The very first edition of the column where Ben P Scott talks about his current and upcoming musical favourites, and then rewinds to relive his musical past. This week I talk about the return of Bowie, plus the first great albums of 2013. Then I revisit my earliest musical memories as I go back to the early 90's. Which includes some of the awful stuff I listened to at the time...
16th January 2013
It's a pleasure to be writing the first edition of this column for the excellent God Is In The TV, in my opinion one of the most entertaining and well informed music sites on the planet. I will be continuing to write for my own music blog Mr Scott:Music, which is now nearly 3 years old. Not a full two weeks into the year, and already I've had a nice taste of some of the great music we've got to look forward to over the coming 12 months. Now 2013 is well and truly underway with the first great album releases of the year. Looking forward to new albums in 2013 from Eels, Stereophonics, Foals, Northern Uproar, Edwyn Collins, Delphic, Johnny Marr, Mark Morriss, Beady Eye, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and that PaLma Violets band that people are getting very excited about. And of course the upcoming 30th studio album from The Fall. I'll talk more these records and LOTS more new music in future editions of this column. But what better to begin the first RW/FF
My world was shaken in the best way possible last week when completely out of the blue, David Bowie was back. Because I am only 28, I discovered Bowie's music in the 90s, but he soon became massively influential on my tastes, in fact he was one of four artists who changed my life forever. The heart attack he suffered in 2004 was a sign that he needed to take a break, after nearly 40 years of constant touring and recording. But his hiatus turned out to be longer than people thought and after a few years of no signs of activity, there were rumours that he was very ill and would never return to the public eye. For such a creative person like Bowie, to not work on any music made a lot of us think that it was a sign that something was seriously wrong. Only a week or so ago I was listening to his 1996 album 'Earthling' and wondering whether we'd ever hear from him again. I wondered whether at some point over the next few years, we might hear news that Bowie was planning a new record. Little did I know at the time that he'd been busy recording one for the last couple of years. The way the news of his comeback was announced was brilliant. "Hello everyone, thank you for all the birthday messages. By the way I've got an album coming out soon, here's a song from it...". No previous hints, no rumours, no internet gossip, just a completely unexpected surprise.
The return of this absolute legend also highlights the poor standards of the so-called "icons" of the current era. Look at the rest of the Top Ten, and seeing Will I Am and Britney Spears at number one and a living legend like Bowie at number six just seems ridiculous. This man is a one-off visionary true icon who has influenced a huge amount of artists over the years. People will still be talking about the man in a hundred years time. Will I Am is an idiot with no talent whatsoever. The popular culture of today is boring, shallow and dumbed down to appalling levels. People like me were lucky enough to be around during eras when great music was heard by many. Now the celebrity news columns (and sadly the charts, radio and TV) are filled with completely worthless bellends like One Direction and Justin Beiber. Their "music" (except it isn't theirs, since it's manufactured) is absolutely laughable. I expect a lot of commercial radio stations aren't even giving their listeners a chance to hear the new Bowie single because he's not young and bland as the usual "artists" they play. Yet they think it's acceptable to subject people to disposable, hollow trash like that latest X Factor contestant. But the chart position doesn't bother me when I have my hero back. The charts are more meaningless than ever, and to people like me all that matters is that Bowie is releasing new music and is alive and well.
Months ago I was lucky enough to hear Ghost Mountain, the forthcoming second album from rapidly rising three piece Thought Forms. This lot are actually from my hometown of Melksham in Wiltshire, and in recent years have been taken under the wing of Portishead, who took them on tour around the world introducing them to a wider audience. Their music has drawn comparisons with Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, but the intelligent and atmospheric sound they produce is very much their own. A recent interview I did with the band's Charlie Romijn can be found HERE along with live videos of songs from the record.
Coming from a more Northern part of the UK is 'Let It All In', the new album from I Am Kloot which I have to reveal is the best thing they've done yet; charmingly infectious and flowing enticingly from start to end. You can read my full review of that HERE.
In some rather negative but somewhat inevitable news, HMV has gone into administration, leaving the future of this world famous high street record store uncertain. Yes its decline has had a lot to with internet shopping and downloading, but the chain hasn't helped itself in its approach to making the most out of its business model. More of my views on HMV will be coming in the next RW/FF
Meanwhile, misunderstood and frustratingly underrated genius Stephen Jones has just released the new Babybird 'Outtakes' album, an epic 33 track compilation of demos and unreleased songs. It's a fascinating insight into the creative process of this highly prolific artist, who recorded these tracks between 2005 and 2011. It's a digital only release, but 33 tracks for under 8 pounds is well worth your hard earned cash. It can be found HERE on Jones' Bandcamp page, where you can also hear the recent albums from his Black Reindeer alias as well as more Babybird rarities, solo work and his soundtrack for the film 'Blessed'.
Back in the 1990's (which you'll soon discover is the decade my heart will always belong to) Ocean Colour Scene were one of my favourites, and their 1996 classic Moseley Shoals and the brilliant follow-up Marchin' Already are two albums I still rate highly. I've been somewhat underwhelmed by the records they've released since, although each one had occasional moments of sheer greatness. Their new offering 'Painting' sees them regain some of the old magic. As soon as you listen to it, you can hear that something has clicked back into place. As an album it's more consistent and cohesive than the work OCS produced during the 2000's, and the songs just seem to have more life in them. Where some of the ballads on previous records were a bit dull, the slower numbers here seem so much more vital, and instead of lightweight rock we get upbeat tunes, catchy choruses and Steve Cradock's most satisfying guitar work in years.
If you're one of those people who dislike this band for being "boring old dadrock" or you just like to slag them off because it's fashionable to do so in the music press, then maybe you should sit down and listen to this new record, because the quality of the songwriting might just change your mind. Although 'Professor Perplex' might make you giggle. And it's the only thing on the album that I'm not keen on. I'll explain why in my upcoming review. The addictively bright title track from 'Painting' can be heard HERE.
Remember to check out all the brilliant music that I've mentioned this week, you may be very glad you did. More new music and current goings-on in my life next time...
For the first edition of this column I'm going to rewind the cassette tape of my musical life back to some of my earliest childhood memories. It's going to be the most difficult instalment of this column that I am ever likely to write. Not just because I have to try and cast my mind back as far as it goes, but because I have to reveal some dark, shameful secrets. Terrible sins that I shudder at the thought of. Yes that's right, I'm talking about the music I listened to up until the age of about 8 or 9.
I was born in Bath, England in June 1984. It took me about eight years to become interested in music, but once I did it blew all the other interests I previously had out the window. Once I got into music there was no turning back. To pinpoint the first band or song that had a real effect on me would be difficult, but in the early 90's I remember my mum driving a (ridiculous) Citroen 2CV with a tape player. Amongst the things played on that car stereo that I didn't like were Phil Collins, the Eurythmics and Simply Red. But the main thing that i knew I DID like was The Beatles. Their early work is what reminds me most of that hideous yellow 2CV, a car with an engine so loud you'd have to turn the stereo up to epic volumes to even hear the tunes. I seem to remember thinking that 'Yesterday' sounded so sad that it must have been written in tribute to the man who had been shot, not knowing of course that Lennon hadn't been killed until years after the group's break up. For some reason 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' evokes memories of harbours... was this maybe a track I'd heard a lot of while being on holidays as a kid? Michael Jackson was absolutely massive in the very early 90's, and there just seemed to be something fascinating about him. One thing's for sure, in about 1991, every kid in my school was a fan and so was I. In fact I remember being bought the 'Dangerous' album, and sitting down excitedly to watch the TV premiere of his video for 'In The Closet'. He almost seemed like this magical being from another planet. Until the allegations started...
A lot of people from the UK will probably remember the Britannia Music Club. Every month they would send out a leaflet with various offers on chart CDs and new releases, which were always very bland and safe. As well as choosing a few things to buy, my parents would be sent the 'album of the month' as part of their membership, which they could keep or return. I can remember some of these were Lisa Stansfield, Aerosmith, Bryan Adams, and a 'Now...' CD from about 1990. Oh dear. With only my parents music, the radio (usually the shitty local station because we couldn't get good reception on anything else), Top Of The Pops and The ITV Chart Show to keep me updated about music, is it any wonder I was listening to some utter bollocks in the early 90's? There were just 12 number one singles all year in 1992. ITV's Chart Show would've been great if only I bothered to pay attention to the 'specialist' charts instead of the rubbish in the actual main top 20. A few years later this show would be playing great stuff but in the early 90's all I can remember them playing were horribly bland releases from the likes of Whitney Houston, Curtis Stigers, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jon Secada, Richard Marx, Curtis Stigers, Jimmy Nail, Tasmin Archer and that fucking Shakespeare's Sister song which was number one for weeks. I had the decency to avoid buying any of those atrocities, but my childhood musical CV still has a lot of shit stains on it......
Madonna was the sex symbol of the time (in fact, she'd turned into a right slut) but back then I only had eyes (and sadly, ears) for Kylie Minogue. In fact I was given the 'Kylie' album on tape for a birthday or Christmas present. I also fancied the blonde one out of ABBA, not realising that she would have probably have aged quite a bit by that point. And because of radio and TV playing terrible shite like Erasure's cover of 'Take A Chance On Me' (which may have even been number one at the time?) I heard it, ended up liking Erasure and decided to listen to the original, which led to me being bought a tape copy of 'ABBA Gold'. During the days before I knew what good music was, I could only like what the radio and telly allowed me to, and this is why that awful ABBA tape was in my cassette player quite regularly. Because I'd heard the Take That version of 'Could It Be Magic' on the ITV Chart Show, I ended up asking my mum to buy me a Barry Manilow album at a car boot sale, because I wanted to hear the original. I actually thought that vinyl copy of 'Manilow Magic' was good too. THAT's what happens when you're a young kid and you don't know what good and bad music is yet. Bad music just sounds like normal music because you haven't heard the good stuff yet. One Christmas (i think 1992) I asked my Nan and Grandad for Right Said Fred's album 'Up', and god bless them they went out and bought it me for me, which must have been embarrassing for them. I'm so glad Britpop wasn't too far away..... But Barry Manilow? Shit...
One of the big musical events of my childhood was the death of Freddie Mercury, and I remember it seemed like Queen were being played everywhere. The Freddie Mercury tribute concert was a huge event at the time, and was how I first came across Guns N Roses and even more importantly David Bowie. Still being too young to afford to buy music, I often used to just make recorded tapes of albums I had asked my Mum to borrow from the library, hits from the radio, and various music from my parents collections (mostly various tracks from compilations, most of which appeared to have been issued in the 80's). I didn't buy my first record until some point in 1993, which involves buying the record with your own money rather than your parents or someone else getting it for you. But it was Queen who became the first band I was ever a real fan of, firstly because of the couple of Queen LPs my parents owned, plus the fact that all my Dad's friends seemed to have the group's 'Greatest Hits' on all the time at gatherings and the fact that the band were hard to ignore around the early 90's due to the coverage given to Mercury's death. I remember owning a few copied Queen albums on various cassette tapes and I can clearly remember displaying my fondness for Queen in a piece of my school work. In primary school, probably around 1992 our class was asked to draw a picture of what they'd like to be when they grew up. I drew myself on a stage as the frontman of a four piece band who looked remarkably like Queen. In fact it clearly was Queen, because I even drew the logo on the drum kit. I can't even begin to think of what my teacher thought of one of her pupils wanting to be Freddie Mercury, and in retrospect I'm glad I didn't keep Freddie as a role model, I certainly couldn't have lived his lifestyle. Plus a lot of the time Queen were dreadful anyway.
As well as owning Queen's 'Greatest Hits' and taped copies of a few of their LPs that my Mum and Dad owned, I was also given a Queen promo cassette by my Dad's friend John Hanson. John was very much into his music, his ex wife worked for EMI Records and apparently he went to school with one of Jesus Jones. Me and my brother became good friends with his son Wilf. The three of us used to mess around with a keyboard, some pots and pans, and improvise our own songs. We'd record the resulting racket on to cassette and call our band Wet Dog. You'll hear a lot more about John and Wilf in future editions of this column. In 1992 my parents took us to the annual Balloon Fiesta in Bristol where we watched a Radio One Roadshow taking place. Hosting was Marky Mark and "performing" was a guy called Junior and a bunch of knobheads called East 17, who were miming badly to their rather terrible 'House Of Love'. So I definitely couldn't class this as my first gig that's for sure. The first time I remember watching an actual band play live was in about 1993, but I class my first gig as the time in 1994 where for the first time I watched a band with their own material. Then it was early 1998 that I got to see someone famous for the first time. But again, all that will be coming in later editions of RW/FF
My Auntie Karen, her husband Phil and my three cousins Luke, Russell and Vicky lived in Barnsley, a long way from my home in Wiltshire. Oddly the only thing I remember about visiting them in 1992 is that it was around the time that rave music had gone mainstream, and as well as The Shamen's excellent 'Ebeneezer Goode', Felix's 'Don't You Want Me' and Snap!'s 'Rhythm Is A Dancer' were also massive hits at the time. I also remember that while I was there visiting on that occasion, I listened to Genesis live at Knebworth on Radio One. At least it wasn't more Right Said Fred.
A lot of you who read my music blog will be thinking "Queen? Right Said Fred? Erasure? Barry fucking Manilow? How did this guy end up with the fine taste and knowledge he has now?". You'll find the answer in the next installment of this column. Bye for now.