I hear the sirens calling
As the rain is gently falling

RIP Joe Maher

Flowered Up Weekender film posterI’m sad to hear the news that Flowered Up guitarist Joe Maher has died. It’s only three years since the death of Liam Maher, Flowered Up’s singer and Joe’s older brother.

Click here for an interview I did with Liam for Melody Maker around the time of the release of the band’s “Weekender” single, one of the greatest records ever made. That’s not an opinion, by the way, that’s a simple statement of fact.

Farewell to the Wirrina

The Wirrina Stadium in PeterboroughThe Damned ticket for Wirrina Stadium in Peterborough, 1979I’ve just found out that the Wirrina Stadium in Peterborough was pulled down a couple of years ago. It wasn’t really much of a stadium, it was more a grubby sports hall, but I saw quite a lot of bands play at the Wirrina in the late 1970s and early 80s, and I have fond memories of the place. Among the gigs I particularly remember were The Clash (the 1978 “Sort It Out Tour”, supported by The Slits and The Innocents), The Damned, Siouxsie And The Banshees and Madness (supported by The Go-Go’s). I wrote about The Damned’s show, which ended in something of a riot, in Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail (click here to read that part of the book over at my archive website) and the image of Ari Up from The Slits bouncing and skipping across the stage with her dreadlocks dripping in spit will stay with me for ever.

I’ve no idea what they’ve built on the site of the Wirrina, but I guess there’s every chance that it’s a Tesco or a Sainsbury’s or some other fluorescent-lit temple of consumerism. If it is, I sincerely hope that, every once in a while, some unsuspecting late-night shopper hears the sound of Ari Up singing “Shoplifting” drifting down the aisle: “Put the cheddar in me pocket / Put the rest under the jacket / Talk to the cashier, he won’t suspect / And if he does, if he does…”

Wirrina Stadium photograph courtesy of Peterborough Images

Sitting in the waiting room

Fugazi were one of the best live bands I ever saw. Raw, intense, direct, explosive, painfully sincere. They only knew how to play one way – and they played it all the way. What I remember most about their gigs was the close connection between the group and the audience. Everybody had an equal role in the buzzing, churning, constantly shifting mass of energy. The above clip of them performing “Waiting Room” at the Wilson Center in their home city of Washington DC in late 1988 shows exactly what I’m talking about here. The footage was shot by Jim Spellman, who was the drummer of Sub Pop band Velocity Girl and is now a CNN journalist.

Fugazi clocked up something like 1,000 live shows during their 16 years on active service (they’ve been having what they call an “indefinite hiatus” since 2002) and a staggering 800 of their gigs were recorded by their sound engineers. A few of these were issued on CD in 2004 and now, after many years in development, the band have launched the Fugazi Live Series, a project which aims to make every one of their live audio recordings available online. It’s an ambitious plan, that’s for sure, but 180 shows have been posted in the last three months, all professionally mastered and ready to download at a suggested price of $5 each (less if you can’t afford that). The project is curated by Dischord Records, the US hardcore label owned by Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye. As well as Fugazi’s records, Dischord has also put out material by the likes of Minor Threat (MacKaye’s band before Fugazi), Scream (Dave Grohl’s first group), Government Issue, Lungfish, Nation Of Ulysses and Soulside.

If that’s not enough Fugazi for you, click here to read the interview I did with the band in London in 1989. You should maybe have a nose around the rest of my archive website – Pushstuff –while you’re at it.

New stuff on my website

I’ve just uploaded a few more bits and bobs to Pushstuff, my archive website. Follow the links to read interviews with Flowered Up, Digital Underground, Bandulu, Nagamatzu and Terry Edwards, live reviews of My Bloody Valentine, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and US:UK, and album reviews of The Grid and Vagtazo Halottkemek, my all-time favourite Hungarian psychedelic rockers. I’ve also put up pieces about The Beatles and their 1960s merchandising items and the legal actions brought against 2 Live Crew over their notorious “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” album. Goodness, I do spoil you people, don’t I?

A bit of Guns N’ Roses for your wall

Guns N' Roses at The Marquee in London (1987) by Richard Bellia

My old buddy Richard Bellia has a small selection of his photographs available as prints at Yellow Korner, a website specialising in affordable art imagery. The prints include Joe Strummer (The Clash), Robert Smith (The Cure), reggae idol Lee “Scratch” Perry, two different photos of Nirvana, and the above shot of Guns N’ Roses, which was taken at The Marquee in the summer of 1987, on the band’s first trip to London. Each print is numbered, comes with a certificate of authenticity, and costs €69 – a bargain at twice the price.

I worked with Richard on loads of jobs for Melody Maker in the late Eighties and early Nineties. One of my most vivid memories was when we covered the 1988 Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donington, an event marred by the tragic death of two fans in the crush of the crowd during Guns N’ Roses’ set. You can read my review of the festival here and a Guns N’ Roses piece based on a couple of interviews I did with Slash (one of them backstage at Donington) here. And if you’ve not had enough of clicking, you can read more about Richard Bellia here. This last link is an extract from my book Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail, in which Richard plays a leading part (although I’m sure Scabies and I would have found the bloody thing quicker without him).

New stuff on my website

I’ve just uploaded some more old scribblings to Pushstuff. Get yourself across there for interviews with SoundgardenS’Express and The Frank And Walters, reviews of NWA (“Straight Outta Compton”) and The Wonder Stuff (“Eight Legged Groove Machine”), Brett Anderson revealing all about the cover artwork of Suede‘s first two singles, and an article on Brian Eno‘s adventures beyond the world of music. The Eno piece, which was written in 1994, includes a reference to Eno being a member of “a computer-networked association of 100 musicians, artists and intellectuals”. A computer-networked association, eh? Stone me. The way things are going you’ll probably soon be able to take pictures with your telephone.

Blog post three

I’ve started this blog as a bolt-on to Pushstuff, an archive website of some of my old scribblings. Most of the Pushstuff stuff was originally written for Melody Maker, the UK weekly music paper, but my site also has a few bits written for other magazines and some book extracts. I have turned the “Pushstuff” in the first sentence above into a handy little link and you’ll find another link at the top of the list to the right, so you’ve no excuse for not heading over there straight away.

I guess I’ll be mainly posting about music on Pushblog, but I’ll no doubt drift off into other subjects every once in a while. I’m easily distracted. Don’t expect too many long essays, though. In fact, don’t expect any. I suspect most of my blog posts are going to be little more than extended photo captions and look-at-this-link things. I’m sure YouTube videos will be featuring quite heavily. All of which assumes I haven’t stopped posting altogether by this time next week. We’ll see.