My favourite songwriters: the Handsome Family

Nobody actually needs a favourite songwriter of course, any more than you need a favourite food or a favourite place. It’s just a convention. But in the car on the way home last night, listening to a CD of theirs I hadn’t played in years I realised that if I do have a favourite songwriter … Read more

Inspirations: 15 albums that changed things for me

I got tagged in Facebook with this, so never being one to waste some effort I’ll post it here too.

Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world. When you finish, tag 15 others, including me.

Rather than being things I’d listen to now, these are the things that changed my perceptions at the time, so they’re heavily weighted to my childhood and adolescence, before anyone reading this was even conceived.

1. Various Artists – The Immortal Memory
A compilation of Robert Burns songs by ‘popular’ Scottish singers of the time like Kenneth McKellar. The songs were connected by a spoken poetic biography of Burns. I was a Burns fan by primary 3.

2. Rogers and Hammerstein – The King and I
It’s a tossup between this and ‘South Pacific’ both of which were on heavy rotation in our house throughout my childhood, when my parents loved them, and later, when I rediscovered them as a teenager. I didn’t even see the films till much later, but I had discovered how words and musical textures could tell stories or, in the case of ‘The King’ evoke an exotic atmosphere. I’ve a long standing fantasy of playing Yul Brynner’s part or doing ‘There Is Nothing Like a Dame’ in a stage version.

Read more

Mike Heron: Smiling Men

Mike Heron: Smiling Men with Bad Reputations cover

Step this way – How Mike Heron opened the door for me This review of Mike Heron’s Smiling Men with Bad Reputations was previously published in the Incredible String Band fanzine Be Glad. Try this! Sometime around 1971 I wrote to Mike Heron and asked him, among other things, about the title and sleeve design of … Read more