Week 14: Oasis

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Definitely Maybe

Okay I have to come clean here.  I wasn’t at the King Tuts gig when Alan McGhee ‘discovered’ Oasis.  I always think the Tuts story was a bit overplayed and mythology has overtaken the event.  I doubt Oasis would have gone unnoticed for long when you hear the songs on Maybe but it makes a great story I suppose.

I always say you should play music loud although sometimes it isn’t always possible but this album demands to be played loud, this isn’t some background incidental music.  It’s loud, in your face, rock n roll with a swagger. This record just drips attitude and it has the songs to back that swagger and attitude up.

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It’s actually quite remarkable the album sounds so great when you realise how many attempts were made to record the album followed by even more attempts to try and mix it.  I didn’t know that they ditched the first producer then Noel tried to re-record the album with a new producer and the results weren’t much better.  It was down to producer Owen Morris who was brought in to salvage the disaster who managed to strip away all the crap and produced a raw sound that perfectly encapsulated the whole Oasis sneer.

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As debut albums go this one was pretty special and much anticipated having been preceded by three singles, Supersonic, Shakermaker and Live Forever.  For my sins I missed the first wave of Oasis and came in at the tail end of the Maybe period and ran headlong in to the What’s the Story phase as Oasis took off and became far and away the biggest band in the UK.  They not only attracted headlines for their music but the Gallagher brothers, Liam and Noel, were a whole publicity machine of their own.  Internal fights, external feuds, celebrity relationships etc.  They were a tabloid’s dream.  The bad boys of rock n roll were never far away from a front page and it all helped build up the image of the band and helped boost their fan base.  Unfortunately a large part of that fan base were complete and utter bams and made going to see them live an ‘interesting’ experience. I’ve only seen Oasis five times as I stopped going when they hit the large arena/stadium circuit as it really wasn’t worth the hassle.  This meant I almost stopped going to see them before I’d started.  I saw them three times in 95 on the What’s the Story tour.  Two nights in a tent on Irvine beach which was mental but in a good way and later in the year at Earls Court in London which at the time held the record as the biggest indoor crowd for a concert in Europe. I then saw them at the Barrowlands on the 10th anniversary Noise and Confusion tour in 2001 before my final Oasis show at the Usher Hall in 2005.

band 2I felt the Barrowlands show was over the top mental and although I enjoyed the show there was an odd atmosphere to it all.  I realised my decision not to go and see the band in bigger venues was kind of vindicated and that I really wasn’t interested in this kind of crowd being 20 times the size with the the number of bams exponentially growing as the crowds got bigger and becoming harder to avoid.  I don’t mind a bit of pint throwing etc. but when it becomes an almost threatening atmosphere tinged with violence it ceases to be fun and suddenly you have one eye on the crowd rather than concentrating on the band.  That’s not why I go to see live music.  I could of course have stood way at the back and avoided or tried to avoid the nutters but I like to be in the middle of the action at the front and I can look after myself but sometimes it’s not worth the hassle.

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Their rise to massive venues also coincided with them releasing some very mediocre albums although there are plenty of Oasis fans who think subsequent albums are still really good but they weren’t for me.  They were never going to sustain the Maybe/Glory period but some of the stuff released was a pale imitation and all a bit Oasis by numbers but it didn’t seem to dent their popularity much.  There were some good songs along the way but they seemed to lose that urgency and rawness that attracted me to them in the first place.  It’s a story often played out in music.  Success sees a band lifted out of the circumstances and surroundings that made them great in the first place and they just can’t recapture that feel and sound again.  It’s what made Definitely Maybe and to a lesser extent What’s the Story such great albums.  They were also often accused of being Beatles copyists but I never really heard it, an influence yes but that was it as far as I could tell.  Although I was never a fan of The Beatles other than a couple of tracks so maybe I’m missing something obvious.

That all said Definitely Maybe is a fantastic album full of great songs.  It was Columbia that first made me sit up and take notice.  I love the drumming on that song and along with the guitar hook makes this my favourite song on the album.  Opener Rock n Roll Star sets down the marker and there isn’t really a low point just lots of high points.  Supersonic, Slide Away, Live Forever all brilliant and were to become classics of their time.  There isn’t a bad song on this album and Definitely Maybe was, at the time, the fastest ever selling debut release and went straight in at No 1.

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Liam and Noel were a pair of ‘lads’ but Noel especially could be very observant and humorous and I enjoy hearing him talk.  He has a great knack of cutting through the bullshit and his scathing attacks on other artists and celebrities in general usually hit the spot.  Liam often gets criticised for his outbursts but I like my rock stars to be a bit out there and be a bit more interesting than someone like Chris Martin.  These are two brothers brought up on a tough housing estate in Manchester.  They don’t suffer fools.

Since the band split in 2009 there have been the usual rounds of rumours about reunions that have never come to anything.  I thought the 20th anniversaries of Maybe or Glory might have brought them back together again but despite a making up between Liam and Noel a reunion still seems highly unlikely.  Of the two Noel has made the best of his solo career with his High Flying Birds.  Liam had limited success with Beady Eye who split in 2014.  Neither band did anything for me and I’ve lost complete interest in either of them outside of Oasis.  I have given both bands a listen but just seems a bit Oasis lite without the swagger and attitude that made this album so good.

See you on week 15.

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Week 13: Thin Lizzy

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Live and Dangerous

Another live album but this is the first of the classic double live albums. When I was getting into music in a big way the double album was either a rock band’s definitive statement or a contractual obligation and sometimes both.  If you were a rock band you had to do a double live album, 4 sides of vinyl and effectively a best of album but live.  There is a huge list of great double live albums some of which will feature in future weeks but this one will head a lot of lists as the greatest.

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From my failing memory I think I first heard Lizzy on the Waiting For An Alibi single in 1979 closely followed by the Do Anything You Want To single.  I remember seeing them on Top of the Pops and the single was duly purchased.  It wasn’t long before I discovered Live and Dangerous which had been released in 78 although had been recorded across shows in 76 & 77.

That’s the great thing about discovering music one small door opens up and behind it lies great riches.  At the time music was coming at me from all angles and I was trying to soak it all in and sort out what I actually liked and not what I should like.  Peer pressure was sometimes hard to resist at that age and you were trying to find your feet regarding the types of music that you liked and what you were allowed to like.  Some guilty pleasures around then like Sex Pistols, Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army among others.  You couldn’t actually admit you liked some other kind of music then.  So stupid and petty but I’m much more adult about it now.  Kind of.

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Lizzy were one of the first bands I heard who had a more softer, gentle side and weren’t afraid to show it.  Charismatic frontman Phil Lynott was clearly a huge romantic at heart and it came out in many of his lyrics.  Just listen to the live version of Still In Love With You, which also contains one of my favourite ever guitar solos and drips with emotion, for evidence.  That said Lynott wasn’t a man who didn’t know how to charm the ladies.  His between song chat with the crowd on this album says a lot about his cheeky demeanour when he asks the crowd;

“Is there anybody here with any Irish in them?”

“Is there any of the girls who’d like a little more Irish in them.”

There has always been a massive debate about how much of this album is actually live.  There were certainly overdubs in the studio but there seems to be a lot of disagreement about how much of the album was re-done in the studio.  Personally I don’t really care as the album sounds fantastic whatever they did.  The twin guitars of Brain Robertson and Scott Gorham became Lizzy’s signature sound and this was the classic Lizzy line up completed by Brain Downey on drums.  It’s a pity this line up split after this album as Gorham and Robertson complemented each other brilliantly.

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It’s an album full of Lizzy classics and really is a great place to start for any Lizzy virgins.  From the air raid siren beginning of Jailbreak through the more laid back Southbound, which producer Tony Visconti claimed was actually recorded at a soundcheck with crowd dubbed in, Bob Segar cover Rosalie, the genius twinning of Cowboy Song seguing into The Boys Are Back In Town and closer The Rocker from the formative rock years of the band.  It’s 17 songs long and even has Huey Lewis from Huey Lewis and the news playing harmonica on Baby Drives Me Crazy.  If you are a rock fan but never listened to this or Lizzy then I highly recommend this album.

Thin Lizzy

Sadly Lizzy is on my list of ‘if I had a time machine who would you go back and see’ list. I just never got round to seeing them back in the day.  I remember my brother was going to see them in 79 I think and I played the singles all day hoping he’d say ‘do you want to come?’  He never did and I don’t know why I never just asked him although I’m pretty sure the answer would have been a resounding no.  It would have been my first concert although I only had to wait another month or so before that happened. They played Glasgow another few times but I think as Robertson had left I lost a little interest and something I do regret.  I have seen the resurrected Lizzy a couple of times.  The John Sykes version was actually very good but the later version seemed to have turned into a more metal band and completely destroyed the Lizzy classics.  One of the very few times I’ve left a gig early.  They’ve now changed their name to the Black Star Riders but I can’t get any enthusiasm for them at all.

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In January 1986 Phil Lynott died after his years of partying and living the rock star life to the full sadly caught up with him.  Although most people would think Lynott was born in Ireland he was actually born in West Brom and moved to Dublin to stay with his gran when he was four.  Being born out of wedlock and from a mixed race relationship life must have been pretty tough back in those unforgiving days.  Lynott was the ultimate charmer though and he was the perfect frontman and played his bass like a demon.  In 2000 when I was in Ireland to see Pearl Jam I took a trip out to visit his grave at St Fintan’s cemetery in Sutton just outside Dublin.  Took me a while to find it as all the graves are much the same and didn’t have headstone but stones laid on the ground.  Once I did locate it though it was festooned with mementos from those who had previously visited.  I’m never quite sure why I visit graves of those people I never personally knew.  I suppose they have played a small but significant part in my life and just want to pay my respects although it doesn’t really sit with my belief that when you die that’s it, no afterlife etc. so I’m really just paying respect to a bit of stone and earth really. 🙂

I’ve still to see his statue in Dublin.  Last time I was there it had been removed for cleaning or something.  I’ll catch up with it next time but Lynott and Lizzy left quite a legacy behind.

See you on week 14.

Week 12: Cheap Trick

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At Budokan

Cheap Trick are one the great underrated bands of our time.  So much so I’d wager many of you have got this far are probably thinking, who?  If I mentioned the song ‘ I Want You To Want Me’ there may be some knowing nods.  That was the first Trick song I heard on the Friday Rock Show and I remember buying it in the bargain bin for 10p at the Woolworths in Stranraer while on a family holiday in Portpatrick in 79.

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I think part of the reason for them being relative unknowns in the UK is probably down to their lack of touring to back up album releases.  Since I bought the single I’ve only managed to see them live 3 times.  The first time was in Edinburgh in 1986 when they were supporting Motley Crue at the Playhouse.  I think this was a rearranged show after Crue postponed a previous tour when the rumoured reason was too much snow on the roof of the venues. The bizarre world of rock n roll, folks.  While we were in Edinburgh for the gig we bumped into singer Robin Zander in the Waverley Shopping Centre. He was rock star personified with long white coat and long blonde hair.  I got him to sign my ticket but at the time I hadn’t realised he’d signed across the bit they tear off when you go in.  Took me a lot of pleading with venue staff for them to let me keep my ticket intact.  Needless to say Trick completely blew Crue off the stage.

7. Motley Crue Feb 8th 1986

 

I had to wait another 16 years before I saw them again at the Garage in Glasgow where I managed to catch one of Rick Nielsen’s plectrums although he seems to throw hundreds out so I think everybody got one.  The the last time was at the ABC in 2010.  It’s rather frustrating as they are constantly touring in the US but any shows over here are either one off London dates or festival appearances.  Hopefully it’s not the last time I’ll see them though.

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The Budokan album is quite an interesting one. Trick were the classic ‘Big in Japan’ band at the time. Relatively unknown in their home land but were massive in Japan and were greeted like The Beatles with screaming fans at their arrival at airports and at their shows. There are some parts on the album where the crowd is louder than the band and almost completely drowns out the music.  The album was recorded over 3 nights in 1978 and was originally intended for release in Japan only but the success of the I Want You to Want Me single saw record sales of the album on import before it was finally released officially and became Cheap Trick’s biggest selling release.   In the UK it was released on coloured vinyl, a frequent marketing ploy used at the time.  The album came in translucent yellow vinyl (as can be seen by picture at the start), described on the sticker adorning the front sleeve as kamikaze yellow vinyl.  Not sure if that would be allowed in the pc world of today.  The album showed the photogenic Zander and bassist Tom Peterson on the front while oddballs guitarist Nielsen and drummer Bun E Carlos were relegated to the back.

Cheap Trick / At Budokan LP 2

The album itself manages to capture a live gig as well as any live album I’ve heard.  The aforementioned screaming crowd can be a bit distracting at times but this album showcases the band in a way no studio album ever could.  It’s pop rock at its finest with the opening of Hello There through the epic Need Your Love, the simple pop sensibilities of I Want You to Want Me, the infectious keyboard refrain of Surrender that has you singing along then the finale of Clock Strikes Ten with Nielsen making the clock chimes on his guitar. It’s an album full of great songs that have a different life live than their studio counterparts.

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Somewhat naively at the time I thought the album was the gig in full until 1994 when Budokan II was released which contained the remaining tracks from the gigs in 78 plus some tracks that were recorded in 79 on a follow up tour.  It didn’t have the same impact as the first release.  In 1998 they finally released the concert as it was recorded with all the tracks in the correct order but having listened to the first Budokan release for nearly 20 years I still go back to the original album because that’s how I first discovered it and that’s what feels right.  There are a number of albums that this has happened to and I still go back to the originals as although the songs are now in correct gig order after 20/30 years of listening to them the other way just feels all wrong.

budokan 30th

Finally on the 30th anniversary a box set was released that included, along with the CDs, video footage of the gig that was only shown in Japan up until that point.  I think they’ve now finally squeezed as much as they can out of this release.  Although the video footage was a welcome addition to the story.  It was the album that broke Cheap Trick and they’ve released consistently good albums over the years. Most recently with the contender for worst album title of the year in Bang, Zoom, Crazy….Hello. They have an ear for a good pop rock song and are often quoted as an influence on a number of bands like Guns n Roses, Motley Crue and The Smashing Pumpkins.  They still tour extensively in the US and I just wish they’d pop over here more often than they do.

Still I doubt many of their fans associate one of their biggest hits with a town in South West Scotland.

See you on week 13.

Week 11: U2

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The Joshua Tree/Achtung Baby

Another double album choice and it could have easily been a treble choice with The Unforgettable Fire just missing out.  Considering Fire contains two of my favourite U2 songs in Bad and Elvis Presley and America it was a tough decision. The two albums I’ve chosen are the albums that made U2 the megastars they are today but The Unforgettable Fire was an important stepping stone to them becoming the biggest band in the world.

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It’s widely acknowledged that the moment U2 took the leap from a band on the rise to to becoming something extra special was that afternoon in 1985, Wembley Stadium and Live Aid.  U2 were making a name for themselves and had scored a mid afternoon slot. Sunday Bloody Sunday had been played and the opening refrain of Bad filled the air.  Halfway through the song Bono started pointing out into the crowd. At first it looked like maybe someone was in distress but it was Bono trying to connect with the audience in the anonymous surroundings of Wembley Stadium.  When he finally jumped into the crowd the stadium went mad.  Bono had an intimate dance with a girl from the audience in front of a billion people.  It was one of music’s great ‘moments’ and the tipping point for U2.

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It’s  bizarre looking back now but the band thought they’d blown it.  Bono’s antics caused a huge argument after the show. He’d left the band hanging as they’d no idea what was going on. He’d just disappeared from sight and they weren’t even sure he was still there until he appeared back on stage a few minutes later. They also missed out on their 3rd song and biggest hit of that time, Pride.

It was only in the days after that it began to filter through that Bono’s off script jump into the crowd was many people’s favourite moment of the day, mine included, and I’m happy to say, like the t-shirt of the event said, ‘I Was There’.  It was my first trip to the big smoke of London and a city I’ve since fallen in love with.  Can’t believe we went by Stagecoach bus, think it took about 10 hours.  A pal of mine Markie Dolenz put us up in his flat in Walthamstow and although we’ve lost touch I’ll be forever grateful.

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I remember exactly how I discovered U2.  A friend of mine, Stuart Collins, worked in a camera shop in Glasgow’s Charing Cross.  Either with my girlfriend of the time and/or some pals we would end up there of an afternoon and just shoot the breeze, have a laugh and just get wasted.  How Stuart never lost his job I’ll never know and although the shop wasn’t that busy he still had to deal with customers in his inebriated state.  It was on one of those visits he put on a cassette titled Boy by a band called U2. I don’t think I’d never heard of them until this point.  I think this was probably around 1983 and after my initial metal years I was starting to branch out a little.  What struck me about Boy was the raw energy of the band although it took me a little while for me to really fall in love with the music which I was later to regret. More of that shortly.  Slowly the music won me over and I found myself making sure that was what was played anytime we were at the shop and multiple times.  The three song run of An Cat Dubh, Into the Heart and Out of Control is still among my favourite moments on any album of any band.

u2 boy period

The reason I regret taking so long to get into the band was I passed up on the chance to see them live and it all happened about 100 yards away from where I first heard them when the band palyed a gig at Tiffanys in Sauchiehall Street.  It’s a gig I could have gone to and regularly get a ribbing from those who were there but at the time I just wasn’t ready but will always be one I will look back on as the one that got away. I had to wait a year later to see them live for the first of twenty live shows.

There’s been a million words written about both the albums I’ve picked and I’ll only contribute a few more.  The Joshua Tree and the subsequent film and soundtrack Rattle and Hum saw a band that had become massive on the back of the Live Aid performance.  The problem was they had begun to take themselves a bit too seriously and become a little overbearing and earnest.  Their shows were still great but Bono had taken on the mantle of man who could save the world and it turned a lot of people against the band and their constant flag waving and banging the drum of injustice. At this point in the dictionary pretentious had a picture of U2 beside it. I must admit I’ve always viewed this part of Bono’s ego in a fairly relaxed way. There’s not many rock stars have the ear of world leaders.  He may not have the power he thinks he does but if he wants to help eradicate AIDS, fight against poverty and generally use his powers for good (tax avoidance scheme in Netherlands aside) then a few rants, a bit of preaching and the occasional slightly patronising speech during a gig are a small price to pay as far as I’m concerned.  I know a lot of people disagree and Bono seems an easy target but he more than anyone realises this and accepts the criticism and occasional hypocritical position he finds himself in.  Bono may be many things good and bad but one quality he doesn’t lack is self awareness.  As the Zoo TV tour proved.

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The Joshua Tree just happened to be released on my birthday in 1987 and it’s full of iconic U2 songs, Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, With or Without You, Bullet the Blue Sky but even the lesser known songs like One Tree Hill, Mothers of the disappeared and Running to Stand Still make this a fantastic album.  Live the songs were transformed. Where The Streets still gives me goosebumps to this day when I hear the opening refrain, the bass line beginning of With or Without You has the same effect.  Before the glitz and technology took over Bullet the Blue Sky live involved a single spotlight sweeping over the crowd.  It was simple but effective.  I didn’t really like Bullet on first listen and when recording a cassette of the album that was the song that was relegated to Side 2 as the album didn’t fit on one side of a C90.  Live the band may have become over earnest rock stars but when the music hit the sweet spot few could get near them.

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During the Joshua Tree tour the band filmed gigs in Denver that became the film Rattle and Hum and also a soundtrack album of the same name was released with covers, some new songs and alternative versions of songs including a gospel version of Still Haven’t Found.  It was this film and album release that saw the band receive a lot of criticism regarding their rock star status.  Criticism the band took to heart and on a New Year’s Eve concert in Dublin that was broadcast around the world.  Bono stated that they would have to go away and dream it all up again.  And although it nearly caused the break up of the band they really did dream it all up again.

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Achtung Baby is the sound of a band completely reinventing itself and the album is a definite counterpoint to the Joshua Tree.  The bombast of Joshua Tree is replaced by a much more electronic almost industrial sound.  The intial location for recording was the famous Hansa studios in Berlin but early work was slow and the band struggled to produce anything of note and with relationships pushed to breaking point it looked like the band could break up over the old ‘musical differences’ cliche.  Fortunately the breakthrough recording of One set the band on course to record one of their most successful albums and one that many regard as their greatest album.  If I was pushed between the two I’d go for Achtung Baby but it’s hard to compare two distinctly different records.  Partly what swings it for me was U2 found a humour and a self deprecation on Achtung baby that had previously been missing.  The band that made Achtung Baby took the piss out of the Joshua Tree band in an affectionate but occasionally scathing manner.  This manifested itself on the Zoo TV tour which promoted the album.  Which, for me, is still the greatest ever stadium gig I’ve ever seen.

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The album itself though is quality from the distorted guitar of Zoo Station to the more reflective closer  Love is Blindness it is simply a brilliant album.  Some say it hasn’t aged well but I disagree I think it’s stood the test of time well given the change of direction the band were trying to perform when they were at their most popular.  In contrast to Radiohead, the subject of week ten’s blog, U2 still managed to retain a sound that had mass appeal and I think they also found some new respect amongst the many critics of the Joshua Tree period.  Even to this day I can’t find a weakness on the album.  Every song has its moments.  The commercial appeal of singles such as One, The Fly, Mysterious Ways to the darker So Cruel and Whose Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses.  It was on this album I think Bono finally felt comfortable with his voice.  Ultra Violet is possibly one of his best studio vocal performances  although I might be slightly biased as it’s my favourite song off the album.

If you get the chance watch the documentary From The Sky Down which was produced as part of the 20th anniversary of Achtung Baby and tells the story of the album.  Highly recommended viewing.

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When the songs were brought to a live setting there was maybe a concern how they would work on the road.  Looking back now any concerns would soon be completely groundless the transformation live was quite astonishing.

The Zoo TV tour started out with an arena tour and as you would expect tickets were much sought after and to ensure a ticket it was sleep out time.  No getting up at 8.55 and logging into ticket master in 92.  Getting a ticket took real commitment.  So I and a few thousand others booked my sleeping bag spot on the tunnel that led down to the SECC and secured a ticket for one of the most anticipated shows I’ve ever been to.

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During the tour U2 brilliantly used MTV as its promotional tool.  A number of documentaries including Outside Broadcast were shown that provided an insight to the tour and many teasers to the show itself.  Outside Broadcast is well worth checking out on you tube.  Finally in June 92 the tour rolled into Glasgow and I can only describe it as wow just wow.  I don’t think I took a breath for the first 15 mins and my jaw just hit the floor as my brain tried to cope with the sensory overload.  Probably the most incredible 15 mins of live music I’ve ever seen.  Unless you were there or have seen the show it’s hard to describe.  An assault of flashing messages, Trabant’s flying in the air acting as spotlights, Bono coming on as the Fly, TVs and lots of them, explosions.  Just an incredible whirlwind start with the first eight songs all from the new album.  The whole show was mentally and physically draining but in a good way.

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Over a year later the Stadium tour rocked up to Celtic Park for two shows and although the element of surprise was somewhat less the show was not diminished for it.  They had taken the indoor show and increased the scale for the outdoor venues and it was the size of the show that made this so spectacular.  I’m generally not really a fan of the stadium outdoor show.  A necessary evil in my eye and usually the only way you will get to see some acts but the Zoo TV show managed to finally crack the barrier between audience and band.  No matter where you were at Celtic Park there was something in the show.  The multitude of TV screens large and small had a huge part to play in that.  It allowed the audience real close ups of the action on stage through individual cams and there was an interaction there that I hadn’t ever seen before in a stadium show.  There was also the small issue of the Zooropa album having been written and recorded in four months and released in between the arena and stadium tour which was called the Zooropa tour but was still under the Zoo TV banner.

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I’ll always remember seeing the burning crosses rising up on the screen as the beginning of Bullet The Blue Sky rang out and just thinking ‘feck me that’s just awesome’.  There were of course the crank phone calls in the latter half of the show when he took on the persona of Mr MacPhisto, the devil who was a long ago washed up rock star who thought he was still relevant.  Bono played the part to perfection. On the Glasgow stadium shows the victims were Ian Lang the Scottish Secretary at the time and PM John Major.  My favourite was at the final show of the Zoo TV tour in Sydney when MacPhisto phones for a taxi and they hang up on him.  A fitting end to the tour and character.

mr macphito

Of course once the big show genie was out the bottle it became expected of U2 to put on a spectacular show and over the years they have always put on something special with the 360 show with the giant ‘claw’ supporting the No Line on the Horizon tour probably the peak of these but none came close to the Zoo TV tour for sheer impact.  The recent indoor shows with the video cage was probably the first time I’ve seen something that rivalled the Zoo TV era for sheer wow factor but nothing will rival those first 15 mins at the SECC in 92.

Right I better stop typing or this might get quite long.

Some live clips as well as studio for your delectation.

The Joshua Tree

Achtung Baby

See you on week 12.

Fish – Newcastle 2016

venueFish – O2 Academy, Newcastle, April 9th 2016

So this time it really is a ‘Farewell to Childhood’.  I thought last December’s show at the ABC in Glasgow was going to be the final time I got to hear Misplaced Childhood in its entirety but a combination of Fish falling ill and his keyboardist breaking an arm meant rescheduled dates from the last tour threw up the opportunity of the Newcastle gig.  The temptation was too much, i couldn’t say no.  I was looking back through the years trying to calculate how many times I’ve heard all of Childhood live and I reckon this is either the 7 or 8th time through the Marillion and Fish years, including one that was almost a demo version before the album was released although I think it was just side 1 they played that night.  I have a bootleg somewhere and a number of songs have different lyrics.

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Fish was on stage sharp at 8 which nearly caught me by surprise.  I was expecting an 8.30/9 start and literally got my spot as the lights went down.  There are a few starters to get through before the main course.  Never one to take the easy route we have Pipeline, Feast of Consequences, Family Business, The Perception of Johnny Punter dealing with diverse subjects as the Second World War, domestic abuse and Kosovo among them.  It’s fair to say Fish struggled a bit with his voice.  He had problems hitting the high notes and a bit of coughing and spluttering between songs pointed towards the onset of a cold. It was also a strangely subdued Newcastle audience.  Maybe the opening selection of songs could have been angled more towards the better known Fish/Marillion material.  I’m guessing the casual Fish fan isn’t as familiar with the solo material.  I’d already heard these songs at Dalkeith and Glasgow last year and would have liked to have heard something different but I wasn’t here for those.  Fish introduced the main event commenting on the shine from the follicle challenged in the crowd saying it made a great lighting effect.

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We are all maybe a little older but the 30 years that have passed has not diminished the majesty of Childhood.  It still sounds as great today as it did on its first listen and in many ways it sounds even better.  It’s an album that means so much to so many.  I was 20 when it was released and I guess I was leaving my own childhood behind although the child in me is never far away from the surface. It’s an album that, like Fish explained beforehand, holds so many memories. I’ve waxed lyrical about the album before but it is a stunning musical masterpiece and if you have never heard it what are you waiting for?  There are sing-alongs a plenty and finally the Newcastle crowd found their voice.  Lavender brings the goosebumps, Heart of Lothian brings the passion, Blind Curve brings the complicated hand clapping that is clearly beyond some people before we head for home with Childhoods End and White Feather.  It’s all over far too soon and I’d happily have flipped it back over to side one and started again.

childhood

The band return for a rousing encore of Market Square Heroes and its mid section had some hand clappers just giving up as it all got just too difficult.  We’re finally sent home with The Company ringing in our ears and the site of many portly men (and women) pirouetting like ballerinas.  Maybe not quite up there with Glasgow but I’d quite happily go and hear Childhood every night if I could but all good things come to an end, a Childhoods End.

childhood farewell

So it’s Farewell to Childhood, thanks for the great memories.