Friday, 2 May 2014

Its a tough tough world - but wait!



It's raining outside yet here's that crazy honky fella David Byrne in a pink stetson so cheer up!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Shut Up About Your Depression


Sorry for the blog silence. I was considering taking up self harm for Lent but thought it better to keep things quiet. 


I didn't BTW

But this week is  Depression Awareness Week so I thought I should write something about depression.

I know its hard to know what to do when a friend suffers from depression. You may want to help but not know what is the best thing to do. In addition to that the person you want to help may not have an idea of what they need either.

I don't know if I have the right to give advice but if there is one thing I would say that someone who suffers from depression needs is to know they aren't alone. This doesn't mean constantly being asked "are you alright" with the customary head tilt  but just a simple call, text, tweet, whatever saying "hey, I heard this \ saw that \ read this' so the person knows you are thinking of them and that they aren't isolated and alone. We have so many ways to stay in touch with people these days and we use them meaningfully so little.

The worst thing is the isolation. You're trapped inside your own head with this pain and self loathing. You may be in a crowd of people who know you but feel lonelier than you ever have. Just a simple hand on the shoulder whether physically or via friendly collection of data can make all the difference to someones morning, day, week. We don't need "to pull ourselves together and get on with it". And others always making light of it just belittles you, not your depression.

Frankly sometimes there is nothing anyone can do to help someone with depression. It's an illness and we are often ashamed of how weak and pathetic we believe we are to the world. Yet rather than just keeping away, the knowledge that your friends are there for you if you need them - often means a depressive person won't resort to binge drinking or eating, drugs or self harm. 

Yet I don't know if telling anyone this means anything.    

So this might be the last time I write a blog entry like this. Not because it's not therapeutic and important for me to get this stuff out of my head, it's whether it really matters if anyone reads it. Whether it actually stops me from feeling as lost and helpless in my darkest hours as I do. Whether it helps anyone who cares about me from being any the wiser of how they can be of any comfort.

Maybe it is time to shut up and get on with it


Thursday, 27 February 2014

Roger, Wilko & Out: Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey @Shepherds Bush Empire - 24\2\14


All things considered he ain't looking that bad, quite sprightly, grinning and gurning, belted out some bluesy R&B to a packed Empire. But enough about Roger Daltrey, how's the doctor defying Wilko Johnson holding up tonight?

I'm not going to pretend I'm a life long Wilko or Feelgoods devotee and that his recent illness has sent me scurrying to the back catalogue to have an opinion after he's gone like a good music nerd should. This was very much a last minute thing with a friend unable to go but I was devoted enough to queue up outside and plant myself near the front. And after tonight I might just take suggestions on where to go for top Wilko.

The poster for the night (see above) billed the show like an old prizefight or right royal ruble wrestling match but the atmosphere was warm and friendly. Usually at these sold out Empire shows there is a fair bit of elbowing to the front, pushing and general unpleasantness but not from Wilko's crowd.

As soon as the lights went down Wilko and his band scampered to their places and almost exploded into life. In a pattern set for the next 90 minutes or so, every machine gunning run Wilko took across the stage was cheered to the rafters.

Opening with a short set without Daltrey, there was no let up in energy and musicality.
Was unfamiliar with 90% of the material tonight but 'Dr Dupree' particularly impressed. I was lucky enough to be on Norman Watt-Roy's side of the stage and it was a pleasure just to watch him play his bass like a lead guitarist would. His bass runs and that deep, twangy sound he produced on 'When I'm Gone' was as vital to the sound as Wilko's guitar. His Blockhead hoppo Dylan Howe on drums ensured a tight but loose rhythm throughout.

Much later when exiting the venue a young herbert behind me said to his pal "I think that was the best bass player I've ever seen". he may well not be wrong.


Whe I heard they'd covered Dylan's 'Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window' I was dubious about whether it would work but Daltrey brings a soulful depth to the song and Johnson's playing is stately and sublime while maintaining a slightly jagged edge.

After the wordy intro and infectious riff of 'Roxette' (ooh, I know that one!) Roger from 'The 'orrible 'Oo took centre stage looking for all the world like Lovejoy as played by Burt Bacharach. Still fairly trim in slimming black and voice in much better nick than last time I saw him with his band he barrelled into the title track of their collaborative album 'Going Back Home'. A rock n roll, blues R&B, growler that Daltrey no doubt enjoyed singing when he started out and as he acknowledged "good old rock n roll - we're not killing anyone up here". It might have got a little stodgy, meat n potatoes pub rock for a song or two but it was damned enjoyable nevertheless.

When Roger forgot the lyric during a storming 'All Through the City' Wilko took over, trying not to laugh as Daltrey looked on. Throwing us his thousand yard stare, darting and diving towards Norman, he was happy to let Roger take the lead so he could relax and enjoy the moment but never letting that intensity drop. Despite seeing a roadie make sure he had a mic on a long unfurled lead, there was none of the usual windmilling actions.
 

"Oi Roger, play us something we recognise" says a wag behind me and Wilko is excited as a pup to strike the opening chords to 'I Can't Explain' with the audience providing the backing vocals. As they had played "everything we know" they gave another blast on the single (in 2014 - how quaint!) 'I Keep It To Myself' before leaving the stage as the whole Empire is on its feet chanting Wilko's name. Tonight he was the star as much as the little fella from the billion dollar band.

        WILKO JOHNSON
        

        All Right
        Barbed Wire Blues
        The More I Give
        Dr. Dupree
        When I'm Gone
        Roxette
       
        WITH ROGER DALTREY
        

        Going Back Home
        I Keep It to Myself
        Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?
        Keep on Loving You
        Some Kind of Hero
        Ice on the Motorway
        Sneakin' Suspicion
        Everybody's Carrying a Gun
        Keep It Out of Sight
        All Through the City
        I Can't Explain
       
        Encore:
        I Keep It to Myself

Monday, 24 February 2014

That Last Gasp Of Greatness: 'When the flags coming down and the Last Post sounds'



There's no specific reason for this post apart from - today an old song made my heart soar

From my sad old music snob POV I'm very much against bands getting back together - particularly if its just a cash grab and no new music is forthcoming. yet my heart has made me leap at the chance to see Pixies, The Specials, Sex Pistols, Magazine etc and would stomp over living creatures if XTC ever graced a stage again.

Sometimes bands just limp to a conclusion with bitterness finally spilling over as they become a mere shadow of what they were in their pomp. Others leave whilst the crowd is baying for more.

Blur were done when Graham exited. Yes they finished 'Think Tank' and toured but it wasn't the same.

However, a strange coincidence of the London Olympics and a recent band reformation for one last knees up in Hyde Park came together enabling them to put a more dignified full stop on their career. 

It was everything you loved about Blur at their anthemic heights - it made you want to put your arm round a friend and sway, singing along to its melancholy oh so London world view. Hopeful and hopeless in equal measure. Melodies and harmonies recalling The Beatles & the desolation of  Mercury Rev with an aching Coxon solo echoing Albarn's yearning vocal. 

I don't know if they'll ever record another note together - they seem too disparate and focused on their own muse (or cheese) to want to dilute their ideas with each other but if 'Under The Westway' is to be their last message to the world then its a beautiful way to go. 


There were blue skies in my city today
Everything was sinking, said snow would come on Sunday
The old school was due and the traffic grew
Up on the Westway

Where I stood watching comets lonesome trails

Shining up above me the jet fuel it fell
Down to earth where the money always comes first
And the sirens sing
Bring us the day they switch off the machines
Cos men in yellow jackets putting adverts inside my dreams
An automated song and the whole world gone
Fallen under the spell of
The distance between us when we communicate
Still picking up shortwave, somewhere they're out in space
It depends how you're wired when the night's on fire
Under the Westway

Now it's magic arrows hitting the bull
Doing one eighty still standing at last call
When the flags coming down and the Last Post sounds
Just like a love song
For the way I feel about you
On a permanent basis I apologise
Paradise's not lost, it's in you
But I am going to sing
Hallelujah
Sing it out loud and sing it to you
Am I lost out at sea
Til a tide wash me up off the Westway










Sunday, 23 February 2014

More Rabbit than Sainsbury's: Ranting at incessant gig talkers

I was unable to go to a gig this Friday and when you hear it was Kathryn Williams regular readers will understand I was a little disappointed. However I was a little dismayed to see these following tweets from Kathryn and gig attendees, of the double headlining gig with Damian Dempsey at Shepherds Bush Empire.




 


(hope tweeters don't mind me illustrating my point with their words - if so, LMK and I'll delete)


I wasn't there so this is pure conjecture but of course, double headliners are a tough sell as you have two sets of fans but you would have thought that the fact Kathryn wasn't just a support act might have held some weight. We've all seen support acts getting treated terribly by audiences and its equally as disgraceful.

Funnily enough I think I was probably at that last tough gig Kathryn had which may have been at the legendary 100 Club in London. It was an UNCUT magazine night so I'm guessing everyone in there was either staff, staff of the whiskey sponsors or competition winners (like me). The majority were just talking away whilst all the acts were on. I say all, I had to leave after Kathryn's set and miss headliner, Ed Harcourt as I just felt I was about to do physical harm to almost everyone around me who hadn't been delighted to win tickets.
As a regular gig go-er I find it puzzling, obnoxious, selfish, nonsensical and downright fucking rude.

We all know the cost of living is going up and concerts are often luxuries, those little treats to ourselves more than anything else. Which makes it doubly puzzling when people pay to enter a venue, often paying higher drink prices than a regular boozer at the corner and then chat whilst the artist they came to see is performing. That defies my understanding, it really does.

The argument may be "I've paid my money, I'll do what I like" which is fair enough up to a point, after all we're not expecting venues to be like churches (unless it's the Union Chapel or St James' in Piccadilly but you get my point) but if you talk all the way through the songs, clap just as a Pavlovian response as everyone else is doing so and then continue to talk you are not engaging with the music in any way. Perhaps its the seemingly insatiable need to view everything through the lens of a camera on you phone that makes people think they are watching from their armchair so that talking doesn't matter. Or maybe, people are just no good, as Nick Cave once suggested.


Sometimes it takes as little as a tap on the shoulder and a "shhhh" mime to solve the problem and sometime that just makes things worse. I recall the Elvis Costello gig in Hyde Park last year, a concert that ended up being free when headliner Elton John pulled out. All was fine until about halfway into EC's set when a loudmouth American girl (no offence to Americans but she just was) elbowed her way to the front where we were and proceeded to talk loudly to perfect strangers, take a selfie of herself with Elvis in the background, make calls and when she asked someone to take her picture with back to stage the response as "If I do are you going to shut up for the rest of the gig". This elicited a threat to get security to throw them out for spoiling her evening.
 

Some artists have ways of dealing with this - on Spiritualized acoustic tour Jason Pierce would just sit there until people were silenced by either peer pressure or finally getting the message that their behaviour would not be tolerated. This wouldn't mean a shorter set just it would take longer and in the words of many a teacher "it's only your own time you're wasting". This was all despite polite signs all around the venue and an announcement at the start to refrain from talking.
 A great little venue in Kilburn called The Luminaire used to have these signs that crystallises my thoughts exactly.




I hope someone took them and still treasures them when the place closed. Maybe because of this "draconian" approach you could say. Shame as it was a great place to experience live music and I'm sure the artists thought so too. They also had staff that didn't throw glass bottles into bins from 10 feet away, talked loudly to each other when not serving and would police any talkers who thought standing back by the bar made them soundproof in such a small room.

Unfortunately despite all this grumbling I'm not sure there's an easy answer. I find that it means I have to get to gigs early as possible to get as far forward and assume everyone else up the front is there to hear someone else's voice rather than their own. Of course this means risking hearing damage at some shows but hey, whats a little tinnitus between friends? I SAID WHAT'S....etc.

I guess my message to any musician that may stumble over this - we feel your pain, we despise and find these people talking as frustrating as you do. We're sorry to even be in the same audience as them but they're too stupid or selfish to know any better.

"
And there's still life in your body
But most of it's leaving
Can't you give us all a break
Can't you stop breathing?

And I thought I heard "The Working Man's Blues"
I went to work that night and wasted my breath
Outside they're painting tar on somebody
It's the closest to a work of art that they will ever be"


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

David McAlmont & Friends present: Wall to Wall Bowie

FRIDAY 24TH JANUARY 2014 - HIDEAWAY, STREATHAM, LONDON

I really wasn't aware of the deep North \ South divide until I attempted to get Londoners from the north of the city to make the trip across the river for a gig. Sure they'd made it as far as the Royal Festival Hall, some had tales of the muddy swamps of Brixton but this was pure madness. Even the mention of the name 'Streatham' drew puzzled looks, scratched heads and questions about whether it was on the Central Line.

We 'out-of-towners' are made of sterner stuff and I was more than prepared to make the journey to the Hideaway club tucked round the back of Streatham's main drag to hear one of the greatest voices this country ever produced perform the songs of arguably our greatest living songwriter, Dame David Bowie. 


The club is indeed a little gem, set out in cabaret style with much gnashing of teeth and gobbling of grub. The sound in the place was absolutely perfect, well balanced and clear. After stomachs were sated and plates cleared away the show began with a suitably jazz instrumental arrangement of 'Ashes To Ashes' with just a hint of 'This Is Not America' during the coda.


In a snappy turquoise suit (a tip of that hat to the one Bowie wore at the Freddie Mercury Tribute in 1992?) with a black boa draped round his neck David McAlmont swings into a funky 'What's That Man', his entrance and performance raising the energy levels. 'Starman' started sedately before the band kicked into a rock n roll groove. This was no mere 'tribute' night with the fresh arrangements and playful phrasing casting fresh light on old favourites.

David had the perfect vocal foil in Sam Obernik, matching him in stage presence and so swishy in her satin and tat. Her take on the iconic 'Life On Mars' bought to mind what the tune would have been like if Edith Piaf had given it the full torch song treatment. The pair complemented each other superbly particularly on the flamenco tinged 'The Man Who Sold The World with the familiar guitar line taken by accordion sounds. If Prince hasn't covered 'The Jean Genie' then this band have the sound down already, a funky soul number rather than a blues stomp.



I had suggested to David on that there Twitter (@davidmcalmont) that he should include 'Lady Grinning Soul' as part of the show because I could instantly see him singing it in my mind's eye - for me Bowie on that track just sounds like Mr McAlmont rather than the other way around. Apparently i wasn't the only one who requested this and he did not disappoint - he absolutely nailed it. Sashaying around the tables, feather boa unfurled it retained that unique atmosphere that sets it apart from Bowie's other material. Just magic.   


Sam brings a little of an Eartha Kitt vibe (not rhyming slang) to a wistful 'Kooks' and then performs a devastating 'Wild Is The Wind' teasing out its longing and desperation to dramatic effect. real "hear a pin drop" stuff. They appear to be having a ball and play wonderfully off each other in 'Young Americans' before a joyful encore of 'Modern Love' closes the night.





Joyful, passionate and adventurous are the words I would use to describe the experience and its always great to discover a new venue that is prepared to put on events like this. If this happens again I urge you to go whether it's Bowie or not as it was a real treat.     


David McAlmont - Vocals 

Sam Obernik - Vocals
Janette Mason - Piano\ Synth
Dave Ital - Guitar
Simon Little - Bass
Jack Pollitt - Drums

Set I

Ashes To Ashes 
Watch That Man
Suffragette City 
Starman 
Changes 
Let's Dance 
The Man Who Sold The World 
Life On Mars 
Jean Genie 

Set II

John I'm Only Dancing 
Fame 
Lady Grinning Soul
Ziggy Stardust 
Kooks 
Wild Is The Wind
Space Oddity
Young Americans
Modern Love

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Who's Afraid Of the Big Bad Wolf?



(THIS BLOG MAY CONTAIN MILD SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM)

It seems that Martin Scorsese's latest mini marathon picture 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' is really dividing people down the love \ hate axis. Mark Kermode particularly took against the film which he outlines in his Kermode Uncut blog. Yes, he's an old trot student at heart (Socialist Worker! Smash the bosses! etc) but I fail to accept his notion that he dislikes the film due to the impenetrable and unsympathetic nature of DiCaprio's character, Jordan Belfort. 

Leonardo DiCaprio's performance is possibly a career best as the swaggering cock with eyebrows, his fingers rarely without rolled up 100 dollar bill, a septum bombarded by bugle, bloodstream diluted by herpes busting penicillin and suits rarely costing less that $5,000. Quickly moving from bottom of the pile worker bee he rises to the level of Wall Street phenomenon by using dodgy practices selling penny stocks to people who can't afford it to swindle millions from those who could. His OTT speeches, his gluttony for wine women and money, it is all vulgar, distasteful but I found it impossible to HATE him in the ways that others have.

If the film has a major flaw its in its depiction of women. They are either wives and girlfriends to be drooled over, fucked and then married at which point they become the root of all evil and the destroyers of all joy. The rest are eye candy and whores - literally and figuratively.  There is a strange point in one of Leo's grandstanding speeches when the hitherto sidelined senior female member of staff is revealed to have been helped out in the early days by Belfort because "I believed in you". Its as if Scorsese is seeing "yes he's a misogynistic asshole but he cares about people". I would have preferred that we had got her take on the macho, drug filled, hooker shagging and locker room fun. It is very strange that in the time of AIDS and 'don't die of ignorance' that all this copious humping of hookers doesn't lead to an office wide culling. 

Let's face it, Scorsese has always made "men's films" - the opening scene of 'Mean Streets' with its scenes of male bonding in a bar, the macho idiocy of 'The Deer Hunter', the male trust and loyalty of 'Goodfellas' & 'Casino' - its testosterone-tastic stuff! Women characters are rarely well fleshed out with Sharon Stone's Ginger McKenna and her slow descent into madness during 'Casino' being a rare exception. 

Joanna Lumley has a cameo role as Naomi's posh aunt which also means we get a short trip to London (Houses Of Parliament (tick) double decker red bus ((tick), guardsman in bearskin (tick) but NO Gherkin (faints)) and a wonderful scene which you feel may end in Leon and Lumley appear in post-coital glow. Sadly she is there mostly to provide sage advice, a little twinkle and a narrative device.




That isn't to say that the lead female character in TWOWS isn't a strong willed and intelligent woman. OK you can forget about the Bechdel Test (for those unaware this examines a work of fiction to see if it has two women having a conversation about something other than a man or men) yet Belfort's second wife, Naomi (Margot Robbie) is not a stock gold-digging strumpet. In the opening monologue from DiCaprio - hey it's Scorsese of course it opens with a long monologue! - she is introduced alongside shots of his house, his cars, his helicopter, setting out clearly that she too is regarded as result of his hard work. 

Belatedly as their relationship goes wrong we see her more than hold her own in arguments with him, the tricks and power he uses at work fail him at home. She uses sex and her beauty to bring this monstrous Wall Street presence to the level of a groveling little boy. In one memorable scene she bringing him to his knees only for the tables to be turned, leaving her humiliated.  

SO, why, despite all these misgivings, did I enjoy this film so much, its 3 hours flying by with not a moment of boredom?


The film won the Golden Globe for "best Comedy or Musical" and admittedly it does have some very funny sequences. Matthew McConaughey as his messianic first boss and guru, an attempt to sleep through a trip to Switzerland with various medicinal mixtures descends into chaos. Rob Reiner's turn as Jordan's father dealing with expenses bills for what the music biz used to call "fruit and flowers". Jonah Hill is brilliant as Donnie, the overgrown child of a man involved in a scene with DiCaprio when they OD on Quaaludes and Leo demonstrates some previously hidden slapstick skills. Its maybe not a comedy in teh traditional sense but the surreal situations and behavior does produce some laugh out loud funny stuff. I think the makers are a bit nervous that people laugh at what they are supposed to (or they want them to) rather than some of the more reprehensible actions. 




The macho, drug snorting, prossie pumping school playground that is the office norm just heightens the unreality of the picture with its sheer decadence washing over you like toxic skin peel. There is one short scene where a member of staff has all her hair shaved off for $10,000 so she can, as Leo tells us, get breast implants. I found the spectacle of this really disturbing. I'm not sure it was the slightly stunned and devastated look on her face as her long hair fell into her lap. Or that it so much reminded me of film of French women who had had relationships with Germans during WWII getting this done to them in public. I'm sure like many things from the film it did happen in reality but it just felt wrong. 

And perhaps that is the point. 


You are not supposed to enjoy or envy these people in their world. If the film has you applauding DiCaprio and pals for their immoral and repulsive attitudes. When Leo literally blows his nose on a $100 dollar bill or throws money adding to a years wages at an FBI man, you are right to be disgusted. It might be a ghoulish fascination but it certainly isn't an aspirational life on display here. It's a film which those cocks and cockesses from 'The Appentice' would see as their ultimate playground - that's how odious, self centered and downright deluded it is. 

It's a film that doesn't apologise, doesn't judge, doesn't moralize, just presents thing how they were and leave it up to the viewer to take it how they will. Of course some morons will applaud the more serious and thuggish actions but not all films are straightforward and clean cut as that. 

I can understand why people may find its 3 hours running time a turn off, its gleeful relishing of the idiotic behaviour that plunged us into our current financial mire and for its endless gaudy parade of sex, money and materialism but I say this is Scorsese's best film in many a year and love it or hate it, you need to see it. 




Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Film recommendation: I Know That Voice


If you're a lot like me, then your name is Dave, you are reading yet another book about Bob Dylan and were conflicted about 'The World Of Wall Street'

If you're a bit like me then a significant amount of your childhood and far more than you'd care to admit of your so-watching cartoons \ animation. If so, then I have a little gem for you.

The brainchild of John DiMaggio this loving indie documentary sets out to honour some of the most famous and yet anonymous people in the entertainment history - voice actors. For instance, you may be thinking, "John Di - whosi-what? - never heard of him, pal". Well he's the man behind the loveable drunk robot 'Bender' from 'Futurama'. Note that I didn't say simply "voice" as the film makes clear - this ain't just about doing a funny voice.  

As James Arnold Taylor, the current voice of Fred Flintstone and Obi Wan Kenobi from 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' points out anyone can give you a 'What's Up Doc?', a Daffy, Tweety-Pie, Sylvester or Porky Pig but what's special about voice actors is that they can take anything and read it as that character. Whether it be The Bible or Shakespeare they can stay in voice and character throughout. Taking on the mannerisms, physical traits and attitude of imaginary characters with animation is no different from any other acting except that you don't see it in the finished product. You begin to realise why the cream of their crop deserve and demand pretty handsome salaries.

And as I pointed out right at the top - they can be world famous as the people behind Spongebob Squarepants, Bart Simpson, Batman, The Joker but walk the streets with only proper nerds hassling them. With the added factor that nerds are often too nervous to do speak to them. No wonder many of them regard it as the best job in the world.

I paid just 99p to rent this from i-tunes and it's a great watch.  It celebrates a much loved bunch of voice actors and shed light on their previously unknown world. 
   
http://www.iknowthatvoice.com/

Friday, 10 January 2014

Ringo, Frogs & Gnomes or How To Spot The Musical Sheeple

Comedians do it, journalists do it, even people on internet forums do it, let's do it, let's spout some received wisdom. 

We all know about Sod's, Godwin's and Boyle's Law (which is either "The absolute pressure exerted by a given mass of an ideal gas is inversely proportional to the  volume it occupies if the temperature and amount of gas remain unchanged within a closed system" or "if there is a handicapped child in the room then I must take the piss") but there should be a name for the way people always jump to the same subject when they want to denigrate the musical talent of a musical great.

I'm going to call it Deayton's Law.




Former popular news quiz's former popular quizmaster Angus  Deayton regularly used to drop in asides about Ringo Starr being a crap drummer. This continued until Paul Merton pulled him up on it. 'I think Ringo's an excellent drummer." Deayton replied that it's just something most people say to which Merton replied "No, it's something you always say, for years you've said these things about Ringo's drumming but its patently not true. His drumming on the track 'Rain' for example I think is extraordinary'. 'Rain' in itself is the straw everyone grabs to defend Ringo but the point stands that in popular culture it is 'an accepted fact' that Ringo Starr was a poor drummer who just happened to be lucky enough to be surrounded by 3 geniuses. 





Of course, like most things in life, it's all John Lennon's fault. Despite scouring the internet I can't find the original interview or press conference where Lennon replied to the question about Ringo being the world's best drummer with "he isn't even the best drummer in The Beatles". Yet it was clearly a joke part of the combative cruel Lennon wit and humour within the group. Yes, Paul briefly played drums for the band on a couple of occasions during the pill propelled nights in Hamburg but the gag remains. Anyone else parroting it all these years later is just dumb.

The same goes for Lennon's erstwhile partner in song, Paul McCartney.  Despite having a massive 2nd wind of success with Wings and a patchy but inventively aspirational solo career people appear to think that "The Frog Song" undoes all this proving that McCartney is a sentimental old fool who is only good enough to write children's songs.

Well let's examine that - firstly, 'We All Stand Together' was written for a Rupert The Bear animation. Around the time that the song was released Disney Films were not in a good place - lacklustre and devoid of fresh ideas. I'm saying they would have given Mickey Mouse's back teeth to have a song as catchy, joyful and melodious as 'We All Stand Together' in one of their flicks.  




I've seen it claimed that 'We All Stand Together' is a sign that McCartney's songwriting talents were on the slide but I think this is music fan snobbery, pure and simple. WAST is a perfect fit for its purpose which appears to get a kicking for being aimed a younger audience as if that is an easy option. Writing for children, whether it be music, films or books is damned tricky. An assumption that they lack our mature critical faculties so will accept any old rubbish put in front of them. The baffling success of shows like TOWIE, Made In Chelsea and Big Brother suggest that adults acceptance of pure garbage on their plates is far higher. 

Another collaborator of Lennon's was David Bowie. People appear to believe that his Achilles heel is the 1967 song 'The Laughing Gnome' - they are so very, very wrong for one reason.....





Because its very, very good. There was that rumour that Bowie hated the track and wanted to \ did burn the master tapes in a big bin. Naturally when it resurfaced during his Ziggy pomp in '73 it was an embarrassment because it upset the carefully constructed image he and his management were trying to project. However when asked why he recorded the song, the Dame replied

'Because I could! Because it was there. Cos it was silly and I like silliness. And because we had the technology and had fun slowing tapes down and speeding them up'

Indeed I would go so far to suggest that 'Gnome' is a snapshot of its time that nestles nicely next to the inventive psychedelic pop of Syd Barrett's The Pink Floyd and the studio trickery of The Beatles. With its varispeed vocals, childlike backing and Newleyesque tone its a fine pastiche as well as being catchy as hell. Its the close cousin of 'Bike' and with a bloody ace B-side as well The Gospel According To Tony Day' - check it out. 

NME's Charles Sharr Murray described it as "Undoubtedly the most embarrassing example of Bowie juvenilia" showing once more that your proper rock critics have absolutely zero sense of humour. CSM called his two goldfish, Rhythm and Blues. I think we need go no further. Bowie's genuine laughing on the record is also part of its charm and the awful puns are only the icing on the cake. Yes its juvenile but that's not necessarily a bad thing, is it?

And besides, if Scott Walker sees fit to cover it for his latest album then who are we to argue?


  


So next time you are discussing the majesty of Bowie's Station To Station and some wag says 'Yeah, but The Laughing Gnome eh?' you watch them smugly chuckle and slowly drawl 'You Deayton'

We can make this happen, people, if We All Stand Together