Thursday, 3 December 2020

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love

On 1st December my friend Laura Boyd posed a question on Twitter; what is the best Christmas song ever? Laura's choice was Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses, a song I also really love. 

My own personal favourite, and also one that I would argue is the best, is Darlene Love's Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) from the seminal Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift To You album.

In my tweet to Laura I said; My favourite is Darlene Love with Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). Such an incredible vocal performance, the musicianship is stunning, the lyrics have real visualisation and the whole song has a soulful and uplifting feeling to it. Perfect.

I didn't mention the gut wrenching emotion that pours from it, but then you only have so many characters in a tweet, so I thought I would write a blog.

A huge opening chord that is repeated four times over the sound of sleigh bells ushers us gently into Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), then at 15 seconds pounding drums build to kick the song into full throttle. The backing vocals sound glorious singing Christmaaaassss and then Darlene Love's incredible voice soars heavenly.

Spector captures a truly sensational performance. I've just listened to the song 6-times in a row on headphones and I could easily listen another 6-times. This was recorded in 1963 and it still blows me away, the power and urgency that leaps out ensures the song still sounds fresh and vital. It will be played forever.

(Christmas) snow's coming down

(Christmas) I'm watching it fall

(Christmas) Lots of people around

(Christmas) Baby please come home

Darlene Love's vocal performance must rank highly in all-time top vocals; it's spine tingling, hair raising, heart-aching, gut wrenching soul.

The lyrics are pure poetry; the classic Christmas picture is being painted in front of Darlene Love's eyes and she can describe it, but she keeps returning to her plea for her baby to come home; the church bells in town, all ringing in song, full of happy sounds, baby please come home

There is a brief let up in Spector's Wall of Sound and the backing vocals to allow Love's voice centre stage as she sings they're singing deck the halls, but it's not like Christmas at all, I remember when you were here, and all the fun we had last year with the drums rolling on the final line and bringing the Wall of Sound and backing singers back in to gel with Love and propel her onwards.

(Christmas) pretty lights on the tree

(Christmas) I'm watching them shine

(Christmas) You should be here with me

(Christmas) Baby please come home

After an instrumental things break down again for a repeat of the third verse with Love's voice on and all the fun we had last year being pushed to its limit. She finds more!

The last verse is simply sensational, off the charts. Things just build and build and build to an incredible climax. We learn that is is actually Christmas day and as soon as that line is sung we enter a  mind blowing 30-seconds of Love just going for it and repeating please, please, please before losing herself in the line baby please come home.

(Christmas) oh if there was a way

(Christmas) I'd hold back this tears

(Christmas) oh but it's Christmas day

(Please) Please (Please) Please (Please) Please (Please) Please (Please) Please

Baby please come home, baby please come home, baby please come home, baby please come home

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah

What a song! What a performance! Somewhere in the vaults there are the original recordings and you wonder how long the song went on as it fades out on the record.

Listening to the song on headphones repeatedly has made me appreciate it all the more. Turn it up, sing-a-long and just get lost in the last 30-seconds as Darlene Love loses it over a beautiful piano as the musicians create a classic Spector Wall of Sound - glorious.

SPOTIFY - Darlene Love - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

YOUTUBE - Darlene Love - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)








Tuesday, 1 December 2020

McCartney II

 Ahead of the forthcoming release of McCartney III I thought I would take a look back at McCartney from 1970 and now McCartney II from 1980.

If Paul McCartney's eponymous album McCartney had surprised upon release in 1970 in terms of style, substance and the way Paul chose to step away from The Beatles, McCartney II, released in 1980, also caused a stir among his fanbase.

A lot had happened in the 10-years between the albums. You could have bet your house on Paul being the most prolific and busiest of Beatles following the split and it certainly turned out that way; Paul formed Wings, released 8 albums and toured the world a number of times. 

McCartney II is largely discussed in terms of Paul experimenting with synths and while tracks like Temporary Secretary, Front Parlour and Frozen Jap live up to that description, other parts of the album are bluesy or stoned jams; Bogey Music, On The Way, while Darkroom somehow sits across the two, sounding like it could easily fit in on a Gorillaz album. Elsewhere McCartney creates songs that sound like they could be leftovers from his Beatles days; Summer's Day Song and One Of These Days.

Coming Up introduces us to McCartney II and it is a very welcoming opening song, upbeat and full of Paul's melodic and catchy charms. The rhythm sounds like a speeded up reggae groove, almost like a raw Chic style guitar. 

As with McCartney, Paul plays everything by himself, this time going for a 16-track portable studio rather than the rough n ready 4-track he used on his 1970 album. On Coming Up it sounds like he is having fun, jamming on the groove and injecting real energy into the hooks. Listen on headphones to appreciate everything McCartney is up to, throwing in little riffs, sounds and backing vocals while holding it all together with a big fat bass.

My friends, Stephen, Craig  & Mick who were in the band Sonny Marvello - mentioned many times in blogs through the years - introduced me to McCartney II. They were (are) McCartney nuts and knew his solo catalogue back to front.

Personally, I was pretty late to McCartney II and I was really surprised when I heard Temporary Secretary when Mick played it in his old flat back in 2010 before we headed out in glorious sunshine to see McCartney play Hampden Park.

Temporary Secretary is bubbling synths and McCartney setting a frantic, frenetic, pace and groove. NME memorably described it as not so much ahead of its time, but out of it altogether. There is so much going on, but of course this is Paul McCartney, it is ridiculous but brilliant, ridiculously catchy, brilliant leftfield pop.

Things change, On The Way is raw and bluesy in feeling, the bass roots the song as Paul plays some exquisite blues guitar. It sounds a little out of place after the first couple of songs.

Waterfalls could have benefited from being a little rawer and shorter in length, akin to some of the songs on McCartney. Paul's voice sounds more forlorn and mature than on other songs on the album.

And I need love

Yeah I need love

Like a second needs an hour

Like a raindrop needs a shower

McCartney sounds like he's having fun jamming with himself on Nobody Knows, its like his own Let It Be session, he ad libs backing vocals to himself.

Meanwhile Front Parlour was the first song to be recorded for the album, in the front parlour of an old farmhouse. The song was trimmed down for the album with an extended version being available on the deluxe edition when it came out on CD. It's McCartney experimenting in a typically melodic, combining different sounds to create riffs and grooves.  

Summer's Day Song is really rather beautiful, sounding like it could have been on Abbey Road. It's dreamy, mellow and melodic. Paul's voice, particularly on the second verse, is at its best.

Someone's sleeping, through a bad dream

Tomorrow it will be over

For the world will soon be waking

To a summer's day

If someone heard Frozen Jap in the Sub Club in Glasgow they could easily mistake it for Hot Chip or LCD Soundsystem. This is utterly brilliant, sounding fresh, melodic and groove based. There is a little Krautrock in there. 

McCartney mixes it up with Bogey Music which sees him dive from the future away back to the 50's but with a little bit of extra echo effects. It's a throwaway, in my opinion the album would have been stronger with the full versions of Front Parlour and Frozen Jap, or one of the songs that didn't make the cut until the reissue with bonus tracks - see further on in the blog.

Darkroom is bit of a reggae and dub groove with McCartney playing with voice styles and backing vocals. This song and the bonus track Check My Machine sound like something that Damon Albarn would love for his Gorillaz project.

The album closes with a wistful McCartney singing One Of These Days which sounds remarkably boring compared to some of the stuff he conjures up.

I've mentioned bonus tracks. There is some incredible stuff! 

McCartney apparently recorded 20-songs in June and July 1979, many made up on the spot The aforementioned Check My Machine is an sensational stoned experimental groove, the bubbling 10 minute plus Secret Friend (the b-side to Temporary Secretary) is dreamy with samba style bass and percussion while McCartney goes kind of crazy over it. It somehow works! 

Mr H Atom/I'll Get You Baby starts with a voice (Paul's) saying Shangri-Las versus The Village People! Linda helps on vocals over a synth bass, there is some kind of spoken word and then the insanely catchy Mr H Atom, live in a flat on, the male sound of town chanted female vocals over a groove. I love it! The closing 3-minutes of the song have a bass synth and beat with Paul shooting laser synths and making up a vocal chant over it all. 

So yeah!

McCartney II is an alright album. Revisiting it, I couldn't help think about how far out and wonderful it could have been. So I've had fun creating McCartney II . 5 which you can search for on Spotify or CLICK HERE  Here is my alternative tracklisting.

Coming Up (full length)

Temporary Secretary

Waterfalls (edit)

Front Parlour (full length)

Summer's Day Song (instrumental version)

Frozen Jap (full length)

Darkroom (full length)

Check My Machine

Secret Friend (full length)

Mr H Atom / You Know I'll Get You Back





Friday, 27 November 2020

Diego Armando Maradona

The mere mention of Maradona's name makes me smile and reminisce. 

I was 10 in 1986, when Maradona inspired his team to win the World Cup in Mexico. I remember that summer being sunny and hazy. My life revolved around football. My brother and friends would play morning, noon and night on the field across the road from our house, only stopping for drinks, snacks, lunch, dinner and for a 10p mix up from the ice-cream van in the evening.

Sometimes there would be a few of us and we'd play what we called 'pass-y shoot-y' where someone would go in goals and the other 3 of us would pretend we were in a game, making up moves and skills and I would commentate.

Other times we would play 'world cup / cuppy' where there would be a keeper and he would throw or kick it out and 5 or 6 of us would justle for the ball and then attempt solo runs to get a goal, or you could poach/mooch around the goal hoping for a rebound. You had to score a goal or two to get through to the next round, someone would go out and eventually you would have 2 players in the final. Sometimes we would play 'cuppy doubles'.

And then, usually in the evening, there would be enough players for teams. Anything from 4-a-side to 8-a-side. Even kids who didn't like football would get pulled into make up the numbers. The field was where everyone in the estate would go to hang out; either playing or watching football. There are hardly any kids in the estate any more as most people who stayed there in the 80's still stay there. The kids have long left and now have kids of their own. 

I always feel sad when I see new estates being thrown up with no patches of grass or playing fields for the kids to play on. Every patch of ground is used for housing, it's  shame.

For the summer of 1986 I wanted to be called 'Muradona' 
It didn't catch on!

Back in 1986 there wasn't a great deal of football on TV. Scottish football was really highlights on Sportscene on a Saturday night and then Scotsport on STV on a Sunday. There would be the occasional live match, I always seem to remember the Skol (League) Cup Final being live on TV with a couple of thrillers between Aberdeen and Rangers.

So when the World Cup came around it was like a feast of football! Maradona was just sensational. He would set off on solo runs regularly, either winning fouls, or creating space for his team mates. And then of course there were the goals.

Maradona scored 5 goals and created 5 goals during Argentina's run to winning the World Cup. Despite all kinds of attempts to stop him, by fair means or (largely by)) foul, he was simply unplayable.  

Watching Maradona was as exciting as anything I can remember. You were willing him to get the ball to see what he would do with it. His low centre of gravity (5ft 4), stocky legs, insatiable desire to run forwards through walls of defenders, riding high tackles, waltzing round people with a dink of the shoulder, lifted not only his team, but his country and football fans around the world.

Maradona looked great too; the number 10, the Puma King boots, playing with the iconic Adidas Tango ball. I've enjoyed watching classic footage and seeing some incredible images being posted on social media.

A young Diego checking some records in 1980

After his breathtaking solo run against England everyone wanted to 'do a Maradona' out on the park across from our parents. There was a distinct lack of passing and crossing for a while as everyone set about trying to beat the entire team on their own.

Post World Cup football fans set about trying to get footage of Maradona. I remember we bought a VHS documentary on the world cup as well as VHS cassettes of Italian goals of the season and things like that.

Maradona carried his World Cup form into the 1986/87 season with Napoli, leading them to their first ever Serie A title. It should be noted that no team from the south of Italy had ever won, the league had been dominated by northern teams like AC Milan, Inter, Roma and Juventus.

The streets of Napoli erupted, murals were painted, mock funerals were held for AC Milan and Juventus and 9-months later a whole host of little Diego's were named in Maradona's honour.

The club were runners up for the next two seasons before regaining the title in 1989/90, also winning the UEFA Cup in 1989.

In short, Maradona transformed Napoli, he lifted a club and a city. The effects of his time there are still rippling today, as evidenced by the outpouring of grief in the form of a celebration of his life when news of his death broke.

Maradona was struggled through the 1990 World Cup with an injury, but he still captained his country to another final, his will to win almost as important as his skills. 

Maradona's career and life was eccentric and erratic post 1990. It had been for a while, but his talent and achievements masked what was going on off the field. He seemed hell bent on destruction, determined to live life at 100 mph. A couple of years ago a video of Maradona out his tree dancing with his eyes shut ended up becoming a Facebook account - the same video every day over dubbed with all kinds of songs. It was briefly amusing yet it became painfully sad, too much of his life became sad. You just wanted to see him fit and healthy, using his influence and skills within the game. 

I'll always remember Diego Armanda Maradona for that 4-year period from 1986-1990. He shone brightly before it, he offered glimpses of genius afterwards, but for that 4-year period he was the most exciting individual player I have ever seen.

Depending on what you are using to read this blog (phone /tablet/laptop) here are a couple films that highlight the genius of Maradona. There are many more on YouTube

  1. Every assist and goal during the Mexico 1986 World Cup
  2. His best goals and skills with Napoli





Friday, 20 November 2020

Feelings Gone


Trust Me #18

My sister had been banging on at me to check the Callum Easter album for age until I finally did, prompted by a longlisting for the SAY Award 2020.

I'm so guilty of this. In an age where it is incredibly easy to check out any artist, album or song, why do I not do it when I receive a strong recommendation from someone who knows my taste? Is it just because it is too easy? Back in the old days, when music wasn't as accessible, people would make mix tapes, copy albums on to CD or even lend a copy. So you'd go home and listen to it to check it out. I would buy both the NME and Melody Maker on a weekly basis and then enjoy hunting records down, enjoying the anticipation of a release date or a special trip into the likes of Missing Records to search for something.

Anyway, enough about the old days, the main thing is I discovered the Scottish artist Callum Easter in 2020, a year later than I should have!  I could have caught him live if I'd been on it!

Callum releases via the excellent Lost Map Records label and his debut album Here Or Nowhere is a beautifully varied affair with synths, beats, organs and anything Easter can get his hands on. I love the feel, atmosphere and vibe he creates and I do look forward to seeing him live whenever that might be! There is a bit of early Beck to Easter - that kind of need to create, lets see what happens, push record, lost in his own world, don't give a f**k about anything else. This creates a feeling of freedom in his music.

One of the songs I have really fallen for isn't on the album. Feelings Gone was originally released on a mini-album Get Don't Want Out a few years ago (pre Lost Map days from my research), then as a b-side (a live version) to the single Here or Nowhere/Back Beat, then again as the closing track on the Green Door Sessions album from earlier this year. It's clearly a song Easter himself is fond of.

The original version (video below) has a synth riff over a solid bass and beats. Easter plays on the mantra like hold me and the feelings gone. It's a song that just grabs me immediately and as soon as it is over I want to play it again. It has something pure and simple - soul.

With the live version, I love the lo-fi soul feeling Easter conjures from an accordion riff over an old drum machine beat, beginning by repeatedly singing;

Hold me and the feelings gone

Hold me and the feelings gone

Easter develops the song a little for a verse;

What we're saying is there's two kinds of people

What I'm saying is it's more like it's me and you

The whole song has (pardon the pun) a great feeling to it. This is number 18 in my Trust Me series. See below for the list of previous songs to feature. Search for Everything Flows Trust Me on Spotify for a playlist of all songs, or CLICK HERE

Previous Trust Me blogs

1. Something On Your Mind by Karen Dalton
1A. Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells
2. I Am, I Said  by Neil Diamond
3. Where's The Playground Susie?   by Glen Campbell
4. If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lighfoot
5. Gimme Some Truth by John Lennon
6. Gone With The Wind Is My Love by Rita and the Tiaras
7. In The Year 2525 by Zager and Evans
8. The Music Box by Ruth Copeland
9. The Ship Song by Nick Cave
10. Sometimes by James
11. I Walk The Earth by King Biscuit Time
12. Didn't Know What I Was In For by Better Oblivion Community Centre
13. When My Boy Walks Down The Street by The Magnetic Fields
14. The Man Don't Give A F**k by Super Furry Animals
15. All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun by Jeff Buckley and Liz Fraser
16. Are You Lookin' by The Tymes
17. A Real Hero by College & Electric Youth




Sunday, 15 November 2020

10 from Carla J Easton

The 11th artist to feature in my series of 10 from ... blogs is ... my sister - Carla J Easton!

I decided not to write a blog on her latest album Weirdo (thankfully plenty of other people did) so I thought I'd look back over her back catalogue and see if I could select 10 of my favourite songs.

You'll find links to the previous artists to feature in this series at the foot of this blog.

Over the last 10-years my sister Carla J Easton has produced a pretty remarkable body of work with her bands Futuristic Retro Champions and TeenCanteen, under the guise of Ette and finally under her own name, not to mention collaborations with the likes of Belle & Sebastian and Kirsty Law.

5 albums (4 since 2016) and numerous EP's / non-album singles; scented cassettes, colour cd's, colour vinyl, glitter vinyl, artwork by Martin Creed (FRC's), Ross Sinclair (TeenCanteen) and Jim Lambie ... Carla always has something on the go.

And I know that she is working on some very exciting songs and projects at this very moment. As well as a documentary! Carla's personality, work ethic and creative nature has won her friends and fans and I'm excited to see what the next decade will bring.

I thought I'd take some time to review Carla's back catalogue and see if I could narrow it down to 10 favourites!

Sita, Carla, Harry & Ceal

2010-2020 started with Futuristic Retro Champions deciding to call it a day, 4-years after forming at Edinburgh College of Art. They had 4 fun packed years, releasing singles, EP's and then eventually the Love & Lemonade retrospective album in 2011 that also included unreleased songs.

One memorable review from the time described them as 'kids who have overdosed on Sunny D with fisher price instruments' while another described them as having 'an uncanny knack of making every song sound like the first strains of a summers Friday evening.'

Carla wrote all songs (apart from a few co-writes with fellow band members) but only sang lead vocals on a couple, with her friend Sita Pieraccini (who later went on to play bass with Carla in TeenCanteen) taking on vocals. 

Melodies and hooks come pouring out of these largely home-recorded songs of love, life, friends and nights out. There is a real natural innocent charm to them. One, Count To Ten, was when Carla and bassist Ceal got drunk and recorded an EP in a night under the guise of The Kevin's (named after Kevin from Home Alone!). I wonder what happened to the other songs, they did have a MySpace at one point?! I love how rough and raw the recording is, yet the melodies shine.

Strawberries & Vodka Shots is just pure sunshine. I think the DIY video (below) captures the mood perfectly. Pulling Box Shapes is 100 mph fun, Epic New Song is ... epic and euphoric, You Make My Heart is sublime girl meets boy pop, while Isn't It Lovely is all kinds of gorgeous and mellow, with the closing section being beautifully uplifting with soaring trumpet in a kind of Belle and Sebastian way.

I have so many memories of great nights out at The Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh, the 13th Note, Mono, an incredible performance at the Hidden Lane Festival Glasgow and I love the energy that leaps out of these songs to this day. 

Post FRC's Carla was busy writing songs but wasn't really sure what to do with them. Duglas T Stewart from the BMX Bandits had got to know of Carla's work and he encouraged her to form a new band. Indeed, Duglas recorded one of Carla's new songs Fireworks for the BMX Bandits In Space album and I know what a huge boost this was for Carla.

So Carla formed TeenCanteen, recruiting her best friend Debs on drums (her first time in a band), FRC's Sita P moved to bass (despite having never played it before) and her friend Emma (who usually played folk music) joined on guitar.

After only 5 rehearsals, the band booked a couple of weekends in 45-a-side studios in Calton. The recordings, coming out on vinyl next year via Hive/LNFG, really captured a moment. The innocence of Debs being in a band and recording studio for the first time, of Sita moving to bass, of the harmonies so central to the TeenCanteen sound and of a newly form band checking out what they've got, they are raw and soulful.

Carla, Sita, Emma & Debs 

Over limited edition singles (including cassette and vinyl) and a string of shows, festivals and amazing support from 6 Music's Marc Riley,  the band started to gain a real following, leading to sold out shows and also the incredible Girl Effect nights that Carla put on in Edinburgh and Glasgow for charity.

Carla was very clear that she didn't want to rush into recording and releasing an album. I think she made the right call, the singles and events let the band build a momentum that led to people calling for an album.

There is an issue with recording an album - the cost. So I helped Carla create a crowdfunding campaign for TeenCanteen to raise a few thousand pounds to add to their savings. Thanks to the support of fans they surpassed that total in just a few days!

The burst of activity led to Say It All With A Kiss being released on Last Night From Glasgow in 2016. Chloe Philip was now on guitar duties and the 4-piece described their sound as dynamic drums and glittering guitars fused with pulsing bass and a synth sheen on pure pop while Ion Magazine said ... part wall of sound, part Postcard Records The album was longlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year Award. 

By this point in time Carla had songs pouring out of her, leading to her almost simultaneously releasing Homemade Lemonade under the guise of Ette on Olive Grove Records. Recorded with the wonderful Joe Kane over 5-days in a homemade garage studio, there is a beautiful raw psychedelic tinge and a sense of freedom to this album that led to Bandcamp naming it their 4th best album of 2016. I'm particularly fond of this album. Heaven Knows is a lost summer single, the way Bones flows so effortlessly is beautiful, the Spector stomp on Attack of the Glam Soul Cheerleaders (Parts 1 & 2) always brings a smile to my face and the psychedelic pop of Bird In The Sky is just brilliant.

2017 saw TeenCanteen release the Millions EP and then saw Carla embark on a life changing trip to Banff Music Centre in Canada for a songwriting residency. It's difficult to describe what a confidence boost this was for my sister. The anxiety she felt before going was overwhelming, I'm so glad that she went and that Creative Scotland supported her. 

Whilst there she made amazing new friendships and got to play her songs to award winning songwriters, all of whom loved her songs and personality.

The visit led to Carla going back to record with producer Howard Billerman, resulting in the Impossible Stuff album that came out at the start of October 2018. Carla's friends from Canada play on the album and she pretty much used all of the instruments and musicians she could. Many of the takes were improvised or captured in 1 or 2 takes, resulting in a real organic feel.

Notably, Impossible Stuff was the first album Carla felt ready to release under her own name. The development is quite staggering, I think Carla was listening a lot to Carole King and George Harrison at the time and Howard Billerman really helped her go for that kind of sound along with Carla's playful melodies. You can read Carla's track-by-track guide via a feature with The Skinny.


2018 also saw Carla take lead vocals on a Belle and Sebastian song that she co-wrote with Stuart Murdoch. I loved hearing her tales of writing in Stuart's flat, rehearsing and then recording with the band. They were amazed she got the vocals in a couple of takes, Carla replied that her budget doesn't usually allow for any more than that! They all laughed :-) As someone who has followed the band from relatively early days I couldn't believe that my wee sister was writing and singing with them. 

Around the same time Carla became an official member of The Vaselines. I still remember a sense of pride when finding my missing Vaselines CD in Carla's bedroom many years ago. Eugene is a great friend of Carla's.)

So when the band were invited to play The Belles Boaty Weekender, Carla got to join Belle and Sebastian on stage to perform Best Friend. I so wish I had been there. Carla speaks so fondly of Stuart and The Belles and their ambition with the Boaty Weekender really left a mark on her - and everyone I know who went.

Carla fronting Belle & Sebastian!

2019 saw Carla invited back to Banff, this time a a resident! This incredible high was then shattered by heartbreak which led to Carla spending most of the year either back at our Mum's or sofa surfing with friends, leading to the writing of the album Weirdo that was released earlier this year.

Weirdo is very different from Impossible Stuff. It's rammed with synths and it's essentially therapy on record. Carla was very vocal about taking CBT to deal with a lot of the issues she was going through. I always admire my sisters openness about things like this.

The melodies and hooks are still there. They always will be. Get Lost is like Carly Rae Jepsen fronting New Order, while I urged Carla to send Never Knew You to Taylor Swift! The variety is incredible with pure pop on Heart It So Hard, indie garage pop on the title track, a total defiant pop banger like Over You, through to synth ballads like Signing It In Blood and Thorns.

Photo by Craig McIntosh

I think it is important for any artist to never stand still, probably more so than ever in today's digital age. There is absolutely no danger of that happening with my sister! She recently sent through 3 new demos for her next project and I fell for them instantly, they sound ready as they are.

So it wasn't easy to narrow things down, but at the time of writing, here are 10 of my favourites at the time of writing (in no particular order) from Carla J Easton

1. Jenna

Jenna was one of the first real pop songs that Carla wrote following a night out with her friend Jenna. Ridiculously catchy, it quickly became a favourite of the Retro Champs and their growing fanbase, the breakdown into handclaps encouraged participation and the chorus lodged itself in your brain almost instantaneously. 

The whole song tells stories about Carla and Jenna working in a shoe shop, hangovers, Jenna being tall and Carla being small, shouting out for more E L E C T R O at 3am.

I love the way the second verse begins so beautifully oh Jenna she is my best pal, always dressed the best, in her sequin dress and it leads on to just be an outpouring of friendship love over a furious drum machine and the brilliant line; if you OCD cause you feel ill, well just pop another panic pill.

I went out with Jenna last night

She looked alright, we danced all night

I went out with Jenna last night, she looked damn fine

2. Get Lost

When Carla first sent this to me I described it as Carly Rae Jepsen fronting New Order. It just feels so fresh and energetic, kind of exactly like how Carla must have felt when she escaped to the Highlands and was inspired to write it.

The melody is playful, there is a nice reference to Dreamers On The Run, the chorus is simple and easy to sing on first listen. Visit Scotland should totally pick up on this to advertise our beautiful country.

Get lost

Let me take you far away

We can turn the radio off

Let me take you far away

The second verse has one of my favourite lyrics;

Sipping on you from ice cold cans and kissing on a dream

And top marks for the lockdown video!

3. Sirens (piano mix)

The first time I heard this version was shortly after it was recorded at La Chunky Studio in the Hidden Lane in Glasgow. Carla and the band revisited a song from their album to strip it right back to piano and voices. It becomes all the more powerful and dramatic for it. We sat in the dark and played it loud through the speakers and I was gripped with emotion.

Carla's voice almost cracks as she pounds on the piano and her friends back her up with harmonies.

I wish I could still ride my bike with the confidence I had as a child, 

With the fearlessness I had as a child

My sister is very clever at creating imagery and feelings with her lyrics, that one above is one of my absolute favourites.

I wish I had time, I wish I had time

I'll always want more than your four leaf clover

I'll aim for the moon and hit the sun

The full version is available on the usual digital platforms, there is only this preview on YouTube.

4. Vagabond (TeenCanteen version)

Carla later re-recorded Vagabond for her Impossible Stuff album, but this original version, tucked away on the b-side of standalone TeenCanteen single You're Still Mine is my favourite version. Sunshine pours in the window of the Community Centre where the live video was filmed and heartache and harmonies pour out of Carla and her friends. It's Carla on vocals and keys, Debs on stand up drums like Moe Tucker and Amanda and Sita on harmonies. It's glorious, really beautiful.

An aching head

A heart that's burst

Out pour bruised words

5. Honey

TeenCanteen's debut single was released via the good people at Neu! Reekie on a limited run of 100 yellow cassette tapes with honey scented lino print and flowering garden. You could literally plant it! 

With Honey, Carla really drew a line under the FRC's and bounded over it. The feeling of the song is pure and soulful, the lyrics, melodies, structure, little pauses and the rush of the chorus are brilliant and infectious.

I'm a square trying to fit in a circle

I am red when I want to be purple

The false ending that leads to a build into one last burst of sugar energy sweetness and the rush of one final chorus is glorious.

We just talk about the weather

Not the fact that we're together

Cause he knows I'm so in love with him

That I'll stick around through thick and thin

Like honey

This is the original version of Honey, recorded at the Old Mill Studio in Strathaven.

I love the video, they just look like a real gang of friends. Amanda was on acoustic guitar and Malena on electric guitar. I love the goth punk vibe she brings to the video.

6. I'm Tired

I'm tired, thinking of you

Are you tired, of thinking of me too?

I'd love Carla to revisit this FRC's song in her own voice. (UPDATE - my sister has read the blog and won't be revisiting it and is surprised I chose it! But I love it). 

There's not much to it but it says so much. Written during 3-month art school exchange in Lithuania when Carla and Sita lived in a pink shack (honest - I visited!), this is a a beautiful song, really open and pure.

For a homemade production, I think this is pretty incredible. I love Harry's guitar, the synth sounds, Sita's voice and just the whole feel to it. There is no video so check it out on all the usual digital sites.

You're the one that makes me feel so pretty

There are positives a plenty

Damn your awful jokes they make me smile

7. Thorns

The closing track for Weirdo, this starts with a stunning vocal melody, builds dramatically, then slows down to the refrain over swirling synths and beats.

There was never sun in my blood

I wish there was, I wish there was, I wish there was

For 15 seconds the song just hangs beautifully before synths and beats come powering in, leading to Carla singing I'll be the thorn in your side. It's vivid, dramatic and widescreen.

I love the last 50 seconds or so of the song when it goes a little wonky in a kind of Beck style way.

Carla has performed a few online shows since lockdown/restrictions have prevented live performances and her stripped back version of this has been a real highlight for me.

8. Lights In The Dark

It's difficult to look at this final list of 10 and see so little from the Impossible Stuff album. I love so much of it; the flow of Dreamers On The Run, the playful title track, the romp through Milk & Honey, the delightful sounds of Meet Me In Paris ... but when faced with narrowing favourites down to 10 I had to include Lights In The Dark.

I love how the song builds, the beat only really kicks in at 2-minutes 5 seconds. There is extra power and urgency when this is played live. It also works beautifully when it is stripped back, as demonstrated in the Sofar Sounds video below the official one.


9. Best Friend

Another flowing melody with loving, funny and emotional lyrics. I love when the strings soar and the beat kicks in after 32 seconds.

I'm not saying that we will be best friends

But I'll take you dancing at the weekend

I admire the production and feel that Belle & Sebastian capture on a lot of their recordings, Stuart Murdoch has such a good ear for that kind of thing. It is special to hear Carla recording with a band who have travelled the world and achieved so much. Yet they remain so grounded that Stuart could walk into the shop where Carla works and they are also still fiercely ambitious as the Boaty Weekender displayed.

The melody and flow is joyfully constant throughout, only letting up for the final verse. Based on this evidence, I'd love Carla and Stuart to write together again, maybe with Stuart singing this time.


10. Impossible Stuff

It took me a while to choose the last few songs for my list of 10. I can't believe I haven't squeezed anything in from the Homemade Lemonade album!

Impossible Stuff, the title track from Carla's first album under her own name, always makes me smile, containing one of her most playful melodies and lyrics. 

And this video is one of my favourite performances, recorded only a few days after returning from Canada in a collaboration with the Scottish Opera. My very good friends Stephen and Craig play guitar and bass.

I love the feel on the recorded version and I have a nice vision of Carla playing the song to her friends in Canada and directing them on how to play. The break and then build from 1 minute 23 seconds is exhilarating, then everything gets thrown at it but in a glorious Polyphonic Spree kind of way. Double drums, strings, everyone singing, the last 90-seconds are beautifully pure, everyone in the zone.

Impossible stuff, just to feel your love

Oh I'd do anything for you


PREVIOUS 10 FROM ... BLOGS

1. The Vaselines

2. The Lemonheads

3. The Pastels

4. Primal Scream

5. BMX Bandits

6. Belle and Sebastian

7. The Charlatans

8. Hope Sandoval 

9. Edwyn Collins

10. New Order



Saturday, 14 November 2020

Save McChuills


 A quiet post work pint in McChuills back in January before
Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5 at the Old Fruitmarket

I can't pinpoint the first time I visited McChuills, situated on High Street in Glasgow. The first time might have been by chance, stumbling across it on route to the Barrowlands. But between 1999 and 2010 (and especially from 2001 when I moved to Dennistoun) it became a pretty regular haunt for me. And even post kids and a move out to Uddingston, McChuills is still a pub I'd visit more than any other in town, especially pre and post Barrowland shows.

Back in the pre-smoking ban days McChuills was one of those bars you could walk into and feel like you could literally cut a square of cigarette smoke out the air. The low curved ceilings just seemed to let the smoke gather and hang. 

McChuills has something that you can't fake. It has soul, it has character, it has characters. I remember walking in one night and spotting this sharp suited mod behind the bar, 3-piece suit, smoking a cigar, glasses on, grey hair swept with a kind of Andy Warhol vibe, but even cooler. He was pouring pints, pulling CD's from the mass walled library of them that sat alongside all kinds of spirits, putting incredible tunes on and talking to everyone in the place.

Nicky Stewart, McChuills

This was my introduction to Nicky Stewart, the charismatic owner of McChuills. Regular visits would ensure that we would get on nodding terms and eventually chat. McChuills is the kind of bar that was great to visit with friends, but also great for popping in for a pint if you were passing and I'd pass quite frequently when I chose to walk home from work to Dennistoun, maybe after popping into Monorail.

There was one time that I sat at the bar for a pint and Nick asked what I'd bought and asked if I wanted him to play anything, so I handed over a Roots CD and asked him to play The Seed (2.0) which he did. And it seemed to fit the McChuills vibe, I felt chuffed when Nick nodded approvingly.

Another time I was sitting at the bar with my friend Reddy, possibly late on a Saturday afternoon and Pale Blue Eyes by the Velvet Underground was on. Nick was talking to us and I said how much I loved the song and 'imagine being the girl that Lou Reed wrote the song for'. Nick loved this and bought me and Reddy a drink.

That was one side of McChuills. The other was the wilder nights. I remember being up on chairs and up on the wee stage through the side of the bar a number of times at closing time when Tainted Love by Gloria Jones was blasted out, always a popular end of night anthem. The whole pub would just go wild.

Pre club nights were always popular at McChuills and there were a number of times my friends and I just decided to stay in McChuills rather than go to the club! The record sleeves and posters that adorn the walls of the bar hint at the taste of the pub; mod, garage and psych are essential to the vibe of the place. The pub was central to Glasgow's Mod Weekender and there were many nights in the early 00's where I would be in the bar before heading round to Friday Street in Blackfriars basement. The music I discovered was incredible.

It wasn't just mod and northern soul. A friend Paul ran a pre-club night for his club called Spectrum which was electro focused, one time I was in on a Sunday evening and it was hip hop, Britpop was popular - anything good. And it was always good music at McChuills.

The staff were always incredibly cool, looking like they either were in bands or they should be. Many were, including members of The Fratellis and Medicine Men. There was also a gorgeous barmaid called Lynsey that I think every guy in Glasgow fancied. And I got to know a nice guy called Derek who worked there for years before moving on. A super cool but super friendly bunch of people and that was the vibe McChuills pulled off effortlessly.

After a Gerry Cinnamon show at the Barrowland
We ditched the last train home

Talking of staff, those in the know will remember the legendary Ted. A night at McChuills was even better if Ted was in and he was in most nights! 

One of my favourite nights was when Primal Scream played the Barrowland on December 30th 2011. A crowd of us met up in McChuills beforehand, going on to the show and then back to the bar. One of the crowd, Scott, proposed to his girlfriend Jo during Higher Than The Sun, the post show party and celebration at McChuills was incredible! 

Post kids I'd always look for a wee excuse to get friends together at McChuills. The nights were not quite as wild, but the beer would flow. I organised pre Barrowland meet ups for Teenage Fanclub a couple of times and one time for The Charlatans where Tim Burgess even made up a mix CD to be played in the bar. 

With the Teenage Fanclub Fanclub

What I loved about those meet ups was that friends would be there, but also people I had met through band forums/chat rooms would come, many visiting from far afield to see a show at the famous Barrowland and I was always pleased when people would compliment me on my choice of bar.

If you're a music fan, I guess with similar taste to me, you can't fail to be impressed by McChuills. The bar is just nicely in its own little bubble. Not in the Merchant City, but close, on a main road, but still somehow off the beaten track.

It is en route to Celtic Park though. I wouldn't describe it as a Celtic pub, but it is a favourite of Celtic fans and I know Nicky is a season ticket holder. I remember finishing work early one day Celtic were playing Barcelona and going down to McChuills as I knew it would get rammed before the game. The atmosphere was incredible and I stayed to watch the game in the bar while most people went to the game. 

So yeah, McChuills holds a very special place in my heart and it is a very special bar and venue. It's more than that and I think that is perfectly captured in the crowdfunder that was launched last night to hopefully secure the future of this incredible bar.

I'll be donating and I am positive that music and football fans from Glasgow and beyond will dig deep.

I know where I want a night out when all this is over. 

Please check the crowdfunder and donate if you can. I know times are tough, but we need places to return to, so we can celebrate, meet our friends, hear good music and be in good company.

#savemcchuills





Friday, 6 November 2020

Take Me To The River

 


Cover version of the month #61
Talking Heads cover Al Green

Written by Al Green with his guitarist Mabon Hodges in 1973, then released on the album Al Green Explores Your Mind in 1974, Take Me To The River is a song that I probably first came across as a 15-year old when it featured in the film The Commitments. I must check if that is on Netflix! (UPDATE - it's not but it is on Amazon Prime).

Rather surprisingly, considering the way the song has become so well known, Green's version was never released as a single. However, his label mate Syl Johnson released it in 1975, using the same producer and musicians.

Johnson's version is very true to the original, with the addition of harmonica. It's his vocals that are just slightly different and I'd never, ever heard it until researching this blog. The vocals are rawer, I love how Johnson just goes for it a little more than Green. 

In the original, Green starts with a dedication to his cousin, before launching into the song, his voice sounds effortless as he sings of love and lust before being cleansed in the river. His yelp at 2 minutes 53 seconds is spine tingling.

Love is an ocean that I can't forget

Talking Heads released their cover version in 1978 on their second album More Songs About Buildings and Food. By then Johnson, Levon Helme and Bryan Ferry had also recorded versions. This was a song that captivated people!

Talking Heads stretch the original, which was 3 minutes 45 seconds, to a little over 5 minutes. They really hone in on the groove, Tina Weymouth's bass underpins everything, David Byrne strains and plays with his vocal. The band keep it all under control, in the groove, at times they threaten to take off (most notably very near the end), but they just keep it going in that groove, lost in it.

But check out their live versions! The song features on the albums The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads and Stop Making Sense. The addition of backing vocals, the shredding of an electric guitar and an enhanced beat move the groove and the pace of the song up a notch or two. Byrne goes for it with his vocals, especially the hug me, squeeze me, love me, tease me section.

The band drop it down to the bass groove and backing vocals and it is absolutely mesmerising, then the rest of the band kick in with Byrne really pushing things. It's a stunning version, beautifully captured. The sound of a band having fun and in full flight.

Search for Everything Flows cool cover versions on Spotify for a playlist of the covers I have blogged about and read on for a full list and links to previous cover of the month blogs. I've added the studio and live versions by Talking Heads, as well as the Syl Johnson and Levon Helme versions.

Previous covers of the month

13. Hurt