Thursday, 14 October 2010

Birmingham, so much to answer for.

Kev tasked me with writing something about music from Birmingham. I however wanted to shoe horn the phrase "celebrity lezzas" into this post to capitalise on popbitchs claims and drive traffic here, lets hope this cynical stab works, back to the blog... Since my last post and now I have been to Leeds Festival (attempted to write something approaching a review, it was too big a task so in a nutshell, The Walkmen, The King Blues, NOFX and Biffy Clyro were all fantastic, The Drums, not so). I also have been to Las Vegas and celebrated my 40th birthday, seeing Biffy Clyro in a small club whilst I was there. None of these however are related in the slightest to Birmingham.

Birmingham and it surrounds famously spawned the likes of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Slade. Slade weren’t though. Slade were Black Country and in Noddy’s case, Walsall. Zeppelin were in a loose way and Sabbath definitely were, but lets not be picky here. Lets not linger on the most famous sons, lets move away from Aston and West Brom and dip our toe into the murky waters of Birmingham Canal, like a Cliff Richard driven speedboat from Take Me High.

Cliff paid homage to God’s City in his 1973 film Take Me High, his last film and as I write Sir Cliff celebrates his 70th birthday. In Take Me High like the dead horse he has been flogging since Daddy’s Home so he sells the locals the Brum burger. Alliteration it seems were key or it may have been a totally different story and ended up being a Lincoln Burger. Take Me High is a pretty good film if my memory serves me well. I think Channel 4 were doing one of those seasons where rock stars give that acting lark a stab and therefore trotted out the excellent That’ll Be The Day, Slade In Flame and Take Me High. I suspect this all predated Spice World.

Take Me High

Cliff aside the city that gave us Fuzzbox also gave us The Nightingales, Robert Lloyd lead singer and constant of The Nightengales is a Cannock lad, but lets not let geography get in the way after all if that was the case we may have to stop PWEI, The Wonderstuff and Neds Atomic Dustbin being claimed as sons of the second city.
Robert Lloyd from the ashes of The Nightingales formed the utterly fantastic but massively overlooked New Four Seasons, I briefly loved this band as a spotty teen. John Peel played a track that I recorded late one night and I think I wore that tape out. At the time I hadn’t heard or heard of The Nightingales and I didn’t really care. Andy Lloyd of that self same band, Wikipedia tells me he is a member of Birmingham mainstays, Little Red Schoolhouse. Little Red Schoolhouse I can pin down as a band that have been going at least 20 years, if Wikipedia is to be believed as I saw them once in the Sir Colin Campbell pub in Coventry, supporting a Telford based band. Little Red Schoolhouse were I am sure excellent, banks mild has clouded my memory of their performance and the name of the Telford band that supported them. I think it was the band that later became PTR. Halcyon days.

Something Nice by Robert Lloyd and The New Four Seasons

Another son of Birmingham and a band that had a lasting impression on me was the band Mighty Mighty. I bought their album, Sharks at the back end of the 80’s. (I have a memory of being in Birmingham Virgin Megastore queing up to buy Sharks and seeing Miles Hunt in front of me clutching a copy of eight legged groove machine on the day of its release. This may not actually have happened). The purchase of Sharks and importantly an address to write to Mighty Mighty on the back meant I had a clear opportunity within the price of a cheap day return to stalk a band. I need to make this clear, I didn’t. Moseley wasn’t on a train route. Sharks though contained so many great great songs, Law, Maisonnette and the superb, Biddy Baxter. You really should listen to the latter (not that it can be found on Youtube). You really should listen to Law as well, its what the term, “stomping bassline” was created for.

Law by Mighty Mighty

Lawrence, (slaps head remembering the name of the Telford band who supported Little Red Schoolhouse) Lawrence who was Felt, who was Denim, who was Go Kart Mozart was from Birmingham and now it seems, again according to Wikipedia, resides in a place I pass by twice a day, Water Orton. Go Kart Mozart release records on Lawrences own label, West Midlands Records. The sound of young Brum. (I added that). Felt, Lawrences first notable incarnation were signed to Creation and first came to my attention from the super cheap Creation compilation and soundtrack for the live shows, Doing It For The Kids. I own 2 copies of this 1988 album, both jump in different places. Felt perform in my opinion their best track in Ballad Of The Band. An excellent track it is too, Lawrence didn’t really better it.

Ballad Of The Band by Felt

Materially speaking Lawrence went on to form Denim after Felt’s dissolution. Denim had more of a glam rock edge, but a lot of bands were doing that then. Their impact on me was a single single. My loss is Water Ortons gain.

Middle Of The Road by Denim

Finally we can’t leave Birmingham without mentioning one of the citys best sons, not Musical Youth, Duran Duran, the Moody Blues or wizard, not The Twang, The Editors, The Streets or Ocean Colour Scene. Dexy’s are the best export the city has produced and undo all that UB40, the aforementioned OCS and The Twang have subjected me to.

Dexy’s Midnight Runners formed within the B postcode and the mish mash of sounds that make up their albums reflected their home city. I dont care much for Come On Eileen, not to say it isn’t one of the greatest pop songs ever written. My favourite is a twelve minute soul screamer found on Don’t Stand Me Down. This Is What She’s Like is as paranoid as it gets. Rowland is a very honest man to allow this to go on any album and at over 12 minutes, you may tire a little. You shouldn’t though as it takes you places that a full LP will take you, like NOFX’s Decline, its more a sum of its parts. Dexy’s finest hour not bettered in my opinion until the reformation song and anger inducing track, Manhood. I think I once had a brief conversation with my co-blogger about this track once and he swore.

Disappointingly not the full version.

This is What She’s Like by Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

Manhood by Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Birmingham, the home of Napalm Death, the home of The Beat, but also thankfully the home of Novak. Novak really deserve their own article.

Rapunzel by Novak