Friday 11 November 2011

Dogs D'Amour UK tour Nov/Dec 2011

2002. Hanoi Rocks reform with only two original members. To be fair, one had been fired (and his better-known replacement subsequently died) and so may not have wanted to return; another had largely turned his back on music; and the third original member, judging by comments in Andy McCoy’s book, would not have been made to feel welcome (although to this day he regularly works with Michael Monroe).

2004. The New York Dolls reform with only three original members. It should be noted that they were the only three still alive (I’m omitting Rick Rivets).

2011. The Dogs D’Amour reform with only one original member. As far as I know everyone that has ever been in the band is still alive. The case of the Dogs D’Amour is slightly different as the ‘classic’ line-up is arguably the one that counts, but even then only Tyla prevails. On bass, Dave Tregunna has some pedigree as he featured on some of the studio recordings that made up ‘The (Un)Authorised Bootleg Album’. As with the above re-unions, I'll still go ....

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Jellyfish - Bellybutton & Spilt Milk vinyl reissues


There’s a fantastic line (among many) in Jellyfish’s “The Ghost At Number One” which says “How does it feel to be the only one who knows that you’re right.”

That Jellyfish quote works on a number of fronts. Mainly because that’s what this correspondence is about. (And, that it’s a great, flippin’ song.) We made some decisions that may not be popular, but will be better in the long run. In other words, we’ve done what we thought was “right.”

We’ve always said that we just don’t comment on new releases. Why? Because, things go wrong. Things go wrong all the time. Like the Jellyfish releases.

We could tell you the whole grizzly saga of what went wrong with these, why we’ve rejected test pressings and blah blah blah, but instead we just want to tell you that we’re presently working with the great folks at RTI and John Golden Mastering on a third round at making these right–third time’s a charm?

RTI, Golden Mastering and Omnivore Recordings have a firm commitment to stone cold quality. Period. So we’re getting them right–not just floating sub-standard records out there in the hope that you don’t notice.

Meaning? They’re not coming on October 10th, like we said after we had to bump them the first time. We’re taking quite the hit and pushing them back to January 10th and that will allow us the extra time needed to really make sure that these things blow your mind appropriately.

Here’s the really great news–we’re now pressing these on RTI’s wonderful 180-gram vinyl!

So a limited edition of 1,500 copies will be pressed on 180-gram vinyl (Bellybutton will still be on blue vinyl, Spilt Milk will now be on gold vinyl). And, that extra weight will not. Cost. You. Any. More. We’re keeping the price the same. Bellybutton will still have its original tri-fold cover for this first run. After the 1,500 copies are sold out, the Bellybutton cover will be a standard jacket and the vinyl for both will be standard weight black vinyl. Pre-orders should be saved in the distributors’ systems, but please check back with whoever you ordered them through.

Thanks for your patience and loyalty. We are not about to jeopardize our reputation by putting out inferior product. We care too much. And, as you’re on this mailing list, you do too.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Jonny Cola and the A-Grades

Jonny Cola and the A-Grades
Cambridge Corner House, September 21st 2011

Despite various politicians, journalists and local residents stating that they’d seen the August riots coming, no-one has yet had the nerve to point the finger at Jonny Cola and the A-Grades, specifically their EP released in June and its tracks ‘Postcode Wars’ (with accompanying video inspired by gang warfare classic ‘The Warriors’) and ‘Summer Of Hate’. Perhaps this is for the best and has allowed the London-based five-piece to continue their quest for glam-pop perfection without having to deal with a Richard Littlejohn-inspired uprising of the ill-informed.

A series of ad hoc out-of-town shows (a ‘tourette’ if you will) brings them first to Cambridge. Unfortunately the short-notice booking and an absence of local promotion means that Cambridge hasn’t been brought to them, something which could easily lead to a lesser band haughtily decrying their provincial surroundings before putting in a lazy performance. Thankfully this is not the way of Jonny Cola and the A-Grades, who approach the gig as though they’re playing a sold-out o2 arena and make their intentions clear as they kick off proceedings with the afore-mentioned 'Summer Of Hate' and then immediately into forthcoming single ‘Halo’.

An attempt to derail the band's enthusiasm duly arrives, seemingly without irony, during 'The Party's Over', as the soundman forgets to open up the channel for the keyboard. Apparently a common occurrence, which maybe contributes to the ease with which Jonny, finding himself cut adrift without any musical back-up, adapts the lyrics to make his feelings very apparent. The song’s extremely dirty riff returns to fill the void as the band admirably take this incompetence in their stride.

If you were to use the Ronson ratio (the glam-pop industry standard) to judge Jonny Cola and the A-Grades it would be 70:30 Mick: Mark. The latter at times reunites with a hint of Bowie, and the pop side is also represented by occasional flashes of Blur’s more art-school moments. At times this mix reminds of David Devant & His Spirit Wife (but without the carrot grating).

The different sides of the band’s repertoire are no better showcased than the initially sparse and introspective ‘Alpha Male’, which gives way to the stadium-rock-classic-in-waiting ‘Marlborough Road’. A good sense of when to add dynamics and other little touches (whether it be just a simple handclap or two, as ably demonstrated in the set’s penultimate number ‘Postcode Wars’) further highlights the thought that has gone into developing the material.

One more number (‘Wronghead’) and they’re gone, hot-footing it in a cab to London. I’m not expecting them back anytime soon; Cambridge had its chance and blew it. Three other cities now have the opportunity to do the right thing.

The ‘Lock em Up’ Tourette continues at The 13th Note, Glasgow (28/09/11), The Full Moon, Newcastle-under-Lyme (29/09/11) and The Actress & Bishop, Birmingham (30/09/11).

Saturday 21 May 2011

Back To Vinyl

New blog - - detailing my attempts to rebuild my vinyl collection. I sold off large parts of my original collection after my old turntable gave up the ghost, on the assumption that I wouldn't replace it. I have now. Ho-hum.

Friday 13 May 2011

Dogs D'Amour - A Graveyard Of Empty Bottles

Having recently obtained a turntable (my last one came to a sticky end around five years ago) I have been trying, as cheaply as possible, to rebuild my once-extensive vinyl collection. It could be argued that maybe I shouldn’t have sold on as much as I have over the years, but if nothing else at least I’m in a position to only buy those records I feel I’ve missed and so can be selective in what I replace.

Recent deliveries have included Singles Going Steady by the Buzzcocks, the Quadrophenia soundtrack (I actually lent that to someone’s now-ex but never got it back) and yesterday, A Graveyard Of Empty Bottles. 10" vinyl edition of course.

Criminally all the ‘classic’ era Dogs D’Amour albums remain out of print (be careful with 'Dynamite Jet Saloon' as that's been re-recorded - more on that another time), and their CD versions can command silly money. Vinyl editions though, with a little patience and a degree of luck, can still be picked up at decent prices. Although not quite the ‘acoustic’ album it claims to be, it includes the definitive version of ‘Errol Flynn’ (ignore its later appearance as a title track) and was arguably their last essential release.

Previous posts:
Dogs D’Amour – Bristol Bierkeller 13/03/89
Dogs D'Amour - The State I'm In
Punk Knits

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Shooting Gallery

It’s 1992. Andy McCoy has just plundered the Kill City Dragons and put together a new band featuring their vocalist Billy G Bang and bassist Dave Tregunna (also noteworthy of course for his stints in Sham 69 and the Lords Of The New Church, as well as the pre-Lords outfit The Wanderers, his previous work with McCoy in the Cherrybombz and his contributions on the Dogs D’Amour’s ‘Unauthorised Bootleg Album’), along with Psychedelic Furs’ drummer Paul Garisto. For their live line-up the band, christened Shooting Gallery, will add Jo ‘Dog’ Almeida.

Gotta be good, surely?

To be fair the resulting album started off okay with ‘Restless’ and ‘Teenage Breakdown’ before hitting a wall with ‘Don’t Never Leave Me’ and ‘House of Ecstasy’. Sound familiar? Yes it’s that ‘Don’t Never Leave Me’, of which at least six recordings by Hanoi Rocks exist, the definitive one surely being the version on ‘All Those Wasted Years, and that ‘House of Ecstasy’ by the Cherrybombz. A glance further down the track listing and you get ‘Devil Calling’, hardly a classic but nevertheless recorded twice by the Kill City Dragons and, having been co-written by Nasty Suicide, also formed part of Cheap and Nasty’s set and made an appearance as a live b-side).

Housed between these needless trips down memory lane are three of the album’s weakest tracks, plus a decent enough cover of Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ (nb: I was not familiar with the original when I first heard this album and would probably have been far less accepting of the Shooting Gallery version if I had). Surprisingly the album finishes on a bit of a high with ‘Leave Me Alone’ and ‘Dandelion’, but the general laziness that went into the album left me with a pretty foul taste in my mouth (and I never wore lipstick so it wasn’t that).

What I will see in its defence is that it’s a damn sight better than the Michael Monroe / Steve Stevens collaboration, Jerusalem Slim....

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Dogs D'Amour - The State I'm In

Apparently it's Dogs D'Amour week. Not sure why, but later on I will be meeting some friends up in Hoxton Square, who were planning a Dogs D'Amour 'tour' of London sites, i.e. Kensington, Powis Square and up in Highgate (you all know where).

Instead I anticipate rounding off the evening pondering the state I'm in, particularly as I'm hoping to find somewhere between work and Hoxton that sells that delightful beverage, Thunderbird. A regular tipple between 1989-1993 (along with Clan Dew and 20/20), I haven't touched a drop since approximately 1996 and am fairly certain that my older taste buds will be appalled ...

Previous posts:

Dogs D’Amour – Bristol Bierkeller 13/03/89

Thursday 31 March 2011

Gunfire Dance - new shows

Short notice as they're tomorrow (12 Bar, London) and Saturday (Actress & Bishop, Birmingham)!

Both are tribute shows to their friend Rebbecca Robbins. For more info click here.

Buy Archway of Thorns on eBay (only £3.99!)

Previous posts:
Gunfire Dance
Interview with Ozzie from Gunfire Dance
Suicide Blonde and the Birmingham scene
Gunfire Dance - Continental Bar NYC 1994

Wednesday 23 March 2011

New York Dolls - Dancing Backwards In High Heels

The New York Dolls have recently released their fifth studio album, Dancing Backward In High Heels, and as it’s the third since their reformation in 2004 they have now been more prolific than during their 1970s guise. Normally I would have already acquired the album and posted up a few thoughts. Instead I have only got as far as listening to the samples available on the 429 Records website.

I was slightly alarmed to see that ‘Funky But Chic’ had been dusted down – hardly a lost classic deserving of a second chance – and I was immediately reminded of those questionable moments on ‘Coz I Sez So’ when the Dolls tried to do funky (along with the unnecessary reworking of 'Trash'). Turns out – assuming the samples are a fair representation – that Sylvain and Johnassen have embraced said funkiness to the point that they’ve produced a whole album’s worth of it. To an extent there are echoes of the early-60s girl bands that have always been part of the Dolls mix, and in my heart of heart's I know I have to give the album a proper chance but at the moment I just don't know if I can return to it ...

Thursday 17 March 2011

Friday 25 February 2011

Burning Tree

A quick doff of the velvet cap to Dave at Green Man Music for mentioning this album on Facebook yesterday, leading to a chorus of approving remarks and for me, a quick search in my unpublished posts for something I started writing in March 2009 ... 

Maybe it was a sign of desperation by Epic, but they took the weird decision to release nine (very different) 'rock' albums on the same day as part of a promotion whereby if you bought eight of them you could get the ninth free. Prong, Shark Island, Johnny Crash & Nuclear Valdez were amongst the fairly random selection of releases - most, if not all, sunk without trace.

Burning Tree would possibly be long-forgotten, but were able to rise above many of the other eight bands involved in this ill-feted marketing exercise by a) releasing an album that was actually rather good, and b) their singer/guitarist Marc Ford later joining the Black Crowes.

If this album had been given the push it deserved Ford may well have stayed put, which itself leads to thoughts as to what would have become of the Black Crowes, but with the LA glam scene still holding some sway while the sound of Seattle nibbled away at its territory, an album harking back to the likes of Cream and Hendrix was always going to struggle to find its place.

One bonus with returning to this post after almost two years is the discovery that the album was re-released at the tail-end of 2010. Indeed Rock Candy records have also reissued Circus Of Power's Vices as well as lost albums by the Throbs and the Sea Hags. Maybe the Four Horsemen might see the light of day again ...

Friday 18 February 2011

Troubleshooters and Waterbratz - demo tapes

More eBay demo tape madness - this time The Troubleshooters, a band that I was in prior to this tape being made. £10.50 and counting; foolishly I think I threw away my copy years ago!

Also from the same seller, amongst many other items, one, and two demo tapes by The Waterbratz. Memories ...

(NB: the listings include links through to samples, so if you've never heard these bands now's your chance!)

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Gunfire Dance demo

One for completists (having the Archway Of Thorns CD myself I'm going to pass on this), someone's put up an early Gunfire Dance demo for sale on eBay.

Quite a sweet listing:

'I think this is either late 80s or early 90s, not quite sure but remember i was around 19! Sound a bit like The Dogs D Amour but (i think) better!'

I haven't seen one of these come up for sale for a while so guess it may be of interest! And if nothing else it's an excuse to post about Gunfire Dance for the nth time ...

Previous posts:
Gunfire Dance
Interview with Ozzie from Gunfire Dance
Suicide Blonde and the Birmingham scene
Gunfire Dance - Continental Bar NYC 1994

Monday 7 February 2011

Miles Hunt - Man On The Moon, Cambridge 05/02/11

On November 3rd 1991, The Wonderstuff (in conjunction with Vic Reeves) sat at number one in the British singles chart with 'Dizzy'. Fast forward almost twenty years and I find myself watching Miles Hunt at a 150-capacity venue (albeit in the run-up to a national tour with the Levellers that will culminate with a show at the Brixton Academy).

If this was the mid-90s then I'm sure this would have been a very depressing, angst-ridden show, however it's fair to say that Miles Hunt seems comfortable with his lot these days. I have memories of the first time I saw Tyla solo, post-Dogs D'Amour, and it was dreadful. He insisted on only playing new material, responded with disdain to any requests for the 'hits' and was generally a moody bastard. I saw him again a few years later and he'd clearly moved on (or cleaned up), churning out whatever the audience wanted and cracking jokes between songs.

Hunt's on-stage banter tallied with that latter experience, with fond references made to touring in the early 90s as well as current project 'Shared'. Although the first half of the set comprised solely of recent material, the second half was a happy run through the older Wonderstuff back catalogue, with specific focus on songs which leant themselves to the simple guitar/vocal/violin set-up (he was joined by partner Erica Nockalls) such as 'Circle Square', 'Golden Green' and, with a nod to Kirtsy MacColl's contribution, 'Welcome To The Cheap Seats'. Although they garnered more dancers, the Wonderstuff hits didn't wholly overshadow the less-familiar material, which retained some of Hunt's characteristic barbs (I'm guessing he's not a fan of Bono).

A slightly sarcastic comment about Strawberry Fair, the local free festival this gig was a fundraiser for, appeared to bring about a small disagreement with the promoter, suggesting that Hunt is still capable of getting people's backs up. Some things never change.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Friday 21 January 2011

Alex Kirst RIP

Former Nymphs and Iggy Pop drummer Alex Kirst has died following a hit-and-run accident.

Will dust down the Nymphs album tonight.

Previous posts:
The Nymphs - self-titled

Thursday 20 January 2011

Would you miss HMV?

Follow-up to yesterday's post, as latest news reports hint at further difficulties at HMV.

The Guardian asking shoppers at HMV's flagship store on Oxford Street whether they would miss the retailer should it fall by the wayside - responses were largely positive towards the beleaguered retailer. Fair to say that interviewing customers isn't the most impartial approach to take but the comments are noteworthy all the same.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Mad about music? See a specialist.

There’s been much talk regarding HMV’s announcement of reduced profits and planned store closures. They’re not (yet) making losses but as the last of the big guns it seems conceivable that the UK could find itself without a major music retail chain.

HMV have survived through the demise of Tower (2003), Our Price (in decline from the late 90s, the final nail in the coffin was under the Sanity banner in 2004) MVC (2005), Music Zone, Fopp and Virgin Megastores (all 2007) and Zavvi (2009), as well as mail-order company Britannia Music Club (2007) and high street giant Woolworths (2009).

That said the above over-simplifies matters as at some point pretty much every chain listed has owned or been owned by one of the others. Our Price, bought by WHSmith in 1986, found itself with a sister chain in the early 1990s when a majority holding in Virgin was also bought up. In the meantime, disgruntled Our Price directors were putting together plans to launch a new independent chain but once this was discovered found themselves banned from doing so for one year in 1989 (I remember this well, as I started work at Our Price in August of that year and this was a very hot topic) before popping up with the Music and Video Club (MVC) in 1990. MVC was bought by Kingfisher in 1993, owners of Woolworths, later being sold to venture capitalists in 2005 and going into administration within 6 months. Some MVC stores were bought by Music Zone in 2006 before they themselves entered administration in 2007. Fopp bought up a number of the Music Zone stores and, true to form, ended up in administration the same year. HMV subsequently bought up some of the Fopp sites and continue to trade under that brand. 2007 also saw Virgin cease trading after a management buyout led to the formation of Zavvi. Virgin had previously emerged as the higher-profile name from its relationship with Our Price, particularly when the two were bought out from WHSmith by a division of Virgin in 1998 with many locations seeing their branch of Our Price closing in favour of a larger Virgin store (or being rebranded as ‘VShop’). Our Price was sold off to and rebranded as Sanity in 2001 but this proved a disastrous venture and by 2002 a switch back to the old name had been introduced at a few branches before Sanity entered administration in 2003, closing the final store in January 2004. Virgin had also taken over the few remaining Tower Records sites in 2003, initially retaining the Tower name. Zavvi went into administration in 2009, linked to the collapse of Woolworths as they used the latter’s distribution chain, Entertainment UK, whose administrators called in a debt of £106 million. Despite negotiating a lower payment the timing meant that Zavvi was left without stock during the critical Christmas period and was unable to source stock on favourable terms from anywhere else.

And so HMV ruled supreme, but despite having a clear run still finds itself in trouble. From personal experience I haven’t found music retail chains to be particularly dynamic and innovative and suspect that HMV’s position of dominance hasn’t been achieved by being especially savvy (although it’s diversification into live music could be what saves the name from disappearing altogether). True, they succeeded in running many of their rivals out of town in the 1990s but this was arguably by simply showing up with bigger stores. Pricing-wise they weren’t competitive. MVC on the other hand devised an interesting strategy by going down a ‘club’ route – sign up, get a membership card and CDs became typically £1 or so cheaper. Eventually Our Price responded to this in 1995 with its ‘Price Shock’ campaign in locations where an MVC resided but after a while this was dropped at short notice – given some slightly odd restrictions placed on us regarding ordering stock in the run-up to stock takes around that time I’m guessing this was having too much of an effect on the company’s cashflow.

So where to next? There's been some romanticising on the days where record shops were a destination in themselves; a place to hang out, meet friends, browse the racks and maybe discover something new, often at the recommendation of the knowledgeable staff. But the nature of buying (or rather acquiring) music has irreversibly changed and it's no longer necessary to leave the house to buy CDs. Downloading and streaming are here to stay, and if this is what the next and future generations chose to do then HMV cannot survive in its current form. Even its online presence seems confused as it offers items at a different price to those instore - they know they have to compete with the likes of Amazon but in doing so are sending out quite an insulting message to those customers that still buy in person. Sister company Waterstones has the same dual-pricing policy.

There are suggestions that the demise of HMV could lead to a return of the independents. According to writer Graham Jones, the number of independent retailers has dipped from over 2,000 to 269 during his professional career (incidentally, you can find out where your nearest one is here). Graham recently posted an article naming five of his favourites. Unfortunately even these stores face the same problems and in all likelihood the average age of their clientele is nudging onwards and upwards, but in terms of being able to offer something different this indeed appears to be a huge opportunity, even if only in the short-term. Their independent status should also enable them to be rather more entrepreneurial than their behemoth rival.

Either way music retail is entering a critical period, and one with far more at stake than when Our Price, HMV, Virgin et al were battling it out for market share in the 1990s.

Friday 14 January 2011

Dylan Hears A Who

Encouraged by my Ramones-loving offspring, a search on YouTube for Dr Seuss clips brought us to the below, and it seems there’s a tale to tell too.

Recorded by Kevin Ryan as part of a seven track download-only release entitled 'Dylan Hears A Who', (a nod to the 1954 book ‘Horton Hears A Who!’), Dr Seuss Enterprises took issue with the use of their copyrighted material. The website was taken down, the one remaining page clearly but politely stating the reason why. But with a little digging around you will find that the recordings can still be located …