by pharmaceutical companies, nutritionists and others and reveals that there is often little or no evidence to support them. I think it is about time this sort of scientific rigour was applied in other fields, such as music.

Let us start by looking at Robert Wyatt's claim that "Ruth is stranger than Richard". Since he first made this claim on the album of that name in 1975 it has pretty much been taken at face value, but does it stand up to scrutiny?

I conducted a lot of highly scientific tests using reputable methodologies that I don't have the time to go into here. I then fed the results into a computer, pressed a few buttons, and up popped the findings. They consisted of just two words:

"Richard Strange"

By complete coincidence, here is an old favourite of mine by an artist of that name: "International Language". Originally released in 1979, this 1981 remake appeared on the album "The Phenomenal Rise of Richard Strange". Apologies for the slight jump near the beginning.

I doubt that Robert Wyatt would be swayed by my research, however. I get the impression that, whatever the evidence to the contrary, he remains a believer.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Acoustic Heads

You will be pleased to know this will be the last rambling reference to my trip to Spain last week. From tomorrow, normal random rambling will be resumed.

Anyway we spent one night in Ronda, home of the famous gorge. It being a Sunday we found ourselves having to take shelter in a jazz bar for want of anything else being open, where we were entertained - if that is the word - by a dreary man with an acoustic guitar and a hairstyle more suitable to someone half his age. The only song I recognised was his rendition of "Heaven" by the Talking Heads.

When I got back to the hotel later that night I dug out my iPod and listened to Shawn Colvin's lovely rendition of "There Must Be A Place (Naive Melody)", in order to drive the horror from my head and remind myself that you can do the Talking Heads justice with just an acoustic guitar.

Here is her version.

And here is the original.

Tuesday 5 May 2009


Last Saturday I had the great pleasure of attending the annual Fiesta in the small village of Los Naveros, about ten miles from Vejer in Andalucia. After fairground rides and flamenco displays the evening culminated with a band playing what I presume were spiced up versions of well known Spanish songs - certainly the locals seemed to know all the words and movements. Here is half the band:

At the risk of sounding like a show-off, the music reminded me very much of uptempo Sertanejo, which is a sort of Brazilian country music. I know next to nothing about it but judging by the couple of CDs worth I picked up in north-west Brazil a few years ago, the fast songs are latin with a touch of country and the slow ones are country with a touch of latin.

Here is a fast one: Rick & Renner - "Rodeio E Vaquejada"

And here is a sort of mid-tempo one: Rio Negro & Solimoes - "Sapatio Sapatio"

And in a similar style, here are the confusingly named Gino & Geno (I'm not sure which is which):

Monday 4 May 2009

Radios and Los Chunguitos

I'm back from a week in Spain. The new Tsonga Disco CDs arrived in my absence and will appear here as soon as I have had an opportunity to listen to them.

Most of the week was spent in Vejer, a beautiful Andalucian hilltop town, roughly midway between Cadiz and Algeciras. It is well worth a visit if you are in the area. One of the cultural highlights is an unnamed shop in Calle Juan Bueno which sells all sorts of rubbish and has a small display of vintage radios. If you show any interest in these the owner will open up his back room and show you his full collection, which must be one of the best in the world. Here he is with a small selection:

He also sells a small number of dusty cassettes that date back to the 1970s and 1980s. I bought a couple of early albums by Isabel Pantoja, a traditional singer from Seville (although on one of the albums they included some more poppy arrangements that I really liked). At present I don't have the technology to digitalise cassettes but when I work out how to do so I'll share them with you.

The only other music I acquired while in Spain was an album by Los Chunguitos, a rumba band who have been around since the 1970s. On this album - 2004's "Abre Tu Corazon" - they have roped in various guest artists, presumably to make their sound more contemporary. On the whole it works pretty well, and here are two tracks from the album: "Dame De Beber" (featuring Danza Invisible) and "El Mundo Tras El Cristal" (featuring LaGuardia).

And here are the lads in their pomp. There is some fantastic hair in this clip.