Ringo Starr wrote a song called “Early 1970” which looked back (nostalgically from 1971 no less!) at the traumatic period of the Beatles break-up and outlines how shattered he felt by the loss of his friends and his hope that they could still potentially make music together as a unit.

And Ringo was not alone as the whole world held their breath and hoped that the very public legal fall-out and musical sniping between the relevant parties would simply disappear and there would be a return to the annual classic release.

It wasn’t to be and so the world looked desperately for something to replace it. Not for the kids and teens who had found T-Rex but for those who had grown with the Beatles and loved the sound and its development over the previous nine years or so.

There were the solo recordings of course and “McCartney”, for instance,  has the odd high spot – most notably “Maybe I’m Amazed” which must rank as one of the finest songs he ever wrote. But it would be several attempts until 1973’s “Band On The Run” that he could say he had created something he could justifiably put up with his previous canon of work.

Lennon’s solo work became increasingly patchy and though it may be sacrilegious “Imagine” still comes across as mawkish and naive – especially from a man who counted himself in and out of the Revolution.. Thankfully, Roxy Music’s cover of “Jealous Guy” would remind the world that his post-Fab work did still have glimpses of genius.

Two surprises came from firstly Ringo who produced a series of killer singles – “It Don’t Come Easy”, “Back Off Boogaloo” and the magnificent “Photograph” and then from George who produced, in my humble opinion, the best of all post-Beatles Beatle albums with “All Things Must Pass”. But even there, on the sixth side containing a bunch of rather pointless jams, is the evidence that he would never hit these heights again.

The world desperately wanted a new Beatles album and they got it at the beginning of 1972 from somebody who wasn’t a Beatle but was admired by all of them and became close to both John and Ringo.

Harry Nilsson and “Nilsson Schmilsson” as damn near having all the requisite elements for a Beatles album as anyone has ever managed (and I even include the sainted Jeff Lynne).

This was his seventh album and though he had been critically-admired – not least, by Lennon and McCartney who called him their favorite songwriter – since 1968’s “Everybody’s Talkin'”, which aside from winning a Grammy is also in my ten favourite singles ever, his career had not taken off. I think it’s fair to say it’s the best hit Glen Campbell never had (he did actually record it later).

So with Barbra Streisand’s producer, Richard Perry, he decamped to London to try and get some of that old Beatle-style magic to record the album in 1971.

Opener “Gotta Get Up” follows typical Nilsson subject matter of trying to gee himself up. He was a legendary drinker after all. Here, we have a piano line that sounds as if it had been written in the spare bedroom at Jane Asher’s or was the full version of the McCartney middle eight of “A Day In The Life”. It even has an orchestral crescendo at the end.

Although it was Lennon and Ringo with whom Nilsson would famously hook up for the continuous drinking bouts of Lennon’s ‘lost weekend’ when he had split from Yoko, it is undoubtedly McCartney from whom he derives the greatest inspiration. This is an album littered with catchy melodies and memorable hooks.

There’s the jokey novelty song – think “Obla-Di-Obla-Da” – complete with character voices and incessantly simple chorus with the hit “Coconut”, which also demonstrates the extraordinary vocal range of the singer.

“Driving Along” has the kind of rural bounce that you’d find on “Ram” or “Wings Wild Life” whilst “Down” carries the kind of rocky groove that McCartney would not hit again until “Venus & Mars” and “At the Speed Of Sound”.

We have a cover version of an old rock & roll standard with “Let The Good Times Roll” and certainly at the time, all of the Fab Four,were enjoying revisiting their early influences in an attempt to make them independently back to their roots. Paul Had absolutely wanted the band to return to this kind of simpler performance and even head back onto the road to play this kind of material. This rollicking version would not be out of place on any of Ringo’s albums of the time, which at this period is not quite the damning with faint praise it would become in later years.

And then there’s the monster hit, “Without You”, which itself was  borrowed from McCartney’s Apple proteges, Badfinger, whose desperately sad tale ended in them earning no money from the record and tragic suicide.

The familiarity of this worldwide smash should not take away from what a towering recording it actually is. It has the kind of Phil Spector-ish ‘wall of sound’ production that manages to pull every emotional lever imaginable. Perhaps this is the least McCartney-esque moment because there is a very simple demo version that perhaps a la “The Long & Winding Road”, Paul would have preferred in its stripped-back version. Of course, this is the argument that ultimately accelerated the Beatles demise as Paul hated the string-laden version on “Let It Be” – personally, mad old goat he may be, I thought Spector was right. George Harrison obviously thought so because he had just employed him to bring majesty to “All Things Must Pass”.

Again, Nilsson’s immense movement through the octaves is a triumph – small wonder Mariah Carey chose to showcase her own vocal gymnastics early in her career by copying the arrangement (albeit without the subtlety of this version). It manages to be huge and intimate all at the same time. Few performances manage to achieve such heartbreak and I don’t care if it appears on every “Love” compilation ever made.

The less recognized (and flawed) classic is “Jump Into The Fire” which is a tense and claustrophobic song kicking off with a pulsating heartbeat bassline that could have emerged from the “White Album” sessions. It has a subtle threat in it that despite it’s “we can make each other happy” chorus feels designed to do the exact opposite, especially with its backward guitar effects and Herbie Flowers detuned bass kicking in. In part, it perhaps owes more to the contemporary “Sticky Fingers” from the Stones – certainly, bona fide Stones aficionado,Martin Scorsese saw the link as he used the song to great effect in “Goodfellas” during the helicopter scene.

And then it has a drum solo, dexterous maybe but unforgivable really. McCartney would certainly have enjoyed this indulgence probably – and played it himself! – whilst his former drummer would have taken his usual  more economical approach to the laying down of rhythm.  Still the album is only about 34 minutes long so it probably needed to be put in to try and give the listener a little more value for money.

The album closer, “I’ll Never Leave You” signals where Nilsson would later go with the songbook standards of “A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night” as it has the tin pan alley old school quality that McCartney had always enjoyed. Tinkling pianos, strings and even ukuleles have all the hallmarks of an old-fashioned ending to an album in just the way the Beatles used to like to do. McCartney would periodically return to this kind of writing throughout his career, replaying the kinds of tunes his Dad had played him as a child.

There are of course two outliers in the tracklist; firstly “Early In The Morning” which is another Nilsson wake-up song, though this has a really unusual bluesy more American feel and perhaps more of a signifier of Harry’s bleary early mornings. Its use of electric piano on this Louis Jordan classic  gives it a very soulful Ray Charles sound that definitely breaks the Beatles spell.

Perhaps my favorite on the album is “The Moonbeam Song” and that is probably because he dips back into his Glen Campbell stylings. As with his earlier hit “I Guess The Lord Must Be In NYC” conjures a beautiful modern cowboy landscape reminding us of what we – and all of the Beatles – had always loved about Nilsson in the first place.

Harry Nilsson never reached the heights of “Nilsson Schmilsson” and is always held up as a destructive talent who never fulfilled his real potential. However, this is, for me the nearest you will ever get to a Beatles album after the Beatles for its variety, its George Martin-esque sound effects and its sheer memorability.

Why so?

Because it has obviously studied the entire canon of their work and borrowed all that made them such a cultural influence. He also was one of the few people who managed to exist in the inner circles of all of them when they could barely speak to one another and this camaraderie must have brought a subliminal musical influence that helped to create something fresh and familiar all at once.

Its outliers show that, like every new Beatles album, there would be something you just weren’t expecting and took their development and your relationship with them onto another level.

I can give no higher praise to this album than that. And in 1972, it helped the world come to terms with the fact that everyone’s favourite mop tops were not coming back.


Now I know that many of you, who have honored me with your readership thus far, have sometimes questioned some of my more eclectic choices but I am fairly certain that this will challenge even some of my more earnest supporters, because I have in past years become something of a fan (and therefore completist) of 60s French Girl Singers or as the movement was known “YeYe”.

The English have always been a bit sniffy about French pop music – perhaps in revenge for their views on our cuisine and tailoring – but “YeYe” seemed to grow out of the meeting of two traditions – France’s “Chanson” which had from Piaf onwards always put its emphasis on the lyric and its subsequent meaningfulness (expressed particularly by exponents such as Juliette Greco), and  American Rock N’ Roll stylings. However, early examples of this show the Gallic versions as simply very tepid imitations of their transatlantic brethren – this where you would classify the recently departed Johnny Hallyday. It was when the 60s Beat of Swinging London came across the channel that this completely new sound seemed to emerge where the lyrics and often quite limited vocal delivery (edged with a strange sweetness) allied themselves with the persistent drive of Anglo-Saxon RnB.

It produced a unique hybrid and one that should not be overlooked as it would suck in virtually all of France’s great icons (musical and otherwise) at one stage or another.

Jean Emanuel Deluxe’s fantastic book on the subject covers nearly all the leading protagonists of the genre including the magnificent Gillian Hills (the original “Zou Bisou Bisou” for Mad Men fans), the feisty breakbeat of Jacqueline Taieb and of course, Gainsbourg’s amours La Bardot and La Birkin but he outlines the most influential as being the Four Queens – the sensationally beautiful and hugely talented Francoise Hardy, the atomic non-stop Sylvie Vartan, the future TV Star Chantal Goya and my particular favorite, France Gall.

Think Kylie in go go boots.

She was elfin, charming and enormously attractive and a star as a teenager who went on to even greater critical acceptability as her career advanced – recording Jazz albums and Ella Fitzgerald tributes – but in the 60s she was France’s pop sweetheart and deservedly so.

Her early recordings may come across as the innocent schoolgirl singing tales of the emperor, “Sacre Charlemagne” but listen to “Attends Ou Va T’En” and I defy you not to transport yourself to the Champs Elysees in 1964. Yves Saint Laurent, Gauloises, Le Jazz Hot… effortless and atmospheric. A worldly sound from one then so very young.

Tragically, she died this week.

I had originally intended to write for The Vinyl Vault about a record of hers called “Les Sucettes” which in our new enlightened world of #metoo, should now prove to be another shameful act perpetrated by a male chauvinist media circus as a schoolboy snigger. In this case, whilst the abuse was not physical the humiliation was infinitely more public and who should be at the heart of it, none other than that old goat, Serge Gainsbourg. The “sucettes” or lollipops, were naturally a slang for a different kind of act which were made all the more provocative when sung by the innocent and unsuspecting Mlle Gall. It was a cruel joke and one for which she would never forgive him or those who sanctioned it.

Gainsbourg was, however, a fantastically talented writer – there’s a lot more to his work than his grunting with Jane Birkin – and he had naturally eschewed the “YeYe” sound but was nevertheless approached by France Gall’s father (another famous musician who had already overseen several million sellers for his daughter) to create a Eurovision entry for his daughter. “Poupee De Cire Poupee De Son” may well have been Gainsbourg’s quite searing indictment of the pop scene but it ended up being – alongside “Waterloo” – the greatest of all Eurovision winners. You can even hear it Japanese if you want.

Sadly, even at this moment of triumph for her, it would be blighted by tragedy as she rang her then boyfriend, the loathsome Claude Francois (Clo-Clo France’s answer to Fabian) to celebrate, who proceeded to reduce her to tears by telling her that her performance was out of tune and flat.

Mercifully, Europe could agree on one thing that night.

This kind of pulsating rhythm may have been hated by the French orchestras who played it – famously they would boo when having to play the Eurovision smash because it was so fast – but it was adored by admirers all over the world. Tarantino would use April March’s note for note update of “Laisse Tomber Les Filles” in “Deathproof” to great effect.

This was a wonderfully exciting record and real Girl-Power classic, decades before anyone was urged to spice up their life.

While this driving sound would evolve into strange psychedelia like “Teenie Weenie Boppie” and “Chanson Indienne”, it was capable of showing her understanding of the pop world and how Paris and the “Salut Les Copiains” crowd operated and she was really the Princess.

I have always thought that if you want to know what Paris sounded like fifty years ago before student riots and the like, when pop still swung then nowhere is it better summed up than in “Made In France” – a plea to remind youth that France was just as cool at the all-encompassing British Invasion.

Her last years were equally filled with tragedy and her performances were limited but if ever there was a heroine for those times it was France Gall – a perfect Pop Icon who retained dignity in a world that did not always return the favor. Vive La France.



In the mid to late 70s, EMI suddenly seemed to realize that they were sitting on a goldmine and as a result, no UK household seemed to be without one of their omnipresent “20 Golden Greats” collections.

The three glossy red lips for Diana Ross and The Supremes; The guitar graphic for The Shadows; The surfer illustration naturally for the Beach Boys; The gritty black and white close-up of Frank Sinatra. These sold by the bucketload. Go on have a rummage in your parents’ loft and you’ll find one or other of them.

You might well also find a copy of Glen Campbell’s “20 Golden Greats” not a great sleeve for sure but two wonderful sides of black lacquer within. And you will be amazed how familiar the entire record is to you.

Sadly, as you will know he passed away yesterday.

So many of the tributes focus on his classics “Wichita Lineman” and “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” which are two of the most achingly sad recordings that it is small wonder that so many think so fondly of them. You can truly understand why they proved so hugely popular with soldiers posted far from home during the Vietnam War.

Now I may sound contentious here but I think it is easier for musicians to portray songs of emotional turmoil – after all many of their songs were kickstarted by some kind of trauma. So loss and anger are often called out as the stimulants for many of the world’s most adored tracks.

Joy is something that is much more difficult to make sound convincing and authentic. Pop’s nature can often bland out the attachment to the emotion. I believe firmly that Glen Campbell was one of the singers who could truly express a feeling of joy and human contentment that only the real masters (Presley, Sinatra etc)  ever attempt to attain.

For myself, nowhere is this better exhibited in Glen’s “Gentle On My Mind” – for those who have seen this already I apologize – but in other’s hands (try Dean Martin) it becomes something of a swagger – cocksure – yet here, it is an ode to a relationship of deep relaxed understanding that perhaps we all strive for in life.

And Glen knows it.

So whilst he was always capable of tearing your heart in two the success of his “20 Golden Greats” brought him back to the UK charts for a final time (at least when the charts meant something) and he gave us a similarly smile-laced version of Alain Toussaint’s beautiful but previously ghostly Cajun panegyric “Southern Nights”.

Again, you can here the genuine pleasure in its performance and it I can only delight.

Imagine that was your sole contribution to decorating the corridors of pop pageantry but Glen Campbell was one of the most celebrated session men – he was part of  ‘The Wrecking Crew’ for a while who played on many of America’s greatest pop songs.

That’s Glen on “Hello Mary Lou” by Ricky Nelson and on “Mary Mary” by The Monkees and on “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” by The Righteous Brothers and on “Help Me Rhonda” by The Beach Boys and on “Strangers In The Night”  (that’s right – “Strangers In The Night”) which became Sinatra’s mid-period theme song. Apparently, his then flower power hair and wardrobe rather offended the eye of The Chairman Of The Board but when he heard his guitar playing he was excused and later personally tipped!

Mid 70s EMI management have a lot to thank him for

He plays on the sessions for “Pet Sounds”, stands in for Brian Wilson when he could no longer tour and is brought into help out Elvis’s band with some wicked licks for one of his 60s best soundtracks (the film also featured Ann-Margret so it was a double winner in my book).

Oh and for good measure, he starred with John Wayne in “True Grit”… This was a man who walked with heroes.

There were some incredible highs and lows in Glen Campbell’s career and his late illness has been well documented but his contemporaries say that he musically he had the most natural ear and could immediately within bars pick up melodies, chord structures and amplify and improvise as if he had known it all along. His life may not have been pure but his musicianship most certainly was.

It is interesting that as Alzheimers took its toll on Glen, he became the most wonderful advertisement for the power of music where his muscle memory allowed him to remain note and pitch perfect.

His contribution is absolutely interwoven into the historical tapestry of some of the greatest music of the late 20th century and we should be forever grateful for a man who could so naturally convey the highs and lows that we sometimes so struggle to express.


Sometimes you can easily forget just how successful The Police actually were. The summer of 1983, which is often described as the summer of “Thriller” was really the summer of “Synchronicity”. This was an album that sold bucketloads all over the world.

And so had their previous album, today’s subject, “Ghost In The Machine” which was released in the autumn of 1981 to much critical acclaim, as it was seen to move the band’s trademark reggae-rock sound into new poppier territories with keyboard flourishes and a highly effective saxophone backing.

In truth, The Police are synonymous with “critical acclaim” and there is endless debate about their finest album – four of the five they released appear in the Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 ever. However, this album ranks the highest at #323 which would imply that there was a considerable amount of debate still. Indeed, this album’s predecessor, “Zenyatta Mondatta”, which was the only one of them not to be included by the august publication, has its defenders who claim it should be considered the best.

So which one should be there?

None of them.

If ever there was a band who forced pointless filler into their work at even their earliest stages, it is The Police. Even, their worldwide smash “Synchronicity” has to endure the successive horrors of “Mother” and “Miss Gradenko”. They may be musical jokes for the band but for the listener they are tired and destructive.

It is a selfish and combative attitude that comes across all their work.

I have chosen “Ghost In The Machine” because I think it is the album least damaged and most harmonious but “Hungry For You (J’auras Toujours Faim Du Toi)” comes across as exactly what it is – a French New Wave song (and doesn’t that sound hideous even as a concept). “Omegaman” was mysteriously picked by the record company to be the first single, but rightly over-ridden by the band, has an interesting premise borrowed form the science fiction film about being the last man on earth but is turgid and lacks real energy – it would have been #1 because everything they released went there however.

“Demolition Man” sounds other-wordly and subtle when coming from the larynx of Grace Jones when she covered it but here it is over-long and over-blown. “One World (Not Three)” introduces a new phenomenon of the globally-conscious Rock Band – a mantle that would be taken after their implosion by U2 and then subsequently Coldplay (a fact lamented by Andy Summers in a recent interview), where bigger issues would be forced into the public’s headspace, sometimes well and sometimes – as here – a little too earnestly.

Interestingly, in 1982, The Police only played one date in the UK in support of this album which was at the Gateshead International Stadium which was a ragged if largely powerful performance but look who’s lurking (and doubtless observing)  lower on what was an excellent bill…

So why am I bothering with this album at all?

Well, it has moments of unsurpassable quality. Not least the global smash “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, which picks up the “when eloquence escapes you” of predecessor “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da” from “Zenyatta Mondatta” – even though it actually comes originally from sessions way back in 1977. Whilst all the album was recorded in Montserrat, strangely this song which was the exception being recorded in Montreal is the one that has the mellowest vibe and even now has a sunniness that the band often failed to replicate.

Certainly, Sting would never be this bright again until he went solo.

However, the band also wanted to forge its political awareness and “Rehumanize Yourself” attacks the malignant racist strain that was still rampant in riot torn Britain of 1981. But it is their strong attack on the situation in Northern Ireland – then a very real issue – that delivers, I believe their finest and often forgotten (#2 hit notwithstanding) “Invisible Sun”. A looming countdown followed by an ominous bass line that simply exudes claustrophobia but then explodes into an angry chorus. This is the band at their tense best.

Sting had been living in Ireland at the time, and felt very aware of the explosive situation there and so it has a reality about it that overcomes any doubts as to its legitimacy.

“Spirits In The Material World” is a great album opener and although a little pretentious in its content – it is Sting after all – it does have an energy and oddness with stabbing sax and jagged rhythm that turns it into a real ear worm and all the more enjoyable for it.

So what was The Police’s problem?

Basically they didn’t seem to like each other much. Sting and Stewart Copeland regularly fell out, leaving Andy Summers to try and broker peace. Parts were recorded separately. The band’s songs were regularly rejected by Sting – “Rehumanise Yourself” was written by Copeland but then rewritten by Sting who didn’t like the lyrics at all.  The cover itself, came about because they couldn’t agree on a visual and the whole process was underlined with barely suppressed aversion to one another.

They were just too angry – does anyone hit drums as hard as Stewart Copeland? Has reggae, the gentlest of genres ever sounded so ill at ease? Apparently, it was worse during Synchronicity and the cancelled album after that.

Even in later reunions and meetings, the aggravation they felt still existed.

But at the end of the album comes two unheralded saving graces – Sting’s “Secret Journey” and Copeland’s virtually Balearic fore-runner, the exquisite “Darkness” which exhibit all the subtlety that you would expect from fine musical exponents such as these three.

These two closers really do redeem an album that had opened so wonderfully with the three big singles and then meandered as all Police albums did.

Sting’s best solo work “The Dream Of The Blue Turtles”, “Nothing Like The Sun” and especially “Ten Summoner’s Tales” would exercise far greater quality control and deliver far more accomplished long-player material. Perhaps, it helps being in charge entirely.

So the conclusion is really what we have always known that genius and its expression often takes a great deal of tension for it to reach its zenith. For The Police, I believe, we all have had to put up with too many of their workings in the margin – their dry runs and practices. The antipathy that could exist forced them to just force some of their material in to keep the other parties happy and as long as there was some killer material, it didn’t matter. Perhaps Im suggesting that their conflict made them lazy in order to avoid further aggravation.

Ah but when they did get it right…

Maybe, the critics just get it wrong and they were just a brilliant singles band all along.


As the Seventies turned into the Eighties and the violent but brief flame of Punk had all but burned out, the coolest sounds morphing into the pop charts from the underground stemmed from the contemporaneous revivals of Mod and Ska. Nowadays, these records  tend to be lumped together (especially in Father’s Day compilations) but they were really two very different movements who did not always see eye to eye.

This is a story of just such a difference of opinions.

Let’s start with “just who is Walt Jabsco?”

You’ll know him as the 2-Tone Man who appeared on the sleeve and label of all early 2 Tone record releases. The design came from Jerry Dammers himself with help from Specials bass player, Horace Panter, and designers John Sims & David Storey and you know it now from the sharp suit, the shades and the pork pie hat but it was actually based on a photo of Peter Tosh from an old album called “The Wailing Wailers” – that’s him on the right; aloof and super cool, dwarfing Mr Marley in the middle.

The first release on Two Tone was of course, the definitive “Gangsters” by the Special AKA, which is still one of the most feverishly exciting debut singles ever made. It borrows from Prince Buster’s seminal ska classic “Al Capone” and twists it to a more personal theme.

The band had been on tour in France and were held accountable for damage in a hotel for which another band (allegedly The Damned) had actually been responsible. Their guitars were confiscated, the police were called and a terrific hit single was born that told their story.

The intro about “Bernie Rhodes knows. Don’t argue” was a reference to their then manager the legendary Bernie Rhodes who also looked after The Clash and was apparently a king-size spouter of bullshit.

The record was originally released in May 1979 in a limited run of 5000 which were stamped by the band themselves and then distributed by Rough Trade. Not many have lasted the course of time. I’m happy to say that mine has.

In the summer it gained its full release, having been made record of the week by David Jensen – later it would justifiably become NME’s Record of the Year in a year of tremendous competition – 1979 saw “London Calling”, “Brass In Pocket” and “Good Times” to name but three. We then witnessed one of the most iconic and photogenic gatherings on Top Of The Pops as the sharp-suited, multi-racial,  full-on yet slightly detached Special AKA burst into our collective conscience, all bounce and menace, propelled by Roddy Radiation’s spitting guitar.

The B-side was credited to The Selecter but this was not the band we know but a recording from a sideline of drummer John Bradbury’s together with Neol Davis. The remnants of this recording unit would form the actual Selecter when they brought in the fabulous Pauline Black as vocalist. In the meantime, this version of The Selecter left us with the kind of eerie and brooding please of instrumental exotica that would so later fascinate Jerry Dammers as his Two Tone vision moved away from just being about the Ska Revival.

Dammers was very much the mastermind of 2 Tone and used its startling imagery as a mark of quality. Throughout the end of 1979 until the summer of 1981 and the Specials’ dissolution as “Ghost Town” reached number one, the sound of 2 Tone ruled the airwaves and Walt Jabsco’s appearance on a sleeve – or the paper labels that all singles were given for their first run (it will come as little surprise to my fellow anoraks that I naturally have a full set in this rarer format) – signified a recording of interest, vitality and a downright good time.

Madness and The Beat famously launched their careers here and collectors now hunt down the Bodysnatchers, the Swinging Cats and of course The Selecter to hear the full gamut. Dammers guarded the legacy of 2 Tone preciously and this caused problems with many of the label’s charges and, indeed, his own band – for whom he remains the only dissenting member of the now-reformed group. His changes of direction brought new bands such as The Higsons and The Friday Club onto the roster but failure loomed (which makes these really quite hard to get hold of now) and by 1984, only really the Special AKA now without their former frontmen were gaining any traction and that was running out.

However this forthright adherence to his vision brought him into conflict much earlier on. This time Mod band, The Lambrettas were his target.

The Mod revival had also cropped up around 78-79, largely on the back of the release of the excellent “Quadrophenia” which had been an accurate depiction of Mod Culture in the mid-60s as brought to life by The Who’s album of the same name. This revival had really ended up being the catalyst for the success of The Jam and to a lesser extent Secret Affair and The Truth – again it felt an antidote to the bloated nature of 70s Rock but also, to be honest, the grubbiness of punk, with its smart fashion and cool outlook. It was a fairly Southern based movement (like the original) but coincided with the Midland-based Ska breakout (Madness notwithstanding).

Of course, there was overlap but Mods were not Skinheads and whilst the twain would meet – it wasn’t often.

Now, at this juncture, I think it’s fair to say that most of us believe that cover versions can be better than the originals – Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” exhibit A – but you might be surprised that one of my favorites to fall into this category is the swinging ska-like “Poison Ivy” by Mod cash-ins The Lambrettas.

It’s a record that can still get a floor bouncing and had more energy than most of its predecessors and I include a version by the Stones – so I must be serious.

Now, to be fair, the band came from the hallowed Mod ground of Brighton and would go on to deliver a surprisingly accomplished album, “Beat Boys In The Jet Age” – all of which was even more surprising when you consider they were released on Rocket Records, Elton John’s label.

The band and label though it would be a fun idea to release a version of their chart-bound hit under the monicker of “Two-Stroke Records” which was a nod to the Mod obsession with scooters. They also featured a cut-out stenciled Mod to mimic 2 Tone’s Mr Jabsco, complete with checkerboard banded motif.

The irascible and protective Dammers apparently blew a gasket and a vehemently worded ‘cease and desist’ instruction was swiftly sent out to all parties concerned.

And thus, yet another collector’s rarity was born.


As most of you know, I am still an inveterate record collector.

Although I don’t have a turntable…

I’m not one of these new fangled vinyl johnnies who believes everything sounds better on vinyl. It doesn’t and certainly not if it was recorded after punk. If you want to enjoy vinyl play an old Motown 45 on a Dansette or better still a jukebox because that’s how vinyl  in its pomp was meant to be heard. Treble way up, bass way up and a needle that would plough a furrow through the thickest plastic.

But that’s not for my records… no indeed.

Inevitably they are lovingly removed from their packaging, catalogued and placed in some far more durable PVC protection and finally, boxed and stored within a bizarre coding system that would perhaps test even the greatest of minds at Bletchley Heath.

So I don’t play them and I very rarely sell them but I adore them. If I want to hear the music I undoubtedly have the CD versions and you, dear readers, already are well versed in my Remaster obsession, which is equally nurtured and indulged.

But the vinyl tells a story and so I often buy on the basis of that. Of course, I’m a great completist and have entire discographies and libraries of material by artist or label or genre etc but they all inevitably have some story that initially piqued my interest.

And here is one such…

In earlier pieces – especially about the truly divine Mel & Kim – I have been something of an apologist for Stock Aitken & Waterman who whilst they did inflict plenty of cookie cutter chart fodder that blighted the airwaves as the 80s turned into the 90s, were more pioneering and innovative than they have ever really been given credit for.

Pete Waterman is a man who truly knows his musical history and his Hit Factory at PWL was designed to mirror the success of its Detroit based predecessor in terms of its ambition and scope. But Pete was not just some fly by night chancer – he had worked with Motown in the US, had been instrumental in the burgeoning success of Northern Soul  – not least the classic “Footsee” by Wigan’s Chosen Few, one of the first records ever commercially remixed to become a hit.

As if that wasn’t enough, he had also been one of the first managers for a band called the Coventry Automatics who would transform into the Special AKA and launch the whole 2 Tone movement.

Pete was no impostor and knew instinctively a great sound. Obviously, we know him more for his Italo-Disco Eurobeat concoctions but he was a student of many genres.

Hence at the height of his success, he was keen for SAW to showcase their talents and that they too could be the hippest and coolest and so created a Rare Groove classic called “Roadblock” which would eventually reach the top 20 in 1987. It was a tune so hip that sounded like it had come from the GoGo scene of Washington DC or a mid-70s Average White Band album. It was just so authentic – it didn’t sound like it came from South London that’s for sure.

So they released it on a 12″ Promo on Lynx Records and sent it to Club DJs where it was considered a lost classic and that one or two guilty parties would then swear they had been playing for years. All reference to its original source, were removed by Waterman himself to make sure that the ruse was foolproof.

1000 of these were released at the time but I suspect several were rather angrily disposed of by the duped hipsters because naturally enough there was frenetic backtracking when the truth was later revealed that it was none other than Kylie and Jason’s producers.

Of course they had known all along!

It then of course, had a regular release and went on to be a considerable success around the world.

Besides the now very rare Lynx pressing and the UK release, I have somehow accumulated three further copies of it – “No Block Til Deutschland” no less…


It may well be the genuinely beautiful cover design by John Warwick and Jeremy Pearce which mimicked space-age 50s American design with Wile. E. Coyote like lettering that makes it such a treat every time I come across a new copy in some long-lost crate.

Of course, the record would become even more notorious as they took on the huge #1 single from MARRS who had sampled part of the record for their own smash “Pump Up The Volume”, but without permission. That said, theirs was a record created wonderfully from many many different samples and that was the heart of its success.

Waterman, however,  took a highly publicised stand against  this as copyright theft and as such, “Roadblock” managed both to create mysteriously in one year and destroy utterly in the next, SAW’s underground credibility.

Inevitably, records with such interesting vinyl history really only trouble the archivists and anoraks if they’re any good and this record is still a belter, that’s for sure.


I make absolutely no apologies for this latest musing being unashamedly partial.

It’s the Rolling Stones for goodness sake and frankly they could turn up anywhere in the world and play penny whistles and kazoo (owners of 1967’s “Between The Buttons” can surprisingly enjoy the latter) and I would be deliriously happy but by any account, this has been an extraordinarily productive and affirming year from the band.

Of course, in the maelstrom of the tragedies of artistes taken from us too early in 2016 – especially, Bowie, Prince and disastrously, George Michael (of which more on another occasion) – we have spent a year looking backwards and lamenting lost talent. We rue the paucity of genuine long-term artists and the fragmentation of our shared musical experiences and yet at the end of the year, the UK’s #1 album (and indeed 14 other countries’ as well) was delivered by a band whose four confirmed members combined age would be close to 300 years and who recorded the album in only three days.

And strangely, it sounds as fresh as a daisy.

Ladies & Gentlemen… The Rolling Stones.

I’ll come back to “Blue & Lonesome” because this year has seen some incredible highlights  from the band. There was Julien Temple’s entirely captivating documentary on the early life of Keith Richards. The “Ole Latina America” documentary from which was culled the mind-blowing finale of their “Exhibitionism” presentation (now touring the world) where  in glorious 4D the actual onstage experience was recreated and you actually felt you were playing alongside the band in front of thousands.

“Exhibitionism” also gave us the setlists, the costumes, the guitars, the logos and the opportunity to listen to and manipulate actual tracks a if in their studio. It will come as little surprise that it really was an absolute highlight of my year.

I had the pleasure of visiting with a dear friend of mine, Paul Burke, whose “World’s Shortest Radio Show” on his blog ( is something I would most heartily recommend to all of you who enjoy these whimsical musical reminiscences. He is also far more prolific than I am.

Paul made an interesting comment while were at the Exhibition that unless you were a fully paid-up member of the Stones brotherhood (like me obviously), it was still very easy to think that apart from the twice a decade mega tours, there was no real output from the band since “Start Me Up” and “Tattoo You” – largely held up as the last half decent Stones album from back in 1981.

In that time, however, there have been 6 studio albums, numerous live albums and various greatest hits sets accompanied by new material. Obviously, they are not as great as their classic recordings but it’s hard to hit the societal nail on the head with “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” when quite clearly as a multi-millionaire you can…

However, when you have the ability and appetite they clearly still have, there are always opportunities for the odd gem. Their previous studio album, “A Bigger Bang” with a little judicious editing of the track listing from 16 down to, say 10, and you would have an exceptionally accomplished ‘return to form’.

Perhaps only aficionados will have noticed that the Stones actually had two new releases in the back end of the year because they also released “Havana Moon” which was (yet another!) tour recording which was largely the same charge-through the expected set-list they have been knocking out since this tour began in 2012. It is the film of the show and the million plus audience – hitherto untouched by the magic of the Glimmer Twins live – that is so special.

And yet lurking in the undergrowth between the hyperactive “Brown Sugar” and the steroidal “Satisfaction”, lies one of those gems that can illustrate the kind of throbbing menace the Stones invented for rock music. Driven by the brilliant Darryl Jones, “Out Of Control” (from 1994’s “Voodoo Lounge” – probably the best of the six) manages to carry all the pre-requisite threat and bluesy-funk that they do so well.

No wonder, the crowd goes nuts.

So there’s a record-breaking tour, a multi-media exhibition, a live album and film, two documentaries and their new #1 album – oh and Mick became a dad again! – where was the inspiration coming from?

Actually, there was one more exceptionally fine release from the band in the early part of the year which was the reissue of their brilliant 1995 album “Stripped” which was their attempt at a semi-unplugged recording – some virtually acoustic and some pared back in comparatively small venues. For that album they had had a real trawl through some of their lesser-known songs and produced a really interesting bluesy recording. It’s a period when all seems happy in the camp and everybody is really enjoying the experience.

My favorite has always been “The Spider And The Fly” – a little-known B-side to “Satisfaction” – which is a wonderful mix of walking blues and hip 60s with its tongue firmly in its cheek.

The Stones have been meticulous recently in looking back at their recorded history and the expanded version of “Stripped” is a really interesting sideways glance at a band you think you know only too well. My suspicions are that in looking back at the bare nature of those now 20 year old sessions, gave them a nudge to revisit a purer recording style more akin to their early days.

So at the tail end of 2015, the Stones got together in the studio having suffered from something of a recording block and for three days laid down an album of recordings of some of their blues favourites. And note well, these are not tracks from the Starter Pack of Blues Classics but some wonderfully obscure tracks from artists they had long championed such as Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson. Indeed, it is the mutual admiration for the Blues that brought Keith and Mick that fateful day back at the beginning of the 60s on Dartford Station platform.

It’s easy to forget that this is the band that took the menacing “Little Red Rooster” to number one in 1964 and opened up the Blues to an entirely new audience. Yet here are Mick’s vocals over fifty years later sounding just as dark and leering on “I Can’t Quit You Baby” and especially, “Commit A Crime” – his performance is really the highlight of the whole recording; you can easily forget what a good singer he is. And this is allied to his monumental harmonica wailing, which cuts through like a laser on tracks like “Little Rain” and crunching opener, “Just Your Fool”.

But Keith is also having the time of his life also, with his whole playbook of Blues licks put to great use. I always think the core of the Stones sound comes from the link-up between Keith and Charlie (rather than the bass – although once again Darryl Jones is faultless) and this gives them a unique loose tightness if that can possibly make sense. The loping “All Of Your Love” is a truly epic example.

“Ride ‘Em On Down” is the riot you would imagine could have been recorded in any New Orleans studio and it may be shambolic but it defies you not to tap that dashboard. It surely seems to work for Kristen Stewart.

The fact is this is no band-wagon jumping effort from the longest living dinosaurs on Planet Rock but simply an expression of what they’ve always loved. They’ve never forgotten the Blues and it’s there in every album they make – exhibit A  – “Midnight Rambler” – but it has been a while since they were so pure to its essence in every aspect of the recording. Try “Hate To See you Go” and you can see over fifty years of recording lineage mapped out for you.

And whilst only the most loyal fans will remember that this is where they came from, what is very clear is that the Rolling Stones certainly haven’t forgotten.

The Stones have been the Alpha of British Blues for decades and from their breakthrough has come Eric Clapton (who guests on this album), Fleetwood Mac, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin and hundreds more that defined a sound that was the basis of Rock Music to the present day. Perhaps it is an awareness of their own mortality that persuaded the Glimmer Twins to return and show their collective respect to their very own wolf mother, The Blues.

And yet with “Blue And Lonesome”, they will surely be the Omega too. Don’t be surprised when some of the more musically astute current artists, such as Ed Sheeran or Jamie Lawson suddenly start dropping “Smokestack Lightnin'” or “Hoochie Coochie Man” into their live sets or guest spots, in an attempt to strengthen their links with their predecessors’ legacies. The Blues has never left us but when it is handled in the hands of the masters who have no reason for doing it other than for love, you easily remember what a truly powerful force they still are.

At a time, when enduring talent is really becoming something of a premium, who could have conceived that it would be the Rolling Stones who would give everyone a welcome refresher course in all that first excited us about listening to records.






Obviously, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying another Record Store Day session to coincide with Black Friday but whilst that is ostensibly about the joy of vinyl, let’s not forget that Christmas is coming and with it some of the year’s best  and most surprising remasters and  deluxe editions. The office postroom has been busy coping…

One I had been particularly looking forward to was the 30th anniversary reissue of Hipsway’s self-titled debut album which I certainly remember spinning aplenty all those years ago.

Of course, for most they are a band who were just really a one-hit wonder with the astounding 45, “The Honeythief”, back in 1986 but I had always liked back at the album quite fondly – and sadly, not many of us bought it.

They were a band built around a very sinuous sound that managed to sound languid and clipped at the same time, combining the deep Bowie-esque vocals of Grahame Skinner with the strong pulsing bass-lines of Johnny McElhone and the laser-like pickings of Pim Jones. Try the extended versions that are included and you can see just how tight a platform they were capable of laying down and unlike many remixes they add more to our understanding of the songs’ various dynamics.


And I shall say it now, it sounds better than it did 30 years ago and genuinely sounds entirely fresh for about 90% of the whole album. It’s a real treat. Think the best album Nile Rogers didn’t produce – crossing Duran Duran with “Let’s Dance” and throwing in all the spikiness and intelligence of Orange Juice – who I am now truly starting to believe were just about the most influential band you’ve never listened to properly.

So why weren’t Hipsway more successful?

Let’s start with McElhone as, firstly, it allows me to put in one of my favourite ever Top Of The Pops clips, and secondly, because he is a man with an impressive credentials. His time in Hipsway is bookended by teenage stardom courtesy of Altered Images and over a decade’s worth of success with Texas.

In 1983, Altered Images had one final tilt at the big time with a more mature recording called “Bite” which is another of those albums I still cherish and probably will get round to expounding upon here one of these days. We still had the simply heavenly Claire Grogan warbling but there was a more sophisticated backing that borrowed those terrific choppy Chic riffs so beloved of Postcard Records and would emerge even more powerfully in Hipsway.

I am not going to apologize for wanting to watch that clip again.

Sadly, Altered Images broke up after the comparative failure of “Bite” – shame on you all – and McElhone teamed up with the velvet voice of Grahame Skinner and together with drummer Harry Travers put together a suitably enigmatic portfolio of songs. Being part of Glasgow’s scene which included the criminally ignored Friends Again and The Bluebells, they would soon come to the attention of the avid talent scouts who were all over the city at the time and they were soon signed to Mercury Records who put a lot of faith in their likely success.

The music press got right behind them too, particularly Record Mirror, and were continuously espousing the band’s virtues. I certainly remember them being very impressed by the promotional give-away of Hipsway-branded socks, which seemed a merchandising first at the time. NME were a little sniffy at first, thinking them too obviously influenced by Bowie’s enigmatic “Station To Station” – though wasn’t every new-wave-isn band of the time? – although I felt it’s “Let’s Dance” that leaves the bigger imprint.  Eventually, even they would come round and announce their status as likely contenders.


However, the record buying public had chosen to ignore all the hype and the excellent first two singles “The Broken Years” and the majestic “Ask The Lord” simply failed to sell and things looked bad. Nowadays, it is certain that a record company would not keep faith but hats off to Mercury they stuck with it and gradually, radio picked up on the sublime “The Honeythief” as mysterious a song as you will ever hear, set to a dark threatening dance rhythm.

The rest of the album has many similar highlights in a vein that seems to presage the soon-to-be massive INXS. “Bad Thing Longing” and “Upon A Thread” keep this slightly threatening claustrophobic mood that had made the single such a success. Meanwhile, another track “Tinder” was chosen by McEwans Lager (another true 80s artifact) as the soundtrack for one of their (hugely expensive for the time) commercials. Admittedly, it may not look like it now but it was a real zeitgeist ad.

They had the look and they undoubtedly had the sound. HIpsway seemed to be right at the very point of world domination.

But despite a hit in the US, it just never happened. They disappeared quicker than they had taken to appear. McElhone left to set up Texas. A second album took three years to make and sank without trace and now Hipsway seem just a footnote in pop history.

So how can this have happened?

The answer lies to my mind in the second failed single “Ask The Lord” which was inexplicably remixed by the producer brought into finish off the album, Paul Staveley O’Duffy who would go on to produce Swing Out Sister and Curiosity Killed The Cat (who also seem to have borrowed some of Hipsway’s magic formula). He had replaced Gary Langan, the original producer, and added polish to the whole album. “Ask The Lord” had already been released and so he created a new version which, to his mind, took the best bits of “The Honeythief” to make what would become the follow-up.

Sadly, he took the veneer not the edge of the band’s sound and a really great song became a lost 45 for the second time, mired in too much over-production… and with it went the band’s progress. Both versions are on the remaster so if you’re of a mood, you can compare and contrast.

The real tragedy is that the final release from the album, “Long White Car”, never reached a wider audience either. It is a beautifully moody piece that has all the exemplary plaintive qualities of The Blue Nile, combined with the elegiac nature of a song like Aztec Camera’s “Killermont Street” or Deacon Blue’s “Raintown”. Contemporaries all, of course.

In the new sleeve notes, the band lament its demise too but it was always a simply wonderful recording.

And on such decisions are pop fortunes made and indeed lost. Momentum counts for everything and this is why so many bands burn out. For many it is a simple dearth of material worthy of following the initial break-through.

I don’t think this was the case for Hipsway. They should have been so much bigger – so shame on you Mr Record Executive. Listening to the album all over again has been hugely enjoyable and I am certain that, by the number of other acts I have cited that quite a few of them thought so too and mimicked and plundered many of its highlights.




In the midst of an era of geo-political turmoil, it seems somewhat ‘lightweight’ even thinking about writing about old pop records but it is our first anniversary and for those of you who have loyally stuck by this ongoing trawl down memory lane, I felt I could not ignore you.

Interestingly, as I read back on some of the pieces I had written, I realised how important changing society was in the writing of so many of the pop classics we had known, loved and, of course – as was the premise of this blog – come to ignore nowadays.

We fed the world; we ran the world; we freed Nelson Mandela; we asked Margaret to stand down; we stopped clause 28.

We even went down to Gorky Park and listened to the Wind Of Change.

So much of what was capable of making us shake a leg at the school disco also seemed to give us an awareness of the greater world and how we might make an impact on it. While Elvis Costello’s “Shipbuilding” raged against the Falklands War and Midnight Oil begged for the return of the Aboriginal homelands in the subtly menacing “Beds Are Burning”, even the awful “99 Red Balloons” by Nena acted a symbol of a nuclear ending none of us wanted.

So what’s happened?

Brexit, Trump, Duterte – the world wants change and majorities all over the world has told us so and whether right or wrong, the people have spoken. but who was singing?

It makes me wanna holler and throw up both my hands…

Our beloved soundtracks used to help guide us in more than just a bit of bedroom dancing or gloomy introspection, it begged us to think about more than just “the moon in June”. Of course, I’m not saying that there is no important music anymore but ‘messages’ are often moved to the fringes and often left to be therefore overly aggressive, without a mainstream following.

In the words of the incomparable Edwyn Collins, “there’s too many protest singers and not enough protest songs”.

So can the spirit of Dylan and Lennon, and believing that “Love is all you need” – or if not that another answer was perhaps “blowing in the wind” – perhaps now be recaptured by our musical heroes as they may at last feel they have something serious again to rail against.

How poor Bruce Springsteen must despair as, despite his urgings and clear Democratic leanings, his contemporaries once more misunderstand “Born In The USA” and use it for a wholly different purpose of exclusion and isolation that is so not the mantra that the humane Boss would want anyone to espouse.

Can we change the world with music, as one of my favourite artists, Paddy McAloon, once exhorted us to do?

I would like to think so but as music has become such a fragmented and individual expression of taste, it seems less easy to rally millions behind causes in the way that music in events or recordings did in the past.


So whilst i do hope today’s major musical figures will not simply decide to focus on bling, boybands and bleeps, I fear that their efforts will not have the same effect as their eighties predecessors due to the fragmentation of channels through which it was previously easier to coalesce.

But let us not be down-hearted because voting patterns would show that the younger generations seem to be more open to a world of tolerance and diversity with far less discrimination than their seniors. We should all feel proud of that – our generation may have dabbled with espadrilles and mullets but we knew enough to take some important messages to heart and pass them on and that should hopefully keep Kanye West out of the White House.

Perhaps Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Two Tribes” leaves a far greater legacy than many Nobel Peace Prize winners.

In the meantime, music still has the power to change my world. It can still make me feel like laughing or crying, like winning or losing. I can feel liberated or enclosed – I can sing out loud or hum in my head but the power is there to make me feel different.

A great record can always make you feel like starting fresh all over again.

Exhibit A.

Bono said that “music can change the world because it can change people” and that being the case, in a period when so much has left us feeling uncertain, please head to the stereo and I guarantee there will be a positive response lurking in there somewhere.

So fear not, while there are remasters aplenty (and November 11th was reissue heaven so watch this space) and old records to hauled out of the loft, there will always be the ability to change the world with music and if you keep reading, I’ll keep trying to find things to keep making things feel brighter again.

Tomorrow never knows. Thank you for reading.




For those of us of a certain vintage, this year has seen several sad losses of the pop heroes from our yesteryears. Each one has brought back incredible visions from the old memory bank – “Starman”, “1999”, “September”, “Lyin’ Eyes”, “Me & Mrs Jones” to name but a few. All of these artistes can supply something from their catalogue to add to the poignancy of their passing and so add to the sombreness of the retrospection.

Not so, Pete Burns.

His work with Dead Or Alive was fast, furious and fun. No lilting ballads or mellow chill-out; everything they produced was at 300 miles per hour from start to finish. In only my last review, which looked at SAW and Mel & Kim, I had praised “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” for its breakthrough nature in taking the Hi-NRG Disco sound into the pop mainstream. It still remains one of the very best “getting ready to go out” records ever made and set the tone for everything the band ever produced. High-speed Goth Pop.

In case you think I’ve taken leave of my senses, just listen, for instance,  to the a remix of the excellent “Tower Of Strength” by the Mission and imagine  an SAW beat behind it – it’s not such big leap. Wayne Hussey Of The Mission had of course, been a member of Dead Or Alive so the Gothic connection is perhaps a fair one.

Whilst the previous single was never really ever surpassed by the band because it was simply so defining, I always had a soft spot for several of their other singles “In Too Deep”, “Brand New Lover” and especially “Something In My House” which really managed to conjoin the brightest of pop production with the darkest of vocal performances.

There was always something just a little bit crazy about all of their records – overblown and almost operatic – and they seem to reflect the larger than life persona of their singer. Legend has it that prior to stardom, while working in both fashion and record shops, he would throw out those customers with whose tastes his own did not align. His later career as a celebrity reality TV certainly backed up his reputation as sharply acerbic.

That said, his musical legacy ensures that there will not be moments of quiet self-reflection but simply of unadulterated full-on fun and that is surely the way Pete Burns would have wanted it to be.

However, his untimely death did make me recall the story of the Mystery Girls a band that performed once only in 1977 as a support band to Sham 69 in Liverpool’s legendary new-wave club, Erics.

This little-known band was made up of Phil Hurst (who you won’t recall) with Pete Burns, Julian Cope (later of Teardrop Explodes) and Pete Wylie (later of the various incarnations of Wah!). A veritable mad hatters tea-party of 80s pop if ever there was one.

But, boy did they produce some great records.

Julian Cope, who though based in Liverpool was actually the most famous pop-star from Tamworth, broke through first of all with his band The Teardrop Explodes. They produced two of the best singles of the 8os in “Reward” and “Treason” as well as the legendary “Kilimanjaro” album and then after one more release imploded under immense strain and so established the legendary mystery that surrounds the band still.

Since then, Julian Cope has just become gradually more bonkers turning from Scott Walker doppelgänger to silver medallist in a Worzel Gummidge look-a-like competition. His music would also become infinitely more experimental but periodically, amongst all the LSD, he was still capable of conceiving another incredibly polished pop performance, witness “The Greatness And Perfection Of Love”, the thumping “World Shut Your Mouth”, “Beautiful Love” and even the wonderfully psychedelic “Sunspots” (sadly no video I could find).

Julian Cope

Perhaps the nearest to a return to pop stardom came with “Saint Julian” in 1987 which preceded another drop into a creative abyss but did leave us with some fantastically loony outpourings of which “Eve’s Volcano (Covered In Sin)” – and I don’t need to go into the not so hidden meanings of all that – was always my favourite.

So with Messrs Burns and Cope in a group, one would imagine that there would be ego enough in there but there was also Pete Wylie, another purveyor of some of the best and most dramatic singles of the 1980s.


His band Wah! – later known as The Mighty Wah!, Wah! Heat and Shambeko Say Wah! amongst many others – were the first to gain critical acclaim with singles such as “Seven Minutes To Midnight” and were very much the darlings of the UK music press but couldn’t sell a record. Wylie, himself, was never backward in coming forward and made very bold pronouncements about his own talent.

He likewise was very much part of the Liverpool New Wave scene and had worked with Ian McCulloch of Echo & The Bunnymen and Ian Broudie of The Lighting Seeds in earlier groups before his one-off night in Erics as part of The Mystery Girls.

Wah! in all their guises hit on a fantastic formula of big orchestral numbers which would have Wylie’s heart-ringing and instantly recognisable vocals driving the emotion from the get-go. “Come Back” was the record of the year from John Peel in 1984 and “Sinful” was another big panoramic production two years later but it was “Story Of The Blues” that still sounds utterly rapturous – even with the Pt.2  Talking Blues version which has his rambling quasi-poetry over the backing track – a style he often enjoyed (even if his fans were less convinced).

Sadly, he was never able to bring any momentum into his career and so didn’t really capitalise on his undoubted talents except with a big hit every two years in the middle of the 80s and then not much. However, he would have one more big hit in partnership with The Farm and it is his unique counterpoint vocal that makes “All Together Now” the radio classic it deserves to be, because it manages to capture a mood of community that never descends into mawkishness. That said, there is an American version of the promo film that does its damnedest to drag it there – this one isn’t it.

One can imagine that the Mystery Girls were no great shakes and the one night together probably did little to set up the careers that were to come except that it is extraordinary to think of such talent all in one place. None of the three ended up making records like the others so it must have been quite an argument over the setlist.

No wonder they only performed for one night as I have doubt whether a big arena stage could have contained those enormous characters let alone the tiny but hugely influential Erics. Still, a top 20 from all three would make a heck of C-90.