Week 4: Mary My Hope

Mary my hope cover

Museum

I’d be very surprised if anyone who reads this has actually heard of this band.  It was just by chance I heard them.  I remember it quite vividly though even though it was back in 89.  A group of us headed down to Ayr to enjoy some Saturday summer sunshine. We ended up on the beach at the Heads of Ayr and one of our group had brought along a ghetto blaster/radio.  Normally there was a heated debate about what music we were going to listen to but this day the radio was on and tuned into Radio one.  It was either Whispering Bob Harris or Johnnie Walker who was on, I think it was the latter.  Whoever it was had chosen thmary My Hope release as their album of the week and over the course of the show played 4 or 5 songs from it.  I was hooked from first song which was album opener ‘Wildman Childman’.  You know that moment where you are not really listening to anything in particular and then suddenly your senses go ‘what’s that?’ and you immediately filter out everything else to focus on that one thing.  Well that’s what happened to me.  I never left the vicinity of the radio for the rest of the show and no one was allowed to change the station.

Needless to say album was high on the purchase list and it stood up to my initial reaction and has been a regular musical companion over the years. Oddly I’ve never ever heard the band mentioned or their music played anywhere else since that day, so if circumstances had been different or it had been raining I’d probably never have known the album existed.

This was also one of those albums where I didn’t really know anything about the band, who they were, where they came from etc.  In the pre-internet days there wasn’t google to satisfy your curiosity.  Even now there isn’t a whole amount about them.  They came from Atlanta and were founded and fronted by James Hall who did the majority of vocals and played guitar, Clinton Steele was the other guitarist and also sang vocals on the album closer, Sven Pipien played bass and went onto join the Black Crowes in 1998 and the band was completed by drummer Steve Lindenbaum.

mary_my_hope band

Steele and Hall went on to release other music and this project led me to track down some of their later stuff on Spotify.  Nothing grabbed me the way the Museum album did although Hall has a more than listenable acoustic album called ‘Talking Freedom With the Jailer’ which has a fantastic acoustic version of Suicide King. James Hall was also part of the Brad touring band in 1997 which is the side project of Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam.

Mary My Hope did have one other release which had four previously unreleased tracks and four tracks from Museum which was really just an extended version of earlier release the Suicide Kings EP.  The band sadly disintegrated in 1990.

A selection of tracks below including the brilliant Suicide King.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeudUgqCEJg?list=PLnQ2b3uwhpqcyAk19T1terlJjWnX_P1X3&w=250&h=250%5D

See you on week 5.

Week 3: Neil Young

Old ways cover

Old Ways

I imagine there will be a few raised eyebrows from the Neil Young aficionados out there at the choice of Neil album. Released in 1985 Old Ways was Neil going down the full on country route with fiddles, pedal steel guitars, banjos, upright bass, jew’s harp and country icon Waylon Jennings providing harmony vocals. I remember my brother had a load of Jennings albums but I never paid any attention to them, given his contribution to this album maybe  I should have. Willie Nelson also pops up on one track. The odd thing is I’m not and have never ever been much of a country music fan but this album just sounds great.

Country music always reminds me of the scene in the Blues Brothers where they end up playing a gig at Bob’s Country Bunker and impersonating The Good Ol Boys’ the band that was meant to play. Before the band hit the stage though they ask Bob, the owner of Bob’s Country Bunker, what kind of music they play and he replies ’We play both son, country and western.’ They start out by playing some blues standards but the crowd are not impressed and start throwing beer bottles at them and the band are only protected by floor to ceiling chicken wire. Eventually the band start to play some country standards like Stand By Your Man which is one of the funniest things committed to film and the theme from Rawhide.

Anyway I was 20 when Old Ways came out and I was just starting to explore other music avenues. At this time the only Neil album I had was Decades which was a triple vinyl best of covering his career from 1966 to 1976 and is a great place to start if you are ever tempted to jump into the Neil back catalogue. Almost every song is a Neil classic from his acoustic moments like Heart of Gold to his heavier sound on Like a Hurricane. Few artists can switch between acoustic and electric as brilliantly as Neil does.

There is a bit of a back story to Old Ways. In 1982 Neil signed to Geffen records and his first release was Trans, an electronic album that was far removed from the sound of his previous albums. Looking back it should probably have been considered a ground breaking album and ahead of its time but this wasn’t the artist that David Geffen thought he’d signed. Neil then offered Geffen Old Ways but this was rejected as they wanted a more rock n roll album. Well in 83 they got a rockabilly album called Everybody’s Rockin from Young that led to him being sued by his record company on the grounds that the record and its predecessor were “not commercial”, and “musically uncharacteristic of his previous recordings.” Neil counter-sued alleging breach of contract since he had been promised no creative interference from the label. The lawsuit backfired spectacularly on Geffen as REM were about to sign with Geffen but seeing what had happened to Young they decided to sign with Warner Bros instead. Eventually Geffen backed down, apologised and settled out of court. Neil went on to release 3 more albums on Geffen before heading back to Reprise. One of which was a re-recorded Old Ways with backing band The International Harvesters who Neil had been on the road with for over a year.

neil and harvesters

The album opens with an old country standard The Wayward Wind and it sets the tone for the whole record. My favourites are Once An Angel some wonderful steel guitar all the way through. Misfits where Young tells a strange story of astronauts watching Muhammad Ali. It’s a weird and odd song but there is just something about it that makes sense. My Boy is written about his first son Zeke and has an extra resonance with me these days, it opens with lyrics ‘Why you growing up so fast?’ I guess it’s many a parents thought. Album closer ‘Where is the Highway Tonight’ is a song looking back at his younger days and wondering where ‘all the crazy days and crazy nights have gone’.  I think The Waterboys would do a brilliant cover of this song.

Neil has recorded some great albums and he’s also recorded some real stinkers, his recent output has been particularly ropey but this one for me is up there with the best of his 50 odd releases.

Live, Uncle Neil is a good as anyone whether with Crazy Horse and making some very loud noise or on his own playing acoustic he is a unique talent.  I’ve been lucky enough to see him eight times and will be heading to the Hydro in June for number nine.  These are concerts to be savoured, Neil was 70 last year and as we have seen recently that whole generation is sadly entering a time where the next gig may very well be the last one.

neil

Although I still can’t get my head round him going out with Daryl Hannah.

See you on week 4.

Week 2: Marillion

Marillion - Mispaced album cover

Misplaced Childhood

The first pick from the hat brings out one of my all time favourite albums and would easily be in my top five although I tried to come up with a top five and ended up with eight choices so I can confidently say it would be in my top eight.

Released in June 1985 Misplaced Childhood was Marillion’s 3rd studio album and provided them their only UK number 1.

Usually the words ‘concept and album’ would result in me running for cover but not in this case.  I was a little late to the Marillion (Garden) Party. I was still too much of a metal head to appreciate Marillion when Script For A Jester’s Tear came out in 1983.  Although there is a strong possibility that I saw them in The Dial Inn in their very early days but I can’t lay claim to that distinction with any real conviction. For those who don’t know the Dial Inn was one of a number of Glasgow pubs that catered for those who liked their music a little, well a lot, louder and liked to grow their hair longer than everyone else. Crazy to look back now and think you also had the infamous Burns Howff, Shadows, Wypers and The Dial Inn all within 5 mins of each other. All now sadly gone.  I spent many a night I can’t remember in all of those pubs. You could also add in The Venue to that list which I think was the first rock club to open up in Glasgow’s city centre. If you know Sauchiehall Street it was located in the lane before you get to The Garage. It briefly re-opened as The Garage 2 for a while in the 90s.

Anyway Marillion slowly filtered through my conscience and I became a die hard fan in a very short space of time. I’m sure it was the Friday Rock Show where I first took notice of them. The Friday Rock show was hosted by the great Tommy Vance (RIP) and was on Radio 1 between 10pm and Midnight. It was pretty much the only place you could hear any kind of hard rock music on mainstream radio for years. Around 1984 Tom Russell came along with his rock show on Radio Clyde which started when the Friday Rock Show finished and ran until 2am so Fridays was often a staying in night so we could listen to 4 hours of rock and countless bands were discovered thanks to these 2 shows. No internet back in those days to access Spotify, watch You Tube etc. Finding bands was hard work but rewarding.  Other than record shops themselves there was Sounds music paper and then Kerrang, the monthly metal magazine which arrived in 1981, to seek out new rock music.

Marillion albums Script For A Jester’s Tear and Fugazi were duly added to the collection as were a number of 12 inch singles as Marillion liked to add tracks that were not available on the albums plus a few live songs on their single releases. Some real gems were available including a couple of my favourite Marillion songs in Lady Nina and Freaks.

It was on the Fugazi tour that I officially got to see Marillion live for the first time at the famous Glasgow Apollo in February 84. This night was memorable for other reasons than just my first Marillion gig. It was the first and only time I’ve gone to a gig with a sleeping bag. This was for use after the gig where myself and my partner of the time left the Apollo after the gig and duly joined a queue to sleep out overnight for Quo tickets for the upcoming End of the Road tour. None of your Ticketmaster, seetickets etc. to sit in your cosy house and access them online, no sireee a cold February night to sleep out in and pray it didn’t rain. You had to queue overnight to guarantee you a ticket or to at least make sure you got a decent one. As this was the last ever Quo tour (well so we all thought at the time) tickets were like gold dust.

Anyway I digress once more, back to the Marillion gig which cemented my love of the band and in particular it was the Dalkeith born singer, Fish, at a towering  6ft 5 who totally dominated the stage that was the focus of the band. Hiding behind his ‘greasepaint mask’ he had the Apollo in the palm of his hand and I’ve been a follower ever since.

fish make up

Fast forward a few months to December 84 and Marillion played the Barrowlands under the banner of the Reel to Real tour, to support a rush released live album to cash in on the band’s sudden increased popularity.  These were really just a bunch of Xmas dates before they were due to go into the studio to record the album that was to become Misplaced Childhood. That night we were treated to side 1 of that album in its formative stage and although the structure of side 1 remained roughly the same there were many lyrical changes but it was clear at that show that Childhood was going to be something special. I think I even have a bootleg tape of that gig somewhere.

Before the album was released it was preceded by the single Kayleigh in April which reached number two and would have been number one were it not for the charity single by The Crowd for the victims of the Bradford Stadium fire. Then in June 85 the album was released to critical acclaim and commercial success. I was of course waiting for the record shop to open and rushed home to get my first taste of Childhood and I wasn’t disappointed. I find it hard to fault the album in any way shape or form. For me it’s a lyrical and musical masterpiece. From the haunting synth opening of Pseudo Silk Kimono to closing White Feather the music and lyrics combine perfectly.  With the lyrics helpfully printed inside the gate fold sleeve (remember this is vinyl we’re talking about) for you to follow the story as it unfolded. One of the joys of being brought up in the vinyl age was the attention to detail that was taken over album sleeves.  The cover itself was drawn by Mark Wilkinson who was responsible for all of the Fish era Marillion albums and a large part if not all of Fish’s solo art work.  The album is in part the autobiographical story of singer Fish, and covers many subjects including stories of relationship break ups, coping, or more like not coping with stardom, friends that didn’t make it, adolescence and just to round it off a foray into the futility of war. The lyrics struck a chord with a generation and why today so many look back with great fondness and love for childhood and is one album I think has stood the test of time incredibly well.

Marillion - M1985 - Misplaced Childhood Tour - 1985 2

Of all the albums I own there can’t be many I would sing with as much enjoyment as this one whether in the car or at a gig. I just love this album to bits.

They of course toured and played the whole album and I saw the show in January 86 at the Edinburgh Playhouse and a group of us travelled down to Milton Keynes in June of that year to see Marillion play their biggest ever UK show at the Bowl.

Marillion-Summer-1986---Wel-558046

The album itself was the breakthrough for Marillion and they rode the Childhood wave for a couple of years before releasing another great album, Clutching at Straws in 87. This was to be the last Fish era Marillion album and they parted ways in 88 with Steve Hogarth becoming Marillion’s new singer and Fish carving out a solo career which I have followed avidly ever since. Fish is one of my favourite lyricists and has released a string of excellent albums although neither act has ever reached the giddy heights of the 80s again.

Just to make me feel old Fish marked the 20th anniversary of the albums release by setting out on the Return to Childhood tour in 2005 where he played the album in full.  And just to make me feel even older last year was the 30th anniversary and Fish, once again reprised the album on the Farewell to Childhood tour.  I was lucky enough to see him play the album in his home town of Dalkeith on what was clearly an emotional night for him.  Many of the lyrics were written about and written in his home town.  The Farewell tour then came to Glasgow in December and it really was just a magical night.  I got to celebrate Childhood with 1,000 other like minded people and we sang our hearts out like it was 1985 all over again when we all had hair.  It was quite an emotional evening, even Fish couldn’t hold back the tears at the end.  I thought that was going to be the last time I would hear the album live but due to a few dates being cancelled Fish put a mini UK tour together and I’m heading to Newcastle in April to sing my heart out one more time.

I can’t wait.

Rather than try and post individual tracks this album should really be heard in its entirety to do it justice which you can do at the helpful you tube link below.  Enjoy and, as always, play loudly.

Feck me that was a long one.  Once I started I couldn’t stop.  One memory opened up the door to others which is partly the reason for doing this.  Many tangents and digressions which I think will be a feature of these posts. Although thinking ahead to some albums in the hat I’ll be lucky to write a couple of paragraphs.  Thank feck I hear you say.

Plan to do the next one fairly quickly so I can get back on schedule.

See you on week 3.

Week 1: Status Quo

Status Quo - hello front cover

Hello

Before I get on to the Quo album I think a quick bit of my musical history is probably in order.

The very first record I could call my own was either a single from Suzi Qautro doing Devil Gate Drive or The Wombles with A Wombling Xmas.  For my street cred, if I ever had any, I’d like to think it was Suzi.  Still a great song.  As for The Wombles, Remember You’re A Womble was their career highpoint for me.  Looking back at the release dates Devil Gate Drive preceded The Wombles so it’s possible I stole that one off my brother.  I don’t remember going to buy either of these records but I do remember buying my first ever long playing album from Gloria’s Record bar, known locally simply as Gloria’s, on Battlefield Rd on Glasgow’s South Side.  It was a K-Tel compilation album called Music Explosion (click on photo for tracklisiting).

Music ExplosionI saw it advertised on TV and think it cost me cost me £1.49.  A fair chunk, if not all of, my pocket money back in those days.  I’d heard Terry Jack’s Seasons In The Sun and Sparks’ This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us on the radio and my first real interest in music was taking its first baby steps.  I was 9 years old and a whole new world of possibilities never before encountered was waiting to open up in front of me.  Although it was another few years before I jumped headlong into what some may call an obsession with music.

Fast forward to 1977.  Red Rum wins the national for a third time, the Ford Fiesta makes its debut, Kenny Dalglish leaves Celtic for Liverpool, Elvis Presley dies as does Groucho Marx and Marc Bolan but culturally, for me at least, the most important thing to happen in 1977 was the November release of the Rockin All Over The World album by Status Quo.

My dalliance with music was about to become a full blown love affair.

I have my old school friend Ian Ewing to thank for this as it was his house and his, or rather his dad’s, record player that this record made this wonderful noise that had a rather strange effect on me.  Been a good few years since I’ve seen Ian but I’d like to ask him how he came to have this record as I can’t remember but I’m so glad he did.  Little did I know at that point that this was actually a fairly average Quo album and that they had passed their creative peak but this was the catalyst to me discovering their earlier 70’s riches and the Quo becoming my first music love.

I’ve taken a lot of flak over the years for my love of Quo, the lazy jibes about all the songs sounding the same and being 3 chord wonders etc.  In my younger days I used to get all defensive about Quo but I’m rather more good humoured about it now.  To be honest if that is what they can do with 3 chords then I can only imagine what they would have done with 4.   I also have a somewhat odd relationship with the band because I don’t like anything much they did beyond 1983 which coincided with the break up of the classic Frantic Four line up of Rossi, Parfitt, Coughlin who left in 81 and Lancaster, who never got invited back after playing at Live Aid and subsequent court cases etc.   I still go and see them live (over 50 shows and counting) but I only go for the 70s classics and anything else I tolerate until a classic comes along.  My air guitar skills were honed at the Quo shows.

When the Frantic Four made up, forgot their differences and got back together to do a couple of short tours in 2103 and 2014 I was in dreamland and was lucky enough to catch 7 shows over the 2 tours.  I’m still hopeful that we haven’t seen the last of this line up and they have one more tour in them.

Anyway all that has been a rather long winded introduction to the first album I fell head over heels in love with.  Status Quo’s Hello.  Released in September 1973 it was the first of four Quo albums to reach the top of the charts.  It established the band as a heads down no nonsense hard rock boogie band and over the next 5 or 6 years Quo were one of the biggest UK bands around.  The run of releases starting with Piledriver (72), Hello (73),  Quo (74), On The Level (75), Blue For You (76) leading up to the Live album in 77 was a fantastic body of work and the reason I love this band so much.  I was really born about 6 or 7 years too late.

Hello’s 8 tracks (or 9 if you get the remastered version) clock in at just over 39mins and it really is an album that doesn’t have any filler on it.

Tracklisting – 1. Roll Over Lay Down 2. Claudie 3. A Reason For Living 4. Blue Eyed Lady 5. Caroline 6. Softer Ride 7. And Its Better Now 8. Forty-Five Hundred Times.

I’m not going to go into every track individually but this album shows Quo in all different lights.  There’s the no nonsense rockers in Caroline Roll Over Lay Down and Blue Eyed Lady, the epic 45 Hundred Times and the more gentle And It’s Better Now and Softer Ride.

If pushed for a top 3 today it would be:

1. 45 hundred times

2. Caroline

3. And It’s Better Now

You can listen to a few tracks from the album below or you can also find it on Spotify on the following link https://open.spotify.com/album/5X2iAS1YMrrPU0mVQZJjCC

I don’t expect all my posts will be this long and I’m playing a bit of catch up as this is a bit late as I tried to figure out the blog software.  Feel free to comment good or bad.  I’m a big boy I can take it.

See you on week 2.