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  1. We’re very aware that we have somewhat neglected this Blog page over the past year, but HEY! getting a new business off the ground is a full on, full time undertaking.

    In the way of some apology here’s the second post in a couple of weeks and a follow up to our very first post post. These 5 albums would be numbers 6 to 10 on that list of “albums that have had the most effect on me” that we started a year ago…Enjoy…

    Russ x

     

    Slade Alive!

    Slade were my first musical obsession. The first single I bought was "Skweeze Me Pleeze Me". The first album I bought was "Slayed?". I’ve had many musical obsessions since (The Jam, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, the Drive-By Truckers, Bruce Springsteen) but Slade were my first, and you know what they say about first loves…

    Around the age of 12 my musical tastes started to, well, not narrow, but become more partisan shall we say. The cause of this was this growing obsession with the Black Country’s, nay, the country’s finest Glam Rockers, the mighty Slade. The first evidence of this obsession came when I bought…AN ALBUM. The album in question was “Slayed?”, their 3rd studio album but their first as bona fide pop stars. It was home to the singles “Gudbuy T’ Jane” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”. It had a great picture of them on the cover looking like some rough arsed gang of Glam boot boys and all sporting the word SLADE biro’d across their knuckles (I’m sure they were going for the gang-tattoo look but I was 12, I didn’t know what a tattoo was, but I did have easy access to biro’s). But this wasn’t the album that led me on to the next development in my musical journey. That was what I think was the next album I bought, “Slade Alive!”. 

    In 1971 Slade had their first 2 hit singles, “Get Down And Get With It”, which reached number 16 in August, and “Coz I Luv You”, which became Slade’s first number 1 in November. “Slade Alive!” was released in March 1972 and was recorded before a specially invited audience of fans at the Command Theatre Studio to cash in on their 2 hits and so that the band’s increasingly talked about live show could be captured perfectly. Slade were so confident in their live show that “Coz I Luv You”, their number 1 hit single, isn’t even on the album!

    For a single buying pop kid, as I was up until then, the album is a big progression. I knew what albums were about, a collection of songs that mostly were not singles, which were split between the 2 sides of the record with nice uniform silent gaps between the tracks. I owned “Slayed?” so I knew what to expect and my Dad had albums by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and others that demonstrated the same behaviour. But “Slade Alive!” was different. There were no uniform silent gaps between the songs, the band were talking, in fact everyone was talking, and shouting, and belching, and stomping, and clapping, and woooo-ing, in fact there was even a hint of someone bawling out swear words from the audience. 

    To this day I’ll argue with anyone that this is the greatest live album ever made, it captures perfectly everything Slade were about. If you’re ever sitting next to me when I receive a text message your ears will be assaulted by Noddy’s full throated scream of “Well allllllllllriiiiiiight everybody” from the start of “Get Down And Get With It” which has for many years been my text message notification tone. And the next development in my musical journey, prompted by this album, was ? Going to gig of course…Keep on rockin’…

     

    Dexy’s Midnight Runners - Searching For The Young Soul Rebels

    On to another gang and one of a couple of Brummie albums in this list. Dexy’s, in their initial Donkey jackets and woolly hats incarnation, were quite some band…or was that a gang ?

    There are many reason not to like this album. The horns sound slightly out of tune all the way through; Kevin Rowland’s falsetto can get a little wearing; the “pretentious” count gets a little high in places…BUT…

    …”The Teams That Met In Caffs” is as joyous and uplifting a piece of music as you’ll ever hear; “Thankfully Not Living In Yorkshire It Doesn't Apply” is a title to conjure with and I’ll put Dexy’s version of “Seven Days Too Long” up against Chuck Wood’s original any day. Add in 2 top 10 singles (one of them a Number 1) and you’ve got a killer collection on your hands.

    Live, this line-up of Dexy’s was a fearsome beast. In your face and totally wrapped up in what they were doing, convinced they were right, delivering Brummie Soul. Shame about the dungarees later on, but this album is a helluva way to announce yerself to the world.

     

    10,000 Maniacs - In My Tribe

    Without making the acquaintance of a certain Digby Cleaver I might never have heard this record. 

    Myself and Digby were thrown together in late 1988 as the stage crew for The Wonder Stuff on their “Groovers On Manoeuvres” UK tour to support their debut album “The Eight Legged Groove Machine”. I was one of the bands mates who had been helping them out. Digby was a professional roadie who had previously worked with top bands like The Beat, The Only Ones, 10,000 Maniacs and The Clash (yes…THE CLASH!) among others. 

    Part of our getting to know each other period involved swapping recommendations of music we liked that the other may not have heard. I may have offered the Screaming Blue Messiahs and possibly The Rainmakers at the time. Digby offered this. Thinking of me back then it was probably a lot of things I didn’t want to hear, folk-ish rock with jingly jangly guitars and a (possibly) fey girl singer. But once you hear that girl singer I defy any rational human being not to have your heart stolen by that voice, and there was certainly nothing fey about Miss Natalie Merchant, or the rest of the band.

    The songs on this album deal with subjects as wide ranging as child abuse, alcoholism, illiteracy and thankfully some lighter subjects such as your sisters wedding. Allied to Miss Natalie’s voice is the incredible guitar playing of Rob Buck, a man who creates one of the rockin’-est guitar sounds you’ve ever heard on “Don’t Talk” with not an overdriven amplifier or distortion pedal in sight.

     

    The album originally contained a cover of a Cat Stevens song, “Peace Train”, that the band insisted be removed from the album following Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens statements that were interpreted as endorsing the killing of author Salman Rushdie following Ayatollah Khomeini's 14 February 1989 death fatwa against the author (very loving!). 

    Oh, and Digby and I are still occasionally to be seen looking after The Wonder Stuff, 29 years later…and on those long drives between gigs in the front of a van, yes, we still regularly listen to the Screaming Blue Messiahs, The Rainmakers and, of course 10,000 Maniacs.

     

    Steel Pulse - Handsworth Revolution

    I had a friend at school, Howard. Howard’s grandparents had come to the UK from Jamaica in the 50’s in the rush of people who came to the “mother country” when it called for people to re-build it after the second World War. By the time I’d met Howard he was already aware of what was going on in Jamaican music, the roots reggae revolution led by Bob Marley and it was Howard who introduced me to the likes of Prince Far I, Big Youth, Dillinger and others that kick started my love of reggae.

    The UK in the 70’s was a tough place to be for a black kid. Racism and bigoted attitudes were the norm, the far right was on the move in the shape of the hateful National Front. This led to the rise of some radical and politicised UK reggae bands in the late 70’s, the likes of Matumbi, Misty In Roots and Birmingham’s mighty Steel Pulse.

    I probably first heard Steel Pulse on the John Peel Show, that late night beacon of all that was good in new music that you couldn’t hear on daytime radio (as Peel himself once said on his show “there are some daytime DJ’s in the next room, probably listening out for the records they’ll be playing in 6 months time” or something like that). They were around our age, from the same kind of places we lived in the same city. Their songs were firmly aimed at the black youth of the late 70’s, tackling the subjects that mattered to them. But us skinny white Punk Rockers lapped it up. Partly because they were from Birmingham and we were proud of them and I think because not only was this rebel music of the kind being made by The Clash, the Pistols and The Jam but it was rebel music you could dance to !

     

    I finally got to see them play live on the tour that supported their second album “Tribute To The Martyrs”. Me and my friend Mick found ourselves in the darkness of the Top Rank in Birmingham, surrounded by Rastas and breathing in the smoke of hundreds of spliffs that hung in the air. After the fourth support act had finished I was almost ready to go, I was reggae’d out, and then on came Steel Pulse and blew our minds, one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever seen. This wasn’t just reggae, this was truly magical, inspiring music being made right there in front of us. 

    Steel Pulse under the direction of their masterful singer, David Hinds, are one of the few reggae acts from outside Jamaica that are taken seriously there and are still releasing albums and touring nearly 40 years later This album still gets a spin on a regular basis in our house…

     

    Drive-By Truckers - The Dirty South

    It started with (as Americans call them) a mix tape. Actually, it was a CD, technology had moved on a little, sent to me by my good friend Jen who lives in Connecticut in the USA. We regularly swapped CD’s of our latest musical finds, a whole bunch of us around the world did including Phil in Australia, Cort and Curtis elsewhere in the USA and Lucy in Ireland. Through those tapes and CD’s I discovered music by Things Of Stone & Wood, Beagle, The Merrymakers, Shovels & Rope, Brendan Benson and all manner of great stuff I might never have found otherwise, including the Drive-By Truckers.

    I don’t have the CD that Jen sent to me anymore and I don’t recall what else was on there. But I do remember first hearing “Where The Devil Don’t Stay”, track 1, side 1 of “The Dirty South”. Oh wow ! Right from the off I was hooked. Jen’s CD also had “Danko/Manuel” on it and I think “Angels And Fuselage” from their earlier album “Southern Rock Opera”, a tale loosely based around the story of Lynyrd Skynyrd and DBT’s love of the South.

    So why did this hook me ? In the late 80’s while touring the USA a group of us has had developed what we thought was an ironic love of Country Music made specifically about Truck Drivers. Digby Cleaver (see above) had introduced us to a compilation album called “20 Truckin’ Favorites” featuring artists like The Texas Troubadors, Webb Pierce and Kitty Wells singing songs like “Highway Heading South”, “Six Days On The Road” and “Truck Drivers Blues”. These weren’t stand by your man country songs but songs about poppin’ little white pills to keep your eyes open, chatting up the waitresses at truck stops for a little fun in the cab and outrunning the police cos you were speeding so hard to get back home. That ironic love of these songs, for me, developed into a liking for country artists like Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and the outlaws like Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson.

    So when I heard the Drive-By Truckers writing songs about the south, sung in a Southern drawl, country music but rocked up with big fat guitars I was ready for it. I’d had, and still have, a hankering to visit “the South”. I’ve visited Atlanta, Georgia a couple of times and I was on a bus once heading for New Orleans but it broke down and we never made it. So the songs on this album painted a picture for me of a South that probably no longer exists but is one I would love to have seen, illegal moonshine stills, kids playing barefoot in the yard, big ostentatious Cadillacs and hot sweaty summer nights, or as they say on another record the “duality of the southern thing”.

    This was the Truckers 5th studio album, their 2nd featuring the songwriting talents of Jason Isbell alongside DBT main men Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood. Isbell would make one more album with the band and then go on to forge a solo career. Cooley and Hood are still making records under the DBT banner that are all worth hearing but I would argue that they were at their peak during a trio of albums of which this is the 3rd. Preceding this was “Decoration Day” and before that the aforementioned “Southern Rock Opera”. If you haven’t already, check ‘em out.

  2. Not every musical idea is wholly original. There, we've said it. We often hear songs that remind us of others we've heard along the way. We suppose it's the fact that the musical scale we work with in the west consists of a limited number of notes and there are only so many ways you can put those notes together before, to borrow a phrase, pop begins to eat itself. We've been working within those western scales for hundreds of years so the repetitions will inevitably become more frequent.

    Sometimes however we hear something that goes beyond the realms of coincidence and strays into the realms of, perhaps, tribute to another piece of music or possibly plagiarism, a wholesale lifting of someone else's idea with a slight change to try and justify it being yours.

    We have no compunction in proclaiming our admiration for the very first album by Bow Wow Wow "See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy!" (phew that's a mouthful) released in 1982. The band were originally a line up of Adam & The Ants who were spirited away by one M. McLaren Esq and presented with a 14 year old Anabella Lwin, whom Malcy had discovered in a laundrette, as their new singer. It must be said they had a very similar sound to that which bought great success to Adam Ant replete with Burundi style drumming and chanting backing vocals. The opening track on their album was a tune titled "Jungle Boy", if you're not familiar with it, here it is:

    So there we were one day this past week playing though a pile of records we'd just had in when we come to an album by Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens called "Thokozile". Now due to binge listening to recordings of Joe Strummer's World Service radio show in the last year we find ourselves becoming big fans of African music so this along with a compilation called "The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto" were must play recordings.

    For those of you that don't know, the Mahotella Queens are something of a supergroup in African music and have been recording since the 1960's in partnership with Mahlathini and the Makgona Tsohle Band. "Thokozile" was recorded in the mid-80's after the group had reformed and features new recordings of some of their older songs. When we get to track 3 on side one we encounter a song called "Sibuyile" and it sounds very, VERY familiar. A little investigation reveals this is a new recording of a song previously titled "Umculo Kawupheli" and originally released in 1973. Here, have a listen:

     

    So whaddya think, tribute or plagiarism ? Discuss...

  3. Welcome to the first post on the White Rabbit Records Blog. Here you will find a (hopefully) regular piece written either by me or maybe even a guest writer on a subject close to our heart but always musical. I have to admit I've recycled this piece from another Blog I was involved in but in the interests of having something here I thought this was appropriate. Please feel free to comment or even better, come to the shop and talk about it. But please, Enjoy...

    Russ x

     

    A friend recently threw out the question "what is your favourite album and why ?". What ? Just one ? Not possible. So I present for you here the 5 albums that have had the most effect on me, and why.

    David Bowie - The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars
    I'd love to be able to claim that as a hip 10 year old I remember seeing Bowie perform "Starman" on TOTP in 1972, persuaded my parents to get me a copy of "Ziggy..." and have been in its thrall ever since.

    The truth is I didn't really "discover" Bowie until the early 80's. But since I first heard this record I have indeed been in it's thrall.

    From the opening, swelling drum pattern to "Five Years" introducing us to crying newsmen, soldiers, cops, priests and violent young girls at the end of the world; through the hooligan guitar psych-out that is "Moonage Daydream" where Bowie lets Mick Ronson off the leash; into the proto-Punk of "Suffragette City", "Ohhh, wham bam thank you maam!" indeed; and ending with the doomed inevitabilty of "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" this album presents you with everything that was good about early 70's rock (i.e it was lean and pretty and there were no beards involved), introduced a wider audience to arguably the most important solo artist of the 1970's and beyond, and even though he lifted great chunks of it from the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, Bowie laid the foundations for what was to come towards the end of the decade...1-2-3-4...

    Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run
    I used to work for a professional audio/visual equipment suppliers. There, I worked with a guy called Rob who introduced me to a lot of music I'd never otherwise have heard. I got my first ever tax rebate while I was working there and said to Rob one afternoon that I fancied something different to listen to and did he have anything to recommend ? Without hesitation "Born To Run" is what he suggested and I don't think in the ensuing 30+ years I've ever thanked him for that, so, THANKS ROB !

    This is music on a grand scale. The lyrics conjure up images that for an 18 year old who'd never been to America described some of it's less well known attractions vividly.

    "The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves,
    Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays,
    Roy Orbison singing for the lonely, 
    Hey that's me and I want you only"
    Thunder Road

    "Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge,
    Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain,
    The Rat pulls into town rolls up his pants,
    Together they take a stab at romance and disappear down Flamingo Lane"
    Jungleland

    Hell you can see it right there in front of you.

    The characters that inhabit these songs have become like old friends: Mary, Terri, Wendy, the Rangers and the The Magic Rat, Scooter and the Big Man, Eddie and his friend heading for a meeting across the river that's gonna solve all their problems this time while Cherry waits at home, it feels like I know them all.

    Add into the mix the hardest rockin', funkiest bar band on the planet (that's the E-Street Band to you and me) and, as I said, this is music on a grand, cinematic scale.

    Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols
    I remember vividly the first time I heard "God Save The Queen". I was in my Nan's living room where my brother and I were using our Uncle's Phillips music centre (it had a smoked perspex lid) to play some singles we'd bought after reading about this Punk Rock stuff in the music papers (Sounds probably, I don't think we'd progressed to the NME at that point). One of the singles was the Stranglers "Peaches/Go Buddy Go" combination and the other was the Pistols "God Save the Queen".

    We dropped the needle on the groove and...it felt like I was physically hurled across the room and pinned against the opposite wall for 3 minutes and 20 seconds. When it had finished I think I was in shock.

    Did I really just hear that ?
    People don't make records that sound like that.
    Do they ?
    They do ?

    So I played it again....and again...and again...you get the picture (yes, we see)...just to reassure myself that I had heard it right. And I think I knew then that some things were never going to seem quite the same ever again.

    When they finally released "Never Mind The Bollocks..." friends of ours went to ridiculous lengths to keep the record out of sight of their parents. Thankfully we had somewhat more enlightened parents who bought the record for us. One of our mates had it in brown paper bags under his bed and we had to wait until his folks had gone out before we could go round and hear it.

    But what a sound they made. I know many will disagree with me but I think the way the Pistols sounded was as, if not more, important than what they were saying. You couldn't understand most of what Johnny Rotten was singing anyway but the sound...it sounded like fear and rage and loathing and desperation and something slightly evil. "Holidays In The Sun" has to be one of the scariest sounding pieces of music I've ever heard. We didn't know what Anarchy was but we could hear in this music some of the way we felt about things.

    To this day if I have a bad day I play "God Save The Queen" on my iPod VERY LOUD and 3 minutes and 20 seconds later I remember that someone else feels that way too and it's OK.

    The Jam - All Mod Cons
    This is MY band and this is their finest moment. I'm not saying they went downhill from here but this is the point where The Jam stepped up from new wave also rans to become the most important band in the UK. The point at which Paul Weller introduced himself as our generations Ray Davis (they even covered The Kinks "David Watts" for this album), a sharp interpreter of ordinary peoples lives, hopes and fears.

    It's another record full of great characters. The rock star on the slide, Mr Clean, Billy Hunt, the guy and his girlfriend in trouble at the Vortex, Saturdays kids who "drink lots of beer and wait for half time results" and the tragic hero of Weller's first truly magnificent moment, "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight" (a song every bit as vivid as anything on "Born To Run" but maybe in a 22" black and white TV way rather than Springsteen's cinematic scope) waiting to get back to his wife with a curry and a bottle of plonk but having his life smashed by drunken right-wing thugs.

    They even threw in 2 ballads ("English Rose" and "Fly") something unheard of in these angry young man post-'77 days.

    "Down In the Tube Station At Midnight" and "A Bomb In Wardour Street" describe what a scary and violent place Britain could be back then, but to temper that Weller gives us the daydreamer "Billy Hunt" and the ever hopeful "The Place I Love" where he's "making a stand against the world" in the imaginary place he goes where everything is right with the world. "In The Crowd" addresses rampant consumerism and "Mr Clean" is a sharp pointed stick jabbed at the British class system.

    Then there was the artwork. Sta-prest, monkey boots, targets, scooters and that title which Weller has admitted was just an excuse to get the word Mod on an album cover.

    Mod ?
    What's that ?

    And because of what Paul Weller gave us on this record, which was much more than just the music in the grooves, I discovered soul music and The Small Faces and 501's with 1" turn ups and Ska/Blue Beat and the thrilling sound of a Hammond B3. So there is much, much more that I owe to this band than just this record...but just the record itself would have been fine.

    The Clash - London Calling
    We couldn't believe it when we heard. A double album ! Isn't that what rock dinosaurs do ? But then they sold it to us for the price of a single album and when we heard it...oh man...that band were having such a good time exploring where they could go you couldn't help but get caught up in it.

    "Sing Michael sing
    On the roof of a 19 bus"

    The Clash's previous album had been none too popular after their debut's punk rush so there was an almost "have they lost it" feeling in the air. But the title track put us right on that score and the rest of the album took us on a musical journey through rock 'n' roll, jazz, soul, reggae and a huuuge Springsteen-esque (there he is again !) piano ballad. All of it had great tunes, you could feel the low slung rebel guitar poses they were pulling and there were lyrics you could quote forever:

    "London calling to the faraway towns, Now war is declared - and battle come down"

    "I wasn't born so much as I fell out, Nobody seemed to notice me"

    "What are we gonna do now?
    Taking off his turban, they said, is this man a Jew?'
    Cause they're working for the clampdown
    They put up a poster saying we earn more than you!"

    "But I believe in this and it's been tested by research, He, who fucks nuns, will later join the church"

    "I've been beat up, I've been thrown out, But I'm not down, I'm not down"

    I could go on and on quoting them. Needless to say if you've never heard this album you need to, NOW. And if you haven't listened to it in a while, then go do it, NOW!

    My brother and I were fortunate enough to meet Joe Strummer a few months before he tragically left us. That short meeting has left an impression on me that I'll never forget and now I know why I love that man's music so much. We lost one of the greats when Joe went.