In my youth I liked to think I had my finger on the pulse of popular (and not so popular) music, dipping my toe into the murky musical waters of many genres. Times have changed and being of a certain mature age, with the inevitable domestic responsibilities that can come along with that, I pick and choose what I listen to, usually returning to old and trusted favourites rather than actively seeking out the new. It’s usually more by accident than design I come across something new that excites me. (I’ve always said that the day I don’t get excited by a greta new bot if music you might as well stick me in the ground). Maybe tuning in to 6Music’s Steve Lamacq while doing the dishes – there’s a DAB in the kitchen – or perhaps Marc Riley while I’m listening out for a session by some other artist I like. That’s just the way it has to be. I’ve earned the right. I’ve more than served my musical apprenticeship.
There were three albums I enjoyed more than any other in 2015. Two came out early on in the year and dominated the Windows Media Player (I know, I know) and one I actively sought out after it seemed to appear on every end of year Best Of list.
I’ve been a big fan of the music of Joe McAlinden since his Superstar days. It was real music – emotional, heartfelt and beautiful. After an overlong sabbatical he returned as Linden. 2012’s Bleached Highlights was a big favourite that year and follow-up Rest and Be Thankful continued in the same vein. The music inside the sleeve was as colourful and beautiful as the Jim Lambie sleeves on the outside.
The delicate stylings of Rozi Plain‘s Lost Map album Friends just grew and grew on me. It became my go-to record in moments of quiet contemplation. I’d seen her live in a couple of support slots but my irritation towards a chatty crowd (a modern gig problem I’ve waxed lyrical on previously) meant I couldn’t give her performance the focus it deserved. I look forward to seeing her sometime in 2016 and redressing the balance.
I can’t play a note or sing but growing up in the 80s I used to dream that I was a member of REM or New Order. They weren’t my absolute favourite bands – see The Smiths and Aztec Camera for that joint accolade – but I deemed them to be the coolest groups because they could shift units without selling out. They garnered great support and respect. Sadly my follicly-challenging genes meant I’d never have the much sought-after Barney haircut. Music Complete made ubiquitous appearances in the end of year reviews of the best albums of 2015 in a various publications and on a multitude of blogs and websites and I got to feeling that I’d missed out on something. Based on how consistent they were in their heyday I figured there was no harm in giving it an earful. I was helped by already knowing album opener Reckless, which I’d previewed on Mojo magazine’s 2015 covermount CD. It was as perfect an introduction as I could’ve hoped and the quality never let up throughout the album. I was glad I’d taken the plunge on an electro pop guitar record as good as any you’ll hear. Music Complete was different in style and genre from Linden and Rozi Plain’s offerings but all were played repeatedly (sometimes two or three times in a row) and I have no doubt they will continue on my playlist for some time to come.
Honourable mentions to both Daniel Wylie for his powerpoptastic Chrome Cassettes and the Boots for Dancing compilation The Undisco Kidds which also stood up to repeated listening.
MUSIC ENJOYED – COMPILATIONS/RE-ISSUES
Until last year I’d presented my 60s-dominated radio show Where The Action Is on various community and hospital radio stations. Unfortunately, a mix of management disagreements and a change in domestic priortities meant I knocked it on the head. I may go back to it one day but it won’t be anytime soon. Too many bigger fish to fry.
The move away from broadcasting hasn’t however diminished my love of the music from what I consider to be the greatest decade in music and this is reflected in the compilations and box sets I enjoyed in 2015. Labels like Ace and Cherry Red (Now Sounds and RPM are imprints) should take a bow for continually releasing great records, with quality packages.
She Did It: The Songs of Jackie DeShannon Volume 2 (Ace)
Girls on 45 (Volume 3) (Teensville)
Femmes de Paris Volume 3 (Anthology)
Elvis Presley – The Movie Soundtracks (20 Original Albums) (RCA)
Lesley Gore – Girl Talk (Ace)
Lesley Gore – Magic Colors (Ace)
The Great British Beat! – The Direct Tapes Story (Direct)
The Truth – Who’s Wrong: Mod Bedlam 1965-1969 (RPM)
Paul Revere & The Raiders featuring Mark Lindsay – Revolution (Now Sounds)
The Flowerpot Men – Peace Album/Past Imperfect (Repertoire)
The Shanes – Let Them Show You: The Anthology 1964-1967 (RPM)
The Goldebriars – Walkin’ Down The Line: The Best of the Goldebriars (Now Sounds)
The Sugar Shoppe – The Sugar Shoppe (Now Sounds)
Harper’s Bizarre – Feelin Groovy (Now Sounds)
The Bo Street Runners – Never Say Goodbye: The Complete Recordings 1964-1966 (RPM)
Parade – Sunshine Girls: Complete Recording (Now Sounds)
Honey Ltd – The Complete LHI Recordings (Now Sounds)
Various – Happy Lovin’ Time: Sunshine Pop From The Garpax Vaults (Big Beat)
Boots for Dancing – The Undisco Kidds (Athens of the North)
Robin Gibb – Saved By The Bell (Rhino)
Come and See Me: Dream Babes & Rock Chicks from Down Under (RPM)
Love & Affection: More Motown Girls (Ace)
John Savage’s 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded (Ace)
MUSIC ENJOYED – SINGLES/CASSETTES/DOWNLOADS
My music-buying tendencies leant towards more value-for-money compilations. This explains why the list of singles bought/downloaded is so small (but nonetheless perfectly formed). I caught up with the two 7″ singles of Jacques Caramac & the Sweet Generation. They called time on their project and I managed to acquire these wonderful vinyl slabs before they shut the shop too. I’ll miss the cycling-confectionary crossover.
My love for all things TeenCanteen remains undeminished and the glam-bam-thank-you-ma’am bombast of Sister, released on pink cassette single with download code, was a highlight of the year. Duglas T Stewart combined with Stuart Kidd as The Just Kids to bring us the download-only two-track gift in aid of Scottish Women’s Aid. The tracks had been premiered live at the first of the year’s two The Girl Effect shows where artists play two of their favourite girl singer/group tracks. Duglas and Stuart (who was recorded), accompanied by Norman Blake, plumped for Stephen Friedland’s mesmeric Nobody Knows (What’s Going In My Mind But Me), which nestled neatly alongside a cover of the John Carter-Ken Lewis tune That Lonely Feeling, which was a single in 1964 for Edinburgh sister group The McKinleys. Sadly Ken Lewis passed away this year.
Carla of TeenCanteen also released a single with side project Ette as the festive season approached. With Joe Kane of Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab at her side, they released a 2-track Special Occasions EP coupling Spending Christmas With My Boy and Birthdays (single version). An album will follow in January 2016.
Being a blogger I receive a lot of emails from bands and two which caught my eye and ear were offerings from The Ramasco Maki Maki Rocking Horse and The Van T’s. I look forward to making their acquaintance in a live arena next year. Fingers crossed mylittlebrother manage to escape the shocking floods in Cumbria to venture North too.
Jacques Caramac and the Sweet Generation – Snowballs/Take It Where You Find It (Everyday Life)
Jacques Caramac and the Sweet Generation – It Takes All Sorts…/Cadbury’s Voltaire (Everyday Life)
The Popguns – Still Waiting For the Winter EP (Matinee)
The Just Kids – Nobody Knows/That Lonely Feeling (Bandcamp)
TeenCanteen – Sister/How We Met (Cherry Pie) (Cassette single)
mylittlebrother – We’re All Gonna Die (Bandcamp) (5-track EP)
The Ramisco Maki Maki Rocking Horse – Possessed By The Gods of Oblongata (Planet Groucho)
The Van T’s – Laguna Babe EP (Bloc+Music)
Ette – Spending Christmas With My Boy/Birthdays (Olive Grove)
NEW MUSIC ENJOYED – ALBUMS
Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space (Test Card Recordings)
Rozi Plain – Friend (Lost Map)
Linden – Rest and Be Thankful (AED)
Daniel Wylie – Chrome Cassettes (self-released)
Randolph’s Leap – Most Clunky (Lost Map)
New Order – Music Complete (Mute)
Bodyheat – Bodyheat (Heavy Rapid Records)
The Popguns – Pop Fiction (Matinee) – released December 2014
The musical year for me began last December with the first appearance in over 20 years by 60s-loving funsters The Spooks, whose Bikini Club in the 1990s was a must for fans of the music of the era. Their original songs delivered over two sets at the David Lloyd Centre in Newhaven – one pop, one psychedelic – were full of humour and jangly pop high jinks. Take a bow Ron Do Ron (vox humana and guitar), Peach McNulty (bass), Greg Comparison (guitar) and Dingo Rodent III (drums). Let’s not leave it so long next time guys.
New Year’s Day saw a family outing to Edinburgh for a multi-venue series of gigs going by the name of Scot:Lands. At the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street everyone was given a boarding card and you spun a wheel to see which random venue you should go to next. We were having none of that and visited the two venues we had had our eyes on since the event was announced. After a visit to Neu:Lands (at The Hub) to show my wife and daughter what all the fuss was about regards TeenCanteen at the event run by the Neu Reekie gang. Suitably entertained we then ventured across town to Heart:Lands, an event at The Roxy curated by Roddy Hart. A stellar cast played their way through one of their own songs and then one of their favourite Scottish songs by another artist. Host Hart and backing band The Lonesome Fire, along with Withered Hand, Tommy Reilly, Andrew Mitchell & Alice Marra (The Hazey Janes) and Louis Abbott & Sarah Hayes (Admiral Fallow) gave an all-killer no-filler performance, which featured covers of Teenage Fanclub, The Blue Nile, Orange Juice and The Trashcan Sinatras amongst others and an all-cast finale of The Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues. You can hear a shortened version of the show HERE. The gig was repeated twice throughout the day to allow for audiences to leave for other venues but the last one, which I recorded, was curtailed so as not to break the agreed curfew.
A Christmas gift of a ticket to the Roaming Roots Revue – again hosted by Roddy Hart – at Celtic Connections took me out of my musical comfort zone but I was none the worse for the experience. Another excellent multi-artists themed concert.
This was followed in February by the fuzzy pop goodness of Forres’ Be Like Pablo, a band I’ve loved since I first met frontman Ewen Watson at goNorth in 2013.
Although it was a busy year for TeenCanteen as they continued to record their imminent debut album, I only managed to catch them in full set action three times. Firstly with the mighty fine Bodyheat at Glasgow’s Broadcast in February and then supporting the evergreen The Vaselines at Summerhall in august. This was followed a week later by a special limited gig at Tape Studios (“Tape Nights”) by three bands who were recording there; TeenCanteen, Plane Rifles and Dead Boy Robotics. The special set, without drummer Debbie, included a cover of Unfinished Sympathy, was later available as part of their Pledge Music campaign.
TeenCanteen also curated two multi-artist events in aid of Scottish Women’s aid. The Girl Effect at Summerhall in Edinburgh in May raised over £3400. Each artists played two of their favourite girls singer/group tunes and the full list for show 1 is HERE. I say first because the event was repeated in Glasgow in November at Mono, with a slightly different line-up. The Girl Effect #2 was musically wonderful too with some outstanding performances. This time it raised over £2000.
A new venue for me, Leith Walk’s Woodland Creatures, as Lach and his anti-folk variety show, featuring comic turn Pure Gallus and Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab (Stuart Kidd and Joe Kane, with guest singer Duglas T Stewart) entertained.
My daughter, who has been learning piano, and I were invited to a special recording of Will Pickavance’s Anatomy of the Piano in a back room at the Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline. Very entertaining it was too.
The year was cantering towards its end with my umpteenth trip to see BMX Bandits, who were still as wonderful as ever. Why hasn’t Duglas got his own chat show? The Bandits could be the house band.
It seems that as the year came to a close TeenCanteen‘s album was almost in the can. The very successful PledgeMusic campaign to help pay for the recording meant it was time for the wrap party at Tape Studios. Despite the Forth Road Bridge’s untimely closure we travelled over for the party (my daughter also had a football match the following morning in Edinburgh so it was practical too) and we enjoyed a playback of one of the tracks and a tour of the studio. The highlight however was the joining in on the recording of handclaps for the aforementioned track, as well as some cheering which may make the record too. Flick also got to play with one of the keyboards and did an electronica version of Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, accompanied by one of Debbie’s drum tracks. A great way to finish the year. It’s fair to say TeenCanteen’s album is the one record I’m looking forward to in 2016. Let’s just save some time and call it my album of 2016 now!
BEST MUSIC RADIO SHOW/PODCAST
Radio is still a passion of mine despite not broadcasting very much. I put some podcasts together at the turn of the year but other commitments put paid to anymore.
The declining health of presenter Ally Gourlay saw Art School Dancing end, albeit on a high. For me it was appointment radio. Ally would never claim to be the slickest on the controls – you and me both – but his passion for what he played as well as encyclopedic knowledge made it essential Monday night listening. Hell, we even put off Quizzy Monday until Tuesdays to accommodate it! It was an absolute pleasure the nights I got to sit in for him. I hope I didn’t turn off too many of his listeners! He even deputised for me. We knew each other’s shows and trusted the other. God bless him!
My daughter’s Saturday morning football activities mean I haven’t been able to catch Sound of the Sixties live (8-10am) but it’s always there on Listen Again.
When time and time zones allow I try to tune into a number of shows from America. The Evan “Funk” Davies Show (WFMU) and the LuxuriaMusic pairing of Steve Stanley’s The Now Sound and Andrew Sandoval’s Come To The Sunshine are worth the bleary eyes/ears the next morning.
John Cavanagh’s Soundwave continues to inform and entertain on a weekly basis on Radio Six International, although I tend to catch it on Mixcloud rather than live.
I was sad to see the demise of XFM, so shortly after it had installed Fraser Thomson and Jim Gellatly in the breakfast and drivetime seats.
As mentioned earlier, a DAB in the kitchen means I can listen while I get on with my chores. Depending on the time of day it tends to vary between Absolute 80s – singing along to the hits of my youth – and the 6Music trimvirate of Steve Lamacq, Gideon Coe or Marc Riley.
Andrew Collins returned to radio this year with his Classic FM show Saturday Night at the Movies (featuring the best film and TV soundtrack music, sometimes in themes) but again I tune in later on Catch Up due to it going out when the football results come in. Sorry, Andrew!
2015 was a good year for music (Aren’t they all once you’d sifted out the crap?) For me 2016 is about three events. Firstly, the release of the TeenCanteen album (I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it?) and, secondly, my daughter and I are off to see Kraftwerk in Europe. I won’t say where for the moment but I’m so excited about it. Finally, if Snowgoose’s new album is half as good as debut Harmony Springs that should also be a cracker.
See you on the other side!