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>Bludgeon Riffola!

21 March, 2010 3 comments

>And so the challenges continue.  This time, my challenge to Simon was to name his ten favourite riffs.  I put it to him this way…

“Right, after a lot of indecision and prevarication, the next challenge is out there.
And it’s the Riff.  The guitar line (and it has to be the guitar line) that turns a good song into a classic.
I want your top ten riffs.
No more than two or three bars.  Played to death by young boys in guitar shops.  Long of hair, behatted and beaded, no doubt.
I’m not talking solos here, I’m talking riffs.  Ba-danga-danga-da-dang dang.  Ba-danga-danga-da-dang dang.
You know what I mean.”

Simon’s response to the challenge is here -and mighty impressive it is, too, avoiding the obvious and embracing the concept in equal measure.  Including a number of riffs that I should have thought of as well.

As it is, there was only one riff on Simon’s list that was in my provisional ten – Seven Nation Army – so I have adjusted my list accordingly.  I similarly decided that Smoke on the Water (and one or two others) were a little too obvious to include.

So – ten riffs to send you running to the air guitar shop.  In no particular order, of course…

Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin

And here’s me saying I was going to avoid the obvious.  But how could you not include this?  What swung it was the moment in the recent documentary, “It Might Be Loud”, where Jimmy Page plays this riff to an audience of The Edge and Jack White, both of whom know a good riff when they hear one.  The look of joy on their faces as the power chords rang out was probably the highlight of the film.

Back in Black – AC/DC

I very nearly went for ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ but of course could have gone for just about any AccaDacca tune. In the end though, it had to be ‘Back in Black’, if only for its punchiness and attack.  The quintessential AC/DC riff.

Enter Sandman – Metallica

When I was editing down the individual tracks on this list to the essence of their riffs, most could be distilled into ten or twenty seconds, max.  Enter Sandman – I just kept the edit playing and playing, as the riff develops and grows.  Over a minute of pure riffage before I pressed ‘cut’.

The Jean Genie – David Bowie

Generally, Glam Rock gave good riff – and this is David Bowie right in the middle of his Glam phase.  Probably the only riff to be in the charts at the same time in two different forms – exactly the same riff graces Sweet’s ‘Blockbuster’.  But this is the definitive Glam riff, courtesy of Mick Ronson, of course.

She Does It Right – Dr Feelgood

Wilko Johnson, with some spectacular pub rock riffage, mastering the art of playing rhythm and lead at the same time, in the same riff.  I’ve seen footage of him playing this riff live, and I still can’t work out how he does it.  A simple riff on the face of it, but deceptively complex to master.

Safe European Home – The Clash

This is what you get when punk meets heavy metal – The Clash produced by Sandy Pearlman.  It irked the purists at the time, but Pearlman added weight and depth to the band’s natural intensity, to produce this master opening to the album.  It was even better live.

American Idiot – Green Day

Playing this riff immediately after The Clash, and the similarities are obvious.  Not just in the choice of notes (there are only so many to choose from, after all) but in the depth and intensity.  Often unfairly lumped in with the mass of lumpen Tattoo’d American Punk bands that came through in their wake, this riff kicks off an album of intelligence and variety that transcends its genre.

Song 2 – Blur

Another great riff from a band not really known for their riffage.  It also has the classic riff ‘trick’ that gets me every time – playing the riff once with little tone, then hitting the ‘gain’ pedal (turned up to eleven) to really hammer the point home.  It’s got ‘woo hoo’s’ as well.  Set the crowd alight at Glastonbury last year.  Not that I would know, I was in the Acoustic Tent listening to Georgie Fame.

Walk This Way – Aerosmith

I love this riff – deceptively simple, just four notes played pretty much in sequence four times – but it’s perfect in its simplicity and when combined with the opening drum pattern and hint of turntable scratching, sets up the mash of rap and metal perfectly.

Sweet Jane – Lou Reed

This is the lodestone – essence of riff.  Three chords – D/A/G – with perhaps a Bm in there as well – it doesn’t get any simpler.  Can be played gently (as in the VU original) or as an out and out rocker.  This version – from Lou’s ‘Take No Prisoners’ live album – is at the rocky end of the spectrum and none the worse for that.

http://www.divshare.com/flash/playlist?myId=10833168-b92

(Oh – and bonus points to anyone who knows where the title of this post comes from…no Googling now, you’d just be cheating yourself…)

>What *were* you thinking?

11 March, 2010 5 comments

>

This is Simon’s latest challenge to me – the “top ten albums that you can’t believe you bought, and just have you thinking ‘why?’ even now”.  The example he gave me from his own collection was Mick Jagger’s solo album ‘She’s The Boss’, and I can quite understand why.

Now this has proven to be a tricky one.  Firstly, I’m not in the habit of buying albums I’m not likely to enjoy.  And secondly, I’m pretty accommodating – I’ll generally find something to enjoy in most types of music.

That said, there have been one or two things that have slipped through the net…

Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica

There are people who will tell you that this is a classic album – one of the best ever released.  Do not listen to these people.  This is, in fact, a sprawling mess of discordant, arrhythmic nonsense that should be shunned  by any right thinking individual.  This is The Emperor’s New Clothes in album form.  Do not be swayed by the opinion of critics who mistake drug-addled ramblings and noodlings for mystical insight.  Captain Beefheart is undoubtedly an artist – but with a paintbrush, not a recording studio.

Limp Bizkit – Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water

This is a horrible album.  A really, really, horrible album.  For a time, this collision of rock and rap looked like it was the coming thing, lots of bands short on trouser and long on tattoo infecting the airwaves.  This lot, led by the risible Fred Durst (backwards baseball cap hiding a major follicular problem) were probably the most hyped and bought – this album sold shedloads.  Unfortunately it has no redeeming features whatsoever – awash with whiny self-pity and lumpen beats.  (At this point I should also admit to some Linkin Park and Papa Roach lurking hidden in the depths of my record collection.  Awful, but positively wonderful when compared to the Bizkit).

Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

I really, really want to like the Flaming Lips – I really do.  I love the idea of the band – the intelligence, the humour, the willingness to try different things…but I just can’t get past the awfulness of Wayne Coyne’s voice.  The problem here is I knew all this before I bought this album – I’d already bought (and hated) The Soft Bulletin.  I was swayed by a whole batch of gushing reviews for Yoshimi and my – need, almost – to get into the group.  I know lots of people love the album with a passion.  But you know what?  It’s all very…meh, really.  And for all the hype and supposed intelligence, “Do You Realize?” must have the tritest lyric since Imagine.  “Do you realise – that everyone you know someday will die?”   Errr…actually yes, Wayne – I’d kind of figured that out a while ago.  “You realise the sun don’t go down – it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.”  Oh please.

Various Artists – Cream Ibiza Arrivals

Firstly, a few facts.  I am fifty years old.  I have never taken Ecstacy.  I have never been to, or wanted to go to, a rave.  I shun the Dance Village at Glastonbury.  So what on earth possessed me to buy this double album of Balearic Beats?  Well I suppose a degree of curiosity…which was soon sated.  About two tracks in. I didn’t stop there though.  I also have a Pete Tong triple (triple!) CD of dance traxx(!) and yet another Ibiza double collection.  What on earth possessed me?

Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music

Now to be fair, I bought this knowing full well what I was getting into.  It was a fiver in Fopp and curiosity got the better of me.  This is Lou’s contractual obligation album – originally four sides of atonal feedback, each side around fifteen minutes long.  As you would expect, it is totally unlistenable.  Unfortunately, my copy of iTunes seems to like it, and throws it up on shuffle suspiciously often.  Bizarrely, Lou is actually touring Metal Machine Music this year.  My advice is stay away – or invest in earplugs.

Razorlight – Razorlight

Now this one is completely unforgiveable, I know.  You should be aware that this is Razorlight’s second album.  I’d already bought their first, when it looked like they might be quite an interesting band.  And that first album is ok, but not great by any stretch of the imagination.  Now if self-pity is an unattractive trait in a band, self-love is even worse, and in between the first and second album, head Razorlight, Johnny Borrell, seemed to start believing he was the Messiah.  Well he’s not the Messiah, he’s just a very annoying boy, rivalling the sainted Bono for twattishness – and this comes through in every groove (pit?) of this album.  A truly horrible listening experience.  So why did I buy it?  Who knows.  Bloody sure I don’t.

Roni Size/Reprazent – New Forms

In my defence, this won the Mercury Prize in 1997.  The critics loved it.  “…as essential as your bread, milk and tv remote control” said Blues and Soul magazine.  “…a rhythmically ingenious and spectacularly well-crafted record” said The Times(!).  “…you won’t have heard anything quite like it before” said Musik.  And do you know what, one of those three quotes was right on the nail.  And not in a good way.  I’ll leave you to work out which one.  This ‘New Form’ of music is Drum & Bass, extremely fast beats with a preponderance of, you guessed it, drums and bass guitar/synth in the mix.  And do you know what?  It is completely unlistenable.

Rufus Wainwright – Want One/Two

I bought both these albums (Want One and Want Two, released as separate albums but intended as a pair) on the same day.  I really don’t know why, I suppose Rufus was getting a lot of press at the time and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  So really, I should have known what to expect.  Now I appreciate that Rufus is a talented guy, and that there is a certain ‘flamboyance’ about his work – but really, this is all way, way too much for me.  Some may enjoy Rufus’s somewhat ‘operatic’ approach to singing, but it makes my ears hurt.  Badly.

Uriah Heep – You Can’t Keep a Good Band Down

Nowt wrong with a bit of Heep, I hear you say, and you’d be right.  When I was in my early teens, I loved the Heep as much as I did the Purps, the Sabs and any number of other early ‘metal’ bands.  But then I grew up.  Over the years, I had sold all my early metal vinyl, but was browsing in Fopp (again) one day, and they had this box set of seven (count ’em!) Heep albums for, I think, three quid.  So I thought I’d re-live my lost youth a tad.  And isn’t it funny how – sometimes – things aren’t quite the way we remember them?  Now of course the odd track still gives me a Proustian rush…but seven albums’ worth?

Belle & Sebastian – The Boy With The Arab Strap

Headlining Latitude this year (somehow!) and therefore quite topical at the moment.  Now I’m as fond of a bit of fey Northern/Scottish indie as the next man, and I love the likes of Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout – even pre-electro Everything but the Girl – but even I have to draw the line at Belle & Sebastian.  I have tried – really tried – to get into this album, but whenever I play it, I get to the end of the album with the realisation – again – that not a single note of the album has managed to imprint itself on my brain.  I’ve owned this album for the best part of ten years, I think, and even now I couldn’t name a single track or hum a single tune.  I know people love them to death, but they are as insubstantial as a fine mist.

>Inbetweenies

25 January, 2010 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack:  Richard and Linda Thompson – Pour Down Like Silver

So, as the Staines contract draws to a close, it’s time to take stock and look for the next role.  Strangely, I don’t feel ‘unemployed’ any more, rather ‘between contracts’ – hence the obscure Ian Dury reference in the title above.  Better an Inbetweenie than a Doley!

Still, needs must, so I’m back signing on again.  This time round, it’s Chester rather than Warrington.  So I can hang around with a better class of doley once a fortnight.  If, indeed, it comes to that.  There are a couple of contract opportunities floating around that might turn into something tangible, although both are back down in the South East.

In the meantime though, it’s back to life/back to reality in the Cheshire Plains – and back to blogging as well.

The Staines work was good fun, and has given us a little bit of welcome breathing space, and has given me the appetite to do more work in this vein – at least until the permanent jobs start appearing again.  Up to a point, it’s nice to be master of my own destiny again.  If I thought I could pick up a steady stream of such work, I’d do this full time.  Big ‘If’ though.

In my final few days away, I filled my evenings beginning to work through the first series of ‘Spectacle’, a music/chat show hosted by Elvis Costello.  Originally recorded and broadcast in the States, the series was somewhat lost in the depths of Channel Four’s late night schedules and was consequently largely overlooked in this country.  So I was surprised to see the DVD of the first series for sale – but wasted no time getting a copy.

Four episodes in, and I’m pleased to report it is one of the most intelligent music shows I have seen in a long time – whilst Elvis (initially at least) is not the most polished of interviewers, his love of music and his respect for his interviewees comes across clearly.  And the music is superb too – whether performed by Elvis and his band (including, at various times, James Burton, Allen Toussaint and Attractions Steve Nieve and Pete Thomas) or in conjunction with his guests.

Oh, and some high quality guests as well.  Elton John in the first show, focusing heavily on his first few albums when his credibility outweighed his popularity.  Bill Clinton on the second, as a jazz fan (and sometime musician) rather than as a president, then Tony Bennett – dapper and smooth as silk, one of the last great crooners.  Then in show four – Lou Reed, for once engaging and erudite rather than bitter and abrasive.

To come – Smokey, Rufus Wainwright, Kris Kristofferson, James Taylor and others.

I have no idea what the potential audience is for a show like this – it’s hardly appealing to mainstream tastes – but I’m delighted that there are producers who are prepared to invest in this sort of programming even though the returns must be tiny compared to the investment required.

Anyway, Here’s Elvis and Lou duetting on ‘Perfect Day’.  Fascinating contrast between Costello’s crooning and Reed’s, er, idiosyncratic approach to the melody.  And Elvis still looks threatening on the ‘you’re going to reap just what you sow’ line.

Richard Thompson apparently makes an appearance on Spectacle on a later series, but comes up on the soundtrack today with wife (of the time) Linda.  I prefer the R&L albums to the solo Richard work – Linda’s voice is that much easier on the ear and adds variety and nuance that can be missing from Richard’s solo albums.

By any standards, this is gorgeous.  ‘The Dimming of the Day’.  Richard and Linda Thompson.

>Day 184: Tyres are Knackered, Knackers are tired…

15 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby

So, any chance of a quiet day today? Well, yes and no. I had a few things to see to that would keep me out of the house today, but I had no Exploding Plastic Inevitable in the kitchen to deal with today, and The Hunter spent most of the day in sleeping, rather than hunting, mode.

Even genocidal killers need their beauty sleep.

So it was out early, to pick up a birthday present for my nephew and birthday cards for him and for Son No 1. Their birthdays are a day apart, a source of great consternation to my Son just before Nephew was born, as he did not want to share his birthday with anyone! Luckily fate intervened and their birthdays are a day apart. Which also makes them easy to remember.

Birthday stuff sorted, a quick dive into M&S to give Mrs W a few options for tonight’s tea, and after a very quick (and free) turn around HMV, it was off to Rock Ferry to sort out a couple of tyres for the car. I’ve been putting this off for way too long, to the extent that I’m pretty well driving round on ‘slicks’ at the moment, which is highly naughty and getting more unsafe by the day. Finally grasped the nettle and, eschewing the big tyre chains, took the car to Bathers, an independent (and cheap) tyre company that’s been in business (although God only knows how) since I was a small boy, and probably for many years prior to that as well. They had to order them in, but they’ll be waiting for me tomorrow at eleven.

Called in on the ageing parents since I was in their neck of the woods, but they were out…what’s that all about? Turns out they were in my neck of the woods, over in Warrington – but hey ho. I’ll call in tomorrow when I pick the tyres up.

So back homewards, but not before stopping off at the pet store to pick up some flea stuff. The animal kingdom is taking its revenge on Pedro by infesting him with a bunch of tiny critters dedicated to eating him. Fine, but not when the same critters think they can take chunks out of Mrs W and me as well!

So – Frontline for the cat, spray for the furniture and upholstery and – when the Frontline has worn off – a flea collar (plus bell!) for the beast. Maybe the merry tinkle of the bell will alert the frankly sluggish local wildlife that they ought to get their skates on if they don’t want me chasing them round the bedroom with a Tupperware box…

A welcome spot of Lou Reed to listen to today. Coney Island Baby was released in 1976, and showcases Lou in relatively mellow mood, in stark contrast to the album that precedes it, ‘Metal Machine Music’, a contractual obligation album consisting of an hour of feedback and white noise. Coney Island Baby is a far more listenable piece of work, although some might find it a bit lightweight compared to the likes of Transformer, Berlin and Street Hassle. And they’d be right, but there are a few gems buried in the album, not least the title track.

Here’s a stunning live version of Coney Island Baby, probably from the mid ’80s. Lou’s tinkered a bit – a lot more about the ‘glory of love’ than ‘playing football for the coach’ but some lovely guitar work towards the end.

Categories: Car, Lou Reed, Pedro