Thursday, August 31, 2006

perfect sound forever

It's hard to explain to anybody who didn't watch it at the time just how bizarre Twin Peaks really was. A show about the brutal murder of a High School Prom Queen at the hands of (*plot spoiler!*) her dad, who had been possessed by some elemental force of evil, set in a weird hybrid time zone of the 1950s-via-late-80s - actually, that doesn't even begin to describe the show... Anyway, it wasn't what you expected to see on BBC2 at 9pm on a Tuesday night.

I've been thinking about the show since I dug out my copy of "Floating Into The Night" by Julee Cruise, an album of songs written by TP creator David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti.

The three of them first worked together on the song "Mysteries of Love", featured in "Blue Velvet". Apparently, some people used that song to soundtrack their weddings. These are the same people that think "Every Breath You Take" is a sweet love song, or that go around singing "You're Gorgeous" to the object of their affection. Y'know - psychopaths.

Julee Cruise - Rockin' Back Inside My Heart

Julee Cruise - The World Spins

I guess people could use these songs to soundtrack romantic moments... but there's something so unutterably WRONG about them; they're like psychotic versions of 1950s death songs ("Johnny, Remember Me", "Tell Laura I Love Her", etc.).

The music occupies the same time-warp as the show, all sweet, echo-y finger-clicking backing tracks, synthesisers and dreamy guitar. But rather than being smooth and easy-listening, the music is completely devoid of all humanity, totally synthetic and precise, and really cold. Plus Julee Cruise sings these songs as if she's dead or dying.

At times it's like she's sat in the wreckage of a car crash, the lone survivor, cradling her dead lover in her arms - "Love, don't go away / Come back this way / Come back and stay / Forever and ever". The idea of "Forever" is very big throughout all the songs on the album, so they could be sweet, if taken at face value. But the way they're presented they're more likely to creep you out. "Rockin' Back Inside My Heart" can be seen as the most romantic of these two songs - "Do you remember our picnic lunch? / We both went up to the lake...". But the last line (and the way it's delivered)... - "I thought our love would last... for... ever...". Yikes.

Jimmy Scott - Sycamore Trees

Julee Cruise performed "Rockin' Back Inside My Heart" in the 'Twin Peaks' pilot episode; jazz legend Jimmy Scott sang "Sycamore Trees" in the series finale. This amazing song was featured on the soundtrack of the rubbish follow-up film 'Fire Walk With Me'.

The Julee Cruise songs also appeared in David Lynch's Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted.

Visit - Julee Cruise
Buy - Floating Into The Night
Buy - Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted (video)
Buy - "Fire Walk With Me" OST
Buy - Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to "Twin Peaks" (book)

Friday, August 25, 2006

what is soul? - part 129

Before we head into the next part of my irregular series of Miles Davis posts, I thought I'd post a track by one of his many sidemen, which is one of my favourite jazz performances ever.

John Coltrane - Alabama

"Alabama" was Coltrane's response to the horrific bombing of a Baptist church in Birmingham on Sunday 15 September 1963. White racists planted a dozen sticks of dynamite in the church basement which went off at 10.45am, injuring 20 people and killing the four girls pictured above.

Coltrane was not a player noted for his brevity. On one of his final live recordings, there is an hour-long version of "My Favourite Things". He once admitted to Miles Davis that he was often at a loss to know when to stop playing, to which Miles responded, "Try taking the saxophone out of your mouth".

Coltrane could have gone all the way with "Alabama", shrieking and wailing with torment to vent his rage at the senselessness of the act. Instead, the piece is just over 5 minutes long, subdued, elegant and noble. I found a great piece about this track (and Coltrane's work) by Martin Smith, that originally appeared in the Socialist Review:
[Coltrane] patterned his saxophone playing on Martin Luther King's funeral speech. Midway through the song, mirroring the point where King transforms his mourning into a statement of renewed determination for the struggle against racism, Elvin Jones's drumming rises from a whisper to a pounding rage. He wanted this crescendo to signify the rising of the civil rights movement.
The playing throughout is beautiful, with amazingly sensitive backing from McCoy Tyner (piano), Elvin Jones (drums) and Jimmy Garrison (bass). The outpouring of volume and grief towards the end is so much more effective for the soulful way that it gets there.

There's a TOTALLY GOB-SMACKING TV performance of "Alabama" here.

The bombing became a turning point in the US civil rights movement - read more (particularly about the hideously drawn out investigation and prosecution process) here.

Visit - John Coltrane
Buy - John Coltrane Live at Birdland


Typical! You big Miles Davis Nazi..posting Coltrane and labelling him a "Davis Sideman"

Please - more respect for The Trane!

Next you'll be posting Sinatra as Bing Crosby's sideman...


Excellent stuff, especially the YouTube link. Superb! 

Miles Davis Nazi...

lord knows i have nothing but respect for The Trane, I was just tying it in with my Davis posts - you could do a whole blog just posting great stuff by people who have played with him. "Sideman" was a poor choice of phrase, admittedly. but the Miles tracks I posted last are credited to "Miles Davis", so in a sense Coltrane was a sideman on those sessions?!?

i look forward to your blog, Francis, and expect to see "Kulu Se Mama" in full...!


Frankosonic is rolling... 

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Touch of Brass

It seems a little dumb posting some trumpet inflected pop tunes in the midst of Steve posting Miles Davis but I love a bit of trumpet I do. The trumpet can be a little one-dimensional, all brash and blaring but it can do a lot to lift a song and can be used in lots of ways in pop even if it lacks the subtlety of a Miles or Chet Baker. The June Brides typify the way trumpet is used in a ramshackle Indie band, the trumpet here is homely and friendly, a simplistic hook to hang a song on.

The June Brides- Every Conversation

The trumpet can also make a song sound majestic, 'Lazarus' by The Boo Radleys springs to mind but 'Fanfare' by Eric Matthews really hits the maximum grandiosity button helped by the trumpet.

Eric Matthews- Fanfare

For an ambitious songwriter like XTC's Andy Partridge a bit of trumpet will take the song to the Planet Jazz, in this case it's a Midi Trumpet played by Mark Isham. Partridge is a jazz fan and the angular chord structures combine well with his pop sensibility.

XTC- Miniature Sun

I could have picked some Pale Fountains, Dexys, Teardrops or David Sylvian for this post as they all do the trumpet thing in a variety of ways. Hats off to the trumpet.

Every Conversation- The Story of the June Brides

Eric Matthews- It's Heavy In Here

The essential Oranges and Lemons by XTC


Ah! The June Brides - superb band - your Athlete-based faux-pas is forgiven! It was a great honour for me that Phil Wilson came to the last Hibbett gig we did in Brixton. A lovely bloke who was genuinely embarassed by my fawning! 

Eric Mathews Fanfare - very well done & ta to Mark Radcliffe for playing it in 95/96 as well. Ed The Falling Leaves.

crikey - from the sublime to the ridiculous in one post. Eric Matthews' "Fanfare" is one of the rare occasions where a song from back in the day that you have fond memories of actually IS as good as you thought. fantastic stuff.

but i know you only put that MIDI trumpet monstrosity on here just to wind me up. good lord, that am a dreadful thing. can't hear that track without my ears crying.

you made my ears cry, marc-o.

why would you do that?


sounds like a chase-sequence from "Eldorado" or "Triangle". or "Ceefax" music.

I detect the dread hand of Ronnie Hazelhurst.

That XTC song is utter tosh.

Utter tosh I tell you.



Friday, August 18, 2006

the doktor will see you now

Tomaytoe, Tomartoe; Daddy or Chips; Jazz or Heavy Metal. These debates have raged throughout history. Thank heaven for visionaries like Dr Coca-Cola McDonalds to tackle these issue head on.

Dr Coca-Cola McDonalds - I Don't Like Heavy Metal
Dr Coca-Cola McDonalds - I Don't Like The Jazz (I Like Heavy Metal)

It's a complex arena that he works in. But it's not all cerebral chin-stroking. Dr Coca-Cola McDonalds is not afraid to confront the world of the flesh. Men want to be him, women want to be with him.

Dr Coca-Cola McDonalds - Dr In XXX Shocker

The Doktor speaks:
the doktor is the documentation of the fall of the second great western empire. The doktor is laptop/guitar/casio mt-68/words. the doktor is reflection of the wonderful talented friends that is very fortunate to have around him. the doktor is captialist and anti-captialist, political and apolitical. the doktor will record three albums and then matter what happens.
Dr Coca-Cola McDonalds is currently appearing at the Edinburgh festival - check his MySpace for details and go see!

Download - Doktor Coca-Cola McDonalds Sells Out from Artists Against Success. His second album is allegedly imminent?
Befriend - Dr Coca-Cola McDonalds on MySpace


Hooray for big sweaty roadies the world over 

Nice one. I bought his second album last June if that's imminent enough for you. :P

cheers john - domino rally with it's finger on the pulse as always.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

All you need is......

Love's 'Forever Changes' is one of those Mojo approved essentials in any collection of 60's classics. It sits alongside Revolver, Pet Sounds and Younger than Yesterday with very good reason. By turns beautiful and sinister it sounds like no other album from its era and reflects the uneasy atmosphere of the West Coast in the late 60's. It also reflects the dysfunctional genius of the people involved in its making, especially the mercurial Arthur Lee, who died very recently. Love tracks have appeared all over Blogland recently so I thought I would post two tracks that name-check Arthur and a reverential cover by Liverpool's biggest Love(rs), the mighty Shack.

Shack- Byrds Turn To Stone

Lloyd Cole And The Commotions- Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken

Shack- A House Is Not A Motel

Every home should have Love

Find out more about Shack

A collection without Rattlesnakes is like a kitchen without tea

Saturday, August 05, 2006

a jerkish turkish beat

You find me today writing this through the fug of my stag-do, which was last night. I'm going off to get married and will be back in a week or so. As a special treat before I go (and to hopefully lift me out of my grumpy hungover mood), here are more tracks from my old Muppet Show album which caused all sorts of kafuffle when I posted some tracks back in the day.

As I said previously, "Mahna Mahna" is widely held to be the Muppet nonsense classic of choice but I think "Hugga Wugga" is much better. Commenters on the earlier post demanded I back up such wild claims by posting both tracks together.

The Muppets - Mahna Mahna

The Muppets - Hugga Wugga

Now you can go crazy and debate this vital issue to your hearts content! Enjoy.

But what about this late contender, featuring as it does some great banter from Statler and Waldorf? Decisions, decisions... Let me know what you think.

The Muppets - Pachalafaka

In my emotionally fragile state, this could well finish me off. If you can listen to this without even the slightest hint of emotion, you have a heart of stone.

Kermit's nephew, Robin - Halfway Down The Stairs

Jim Henson was a bloody genius. RIP.

Buy - Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem & More!, which has much of the material used in both of my posts
Visit -

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cellarful of Noise

Despite the blatant McCartneyite revisionism The Beatles- Anthology DVD boxed set is an essntial purchase for anyone who is not in Beatle denial. One of the best bits of footage is The Beatles in the Cavern in 1962 still breaking Ringo in, playing 'Some Other Guy'.

The Beatles- Some Other Guy

What hits me about this performance is the famous backbeat, the energy and the idea that any Liverpudlian working stiff on a lunchbreak could see The Beatles, The Big Three or The Searchers stomping their winklepickers during a mid-day session....can you imagine being able to do that now?

The closest I've ever been to that is seeing The Kaisers at Sam Fays in Nottingham years ago. The Kaisers were not a tribute band but their time capsule sound was that of a pre-commercialisation Beat group c 1961/62, leather waistcoats, quiffs, Selmer amps and Burns guitars. They were a brilliant live band and I still hold one of their albums hostage from Steve.

The Kaisers- She's Gonna Two Time

The Kaisers- She's Only Doggin' Round

There's nothing vaguely original going on here but the authenticity is spot on, more importantly the raw dynamism of a good beat combo is irresistible. Are The Kaisers still out there?

Buy The Beatles Anthology DVD here
Buy The Beatles- Live at the BBC here
The Kaisers stuff is mostly unavailable but a dredge around the net might pay off
If you are forming a Beat group of your own you must have a Burns Guitar

so that's where my Kaisers CD went... these tracks sound great.

Kaisers CDs can be bought here. Hey! there's even a Kaisers DVD.

There's a good discography here and an interview here.

By the way, an import copy of "Beat It Up!" (where these tracks are from) is going on Amazon for £214...

can I have my CD back, please?!