for summer is a coming in…

So punk rock was a thing, then the Pogues punked up some Irish songs and it was hip to cut your hair short, speed up the tempo and go hell for leather with the drinking songs if you were a folk band.

The thing is one band managed to go from performing one of the most cringeworthy songs about a charabanc to a small coastal town on the Menai Straits to convincing the record buying public that they were a real punk-folk band.

I give you The Oysterband who successfully reinvented themselves from being Fiddlers Dram with the gloriously frivolous song Daytrip to Bangor and didn’t they have a lovely time. To the serious folk-rock band that recorded the much more serious Another Quiet Night in England.

You can compare and contrast, yes it’s mostly the same band.

Now don’t get me wrong Daytrip to Bangor brings back memories of many a coach trip to North Wales from my hometown, it was just a couple of hours away but may as well have been another continent from Liverpool. Of course pick the right weekend in Rhyll or Llandudno and you could very well be on Church Street in Liverpool if you only listened to the accents. The coach on the way back would smell like brown ale and fish and chips and we invariably had to stop to use the toilet somewhere between Queensferry and Runcorn. Oh the heady days of childhood in North Wales.

Now The Oysterband are actually a rather excellent folk-rock band, they did get better when Cathy LeSurf decamped to join one of Ashley Hutchings incarnations of the Albion Band they got to speed up and get all jiggery with the music.

Listening to Step Outside by the Oysterband these days it’s easy to get caught up in the less than muscular sound, it really is not as good as the live sound they managed to have at the time. The songs really came alive live and the dancing was wild and frivolous, as shown by my awful blurred photograph.

There may have been some movement involved in the photography here as I relived a moment from my youth. If you could see the photograph you would notice that they are such nice clean cut young men, even though they seemed to have a decidedly socialist bent to the lyrics which could be worrying in this age of nationalism and fear of the other, or was that last year?

like a druid in the old days…

Tyrannosauruses Rex, the cult band that went pop and became T. Rex.

I remember hunching over a record player with my cousin Tony as he explained to me how great the single Ride A White Swan. I must have been about 5 or 6 I had not idea what was going on, the lyrics never really ever made sense but it was so different from the other things I was hearing at home with my folks. Sometime after this Tony’s mum banned rock music in their house. My aunt has some, shall we say troubles.

This resulted in Tony keeping all of his records at our house and a whole world of music opening up to me. He would walk over most days from his house to sit in our dining room and play records and do his homework and help me with maths. My parents were pretty liberal with what they allowed to be played most of the time as long as there was melody and you could understand the words, sometimes they got tired of the weird shit, they had no reason other than it was tough to listen to. They often felt this way about their favorite bands/artists, they were equal opportunity intolerants.

Three things I knew. I wanted a tall hat, long hair and a tattooed gown. Anything less was going to be unsatisfactory.

All I managed in the end was the long hair, hats were a thing I have never really come to terms with wearing.

it’s the kiss of death…

My mum had the discography of three artists, Carepenters and Miss Shirley Bassey plus one other that is a none surprise.

Shirley Bassey oozed, fun, joy and sexuality at a time when life was simpler, she was also from Wales so that makes her naturally super talented and amazing.

For most of the seventies I think my mum actually had Shirley Bassey’s haircut.

Christmas seemed to be Bond and Bassey for most of my childhood, we had to avoid the Sound of Music somehow.

So not only is Shirley Bassey from Wales she is also incredibly talented, funny, strong and sexy. She also manages to bring more drama and humor and pathos to a song while standing pretty much still in front of a microphone, go figure.

and we’d like to make a contact with you…

My Mum loved the Carpenters. She could sing along to just about every song on every album. She owned the discography of three artists and the Carpenters were one of the esteemed three.

She did however insist on lifting the needle on the Passage album before the end. That final song was a stepping stone too far for her. It was just too odd. As a child I was not allowed near the Pye radiogram, even though I was a worldly 11 years old when this piece of furniture came into our collective lives. I was promised that I could touch it one day bit until then I had to seek approval for my listening choices from my parents, of course this was a major purchase for a working class family in the day and to be treated with reverence.

This is not the actual radiogram that is long gone to the stereo heaven in the sky.

Once I reached 12 I was given lessons in how to properly operate this portal to another world. I was however limited to my parents listening choices at the time. And that mysterious track on the end of side 2. of the passage album remained out of reach while I was so closely monitored.

The first time after these lessons and I was left alone in the house it was time to discover what that secret last song on the Passage album was. Suddenly I was confronted with Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft. Strings, choirs, horns and guitar solos along with Karen Carpenters voice and well sci-fi music, next stop outer space.

As an only child I did not have siblings to confront me with their music, all I had was my parents taste and the odd smatterings I got when I visited the neighbors or got to see occasionally on television on Saturday mornings. I did live quite a sheltered life and the joys of music from left field was about to open up to me, this was after all the time when the rest of the world was discovering punk rock and my brain was being expanded by The Carpenters cover of an odd Klaatu track.

we had joy we had fun…

In the dim and distant past I used to frequent a heavy metal bar on Wood St. in Liverpool called the Wilsons. It’s long gone and in the minds of most forgotten. It was however formative in my early years, not only because it was the type of place a fifteen/sixteen year old was guaranteed to be able to get a drink but they had one of the two greatest juke boxes in the history of 80’s metal bars. All the greats were on there, Motorhead, Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Focus(go figure) and lurking somewhere amongst all this heady music was Terry Jacks and Seasons in the Sun.

For some reason me and my friends managed to become attached to this song, maybe more to do with the mayhem that ensued when it inevitably turned up on the jukebox at deafening volume. I have since learned it was voted one of the worst pop songs ever recorded. I think that may be an overstatement, I am however going to admit to not having listened to it in a long time.

I have no idea beyond it’s sentimentality why this connected with us, we would bellow along to the lyrics at the top of our voices before being deposited none too gently in the gutters outside the bar for putting this offending song on amidst the NWOBHM fare that normally was being played. Maybe it was the irony of this song in this place at this time, a song that at that time was close to ten years old managing to hang out on a jukebox that was devoted to Metal in a bar that to a teenager seemed dangerous and edgy. In reality I am sure it was an incredibly safe and accepting environment for me and my gang of geeky metalheads to soak up the ambience of the day.

The song had started off as a Jacques Brel song of a man dying from a broken heart and his farewell to his best friend his priest and his wife who had betrayed him.

Rod McKuen rewrote it and managed to eliminate the angst and passion from the song, It was recorded with Terry Jacks and the Beach Boys and eventually abandoned by them, Jacks took it on himself at this point and realized the saccharine joy we have today.

I am not going to pretend that this is anything other than a sentimental choice based on the reaction this had with the to me at the time large behemoths of the metal lifestyle in the bar. For a while it became our theme tune and we would relentlessly play it on every jukebox we came upon in our travels, even today of I can bellow along to all the lyrics at the drop of a hat and it has become my karaoke tune of choice, people are often overwhelmed by the sappiness of the song and miss out on the awfulness of the singing.

Maybe next time I will treat them to Le Moribund…