Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas songs... don't ya just love'em!

Christmas comes but once a year... and with the same regularity does a plethora of past Christmas 'hits'. And if there's one thing guaranteed to make me scream 'Bah, Humbug!' it's a cliché-ridden festive toon!!!

I play this annual game with myself; on what date do I first hear Noddy Holder screaming 'It's Christmas'? First released in 1973, it has been a Yule-tide fixture ever since, but like Xmas sales it's played earlier every year. As soon as I hear it the radio goes off. Until January.

And let’s face it, if anybody out there doesn’t know its Christmas from the number of times you hear Band Aid then you're probably a Hindu living on Mars ...

It's kind of depressing; always the same old rotation. Chris Rea ('Driving Home this Christmas'), Wham ('Last Christmas'), Wings ('Wonderful Christmastime'); Johnny Mathis ('When a Child s Born'), Pogues ('Fairytale of New York'), Cliff Richard ('Mistletoe and Wine') and (just to show how universal rock is) José Feliciano ('Feliz Navidad'). Oh, and I mustn't forget Wizard (I wish it Could be Xmas Everyday'). Personally, no, I don't. But I do feel sorry for Roy Wood, songwriter extraordinaire, being remembered only for this lame sing-along favourite.

I've nothing against Christmas songs per se (excepting Bowie's biggest mistake), but wouldn't it be nice to reprise a few less-known ones? My votes would go to The Zombies ('Christmas for the Free'), U2 ('Christmas, Baby Please Come Home'), The Waitresses (Christmas Wrapping', The Sensational Alex Harvey Band ('There's No Lights on the Chrotmas Tree')and David Essex (Winter’s Tale').

Any other suggestions before Christmas 2012 (DJs request all entries to be in by August, please, as they want to be in before Slade ...).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not too many Indonesians expected in 2012

Amongst the 53 nationalities taking the rock tour this year were fans from some pretty surprising countries, proving rock's global appeal. Among the English-speakers, Latin Americans, and sundry Europeans were Russians, Indians, Syrians, Taiwanese and Malays! Remember, up to a relatively few years ago, rock was either banned or severly frowned on in many of these countries.

But while most of us across rock's globe can now listen openly to virtually uncensored rock, wear t-shirts advertising our heroes, and even dress to reflect our chosen genre, spare a thought for those who can't and for whom listening, or adopting a particular dress code is still an act of defiance - just as it was in those early years of rock.

Take Indonesia, for example. It's reported that police raided a punk rock festival in the city of Banda Acha this last weekend. Traditional drug raid? Alas no; it was a much more fundamental attack on rock. Attendees were rounded up and those with Mohawks, or similar punk hair styles, had their heads forcibly shaved. Body-pierced jewellery was yanked out, and some fans were literally thrown into nearby rivers and ponds for a spot of 'spiritual cleansing'.

On the one hand, it's somewhat reassuring that rock still has the power to frighten establishments, and to 'kick against the pricks'. I often fear the blandness of Coldplay is a reflection of where our beloved rock n roll is in this 21st century, but maybe, to paraphrase Zappa, rock ain't dead (at least not everywhere), it just smells funny.

On the other hand, we need to spare a thought for the youth of Indonesia in their fight against such stupid reactionalism and crack-downs such as these. Solidarity is required! Rock on, Banda Ache.

We had a couple of Indonesians on the tour this year, but given the current over-reaction Indonesian authorities have exhibited, we must doubt there will be too many Indonesians on our nationality list for 2012!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Keef Hartley dead. Who?

Behind every publicly-acclaimed rock 'great', be it an individual or band, there are scores, if not hundreds, of others who never quite made it, despite their talents. I was reminded of this when reading of the death of the Lancashire-born drummer and band leader, Keef Hartley, last week (November 29th). Hands up, who recognises the name? He took over from Ringo in 'Rory Storm's Hurricanes' when Ringo joined the Beatles, went on to be one of John Mayall's troupe, played with 'The Artwoods' (band of Ronnie Wood's brother Art), formed his own 'Keef Harley Band' who... wait for it... played at Woodstock.

Woodstock? And you never heard of him?

And there's the rub. Keef Hartley could have, perhaps should have, been one of the drumming giants; his passing recognised by all rather than his slipping gently into that good night. Arguably Hartley missed his main chance because he's not actually in the Woodstock film. Why? Because he asked for money upfront, which was not forthcoming, so the performance was not filmed and didn't make Scorsese's edit. A legend was not born.

How many others made that one decision that robbed them of real fame and fortune? Terry Reid turning down the Led Zep vocals job? The Kinks missing out on US glory by falling out with the Teamsters Union? The Zombies who quit before what would have been their 'Time of the Season'. Can't even begin to count the number who simply shouldn't have taken that last drink, spliff or hit... bad decisions all. But the same could have happened to those that made it but for the grace of God and a little luck. If Rod Stwart had been just that bit better at football he might have signed for Brentford and his singing career been confined to the terraces in later years!

But back to Hartley. While the man may have gone, his music hasn't and it's not too late to get into it. Amazon inevitably has a range of his CDs including the great 'Battle of North West Six', 'Lancashire Hustler' and 'Dog Soldier'. RIP Keef Hartley.