Proto-Punk in Ten Songs

Music genres are interesting: they always evolve from something else. Years before a genre hits the mainstream, there are usually artists playing a similar type of music to small audiences. Often, there are other elements at play to create a perfect atmosphere for a new shift in the public consumption of music: economical, social, political.

Punk is no different. Except, it sort of is. Punk music was born in 1976, people will say. It’s ingrained in their minds, possibly more so than any other genre. Of course, the groundwork for punk was created much earlier.

Read my article for Louder Than War here, and explore some of these key influences.

Follow me on Twitter

 

Lee Brilleaux: Rock ‘n’ Roll Gentleman by Zoe Howe

To an extent, I have an affinity with Dr Feelgood. I live within reach of the confines of the Thames Delta. Often, I walk to the bench dedicated to the memory of Lee Brilleaux, gaze over at Canvey Island, with the Coryton Refinery silhouetted on the skyline and imagine the bands exploits.

With this in mind, I have to admit that this review is probably bias. I know the place names referenced. I’ve had a drink in the same pubs which Lee Brilleaux did. I’ve tested his theory of Leigh-on-Sea cockles as a hangover cure. In short, I am a man of the Thames Delta.

Dr Feelgood were the pub-rock stars of the 1970s. If you watch any old footage of the band, your eyes will be drawn to two of the members in particular. Wilko Johnson and Lee Brilleaux.

First you watch the guitarist. On stage, Wilko Johnson is possessed. His eyes, wide, bulging. His guitar slung down, then lifted up, pointed at the audience like a machine gun. Jutting rhythmically on the strings, chopping. Somehow he is strumming the guitar and playing a solo at the same time.

Then, when the singing starts, your eyes flick to Lee Brilleaux. He’s charismatic, wearing a dirty white suit. Moody, aggressive. You wouldn’t mess around with him. He is hunched over the microphone, singing in a beer drenched voice, eyeing up the audience to see if anyone defies him. Occasionally, he dips his hand into his pocket to pull out a harmonica, as Wilko Johnson is blistering around the stage behind him.

Dr Feelgood – this Dr Feelgood, with Wilko Johnson and Lee Brilleaux – are surely unbeatable. Pre-punk, post-blues boom, their music is charged and at the time must have been a much welcomed antidote to the lengthy self-indulgent guitar vomit which was being spewed out from other corners.

Lee Brilleaux: Rock ‘n’ Roll Gentleman is a book that needed to be written. It is clearly well researched and will be the starting point for anyone wanting to find out more about Brilleaux in the future. 

Zoe Howe has done a tremendous job painting a picture of Lee Brilleaux. His stage persona is of course completely different to the man he was: kind, charming and a true rock ‘n’ roll gentleman.

Follow me on Twitter

 

June Playlist

A lot of new music has come to my attention recently, since I’ve been writing here and at Songwriting Magazine.

I’ve been sent albums, EP’s and singles from musicians all across the musical spectrum, which is great. I’ve reviewed some of these albums and songs. Some of them I haven’t been able to write about yet. I thought it would be a good idea to create a Spotify playlist of my favourite songs from this month.

Here are some of my thoughts on some of these tracks:

  1. Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan: My dad has always said that this is the song to test speakers. For that reason, it seemed appropriate to start the playlist with this song. I wrote about the Greil Marcus book, Like a Rolling Stone, on this blog.
  2. Ordinary Daze – Sea Pinks: Dream-pop, guitar-pop. A perfect song for a breezy summers day. Thoughts on Sea Pinks latest here.
  3. Asphalt Outlaw Hero – Lonnie Mack: I haven’t written about Lonnie Mack yet. But I’ve been wearing down his records recently.
  4. Hot Electrolytes – Love Ssega: A manic four minutes, which will raise a smile. Review here.
  5. Cormorant Bird – Fionn Regan: Super song. Appears on Fionn Regan’s long-awaited latest album, which I wrote about here.
  6. All Around The World – Little Willie John
  7. Love Survive – Michael Nau
  8. Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl – Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator was a change in direction for Hurray for the Riff Raff. The rhythmic build up is perfect. I wrote about The Navigator here.
  9. California Stars – Billy Bragg & Wilco
  10. Such a Night (With Clyde McPhatter) – The Drifters: I’ve been on a Clyde McPhatter binge after reading about Money Honey in Greil Marcus’ book Like a Rolling Stone. Marcus gives us a beautiful description about McPhatter’s vocals. I had to listen to the early Drifters songs and rediscover McPhatter.
  11. Soothing – Laura Marling
  12. Mental Cruelty – John Prine and Kacey Musgraves
  13. Far Below – Maria Kelly: Etheral Irish folk. Haunting music from Maria Kelly’s latest EP The Things I Should, which I’ve reviewed.
  14. Et Si Tu n’existais Pas – Iggy Pop
  15. The Best is Yet to Come – Bob Dylan
  16. Babushka-Yai Ya – Fionn Regan: Blisteringly fast. You can almost hear Regan scrawling the lyrics on the back of a cardboard beermat. Read all about it.
  17. Fire and Brimstone – Link Wray

Follow me on Twitter

Like a Rolling Stone – Greil Marcus

Perhaps it is strange to start a website dedicated to music with a post about a book. But then that is the intention of this page: to catch the glimpses of music, be it in film, books, LP’s, radio or in nature. Whatever it is – or wherever it comes from – it will be pure, unadulterated noise.

I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago when I was in the middle of nowhere. Greil Marcus writes about music reverently and with this work he takes us through the times and era that Bob Dylan recorded and released Like a Rolling Stone.

One thing which struck me from reading this account was how the master take of Like a Rolling Stone almost didn’t happen. Reaching for a bootleg of the session when I got back, I listened whilst reading Marcus’ blow by blow account. During the first few stabs at the song Dylan’s voice cracks, the musicians lose it. Then out of nowhere, the take is nailed and the song reaches levels which are rarely captured on tape. Then, bizarrely, several more takes are recorded. For an artist as notoriously fickle as Dylan, who has dropped tracks such as Blind Willie McTell from albums, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that he may have lost hope with the song and left it on the cutting room floor.

For someone who wasn’t born in those times, it is impossible to imagine Like a Rolling Stone being played on the radio for the first time. I guess this book is the closest we can get to actually being there. Greil Marcus gives us a snapshot of the period: a time shortly after the assasination of Malcolm X, the conflict in Vietnam escalating and the Civil Rights Movement in full flow with Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Would a song such as this have been created in anything but a turbulant time?