Archive for the ‘Ultravox’ Category

Burning Spear

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Listen: Lion / Burning Spear
Listen: Lion / Burning Spear

Most consider MARCUS GARVEY and the accompanying dub version, GARVEY’S GHOST, both from ’76, to be the ultimate introduction to Burning Spear. Not me. The ’77 followup, MAN IN THE HILLS, takes the prize hands down.

Blame it on the compilation THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3). Howard Thompson sent a copy with a bunch of Island punk and reggae releases in his very first mailing that began our friendship. It was known as a care package in those days, the kind you’d load a new pal up with when you worked at a record company. Just go over to the cupboard and pull one of anything remotely good, then ship it off. And the cupboards at Island were bursting with good stuff back then.

I dare call it life changing. Sure, that sounds way over dramatic. But no, it’s actually not. The records in that big box did just that, not only to me, but to my closest friends and Corinne as well. She for one, dove head first into a reggae addiction from the get go. Took her years to shake, to find a normal balance between it and everyday life, but not before up and going to London to see Burning Spear and Aswad at the Rainbow, with Karen. I think they had some unfinished Eddie & The Hot Rods business on that particular journey as well.

The box. Yes. I can still recall every record in it:

Various Artists THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3)
The Upsetters SUPER APE
Toots & The Maytals REGGAE GOT SOUL
The Heptones NIGHT FOOD
Derek & Clive LIVE
Max Romeo & The Upsetters WAR INA BABYLON

Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Writing On The Wall’
Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Wooly Bully’
Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Teenage Depression’
Lee Perry ‘Roast Fish & Cornbread’
Dillinger ‘Cokane In My Brain’
Aswad ‘Back To Africa’
Aswad ‘Three Babylon’
Junior Murvin ‘Police & Thieves’
The Heptones & The Upsetters ‘ Sufferer’s Time’
The Heptones ‘Book Of Rules’
Justin Hines & The Dominoes ‘Fire’
Justin Hines & The Dominoes ‘Carry Go Bring Come’
Kevin Ayers ‘Falling In Love Again’
Sparks ‘Big Boy’
Sparks ‘I Like Girls’
Ultravox ‘Dangerous Rhythm’
Max Romeo & The Upsetters ‘One Step Forward’
Max Romeo & The Upsetters ‘Chase The Devil’
Trevor White ‘Crazy Kids’
The Dwight Twilley Band ‘I’m On Fire’
Fay Bennett ‘Big Cockey Wally’
Leroy Smart ‘Ballistic Affair’
J.J. Cale ‘Travelin’ Light’
The Jess Roden Band ‘Stay In Bed’
Rico ‘Dial Africa’
Agusutus Pablo ‘King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown’
Burning Spear ‘Lion’

Might as well get this over with now: the 7′s were all promo copies. Sorry.

Yeah, go ahead. Take a breather. I tell you what. There was no preparing for that package in real life either. I wasn’t expecting a box, maybe a few records, but not a box. Howard had rung me from his office shortly after receiving a letter I’d sent off to Island, written on WITR stationary. We talked for a bit, he filled me in on Eddie & The Hot Rods, who were my original reason for writing, suggested we trade some records and that we should stay in touch. Little did I know both his package and that phone call would change my life forever.

A week or so later, I just found this large box from Island Records UK in my apartment building’s lobby. Cost something like £40 to ship, a fortune in ’76. Hoisted it upstairs and into our place, could not open it fast enough. Fuck me, a shock to the system indeed, like my heart froze. Yet somehow I’ve lived to tell.

We poured over these records, the bunch of us, for weeks. You couldn’t wait for whatever was playing to end, so you could begin another. Corinne worked nights back then, and I vividly recall staying up until dawn, those first two days in a row, eating white crosses and just playing them, waiting for her to come home. Wow, what a fantastic flashback.

Every track on THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC became anthems to us, every one a badge of honor, knowing we’d found some of the best music of our lives, suddenly a whole new world opened up, and that album did it.

Burning Spear was little known to me at that point. Saw the US copies of those first two albums occasionally, but hadn’t heard either, or even tried to. Reggae had not entered my life. Once this compilation arrived, I became insatiable for it though.

‘Man In The Hills’, the title track, opened Side 2 of the comp. It was instant. Immediately tore through that pile of 7′s, sure I’d seen a Burning Spear single amongst them. The whole day was a blur, it was hard to process this all at once. Yes, there it was. ‘Lion’ / ‘Door Peep’ by Burning Spear

‘Lion’ defines my very favorite style of reggae, where the chorus keeps getting sung over and over and over. Just a lazy, hypnotic swirl that’s hard to fight. The genre has many a unique voice, but Winston Rodney’s, well it’s one of the greatest.


Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Peace In The End / Fotheringay

Listen: Peace In The End / Fotheringay

Turning October Island pink in support of curing breast cancer, I’m reposting Fotheringay from April 6, 2009:

Remember in the very early 70′s Warner Brothers did those $1 and $2 samplers you could send off for from the back pages of ROLLING STONE? Well A&M did one too, and only one if memory serves me well. Titled FRIENDS, it was nicely full of UK bands like Blodwyn Pig, Free, The Move and Spooky Tooth to name a few. Fotheringay were on there, this song in fact. ‘Peace In The End’ was my first taste of the band, which I was well anxious to hear.

I’d loved Fairport Convention, and when Sandy Denny left to join up with Trevor Lucas in Fotheringay, well there was more of them all to love basically. Unlike most fans, my most memorable Fairport Convention period followed her departure. FULL HOUSE, ANGEL DELIGHT and BABBACOMBE LEE were and are hands down favorites. The lineups with Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol are just perfect for me.

I didn’t fall in love with the Fotheringay album, but I sure did fall in love with it’s only single, ‘Peace In The End’. I must have played this hundreds of times.

Years later, during that first London trip Corinne and I made together in ’77, Howard Thompson brought us round to the Island offices, where he did A&R at the time. In the back, there was an up and running company canteen which did hot food all day for staff and whoever was in the studio at the time. It was still operational ten years later when I joined the label.

What an experience that was. Just envision, growing up and living in upstate New York, and to then be suddenly transported to London for a two week vacation, meeting someone in Howard who would unknowingly change our lives forever, well we literally died and went to heaven.

Rico and his band were there rehearsing downstairs, Simon Kirke from Free eating with Jess Roden, various members of Eddie & The Hot Rods and Ultravox. Over in a corner were Trevor Lucas and Sandy Denny. She was very quiet, but extremely sweet when I approached her for a hopeful talk. Her voice as angelic when speaking as in song. ‘Peace In The End’ will forever remind me of her aura on that day.

J. J. Cale

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Listen: Travelin’ Light / J. J. Cale

March ’77, Corinne and I made our first trip to England together for a fortnight of fun. We ended up staying at the then seedy Royal Scott Hotel, way before the area became chic. But seriously, it was heaven to us, a real taste of old London, now long gone.

Most importantly, the visit marked our first meeting with Howard. Who knew then that we’d become life long friends. HT showed us around for two weeks solid, and must’ve been glad to see the back of us.

This was a time almost like no other, with the energy of punk united against the stale old guard, and HT had every night sorted: The Damned, The Jam, Eddie & The Hot Rods, Ultravox, Eater, Johnny Moped, The Sex Pistols, The Heartbreakers, Sham 69, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Rockpile, The Downliners Sect, Generation X, The Clash, The Vibrators. Pretty sick, right?

We would start every morning in one of the many rickety cafes along Argyle Square or Crestfield Street, covering traditional English breakfast fry ups of eggs, chips and mushy peas with plenty of HP Sauce, gagging back several sugary teas, then scouring either the record shops or dumpy street markets, Corinne looking for deco jewelry and vintage clothes, me for used 45′s. By early evening, flying on Cadbury Flakes or Fry’s Chocolate Creams, we’d meet Howard, always in a swinging pub with a happening jukebox.

He introduced me to Andrew Lauder on one of those nights, and we all found quite a lot to talk about simply by scouring through the records in The Hope & Anchor’s jukebox. ‘Travelin’ Light’ was visually playing at the time, meaning the machine was a vintage model, one whereby you can watch the vinyl spinning round. Easily, it made for a lasting memory.

Released by Denny Cordell’s Shelter Records, quite possibly ‘Travelin’ Light’ was a single simply to allow the B side, ‘Cocaine’, availability to jukeboxes and club dj’s. For obvious reasons, that track doubled as bragging rights amongst us all, and along with Dillinger’s ‘Cokane In My Brain’, became our cheap theme.

Still it’s this A side, ‘Travelin’ Light’, that I can play endlessly and never tire of, all the while doubling as a journey back in time, to that jukebox and those incredible two weeks.


Friday, May 15th, 2009

When The Tanks Roll Over Poland Again / Automatics

When The Tanks Roll Over Poland Again / Automatics

Listen: When The Tanks Roll Over Poland Again / Automatics Automatics.mp3

Who is the best living rock producer? Steve Lillywhite.

There are many, and I’m probably writing this without really thinking it through. Whatever. Steve has made so many great records for decades. The list is staggering: XTC, The Psychedelic Furs, Joan Armatrading, Eddie & The Hot Rods, Ultravox, fuck it – loads.

U2 – even if the band isn’t, to my tastes, great – the recordings are wonderful. For all the sonic wonder he has added to U2 alone, he still had to start somewhere.

Enter The Automatics. Certainly not his first, but definitely an early production. He’s come a long way. Or did he arrive fully formed?

This certainly captured the sound of London ’78. Those shouty vocals, bratty guitar grinds and the beautiful clunk of a noisy rhythm section all rolled up into a loveable mess. Either its great or it isn’t, and this is. If you add to that recipe an anthemic song, well, you end up with ‘When The Tanks Roll Over Poland’ by The Automatics, for one.


Sunday, March 29th, 2009

 Dangerous Rhythm / Ultravox UK

 Dangerous Rhythm / Ultravox UK

Listen: Dangerous Rhythm / Ultravox UltravoxDangerousRhythm.mp3

It was March ’77, Corinne and I had perfectly timed, as it turns out, our first trip to London. As chronicled in previous posts, Howard jammed what seemed like a year’s worth of record shopping and live shows into a fourteen day window. It was only a month prior that he’d sent the debut 7″ from Ultravox ‘Dangerous Rhythm’ pictured above, release date sticker still intact. We were ready.

They were playing The Nashville, we’re there. Visually a mix of New York, London punk and Berlin. Sonically jagged, metallic, white noise in parts yet cold and stark all at once. That early Ultravox lineup, their first album and a bunch of the singles following are never spoken of enough. In fact the whole John Foxx era is under appreciated. They were a great live band and a catalyst towards my appreciation of Neu, Can and many things German that I had previously overlooked.