Friday, 26 March 2010

The Proverbial

This sent in by our Manchester correspondent Bob D.

I worked with a lad from Salford. Die hard City fan. Built like the proverbial. Knew about four words and they all ended with 'off'. Broken nose, shaved head - you get the impression. He brought in some CD's to work one day and played Orpheus Lyre by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Absolutely brilliant. I went out and bought the CD Abbatoir Blues and its been one of my favourite albums since. When we put our CD's in a folder it's the only one where I kept the cover. Its simple, poetic, emotional and so far away from what I expected.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Do I Have Time For This? A Contributor's Guide to, err, Contributing

Do I Have Time For This? (or ‘A Plea From Kevin T’)

Can I help out with a few bits and pieces for I Taught Myself How to Grow Old?

Of course. It’s a good blog. I’ve enjoyed reading about artists I knew and learning something about the (many, many) ones I had never heard of.

But have I the time?

One idea I had was to write about the music my two boys, Kevin T and bro Niall T, had introduced me to over the years dragging me out of the 60’s (and 50’s) and into the 21st Century, music wise. The working title is “Babes and Sucklings”.

God ordains strength (or music) out of the mouth of babes and sucklings’ (Psalms 8:2.)

So far, so good. First topic, Status Quo (you had to go and choose Quo?! - Kevin T)

My first bit of memory refreshing research quickly taught me that I knew practically sod all about Quo apart from the songs on the ’12 Gold Bars’ album and a few others. An hour and a half later I knew a hell of a lot more. However, working out what to put in and what to leave out seemed to be a fine subject for a post grad research fellowship. (Ph.D. (Cantab):(Quo) has a nice ring to it. Well, at least it is in Latin.

OK, park that one, different tack. Write about a single track, both song and artist new to me. That can’t be too hard can it? Can it?

Too bloody right it can.

This afternoon I started a piece about ‘The Promised Land’, a great song by Chuck Berry, well performed by Johnny Allan.

I may still do that piece. I am now well qualified.

After three hours, I know where and when the song was written, its significance in the hierarchy of socio-cultural Americana, when it was first recorded, all the words, who has covered it and when and the life stories of Chuck and Johnny. (I feel I now know them so well that first names are appropriate). If pushed, I can also probably furnish the biographical details of the tea lady at Chess Studios in 1964.


Lesson 1:
DO NOT under any circumstances start a piece by researching the subject on the Internet.

Lesson 2:
Knock out a piece from memory and learn from the comments on the blog from those who know more.

That’s me from now on. And ‘cos this is a music blog here is one of my faves.

OK, I spotted Dave Edmunds, Graham Parker and Steve Cropper.

Anybody know the horns, the keyboard player and the two drummers? Maybe I will look on the Internet?

Bugger. Here we go again!

Written by Jack T (father of Kevin T)

Where's the Quo? - Kevin T

Alex Chilton

According to Alan McGee, who is a bit of a tit at times but seems to be reasonably well intentioned, the songwriting partnership of Big Star's Alex Chilton and Chris Bell was 'as iconic as that of Lennon and McCartney'. That's quite a statement (until you remember 'It's for You' sung by Cilla Black). Alex Chilton died earlier this month at the age of 59. During those 59 years he managed to be a teen star (with the Box Tops), heroin addict, be a member of the highly influential Big Star, punk icon, a tree-trimmer and a washer -upper. Writing about his death the BBC called him 'Rock's Unsung Hero' and went on to quote Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream with saying 'September Gurls is an incredible single. It's as good as The Byrds or The Beatles' (The Bangles covered it also).

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

This is the End, Beautiful Friend (not really)

So, the good ship I Taught Myself How to Grow Old has hit a sand bank, run adrift, been caught in choppy waters (not sure how much longer I can keep this up) or possibly been re-assigned to do the Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire run. A bit like the Titanic orchestra we're going to keep playing till, er, well, till we stop. Co-blogger Peter, who has kept the whole thing afloat for quite a while has succumbed to, in his words, a 'fickle mistress'. He might mean his allotment but then again he might mean a fickle mistress, or possibly one on the other. So, the call for help went out yesterday ............

Dear All,
As you might know I co-contribute to a Music blog (with a chap called Peter) I Taught Myself How to Grow Old. It's amateurish, lacks focus and even our wives don't read it. Somewhat surprisingly we have a dedicated following of 6 and our latest viewing figures tell us that we get about 700 hits a month. This sometimes goes up if we are very topical (and could go up more if we were tropical).

Anyway, due to a combination of factors related to ageing in-laws, allotments, new jobs, football fixtures, earthquake damage and 18 month-olds (not in that order) Peter and I are a bit pressed for time. We are opening up the doors for guest writers and regular contributors.

Now, on the face of it this might not interest you, as you have a taxing job, kids, 2 dogs, hobbies, a life. But how much richer would your life be if you were able to free that frustrated writer buried deep down in your pile of ironing? The occasional scribble is very therapeutic, gives you an excuse to listen to music and gets you out of the washing up/walking the dog/making the bed/talking to your long-term partner - "I've just got to finish this piece for the website luv ...........deadline ......six readers you know"

Why not have a bash? What have you got to lose? Want to try? We only have one rule which is no Queen. Apart from that the music has been pretty varied. Have a look for yourself.
Go on, have a go!

Who could resist? Well, as it turns out, most people. I had two replies, one from my Dad and one from Diamond Davey O, King of Wellington, market legend, bass player supreme, all-round good egg. Dave said
Kev, I was with you all the way till you said 'no queen'.

> I was particulary interested in writing an article on queen and

> artists who have written songs about the band.

> I was thinking along the lines of 'Hair like Brian May blues' by Half

> Man Half Biscuit

> Oh well some things are clearly not meant to be.

> Dave

So, in order to accommodate Dave's request we have backtracked on the NO Queen rule and opened the floodgates. Sadly I couldn't find a video for the song, although I am happy to replace May's hair with Davies' eyes. I hope this will do. Surprisingly it is the first time we have featured the Birkenhead Biscuits.
This one's for Dave.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Best of the C's

jThat then is the end of the C’s all CD albums I own, it’s not, I have a fair old selection downstairs but it will be some time before I see them so as far as the C’s are concerned. Richard Dunn.

It was nothing like the slog the B’s were, the most of a single artist that I encountered was JC, by the way his new album is utterly marvellous, very much a down beat album, beautiful and his voice is quite controlled. Where was I, oh yes, just Cash really and The Cramps but what of the best, what were the best C’s?

Orange Blossom special by Johnny Cash

Whilst we have Johnny Cash in mind, it was a close run thing between his compilation God and his album, Orange Blossom Special, in the end without a pause it was Orange Blossom Special. Admittedly of late I have been giving more play to Ride This Train but of all the Cash albums I poured words over, Orange Blossom special hit all the right notes, perfectly, and completely.

Was it the best C? I am still writing, ease up there a second.

Of the best C’s we also had two Clash albums, two perfect in every way easily ten out of tens in The Clash and London Calling. Genre defining and at the same time not tied to a genre, something special this way comes in both albums.

Career Opportunities by The Clash

And then there is Gene Clarks White Light, and that for my money was the best C. An album that I come back to time and time again and improves with every listen. All the C 10’s were great in their own way and any other day I may well have put Camera Obscura’s Lets Get Out Of This Country, but no, today it is Gene Clark that is the best C.

This is where I would post a video of a track but it seems all of Gene Clarks White Light tracks aren’t embeddable.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Exit Planet Dust

There are fewer things I dislike more than dance music made for white boys that that like bands that play guitars. I do, I really dislike them, The Prodigy, Pendulum etc. Very few things, well maybe Muse, Muse and dance music made for white boys that like bands that play guitars, well them and the storyline in Corrie that allows a grandfather to abduct a child and have custody based on chuff all. That and the Daily Mail. Mostly the dance music thing though.
Todays commute CD, the last C, the end of a relatively short journey through the third letter of the alphabet, the last C is The Chemical Brothers debut, Exit Planet Dust.
Exit Planet Dust refers to their original moniker The Dust Brothers, a tribute to the US production duo of the same name. EZ Mike and King Gizmo, responsible for the production of the greatest and best album ever committed to digital media, the self titled debut Tenascious D.
This isn't EZ Mike and King Gizmo, this is the post lawsuit threatening Lank Ginger and Dull Bloke, The Chemical Brothers, purveyors of the finest dance music made for white boys that like bands that play guitars.
I listened to it once on the way in, in the spring sunshine, rolling through the Staffordshire A roads, it wore heavy on me, it wore very heavy on me, its repetitive beats, essentially lyricless, it was just that little bit out of step with how I was feeling.
Roll on to the afternoon journey home and I decide to give the motorway ago, my mood was bouyant and I was a little more awake. Crank up my tinny car strereo up to 11 and by crikey its a good album, its definitely a mood album and the mood was served hugely by it, from the one that says "brothers gonna work it out" you know, Leave Home, that one. Through to Song to the siren, the Dead Can Dance sampling track, up through to the rather splendid One Too Many Mornings, the Tim Burgess featuring Life Is Sweet and finally ending with the gorgeous voice of Beth Orton on Alive Alone.
Really a splendid album in the right mood, in the wrong mood it is background music to me swearing at BMW drivers. So on the way to work 1 out of 10, on the way home, 8 out of 10, lets call it an 8.

One Too Many Mornings by The Chemical Brothers

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Magic and Medicine

Friday and penultimate C was the second album by cheeky bin dippers The Coral. You may recall I was not a fan of their debut and like the debut this album is my wifes, she suggested that I didn't have to listen to it and I said that breaks the rules.
I did listen to though, Magic And Medicine, and you know what, it wasn't half bad. Yes it still went for that "druggy bollocks" sound, but not as much as their self titled effort.
At times they even have stabs at proper songs, Pass it on and Bill McCai, sound quite pleasant, as does Don't Think You're The First. They almost blow it towards the end when they approach noodley on Confessions of ADDD, but even that isn't massively offensive. I must be getting old.
On the whole it was a middling album that performed much better than expected and that alone should garner a 10, but that is ridiculous, this is The Coral after all, its the coral and they still fall into that retro scouse sound that was hugely popular, and tiresome at the time, and that deserves nothing more than 4 out of 10.

Don't Think You're The First by The Coral

The Best Of Johnny Cash

The Best Of Johnny Cash that was Thursday on the way to work CD, This is the last of my Johnny Cash discs and as I am a mere spit away from the end of the C's, this is unlikely to change unless a visit to HMV beckons.
This is a mid nineties release on Columbia and of all the Cash CD's that I have, its the worst of an excellent bunch. Do not get me wrong it is still superb but in the scheme of Cash, its the worst.
The Columbia years produced some marvellous work, some absolute greats, but this album seems to have rerecorded versions, live versions and odd selections. I like Jackson, but why would you put an alternate version of Jackson on a best of? Orange Blossom Special is one of my favourite Cash songs, but is it considered a best of track?
Its still good for the strange reasons, it closes with Ballad Of Ira Hayes, a fantastic song, a little dark in its tone, but still great. Thats the thing with Cash, he can have a best of, he has earned that and he has the material to do it, you should look to see how many best of's and G.Hits that have been released bearing his name, he must have some kind of record, no pun intended. Anyway, busy week, Cash's label drops a point for this, 9 out of 10.

The Ballad of Ira Hayes by Johnny Cash

Thursday, 11 March 2010


Ah. Coldplay. Coldplay, Coldplay, Coldplay. Why so sad Coldplay. Why such tunes of earnest melancholy? Your debut album Parachutes soundtracked my commute yesterday it was a bit of a slog to be honest. You made me sad at Stafford and the fog of miserablism did not lift until the end of track 10 when you released me from your grip. What happened Coldplay, you used to be such nice boys, not pencilling slogans on your hand, telling me stuff about fair trade and world debt, you used to smile, you used to be on Fierce Panda, then you started naming your kids after fruit (how is young boysenberry?) and sticking plasters on your fingers.
Your debut does contain two highlights though, that Yellow eh? Me and the wife loved that I think we probably still do, and then there is that bassline on sparks, thats lovely. Other than that a pile of steaming shit. 1 out of 10.

Sparks by Coldplay

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The Clash

A bona fide classic today in the self titled Clash debut, The Clash.

I say this undramatically but what a stunning album, even if it was a dreadful album 2 songs part way through are the best two back to back songs bar none, name two songs on an album that follow each other that are better than White Riot and White Man In Hammersmith Palais. As I wheeled through Staffordshire in the Spring sunshine with each and every track I wanted to wind down the window, attract the attention of the BMW driver to my right and say this is fucking ace this is. I didn’t but by god I hammered away at my steering wheel bongos.
You know already if this is a good album, its not an obscure oddity, this is musical revolution (with guitars) from the opening Who strokes to the closing dig at Charles Shaar Murray, its not a good, great or excellent album it is ground breaking, a head of its time, undated and rare. Its a classic in every sense of the word and if there is a hole in your CD, tape or vinyl collection where this should be, I am not disappointed, I pity you.
This album takes music to a better place, it kicks open the doors and says here you go try some of this, yes sir you can still boogie, but the beat was a little different.
I saw Joe Strummer and his band The Mescaleros perform White Man In Hammersmith Palais before he died, my wife thinks it was one of the happiest I have ever been in my life. She wasn’t wrong.
The album is just wonderful, no low point, no filler, nothing out of place, nothing bad. 10 out of 10, and if you went back to all the other 10 out of 10’s they would be 9’s compared to this. Stunning.

White Man In Hammersmith Palais by The Clash

Monday, 8 March 2010

Devised Without A Plan

Monday morning and a new CD for my journey between Stafford and Birmingham. Today it was the turn of US punk band, Covington and their 2005 CD Devised Without A Plan.
I don’t know anything about this band and couldn’t recall the title so it took 5 minutes of searching to try and find this out. I came by the CD as I had ordered a Punktastic compilation and Paul the guy at Punktastic put this in with the CD. Was it good of him?
Well if Good Riddance and Jawbox are your kind of thing then this would be very good of him as that is where Covington take their lead from. Jawbox I can take or leave but Good Riddance always made me smile. Covington take the shoutier elements of Good Riddances sound and kind of produce their own thing. Its not to say this is original but as 3 piece punk outfits go, it’s better than most.
The downside is that its a speedy 8 tracks long and I could have done with a little more to form a more solid opinion. 8 tracks and I think its pretty good, 10 tracks and it could be excellent or not so good. Either way I think I need to look further into Covington and see if they contributed anything else to this world or if they have long since faded. 6 out of 10.
No video seems to exist for Covington on Youtube so you cant sample them.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Alec Ounsworth Demos

Fridays commute CD was a CD of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah demoes, downloaded from Alec Ounsworths Flash Python site a few years back. These demos were also the ones that were suggested to me and in the end made me fall in love with the band.
The unfortunate thing with these tracks is that I dont know what they are called, well some of them I don't, and I don't think they are available to download anymore, so it may be a bit pointless doing this review, that said, I did listen to it and I do have an opinion on it.

The tracks that made up a portion of their debut are of course fantastic, that album was a ten out of ten for me and rightly so, and these tracks, Over and Over Again, Details Of The War ( a radically different version, but still amazing), Is This Love and In This Home On Ice are perhaps the best on that album, you could see from those why I would want to investigate the band more.

Outside of those tracks, a solo version, just Alec, a guitar and a drum machine and synth, of Underwater that appeared on Some Loud Thunder, I loved that track for so long and it was the stand out track on the bands second album.

The other tracks I don't think appear anywhere else, either on the Alec Ounsworth solo album, Mo Beauty or on the Flashy Python album, Skin and Bones. Thats a pity that some of these songs may never see the light of day, notably Cecil Stick With The Story, a favourite of mine that deserves a release in its own right and not some obscure MP3 passed around fans.

All in all though this collection is a joy, enjoyable and played multiple times in the Staffordshire sun. 8 out of 10.

Dee oh Dee by Alec Ounsworth

Thursday, 4 March 2010


After the shocking music from the previous couple of days, its nice to come back, momentarily to Johnny Cash and the album recorded for Sun, Greatest.
Johnny was the Greatest and thats what this refers to, its not a greatest hits, although of course the quality that Johnny produced through all periods was great.
This is an album that was released in 1959 after Johnny had left Sun and this reissue is notable for many things, but the most notable and memorable is the scratchy track recorded at KWEM a radio station, Rock and Roll Ruby, its extremely rare and a joy to listen to, Cash sounds different on this recording, but still as the album suggests, the greatest.
Present on this recording are a few of my favourites in Katy Too, Get Rhythm and Luther Played the Boogie. Its quite telling that I favour the Cash penned tracks over other solid songs. Admittedly Hey Good Lookin and Johnny’s version makes me want to investigate Hank Williams a little more.
All in all as ever, a fantastic Johnny Cash album, he should have celebrated his birthday last week, he would have been 78, therefore 71 when he died. My wife pointed out that is far too young in this day and age. 10 out of 10.

Rock and Roll Ruby by Johnny Cash

Golden Cleaners

I first became aware of The Cleaners From Venus via the book, Lost In Music by Giles Smith. Its a book that recounts Smiths time in bands and notably The Cleaners From Venus. Initially I thought it was a work of fiction, the band a fictitious group. Obviously as I worked at a record shop (we could be selling shoes!) I had to look as to if The Cleaners From Venus were real. They were and this collection, Golden Cleaners was bought to see what they were like.
I played it once, and if you count yesterdays commute twice.

This collection covers a period loosely referred to as New Wave, and the impression that I got is that Martin Newall, the main songwriter in The Cleaners From Venus and now poet, cum musician, cum author, certainly at the time of writing these songs is a talentless hack that had his albums released on cassette as no one really would take a punt on the expense of vinyl.

Lyrically the man is shocking, 6 form poetry that has a stab at humour but comes out sounding like that irritating boy at school that used to quote The Young Ones ad nauseum. None more so than on Illya Kuryakin Looked at Me, a pitiful song that tries to create a Syd Barrettesque story but sounds like a Flight Of The Conchords comedy tune, if Flight Of The Conchords were trying to do a cure influenced Syd Barrett cover, this is what it would sound like.

It does however display a certain charm in places, Newall stops being the rock star he wants to be and puts some effort into lyrics and it comes good, but his ego takes over most of the songs. Its OK to have a little ego, when the work justifies it, but one, two maybe three reasonable tracks on a best of collection is a dreadful ratio.

So Golden Cleaners, because of Illya Kuryakin Looked at Me, Johnny The Moondog Is Dead and other crimes. 2 out of 10.

Armistice Day by The Cleaners From Venus

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

See Through This And Leave

Its light in the mornings these days, which is pleasant, there was a light frost and a bright sun, heading through Shugborough it was difficult not to slow down and take it all in. Actually the reason for slowing down was due to some bloody lorry driver crawling along at 25 miles per hour taking in natures glory, either that or captivated by the hilarity of Chris Moyles.
I digress. My musical accompaniment wasn’t the hapless lard boy, the money grabbing leech that head BBC honcho would rather have polluting the airwaves over 6 Music. No it wasn’t him, it was The Cooper Temple Clause and their debut album See Through This And Leave.
I am not in a mood because of the feckless Phil Dowd, this is my wifes CD, I despaired when I bought her this and the follow up for Christmas, but it was an easy win, a band she liked 2 cd’s out = 2 gifts. Phil Dowd, he is off my Christmas list though.
OK so what of this? It is a shocking pile of manure that has no equal. Its quite perplexing how this pitiful weak pub band got signed in the first place, let alone keep up the charade for 3 albums.
They take all of the worst aspects of band I detest and roll them into a dung infested musical meringue. Oasis, Kasabian, Muse. Appalling stuff.
Maybe if there was a tune there it would have made all the difference and would have lightened my mood a little to the point that I wouldn’t have given the finger to the driver of a Merc near Rugeley Power Station, but no this tuneless dirge meant that a frown was ever present and the only thing again stopping me lobbing it out of a window was the knowledge it is my wifes CD and I want my tea tonight, it may not be forthcoming if I said “Dear, your Cooper Temple Clause CD is currently rolling down a hill between Rugeley and Lichfield can I have 5 fishfingers please.”
As it stands, it’s the worst C so far. Tuneless, noodly, lad rock, derivative, bad vocals, bad playing. Awful. See Through This And Leave 0 out of 10.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Biggest Bluest HiFi

Wembley was a pleasant enough experience, but less said about the result the better. Prior to that though I had a commute and a CD to accompany that commute, it was the debut album by Scots band Camera Obscura, Biggest Bluest HiFi.
Its a cracker of an album but not the strongest that tey have produced, a band possibly that have got stronger and stronger on every release (time will tell as their latest album is to be played yet), certainly the two albums that followed this made me love the band more and more.
Stand out tracks are Happy New Year and the song that introduced the band to me, Eighties Fan. Spectorish in sound, gorgeous and utterly beautiful, this is what the band showed from the outset and that is how they carried on.
This is a really short write up for the album, its a very good album, but time has dictated that I havent been able to get any time to write this since Friday and can only hurry a few lines out now.
Incidentally there is a line in Happy New Year, "I'm softer than my face would suggest", that used to be a title of a blog I did. I am.
Biggest Bluest Hifi, 7 out of 10. Can I add that every time I give something 7 or review something badly and give it a 6 I think back to the early reviews and notably Ant Hardings music and am aware that one of those was a 6, now that things have settled a bit and I know what a 6 is, Ant is way better than 6. Camera Obscura, 7.

Happy New Year by Camera Obscura