Saturday, 21 December 2013

Shed Seven - Live at the Birmingham Institute (not in any way the O2 Academy)

I like Shed Seven, they are one of my favourite Britpop bands.  However I need to challenge their grasp of geography on a UK tour when the closest that they get to my native South West is... Birmingham.  Yes, a 300 mile, 5 hour round trip but one that I knew would be worth it.

Setting off in plenty of time we arrive in Birmingham with time for a couple of pints and some fast food before heading over to the O2 Academy.  Timed to perfection we were there with 5 minutes to spare before the support act, Mark Morriss, takes to the stage.  Shed Seven clearly know their audience as the last time I had seen them (2 years ago at the same venue) Chris Helme, ex-The Seahorses, had been the support.  So with The Bluetones' extensive back catalogue, 2 solo albums and a new one soon to be released Mark was the perfect opening act.

We got to the front of the queue. They scanned the tickets but the machine was having none of it. The security guard ushered us in the direction of a kiosk where a guy looked at the ticket closely before announcing in a thick Brummy accent that I was at the wrong venue.  The ticket clearly said the Birmingham Institute but I had somehow just assumed that they'd be at the same place I saw them last time. Muppet.

Google maps came to the rescue and soon we were hot-footing it across Brum, dodging the early evening Christmas parties and a Santa themed hen night.  The Institute is a great venue; smaller than the O2 Academy but with a bit of character and two balconies. And it was rammed.  The show was a sell out and already it was hot and heaving.  Mark Morriss was on stage and as we arrived he announced "You might know this song, it's called Slight Return" before leading the crowd in a sing-along of his biggest hit.  He then played his new single This Is The Lie (And That's The Truth) to a more muted response, perhaps too gentle a song for an audience that already seemed up for a night out.  Just when we thought he'd finished he started singing Hello, the Lionel Ritchie song!  I had to smile when the guy stood in front of me turned to his mate and said "I didn't know he wrote this one".  When people started singing along to Hello Mark brought it to a close announcing that it was just a test to see what the crowd would sing along to. And then with a smile and a wave he was gone.  A shame because I was looking forward to seeing his set and hearing some of his new material, although it probably wasn't the ideal setting for that.

I caught up with Mark a little later.  We'd spoken previously as he was due to be a guest on our Phonic show earlier this year (which got cancelled at the last minute due to a cock-up on my part) and he gave me a copy of his new EP.  I played a track on my show the following day, which I actually prefer to the single.  We had a brief chat and agreed to meet up in the new year in advance of his album coming out for a full interview.

A quick trip to the bar and then we worked our way down to the front to wait for the
Shed.  They took to the stage and as the opening bars of Getting Better belted out the crowd went for it and partied like its 1996.  They were moshing before Rick Witter even started to sing, and that song has a short introduction! The gig was barely a minute old before Rick was into the crowd, proffering the mic to the bouncing masses who bellowed the chorus tunelessly but gloriously. (Apart from the guy who didn't know the words and got called out for it after the song).  It was clear that this gig, like the ones that preceded it on this tour, was more of a celebration than anything, a re-gathering of the clan.

The Shed have aged well and Witter in particular is the same recognisable figure, all arms and legs, constantly on the move.  Paul Banks is as cool as ever.  Drummer Alan Leach is more svelte these days and at this gig his finale of somersaulting over his unconventional drum kit saw him land on his feet, when I saw them in 2011 he landed very unceremoniously on his arse. The over-riding impression is that they still look and feel like a unit. The playing is tight but most of all they look like a bunch of mates having a whole load of fun.  Sometimes you get the impression that they can't quite believe that all these years since their commercial peak they can still pack out a sizable venue and have guys moshing all the way through.  Admittedly, the guys moshing are a bit older now and the regular insertion of slower songs is much appreciated if only to get our breath back!  At one point Rick asks those 'upstairs' if they'd rather be down the front but I think that everyone was exactly where they wanted to be, not least the band.

Shed Seven were never the biggest band in Britpop and didn't make it into the premier league of Oasis, Blur, Suede or Pulp.  They didn't get the critical acclaim of their peers either, for reasons that I have never quite understood.  However their record speaks for itself.  After the debut single Mark in 1994 (one of my favourite songs of theirs, which they played tonight) they racked up an incredible fifteen successive UK Top 40 singles over a 9 year period that spanned 4 albums.  Speakeasy, Ocean Pie, Bully Boy, She Left Me On Friday, Disco Down; They ran through most of the singles tonight and the crowd sang along throughout the gig, it was a communal affair.  The inclusion of the odd album track decreased the levels of recognition but always held the attention.  And whist the guys down at the front bounced and moshed their way through the full set, the couples in the balconies swayed and sang with just as much gusto. They finished their 90 minute set with Going For Gold before returning for an encore that concluded with Goodbye from 1998's Let It Ride and, of course, Chasing Rainbows.  The chorus seemed to be repeated almost endlessly, as if the band didn't want to leave the stage and the crowd didn't want to let them.  When the music finally stopped and the lights came up, the crowd filed away still singing Chasing Rainbows out into the cold Birmingham night.

In one sense Shed Seven are quite a curious band. Frozen in time they re-animate each December in full-on rock star mode, play sold out shows around the UK and then, as Christmas approaches they wave goodbye, say "see you next year" and disappear.  The fans would love to hear some new material but perhaps that is to miss the point.  Shed Seven and their audience are bound together by a love of the songs they made and the time that they made them.  Is it nostalgia? Yes of course but that tag should not detract from the experience.  For a couple of hours we are not fortysomethings but twentysomethings again, just like them.  Whatever their day jobs, every December they are rock stars once more and that seems to sustain them through the remaining 11 months. For those of us in the crowd it is exactly the same and I'm looking forward to next December already.

Monday, 18 November 2013

First Birthday Request Show

Yes, as amazing as it may seem yesterday saw the first anniversary of our very first broadcast on Phonic FM.  So we celebrated in style by making it a live request show. 

It's always a bit daunting as you never know what people are going to ask for and I normally like to play from CD rather than the laptop (I'm always convinced that the laptop is going to fail!). So that means having to take my entire Britpop CD collection into the studio.  My CD collection is expanding at an alarming rate due to the serious bargains that can be had on Amazon's second hand market. This week alone has seen new arrivals from The Candyskins, Bawl, Blur, Embrace & Laxton's Superb! This means that I am now straining with 3 large canvas bags full of CDs, oh and the laptop as well for all those mp3s.

The show itself was loads of fun and even though I was alone in the studio, with dozens of people getting touch via email, Twitter, Facebook & text the two hours just fled by.  Knowing that you've made doing the ironing that little bit easier for Juanita in Doncaster just by playing Disco Down by Shed Seven is great!  Oh and you guys don't just pick the big hits either, whether it was an album track by Mansun or not-quite-hits from Tiger, Speedy & Jocasta, they were all great songs.

Next month we'll do something a bit special for Christmas, including Britpop Roulette again and we're bound to be giving something away too.

Track listing:

  1. Pulp - Do You Remember The First Time?
  2. Shed Seven - Chasing Rainbows
  3. The Verve - Bitter Sweet Symphony
  4. Kula Shaker - Hey Dude
  5. Embrace - All You Good Good People
  6. Shed Seven - Disco Down
  7. Mansun - Shotgun
  8. James - Laid
  9. Ride - Dreams Burn Down
  10. David Devant & His Spirit Wife - Ginger
  11. Space - You & Me Vs. The World
  12. Pulp - Babies
  13. Oasis - Whatever
  14. The Theme - Take Me Away (Requested by Gary from The Theme in a blatant act of self-promotion that we were happy to oblige)
  15. Echobelly - Dark Therapy
  16. The Verve - Sonnet
  17. The Verve - The Rolling People (nobody requested this, I just accidentally pressed play on the wrong CD drive - doh!)
  18. Tiger - Race
  19. Speedy - Time For You
  20. Jocasta - Go
  21. Silver Sun - I'll See You Around
  22. Suede - The Wild Ones
  23. Blur - End Of The Century
  24. Gene - As Good As It Gets
  25. Supergrass - Alright
Liam celebrates our first birthday - that's Nick sat next to him, honest.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

In praise of Bennet

One of the best things about talking to people about Britpop, whether through the radio shows, facebook, twitter or this blog, is that they are always keen to share their likes and dislikes. Many of the bands that we play on the show have actually been suggested by our listeners and sometimes I've been blissfully unaware of their existence before. Case in point, Bennet.

Bennet, gone but not forgotten
Now not many people have requested Bennet but those that do always make a point about what a good band they were.  Looking into them I immediately remember Mum's Gone To Iceland a number 34 hit in 1997. For those not in the UK, it is not a tale of Scandinavian emigration but rather a eulogy to a frozen food store. It simultaneously sums them up and does them a disservice. It is typical in that the riffing guitars, melodic bassline, energy, witty lyrics (it's actually a song about consumerism) and sense of humour are found across a lot of Bennet's music. The disservice is that it pigeon-holed them as something of a novelty band, and that is why I'm writing this blog piece. It's a decent enough song but they have better. It was the fifth single from the album for heaven's sake but it happened to be the only one that charted.

But let's start at the beginning. Consisting of Jonny Peer (Vocals, Guitar), Jason Applin (Vocals, Guitar), Kevin Moorey (Drums) and the eponymous Andy Bennett (Bass), the band formed in Reading in 1993. They signed a deal with Roadrunner Records in 1995 at the height of the Britpop bloom.

Probably a Bennet LP in there!
The early singles Curley Shirley, If You Met Me Then You'd Like Me and Colossal Man met with some success in the indie charts and the mighty John Peel was said to be a fan - having them in for one of his famous sessions. (If anyone has a recording of that I would love to hear it - get in touch!). Then came what for me was their finest hour Someone Always Gets There First, a poignant tale of love not so much lost as never won, set to crunching guitars and sporting a killer tune. Bearing in mind at this point in the 90s the charts were at least 50% guitar music it is a mystery how this only made in to number 69. It was even re-released after the success of Iceland but to no avail. This probably makes it into my top 10 favourite songs. It was also the first single that they made a video for - but that doesn't seem to be available online so here's the audio.

1997 saw the release of their d├ębut album, Super Natural. A quality offering with nods towards Blur and Pulp but with heavier guitars and groovier bass. I only heard it for the first time this year (another 1p album) and was seriously impressed. But don't take my word for it, look at the reviews that it got at the time:
"I'd even rate Applin alongside the likes of Jarvis in the . . . league of lyricists . . . this is a fine debut." - Time Out
"Guitar pop with a pert sense of humour." - Top of The Pops Magazine 
"What an unutterably superb record!" - NME 
Mum's Gone To Iceland was a hit, they were touring with the likes of Dodgy and Echobelly, playing the festivals - surely this was the platform for bigger and better things?

Sadly it was not to be and this turned out to be their zenith. Their next album Street vs. Science was released the following year to decidedly cool reviews and didn't sell. The band split shortly afterwards, never to be heard from again. For what it's worth I like Street vs. Science, the overall quality may not be up to the standards of their first but when it's good it's very good. I played a track from it on last week's radio show.

And that was Bennet. If you've never heard their stuff I strongly suggest that you dig out a copy of Super Natural (you can get hold of a used copy on Amazon for a couple of quid, go on you know you want to). I think you'll like it.

Update 20/09/13: Listener Mark Montague has been in touch to say that he has a recording of the John Peel session! What's more he has uploaded it, along with a live gig from the Lemon Grove in Exeter and a Radio 1 interview. Wow - nice one Mark! Listen here:

For a full Bennet discography and other info, click here.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Britpop Roulette: Track Listing from August Phonic Show

A little while ago I saw a documentary on TV about the NOW albums.  If you're not familiar with the "Now that's what I call music" series, it's a ludicrously popular compilation of current chart hits  - there have been 85 of them since 1983. The programme though made me think of a similarly titled album series "The Best... Album In The World... Ever!", they were around for a few years in the 90s and were full of great Britpop/Indie tracks.  I had the first couple of installations on double-cassette.  There was also a rival britpop and indie compilation (just as the NOW albums competed with 'The Hits Album') but I just couldn't remember the name of it.

Then it came to me, Shine.

I started looking at the track listings on wikipedia and they were about 75% Britpop but as well as the big hits there were lots of the bands that either only tickled the lower reaches of the charts or never quite made it at all; Elcka, Ruth, Bennet, Jocasta, Tiger, even our old friends Speedy, and more. These would be great for the radio show, but could I find them? This would be tricky...

Erm, actually no. It wasn't. They were all on Amazon Marketplace. And the cost? 1p each.

In this day and age you'd think that downloads are surely the way to get hold of music cheaply but in fact on Amazon there is a huge reservoir of used CDs available for just 1p (+P&P of £1.25).

In fact there is an excellent blog run by our friends at 1p Album Club. Just have a look at all the interesting stuff they're finding. In fact, follow them on Twitter (@1palbumclub) for all the latest updates.

And so with just a few clicks of the mouse, all 10 volumes of Shine were winging their way to me for a combined cost of just £12.60.  15 CDs, 300 songs for £12.

Remember that NOW documentary I mentioned? Well it featured Dermot O'Leary's Radio 2 show in which he spins a little roulette wheel to select a random track from a NOW album.  I like things like that.  So I thought that I should nick the idea but instead of one NOW CD, we would have the entire Shine collection.

300 songs from between 1995 and 1998, full of Britpop classics, rare Britpop gems and the odd slightly bizarre inclusion. Perfect. The stage was set for Britpop Roulette. The only problem was that, strangely enough, I don't possess a roulette wheel. Not to worry, one quick raid on the kids' toy cupboard and we have our solution!

Britpop Roulette
Lightweight Dermot just picks one song this way, we could do better than that. We could pick a whole show this way! So last Sunday found me ensconced in the basement studios of Phonic FM armed with just a Twister board and a bundle of Shine CDs.  My friend Chris came along to help out, spin the wheel and generally be Debbie McGee (a quite frightening thought...). He'd even bought some Haribo with him.

So here is how it worked, I invited the listeners to pick a track number between 1 and 20 (handily there were 20 tracks on each CD), then Chris spun the spinner which selected the CD.

I started the show with Oasis' Morning Glory as it was track 21 on Shine 7 Disc 1 and so couldn't have been chosen by random. Also it's a bloody good song to start a show with.

Then after we'd explained how it was going to work Chris had the honour of having the first go. He picked track 10 and spun the 'wheel'. At this point I realised that what I was actually broadcasting was two grown men sitting in silence save the faint click of a Twister selector spinning. Yes, quality entertainment!  The pointer landed on Shine 9 Disc 2.  However instead of then shifting seamlessly into the track what we had was me rummaging around finding the right case, clattering  about as I struggled to get the right CD into the drive as quickly as possible. Finally we were on our way with Best Regrets by Geneva.

After that people were getting in touch thick and fast via email, text, Twitter and especially Facebook.  So many in fact that we couldn't use everyone's selections. As I said before, the Shine albums aren't all Britpop so it did lead to a couple of what would otherwise have been curious choices for our show; Skunk Anansie and Rocket From The Crypt anyone?

The full show listing was:

  1. Morning Glory by Oasis (from Shine 7)
  2. Best Regrets by Geneva (from Shine 9)
  3. C'Mon Kids by The Boo Radleys (from Shine 7)
  4. Chinese Burn by Heavy Stereo (from Shine 6)
  5. Amnesia by Chumbawumba (from Shine 10)
  6. Change by The Lightning Seeds (from Shine Too)
  7. The Wild Ones by Suede (from Shine 5)
  8. Hit! by The Wannadies (from Shine 8)
  9. Getting Away With It by Electronic (from Shine)
  10. Charity by Skunk Anansie (from Shine 5)
  11. One Love by The Stone Roses (from Shine 3)
  12. Fine Time by Cast (from Shine Too)
  13. On A Rope by Rocket From The Crypt (from Shine 6)
  14. This Feeling by Puressence (from Shine 10)
  15. Dark Therapy by Echobelly (from Shine 4)
  16. What Do I Do Now? by Sleeper (from Shine 3)
  17. Goldfinger by Ash (from Shine 5)
  18. One To Another by The Charlatans (from Shine 5)
  19. U16 Girls by Travis (from Shine 8)
  20. Chasing Rainbows by Shed Seven (from Shine 7)
  21. She's A Star by James (from Shine 6)
  22. Someone Always Gets There First by Bennet (from Shine 8)
  23. Great Things by Echobelly (from Shine 7)
  24. Boy Wonder by Speedy (from Shine 7)
Towards the end of the show, knowing that there was only time for a couple more songs, I did start to interfere in the strict randomness of the selections a bit.  A Cranberries song was selected but I thought sod it, what's the point of having your own show if you can't get a bit dictatorial? So I binned it and played Someone Always Gets There First by Bennet, one of my favourite songs, instead.  And when Mark from the Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal show that follows me arrived we let him pick the number for the last song. Except that I decided that another Lightning Seeds song wasn't what I wanted to end on so I played Boy Wonder by Speedy. If you've not heard me bang on about Speedy before, just read this.

The show was bags of fun. We had some great songs picked at random and it was nice to have someone else in the studio for a change. I definitely think that I will do another one of these at some point - perhaps at Xmas. Oh, and Chris ate all the Haribo! :( 
Chris, the Debbie McGee of Britpop Roulette
P.S. I was going to call this posting "I Need Some Time In The Spun Shine", which I thought was genius but someone claimed was in fact "the lamest thing ever".  I think we all know I was right...

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

A Day In The Life (Harkive)

I suppose this post is a little different in that it is a musical 'day in the life' recorded as part of the Harkive project.

Okay, so what is Harkive? It's a listening project, set up by an MA student at Birmingham City University.  With all the streaming and scrobbling these days it is easy to know what people are listening to but for this project "I am interested in the How, Why and Where. I am less interested in the What." And they are collecting it from around the world on one single day.

So this is my personal contribution. All the music that I have listened to on 9th July 2013, and the reasons why.

At midnight this morning I was sat in bad, on the laptop, headphones on, listening to music.  Our Vapour Trails radio show had gone out a few hours before and I was keen to get some of the prep for next week's show out of the way early.  It actually takes a surprising amount of time to produce an hour of radio!  So I was flicking through my archives, listening to tracks. I tend to run this through Spotify as that gives me access not only to my own CDs & mp3s but thousands of other tracks too. I probably started about 11pm but, as this project only covers today, have only listed the tracks that I listened to after midnight.  Not all of these will be in next week's show and I didn't necessarily listen to the whole track.
  • Move Away by Warm Jets
  • Never Never by Warm Jets
  • Hurricane by Warm Jets
  • Vapour Trails by Warm Jets
  • I Suppose by Puressence
  • Drop Down To Earth by Puressence
  • All That You Do by Dandys
  • Shelter by The Boo Radleys
  • See A Better Day by Graham Coxon
  • 26 Years by Menswear
  • Fishes by The Real People
  • Chemical World by Blur
  • Zeroes And Ones by Jesus Jones
  • Ruined In A Day by New Order
  • Dracula's Castle by New Order
  • Snakedriver by Jesus And Mary Chain
  • Belaruse by The Levellers
The morning routine tends to be conducted to BBC Radio 5live so the next music was when I got into the car for the drive to work.  I've got an idea for a future show (which I'll blog about in more detail later) involving the Shine compilation albums. I've recently bought all of them second hand and I need to listen to them just to check that the CDs are okay. So I'm ploughing through them on my way to work (a fairly short commute).  I'm on Shine 5, Disc 1.
  • The Day We Caught The Train by Ocean Colour Scene
  • Charity by Skunk Anansie
  • History by Cast
  • Stereotypes by Blur
At this point the next song was by The Divine Comedy.  I've got to confess that I've never been able to stand The Divine Comedy so I switched to the radio.  It was tuned to Phonic FM, one of the stations that I have a show on (Britpop Revival Radio Show, 3rd Sunday of the month, 2pm!).  I like Phonic a lot. It's a community station which means that there are no ads and no playlists - the presenters just play what they want.  This leads to the most gloriously eclectic mix of music.  Today I recognised the song 'Wicked Game' but not the version. When the car stopped at a red light I got out my phone and Shazamed it.  I'd had Shazam on my phone for a while but not really used it, so I was impressed that it identified the song instantly.  So to the list we can add;
  • Wicked Game by Bossasonic

The next 9 hours was a music free work-day but I did pick up a couple of tweets about new releases that I make a note to listen to later.

Back in the car and of course the radio is still tuned to Phonic. I don't know the song that's playing though I reckon it is probably The Jesus and Mary Chain and I let it play out.  I Shazam again and it confirms the song as;
  • On The Wall by The Jesus And Mary Chain
After that I switch back to the Shine 5 CD and am accompanied home by
  • Something For The Weekend by The Divine Comedy
  • Female Of The Species by Space
  • Something 4 The Weekend by Super Furry Animals
  • Going Out by Supergrass
  • Sleep by Marion
  • Inbetweener by Sleeper
Once home I listen to those new songs that I wanted to hear because I think they might be of interest to listeners for next week's show.  I find the Manics on Spotify and Babyshambles on YouTube.
  • Rewind The Film by The Manic Street Preachers
  • Nothing Comes To Nothing by Babyshambles
At this point I'm interrupted by my youngest daughter practicing her clarinet. So to the mix I guess we should add Oklahoma!, Doe A Deer and assorted scales!

Finally after an evening with the family a quick last minute email check reveals a couple of new tunes.  One from Mark Fernyhough, a songwriter I'm not familiar with, asking if I'd be interested in playing something from his soon to be released debut album (I am) - that one a soundcloud link.  And then an email from Darren of A Northern Light, a band I have long championed, with the youtube link for their first proper video.  So I listen to that too.  

And then just when I think that I'm done I notice that in the corner panel on Youtube is a link to Beady Eye covering Rock 'n' Roll Star at Glastonbury.  I watch this for pure vanity reasons.  It's shaky camera, dodgy quality footage taken by someone in the crowd but I was one of the people stood at the side of the stage for this (right behind Patsy Kensit) and I wanted to see if I could spot myself on the video - I couldn't.

So to finish off the day's listening we have;
  • Berlin by Mark Fernyhough
  • Kill It by A Northern Light
  • Rock 'n' Roll Star by Beady Eye
It's not necessarily a typical day's listening but then it's not atypical either. What I did find interesting though was the different ways in which I listened; Spotify, CD, Radio, YouTube and Soundcloud (oh, and live clarinet!). I wouldn't want to try and do this 'audit' every day but it's been fun and I look forward to seeing some of the results from the Harkive project. If you're interested, be sure to sign up at their website

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Win Tickets to see Suede, Live By The Lake

Suede have been unveiled as the opening act for the latest English Heritage concert season Live By The Lake, held at Kenwood House, London on 23rd August.

It's certainly a diverse series of events.  So alongside the band the Telegraph call 'The Britpop progenitors' (great word!) you have evenings of Opera, Choral Fireworks, Keane and, whisper it quietly, Michael Ball.  Fair to say something for almost everyone there.

I saw Suede's triumphant Alexander Palace show earlier this year (see this post) and this is, quite simply, a band in it's prime.  Not a nostalgia act but a band making great new music and playing it with the same passion and intensity that they had when they burst onto the scene 20 years ago.

So what am I saying? Go and see Suede basically.  If you like their music then you need to see them live.  And if you want an outdoor setting then by the edge of a lake, with "London’s most regal 18th century stately home" as a backdrop doesn't sound bad at all!

And that is where we can help, because the Britpop Revival Show on Phonic FM have a pair of tickets worth about £70 for this must see event to give away! You lucky, lucky people...

How To Enter:

You can enter in 2 ways;

Head over to our Facebook page, then share and tag yourself in our Suede Live By The Lake poster.  Simple.

Or you can use twitter, just tweet this 
"Win 2 tickets to the Suede @livebythelake gig at Kenwood House. RT to enter. #britpop via @britpoprevival"

If you do both then that's 2 chances to win!

Terms & Conditions and general small print:

It's pretty simple really - we've got a pair of standard tickets to give away for this gig.  That's all. No transport, accommodation or any of that kind of stuff - don't be greedy!

The draw is not scientific but it is at least fair. We'll put the names of everyone who enters into a hat and pull out a winner.  Winner will be chosen on Sunday 23rd June at 6pm so hurry! There you go.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Longpigs: Out Of The Loop?

If you've listened to the radio shows then you'll know that I'm a big fan of Longpigs and so are you probably, because their songs always get a great response whenever we play them.  Comments are normally of the "I'd forgotten how good they were" variety; On And On, She Said and Lost Myself all big hits and quality tunes.

So when I saw that there was a new Longpigs anthology coming out this month, including 5 previously unreleased tracks, I was quite excited.  I tweeted about it, and gave out the Amazon link.  33 songs for £9? Bit of a bargain.

Then I started to get a couple of comments back from people suggesting that all was not as it seems.  The label behind the release was, it was suggested, "a bit dodgy".  Richard Hawley, now mega-selling solo artist but formerly Longpigs guitarist, said on his web site:

"This has nothing to do with me,I know two of us haven't been asked about it,it's some dodgy company as far as we can tell,I doubt very much that anyone from the band will get a penny,the"artwork"is shite,I don't endorse this in any way......thanks folks for your time"(Richard Hawley)
This was worrying. As much as I'd like to see more Longpigs material released, nobody wants to think of artists not being paid.  Time to investigate...

So who are the company behind this?  They are called 3Loop Music and their strapline is "re-engaging artists and fans".

As I understand it their model is to partner with bands and release archive material, licensed from the original record label.  In return for helping to promote the release, bands earn a cut of the sales.  It reads like they are breathing new life into old back catalogues, enabling physical releases of specialist material to a non-mainstream audience (that's you and me folks!), activity that would be uneconomical for a mainstream label.  You can read more about how their business model works on their own web site, here.

The 3Loop website clearly states "our partner artists receive a direct share of the profits from the relevant projects; this is in addition to any recording or publishing royalties that they may be due from the relevant rights holders".  So that's alright, isn't it?  So how come Richard Hawley thinks it's dodgy?  Now I was confused.  So I sent an email off to 3Loop asking some questions and today they called to give me some answers...

3Loop have licenced the Longpigs back catalogue from Universal, who are the rights holders.  They initially spoke with Crispin Hunt (Longpigs frontman and songwriter) about 18 months ago about the project but he was not keen to get involved in promoting any future release.  They state that he is fully aware of the project.  They decided to proceed with the Anthology anyway though, whilst saying that they would have preferred to do it with Crispin's involvement.  Therefore the band do not get a cut of any profits that 3Loop might make but they do get the recording or publishing royalties that come from the licence that 3Loop is paying to Universal.  So by my reckoning Crispin, Richard and the rest will get the same royalties as they would if Universal had put the record out themselves.

There is a problem though.  On their website it clearly lists Longpigs as being a 'partner artist' and they manifestly are not.  So anyone reading the website and buying into the ethos of 3Loop will think that they are supporting the band directly and they are not.  I put this point to 3Loop and they agreed that the website was wrong and that "we really must sort that out".  Yes, they really must and they should do it quickly if they want to retain any credibility.

I'm pleased that 3Loop were open about all this and took the time to get in touch with me.  I don't think that they are 'dodgy' but for a label whose whole ethos is supposed to be about connecting artists, their languishing back catalogues and fans, it is regrettable that their highest profile release so far doesn't follow that actual model.

The model that they are trying to follow is an interesting one and if it can bring unreleased music out of the vaults that can only be a good thing.  I will follow their future releases closely as there is the potential for some really good music to come out - they just need to be careful about how they are listing people on their web site!

For now though, I shall leave the final word to Richard Hawley again:
"Although further to this I hope it gets Crispin some well deserved respect as a songwriter and lifts the band out of an undeserved place in history to something a little nearer the truth"
Longpigs, On And On: The Anthology is out now on 3Loop Music

[Update: Within 24 hours of our contacting them 3Loop had updated their website. Longpigs are no longer listed as 'Partner Artists']

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Our Alternative Best Of Britpop

Don't despair Jarvis, we have an alternative!
Recently the NME had a Britpop issue and selected the 100 Greatest Britpop songs. The songs were all good, I've played most of them on the show, but to be honest it was all a bit predictable.  So I asked our followers on Facebook and Twitter for what they considered to be the best of Britpop, but avoiding the behemoths.  Yes, we could still have Blur, Pulp, Oasis, Suede etc. but no Wonderwall, Common People, Parklife - you get the picture.

And did they respond?  Oh yes - hundreds of songs were suggested.  Plenty of them were hits in their own right but some unexpected songs from well known bands (Last Day Of The Miners Strike by Pulp for example) and even some bands I'd not heard of; The High, Headswim & Nancy Boy!

As it happened our monthly Phonic FM show was coming up and that seemed like the perfect opportunity to play some of these songs in our own highly subjective Alternative Best Of Britpop!

Now I'm normally very prepared for our monthly live Britpop Revival Show.  I have most stuff laid out on my laptop in advance, with a back up on my phone just in case and finally in reserve a big bag chock full of assorted Britpop CDs.  I load a couple of CDs into the players in the studio just in case, but not this week.  No, the laptop always worked so why bother?

I get everything plugged in, settle down, say hello to the listeners, "and we'll kick off with this from McAlmont & Butler"!

S   I   L   E   N   C   E

Dead air, the cardinal sin - even at this level.

I start pressing buttons, more in hope than expectation. Okay, time to switch to CDs - the Alternative Best of Britpop idea going out the window, I just need to play something.  Why didn't I pre-load a couple?  Where is my big bag of CDs?  Of course the ones on top are my recent purchases, stuff I haven't even listened to yet; Warm Jets, Smaller, Geneva's much ignored 2nd album.  I dig deeper and pull out Symposium's Farewell To Twilight, I've played it not long ago but it'll do.  I cram it into CD drive 2, apologise to the listeners, fade up and relax.  But no, still silence and now I get the feeling that I am doomed.  Fortunately Spencer, the presenter of the previous show, is still in the studio and calmly points out that I've simply selected the wrong CD drive.  Fade up, music plays and offer many, many thanks to Spence whilst we finally get the laptop working.

Phonic is a community station, run on a shoestring by volunteers.  There are no engineers or producers (well not for most of the shows) and when things go pear-shaped you realise how little you know about how the studio works.  So my objective now is to get to grips with all this gear properly.

After all that the rest of the show went smoothly enough, apart from cutting short Oasis' Slide Away with some bongos.  The joy of live radio.

Thanks to everyone who suggested tracks or who got in touch on twitter during the show.

Track Listing:

  1. Farewell To Twilight - Symposium
  2. Yes - McAlmont & Butler
  3. History - The Verve
  4. You're Always Right - These Animal Men
  5. Sale Of The Century - Sleeper
  6. She Said - Longpigs
  7. Here Comes A Soul Saver - The Charlatans
  8. Twisterella - Ride
  9. Dragging Me Down - Inspiral Carpets
  10. Olympian - Gene
  11. Tourniquet - Headswim
  12. Tranqillizer - Geneva
  13. Dolphin - Shed Seven
  14. Window Pane - The Real People
  15. Slide Away - Oasis
  16. Being Brave - Menswear
  17. This Feeling - Puressence
  18. The Wild Ones - Suede
  19. End Of A Century - Blur
  20. I'm So Lonely - Cast
  21. Box Set Go - The High
  22. Last Day Of The Miners Strike - Pulp
  23. Cocaine Socialism - Pulp
  24. Step Into My Word - Hurricane #1
  25. Untouchable - Rialto
  26. Sleep - Marion
  27. Love Is The Law - The Seahorses

The Britpop Revival Show broadcasts on the 3rd Sunday of the month, 2pm to 4pm, on Phonic FM (106.8FM in the Exeter area or online at

However you can hear our weekly Vapour Trails show every Monday 3pm EST (8pm UK time) on Strangeways Radio,

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Track Listing from April Britpop Revival Show

Owing to a variety of reasons, some planned and some unplanned, there had not been a Britpop Revival Radio Show for a couple of months.  So to make it up to people I decided to make this show a 'Hit' special.

Being a monthly live show on a local FM station, BRRS is usually more mainstream than Vapour Trails, our weekly, specialist show.  However for this edition I decided that every song would be a Top 40 hit from a different artist.  (Well, there was one song that only made it to 41 - got to break the rules somewhere!)

This is the playlist:

  1. Blur - Parklife
  2. Elastica - Waking Up
  3. The Bluetones - Slight Return
  4. Manic Street Preachers - La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh)
  5. The Chemical Brothers (ft Noel Gallagher) - Setting Sun
  6. Kula Shaker - Hey Dude
  7. Oasis - Supersonic
  8. 60 Ft. Dolls - Talk To Me
  9. Gay Dad - To Earth With Love
  10. Radiohead - Karma Police
  11. Gene - We Could Be Kings
  12. Supergrass - Pumping On Your Stereo
  13. The Candyskins - Monday Morning
  14. Cast - Alright
  15. Cataonia - Mulder and Scully
  16. The Boo Radleys - Wake Up Boo!
  17. The Seahorses - Love Me and Leave Me
  18. The Charlatans - Tellin' Stories
  19. Echobelly - Insomniac
  20. Dodgy - Staying Out For The Summer
  21. James - Runaground
  22. The Auteurs - Lenny Valentino
  23. Suede - Beautiful Ones
  24. The Supernaturals - Smile
  25. Sleeper - Nice Guy Eddie
  26. Ash - Burn Baby Burn
  27. Pulp - Common People
  28. Shed Seven - Getting Better
  29. The Verve - Sonnet
That is a lot of quality tunes!

Don't forget that every song we ever play gets added to our Spotify Playlist.  Please subscribe and share.

The Britpop Revival Radio Show is on Phonic FM 2pm to 4pm on the 3rd Sunday of the month. You can listen online at, at or via the TuneIn app.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

SULK Interview

So this basically a blog posting just linking to another blog posting!

SULK are one of my favourite new bands.  I've always been a sucker for a jangly guitar and they have them in spades.  Their debut album Graceless has just been released and is already a contender for my album of the year. Yes, there are comparisons to be made with the Stone Roses but there is plenty that is original here and I strongly recommend giving them a listen.

I had lead singer Jon on the Vapour Trails show recently and you can read my interview with him on the Strangeways Radio blog.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

It starts and ends with Suede

Suede at The Alexandra Palace, 30.03.13

There is something in the timing of this event.  20 years to the day (well, almost) since the release of their eponymous decade defining debut and just a month after they put out their first new album in 11 years, this feels like a key moment.

There is a lot of money to be made on the nostalgia circuit and the 20th anniversary of a classic album would be reason enough for many bands to hit the road one more time.  However with Bloodsports sitting in the top 10 of the albums chart and garnering glowing reviews, this could not be more different.  Suede have always had an arrogance and a swagger to them and with the new album on display they have both in abundance.  The scene is set, not for the 90s or even just a gig, but, given that we are in a palace, for a coronation.

When Fred Macpherson of Spector, ends his band’s support set by saying “And let us not forget that we are gathered here this Easter to witness the resurrection of our lord... Brett Anderson”, he is joking but also assessing the mood of the sold out crowd.  This needs to be good, no it needs to be glorious.  Nothing less will do.  

The PA incongruously blasts out Sabbath and then the Pistols, an amalgam of album artwork backdrop illuminates the stage with an unknown (to me) classical surge of violins that lasts for what seems like ages but is probably only a minute.  Then they take to the stage, all dressed in Sleeperbloke black apart of course from Anderson.  Still skinnier than any other 45 year old I know, still moving like Jagger, he and the band have aged well.  I’ve seen other 90s bands where the years have left them looking, well like many fortysomethings, with retreating hairlines and expanding waistlines.  Still good bands but looking... old.  Suede just look like Suede.

They tear straight into Barriers the opening track from Bloodsports and the crowd reacts as if it was their biggest hit.  The first three songs are from the new album, all driving intensity such that when they follow them with Animal Nitrate and Metal Mickey, the big hits from that debut, it just fits.  An incredible opening salvo of 5 songs that are 20 years apart but are equals in candour and fervour.  Even the back of the hanger-like Ally Pally is bouncing like they are down at the barriers.

Brett spent quite a bit of time down by the barriers himself, disappearing for entire songs at a time into the front rows, wanting to be part of it.  I half expected to see him crowdsurfing his way to the back.  It must have been a great experience for those at the front, for the rest of us it left us watching what felt like an empty stage until his return.  

White shirted in the spotlight, striking messianic poses or windmilling his mic with a ferocity that would make a health and safety inspector cry, he commands your attention.  There is no ‘banter’ but plenty of communication and an hour and a half has already passed before we realise that Trash and Beautiful Ones can only mean the end of the set.  “Sing along with this one.  You know the words and if you don’t know the words then why are you here?” he asks.  Everyone knows the words.

Thank you and goodnight!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

All The Fun Of The Fair

If you've read the last few posts you'll see that I've quickly been changing my tune on vinyl, record shops and the like. So when I spotted a flyer in town for the Exeter Record Fair, well I just had to have a snoop around.

I've got to say that yes, it was a bit geeky but... it was great.  I only went in there to try and find Doolittle by The Pixies but it soon became apparent that a trawl through miles of vinyl was not on the cards, not with my 10 year old daughter in tow.

I popped over to the Phonic FM stand (well, got to support my own station) which was selling CDs donated by the DJs to raise funds and found hundreds of CD singles, all for 10p each!  What's more there was loads of 90s stuff in amongst it and I picked up a couple of dozen singles for a shade over £2.

10p each? Bargain!
I hadn't thought about CD singles before but from my perspective they are ideal.  Of course I've got the big albums of Britpop (and Spotify helps to fill in a lot of gaps) but I'm always looking for something a bit different to play on my shows, something that the listener might not have heard before. And that is where the CD single comes in, not for the single itself but for the B-sides and the remixes.  And because the value is so low now its hardly worth buying them through Amazon/Zoverstocks as you would a second hand CD album, which is why the record fair is the perfect environment to find them.

This is the haul from my trip and I'll be playing a selection of them on my show this Sunday on Phonic FM, 2pm to 4pm.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Vinyl Revival

You know it's not long ago that I was writing about how music consumption had moved on and who in their right mind would pay £18.50 for an album.

Well as I write this I am listening to the excellent Defenestration of St Martin by Martin Rossiter on L.P., for which I payed £17.86.  I joked on Twitter that the last time I received an L.P. through the post it was from Britannia Music Club but I think that it may actually be true.

So am I a hypocrite? Probably yes, but let me explain how it happened...

It's my own fault really for posting that clip from High Fidelity.  It planted the idea in my head so that when I saw the film on Netflix I felt compelled to watch it.  It felt good.  Just the idea of vinyl felt good.  But it was okay, I could resist.

And then there was Rutherford Chang.  Who?  Well I read this article about a guy who was collecting and recording White Albums for an art installation.  And that reminded me that when I car-booted all my old vinyl a decade or more ago I kept one record.  The White Album by The Beatles (okay The Beatles by The Beatles if you're going to be pedantic).  I'd kept it because my mum had bought it before I was even born so it wasn't my record to sell really.  And after reading that I article I really wanted to listen to it.  I wanted to listen to that physical copy of the album that had sat in the cupboard undisturbed for years.

The only problem was that I didn't have a turntable.  I visited a high end audio store in town which only confirmed my opinion of high end audio stores! Snooty staff, ridiculously priced kit (£3000 for a turntable - really? My car is not worth that.) and an intimidating experience.  

I turned to the Internet and there seemed to be a couple of decent entry-level options for around £200.  Even this was too much though, I only wanted to play one record.  

So ultimately I turned to ebay and picked up a Bush MTT1 for £20.  Job done.  It was a bit of a Heath Robinson affair but by connecting a cheap turntable to an old ghetto-blaster which in turn was connected to my iPod dock we had something that just about worked.

I listen to music every day but, other than in the car, it is almost always through a computer and nine times out of ten through headphones.  So straight away this felt different.  There really is something about the physicality of a record and probably a fair dollop of sentimentality in playing a 45 year old record that belonged to my mum too.  Somehow I seemed to listen to the album rather than just the music and yes I am aware of how pretentious that sounds.

So have I caught the vinyl bug?  Yes, I fear so.  I've spent an entire afternoon scouring the charity shops only to learn that there are an awful lot of James Last records that people don't want!  And to complete my High Fidelity cliche I've even found our local Championship Vinyl in Rooster Records.

I still listen to most of my music through the PC and shan't be cancelling my Spotify subscription any time soon.  I will though continue to make select purchases on vinyl but it will only be for a certain kind of record.  So only one question remains, can you lend me £3000 to buy a decent turntable?