Archive for the ‘Ian Dury & The Blockheads’ Category

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Listen: Sergeant Fury / The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

Thank you Duane for emailing me tonight with a reminder of how great this band was.

If ever you saw them live, you’ll know, they owned a stage during their ’74 – ’75 heyday. Ok, a year or so later the handful of UK hits came. But even as that happened, their landmark album, NEXT, based around the Jacques Brel song of the same name, from just before they really took off, re-entered the UK charts and England was Sensational Alex Harvey Band mad. That meant we US Anglophiles were in total step.

US Mercury, parent company to the Vertigo imprint, managed to get the band a slot on THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, doing the whole Vambo routine, the main character from NEXT. Frustrating thing, and a possible label mistake: the two best tracks from that album were never released as singles and therefore got no radio airplay focus. I’m talking about ‘Giddy Up A Ding Dong’ and ‘Vambo Marble Eye’. This was indeed still the era of an album being a completely thought through project, so the full length benefitted. Pressed on vinyl meant the running time couldn’t exceed forty minutes or thereabouts. Not too long, not too short.

Once compact discs hit, there was suddenly seventy plus minutes to potentially fill. Problem became, most bands would proceed to do just that. Result: loads of weak albums, cluttered up by throwaway tracks. Plus, everyone had less time. As technology progressed there were so many more fun things to do than listen to your favorite band’s B level material when only a few short years prior, these crap songs were simply tossed onto the scrap heap.

Never mind, point being my favorite Sensational Alex Harvey Band single, ‘Sergeant Fury’, is not from NEXT, but instead their followup, THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM. Looking back, I recall my attraction it’s the English vaudeville dancehall element tremendously. The Kinks were swimming knee deep in the genre then too, as was Ian Dury with both Kilburn & The High Roads and a few years later, Ian Dury & The Blockheads.

Mercury brought the band to Syracuse, staging a free concert at the Landmark Theatre in order to film their live show. Why the label chose this town, and not New York or Los Angeles, God only knows. And I mention God, because clearly there is one to drop such a euphoric high into my lap.

What a day that was. We scoured the place from like 11am. Easily meeting the fellows, shocking both Alex himself by talking about his previous soul outfits; and his group, when asking for details about Tear Gas, their previous band. As a result, we were eating, drinking and drugging with them until the early hours.

What self proclaimed Anglophile could make a soft landing after that!

Kilburn & The High Roads

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Listen: Crippled With Nerves / Kilburn & The High Roads

Having read about this single and the band in the Melody Maker, I somehow special ordered a copy of Kilburn & The High Roads ‘Crippled With Nerves’. I was curious and just knew I needed it, if for no other reason than having spent my first few weeks of ever visiting London in Kilburn with my Aunt Tess and Uncle Mick. Sure am glad I followed through though. In fact, I’m not even really certain who/what/where my source for UK singles was in this particular period, given it being just post my time with Discount Records, where we could order imports through JEM and during my very early RIT days, prior to meeting Howard Thompson, who sent me everything. Probably Greg Prevost at House Of Guitars got it for me.

Anyways, I was really hoping to see more of the band represented, albeit briefly, in the Ian Dury film. Despite that, it’s a wonderful movie, and a not to be missed look into this fascinating genius.

Having only seen him in the States, when he made it over to tour Ian Dury & The Blockheads, I can stand up amongst all others who got to witness their super human live show. One of the best ever.

‘Crippled With Nerves’, an unlikely A side for sure, certainly takes on multiple meanings once you know Ian Dury’s weaving and jarring history, which musically began with Kilburn & The High Roads. This will provide an excellent read for the curious or uninformed.

Mellow Candle

Friday, April 30th, 2010

MellowCandle, Mellow Candle, David Hitchcock, Deram

Listen: Dan The Wing / Mellow Candle MellowCandle.mp3

Howard, Chris and I went to see the Ian Dury movie the other day. It was pretty great – the end bit got a touch depressing but the film certainly brought me right back to how absolutely stunning he and The Blockheads were on stage during their moments in the sun. Never realized Chaz Jankel was such a vital part of the band and songwriting until the credits rolled.

We had Indian lunch prior, and as usual, started digging into a whole lotta obscure record trivia. I was always a fan of UK Decca’s various production deals. One such was with Gruggy Woof. The company included both Neil Slaven and David Hitchcock. Slaven’s production’s seemed to lean more towards the bluesy side (Savoy Brown, Miller Anderson, The Keef Hartley Band, Chicken Shack) whereas Hitchcock tipped more progressive (Caravan, Camel, Cured Air, Genesis). By the way, I don’t have a clue where that rather bad name originated from, but I liked most of the records these guys/their production company were involed with.

For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what single I had in my hands literally earlier that very day, with it’s unlikely David Hitchcock production credit. Given that Howard mastered a slew of these during his apprentice years at Trident, we racked our collective brains to no result.

Well tonight I suddenly remembered: Mellow Candle. Their sole album is insanely valuable, and this single is not far behind. Quite why I’m not sure. I always thought ‘Dan The Wing’ was rather watered down Steeleye Span, sonically more in line with what B & C were releasing: folky prog stuff.

Look deeply into the Decca/Deram release history and you will find many an obscure, highly collectable and hence, steeply priced prog rock array of every flavor. I picked this up for pennies in the dj copy heavy outdoor vendor racks at Cheap Cheap on Soho’s Rupert Street during that summer ’73 spent in London. In fact, this copy sat there unsold for literally months until finally having been humiliatingly relegated to the 5p row – I just couldn’t pass up the Deram A label – I mean seriously, 5p?

At first it indeed sounded lightweight and weedy, but I eventually got addicted to it’s weaknesses. They are charmingly innocent, now I play it often.