I’ve probably said this before but the Seventies is/was my favourite rock decade! Basically, the Seventies built on the foundation of the Sixties and went OVER THE TOP! The sheer diversity of Seventies music is mind-blowing and once again, what I am going to share with you is merely the tiny tip of the massive iceberg (and only focuses on the singer-songwriters!) But rest assured, every artist mentioned is bloody essential listening, so… fasten your seat belts…
Recommended albums – Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars, StationToStation, “Heroes”, Low and Scary Monsters.
Recommended albums – After the Gold Rush, Harvest, On the Beach, Tonight’s the Night, Zuma, Rust Never Sleeps.
Recommended albums – Born to Run, Darkness at the Edge of Town.
Recommended albums – Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, Something/Anything?, A Wizard A True Star, Todd.
Recommended albums: The Stranger, 52nd Street.
Recommended albums – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Mind Games, Walls & Bridges.
Recommended albums – Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across the Water, Honky Château,Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Caribou, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.
Recommended albums – Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’s First Finale, Songs in the Key of Life.
Paul Weller first caught the public eye as a teenager with The Jam during the emerging punk years (late 70s) in England. Taking his cue from the Beatles, Small Faces, Kinks and The Who, Weller’s punchy and relevant songs launched the Woking trio (with bassist Bruce Foxton & drummer Rick Buckler) into the hearts and minds of British youth, achieving much success and acclaim on the way before calling a day in 1982 at Weller’s insistence.
Weller felt constrained by The Jam’s image and collective persona and formed (with keyboard player Mick Talbot) The Style Council to broaden his artistic horizons. So he literally plunged in at the deep end, developing an image that was miles away from the Jam – chic, sophisticated, Gallic, jazzy & brassy, the Style Council carried on where The Jam left off and Weller personally intensified his own socio-political ambitions during that time. However, things would eventually turn sour between Weller and label Polydor culminating in the label’s rejection of the last TSC album and its ultimate demise in the late 1980s. Weller seemed to disappear completely from the UK music scene. Spending his hiatus in reflection and regeneration, he re-emerged as a solo artist – unable initially to secure a UK record deal (he signed up with Pony Canyon Japan for his eponymous solo debut) – his star would rise again with the coming of Britpop in the 90s as bands like Blur, Oasis & Ocean Colour Scene acknowledged their debt to Weller. By his third album, Stanley Road, Weller had once again reached the summit of the UK Albums Chart.
“Down in a Tube Station at Midnight,” Jam single (Polydor, 1978)
“Down in a Tube Station at Midnight” proved that Weller was more than just punk opportunist or mod revisionist, he was an artist. Its structure is stop-start and its monotonous rhythmic underpinnings express perfectly the movement of a train. Lyrically, it provides a concise snapshot of the England of the late 1970s – claustrophobic, class conscious, economically depressed and socially dangerous. Its story is simple and stark, a tube passenger is ‘mugged’ by gangsters (‘they smelled of pubs and Wormwood Scrubs and too many right-wing meetings’) on his way home to the wife. And in the closing verses even as the protaganist’s life ebbs away, his last thoughts are of advertising images and graffiti on the tube walls. Powerful and affecting. Note: the album version (on All Mod Cons) completes the picture with the sounds of a train opening & closing its doors and moving off even as the instrumental passages fade in and out again – truly poignant.
“The Paris Match,” B-side Style Council single, A Paris (Polydor, 1983)
A torch song in every sense of the word and tucked away as a b-side (!) no less, “The Paris Match” remains Style Council’s finest moment where Weller was able to blend romanticism and sophistication with Gallic flair and savvy – no mean feat for a Woking lad! The accordion solo is pure heaven.
“Tales from the Riverbank,” B-side Jam single Absolute Beginners (Polydor, 1981)
Moody and introspective, “Tales from the Riverbank” provided the flip side to the Jam’s more recognisable anthems. With its insistent bass line, spidery guitar patterns and concepts of urban decay & menace, “Tales from the Riverbank” is a wondrous highlight buried obscurely as a B-side, which bore testimony to Weller’s prodigious talent.
“That’s Entertainment,” from The Jam Sound Affects (Polydor, 1980)
A Weller diary-in-a-song: with George Harrison headily evoked, “That’s Entertainment” spoke of the mundanity of day-to-day living – ” A smash of glass and the rumble of boots/An electric train and a ripped up ‘phone booth/Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat/Lights going out and a kick in the balls ” – sheer bloody poetry!
“Sunflower,” from Paul Weller Wild Wood (GO! Discs, 1993)
On his sophomore effort, Weller decided to flow with the Traffic – decidedly more Steve Winwood than Steve Marriott! Transparent as usual with his influences, Sunflower is an intense rocker that is as soulful as it is pastoral. A great introduction to this breakthrough solo album.
“A Town Called Malice,” from The Jam The Gift (Polydor, 1982)
Perhaps the Jam’s best known tune, “Malice” featured Weller’s incisive assessment of English life – ” Rows and rows of disused milk floats stand dying in the diary yards/And a hundred lonely housewives clutch empty milk bottles to their hearts ” sung to a tune reminiscent of The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” (Yup! The one that Phil Collins took to the top of the charts)
“Uh Huh Oh Yeh,” from Paul Weller Paul Weller (Pony Canyon, 1992)
More than debut single “Into Tomorrow,” this R&B inflected mover announced that Weller was back! Based around a familiar three-chord progression, embellished with swirling organs, tight horns and a simple choral riff, one cannot help but be carried away by its cheerful optimism.
“In the Crowd,” from The Jam All Mod Cons (Polydor, 1978)
“And life just simply moves along/To simple houses, simple jobs and no ones wanting for the change ” bear Ray (The Kinks) Davies trademark slice-of-life writing applied to The Who pyrotechnics resulting in an incandescent commentary of English society that well and truly rocks!
“Speak Like A Child,” Style Council single (Polydor, 1983)
The re-invention of Paul Weller began with this Motown-inflected pleaser. However, Jam observers would not have been surprised as the stylistic shift is evident on The Gift, the final Jam album. What perhaps shocked was the total absence of the GUITAR! If only we knew what was in store for Weller fanatics!
“Peacock Suit,” Paul Weller Heavy Soul (Independiente, 1996)
“Peacock Suit” appears to poke fun at Weller’s own well-known satorial obsessions – ” I’m a narcissus in a puddle/In shop windows I gloat/Like a ball of fleece lining/In my camel skin coat”. Set to a driving beat, the song is a sheer delight and demonstrates Weller’s deft skill with the post-modern take on British R&B traditions.
“To Be Someone,” from The Jam All Mod Cons (Polydor, 1978)
With the critical beating that This Is The Modern World received, Weller and The Jam returned with a vengeance with All Mod Cons their best album. “To be Someone” opens the album and seems to uncannily forecast Oasis (!) both in its music and lyrical target – “And there’s no more drinking after the club shuts down/I’m out on my arse with the rest of the clowns.”
“My Ever Changing Moods,” Style Council single (Polydor, 1984)
Here is Paul Weller in full Curtis (Mayfield i.e.) mode, driving treble rhythms, tasty horns and a rhythm that just won’t quit.
“The Changingman,” from Paul Weller Stanley Road (GO! Discs, 1995)
Weller’s tribute to Jeff Lynne no doubt, as he freely pilfers from ELO’s “10538 Overture” shamelessly (down to the cellos) to sing lyrics about being a “changing man” with tongue firmly in cheek and a riposte to all his critics. Creative plagiarism at its best.
“You’re the Best Thing,” Style Council single (Polydor, 1984)
Weller’s finest romantic hour, as he concocts the perfect heart-tugger for lovers everywhere – the urban counterpart to the pastoral “English Rose”.
“In the City,” Jam single (Polydor, 1977)
Where it all began: an 18-year-old Steve Marriott wannabe lumped in with the punk set but possessing a breadth that would surpass most of his peers delivers his first stab at pop greatness. Clocking in at 2’20” In the City functioned as a statement of intent and a reaffirmation of British pop ala The Who, The Kinks, Small Faces and so on.
Believe me, it ain’t gonna be Fall Out Boy who’s gonna save rock n’ roll but Deap Vally will certainly have a much better shot at doing just that! Glorious blues-rock filtered through modern precedents like the White Stripes/Black Keys format, this femme duo has been shaking things up and is a band to look out for! Check out new video for “Lies” below.
The great thing about rock music is that the maxim that “what goes around comes around” holds true, most of the time. For those of you getting a little tired of tepid synth-pop, it would only be a matter of time before the power chords and melodic hooks came back with a vengeance! And I am glad to report that a cool wave of a 90s alt-rock revival bands is slowly but surely making their mark on the music world.
Add Warm Soda to this burgeoning list – for want of a better word, its BEATLESQUE to the max. But seriously, the astute rock listener is going to be able to string together a slew of the right influences for this fun-loving POP outfit, no problem. The band has released its new album – Someone For You – on March 26th, which is currently being streamed in its entirety at Paste.
Check out the official video for “Busy Lizzy” below. Review to come.
“Beatlesque” is one of my favorite music terms. I mean, who wouldn’t want to listen to music that sounds like The Beatles, eh? Of course, the key is not slavish imitation but to use the influence of The Beatles as a springboard for (hopefully) fresh ideas. Here are some bands that certainly come to mind, when the term “Beatlesque” is brandished about…
THE BYRDS – ALL I REALLY WANNA DO
Yes, I am aware that the song was written but by Bob Dylan, but The Byrds arranged Dylan’s folkie “All I Really Wanna Do” deliberately to reflect their love of the Fab Four, especially on the bridge. And let’s not even get into the hairdos…
BADFINGER – DAY AFTER DAY
A little cheatin’ here cos Badfinger was actually signed to Apple Records and this single was also produced by George Harrison so the comparisons with their heroes were always fairly obvious. Great song still…and certainly a foundation for numerous power pop bands to come…
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA – THE DIARY OF HORACE WIMP
ELO was formed by Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood to re-create the Beatles psychedelic classics (like “I Am A Walrus”) live. When Wood left, Lynne turned the band into a hit-making machine in the 70s. Beatles inspirations always began as a starting point (like here, the rhythm of the middle section to “A Day in a Life”) to something entire new and different. In a league of its own.
OASIS – ALL AROUND THE WORLD
To the current generation, the closest one is going to get to The Beatles reference would probably be through Oasis. Often derided as Beatles copyists, in fact, the Gallagher brothers succeeded in copping the imagery and look of The Beatles, rather than any creative impetus. That and Liam Gallagher’s ludicrous attempts to imitate John Lennon’s singing style. Best forgotten.
To be honest, it is almost impossible to escape the influence of The Beatles in modern music, whatever ‘genre’ you may choose to discuss. The legacy of The Beatles was not merely four chords, clever bridges and three-part harmonies but constant experimentation. When that stopped (listen to Let It Be, folks), then it was time for The Beatles to end. The above examples only highlight a very simplified perception of what the term “Beatlesque” means and usually referred to by people as Beatles music pre-Revolver, when The Beatles was much much more than that… but that’s another story altogether.
It’s been 60 years since the phrase “rock n’ roll” became the widely-used phrase to describe the new hot teen music but you know what? Rock n’ roll ain’t dead – you just need to know where to find it in 2013. Here’s a couple of bands keeping the spirit of rock n’ roll alive in 2013.
Platinum sellers Ugly Kid Joe have come back after a long vacation, and they’re ready to rock harder than ever. The California band’s new EP, Stairway to Hell, is due on April 16th through MRI, and it contains songs that span the full repertoire of influences that made Ugly Kid Joe the soundtrack for young snowboarders, surfers, and keggers worldwide. Here’s the first new track – “I’m Alright” – check it out!
This is so infectious it should be illegal! Seriously!! I first saw Dru Chen at an open mike years ago and was deeply impressed with his swagger and innate soulfulness BUT this new single from the Melbourne based modern soul singer-songwriter exceeds all expectations. I mean, “You Bring Out the Best in Me” should be blaring out of every single radio station in Singapore. Be warned though, once that groove hooks in, you’re in trouble. Awesome.
I was interviewed by my former Budding Writer mentee Karen Gwee (now New Paper reporter) last night about the whole Ken Lim saga and she brought up an intriguing point about how the local indie scene may also have the commercial potential needed to save the local music industry from the verge of extinction, as Ken eloquently (and quite correctly) reckoned.
Case in point – this new single from The Summer State – which video has already garnered over 4,000 views in about a day! Rather removed from the emo-pop-punk style that I remembered the band playing in various auditions/gigs I have witnessed before. In fact, the song is a very radio-friendly pop ballad and targeted for mainstream audiences, with shiny production values to boot. Not my cup of tea, mind you, but I can understand the appeal the track will have for teenagers and tweens and this can only be a good thing for the local music scene. Check it out.
Good to see 90s indie artists still soldering on upwards and onwards. Case in point – Toronto’s Hayden has a new album – Us Alone – out now on Arts & Crafts. The hair may be visibly greying but the artistic vision has not diminished and the fire is still burning. This sad but hopeful song comes with a video that includes phone interruptions (like real life!) and the difficult concerns of the matured artist. Wistful but memorable.
A name like The Outfit does carry with it a certain association with 80s American new wave, doesn’t it? The hype pronounces The Outfit as a band that ‘offers an earnest take on garage rock revival, building on the ground laid out by such acts as The Strokes, and early Kings of Leon’. Somewhere in-between I suppose. As far as this track – “Strange Bones” – is concerned (off of the most current album, Broken West Wishbone Test), there is a fair bit of late 70s pub-rock, Two-Tone plundering, ska-punk and a healthy dose of The Clash thrown into the overall mix. All good, in my book! The video? It’s suitably vintage and retro-delicious laced with bizarro puppeteering to boot.
Experimental-noise-jangle-pop-drone is probably the closest description I could conjure for this new song from Suuns. Not only that but the video of “2020” will probably give you a headache as well. Contrarian art-punk anyone? At least, this is one aspect of the 80s that has been given less attention so you could say that I am having fun with this. Fans of the Velvets, JAMC and Flaming Lips might get a rise out of this. The rest of you stay the fuck away!
Art students will find Art Decade thoroughly intriguing. The band describes its music as “neo indie classical, symphonic post-pop and rock” and the title track of its new album – “Western Sunrise” will certainly impress as it was made almost entirely using Procreate, a $5 iPad app. For the video, the band teamed up with visionary animator and director, Whitney Alexander. The initial concept of the video was to create a sort of painting in motion in the style of the impressionists. Judge for yourself!
Charles J Tan is back with the first single from his upcoming album, Maybe Somewhere North. According to Tan, “the single is an upbeat tune that celebrates friendship, love and community”. The song features Aarika Lee (of SIXX) on guest vocals. It’s a toe tapper for sure, and perfect for those cool sunny mornings that hopefully we’ll get more of in surprising Singapore.
The official music video will be released on 14 February 2013 to coincide with Valentine’s Day. Charles will kick off a series of album launches starting with the first full band concert of the year at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre at Mosaic Music Festival on 11 March 2013. Fans can expect to hear the new album performed live for the first time ever in Singapore. In the meantime, check out the lyric video below and if you like what you hear (and why wouldn’t you?), pick it up at iTunes.
Every now and then, I get an email with a link that makes me sit up and take notice! Well, here’s one good example – Photo Ops aka Terry Price, who plays every instrument on the upcoming LP, How To Say Goodbye, scheduled for a February 26th release. “It Makes Me Cry,” shows Price’s knack for an infectious hook coupled with poignant lyrics. Lovely epic heartfelt pop music!
It has been a long while but suddenly out of the blue, we have a NEW David Bowie single (“Where Are We Now?”) and album (The Next Day)! More news to come but in the meantime, just enjoy this moment and the haunting video below. Beautiful.