Three Tom Robinson Gigs

I’ve been thinking about Tom Robinson recently. There’s an anthology of the old Tom Robinson Band recordings coming out on Monday and on Tuesday I’m going to see him at a show celebrating the thirty-fifth anniversary of Power in the Darkness. But this has all got me thinking about the first three times I saw him play. They were three very different gigs.

Ipswich Gaumont – 10th April 1979

Growing up in north Essex, the Ipswich Gaumont was nearest place that we could see mid-level bands. I went there many times between 1978 and 1981 (at which point I moved to London and going to see bands became much easier).

This was one of the dates on the tour to promote the Tom Robinson Band’s second album, TRB Two. Somewhere I still have the programme from the tour (really just a double-sided print folded in half) – I should find it and scan it in.

I don’t remember much about this gig. And what I do remember is probably slightly mixed up with a gig from this tour that was broadcast on Radio One at about the same time. I recorded that broadcast (in the time-honoured manner of putting a microphone next to the radio and glaring at anyone who dared talk) and listened to it a lot over the years. I only lost it when I threw away all of my cassettes about ten years ago. I believe that the “Wycombe Town Hall” gig that is included on the new anthology might be the same broadcast. I’m looking forward to hearing it again.

That was the only time I saw TRB. The next two gigs were very different. I can’t even remember for sure the order I saw them in.

Islington Folk Club – Summer 1982

I was living in a City University hall of residence in Islington and when I heard that Tom Robinson was playing at a folk club just round the corner, I couldn’t believe it. I was sure it couldn’t be the same Tom Robinson, but I went along just in case.

And, of course, it was him. This was the first time I became aware of Tom outside of TRB and the performance was very different to the previous one. Tom played a lot of songs that I heard for the first time that night and now know well. In particular, I remember 1967 and a cover version of Walk on the Wild Side.

I can find no mention of this show anywhere on the internet. I don’t think I dreamt it, but I’d love to have some evidence that it actually happened. Was anyone else there.

At the time I was social secretary at The City University. So at the end of the gig I approached Tom and asked if he would be interested in doing a similar show at the Students Union. He suggested that I should contact his agent. I did that, but the agent didn’t seem at all interested in finding Tom gigs so nothing ever came of it.

Bloomsbury Theatre – 1982(?)

It was certainly a theatre in Bloomsbury, but I’m not 100% certain of the name. This was a very strange night. Tom was playing support for The Passions (remember I’m In Love With A German Film Star?) but there was another support act which was a one-act play. There may have been some comedy involved too. I don’t really remember Tom’s set. I think it might have been the first time I heard Atmospherics.

This page on The Passions’ web site at least confirms that something like this did happen. It says:

Next came the question of how to promote the album. For some long forgotten reason the band were unwilling to tour at that point and so together with Cairo Management came up with the idea of doing a week of variety shows at the Bloomsbury Theatre in central London instead. ‘New Variety’ or ‘Alternative Cabaret’ was taking off at the time with the CAST theatre group running shows at pubs across London. Quite how a band such as the Passions fitted into this concept is puzzling to say the least. However the idea was followed through and acts were booked including a strange little play about someone who lived inside a sofa, the band’s friends Kevin McNally and Veronica Quilligan (who acted as comperes in addition to performing comedy sketches) and Tom Robinson.  The show was booked for five nights and apart from the first night, ticket sales were abysmal so the band pulled out after only two shows. As a result of this the band were sued for loss of earnings by the theatre group performing the strange play.

I guess I’m lucky that I saw one of the first two shows. Was anyone else there? Can you share any more memories of the night?

After that I’ve lost track of the number of times I saw Tom play. But it was a lot. Largely at festivals or at his annual gigs for fans. It’s been a while since I saw him though. I’m really looking forward to seeing him on Tuesday.


The Beatles

Still catching up on classic albums. Here are my thoughts on The Beatles by The Beatles (that’s the album we all know better as The White Album).

Some Historical Context

I was six when this came out. I don’t remember it being released, but I have vague memories of singing Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da when I was young. I probably got it from the Marmalade version that was in the charts.

The first I can remember really being interested in The Beatles was when all of their singles were re-released in 1976. I remember deciding that I preferred The Stones to The Beatles. I still think that The Beatles are overrated. But this is definitely amongst my favourite Beatles albums.

The rest of this post will be written as I listen to the album. Oh, and for the first time in this series, it’s a double album.

The Songs

1. Back in the U.S.S.R.

One of the all-time great album openers. It’s all pretty basic stuff, but something about it makes this a great song. It’s short too – less than three minutes. Of course, the basic idea of the lyrics is ripped off from the Beach Boys.

2. Dear Prudence

Another great song. One of Lennon’s best, in my opinion.

3. Glass Onion

Another good one from Lennon. Pretty strange lyrics; talking about a number of older Beatles songs.

4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

As far as I’m concerned, this is the album’s first mis-step. We’ve established previously that I’m not a big fan of reggae and this childish white man’s reggae is even worse. I mentioned above that I remember singing this when I was a child. The “when I was a child” is key there.

5. Wild Honey Pie

This is really dreadful, isn’t it? I really don’t know what McCartney was thinking. Mercifully short though.

6. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

I should hate this too. It’s really childish. But something about it makes me smile. Not Lennon’s finest hour though – by some considerable distance.

7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

The best thing that George Harrison ever wrote. This is fantastic.

8. Happiness Is a Warm Gun

This is ok. It’s not great, but I certainly wouldn’t skip it. End of side one.

9. Martha My Dear

Side two starts with McCartney trying to write a music hall style song. It really doesn’t work.

10. I’m So Tired

This is more like it. Lennon sings the blues. Brilliantly. I think my Lennon/McCartney bias is showing in this review.

11. Blackbird

The guitar on this is quite pretty. Still not a particularly interesting song though.

12. Piggies

When I was 14 I loved this. Now I think it’s embarrassing. Hard to believe it was written by the same person as While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

13. Rocky Raccoon


14. Don’t Pass Me By

Ah… Ringo. This is pretty simplistic stuff. but I really like it.

15. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?

Another one that I enjoyed a lot when I was about 14. Hate it now.

16. I Will

And finally McCartney proves that he can write something simple and effective. It’s not outstanding, but it works.

17. Julia

This is one of my favourite Lennon songs. I don’t understand why it’s so obscure. Hardly anyone seems to know it. End of side two.

18. Birthday

A rock birthday song really shouldn’t work. And, yet, somehow it does.

19. Yer Blues

Love this too.

20. Mother Nature’s Son

Hate this one.

21. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey

Ambivalent about this one. It’s ok. Nothing special. Ridiculous lyrics.

22. Sexy Sadie

Originally entitled “Maharisha”, this is about Lennon’s disenchantment with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I quite like this, but it’s not one of his best.

23. Helter Skelter

Another of the album’s classic tracks. Surely everyone loves this. From the initial guitar thrash to Ringo’s “I’ve got blisters on my fingers” it’s brilliant. And, bizarrely, it’s a McCartney song.

24. Long, Long, Long

When I’m listening to these albums, there’s always at least one track I don’t remember. And this is it. I don’t remember it because it’s just average. It’s written by George Harrison and could be an obscure album track on any of his solo albums. End of side three.

25. Revolution 1

This is controversial. It’s the same song as the rockier version that was released as the b-side to Hey Jude – that’s the version that everyone knows. This is a mellower acoustic version that isn’t to everyone’s taste. I like both versions though. In my more “Che Guevara” periods I’ve spent hours discussing how, in this version, Lennon changes the line to “if you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out… in”.

26. Honey Pie

Another horrible McCartney effort.

27. Savoy Truffle

And this is another distinctly average song from Harrison. Whoever wrote a good song about a recipe? Oh, MacArthur Park, I suppose.

28. Cry Baby Cry

This is ok. Nothing special. Side four really isn’t very good.

29. Revolution 9

Why did Lennon think it was a good idea to submit an eight minute sound collage for inclusion on the album? Why did the other members of the band approve it? Perhaps they were short of material. I didn’t listen to this all the way through.

30. Good Night

No. This doesn’t really do it for me at all. Not a great way to end the album.

In Summary

Not as good as I remember it. There’s actually a lot of filler there. But it does have half a dozen or songs that are as good as anything The Beatles recorded. Perhaps it would have been better as a single album.


2012 in Gigs

Here’s an overview of the gigs I saw in 2012. I saw 36 gigs during the year. That’s quite a lot down on 2011, but that’s partly because I broke my leg and didn’t go to gigs for six weeks.

I saw some larger gigs than in the previous year. I saw Radiohead, The Killers and Elbow all at the O2. In all cases the bands were great, but the venue is horrible. I also went to Hyde Park to see Paul Simon, which was definitely one of the highlights of the year.

I think that I didn’t see anyone more than twice last year. But there were at least four acts that I saw twice – Antonio Lulić, Alessi’s Ark, Tegan and Sara and Suzanne Vega. I saw Tegan and Sara on two consecutive nights – their own headlining gig at the Forum and then supporting The Killers the following night.

I saw more than my fair share of unimpressive gigs. In particular, Dexys and Sparks (both, coincidentally at the Barbican) were two hugely disappointing shows.

Here, in purely chronological order, are the gigs I enjoyed the most in 2012. I wanted to list a top ten, but I couldn’t get the list smaller than twelve.

  • Sinead O’Connor – Haven’t seen her live since a Finsbury Park Fleadh about twenty years ago and I was worried that she’d be a bit rubbish. But she was so good that I’ve already booked to see her twice this year. Her latest album is really good too.
  • Suzanne Vega – As I mentioned above, I saw her twice during the year. I think the first one (playing acoustic in the Union Chapel) was just better than the other (with a band, playing the whole of Solitude Standing at the Barbican). But they were both great nights. She’s definitely now on my list of people to see whenever I can.
  • Amanda Palmer – An Amanda Palmer gig is always awesome. This gig at Village Underground was no exception. Her new band, The Grand Theft Orchestra, is great. It’s a shame that she has cancelled her 2013 tour because a close friend is really ill – but I completely understand why she did  it.
  • Paul Simon – It was the 25th anniversary of the Graceland tour and Simon got together as many of the original band as possible. This was a fantastic evening.
  • Kathryn Tickell – Something a bit different. Kathryn Tickell’s show pulls together lots of music and talk from her native Northumbria. It’s low key, but enthralling.
  • Kate Rusby – How has Kate Rusby been making records for twenty years? This show, celebrating that fact, was all kinds of amazing.
  • Amy Macdonald – This was a bit of a surprise. I knew I quite liked Macdonald. I’d bought her first two albums. I’d even listened to them a few times. So I bought a ticket on a whim. I’m glad I did, because this was a great night. I’m going to see her again at the Palladium later this year.
  • The Divine Comedy – The day after the Amy Macdonald gig I was back in the same venue for Neil Hannon’s 42nd birthday party. This was the second Divine Comedy gig I’ve seen and they’ve both been fabulous. I must really start listening to more of their records.
  • The Magnetic North – I saw Hannah Peel playing as part of two bands this year. She’s in John Foxx’s new band The Maths, but I much prefer The Magnetic North. I don’t know if this is a permanent band. So far they’ve recorded one album, inspired by Orkney, which they played at this gig.
  • Beth Orton – Since I got back into going to gigs a few years ago, Beth Orton has been top of my list of people to see. And to finally see her in a venue as lovely as the Union Chapel was incredible. This is probably my gig of the year.
  • Stealing Sheep – I saw Stealing Sheep four times in 2011 but for various reasons I missed most of their London gigs in 2012. So I was really determined to get to this gig at the Bush Hall in December. It was a year (almost to the day) since I had last seen them and it was really interesting to see how much they had improved in that time. I mean they were great to start with, but now they are phenomenal.
  • Antonio Lulić – Yes, Antonio is a friend, but even if he wasn’t I’m sure I’d still consider him one of the best live acts currently playing the circuit. At my local pub (which is also one of my favourite venues) he put on a great end of year show where he played for an hour. And the whole set is available to stream from SoundCloud.


Still several weeks behind on the classic album front. But I wanted to leave this one until I cam back from my holiday in South Africa – it’s Paul Simon’s Graceland.

Some Historical Context

I’m not sure I can remember a time when I didn’t know this album. When it was released I was frequenting the kinds of pubs and wine bars where it was being played constantly, so it soon injected itself into my consciousness. This is very much the music that I listened to a lot at the end of the 80s. Not just this album but (as for many other people) this is the album that opened my ears to the possibilities of World Music. I have this album to thank for a lot of the music that I still listen to today.

I loved the album, but for some reason I didn’t buy it. Well, not until earlier this year when I wanted to listen to it again just before I went to see Paul Simon celebrating the album’s 25th anniversary with a gig in Hyde Park.

The rest of this post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. The Boy in the Bubble

There are so many strong songs on this album, but I think this is my favourite. I love the accordion on it. It’s just such a happy song that draws you into the album. The lyrics are infectious and positive too – “These are the days / Of miracles and wonders”. I can’t listen to this song without grinning.

2. Graceland

Anther great song. It’s probably the song that sounds most like Paul Simon’s previous work, but it has that great pedal steel guitar on it. Fabulous lyrics too.

3. I Know What I Know

When I listened to this album last summer, it was  probably the first time I had listened to it for about six or seven years. And I had completely forgotten about this song. Which is weird as I used to really love it. It’s a song that I used to play on the guitar. In some inexplicable way this seems to be a companion piece to Simon’s earlier “Late in the Evening”.

4. Gumboots

Every classic album must have a weakest track. And I think that this is Graceland’s. That’s not to say, at all, that it’s a weak track. It’s just that in amongst so many classics, this doesn’t quite cut it. On pretty much any other album, this would be a standout track. Never really understood that strange fade-out at the end though.

5. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes

Is there any point in describing this? There can’t be anyone who doesn’t know exactly what this sounds like. And what a great song it is. Hearing it I always want to go out and buy Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s complete back catalogue.

6. You Can Call Me Al

This is the big hit single from the album. It must have been the lead single. Another one that everyone can sing along too. Do you remember Chevy Chase in the video?

7. Under African Skies

When I think of this album, this is the song that usually pops into my head first. I mentioned that I’ve recently been on holiday in South Africa. And this is the song that I found myself humming most often.

8. Homeless

Another song that I absolutely love. The performance they did of this in Hyde Park last summer was just electrifying.

9. Crazy Love, Vol. II

This is another song that seems slightly ill at ease on this album. It’s a good song, but isn’t quite in the same league as most of the others.

10. That Was Your Mother

And this is another song that I had forgotten, but as soon as I heard it I remembered just how much I loved it.

11. All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints

Not the strongest track to end the album. I think that’s becoming quite a theme with these posts. Artists seem to push the better songs to the front of the album. I suppose that makes sense.

In Summary

An absolutely astonishing album. And it still sounds as good as it did in 1986. They don’t get much better than this.


OK Computer

Attempting to get less behind on the classic albums… The next one is Radiohead’s OK Computer.

Some Historical Context

Like REM, I don’t really remember when I first heard Radiohead. I expect I was aware of things like “High and Dry” and “Creep” when they were released as I’m sure they both had lots of radio play. I know I had bought both of their first two albums before this one was released. And I’m pretty sure that I bought this soon after it was released.

I’ve carried on buying every Radiohead album since. But, to be honest, I haven’t enjoyed any of their newer stuff anywhere near as much as I enjoyed their first three albums. And I think that OK Computer is the best of the three. But I haven’t listened to it all the way through for a couple of years.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. Airbag

Like many of these albums, I find that when I look closely at the track listing, there are many titles that I recognise, but that I can’t associate with a song. This is a good example. I knew the title, but I had no idea how it was going to sound. That’s true of about half of the tracks on this album. But, of course, I recognise it. And I like it. It’s an early indication that we have moved on substantially from the band’s first two albums.

2. Paranoid Android

This is hard to describe. It’s a 90s version of Bohemian Rhapsody. I don’t mean that in a bad way (overplayed and impossible to take seriously after Wayne’s World). I just mean that it’s a complex song that frequently changes its sound. When I first heard it fifteen years ago, it completely blew my away. Of course it’s now very familiar. And I have to say that the familiarity means that it has lost some of its power.

3. Subterranean Homesick Alien

Another “oh, it’s that one” moment. One of the tracks I really like on the album. I should really take the trouble to learn what it’s called.

4. Exit Music (For a Film)

Another good one that I always forget about.

5. Let Down

Like this one too. Not one of my favourites, but it’s enjoyable enough.

6. Karma Police

Best song on the album. Best thing that Radiohead have ever recorded.

7. Fitter Happier

I knew what this one was going to be. It’s the Stephen Hawking one. Probably my least favourite track on the album.

8. Electioneering

This isn’t that good either. Oh, it’s better than the Stephen Hawking thing, but it doesn’t really go anywhere.

9. Climbing Up the Walls

This one pretty much washed over me. It stopped played thirty seconds ago and I can’t really remember it.

10. No Surprises

That stuff I said about “Karma Police” being the best Radiohead song ever. I might have been wrong.

11. Lucky

This is nice. Very laid back. I recognise it, but I had no idea what it was called.

12. The Tourist

A lot of the albums I’ve been listening to recently end rather weakly. And this is no exception. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s not not a particularly strong end to the album. The album just kind of bumbles to an end.

In Summary

I still really like this album. It wasn’t anywhere near as disappointing as some of the other old favourites that I’ve been relistening to recently. But it’s still not quite as good as I remember.

Perhaps I should give some of those more recent Radiohead albums another go.



It seems that somehow I’ve got four weeks behind on the classic album write-ups. I’ll try to get through at least a couple today. The first one is REM’s Green.

Some Historical Context

I don’t remember when I first heard REM. I remember being aware of Document but I’m not sure how soon after its release I first heard it. I suspect that Green was the first of their albums that I was aware of as it was released.

I do remember that being into REM was a big test of someone’s cool back at the end of the 80s. And a knowledge of the albums before this one was a measure of exactly how cool you were.

In about 1997 a friend of mine met Michael Stipe in our local pub. True story.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. Pop Song 89

Pretty typical bouncy REM pop to start the album. This was a single and therefore got lots of radio play (I suspect I was listening to, the sadly missed, GLR at the time). Still sounds good to me.

2. Get Up

Another single from the album. Not as instantly recognisable though. Short and sweet.

3. You Are The Everything

There are a number of tracks on this album whose titles I don’t recognise. I’m sure I’ll know them all when we get to them. This is the first. And, yes, I know it. It’s the one that sounds like it should really be on Automatic For The People – lots of jangly mandolin.

4. Stand

Probably the best known song on the album. Probably one of REM’s best known songs. I still like this a lot.

5. World Leader Pretend

Everyone knows this one too. It wasn’t a single, but got a lot of radio play back then. Still sounds great.

6. The Wrong Child

Here’s one I really don’t remember. It’s ok. Nothing special.

7. Orange Crush

A jolly pop song about Agent Orange. Lovely. The album is called “Green” and its cover is orange. When “Orange Crush” was released as a single, the cover was green.

8. Turn You Inside-Out

Another title that I don’t recognise. But I know (and really like) the song.

9. Hairshirt

Yeah. I quite like this. But it’s nothing special compared to some of the other tracks.

10. I Remember California

Same as with Hairshirt, really. The album doesn’t end on a strong note.

11. Untitled

An untitled song that really doesn’t go anywhere.

In Summary

This wasn’t as good as I remember. Sure, there are some great tracks. But a lot of it is just ok. In retrospect it’s just marking time between Document (the album that first brought them to most people’s attention) and Out of Time (the album that made them really famous). I’d far rather listen to either of those.


The Joshua Tree

Last week’s classic album (I’m still a week behind) was U2’s Joshua Tree.

Some Historical Context

I don’t remember listening really early U2. I remember liking New Years Day when it came out. But then Under a Blood Red Sky was released and everyone played it all the bloody time. I grew to hate it so much that I didn’t give The Unforgettable Fire much of a chance at all. I still can’t listen to Pride (In The Name Of Love) without flinching – although I rather like the rest of that album.

It was The Joshua Tree that changed my mind and convinced me that U2 were worth taking seriously. I loved this album when it came out. I became a huge U2 fan and started buying all of their albums. It’s only relatively recently that I realised they’ve become really rather dull over the last fifteen years or so.

But I’m looking forward to listening to this again. I haven’t heard it for a while.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. Where The Streets Have No Name

One of my favourite ever openings to an album (but I’m beginning to suspect that I write something like that rather a lot). Although I’m starting to realise that I know find it hard to listen to without subconsciously mixing it into Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You. Thank you Neil Tennant!

2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Another classic. Perhaps I slightly prefer the version on Rattle and Hum with the gospel choir.

3. With Or Without You

Three songs in and it just gets better and better. A repeated four chord sequence never sounded better than this.

4. Bullet The Blue Sky

This is where the band unlock the stadium rock group they’ve been hiding away. This is a great song, but you need to hear the live version on Rattle and Hum to appreciate its true power.

5. Running To Stand Still

After the bombast of Bullet The Blue Sky, this is the perfect follow-up. It’s a lovely, gently swirling song with great hooks.

6. Red Hill Mining Town

Side two (remember vinyl?) doesn’t start anywhere near as strongly as side one did. That’s not to say that this isn’t a good song (it really is), just that it’s hard to compete with Where The Streets Have No Name.

7. In God’s Country

It wouldn’t be hard to believe that this came out of the same songwriting session as Where The Streets Have No Name. It has a very similar feel. And it’s similarly enjoyable.

8. Trip Through Your Wires

Possibly one of the weaker songs on the album. Not sure how much I like that harmonica.

9. One Tree Hill

One of the dangers of front-loading side one with all of your best songs is that the middle of side two can start to flag a bit. While I’ve been listening to these classic albums, I’m surprised how common a phenomenon this is. And this album is no exception.

10. Exit

I always think I can’t remember this one. And then it gets going about two minutes in and I think, “oh yes, I really like this one”.

11. Mothers Of The Disappeared

Another one that takes a while to get going. Not the strongest end to the album, but a good song nonetheless.

In Summary

I think this is U2’s best album. I know it’s unfashionable to like them these days. And I know that their recent output can be a bit ropey. But that doesn’t really matter when we still have older stuff like this to listen to.



Still a couple of weeks behind on the classic album project. Today’s album is Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”.

Some Historical Background

I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t know and love this album. It seems to have been around forever. It has actually been around about thirty-five years. I guess that at some point I must have made the connection between this band and the old Fleetwood Mac (I know I had a copy of the single “Albatross”) but I don’t remember how I felt about the transition.

I had a copy of this on vinyl, but I have no idea when I bought it. I suspect it wasn’t long after it was released. It was also one of the first albums I replaced on CD.

One memory of this album. About twenty-five years ago I’m sitting in my flat listening to the album with a group of friends. We’ve been in the pub all evening and it’s now the small hours of the morning. Someone decides it is a good idea to start reading aloud the lyrics from the album as though they were poetry. They don’t really stand up that well. Hilarity ensues.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. Second Hand News

A slightly strange start to this song (and, indeed, to the whole album). There’s no introduction. You’re launched straight into the song. It’s like they were impatient to start and couldn’t wait for you. Given the strength of some of the songs on the album, this is a slightly weak start. Nothing wrong with it – there are just stronger songs that they could have used to open the album. It’s really short as well.

2. Dreams

And here’s one of the classics from the album. Does anyone not love Dreams? Actually, I’m sure there are plenty of people who think they hate it. Let’s not forget that this album was released at the height of punk rock and there were lots of people who would have hated all of this album on principle. They’re wrong though. I’m convinced that any balanced record collection has room for both Stevie Nicks and Sid Vicious. I love this song.

3. Never Going Back Again

After the swirling AOR of Dreams, this is a complete change of pace. It’s pretty much just Lindsay Buckingham on his own; picking away at his acoustic guitar. Another really short song though – just over two minutes. In fact the whole album only runs 36 minutes.

4. Don’t Stop

Another of the big songs from the album. Another song that everybody knows. I love it.

5. Go Your Own Way

If Rumours has a unifying theme, it’s the fact that the members of the band were all in couples that were splitting up while they were writing and recording it. Nowhere is that made more explicit than in the lyrics of this song.

6. Songbird

I mentioned that I thought the album started slightly weakly. And if I’m honest I think that side one ends even more weakly. This is probably my least favourite song on the album.

7. The Chain

In contrast, side two opens with what is, in my opinion, the best song on the album. The Chain points firmly in the direction of the slightly more experimental music on the bands next album, Tusk. And, of course, three minutes in the music completely changes and becomes one of the BBC’s best-known theme tunes.

8. You Make Loving Fun

This appears to be the antithesis of all the break-up songs on the album. Not sure how it got on here. Still a really good song though.

9. I Don’t Want to Know

Another quirky little tune that wouldn’t song out of place on Tusk.

10. Oh Daddy

Like Songbird, this is another one that I’m not particularly keen on.

11. Gold Dust Woman

As this starts, I always think I’m not going to enjoy it, but Stevie Nicks’ vocal noodling in the final two minutes never fails to draw me in and then I’m vaguely disappointed when it just fades out at the end.

In Summary

They don’t get much better than this. If you think you don’t like it because of preconceptions that you have about the band or the genre then please just try to forget your bias and give it a listen.


Songs of Faith and Devotion

I’m running a couple of weeks behind on classic albums again. Today I’m catching up by listening to Depeche Mode’s 1993 album Songs of Faith and Devotion.

Some Historical Context

Depeche Mode are very much my era. Their first singles came out in 1980 – when I was eighteen. But while I’ve always really liked them, I’ve only ever considered them a singles band – albeit a great singles band. The only albums I’ve ever owned by them have been compilations.

In the mid-80s I had some friends who were big fans and who played their newest albums incessantly. So Black Celebration and Music for the Masses are probably the only of their albums that I know well.

A little-known Depeche Mode fact for you. There’s a bar dedicated to them in Tallinn where they play their music constantly. If you’re ever in the city, I recommend a visit.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard this album all the way through. But I certainly recognise some of the titles from my compilations.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. I Feel You

We start with one that I know well. This must have been a single. It’s pretty standard Depeche Mode fare. But that means it’s really rather good.

2. Walking in My Shoes

Another one that I know well. I like this even more than the last one. This is definitely a band who are at the peak of their game.

3. Condemnation

I think they must be front-loading all the singles on this album as I recognise this too. This is one of their slower numbers. I don’t like it quite as much as the previous two.

4. Mercy in You

This is the first song that is new to me. It’s ok, but I can understand why the previous three would be chosen as singles above this one. Or perhaps it’s just my familiarity with the singles that makes me think they are better.

5. Judas

We’re now a couple of songs away from the comfort of stuff that I know well and I’m starting to get the first niggle that it might all be a bit similar. Not that it’s bad. Or even that it’s dull. I’m just not sure that it will hold my interest for the whole album. Oh, the instrumental bit that runs for the last 90 or so seconds is very nice.

6. In Your Room

And we’re back with the singles. Another one that I know and love. This was a very single-heavy album.

7. Get Right with Me

Another one that I’m hearing for the first time. Nothing that really grabs me here.

8. Rush

This is good. A little more going on than some of the other songs on the album.

9. One Caress

Ooh, strings. We like a bit of strings. Very nice. Yes, that was really good.

10. Higher Love

I like this one too. Pretty typical stuff, but it has a couple of nice little hooks.

In Summary

I said at the start that I always considered Depeche Mode to be a singles band. Listening to a whole album hasn’t really changed that opinion. It’s all good stuff, but the singles are head and shoulders above the other tracks. I can’t see myself rushing out to buy a load of Depeche Mode albums, but I’d definitely consider listening to this one a few more times.


Let It Bleed

This week’s (ok, it’s actually from a couple of weeks ago – I’m catching up) is the Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed.

Some Historical Context

My earliest memories of popular music are from the late 1960s. It was a time when the Beatles dominated. But the Stones were the only band who came close to equalling them. That, at least, was the popular belief of that time. Looking back on it now I’m pretty sure that the Beatles’ influence has been overstated. I’m not one of those people who argue that the Stones were the better band. But there’s no question that their career has lasted longer.

I don’t remember the Stones in the 60s. I do remember them in the 70s. I remember seeing the “Only Rock ‘N’ Roll” video on top of the pops. I had a copy of Rolled Gold and that pretty much saw to all of my Stones needs.

In the 80s I had a flatmate who was a huge Stones fan, so I got to know their work far better than I had before. And Let it Bleed was one of his favourites. I got to know it well. But it’s twenty-five years since I heard it. I’m looking forward to hearing it again.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. Gimme Shelter

I’ve loved this song since I first heard it. I still love it. I have nothing to add.

2. Love in Vain

This is pretty standard slow blues. It’s a good song and performed well. But anything would struggle to be noticed when following “Gimme Shelter”.

3. County Honk

This was a songs that really surprised me when my flatmate introduced me to the album. It’s a country version of “Honky Tonk Women”. I loved the original (a single that wasn’t on any album) but this version is also really good.

4. Live with Me

Until now, the album hasn’t really sounded like the Stones. The first three tracks have seen them experimenting with different styles. This sounds more like a typical Stones song. And, I’m afraid, it rather suffers for it. One of my least favourite tracks on the album.

5. Let It Bleed

Another one that I remember well from the 80s. I particularly remember that it was really easy to play on the guitar. My flatmate and I used to play it together. The recordings have, thankfully, gone missing. I’d forgotten that some of the lyrics were rather risqué.

6. Midnight Rambler

One the original vinyl, this song opened side two. And it’s a cracking start. It has to be one of the Stones’ best songs.

7. You Got the Silver

Another one that, to be frank, is just a bit of filler. Don’t remember having heard it before.

8. Monkey Man

Not sure about this one either, to be honest. It’s a bit derivative.

9. You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Another absolute classic. One of my all-time favourite songs.

In Summary

Bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. In “Gimme Shelter”, “Midnight Gambler” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” this album has three of the Stones’ finest songs. But there are also two or three songs that are purely filler.