All Things Must Pass

George Harrison: Living in the Material World is a return to form for director Martin Scorsese following the 2008 release of Shine a Light, his rather lacklustre concert film about The Rolling Stones. Fortunately, his depiction of the Beatle known as The Quiet One has more in common with Scorsese’s 2005 film about Bob Dylan. No Direction Home was over 200 minutes long and in two parts, but still managed to only cover Dylan’s career up to 1966. Living in the Material World is also a two-parter and is similar in length to the Dylan one, but manages to cover the whole of Harrison’s life up to his death on November 29th, 2001. A major strength of No Direction Home was its newly-recorded interviews with an extremely open and talkative Dylan. Living in the Material World makes up for the loss of its protagonist by drawing on a range of interviews with Harrison at various points in his career. It opens by chatting to two of his uncles who talk about the younger George growing up in Liverpool and also draws upon letters written by George to his parents. These are voiced by an actor and would have been more effective if he sounded like Harrison or, at least, adopted a Scouse accent. Visually, the lack of film footage from this period is nicely balanced by a simple but effective use of black & white photographs. Many of these appeared to be newly discovered and we also get to see a lot of unseen footage from his days with The Beatles

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Stride Over Stride

Five years ago on this date, Grant McLennan died in his sleep from a heart attack at the age of just 48. Along with Robert Forster, he shared songwriting and vocal duties in the brilliant but unappreciated Australian band The Go-Betweens. I’ve always put the pair up there with popular music’s most celebrated writing partnership: Lennon and McCartney. Grant and Robert worked in a similar way to John and Paul, in that both often worked separately on their songs and then the other would tweak it here and make a suggestion there. The writer would then take lead vocals on the recording, though the song would be credited equally to both. Lennon was always my favourite Beatle (Harrison came second), while McLennan was always my favourite Go-Between. Funnily enough, Forster’s songs were more similar to Lennon’s and McLennan’s shared some similarities with McCartney’s. All of the Go-Between’s songs were literate and melodic and most of them dealt with failed relationships. Grant’s songs tended to be more melodic than Robert’s and his lyrics often made reference to nature. Robert had a darker approach and his lyrics tended to be more cynical than Grant’s. It was a creative partnership that combined to make half a dozen wonderful records throughout the 80s

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Albums for the New Depression

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I must admit that I’d been feeling pretty daunted about choosing ten of my favourite albums from 2010. However, it wasn’t such a bad year for music after all and it actually took me a while to narrow it down to twenty. In no particular order, here are numbers 11-20, with the Top Ten coming tomorrow. Two of my favourite Scottish bands added to that country’s fine melodic tradition with their most recent efforts. Write About Love by Belle & Sebastian and Shadows by Teenage Fanclub were two of last year’s more uplifting albums. Lowering the Tone by The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra is the first of two Irish debuts in my Top 20. The band is largely composed of the Blake siblings from Limerick and their well-crafted Brechtian songs are equally well-performed on their first full-length record. The total running time of these first three records is just over two hours, which is only slighter longer than Have One on Me by Joanna Newsom. It’s probably going to take me a few more years to really get to know the album as only three of its eighteen tracks are shorter than six minutes. In contrast, each of the next three albums are only slightly longer than 30 minutes in length. Contra is the title of Vampire Weekend‘s follow-up to their eponymous debut album and it suffers from the difficult second album syndrome as I feel it’s not as good as its predecessor. Loudon Wainwright III brings his customary wit and way with words to bear on his collection of 10 Songs for the New Depression. He compares the current economic downturn to the one from the 1930s and includes two songs written back then along with eight of his own originals

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Return to Sender


I had been so busy preparing my birthday tribute to David Bowie that it completely slipped my mind that the Chameleon of Pop used to get his birthday cards on the same day as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Yesterday marked the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth in Tupelo, Mississippi. Like Bowie, Elvis was also an actor, although the films he appeared in were merely vehicles for his star status and internationally-recognised persona. And, like Bowie, Elvis was a huge influence on the development of popular music. Of course, his music wasn’t as innovative or original as that of Bowie, but Elvis inspired more people than anybody else to go on to become musicians and performers. Growing up in the 70s, his music was all over the radio and the neighbours beside me were huge fans. I’ve always liked him as a singer and a performer despite the fact that he never wrote any of his own songs. Last night I put together this mix of Elvis songs as well as songs written about him. I start off with three songs by The King himself. The first two concern an American state where I lived for a while and appear on my two favourite albums by him: The Sun Sessions and From Elvis in Memphis. They’re followed by his interpretation of an old Irish tune. Next up are two Elvis impersonators with a couple of pretty impressive-sounding impersonations. The next batch of songs represent a selection of the many tributes written about Elvis. Some are affectionate and commemorate his death; some describe pilgrimages to Graceland; and the others poke fun at his legacy and particularly the many sightings of him since he died. Finally, I’ve included some of my favourite covers of songs made famous by Mr Presley. Elvis has left the building

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A Legend in His Time

John Peel

On this day five years ago, John Peel was getting ready to present another episode of his radio show. Unfortunately, it would be his last as a heart attack would take his life a few weeks later while on a working holiday in Peru. He had been best known as a disc jockey and champion of the musical underdog on BBC radio. His Peel Sessions gave many bands their first chance of airplay and a load of them went on to have successful careers in the music business. Sadly, I never got to hear his shows as it was not possible for me to listen to BBC radio when he was around. Nevertheless, I’m grateful to him for giving a first chance to many bands that I count among my favourites. For example, he once announced on air that he was feeling a little peckish. A cheeky chappy from Essex heard this and he delivered a Biryani to the studio along with a copy of his demo! He was offered a session straight away and Billy Bragg has become a very respected songwriter with loads of albums under his belt

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100 Not Out

100euro

I began this blog seven months ago and I must admit that I had no idea back then what shape it would take. I’m quite surprised that I’ve reached my hundredth post so soon. This means that I’ve posted an average of three times per week, even though I have sometime gone weeks where I haven’t posted at all. Most of my posts have been about music or gigs that I’ve attended or musicians I like. I’ve also posted a few times about current affairs, my travels, football and film. My two most popular posts have been Happy Birthday, Bruce! and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary. The reason for their popularity was that Expecting Rain (a Bob Dylan site) linked to these posts and brought in hundreds of extra visitors. Elbo.ws, the music blog aggregator, also brings in a few hundred hits every week. And I’m aware that I have a number of regular readers as well, so thank you all for your comments and for popping over here every week. Here are a few tunes to celebrate this century of posts

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Sur la plage

On the beach

On the beach

Agathe (centre) showing Salomé (left) and Chloé how to fly a kite

Agathe (centre) showing Salomé (left) and Chloé how to fly a kite

The beach at night

The beach at night

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a rather pleasant time on the French coast. I was staying with my friend, Agathe, and her mother, Gisèle, at their holiday home south of Nantes. For the best part of a week, the two ladies took great care of me. Everyday, I had a wonderful breakfast, lunch and dinner (or petit déjuner, dejuner and dîner, as they’re known in France). I got to sample lots of lovely fruits, vegetables, meat and bread. Even better, I got to eat a load of fish and seafood. Some of the seafood took a bit of an effort on my part, as I had to break open the shell surrounding it. However, it was worth it as it all tasted quite delicious. Each day, we went down to the beach for a stroll and a lie-down on the sand. And, one night, we accompanied two young friends of Agathe, Chloé and Salomé, as we took turns flying a kite in the breeze. Here’s a little limerick from Limerick for Chloé and Salomé:

There was a young girl called Chloé
Whose sister was named Salomé
At the beach one night
They both flew a kite
And they also got to know me

As if all that wasn’t enough, the weather was warm and sunny and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. In fact, it didn’t even rain once while I was there. So, thanks again to Agathe and Gisèle for a wonderful time, for feeding me so well, and for the brilliant weather. Here’s a bunch of beach-related songs

The Beach Song – Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

I Want To Go To The Beach – Iggy Pop

Echo Beach (Martha & The Muffins cover) – Robert Forster

On the Beach (Neil Young Cover) – Radiohead

Ease Your Feet In The Sea – Belle & Sebastian

The Sea and the Sand – Lloyd Cole

The Warmth Of The Sun – The Beach Boys

Down the Beach – John Phillips

The Moon Shifts The Sea The Sea Shapes The Shore The Shore Shakes The Sand The Sand Sinks The Ship – A.Armada