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Friday 29 December 2023

They Also Served

Once again this year we have lost many fine musicians. For every Burt, Tina, Sinead or Shane whose deaths rightly hit the headlines there are many more who did not attract the same attention. This is my annual (woefully inadequate) tribute to some of those whose passing may have passed you by.

The obvious starting point is with the late, great Toussaint McCall's 1967 masterpiece, "Nothing Takes The Place Of You", the sentiments of which apply to everyone who is featured in today's post.

The obvious final selection, for the audio clips at least, is this seasonal track from the equally late and equally great Huey 'Piano' Smith. This will be my last post of the year, and I can think of nobody better than Mr. Smith and his Clowns to wave you into 2024. 

The tributes continue in the videos finishing, as is only right, with one of the finest records ever made. RIP Robert Haimer (aka Artie Barnes), all the others included here, and all those I missed.

 "Nothing Takes The Place Of You" - Toussaint McCall

"I Can't Be Satisfied" - Spencer Wiggins

"This Property Is Condemned" - Mike Henderson

"Golden Country Kingdom" - Pete Brown (with Piblokto!)

"Take Me To Aruanda" - Astrud Gilberto

"Malia" - Rigo Star (with Josky Kiambukuta)

"Yere Africa" - Peter King

"Independent Jamaica" - Lord Creator

"Bangarang" - Lester Sterling (with Stranger Cole)

"Happy New Year" - Huey 'Piano' Smith & His Clowns

Wednesday 27 December 2023

The Mandatory Year End Review

It is that time of year when all music bloggers are contractually obliged to tell you about the music they have enjoyed in the last 12 months. So let's get it over and done with.

Favourite albums of the year

Ten albums in alphabetical order by artist, with Bandcamp links so you can consider them when deciding how to spend your Xmas vouchers. The usual caveat applies, i.e. half the list might be different if I did it again in a few days' time. I'm already thinking about the ones I left off.

"Back To The Swamp" - Bas Jan

"I Play My Bass Loud" - Gina Birch

"The Berlin Sessions" - Dur Dur Band International

"A River Running To Your Heart" - Fruit Bats

"Prestige" - Girl Ray

"Beautiful Dreams" - Acantha Lang

"False Lankum" - Lankum

"AGO" - Nana Benz Du Togo

"Joan Of All" - SBT (Sarabeth Tucek)

"Leisureland" - Wreckless Eric

I should also give a special mention to the Hominis Canidae series of monthly samplers of new independent Brazilian music. They are always interesting and are available on a 'name your own price' basis, so there is really no excuse for not trying a few of them. 

Gigs of the year

It has been a bit of a vintage year for gigs this year, so rather than the usual handful here are ten. Even with the expanded list there are plenty of others that missed out but which I enjoyed very much.. 

The Abyssinians @ Jazz Cafe

Gina Birch @ Oslo Hackney

Bonny Light Horseman @ Union Chapel

Bush Tetras @ New Cross Inn

Lonnie Holley @ Cafe Oto

Jeanines @ Shacklewell Arms

Lola Kirke @ Bowery Ballroom

Lankum @ Barbican

Spare Snare @ The Waiting Room

SBT @ Ramsgate Music Hall

Assorted sounds and visions

As is becoming traditional here, we finish off with some of my favourite tracks from 2023 that aren't on any of the albums mentioned above and have not previously been featured here during the year - if only to show that the zeitgeist is infinite.

"Nshingilile" - Witch

"Times Square" - Adele Bertei

"100 Weight Of Collie Weed" - Prince Fatty (featuring Earl 16)

"Pale Rider" - Cactus Lee

"Will You Follow Me Home?" - Meg Baird

"Iyeke Lent'oyenzayo" - Mthandeninonke

"Wi-Fi" - Spare Snare

"Feej" - Jantra

As well as being mostly mellow, I noticed after selecting the videos that two of them are animated and the other two feature fairgrounds. Make of that what you will. 

Sunday 24 December 2023

Kris Kringle Song Sunday

It has been a while since we have done a Single Song Sunday - one of the consequences of the tech problems I had a few months ago was losing all my playlists and having to rebuild them from scratch - but we're back in time for Christmas with a seasonal special. 

The good folks at Second Hand Songs have compiled a list of over 1600 versions of "Winter Wonderland". Obviously the only version you really need is Darlene Love's but that would not be in the spirit of Single Song Sunday.

I have waded through what seems like several hundred versions so you don't have to. The vast majority of them are rather dull, including some that appear promising on paper like Aretha, Goldfrapp and the Cocteau Twins. Many are dreadful, even if you discount versions by novelty acts like Pinky & Perky, William Shatner and Bob Dylan.  

The original hit version of the song was by Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians way back in 1934. I couldn't find a download of that recording so instead we have a 1946 remake from Guy and the guys featuring The Andrews Sisters on vocals.

Obviously all the crooners have had a go at the song over the years. The arrangements are all much of a muchness but as it is Christmas I feel we really have to go with old Bing. His rendition is followed by the only one that matters.

Next we have what were unquestionably the two coolest instrumental groups of the 1960s, Booker T & The MGs and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. Linda Lewis's 1976 rendition fits in nicely after Herb.

After that it all goes slightly wonky. Unfortunately I could not lay my hands on Stryper's seminal 1984 version, but this later live recording captures its spirit. Grandaddy for some reason decided to cast Parsons (Alan) in the Parson Brown role in their take on the tune from 2000.

At least we can rely on Rosie Thomas to play things straight on this track from her 2008 album "A Very Rosie Christmas", before handing over to the mighty Beres Hammond to see us out with the traditional Mandatory Reggae Version.

"Winter Wonderland" - Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians (with The Andrews Sisters)

"Winter Wonderland" - Bing Crosby

"Winter Wonderland" - Darlene Love

"Winter Wonderland" - Booker T & The MGs

"Winter Wonderland" - Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

"Winter Wonderland" - Linda Lewis

"Winter Wonderland" - Stryper

"Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland" - Grandaddy

"Winter Wonderland" - Rosie Thomas

"Winter Wonderland" - Beres Hammond

From Johnny Mathis and all of us at 27 Leggies Enterprises:



Friday 22 December 2023

Seasonal Shoehorning

As you may or may not have noticed, Christmas is approaching. Santa Claus will soon be coming to town.

The story has it that the figure of Santa Claus is based on the real life St Nicholas of Myra, known for his supposed habit of secret gift-giving (and for being the patron saint of - deep breath - Russia, Greece, charitable fraternities and guilds, children, sailors, unmarried girls, pawnbrokers, merchants and the city of Fribourg in Switzerland). He's a busy fellow.

St Nicholas is believed to have been born in what is now the Antalya Province in Turkey, and of course many of you may be tucking into the bird that shares its name with that country for Christmas lunch.

So clearly we need to share some music from Turkey to suit the season. Specifically we need some sounds from hairy Anatolian rockers Bunalim, whose name ('frustration' in Turkish) perfectly fits the mood of those of you hosting the family Christmas when the most irritating relatives just won't take a hint and leave.

Bunalim's only recordings were six singles released between 1970 and 1972. Those twelve tracks have been compiled in album form at least twice but as far as I can find out none of the compilations are currently in stock (although there are a few second-hand copies knocking about). 

"Ask Senin Bildigin Gibi Degil" - Bunalim

"Bir Yar Icin" - Bunalim

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Where Eagles Dare

Last night I was listening to Bill Callahan's "Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle" album for the first time in ages, and I thought to myself "This is very good, I should post a couple of tracks".

There you have it folks - a unique insight into the blogging process.

"Jim Cain" - Bill Callahan

"Faith/Void" - Bill Callahan

Other eagles are also available, but not those ones because they are really boring.   

Monday 18 December 2023

Come And See Siam

There will be a brief break in our African tour until after Xmas, but only because Ghana is next and its a biggie. I have roughly 50,000 square feet of funkiness to work my way through before settling on the final selections, which will take more time than I have available just now.

That doesn't mean we are staying at home though. Perish the thought. No, we are going on an exciting trip through space and time to Thailand in the 1970s.

Our travel agents for the trip are Soundway Records, and the itinerary is set out on their compilation album "The Sound of Siam Volume 2: Molam and Luk Thung from North-East Thailand 1970-1982". Here are just a few of the highlights from the tour. If this entices you to sign up for the full package it can be booked via Bandcamp.

"Bump Lam Plearn" - The Petch Phin Thong Band

"Teoy Salap Pamaa" - Ankanang Kunchai

"Fang Jai Viangjan" - Thepporn Petchubon

And now a word from our local guides...

Friday 15 December 2023

The Last Bus Home

Two bus-themed posts in two days. I thought about asking this post to park up somewhere for a bit to regulate the service, but really we all just want to get home don't we?

Be warned, there are some abrupt mood changes en route, especially between the last two stops. If standing make sure you are holding on to a stanchion for your own safety. 

There is no Mandatory Reggae today, but Poser has stepped in to provide a Replacement Soca Service for that part of the route.

"A Transport Of Delight" - Flanders & Swann

"Bus No. 243" - Bobby Conn & The Glass Gypsies

"Mink Coat At The Bus Stop" - Rickie Lee Jones

"No School Bus In Heaven" - The Stanley Brothers

"Bus Conductor" - Poser

"On A Bus To St. Cloud" was always going to feature somewhere in this series, the only question being whether it would be the Jimmy LaFave or Gretchen Peters version. Then I thought "why choose when you can have them both?" - hence the first video (which also features Mr Tom Russell as the gooseberry).

As for the second video, I disagree strongly with the sentiments but the song is too good to leave out. And the third one is especially for George. We know he's a fan.

This series has now reached its last stop. Please remember to take all your belongings with you and enjoy a safe onwards journey.

Thursday 14 December 2023

Back To The Bus Stop

Last week's post about the humble omnibus attracted a fair amount of interest, so here is another one. I have just about enough material left to squeeze out a third post, which would be appropriate as the common wisdom has it that you don't get any posts about buses for ages and then three come along at once. So watch this space.

Last time out I was critical of those who look down on buses as a means of transport (I am legally required to state at this juncture that Charity Chic is not one of  them). But it is also possible to be too enthusiastic about buses.

Way back in the early 1990s I worked with a bus spotter. He had never mentioned his secret shame at work, but one Saturday morning I was on my normal bus route and he boarded along with a group of his fellow bus fanciers. Apparently this was the first day on which this particular route was using buses made by the Alexander Works of Falkirk and they had come over to join the party. 

Having been outed like that it was as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders and he never stopped banging on about buses after that.  He even persuaded me to take some photos of local buses for him when I went on holiday to Norway a few months later. 

This was before we had phones with cameras in so there was no way to disguise what you were doing. The knowledge that everyone else in the Trondheim bus station was staring at me thinking "Hvorfor fotograferer den idioten busser?" induced an embarrassment I will never forget.

After that rambling introduction, here are today's selection of tunes praising not just buses of different types but depots and drivers as well. 

"Americana Royal Bus Tribute Pt 1" - Royal Boys of Rumuodomaya

"Star Spangled Bus" - Hamilton Camp

"Bus Station" - Tom Russell & Nanci Griffith

"Horace The Swinging School Bus Driver" - Jan & Dean

"Natty Dread Travel On Mini Bus" - Jah Youth

The song in the video was mentioned by Charity Chic in the comments on the previous post. Once again I am legally obliged to point out that no inference should be made that the title of the song reflects his own views. 

Tuesday 12 December 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 22 - Gambia

We have arrived in The Gambia - possibly prematurely for those of you who think it should be listed under T rather than G. We are also now exactly 40% of the way through our African tour. We kicked the series off back in May, so at this rate our bandwagon is unlikely to be rolling into Harare until November next year.

The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa and, except for the 30 miles of coastline, is completely surrounded by Senegal. This is unusual but not unique. There is one African country that is completely contained within the borders of another country. There may be a prize for the first person to name it.

I've never visited The Gambia myself but my dear old Dad worked there for about a year in the mid-1960s, helping to build parts of the Trans-Gambia Highway. He had some great stories about his time there, like how he and his crew spent two days pretending to be hotel staff for the benefit of a French honeymooning couple who had been taken in by the hand-drawn 'Club Med' sign someone had put up outside their remote camp.   

A group called Super Eagles were just getting started around about the time my Dad was working there. If you happen to own Volume 3 of the Luaka Bop "World Psychedelic Classics" series you will be familiar with them. They were a very good soul band, and nearly featured here in that incarnation, but in the mid 1970s they mutated into Ifang Bondi. With the name change came a change of style, with much greater use of indigenous rhythms and instruments. Today's choice is taken from their excellent 1978 album "Saraba".

Ifang Bondi's new style (known as 'afro-manding') inspired a wave of other bands. Foremost among them were Guelewar, or The Guelewar Band of Banjul to give them their full name, who set the local scene alight in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They were also very popular over the border in Senegal, and the great Youssou N'Dour has evidently cited them as an early influence. I've opted for the title track of their 1979 album "Sama Yaye Demna Ndar".

Ifang Bondi's influence continues to be felt in many ways and in many places. Take the example of their former percussionist Musa Mboob who dedicates his life to promoting Gambian culture from his home in the remote village of (checks notes) Brighton. He also continues to make some cracking music in his own right, as demonstrated by this track from his 2010 album "Haral". 

Our fourth act have also been around since the early 1980s, ploughing a similar furrow to the others, and are also still very much active today. They are the Juffureh Band, named after the town that was a major slaving post (and the fictional birthplace of Kunte Kinte in the novel "Roots"). Today's track comes from their 2018 EP, "Abarake Bake". Very good it is indeed.

We round off the audio with some Mandatory African Reggae courtesy of Masta Lion. Hailing from Birikama in The Gambia but now based in Finland, this track comes from his 2021 album "Tribute To Mama". Masta Lion managed to enlist the help of well-known Jamaican singers like Sizzla and Anthony B on the album, so he is clearly a well-connected man.

"Atis-A-Tis" - Ifang Bondi

"Sama Yaye Demna Ndar" - Guelewar

"Dunia" - Musa Mboob

"Kunung Wularo" - Juffureh Band

"Tribute To Tata Dinding" - Masta Lion

Sunday 10 December 2023

Culture Corner

In the world of the creative arts, there is a case for declaring 2023 to be the Year of Gina Birch. Releasing her first solo album, the excellent "I Play My Bass Loud", playing a series of barnstorming gigs, and being the face of the 'Women In Revolt!' exhibition at the Tate Britain - she truly has bestrode the scene like a colossus. 

Now she is rounding off the year with a new art exhibition. Titled 'No One's Little Girl' after the song by her old band The Raincoats, it is being held at Gallery 46 in London's swinging Whitechapel (as was her previous exhibition last year). This one closes on Friday (16 December) so you'll need to get a move on if you want to go along.

I popped in yesterday afternoon to view the art and to listen to Gina in conversation with the art critic Louisa Buck. It was a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion which covered Gina's artistic influences and origins, her Catholic education, shoplifting with Palmolive (The Slits's drummer, not the soap) and much more besides.

As you can see in the background, one part of the exhibition consists of portraits of musicians and artists who have inspired Gina; from left to right Ari Up, Kim Gordon and Ana Mendieta (there is also a very good one of Yoko Ono). The other main themes are sexual abuse - including some pretty graphic paintings - and a set of smaller icon-style portraits of female saints. I'll leave you to pick the pieces out of that lot. 

If you are interested in seeing Gina's paintings I have put a selection on Flickr for those of you unable to make it to the exhibition in person - a poor substitute admittedly. As for the music, the first track comes from Gina's album (click on the album title above to find it on Bandcamp). If you have been following the clues, the second will come as no surprise.

"Digging Down" - Gina Birch

"Shoplifting" - The Slits

Friday 8 December 2023

A Good Sense Of Yuma

Last Thursday I posted some Japanese music, which prompted me to search for more of the same when Bandcamp Friday rollewd round the next day. After a fair bit of exploring I alighted upon the work of one Yuma Abe, and that's where the money went.

Mr Abe is the main singer and songwriter for a shiny pop band called never young beach (all lower case, no doubt in order to make a point of some sort), who have recently released their fifth album called which is called "Arigato". In 2021 he released his first solo album as a sideline. It is called "Fantasia" and it is very good in a mellow sort of way. 

"Fantasia" contains heavy hints of the 'tropical' style developed by the great Haruoki Hosono (co-founder of Happy End and the Yellow Magic Orchestra) on his mid- to late 1970s records. Which is maybe not that surprising when you learn that Mr Hosono mixed some of the tracks. It seems that the two of them have a bit of a mutual fan club going.

"Fantasia" is available from Mr Abe's Bandcamp page, as is his recent EP "Surprisingly Alright" which was released in August. Also on Bandcamp you can find a couple of never young beach albums. They are all worth checking out. 

Today we are treating you all to one track from "Fantasia" and one from never young beach's debut album,  "Yoshinoko House" (2015). As an extra treat I have added a track from Mr Hosono's own debut solo album from 1973, "Hosono House", made after Happy End split but before the Yellow Magic Orchestra emerged. So many houses.

"Beautiful Culture" - Yuma Abe

"どうでもいいけど (I Don't Care)" - never young beach

"Fuyu Goe" - Haruomi Hosono

Wednesday 6 December 2023

In Praise Of The Humble Bus

Bus travel is the most commonly used form of public transport globally. According to the latest ONS data, 3.1bn bus journeys were taken in the UK last year compared to 1.7bn train journeys. In India and Brazil there are respectively an estimated 70m and 60m bus journeys taken every day. These are just a few examples. 

Despite the essential support that buses provide to so many people all over the world there are people who look down their noses at them. I won't point fingers or name names but there is one particular blogger who takes a very uncharitable view of bus travel, apparently considering it not to be as chic as using trains, boats or planes.

As a regular bus user I feel the humble bus should be given the credit it deserves - a view shared by many musicians, of which the ones below are just a small selection. Please note the inclusion of some Mandatory Reggae Bus Travel.

If you missed this post about buses don't worry, there will be another one along shortlly.

"Number One Bus" - Nuru Kane

"Fourpenny Bus Ride" - Dantalion's Chariot

"Midnight Bus"  - Betty McQuade

"Bus Route" - Tyler Childers

"Ina De Bus" - Professor Nuts


Monday 4 December 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 21 - Gabon

We're back on the bus again, and in the absence of any African countries beginning with F we are skipping straight from the Es to the Gs, starting in Gabon.

Gabon is one of those African countries that I suspect many of us would struggle to locate on a map. It is on the west coast between Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo if that helps. 

Gabon is possibly best known internationally for the Bongo political dynasty. Omar Bongo and his son Ali between them ruled the country from 1967 to August just gone when Ali was deposed in a military coup. Fun names but not particularly fun guys by all accounts (and certainly not as fun as the other Ali Bongo).

According to the not particularly informative Wikipedia entry on the music of Gabon, "the history of modern Gabonese music did not begin until 1974, when the blind guitarist and singer Pierre Akendengué released his first album". I have no idea whether that is true, but in the absence of firm evidence to the contrary let's say it is, making Pierre the perfect place to start. The selection below comes from his 1990 album "Silence".

Next up we have the snappily titled Orchestre International Akweza de Libreville with the lead track from their self-titled 1979 album. I am very grateful to the mighty Moos at the Global Groove blog for sharing this album and many more delights,

I have not been able to find out anything about the Orchestre but they were clearly heavily influenced by the Congolese rumba style wafting westwards from Brazzaville to Libreville. Not all Gabonese musicians fell under its spell though. Some stuck with more traditional sounds, like the harpist Papé Nziengui.

Papé has been recording since the late 1980s. His excellent 1989 album "Kadi Yombo" was reissued last year and you can get hold of a copy on Bandcamp. While there, why not read the informative and pretentious blurb that accompanies the album. Evidently he is a "man of rupture" whose "harp penetrates the initiates”, who are presumably ruptured in turn.

As well as his solo career, Papé is the go to guy for other Gabonese musicians when they need a harp. Among others he has accompanied Pierre Akendengué and our next artist Annie-Flore Batchiellilys. She combines traditional Gabonese sounds with a touch of jazz and blues, as you can hear on this track from her 2013 album "Mon Point Zérooo".

The Mandatory African Reggae comes courtesy of one Didier Dekokaye, described in an article from 2012 as "the last Gabonese dinosaur of the reggae wave of the late 80s and early 90s". Perhaps stung by this taunt, later that year he released "Nzila", his first album in five years and the one from which today's selection comes.

"Epuguzu" - Pierre Akendengué

"Oyem 78" - Orchestre International Akweza de Libreville

"Kadi Yombo" - Papé Nziengui

"Bisse Ngabu" - Annie-Flore Batchiellilys

"Pingiti Nya Rugi" - Didier Dekokaye

Friday 1 December 2023

Shane MacGowan RIP

This one is personal. I was a massive fan of the Pogues in the early days, hitching down to London from Colchester in May 1984 to get a copy of "Dark Streets of London" from Rough Trade. This was before they were picked up by Stiff and dropped the Mahone from their name.

A few months later I moved down to London to start work and saw them many times over the next couple of years. I had bought my first suit, a brown number from a charity shop that my boss said made me look like a navvy up in front of the magistrates on a drunk and disorderly charge. So I fitted in perfectly.

The last time I saw The Pogues live was in March 1988 when they had a run of shows at the Town And Country Club around St. Patrick's Day. As well as the lads themselves there were guest spots from Joe Strummer and the like. It was a great night.

After that we sort of drifted apart a bit, but Shane's songs have never lost their power to move me (and many others). The first side of "Rum, Sodomy and Lash", in particular, is one of the finest set of songs ever assembled in one place.

There are any number of songs that I could have chosen to illustrate his genius, but I have gone for the one that started it all plus what might at a push be my personal favourite (a song so strong that even Dickie Rock couldn't mess it up).

Rest in Peace Mr MacGowan, and thanks for everything.

"Dark Streets Of London" - The Pogues

"A Rainy Night In Soho" - The Pogues

Thursday 30 November 2023

Weeping Willows

Greetings from an airport lounge. I have a couple of hours to fill before my flight so I decided to tidy up this post which was originally intended for next week. Having done that I recklessly decided I may as well post it now. Normal service will resume on Monday.

Some 1970s Japanese folk-rock for you. Both tracks can be found on the excellent compilation "Even A Tree Can Shed Tears", which came out on Light In The Attic records a few years ago. The album doesn't seem to be available in any format at the moment, but if you shout loud enough I'm sure they will do something about it.

Kazuhiko Kato was a singer, guitarist and record producer who founded underground folk group The Folk Crusaders, who had a big Japanese hit in 1967 with “Kaettekita Yopparai (I Only Live Twice)”, and then later co-founded Sadistic Mika Band with his wife Mika. He took his own life in 2009.

According to Forced Exposure, Masato Minami was "one of Japan's first beatnik hippie scum singers" (their words not mine) whose 1971 album "The Tropics" is "hyper-rare and demented all the way". He died in 2021 after losing consciousness on stage in Yokohama.

So now you know.

"Arthur Hakase No Jinriki Hikouki" - Kazuhiko Kato

"Yoru Wo Kugurinukeru Made" - Masato Minami

Friday 24 November 2023

Eno's Everything

Regular readers may recall that a few months ago I suffered a twin technology tragedy when my desktop blew up and the external hard drive that I keep music and photos on got corrupted. 

There was nothing we could do to revive the desktop but thanks to my clever friend Vijay we managed to retrieve everything from the hard drive and I am now slowly rebuilding playlists etc. One of the upsides of the whole process has been rediscovering all sorts of artists and albums that I had completely forgotten about.

This week I have been on the Es (alphabetically not pharmaceutically) and have been utterly baffled by much of what I've found. Ep's Trailer Park? Rachel Eckroth? Egg Hell? Who are these people and where did they come from?

However, by far the biggest surprise was discovering that I have 18 Brian Eno albums when I was under the impression that I had none at all. You would think I would remember when there are that many, but no. They cover the period 1973 to 1997 and include collaborations with the likes of David Byrne, Robert Fripp and Harold Budd as well as solo records. 

I feel honour bound to share some of this Brainy Brian bounty with the rest of you. So here is a small selection from my extensive collection.

"Needles In The Camel's Eye" - Brian Eno

"Third Uncle" - Brian Eno

"King's Lead Hat" - Brian Eno

"Regiment" - Brian Eno & David Byrne

"Healthy Colours III" - Robert Fripp & Brian Eno

This is my last post of the month as I'm off on a dull work trip on Sunday and not back until the end of the week. I am going to pad things out in the hope of keeping you distracted until I return. 

So to go with your Eno here are Geno, Dino, a shooting in Reno and some characters from the Beano. All of them best enjoyed with a nice glass of vino.   

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Of Knitters And Critters

Back in 1985 when the world was young the Los Angeles punk band X teamed up with The Blasters' Dave Alvin (as he was then, this was long before he became Americana Elder Statesman Dave Alvin) to make a one-off country album. 

The resulting album, "Poor Little Critter On The Road", was released under the name The Knitters and zoomed all the way up to No. 204 in the Billboard album charts. 

Fourteen years later the folks at Bloodshot Records decided to drag assorted members of their roster into the studio to put together a track by track remake which they wittily called "Poor Little Knitter On The Road". It would be exaggerating to call it a 'must have' record, but there are some fine moments.

Inevitably my first selection features the golden-voiced Future Mrs Goggins, Kelly Hogan, who on this occasion teamed up with her old band Rock*A*Teens. Also in today's line-up is Kelly's good buddy Nora O'Connor alongside Ground Speed. I have never come across Ground Speed before so cannot tell you whether they were a 'proper' Bloodshot band or if this was a one-off. Noted Bloodshot authority Charity Chic may know.

"Someone Like You" - Kelly Hogan (with Rock*A*Teens)

"Poor Old Heartsick Me" - Ground Speed (with Nora O'Connor)

Roll on another six years to 2005 and The Knitters themselves decided that it was time to get back in the saddle and trot the horse around the yard for a short while, as they have done intermittently ever since. The album they put out then ("The Modern Sounds Of The Knitters") was their last release, but those of you in LA might occasionally spot them live - as these lucky people did in 2011.

Monday 20 November 2023

Tapper Time

We start the week with some words of advice from the far-famed reggae DJ and producer, Tapper Zukie.

Today's first track comes from his 1976 album "MPLA" - for which he used the spelling Tappa - and the second from 1978's "Tapper Roots".

"Don't Deal With Babylon" - Tappa Zukie

"Don't Shoot The Youth" - Tapper Zukie

While I was typing the forensically detailed text above I remembered that Tapper had featured here before. On checking, I discovered it was exactly two years ago yesterday. Clearly mid-November is when an old man's mind turns to Zukie.

Last time I included a video of Caravan, on account of Mr Zukie sharing his real name with their keyboard player (David Sinclair). I am going to stick with tradition today.

Friday 17 November 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 20 - Ethiopia

Welcome to the 20th stop on our 55 stop musical tour of Africa. We will be resting here until December, as I have a week long work trip starting the Sunday after next and won't have time to prepare the next run of African posts properly before I go. Don't call it as a delay though. Rather think of it as an opportunity to linger and luxuriate in the magnificent musical legacy of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is one of my favourite places. I was lucky enough to spend two weeks there in 2012 - plus a 24 hour stopover between flights in Addis Ababa in 2018 - and would I love to go back and explore the parts of the country I haven't yet seen. I won't bore you with my holiday snaps, with one exception, but in the unlikely event you are interested you can find them over on Flickr.  

The golden age of Ethiopian popular music was the late 1950s to the early 1970s, when the local brass bands discovered American rock, soul and jazz and mangled them up with the pentatonic scales of traditional Ethiopian music, producing the most magnificently wonky sound. It is like listening to badly warped old Stax 45s. It was this era that Buda Musique captured on their excellent Éthiopiques series of albums from 1998 onwards.

It all came tumbling down after the Derg regime deposed Haile Selassie in 1974 and unleashed the Red Terror on the country. If you are ever in Addis Ababa I would highly recommend a visit to the Red Terror Martyr's Memorial Museum, it is a very moving experience. The damage the Derg did to Ethiopia before they were finally removed in 1991 is incalculable.

On a happier note (no pun intended) its time for the music. Obviously we start with some of the biggest stars of the golden age: Alemayehu Eshete (aka the Abyssinian Elvis and the Ethiopian James Brown), and two men who came up through the ranks of the Imperial Bodyguard Band, Tlahoun Gèssèssè (known as The Voice) and Mahmoud Ahmed, who in my view may be the finest of them all. All feature heavily in the Éthiopiques series.

I was luckily enough to see Messrs Eshete and Ahmed perform as part of an amazing night of Ethiopian music at the Barbican in London way back in 2008. Everything about the show was special, but witnessing the then 67 year old Mahmoud Ahmed bouncing up and down on the spot while at the same time crooning beautifully is something I will never forget.

Missing from the line-up that night was Tlahoun Gèssèssè, who by then was already ill with the diabetes that would take him the following year. On my short visit to Addis Ababa in 2018 I took the opportunity to pay my respects by visiting his understated grave in the grounds of the Holy Trinity Cathedral. You can pay your own tribute by going to Bandcamp and picking up a copy of a great compilation of his 1970s singles.

Also on the bill at the Barbican back in 2008 was Mulatu Astatqé, the arranger and vibes and keyboards player who is credited with creating Ethio-jazz (which fortunately is much funkier than most 'real' jazz, as you can hear in this tribute to a young lady called Netsanet). 

Mulatu is still going strong at the age of 80, in fact he was back at the Barbican just last week. The pick of his older recordings are available on an excellent compilation on Strut Records, and he has also made a few records more recently with The Heliocentrics and others.

Next up is Netsanet Melesse. I don't think she is the subject of Mulatu's tune - as far as I can tell she only started performing in the 1990s - but both have played with the Wallias Band at various points so who knows. Mind you, everyone else we've mentioned worked with the Wallias Band as well; they were the Booker T & The M.G.s of the Addis scene back in the day. This track comes from Netsanet's 1993 album "Spirit of Sheba".

Aster Aweke arrived on the scene around the same time as Ms Melesse and went on become one of Ethiopia's biggest stars. Her first albums were released while she was living the US, and did very well with the Ethiopian diaspora and in Ethiopia itself. Things really took off after she returned home in 1997, with her albums "Hakere" (1999) and "Fikir" (2006) being particularly popular. Today's track comes from "Hakere".

When I was in Ethiopia in 2012 I managed to catch Teddy Afro in concert in the grounds of the Ghion Hotel in Addis. Teddy had recently released "Tikur Sew", his first album for seven years. One of the reasons for the gap was the three years he spent in jail from 2006 to 2009 having been found guilty of drink driving and a hit and run incident. Some fans believed he was set up, noting that the charges followed suspiciously shortly after the Government banned some of his previous records for being seditious. 

Today's Teddy of choice is "Minilik", which is the opening track on "Tikir Sew". There are a couple of decent reggae tracks on the album, but given the close association between reggae and Ethiopia I didn't think it appropriate to fill the MAR slot with dilettante dabbling. 

You need a specialist for that. Specifically you need Jah Lude (or Jah Lude the Reggae Dude as I call him). Here he is with a track from his 2012 album "Yachin Neger". 

"Eskègizéw Bèrtchi" - Alemayehu Eshete

"Tchuheten Betsemu" - Tlahoun Gèssèssè

"Tezeta" - Mahmoud Ahmed

"Netsanet" - Mulatu Astatqé

"Yelew Wekesa" - Netsanet Melesse

"Badisie Ketema" - Aster Aweke

"Minilik" - Teddy Afro

"Yergeb Amora" - Jah Lude

The first two of today's videos have particular memories for me. The first is one I recorded myself while in Lalibela, which is home to many underground churches that were hewn from rock in the 12th and 13th centuries. By chance my visit happened to coincide with the holy day of St. Mercerios, and this is just a short extract from the service in the Bet Mercerios church.

The second was played relentlessly by the likely lads who I had hired to drive me and my bags from Gonder to Bahir Dar later during the same visit. By the end of the four hour drive I was as keen on it as they were.

No stories behind the other videos. I just like them. All come courtesy of the treasure trove that it the Ethiopian Oldies YouTube channel.

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Germans Experimenting

I recently acquired for the princely sum of 50p a compilation released last year by the Hamburg based Bureau B label. It rejoices under the very snappy title "Eins und Zwei und Drei und Vier, Vol. 2 - Deutsche Experimentelle Pop-Musik 1978 - 1987", As it is the second volume it should perhaps have been called "Fünf Und Sechs Und Sieben Und Acht" instead.

I was familiar with a few of the names featured on the compilation, such as Cluster and Thomas Dinger, but the majority were previously unknown to me. Walter, on the other hand, probably knows most of them personally.  

Here's a couple of tunes from the compilation. If you like them you can find the album and many more German goodies both old and new on the Bureau B Bandcamp page.

"Leihst Du Mir Dein Ohr" - Günter Schickert

"Do The VoPo" - Frieder Butzmann & Thomas Kapielski

Also big in Germany in 1979 - Bernhard Brink. Paul Nicholas generously lent him his hair for this performance.

Monday 13 November 2023

When Shelagh Sings

Some sweet-voiced folk-rock from the early 1970s to start the week.

Shelagh McDonald is a Scottish singer-songwriter who released a couple of very nice albums before then 'doing a Vashti Bunyan' and disappearing completely for thirty years. 

By her own account, Shelagh had a bad LSD trip and moved back up to Scotland, met her late partner and spent many years living in tents and homeless shelters before eventually reconnecting with her old life and resuming recording and gigging in 2013.  

Along with many others I first discovered Shelagh's music through the 2005 compilation "Let No Man Steal Your Rhyme", which I believe is still available. After her reemergence she made an album called "Parnassus Revisited", which I have never heard as it was only sold at the handful of gigs she played in 2014 and 2017. If anyone knows how to get hold of a copy please drop me a line.

Since then things seem to have gone quite again. Shelagh has a website but there has been a grand total of one new post in the last nine years. Hopefully she is well wherever she is and whatever she is up to.

Here's a track from each of her first two albums, "Album" (1970) and "Stargazer" (1971).

"Mirage" -  Shelagh McDonald 

"Dowie Dens Of Yarrow" - Shelagh McDonald 

And here's a clip from 2014.

Thursday 9 November 2023

My Life In The Bush Of Chickens

It's time for another one of my irregular series of searingly insight-free gig reviews. A summary for those of you who can't be bothered to read the whole thing: I saw some bands. I liked them.

Last Friday we were in New Cross to see the mighty Bush Tetras. They have been performing on and off since 1980 when they released the classic "Too Many Creeps" EP. They are currently touring to support their first album in ten years, "They Live In My Head", which came out a few months ago. 

The new album is pretty good but sounds positively weedy compared to their live show. They are a great live act and I would strongly encourage you to go and see them if you get the chance.

They have recruited a top quality rhythm section for the current tour (and possibly beyond) - Steve Shelley (ex Sonic Youth) on drums and a surprisingly funky Cait O'Riordan (ex Pogues) on bass. As good as they were the stars of the show were the two mainstays of the band, singer Cynthia Sley and especially Pat Place on guitar. She's phenomenal.

On Monday we headed up to the Moth Club in Hackney for a change of scene and sound, where we sampled the funky samba-scented stylings of Ana Frango Elétrico (Ana the Electric Chicken as Portuguese-speaking readers will know). 

She was also promoting a new album, "Me Chama De Gato Que Eu Sou Sua", which came out three weeks ago. According to one of the more pretentious reviews I read it is "an interior offering, full of diaristic observations and raw, personal truths, unfurling the layers to Ana’s ever-evolving identity". Not just that, but it also "invokes the core conventions of Brazilian boogie music, filtering it through a prism of a retro-futurist, wide-ranging pop".

I don't know about all that, but she makes a fine sound and delighted the enthusiastic sell-out crowd at what she said was her first London gig. We didn't have the best of views so can't really comment on her stagecraft, but I enjoyed the music a great deal and will go again if she comes back this way.

Here is an oldie but goodie from each of them, followed by some newies but goodies in the videos (and as a bonus Bush Tetras and a special guest performing 'the hit' last Friday)..

"Das Ah Riot" - Bush Tetras

"Tem Certeza?" - Ana Frango Elétrico 

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 19 - Esawtini

I'm running a bit behind on the blog this week - I had people staying over who seemed to think I needed to spend time with them instead of writing posts - so instead of the usual preparatory fluff we're heading straight to Africa. Eswatini to be precise.

It is a country I have visited a few times, although not for ages. For a few years in the mid 1970s my family lived in the north of the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa about 100 miles from the border with Swaziland (as it was then called), and we had a couple of enjoyable family holidays there. I also visited in the 1990s when my sister was working as a doctor in a small rural hospital 30 miles from the border, way up in the Lubombo mountains.

If you have tuned in expecting the usual perfectly curated blend of sounds then you are in for a bit of a disappointment. This episode is a real mish-mash. And it starts with a bit of cheating.

Zacks Nkosi  is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of Southern African jazz for his work with the Jazz Maniacs, the African Swingsters and others in the 1940s and 1950s. While he was an ethnic Swazi he was actually born in KwaZula-Natal in 1918, not very far from where we used to live. It is estimated that roughly half the Swazi people are born and live in South Africa.

I decided to include Bra Zacks today because frankly we were a bit short of contenders for Eswatini, and because there is so much competition for places in the South African post that - as great as he was - he wasn't likely to make the shortlist. If you like what you hear below, you can find a reasonably priced compilation of his solo work on Bandcamp.

From smooth jazz we move to more traditional Swazi sounds featuring the makhoyan and umtshingosi, which as you know are the Swazi bow and bark flute respectively.  They are showcased on the 2014 album "Akuna'nkomo" by Gogo Mphila & Phayinaphu Mncini (also available on Bandcamp as are all today's featured albums). I hope this will satisfy George's recent demands for more flute.

I don't know what the opposite of 'seamless' is - seamful? - but whatever the word is it can be used to describe this next transition. From Gogo & Phayinaphu we go to Dusty & Stones, three times winners of Eswatini's prestigious Best Country Music Artists of the Year award and now the subjects of a much acclaimed documentary which came out last year.

Off the back of the documentary Dusty & Stones made their debut at the Grand Ol' Opry a month ago - which must be a dream come true for any country musician - and have reissued their 2009 album "Mooihoek Country Fever", from which today's selection comes.

For a long time those three were all I had. The only other music from Eswatini I could find was lots of house and amapiano which did nothing for me. I could have included some but I am incapable of judging what is good and what is bad when it comes to that sort of thing.

Fortunately I was saved by the Lubombo Community Radio station when it was in the process of saving itself. Back in 2013 the station enlisted the help of nine local acts and released an album to raise some funds to enable them to buy much needed equipment. 

I could have chosen to include pretty much any of the acts on the album as the overall standard is very good, but I opted for the Happy Sisters because we have not included any female artists yet and Plateau Roots for the Mandatory African Reggae. Enjoy!

"Zavolo" - Zacks Nkosi

"Ungadza Nimdzalakangaka" - Gogo Mphila & Phayinaphu Mncini 

"Mooihoek For Me Will Never Be The Same" - Dusty & Stones

"Zandile" - Happy Sisters

"Jah Rastafari" - Plateau Roots

Dusty & Stones are doing well, but they are not the shiniest Swazi star on the scene right now. That honour going to Uncle Waffles. She (no typo) is a DJ and record producer whose single "Tanzania" topped the South African charts last year and has since toured globally, in the process becoming the first amapiano artist to play Coachella.

We kick off the video section with her smash hit. It isn't my cup of tea really, but it is good to know she is out there smashing the avuncularchy one waffle at a time.

Friday 3 November 2023

Sarajevo's Midnight Runners

Today we are taking another dip into the bag of goodies I brought back from my trip to Zagreb in September. This time we are featuring a band so beloved in their native Bosnia that the national music award is named after them. You'll have guessed it already. It's Indexi, of course.

Indexi were founded way back in 1962 and only disbanded in 2001 when singer Davorin Popović passed away. His longstanding comrade-in-arms, the great guitarist Bodo Kovačević, joined him on the other side three years later. 

I picked up a double CD compilation called "The Ultimate Collection". The first CD covers the period 1967 to 1973, the second 1974 to the end of their career. The first is excellent, and includes such gems as "Negdje Na Kraju u Zatišju", believed to be the first rock recording of over ten minutes duration from the former Yugoslavia.

The second CD is not so good in my view. Like many bands of that era their music got progressively less interesting as the 60s turned into the 70s and then into the 80s. Having said that, their 1978 album "Modra Rijeka" is apparently considered a symphonic prog masterpiece, but there is only one track from that album on the compilation so I can't vouch for the accuracy of that claim.

Here are a couple of cracking tunes from when they were in their pomp in the late 1960s. 

"Šabn-Dabn-Šabn-Du-Bajo" - Indexi

"Jutro Će Promijeniti Sve" - Indexi

Indexi's "Pružam Ruke" was entered into the competition to represent Yugoslavia in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest but it lost out to Lado Leskovar's "Vse rože sveta" - an absolute travesty in my opinion. 

A couple of members of the band made it there eventually. Davorin Popović represented Bosnia in 1995 and finished 19th out of 23. But he was beaten there by Kornelije Kovač, whose keyboard playing adorns "Jutro Će Promijeniti Sve". 

After leaving Indexi Kornelije formed his own band called Korni Grupa who were chosen to represent Yugoslavia in Brighton in 1974. They may have been feeling hopeful as they stepped off the stage; those hopes lasted only until the next act (some Swedes). Korni Grupa came in 12th - another travesty, it should have been much higher.

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 18 - Eritrea

Ernie's mobile DJ unit continues to trundle its leisurely way through Africa. This week we have parked up outside the Fiat Tagliero building in Asmara to give you a blast of the sounds of swinging Eritrea.

I am very conscious that I have probably failed to do justice to Eritrea's musical legacy. That is not an implied criticism of the featured artists, all of whom are splendid, just a reflection of the fact that Eritrea only gained its independence in 1993, having been annexed to its neighbour Ethiopia against its will in 1950. 

In addition, the Eritreans had to suffer under the monstrous Derg regime - more about them when we get to Ethiopia itself in a couple of weeks - who banned music and pretty much everything else. So from 1974 to 1991 there was little or no recorded music (not in Eritrea itself anyway), and before that  Eritrean artists may have been classified as Ethiopian so there may be some I have not been able to identify.

Enough caveats, on with the show. We kick things off with Abraham Afewerki, who joined the Eritrean People's Liberation Front in 1979 when just 13 years old as part of a cultural troupe that performed in areas controlled by the EPLF. He later emigrated to the US, where he released his first album in 1991. Sadly he died in a drowning accident back home in Eritrea in 2006 at the tender age of 40. Today's selection is from his 2000 album "Hadera". 

Another musician who was involved in the liberation struggle before having to emigrate - in her case to the Netherlands - was Tsehaytu Beraki. Born in 1939, she accompanied herself on the krar (a five-stringed harp-like instrument found in Ethiopia and Eritrea) and began performing in the 1950s.  She passed away in 2018 at the age of 78. 

From the mid 1960s onwards her lyrics became more political, which was frowned on but tolerated until the Derg came along and everything changed. I have not been able to find any of Tsehaytu's recordings from the 1960s or 1970s, so today's track comes from an album called "Selam" that she released in 2004 and which is available on Bandcamp.

Back in 2008 French producer Bruno Blum had the bright idea of bringing together members of the current generation of Eritrean musicians to make a record. The resulting album "Eritrea's Got Soul" was released under the name of Asmara Allstars in 2012, and is well worth the €8 they are asking for it on Bandcamp. Today's pick features Yosef Tsehaye on lead vocals.

I have been able to find out a grand total of nothing at all about our fourth artist, Efrem Arefaine, other than that he has been performing for over ten years and is still active, having released some new videos earlier this year. This track comes from his 2012 album "Nishaney".

For the final audio clip we have some Mandatory African Reggae which comes with the endorsement of none other than Adrian Sherwood. One of my favourite albums of last year was "Dub No Frontiers" on which the man that they call Mr Sherwood collaborated with female singers from around the world. One of them was Saba Tewelde (a.k.a. Injera Soul), born in Eritrea but a long-time resident of Germany. And very good she is too.  

"Nii" - Abraham Afewerki

"Atzmtom Keskisom" - Tsehaytu Beraki

"Haki" - Asmara Allstars

"Wintana" - Efrem Arefaine

"Semarulay Daqey" - Saba Tewelde

Monday 30 October 2023

Hightone Silver Lining

The other week I popped into our local second-hand Buddhist bookshop, It is the books not the Buddhists that are second-hand, although they may be too if they have been reincarnated.

The reason I popped in was to take advantage of their permanent '3 for £1' offer on CDs. Usually there is not much to admire but occasionally you strike lucky, and I did on this occasion. Doubly so, as not only did I find three good CDs but when I got to the counter I was told they were knocking 50% all purchases to try to clear some space. So I ended up paying 50p for the three of them.

The CDs concerned were an early Rosie Flores album, an On U Sound compilation - both of which may feature in the future - and today's record of choice, a double CD anthology from Hightone Records called  "Rockin' From The Roots". It came out in 2007, around about the time the label stopped releasing new material. At 17p for 30 tracks, it works out at less than a ha'penny a song.

I know some readers will be familiar with Hightone. Between the mid 1980s and the mid 2000s it was one of the leading labels for American roots music, a sort of Bloodshot for grown-ups. The artists that released records on Hightone included the likes of Robert Cray, Dave Alvin, Joe Ely, Tom Russell, Buddy & Julie Miller, Dale Watson and many more.

All of the above feature on ""Rockin' From The Roots" but I have selected tracks by two acts that I was not previously familiar with. As a bonus I have added one by the magnificent Gary Stewart, in my view one of the three greatest country singers of all time along with George and Merle.

"Can't Let Go" - Randy Weeks

"Truck Drivin' Man" - The Twang Bangers

"Brand New Whiskey" - Gary Stewart

Some of you might recognise "Can't Let Go" from the version by Lucinda Williams on "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road" or the later cover by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Until now I had always assumed it was a Big Lu original, so fully does she inhabit the song, so many apologies to Randy for failing to recognise his excellent work for far too long. 

Friday 27 October 2023

The Houseboat Of Dread

Back at the beginning of the month Khayem over at Dubhed shared one of his customarily excellent mixes featuring the works of African Head Charge.

One album that didn't feature in his otherwise comprehensive selection was "Heart", the 1982 solo album by AHC main man Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah under the name Noah House of Dread. We are here to plug the gap.

"Heart" is available from the On U Sound Bandcamp page for a very reasonable price. As the blurb notes "it shows a more harmony-driven and rootical side to his music, in contrast to the heavily experimental soundworlds that his main band were exploring at the time". Nothing wrong with that, I say.

"Children Of Misery" - Noah House Of Dread

"Revelation Time" - Noah House Of Dread

1982 was also a good year for artists from the poppier end of the reggae scene. Our videos feature the 6th and 11th largest selling singles in the UK that year (although for context, Tight Fit and the Goombay Dance Band were both in the top 10 and Renee & Renato were just one place below Musical Youth). 

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Schlager Sunday

Ernie writes:

Guest post for you today folks. A few weeks ago in the comment section of this blog George asked Mister F to provide a guest post extolling the virtues of German schlager music. Mister F then sent me the material below. Neither of them seemed to think that I needed to have any say in the matter.

It was originally intended for next Sunday, hence the title of the post. You are getting it early because either (a) it is too good to keep you waiting; (b) I was away and am now under the weather with the result that I have not got round to preparing anything; or (c) both.

Enjoy! Or Endure! As  the case may be.

Mister F writes:

What is “Schlager”? Sometimes called Germany’s most embarrassing musical genre, it is hard to define exactly. Yes, there are simple repetitive patterns of music (often using a one-two oompah beat) with lyrics that are on romantic themes whilst shying away from anything controversial - but that is a broad category. 

And it travels far beyond Germany - ABBA are sometimes classified as schlager or, at least, as heavily influenced by it. Indeed, many countries entering the Eurovision Song Contest have frequently entered schlager style songs in the past, although this has been dying out more recently.

So, to start with, we have Joy Fleming representing Germany in ESC 1975 with “Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein” (A Song Can Be A Bridge) - she came seventeenth out of nineteen countries. Despite its low placing Joy’s enthusiastic performance made this a favourite with Eurovision fans who mourned her death in 2017. Lyrics by Michael Holm whom we shall hear more from later. 

[Ernie notes: If Joy sounds familiar it may be because last year we featured the excellent "Daytime Nighttime" by her 1960s group Joy Unlimited here.]

Next up is the Greek-German singer Costa Cordalis with “Anita” which was top ten in Germany, Switzerland and Austria in 1976. Costa had other talents too: he was a gifted cross-country skier and was Greek national champion twice. In 1985 he even participated in the Nordic World Ski Championships for Greece. Sadly he passed away during 2019 aged 75 in Mallorca.

Drafi Deutscher’s best known song was "Marmor, Stein und Eisen bricht" (Marble, Stone and Iron Break). Nineteen-year-old Deutscher had ad-libbed the tune during an audition at Musikverlag music publishers by humming the melody and only singing the characteristic chorus line of "Dum-Dum, Dum-dum". 

Asked by songwriter Christian Bruhn what he intended to do with it to turn it into a complete song, Deutscher replied, "Det machst du! ("You do that!"), so Bruhn and lyricist Günter Loose subsequently completed the song and wrote the German lyrics to the melody. It became one of the most popular German hits ever with an English version becoming a million seller world-wide. 

Udo Jürgens, was an Austrian-born composer and singer of popular music whose career spanned over 50 years. He won the ESC in 1966 for Austria, composed close to 1,000 songs, and sold over 104 million records. “Griechischer Wein” (Greek Wine) is a song, produced by Ralph Siegel, which describes the longing and homesickness of Greek guest workers in the Federal Republic of Germany of the 1970s.

Ralph Siegel was also responsible for writing "Dschingis Khan" performed by the group Dschingis Khan at the 1979 ESC held in Jerusalem. It came in fourth place, but here is the group with a more disco-oriented version of schlager and the song “Moskau” which has had quite a long life resurfacing periodically such as during the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow. The choreography in the video below is frankly amazing, get your dancing shoes on.

[Ernie notes: The frontman Louis Potgieter was actually South African, but is unlikely to feature in my African Odyssey series.]

The second video brings us more up to date with the current Queen of Schlager, Helene Fischer, and her most famous song "Atemlos durch die Nacht" (Breathless Through the Night), showing that schlager continues to evolve and survive. 

But before that we leave you with two classic earworms: first Michael Holm in a non-Christmas mood - “Tränen lügen nicht” translates as “Tears don’t lie” - and then Henry Valentino doing some stalking of the woman in the car upfront.

Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein”  - Joy Fleming

"Anita" - Costa Cordalis

"Marmor, Stein und Eisen bricht" - Drafi Deutscher

Griechischer Wein” - Udo Jürgens

Tränen lügen nicht” - Michael Holm

"Im Wagen Vor Mir" - Henry Valentino

Thursday 19 October 2023

Some Guys Have... (Refrain)

In last Friday's post I mentioned that me and my pals were off to see Lene Lovich that evening. This created a great deal of interest - well, two people commented but they were people of taste and distinction - so I thought I would report back on  how it went.

It was great fun. Lene was everything you would hope for, still belting it out at the tender age of 74. The entire set was good but I particularly enjoyed her version of "Supernature", the Cerrone smash for which she wrote the lyrics a few years before becoming a star in her own right.

In her comment on the previous post C described Lene as a one-off, which is true but not for the lack of trying on the part of others. Both of the support acts, Das Fluff and SHH, had female singers whose look and sound were heavily influence by Lene. The evening could perhaps have been billed as 'The Three Lives of Lene Lovich'.

Emboldened by this adventure, me and Mr F decided to take a punt on a mystery gig at the Shacklewell Arms in London's fashionable Dalston on Tuesday. For £7.50 we were promised two support acts - Healthy Junkies and Rats-Tails - and some "very special guests" as headliners.

We genuinely had no idea who the mystery headliners were until we got to the gig, and I was delighted to discover it was Girl Ray. They were getting in some last minute practice before flying out today to start a 13 date US tour. If any of our readers happen to be near the Sultan Rooms in Brooklyn tomorrow (Friday) I recommend popping in to see them.

I have been a fan of Girl Ray since their debut album "Earl Grey", which was one of my albums of the year back in 2017. With each successive release their sound has become less indie and more pop, with parts of the new album "Prestige" sounding a lot like old school disco to me. If I was forced to choose I would abide by the Music Bloggers' Code and say I prefer their earlier stuff, but I do like the new record a lot.

Here is a track apiece from the two headliners. The Girl Ray tune comes from their 2019 album "Girl", Lene's from "No Man's Land" (1981).

"Show Me More" - Girl Ray

"Savages" - Lene Lovich

That's me done for the week. I'm off at the crack of dawn tomorrow to spend a long weekend in Amsterdam with my nephew and his girlfriend who have recently moved there. 

I'll be back on here mid-week next week. The Africa series will be back the week after as there is still some digging to be done on the next couple of destinations. Until then, I'll leave you with videos featuring most of the acts mentioned above (I couldn't find SHH).