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My 10 Favourite Rock Concerts Over 40 Years…

…that I can remember being at……….
Rock concert

I started going to see bands and musicians way back in the late 1960s at the Dreamland ballroom in Margate. I can’t remember the first group I ever saw live but I do know I caught acts such as the Equals, Mungo Jerry, the Tremeloes – or the Travelling Sex Offenders as they’re now known –McGuinness Flint, Matthews Southern Comfort, Deep Purple, Sweet, Mud, and Status Quo in their Pictures of Matchstick Men heyday. Moving up to London in 1974 I would have to say my first real proper rock concert would have to be seeing Crosby, Still, Nash and Young at Wembley Stadium. On the bill with them were Jesse Colin Young, The Band and Joni Mitchell. I guess it was okay but not the best concert I’ve witnessed, so the following is a chronological list of some of the most memorable music show I’ve been to in the last forty years or so that I thought might be worth sharing with whoever reads this kind of stuff these days.

Elton John 1975Elton John – Wembley Stadium, London 1975
Now here’s a concert bill you’re unlikely to see these days. Stackridge, Chaka Khan with Rufus, Joe Walsh, Eagles, The Beach Boys and Elton John – all for a fiver. The main reason for going was to see for the first time my favourite band, The Beach Boys, performing live. Joe Walsh was pretty good – and loud – and he joined the Eagles on stage during their performance as well. I later found out that Jackson Browne was also somewhere up there playing piano with them as well but I wasn’t aware of that at the time.

Then on came the Beach Boys – a bit late if I remember rightly, with Mike Love purring to a by now slightly hostile crowd that ‘you want it to be perfect, don’t you?’, before launching into their set. At this point in their career they hadn’t quite turned totally into a travelling jukebox act, doing stuff from their recent albums such as Surfs Up, Sail on Sailor and The Trader. Of course it was obviously the old classics such as Good vibrations, Wouldn’t it Be Nice and Barbara Ann that got the crowd on their side and for someone who’d never seen them perform in the flesh before it was a pretty good introduction to their live shows.

Neither Brian Wilson, or Bruce Johnston for that matter, were present – I’d have to wait until 1980 and Knebworth before catching all of the original line-up in concert – but I think it’s fair to say they literally blew the crowd away that day. This turned out to be a bit of a problem for the headline act, one Reginald Dwight from Pinner. I’ve checked the set list as it was a bit of a while ago and he got off to a good start with stuff like Rocket Man, Candle in the Wind and The Bitch is Back but, and this I do remember, he then totally blew it by informing a post-Beach Boy euphoric crowd that he had a new album out – Captain Fantastic and the Dirt Brown Cowboy – and he would like to perform the whole thing for us.

At which point I’d have to say at least half the audience, including me and my mates, upped and left the stadium. I read later that originally the Beach Boys were not going to be performing that day. Apparently Stevie Wonder had been slated to play but there was some disagreement about who would top the bill, Stevie or Reg, so Stevie dropped out, the Beach Boys came on board, and the end result was a resounding success for the California Boys, and somewhat of a disaster for Elton John.

By the time he was performing his encore to an ever depleted stadium audience we were all back home watching an interview with Mel Brooks on the tv and ingesting copious amounts of non-prescriptive pharmaceuticals, as was the fashion of the time. I still have the original concert program up in the loft somewhere. It’s currently on Ebay for just over £100. Any offers?

Led Zeppelin Kebworth 1979Led Zeppelin – Knebworth, UK 1979
This wasn’t the first time I’d actually seen Zeppelin in concert. They played five concerts over nine days in May, 1975 and, according to the book When Giants Walked the Earth, if you had seen the group at that point in time then you were witnessing what was then the biggest band in the world playing at their musical best, reaching heights of both popularity and creativity never to be repeated.

And I was there. I went to one of those gigs. I witnessed rock history in the making – and I don’t remember a damn thing. I got there late and my friends had left my ticket stuck with a piece of chewing gum beneath one of the telephones outside Earls Court tube. When I finally made my way into the concert hall the first thing that caught my eye was the biggest cloud of marijuana smoke I’d ever seen in my life, hovering over the crowd before descending like some killer alien mass to envelope everyone, including me, with its deadly mind-altering entrails of dope. Two minutes engulfed in that stuff and I was, in the language of the day, like totally gone man.

Fast forward four years later and I finally get to see Led Zeppelin at Knebworth for real, along with other acts such as Todd Rundgren, Southside Johnny and, best of all, Chas and Dave. I can’t actually remember if I went to the concert on the 4th or 11th August – I guess the residual effects of Earls Court still flowed through my veins – but at least this time I can remember most of the concert itself. They came on late, mainly due to the fact that the act before them, the New Barbarians, didn’t hit the stage on time themselves.

A ‘one-off’ combination of Keith Richard and Ronnie Wood, we were all kept waiting for at least an hour before Keef and Ron finally deigned us with their presence. At one point I went off to the toilets prior to their appearance and I could swear Keith Richards walked past me in the opposite direction to the stage.

Eventually they made their appearance and they were absolutely godawful. Even an encore of Jumping Jack Flash couldn’t save the day. The Zep more than made up for all of the delays, mixing new material from their recently released In Through the Out Door album with all of the classics –Black Dog, Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love , Rock and Roll and many more. At one point Jimmy Page played his guitar with a cello bow equipped with a laser that lit up the sky with strobe colours and neon light.

The performance with the bow was absolutely mesmerising, and the guitarist’s dexterity was truly miraculous, particularly as he presumably also had to contend with the possibility of accidentally wiping out his fellow band members and vast swathes of the audience close to the stage if he pointed the bow in the wrong direction. I left the concert with a mixture of delight that I had finally witnessed and could actually remember seeing one of the greatest bands of all time, and relief that my sight remained unimpaired.
Bruce Springsteensource
Bruce Springsteen – Wembley Stadium, London 1985
I am proud to say that I am one of the four and half million people who claim to have seen Bruce Springsteen at the Hammersmith Odeon back in 1975 when he visited Britain for the very first time. He did a residency for about three nights and by the time I got round to buying a ticket it was standing room only. He and the E Street band were good but for my money Bruce spent too long talking and not enough time playing the music –he and Little Stevie reminisced for about ten minutes on how they used to sit on the porch watching a beautiful girl walk past every evening before launching into Pretty Flamingo whilst I was expecting them to play She’s the One instead.

So, a good performance but to me Bruce was still a work in progress. By the time he arrived with the Born in the USA tour in 1985 he had Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River plus the new album under his belt and to me, he was finally and truly the Boss. I bought tickets for two concerts, one for the 3rd July and the other for the following day. The first concert was for a bunch of us from work, in which we intended – and did – to get as close to the stage as possible on the pitch and get wasted. The following day was to be a more sober affair with my darling wife.

Needless to say I can’t remember much about the first concert other than, as Bruce sang the Jimmy Cliff song Trapped, everyone pointed to the sky in unison whenever he shouted out the title to the song. This resulted in someone accidentally catching the edge of my glasses with their hand and sending them soaring into the crowd in front of me, whereupon approximately three thousand people took turns jumping up and down on my spectacles. I can’t remember how much I paid for the tickets back then – 30 or 40 quid maybe – but I do remember it cost about 80 to replace my glasses.

The following day – wearing my backup Joe 90 half-tinted glasses that I first bought back in 1978 – my wife and I watched from the safety of the seated area to the left of the stage as Bruce walked out into the sun with just an acoustic guitar and, instead of blasting into Born in the USA as he had done the day previously, he sang Independence Day from The River album – July 4th, geddit? – before then being joined by the rest of the band for Born in the USA.

That opening song was something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. He had the crowd in his hand before he strummed the first chord – and that’s no mean feat considering the stadium was packed with 80,000 people at the time. I’ve taken the liberty of checking the set list for both days and the songs didn’t differ that much – he played Trapped again but this time I left the histrionics out – and it looks as though the encores were the same. Little Stevie appeared as a guest both days running towards the end and joined in on Two Hearts – I could swear he was throwing murderous glances every now and then at his replacement, Nils Lofgren. Maybe he was practising for The Sopranos.

These concerts – mainly the second one if I’m honest – were truly some of the best I’ve ever been privileged to attend. I caught Bruce on all of his subsequent appearances in the UK up until the time he played his first solo gig at the Albert Hall. He’s playing Wembley Stadium again this year – still a prisoner of rock and roll as he used to say – but I have to say I definitely caught him in his prime. Paul Simonsource: Paul Simon – Hammersmith Odeon, London 1982 Prior to going to this concert I’d gone to Florida for about two weeks with my brother. Whilst we were there, as is the case with most American radio stations, they constantly played one song over and over again. In this case it was the latest Paul Simon single, Late in the Evening. It eventually got to the point where it wouldn’t have bothered me if I’d never heard that song again. Despite this the saving grace of going to see Simon of course was that he would feature a few of the classic Simon & Garfunkel songs from the 60s and, seeing as I’d never been to one of his concerts before, I was looking forward to it.

I wasn’t disappointed either. It was a balanced set list of old and new songs, which obviously included at some point the ubiquitous Late in the Evening. My main memory is of Paul Simon offering to buy everyone in the auditorium a drink. He said he really appreciated the audience and would like to get a drink for all of us but wasn’t sure how to go about paying for it. Some wag, quoting an American Express advert that was popular on tv at the time, suggested he get his Amex card out. The moment passed – but I did read that the following night Simon actually arranged for the audience to have a drink on him at the cost of about £1000. Anyway, he finally got to the encore and we all waited with baited breath, trying to figure out what the final song might be. Cecilia, Mother and Child Reunion, I Am a Rock? No. You guessed it. It was Late in the Evening . Again. And he still owes me a drink.

John Williams – The Barbican, London 1982
I love film music. My favourite composers are Ennio Morricone – more on him later – Elmer Bernstein, and John Williams. I’ve been lucky to see all of them in concert at one time or another – as well as John Barry, Lalo Schifrin and Jerry Goldsmith. This concert was apparently the very first open air show to be performed at the Barbican and I was looking forward to hearing Star Wars, Jaws, Indiana Jones and many others played by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by the man who actually wrote the music.

I’d also taken along the sleeve to the Close Encounters of the Third Kind album – a particular favourite of mine – in the hope that I might be able to get John Williams to autograph it for me. The first half of the concert consisted of music by other composers, including Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, and excerpts from Holst’s The Planets. Spielberg’s E.T. had yet to be released in the UK so this was the British premier of the music, William’s conducting the main theme to great applause at the beginning of the second half.

It was a fantastically sunny August evening as well, and when the orchestra launched into the theme from Superman we all automatically looked to the sky in case the caped wonder might make a surprise appearance. One of the highlights of the concert was when he conducted excerpts from Close Encounters, including one piece featuring the London Symphony Chorus, the members of the chorus concealed from the audience as their voices seeped eerily through the gaps in the shutters located on the balconies of the surrounding buildings.

Towards the end of the concert and after what most people thought might be the last piece of music a lot of the audience stood up and rushed to the front of the stage, clutching their programs and album covers for the great man’s signature. John Williams pointed with his baton to a small doorway from which he indicated he would emerge to meet and greet his adoring fans. Being the cool kind of guy I imagined myself to be at the time I decided to bide my time and wait for the crowd to disperse before approaching him with my CE3K album cover. To everyone’s surprise and delight the orchestra played another encore, the Raiders of the Lost Ark theme.

Once it had finished, Williams took a final bow then left the stage to appear a moment later through the doorway he had indicated earlier. The fans rushed forward – and Mr John Williams turned and ran away. Maybe he couldn’t face signing another autograph, maybe he needed the toilet or was late for another engagement. Who knows? I couldn’t help thinking of that last scene from Close Encounters when the child-like aliens surrounded Richard Dreyfuss as he climbed up the ramp into the Mother Ship. In this case the aliens were chasing their hero into the dark recesses of the Barbican, something I felt I couldn’t do, no matter how much I wanted someone’s autograph. Maybe next time.

Bob Dylan with Tom Pettysource:
Bob Dylan / Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Wembley Arena, London 1987

This turned out to be a memorable night for a couple of reasons. It was going to be the first time I had seen either Dylan or Petty and, as I found out the following morning when I cleaned up the tiles that crashed from the roof onto my car, it was also the night of the great storm of 1987. Prior to all of this mayhem I was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of Roger McGuinn at the beginning of the concert.

McGuinn had obviously fronted The Byrds, the group that helped introduce Dylan to a wider audience with their versions of Mr. Tambourine Man, All I Really Want to Do and My Back Pages, to name but a few. For this concert he was actually backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which I guess was only appropriate seeing as they had ‘borrowed’ the sound of The Byrd’s for their classic single American Girl. Highlights from this first set included Eight Miles High and Mr. Tambourine Man, after which Roger McGuinn left the stage and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers took over.

They played a smattering of Heartbreaker songs but for me the highlight was most definitely So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star which, for some strange reason, they didn’t perform with McGuinn, who’d actually written the song with Chris Hillman for The Byrds back in the 60s. I’m afraid to say the inevitable, but when Dylan walked on stage – with the Heartbreakers as his backing band as well – it kind of all went downhill from there. I’ve checked the setlist from that night but I would have been hard-pressed at the time to have recognised any of the songs he performed.

Dylan was by now firmly entering his ‘guess which one I’m singing now’ phase – I caught him again some years later at the Hop Farm Festival in Kent and I could swear he launched into a rendition of the Doris Day classic Secret Love halfway through what might have been Like A Rolling Stone – and even a friend of mine who also came along that night and was a big Dylan fan had trouble recognising some, if not most, of the songs that Dylan performed. I seem to remember there was a vague rumour going round that evening that George Harrison might make a surprise appearance. That would have pepped things up a bit but alas it wasn’t to be.

There is a postscript to all of this. I managed to get to work the following day through the mayhem created by the overnight storm and, as I was leaving for home that evening who should I see in the back of a long black limousine parked in front of a hotel near where I worked in London but Bob Dylan and Tom Petty – I guess Roger and the Heartbreakers were relegated to taking the bus to that night’s performance. As the limo pulled away I could see Mr Petty conversing in a quite animated fashion with his Bobness.

I can only guess – or hope – that he was suggesting Dylan might try enunciating the lyrics a bit more clearly that evening instead of gargling and barking his songs to a worshipful but frequently confused crowd. If you’ve gotta serve somebody, Bob, try your audience.

Brian Wilson Royal Festival HallBrian Wilson – Festival Hall, London 2002
You may notice there’s quite a gap in time between this concert and the last. I saw a lot of acts in between from Billy Joel, Hall and Oates, Joe Jackson, KD Lang, Bruce a lot of times, Beach Boys ditto, Prince, Eagles again, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker to name but a few but were they memorable concerts? Did I come away thinking that’s the best thing I’ve ever seen? I guess not because it wasn’t until the arrival of the Messiah, in the guise of Brian Wilson, at the Festival Hall in 2002 that I finally attended a concert that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Wilson had been touring with his backing band The Wondermints, along with Jeff Foskett on falsetto for a couple of years. I’d been invited over to Japan during the period when we were trying to get our Beach Boys musical off the ground to watch him in concert at the Budokan but unfortunately I couldn’t go due to work commitments. I’ve just reviewed that sentence and I can’t believe that a) I was actually invited in the first place and b) that I didn’t go.

This was therefore my first opportunity to see Brian Wilson live on stage in the UK since the Knebworth and Wembley Arena concerts back in 1980, and it was definitely worth the wait. I think he played for quite a few nights and I probably caught him a few days into the residency. He obviously sang a lot of Beach Boys numbers and the main attraction was of course the performance of Pet Sounds in its entirety. The album kicks off with Wouldn’t It Be Nice. I can’t think of a more joyful Beach Boys song than that song, even if the lyrics are a sad counterpoint to the more upbeat melody. One of my favourite Pet Sounds tracks is Here Today and, as you Beach Boys / Brian Wilson / Pet Sounds geeks know, if you listen real close on the original recording you’ll hear a couple of members of the group discussing the recent purchase of a camera during the instrumental break – honest.

Anyway, just as it got to that point in the live rendition at the Festival Hall someone in the audience loudly supplied the words to that conversation in situ with the music. Now that’s what I call commitment to the cause. I’d have to say that this concert was the closest I’ve ever witnessed to a live religious experience. The place was packed to the rafters with an adoring and worshipful audience, the more voluble acolytes declaiming their love for Brian and his music at every possible opportunity. Out of all of his solo material I’d have to say that Love and Mercy, which he performed as a final encore, is probably one of the best songs Brian Wilson wrote as a solo artist. Melt Way comes a close second. A truly memorable evening. And his Smile concert a few years later was just as good.

Neil YoungNeil Young – Hop Farm, Kent, UK 2008
I’d seen Neil Young playing solo once before in the 80s when he toured his Trans album. It was notable for copious use of a vocoder which Young used to distort his voice to the point of incomprehensiveness. The idea apparently was to attempt to duplicate the difficulties he had encountered when attempting to communicate with his two sons who suffer from cerebral palsy.

All very noble I guess but when you go to see Neil Young what you really want is for Neil to strap on Old Black and thrash away in as loud a manner as possible a la Weld with a smattering of Heart of Gold / Only Love Can Break Your Heart ballads to relieve the ear drums for a spell – and preferably backed by Crazy Horse. Who unfortunately didn’t back him at the first Hop Farm festival, but to me they were there in spirit.

Besides, it was just good to be able to finally see the miserable one in the flesh again. Accompanied by his then wife, Pegi, on backing vocals, the set was a bit light on the thrashing – and Words went on a bit too long for my liking – it was good to hear tracks from Harvest such as Heart of Gold, Old Man and Needle and the Damage Done played live to an appreciative crowd. The encore was a highly spirited version of A Day in the Life, which caught the crowd by surprise, but in a pleasant way.

In fact, he was so good I decided to see him again a few years later at Hyde Park. When he started playing the Beatles song as an encore again we turned to leave as we knew it was obviously the last tune of the evening. Suddenly the crowd erupted in loud cheers so we looked back at the stage to see what the fuss was all about and there was Paul McCartney on stage with Neil performing the middle section of the Beatles classic. Now that’s something you don’t see every day.

Ennio Morricone 2016
Ennio Morricone – O2, London 2016

What can I say about this concert? How can I convey in mere words the emotionally uplifting experience that comes with spending over two hours in the company of one of the most seriously gifted composers of all time? I can’t – but here goes anyway. I saw the maestro in concert a few years before at the Barbican. I remember that most of the first half featured a lot of experimental and avante garde pieces, the more popular film themes left over for the second part of the concert.

For the encore at the Barbican he played The Ecstasy of Gold from the soundtrack to The Good the Bad and the Ugly, almost as if it were purely for me. The opportunity to see him once more was too good to pass up and I have to say without reservation that Ennio Morricone at the O2 this February was probably one of the best concerts I have ever been to. The guy is 87 years old and he now sits most of the time when conducting but the energy that his music imparts belies the occasional frailty of the man himself.

Accompanied by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and a huge choir from Hungary the concert was split into separate specific sections. The first section paid homage to Italian director Guiseppe Tornatore, with selections from his films The Best offer and The Legend of 1900 – although strangely not Cinema Paradiso. Another section featured his number two UK chart hit Chi Mai, which was used in the BBC tv series The Life and Times of David Lloyd George.

Then it stepped up a notch with a whole bunch of Western themes from the films of Sergio Leone. When the orchestra launched into The Ecstasy of Gold, with soprano Susanna Rigacci supplying the high notes, it was so breathtakingly beautiful I literally forgot to breathe myself, it was that good. Ennio was right to stop the first half of the concert at that point as I don’t think even he was ever going to be able to top the performance of that particular piece of music. They all gave it a good try in the second half though, with Deborah’s Theme from Once Upon A Time in America and the section featuring music from The Mission demonstrated.

The encore featured – yes, again – The Ecstasy of Gold and by the end I really thought I had died and gone to heaven. Ennio is playing at Blenheim Palace on June 23rd this year. Beg, steal, borrow, counterfeit a ticket – actually, no, don’t do that last one – but do anything you can to go and see a real live bona fide genius in action, before he inevitably ascends to that great concert hall in the sky. Trust me. You won’t regret it.
Carol King – Hyde Park July 3rd 2016
Carol King Hyde Park 2016Admittedly it’s kind of strange writing about a concert I’ve not actually been to yet, but I’m guessing that seeing and hearing Carole King play the whole of the Tapestry album is – almost – on a par with witnessing Brian Wilson perform Pet Sounds live in concert. This is therefore pre-empting what I’m hoping is going to be a classic show by someone I’ve never had the opportunity to see up until now.

I used to buy Rolling Stone magazine back in the late 60s / early 70s because I vainly thought it was the hip and right on thing to do. That meant I’d heard about Cheech and Chong before their first album ever came out, and I knew who Tom Wolfe was way before he wrote Bonfire of the Vanities. It was only later in life that I realised no one in Margate gave a crap about what I did or didn’t know but what I did know is that I knew who Carole King was before she released Tapestry.

Back in the day you had to order a record from your local gramophone outlet if you wanted an album by someone who wasn’t that well-known. I therefore duly placed my order for Tapestry after reading a glowing review in Rolling Stone and waited in eager anticipation for its arrival. In the meantime I had struck up a more than friendly relationship with a young girl visiting Margate on holiday. I must have gushed a bit too much about Carole King because the next thing I knew she turned up with a copy of Tapestry for me. It turned out the guy who ran the record shop had sold her the one I’d ordered, but I ended up with it anyway. I think they call that fate. Roll on July 3rd. And Don Henley had better be good as well.

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“The Beach Boys” – My Mind Blowing Meeting With Brian Wilson

This article was written in 2002 after I was requested to document a trip I took to Los Angeles in September, 1999, to meet with the legendary leader of the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson. What follows is all true – honest.
Steve Mayhew – February 2016.

hollywoodbl-2If somebody had said to me one day I’d find myself driving a convertible down Hollywood Boulevard beneath a clear blue Californian sky, palm trees waving lazily in the cool Pacific breeze and Brian Wilson singing ‘Imagination’ on the car stereo whilst on my way to meet the legend himself in his Beverly Hills home I’d say… yeah, why not? I mean it was almost 11 years to the day – back in 1988 – that my wife had tentatively suggested I consider taking her out to celebrate our wedding anniversary rather than attend the annual Beach Boys Stomp convention in Harrow. When I got to work on the following Monday I found out a certain Brian Wilson had dropped in to promote his solo album as a surprise guest – and I had missed it. I figured, therefore, that it was only right I finally got the opportunity to meet the great man himself and even more satisfying to know I’d get to meet him on his own home turf.

But first let’s rewind a little and set the scene.

brianwilsonBack in 1996 I suggested to a writing friend of mine that we write a musical play about Brian Wilson. After numerous rewrites and false starts with various producers and directors the property was optioned by a West End producer who, for legal reasons, cannot be named in this article. He spent two years of our life and over £40,000 of someone else’s money only to reveal he hadn’t managed to get the rights to the music of The Beach Boys from the publishing company as required. We were forced to abandon the original version of the play and rewrite it to make it more of a story on the group rather than centred entirely on Brian Wilson. After extensive rewriting and with the blessing of a group of new investors I found myself flying over to Los Angeles in September 1999 to discuss the details of the play with the great man himself.

I was accompanied by the manager of Status Quo, David Walker (now sadly deceased) and Neil Warnock, European agent for Brian Wilson (now a solo artist) and The Beach Boys. It was agreed we would take Brian through the play page by page and make notes of any changes he might suggest, the object of the exercise to ensure there was nothing contentious that might encourage matters of a litigious nature further on down the line.

I met my fellow travellers at the Four Season’s hotel from where we were transported up into the Hollywood Hills in a very large black automobile. After half an hour we arrived at the gates to a large housing estate surrounded by brick walls and a high tech security system with a breath-taking view overlooking Los Angeles below.

The car meandered down the hill and dropped us off outside an unassuming house in a cul de sac with children’s toys in the driveway. Brian Wilson’s wife, Melinda, warmly welcomed us into the house, my attention being immediately drawn to a large piano in the music den to the left (no sandbox though).
brianwilson-2The piano was covered in photographs of assorted Wilson family members and a lifetime achievement award from the American Music Society. Then without any warning there stood Brian Wilson in the flesh. I’d obviously never met him before but I knew it had to be him as it said ‘Brian Wilson’ on his t-shirt. And then suddenly it hit me with a force so intense my carefully prepared air of nonchalance disappeared in tatters. I’M IN BRIAN WILSON’S HOUSE FOR CHRIST’S SAKE AND NO ONE’S CALLED THE POLICE YET TO HAVE ME REMOVED! What the hell am I doing here?! I mean this is the man, the one and only, the guy who wrote (cliche number one coming up) the soundtrack to my life, genius composer of ‘Pet Sounds’ and ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘California Girls’ and ‘Heroes And Villains’ and ‘Girl Don’t Tell Me’ (one of my particular favourites) and ‘Warmth Of The Sun’ and ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ and he’s holding his hand out to shake mine. Reality eventually settled in – this was after all a business meeting, not a hero worship session.

For a moment we all looked at each other trying to figure out who was going to do what when Melinda casually suggested that she drive everyone to the nearest deli and bring back some lunch so that STEVE AND BRIAN CAN SIT TOGETHER IN THE MUSIC DEN AND GO THROUGH THE PLAY IN PRIVACY WITHOUT ANY INTERRUPTIONS and I’m thinking this is starting to become very unreal again when David Walker volunteers to sit with us as well. This turns out to be a good thing otherwise I’m sure there was going to be a danger of me turning from wannabe writer into a quivering obsessive Beach Boys fan asking Brian what his favourite colour was.

Brian sat down in a large leather chair next to his piano while David and I perched on a couple of stools either side and then proceeded to go through the script. MrBrianWilsonNow as we all know the impression one has of Brian Wilson from numerous interviews and articles over the years is of a man confused and bewildered when it comes to dealing with the real world, a shell of his former self living on the edge of reality. As far as I’m concerned the man I met bore absolutely no resemblance to that image at all. He was concentrated, articulate, comfortable in our presence, interested in what we had to say about the play and genuinely happy to discuss his past. The first thing that hit me was his power of recall. One instance of this was when he put me right about a scene early on in the play when the young Beach Boys record ‘Surfin’, reminding me that it was he and not his younger brother, Dennis, who played drums on that first session.

Occasionally he would say things that surprised me especially when it came to the subject of his father, Murry, suggesting we beef up some of the language so that it was more like the real thing. Overall Brian’s contribution was positive and very encouraging. In fact throughout the hour or so we spent going over the play there was only one time when I felt something Brian said might not work but apart from that it was all very encouraging.

Inevitably when it comes to Brian Wilson some of the famous eccentricity of his character will eventually come to the surface. So it was that, after handing over a CD of some of the demos a very talented musician by the name of Sean MacReavy had recorded for us, David Walker and I found ourselves sitting on the edge of Brian’s unmade bed listening to the music while Brian rocked back and forth congratulating us on the quality of the music versus the original tracks. Then suddenly it was time to say goodbye and with a shake of hands, a request for a few autographs – I stupidly didn’t take any photographs – and wishes for all the best, Brian was out of the door to get his lunch. Before he left I gave him a copy of a Glen Miller CD I’d picked up with a recording of ‘Rhapsody In Blue’, a song I had read somewhere he used to play all the time as a child on his father’s record player.

Finding myself alone for a few moments I walked nervously over to Brian’s piano and quietly played the opening chords to ‘California Girls’, all the while waiting for a large disembodied voice from the heavens to tell me to stop taking liberties.

Both Brian and Melinda Wilson were very gracious in their opinion of the play and we went away full of hope that the project would now finally move ahead. Unfortunately, despite being given a verbal thumbs-up from all concerned it turned out that the publishing company Rondor had already assigned the music rights to another producer in New York. Apparently there is a move to put on a play that is not actually about The Beach Boys but that will use the music in much the same way as ‘Mamma Mia’ uses the music of Abba.

Two years on from the meeting with Brian Wilson I caught him and his band on stage at the Royal Festival Hall performing numerous Beach Boys hits and ‘Pet Sounds’ in its entirety. It took the concert to finally dispel the disappointment over the play not happening. As one music writer once said, the most important thing is the music. Everything else just fades into insignificance.

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Music

10 Vinyl Albums You Should Never Take To The Charity Shop

Nerd student angry, biting a vinyl record
My son recently decided he wanted to ‘go vinyl’ for his birthday so I checked out the local charity shops to see what poor misguided soul might have given away from their record collection either out of ignorance or because the Grim Reaper had put paid to their disc spinning days. To my surprise I found copies of Tapestry by Carol King, Graceland by Paul Simon and Led Zeppelin 4 – I left Brothers in Arms for some other hapless fool – all for the princely sum of a £1 each ($1.40).

Admittedly they weren’t exactly in the best of condition – I’d never heard of the Carol King song ‘You’ve Got A You’ve Got A You’ve Got A’ (repeat ad nauseum) – but even so, you’d probably end up paying anywhere between at least £5 – £10 each for those kind of titles from a record specialist store so it was a win win situation for me – my son got his vinyl and it hadn’t broken the bank. It got me thinking though. What records of mine would I definitely not want to see being offloaded in any of the numerous charity shops that now haunt the dilapidated high streets of many town centres?

So, in chronological release order, here is a list of the 10 albums in my collection that will have to be prised from my cold dead hands before I see them given away.

elvispresley-2Elvis Presley – Rock and Roll
His first album, released back in 1956 in the UK on the HMV label, the album comprises Sun recordings such as Blue Suede Shoes, That’s All Right, Mystery Train and Shake, Rattle and Roll. The sleeve notes by a certain Bob Dawbarn are eccentric to say the least. Described variously as a ‘jazz phenomenon’ – ?????? – ‘a second Marlon Brando’ with influences from Johnny Ray to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, it’s obvious he was difficult to pigeon-hole in those early days of rock and roll.

A great album which I bought from a young lady back in the 70s for a couple of quid ($2.80). A bargain at half the price. Original release copy listed on Ebay for about £100 – depending upon condition.

Ronettes-2The Ronettes – Presenting the Fabulous…
Another bargain I got from a disk jockey at a local disco in Margate – again back in the 1970s – for a fiver. What a great track listing – Be My Baby, Baby I Love You, Walking in the Rain, The Best Part of Breaking Up – all bona-fide Phil Spector wall of sound classics.

And let’s not forget the vision that was Veronica Bennett – or Roni Spector as she is best known. Keith Richards had an affair with the lovely Roni while she was still with Phil ‘Now Where Did I Leave That Gun?’ Spector. Judging by the size of that hairdo of hers I reckon she was keeping Keef’s stash safe for him. Original release copy listed on Ebay for between £10 – £15. The fools. They don’t know what they’ve got.

The_Who-2The Who – My Generation
To be honest this isn’t one of my albums – it’s from my wife’s collection but somehow or other it’s ended up on my side of the room. She can have my Barry Manilow Greatest Hits in exchange.

The debut album from one of the most exciting UK groups to challenge the supremacy of The Beatles back in the 60s – you’ve got the title track as well as The Kids’ Are Alright, A Legal Matter and La-La-La-Lies.

I managed to catch them in their glory at Charlton Football club in 1976 just before Keith Moon joined the 32 club – it’s like the 27 club but you get extra years for really bad behavior – and I think my hearing is now almost back to normal. Original release copies available on Ebay for between £300 – £500. I just hope my wife never gets to read this.

Smokey-Robinson-Going-To-A-Go-GoSmokey Robinson and the Miracles – Going to a Go-Go
If memory serves me correctly I bought this from a friend who was culling his record collection just before The Miracles had a hit in the charts with Tracks of My Tears – which happens to be one of the songs on this album along with Ooo Baby Baby and the title track.

It’s one of the very albums I can honestly say where every track – apart Going to a Go-Go – is very good. I seem to remember Elvis Costello covering one of the songs – From Head to Toes – from this album. On Ebay for about £25. Get it while stocks last. Classic Motown at its very best.

pet-sounds-4The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
So much has been written about this seminal 60s album that I won’t go over old ground – voted best album ever by Mojo, influencing The Beatles and their own seminal album Sgt. Peppers etc etc.

The music still stands up after all these years – God Only Knows, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Caroline No, Here Today, Sloop John B and others, timeless classics all. However, it is very difficult to get hold of an original copy from 1966 as it actually didn’t sell that many copies back in the day. A truly original release in good condition is therefore worth a few bob.

My copy is also worth a bit. Although it’s a re-release from the 90s I managed to get both Brian Wilson and Tony Asher – the lyricist for eight of the songs on the album – to sign it for me. There’s a signed Brian Wilson copy up on Ebay priced at over £300. Definitely not one for the charity shop, at any price.

Sgt_Pepper-2Sgt.Pepper / The White Album
I couldn’t decide what Beatles album to choose for this article. Musically you could argue that there’s a brilliant single LP struggling to extricate itself from the double White Album – try sequencing Back in the USSR, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Dear Prudence, Birthday, Revolution 1, I Will, Helter Skelter, I’m So Tired, Blackbird, Happiness is a Warm Gun and Don’t Pass Me By if you don’t believe me – so I plumped for Sgt. Pepper first on the basis of it being the better of the two but the strange thing is there doesn’t seem to be much call even for original copies released in 1967.

There’s a first press version available on Ebay for £90 but standard original copies seem to go for around £50 to £60 at the most. The White Album however appears to be the more desirable of the two. This may have something to do with the fact that each original copy was numbered on the front so I guess the earlier the number the more it’s worth. The White Album – original copies – retail for anywhere between 150 to four hundred on Ebay.

Sticky_Fingers-2The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
I think this was the very first Stones album I ever bought. The whole Andy Warhol cover art concept intrigued me I guess. It also intrigued the landlady of the flat I was staying in at Catford during my college days. She screamed the hallway down when I showed her the album then pulled the zipper down on the front cover.

I’m assuming she was thinking Jagger’s todger was part of the deal but alas for her Mick had obviously decided to keep it hidden that day. The 70s, for me anyway, saw the Stones at their best with Brown Sugar kicking off an album featuring other classics such as Dead Flowers, Wild Horses and Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.

And after all that we then got Exile On Main Street. If you’ve got an original copy in good condition you should be able to get around £50 to a £100 for it on Ebay.

Led_Zep_4-2Led Zeppelin 4
I always seemed to be missing the bus back in the 70s when it came to buying popular albums. Everyone bought Deep Purple in Rock – I got Fireball. Dark Side of the Moon resided in practically every hippy household back then – I bought Wish You Were Here.

Finally though, with Led Zeppelin I think I got it right. Admittedly everyone got Led Zep 2 and I bought 3 – I liked the pretty colours and the rotating disk on the front – but I then swapped the Best of the Beach Boys Volume 1 for Led Zeppelin 4 and my musical taste realigned itself. The guy even threw in a 45 of Whole Lotta Love – more on singles in a later article. T

his record is worth the price of admission just for Rock and Roll alone – but what a bonus with Stairway To Heaven and Black Dog on it as well. If you check on Ebay there seems to be a premium payable for original copies of the album that have a plum colored label so we’re talking £100 to £200 if it’s in good nick.

timefadesawayNeil Young – Time Fades Away
This is going to hurt but I have to say I once had this album and I stupidly let a friend from work borrow it. Months later he dutifully returned the cover and the lyric sheet but the important bit – the black vinyl thing that came with it – was missing, probably ending up as an ashtray for the numerous joints liberally shared with his compatriots.

The thing is that this is the only Neil Young album that Neil Young himself didn’t want re-released on CD because it was so awful – a collection of songs recorded live during a number of coke and marijuana fuelled tours he embarked upon between 1971 to 1973. It therefore has a certain rarity value – I won’t list any of the songs because I can’t remember one that I vaguely liked – but if you check it out you’ll see original copies of the album listed for anywhere between £50 to £200 on Ebay. So, Steve Field, if you’re still out there, I want my album back.

Derek_and_Clive-2Peter Cook and Dudley Moore – Derek and Clive
This album doesn’t fetch much on Ebay, £18 at the most if you’re lucky. The reason I’m including it is because it brings out a sentimental streak in me for the old days when you used to lend your records out to friends – Steve Field excepted – then meet up and sing along to such classics as The Worst Job I Ever Had, In the Lav, Winkie Wanky Woo and that evergreen perennial, Jump.

I haven’t heard this album for many a year but I’m pretty sure I could still quote most of it verbatim. I remember reading an interview with Cook and Moore in Time Out when the album was first released. Peter Cook defended the use of all the bad language scattered across every track, saying that by constantly repeating such filth it would eventually desensitize the listener and at the same time push back the boundaries of comedy. Dudley Moore said he didn’t know about any of that bollocks – he just hoped his mum didn’t get to hear it.

Finally, just as a word of caution, if you ever decide to bequeath any of your record collection to your offspring, check on Ebay first that you’re not giving too much away. My son loves the Back to the Future movies so I gave him my vinyl soundtrack to the first film. My daughter scanned the barcode on the back of the sleeve and it turns out it’s on Ebay for 150 pounds. I really should start reading my own articles from now on.

Do you have any expensive vinyl albums lying around or maybe ones that you would just never give away or sell for any price? Let us know or comment below.

Categories
Music

8 Albums You’ll Wish You Had Bought – Or Perhaps You Did

screaming naked redhead with vinyl records over white
There is no doubt hundreds of albums that could be described as classics. This list is a guide to albums that have originally been released on vinyl during the period of the 70’s to the 90’s. The range of music is diverse from rock to ska, but they all share a similarity in that none of them have a ‘manufactured’ sound, they all contain ‘real’ lyrics and ‘real’ instruments!

They would be a respectable part of a record collection and if you already own them, they definitely deserve a dusting and should bring back some nostalgic memories:

lawoman-21 L A Woman – The Doors

Lead singer of The Doors, Jim Morrison tragically passed away just three months after the release of the iconic ‘L A Woman’ album.

As well as the title track, it contains hits including ‘Love Her Madly’ and ‘Riders on the Storm’. Despite Jim not being at his vocal peak, the album has a very raw quality and the style is a combination of blues and The Doors’ inimitable mystical rock sound. If you like raw music with proper musical instruments, ‘L A Woman’ deserves a place in your collection!

killer-22 Killer – Alice Cooper

Although he is largely recognised for the hits ‘School’s Out’ and ‘Poison’, shock-rocker Alice Cooper has released an impressive 26 albums – and that’s just the studio ones!

It is hard to pick out one from so many, but a recommendation is ‘Killer’. It is said to have inspired musicians such as John Lydon of Sex Pistols fame, and shows there is more depth to Alice that his amazing live showmanship.

Although the album (released back in ‘71 by The Alice Cooper Band) only contains 8 tracks, each one deserves a listen; particularly ‘Halo of Flies’ which is more progressive rock in style, and ‘Desperado’, which is rumoured to have been written as a tribute to Alice’s former drinking partner, fellow rocker Jim Morrison.

madness-23 Divine Madness – Madness

Okay, so it is technically a compilation album, but nothing brings back memories of the early 80’s than a bit of ska by nutty boys Madness. ‘Divine Madness’ is aptly titled and features songs more memorable than Suggs’ pink suit and the ‘flying’ saxophonist in the ‘Baggy Trousers’ video! (Lee Thompson).

An impressive 22 tracks are on this album including ‘Baggy Trousers’, ‘My Girl’, ‘House of Fun’, ‘Wings of a Dove’ and ‘Night Boat to Cairo’.

duran-24 Seven and the Ragged Tiger – Duran Duran

Duran Duran have released 14 albums and are still going strong today. The title of the ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’ album is actually a reference to ambition. The seven refers to the five members of the band and their two managers; the ragged tiger is a metaphor for chasing success – so now you know! ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’ is the band’s second album and contains hits ‘The Reflex’, ‘The Union of the Snake’ and the much underrated and underplayed ‘New Moon on Monday’.

nirvana-15 Nevermind – Nirvana

Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ is undoubtedly an iconic, groundbreaking album which truly paved the way for the grunge scene. It has sold over 24 million copies globally and is very deep both musically and lyrically.

It contains many hits including ‘Come as you Are’. ‘Lithium’ and the unforgettable ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.

spiders-26 Spiders – Space

There are many groups that have contributed to defining the 90’s, Oasis and Blur for example, but one band that tend to be overshadowed and deserve more recognition are Space.

Their first album ‘Spiders’ contains many hits such as ‘Neighbourhood’ and ‘Female of the Species’ (which has since been used in soundtracks including ‘Cold Feet’ and ‘Austin Powers – International Man of Mystery’.)

The album is unique musically, witty lyrically and even contains vocal samples of Jack Nicholson and an Ed Sullivan impersonator to add to the mood of the songs! Well worth an investment!

pulp-27 Different Class – Pulp

Similarly to Space, Pulp also had a knack of combining clever, witty lyrics on slightly taboo subjects with their own style of music. A lot of the songs on ‘Different Class’ tell stories and the hits include ‘Common People’ and ‘Disco 2000’.

The album is based around the theme of the British social class system, is saucy in places and contains the controversial ‘Sorted for E’s and Wizz’ – which is infact a very clever anti-drug song!

alanis-48 Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette

Alternative rocker Alanis Morissette has sold 33 million copies of the Jagged Little Pill album, which can’t be bad! The album has also received an impressive 5 Grammy awards.

It is clear from some of the songs including ‘You Oughta Know’ that Alanis intelligently draws on some of her own personal experiences in the songs, sometimes showing raw passion and sometimes her softer side (in ‘Head over Feet’ for example). The album also contains the hits ‘Ironic’ and ‘Hand in my Pocket’. Author: Karen Hill

Categories
Music

5 ‘Great’ Old Hits With Insane Lyrics

life style, happiness, emotional and people concept: beauty hipster girls with a microphone singing and having fun

If you were to judge a song purely on lyrical content it may be fair to say a lot of great hits would never have made it; or perhaps there are some people that do just love simple words.

The accompanying catchy melodies and instruments have gone a long way to making certain songs a success, despite their crazy lyrics. Here are 5 songs that stick out for having insane lyrical content yet did very well in the charts:

ManfredMann-21 Do Wah Diddy Diddy – Manfred Mann

The sixties is undoubtedly the main era of the insane lyric, with many culprits such as the Beatles’ ‘Ob La Di ‘and the Small Faces’ ‘Sha La La La Lee ‘for instance; but one that really sticks out for insane lyrics has to be ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’, made famous by Manfred Mann and reaching the top spot for two weeks in the UK and the US in 1964.

The opening verse contains the lyrics, “There she was just walkin’ down the street singin’, “Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy do” – rather than burying your head and pretending you hadn’t seen someone doing that, the song seems to advocate that you meet and marry them. It remains an integral part of the compilation of clips of sixties gems that seems to be on most DJ’s wedding and holiday club playlist to this day!

Police-12 De Do Do Do.. – The Police

Originally released in 1980, ‘De Do Do Do’ reached number 5 in the UK charts. As Sting had more than proved himself lyrically, people were wondering what he must be thinking at this point. Imagine the conversation between him and the ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ girl for instance! It turns out though, that Sting was being kind of ironic when he wrote the lyrics, as it is actually meant as a comment on how people love simple sounding songs!

duran-23 The Reflex – Duran Duran

Chart-topper ‘The Reflex’ (1984) led to many people analysing its unusual lyrics. There are threads on forums that still analyse it today with many theories including the “finding treasure in the dark” line being a reference to Nick Rhodes ‘finding treasure’ in a song.

It may be slightly frustrating to learn that Duran Duran have admitted that the lyrics to ‘The Reflex’ don’t actually make any sense! They came up with the tune first, didn’t have any lyrics, so penned the first lines they thought of because they rhymed!

NikKershaw-24 The Riddle – Nik Kershaw

‘The Riddle’ by Nik Kershaw reached number three in the UK. It is similar to ‘The Reflex’ in the aspect that it has no meaning either, despite the video’s ‘Alice in Wonderland/The Riddler’ from ‘Batman’ references.

Nik Kershaw basically came up with the melody first but needed to think of some lyrics quickly. He thought of some temporary ones which happened to fit better than any lyrics he could think of afterwards.

Words such as, “Near a tree by a river there’s a hole in the ground where an old man of Aran walks around and around” certainly got people theorising at the time though, with Nik receiving sack loads of mail analysing the song in response to a competition that he was unaware of!

Hanson-15 – Mmm Bop – Hanson

Who can forget this incredibly catchy tune from 1997? (Although you may not admit to it!) It not only reached the number one spot in the UK for three weeks, it also got to number one in another 27 countries. It remains the band’s most successful single to date. In case you need a refresher of the insane chorus, it is “mmm bop, ba ba du dop, ba du bop, ba duba dop”…etc! Nah rubbish!
Author: Karen Hill