A Medway Christmas Alphabet: C is for ‘Call Me Dave’

‘Tis the festive season of advent calendars and countdowns to Christmas. To mark the occasion, what better way than to have a completely non-festive A-Z of Medway songs.

Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society - Art and Science

A strangely apposite offering today – in the light of the vote cast in the House of Commons last night.

‘Call Me Dave’ comes from Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society’s 2014 album The Art and Science of Phrenology. Having resolved many of the band’s internal frustrations documented in the previous album, 2012’s On the Brink of Misadventure, The Art and Science… sees Turner direct his attention to the wider world.

Today’s featured song is one of the most obvious examples of Turner as social commentator. There are no prizes for guessing who the ‘Dave’ of the title is. And with lines like “I’ll kiss your ass but understand all this will pass”, it’s not too difficult to work out who the song’s narrator might be.

I don’t care for you at all
I’m so tired of feeling small
One day I’ll put you through that wall
I don’t care for you at all

runs the chorus (and, in fact, opening few lines) of the song. It’s followed by allegations of the song’s villain being “a liar and that’s the truth” and “you’re never as good as your word”.

Against a magnificent background of banjos and detuned pianos, the song’s narrator is left feeling like  “it’s getting hard staying alive/since you stole my self-belief”. In fact the whole song is a tirade directed against the powerful from the manifestly powerless.

And on a day when many will be scratching their heads over what has been decided in parliament – and what it might now mean for our country and the world – I wouldn’t be surprised if fans of Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society find themselves revisiting the song in the days and weeks ahead.

There are, after all, quite a few people who are “tired of feeling small” at the moment.

Find out more about Stuart Turner, Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society and many other Medway musicians in Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.

You can buy The Art and Science of Phrenology, from which ‘Call Me Dave’ is taken directly from the Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society website  or iTunes.

 

 

A Medway Christmas Alphabet: B is for “Bela’s Kiss”

‘Tis the festive season of advent calendars and countdowns to Christmas. To mark the occasion, what better way than to have a completely non-festive A-Z of Medway songs.

Funke and the Two Tone Baby - Battles

Today, Day Two of this alphabetical extravaganza, finds us considering the letter B.

Looking through my list of songs beginning with B, I find there are quite a few ballads in Medway’s back catalogue: Pete Molinari’s ‘The Ballad of Bob Montgomery’, Sally Ironmonger’s ‘The Ballad of Flying Isaac’ and Thee Headcoats ‘The Ballad of the Fogbound Pinhead’.

There’s also Stuart Turner’s ‘Ballad of the Gliding Swan’, The Spartan Dreggs’ ‘The Ballad of Robert Walser’ and Theatre Royal’s ‘The Ballad of Tommy Hall’.

That’s as maybe. But the song I’ve gone for today doesn’t feature the word “ballad” at all. That said, ‘Bella’s Kiss’, by Funke and the Two Tone Baby, is a ballad of sorts. Here, with more detail on the song, is a short extract from Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway:

‘Funke and the Two Tone Baby specialise in a fusion of blues and folk. Their 2012 album, Battles, is a richly textured affair. ‘Bella’s Kiss’, the album’s first song, is an enticing piece of grizzled blues with a raspy harmonica accompaniment.

‘It’s a self-assured start to an impressive album.  The song’s title is a play on the name of a Hungarian killer of some 24 women, Béla Kiss. And so the lyrics outline Kiss’s sinister motive:

‘Dear ladies, I’m seeking a wife.
She’s got to be rich, got to have no ties.
No-one who will care about
No-one who will miss
When I put your lights out.’

Read more about Funke and the Two Tone Baby and many other Medway musicians in my book, Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.

And you can buy the album, Battles, on which you’ll find ‘Bella’s Kiss’ from Amazon and iTunes – and other places – of course.

In news hot off the press, today it’s emerged the book sits alongside Elvis Costello’s Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink and Richard Balls’ Be Stiff: The Stiff Records Story as one of US music magazine, Goldmine’s books of 2015. In fact, it seems to be one of their best 50 things from the year, full stop. Which is nice.

Look out for tomorrow’s blog. Which will, of course, be all about the C-word. Or rather, a song beginning with C.

A Medway Christmas Alphabet: A is for “Alien”

‘Tis the festive season of advent calendars and countdowns to Christmas. To mark the occasion, what better way than to have a completely non-festive A-Z of Medway songs.

There’ll be one a day during advent, culminating with a whopping TWO as an extra Christmas treat on the big day itself. That will, of course, mean finding songs beginning with  Y and Z, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In the meantime, let’s start with A.

Singing Loins - Here on Earth

‘Alien’ is the penultimate song from The Singing Loins’ last album, …here on earth.

As with much of the album – and many of the band’s albums in general – ‘Alien’ is a celebration of humanity – however frail, however imperfect. The extra-terrestrial of the title finds himself quite enamoured with the people of Planet Earth. ‘I’ve grown to quite like them/the sad contrary human’, he confesses over a gorgeous interaction between clarinet, guitar and bassoon.

This in turn gives way to the rawest, most gloriously cacophonous of lo-fi codas, compellingly beautiful in its ugliness: much like the album as a whole.

Read more about The Singing Loins in Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.

Buy …here on earth from Damaged Goods, Amazon or iTunes.

Don’t forget to book 23 January 2016 in your diary: Medway Eyes presents The Songs of the Singing Loins at The Barge, Gillingham, 8.30pm.

This is the new art school

sandbrook on tv

While I was writing Do it Yourself, I was also reading a couple of great big, thick tomes by Dominic Sandbrook on British history in the late 1950s to 1970. And I saw some similarities between what I was read about art colleges in his book and the stuff I was finding out about the origins of The Pop Rivets and co. in my research.

Sandbrook’s latest series, Let Us Entertain You, has prompted me to revisit these similarities. Find out more in a piece I’ve just put on line: ‘This is the new art school‘.

Never Mind the Mercury Music Prize…

medway-mercury

As all musical cognoscenti the world over will know, the Mercury Prize will be awarded this week. It’s a funny old award which creates a great deal of excitement during the approach of the ceremony and – quite often – a great deal of bafflement afterwards.

In the past it’s seen M People triumph over Blur, Primal Scream and Paul Weller and Speech Debelle rise from obscurity to win the award – only to return to obscurity immediately afterwards. And given their time again, the judges might think twice about giving the award to bargain basement one hit wonders Klaxons in 2007.

Never one to miss out on even the most fatuous of tie-ins, I have a question: what’s your favourite Medway record of the last twelve months?

It could be a single, an EP or an album. The only constraints are your choice should be something released by a Medway act (or act originating from Medway) in the last twelve months. So that’s November 2014 onwards.

Head over to the Do It Yourself page on Facebook to post your nomination – along with a reason.

New review: Brigadier Ambrose’ ‘Jambon Dandy’

brigadier-ambrose-jambon-dandy

It’s been a while (a very, very long while, in fact), but here’s a new online review from your truly.

Appropriately enough it’s about a band who done much (well, anything, for a long while either). Brigadier Ambrose are back with their single, ‘Jambon Dandy’. And you can read all about it here.

More reviews of more things coming soon. Don’t forget to catch Brigadier Ambrose (if you can) at this year’s Homespun festival.

Past versus present: a response to some unimpressed readers

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Reading reviews of your own work is, perhaps, never a sensible thing. Responding to them, probably, is even worse a thing to do.

Nevertheless, having done the first of these things, I’m about to do the second.

Maybe I’m not very sensible.

People are always, always, always entitled to their opinion – about anything. It would be an utterly stupid person who would assume that anything they did would be greeted with nothing but exultant adulation. But perhaps some things should be addressed.

While there’s probably not much the dictaphone app on my phone, my interview transcripts and the people with whom I spoke can do to fight off allegations about dubious sources (or maybe there is), maybe something can be said about the view that Do It Yourself is simply the story – hagiography even – of Billy Childish and friends.

I don’t think it is.

As I readily admit throughout the book, Billy Childish is a divisive character. As, to a lesser extent, are some of his contemporaries.

But whether you like him or not, whether you love The Prisoners, The Milkshakes or The Daggermen or loathe them, you can’t really deny that they had a very important role in the history of music in Medway.

 Do It Yourself: A History of Music in Medway is just that: a history. It will, by definition, dwell on the past – whether  parts of that past appeal or not.

The best thing for those intrigued by Medway music of today, as some reviewers of the book have said, would be to go out and see some bands. Most definitely. You’ll find no argument from me there. The Homespun Festival is coming up in July and will be the perfect opportunity to do just that. I’ll be there and I hope you will too.

But if people are curious to find out what made Medway the vibrant musical place it is today, it might be interesting to dig around the rich past of the music from the area.

While there is, inevitably, a fair bit of time devoted to Billy Childish, Graham Day, Wolf Howard et al in Do It Yourself, there are many, many other bands and artists mentioned, lots of them very, very current. See, for example The Flowing, Funke and the Two Tone Baby (see video), Theatre Royal, Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society, Didi Bergman, That Massive Bereavement, Broken Banjo and countless other acts that have appeared on Medway Eyes compilations.

And there you have it: the case for the defence. If you want to know what’s happening now, a history book might not be the best place to turn to; if you want to know why it’s happening now, maybe looking to the past isn’t such a daft idea.

You can buy Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway direct from the publishers Cultured Llama’s website.

A change is as good as a rest

cover-shot

Hello!

How the goodness gracious me are you?

Me? I’m good. Thanks for asking. There’s a bit of a change afoot on these here web pages. I’m slowly, but sure transforming the design of the site. Might take a while, but we’ll get there in the end.

In the meantime, there’s a fair old bit to report. And it mainly revolves around my book, Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway. Sales have been doing quite well of late.

It’s available online from my publisher, Cultured Llama’s website (along with the usual online stores). But it’s also available in some bone fide physical bookshops. Baggins’ Bookshop in Rochester and Waterstone’s in Chatham have been displaying the book with no little prominence. Which can only be a good thing.

There was a fantastic launch night for the book back in April where Nick Hughes, David Read, Peter Cook and Stuart Turner performed. Cultured Llama and I had a fun old time selling copies of the book at the Rochester Sweeps Festival. And I’ve done a reading at the latest Seasonally Effected night in Rochester’s Dot Café.

Do It Yourself… covers a period from the mid-70s to approximately summer last year. But a lot of music’s come out over the last year. And it’s been a particularly busy time over the last couple of weeks. Bob Collins, The Treasures of Mexico and Theatre Royal all have new things for you to listen to and enjoy.

It’s my plan to write about some of these over the next few weeks. So keep your eyes peeled.

Catch up soon. I’m off for the proverbial cup of tea.

Stephe

(picture credit: Gareth Arnold)

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