Top 20 No 5: B-52’s

I’ve seen 79 of my top 100 bands live – so here’s the first of the 21 I haven’t. They did play a single UK date in 2013 (when I was in Greece for a week) and are currently touring the hell out of USA and other countries that aren’t the UK. One day hopefully …

Live in Atlanta, 1978. LOVE the Farfisa. Photo not taken by me!

Well this band has to be a band who anyone can like, despite what other stuff they enjoy listening to. Or a band who just infuriates everyone, I’m not sure which. I’m clearly very big on the Sprechsegang as I’m only five bands in and I’ve chosen this lot AND Art Brut.

But I absolutely love the B-52’s, who just seem like they were the coolest people on the planet in the early 1980s.

Part of me wants to know what lyrics like “I’ll give you fish, I’ll give you candy, I’ll give you everything I have in my hand” mean and part of me never wants to know.

Most people probably think of Rock Lobster or Love Shack, but they were much more than that to me. The whole of 1989’s Cosmic Thing is a masterpiece for me – one of my top 10 albums ever, without a duff track on it.

Even their last album – Funplex – back in 2008 was a delight. “I’m your daytime waitress here’s your stupid 7-Up” is still a genius lyric and I think about it more than I should, usually when people near me are ordering 7-Up.

1. Give Me Back My Man
2. Rock Lobster
3. Planet Claire
4. Love Shack
5. Deadbeat Club
6. Channel Z
7. Private Idaho
8. Dry Country
9. Junebug
10. Funplex
11. Roam
12. Topaz
13. Bushfire
14. 52 Girls
15. Legal Tender
16. 53 Miles From Venus
17. Wig
18. Dance This Mess Around
19. Dirty Back Road
20. Song For A Future Generation

Top 20 No 4: Ash

One of those bands for me who just consistently keep putting proper pop songs out without much recognition. Okay, maybe that’s not fair as they’ve had two no 1 albums and their last album reached the UK top 20 in May. But you can’t really imagine a time when they’re not making music any more – you just kind of feel that they would go on forever.

Ash at the Bowery Ballroom, NYC, May 2005. Complete with Charlotte Hatherley and some accidental camera blur which I am sure I did deliberately

I’ve caught them a few times live, mostly at festivals (Reading, Latitude etc) but also on their A-Z tour in 2009 at the Corrib Rest in Queen’s Park (or was it Kilburn? In any case it was definitely the Q leg!) and also, unusually, at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City in 2005.

I’d gone over to New York with my family to create a holiday although my first priority was to get tickets for Spamalot, which I did (great show – but Times Square not as exciting as I’d expected). I then managed to get tickets for Ash and the Bravery who were co-headlining a tour. Three things I remember about that gig:

– the air being so clean. This was my first experience of watching a gig in a town with a smoking ban
– everyone being so cool that they really didn’t want to push to the front even though the place was pretty much full up. Being from Essex, I had no such qualms
– my first and last experience with Brooklyn Lager. It’s ubiquitous in the UK now, but I’d never seen it before that night. And after a couple of mouthfuls, I really wish I hadn’t seen it at all

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ash a couple of times over the years, including most recently at the first RiZE Festival in Chelmsford, and can confirm that they are all thoroughly lovely people.

1. Angel Interceptor
2. Burn Baby Burn
3. Kung Fu
4. Shining Light
5. Girl from Mars
6. Return of White Rabbit
7. Buzzkill
8. Goldfinger
9. Oh Yeah
10. A Life Less Ordinary
11. Jesus Says
12. Jack Names the Planets
13. Sometimes
14. There’s a Star
15. Orpheus
16. You Can’t Have It All
17. Annabel
18. Candy
19. Clones
20. Envy

Top 20 No 3: Art Brut

I first managed to catch Art Brut live in April 2004 at the sadly-defunct Metro Club in London (the space it occupied is now part of Tottenham Court Road’s crossrail behemoth). Art Brut were the main support to my band of two days ago, Abdoujaparov. While watching the first support act, Rhesus, I was vaguely aware of someone standing next to me in a suit with no shoes on and holding a plastic bag. That someone was Eddie Argos, who clambered onto the stage about half an hour later with a blistering set mostly based around their debut album Bang Bang Rock And Roll.

November 2013, Tunbridge Wells Forum

I’ve caught them another six times since, although not since 2013 – that will hopefully change soon as they are awakening from their hiatus at the moment with a brand new single and album around the corner. They’ve also gone through a number of personnel changes in that time, and while they still sound great, I still remember being up close to original guitarist Chris Chinchilla – sadly now retired from music (I think) and living in Australia – and his guitar work blowing me and the audience away. They were THAT good that night.

My number one of theirs HAS to be St Pauli, a track so good I once drove to Hamburg and drank all night in the club’s Jolly Roger pub opposite the ground because I couldn’t get the song out of my head. (True story).

1. St Pauli
2. Nag Nag Nag Nag
3. Direct Hit
4. My Little Brother
5. Emily Kane
6. Alcoholics Unanimous
7. Good Weekend
8. Post Soothing Out
9. Lost Weekend
10. Formed A Band
11. DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake
12. 18,000 Lira
13. Stand Down
14. Modern Art
15. Summer Job
16. Bad Weekend
17. People In Love
18. Moving To LA
19. Fight!
20. Sexy Sometimes

Top 20 No 2: A House

This has been a puzzle to me all my life. Do I file A House under A or H? I’ve always heard it emphasised as AY House rather than Er House, so it has to be A doesn’t it? I would LOVE to know what everyone’s thoughts are on this (actually, I probably wouldn’t. It’s going under A).

My love affair started when Endless Art came out as a single in 1991. I had a week in Dublin at the end of that year, bought their current I Am The Greatest album, and played it to death for months and months. That album certainly soundtracked the seven days I spent driving around the Irish countryside – including a pointless drive to Sligo and back (there was literally NOTHING there) and a stop in Waterford where I had the best curry chips in my life.

I was lucky enough to catch A House live twice, once in 1992 at the Marquee with Strangelove in support (a gig I remember for Strangelove guitarist Alex Lee almost knocking out a stage invader/failed crowdsurfer) and again in 1994 at the Garage.

Ticket stub for that 1992 gig – originally at the LSE but moved to the bigger Marquee. (Or was it smaller?) Alas, no photos

A House split in 1997 – lead singer Dave Couse, who’s now a DJ on top Irish radio station Today FM, had a couple of solo albums including one very good one in 2005 – The World Should Know – under the band name Couse and the Impossible. I caught him in 2006 live when they played the Water Rats in King’s Cross in London and had the good fortune to interview him while he was eating a pizza at the pub across the road – he insisted I didn’t need to wait for him to finish, and was utterly charming throughout.

1. Endless Art
2. Take It Easy On Me
3. I Don’t Care
4. You’re Too Young
5. Blind Faith
6. Cotton Pickers
7. Why Me?
8. How Strong Is Love
9. I Am Afraid
10. Second Wind
11. Slipping Away
12. I Am The Greatest
13. Here Come The Good Times
14. Creatures Of Craze
15. Live Life Dead Died
16. I Lied
17. Freak Show
18. Kick Me Again Jesus
19. Charity
20. I Hope I’m Wrong

A random A House newsletter from 1994 I found in my big box of music junk

Top 20 No 1: Abdoujaparov

I’m running through my best 100 top 20s in alphabetical order and for all intents and purposes Abdoujaparov are pretty alphabetical.

Richy Crockford and Les Carter, The Windmill, Brixton, 20 Feb 2005

The band were named after The Tashkent Terror – a madcap Uzbek cyclist called Djamolidine Abdoujaparov which was highly appropriate given that band founder Les Carter – Fruitbat from Carter USM – was well known for his love of cycling shorts in Carter’s early 90s heyday.

When Carter USM split up, Les formed the band initially with Alan Demontis, Andy Duke and Tasha Bayliss. Since then they have gone through 71 line up changes and counting, all lovingly recorded on the band’s website, with Les being central to each line-up.

The band released three albums, going for an odd seemingly-random four word combo each time, although the first album – 2002’s Air Odeon Disco Pub – was named after a real place in Greece. The other two albums were Cycle Riot History Gang (2007) and Seaside Arcade Bingo Patrol (2014).

I remember their first single – Punk Confetti – and possibly the next few after that were funded by a very early form of crowdfunding. I think Les called it shareware at the time, but the principle was the same – buy it in advance, and when they had enough advance sales they would record it, make it and distribute it.

Their first live performance was at the Water Rats in November 1998 and I caught them at the Y Club in Chelmsford in January 1999 at their second show, when they were supported by Pharmacy (which included ex-Sultans of Ping drummer Morty McCarthy and ex-Power of Dreams guitarist Ian Olney, who went on to join the reformed Sultans in 2005) and local band Ton Up Kid, whose demo tape I still have up in the loft somewhere. It was also my third interview I ever did for radio and I still have a transcript of that somewhere too!

Musically the band operate somewhere between punk, folk and pub rock. For a while Les and Richy Crockford toured under the name iDou, playing Abdoujaparov songs using an iPod shuffle as backing track. The iPod would be on shuffle mode so they wouldn’t necessarily know what was coming up next!

Incredibly I have caught them live 19 times since that Chelmsford show, including 5 iDou gigs and a “solo” Les gig at the Chequers in Billericay earlier this year. All but two of those shows were before 2010 – the band have been quiet for the last few years while Les has been playing guitar with Ferocious Dog. I did recently catch them at Shiiine On in Birmingham and I’m looking forward to the 20th anniversary show at the 100 Club in November 2018.

So here’s my first top 20. Decided to plump for Beer Scooter as my number 1 – a loud, slow and sleazy homage to the magical way people wake up the morning after they’ve had a few with no memory of the journey home.

1. Beer Scooter
2. Maria’s Umbrella
3. Punk Confetti
4. Aren’t We All (Hero)
5. Fish Face
6. Emergency Medical Hologram
7. There’s A Monster In My Garden
8. Benjamin and Jumble
9. Loser’s Walk
10. You Turned Me Over
11. Small & Cute
12. Really Really Sorry
13. Will She Come?
14. Ultra Cool
15. Hit Her With The Pig
16. Married To The Rock
17. Everything Is Free
18. Boris
19. Bicycle Shed
20. Fingers

100 Top 20s: preamble

I’ve decided I do too much writing about things that don’t directly interest me and not enough writing about music I like, so I’m embarking on a brand new blogging project – choose my favourite 100 artists, list my favourite 20 songs for each of them. Sounds pretty easy!

After extensively looking at my music collection and – more importantly – my Last FM stats, I’ve come up with a list of what I think are my 100 favourite artists, conveniently sorted into alphabetical order so you never know what’s coming next. I’ve included a few who I am “done listening to” – I still like them, but I’ve played them so much over the years I rarely play them now as their songs are perfectly etched inside my brain. I’ve left out a few more recent artists from the list who I really did want to include too so it’s not really reflective of what I’m listening to this week/year, but it is my Top 100.

So 100 artists, 100 days, so that takes me up to about 20 December, giving me a few days off for Christmas. Fingers crossed!