Sunday, 31 August 2008

Matt Bauer

The Island Moved in the Storm takes its name from a stretch of gravel and shale in a bend of Triplett Creek where Bauer grew up” After a hard rain, the island would "move" and change shape, adapting to the new flow of water. The album reflects this vision of impermanence and fleeting beauty”

Matt Bauer’s music incorporates the elements of accordion, banjos, bells and Wurlitzer organs that complements his soft understated voice. It could be loosely filed under Americana. It feeds directly from the rich heritage of American roots music that was celebrated in the milestone collection 'Anthology of American Folk Music’ and the celebrated folk/bluegrass of The Carter Family. This is not to suggest that his music is stuck in the past, for the tunes are fresh, contemporary and relevant. There is an honesty in the way Matt Bauer has crafted beautiful, simple songs, where the attention is focused on the soul of the tunes, allowing them to flourish without the need to clutter with too much unnecessary details.

Matt grew up in the Daniel Boone National Forest at the foothills of Appalachia in Eastern Kentucky and cites influences as diverse as Gillian Welch, Steve Earle and Fugazi. Though he is now based in Greenpoint, Brooklin, he obviously continues to draw deeply from the well of his former home territory. There is a loose concept behind the collection of songs making up the 'The Island Moved in The Storm' album, taking inspiration of the tragic tale of an unidentified body found in 1968, near to where Matt grew up. The case of the dead girl came to be known as ‘Tent Girl’ due to her body being found wrapped up in tent tarpaulin. More of the fascinating story of the efforts to solve the mystery of her identity over a thirty years period can be found here. Matt's haunting melodies serve the subject matter of the murder mystery well.

The influence of the wilderness, permeates throughout his music. There's a stark clarity and desire for the simple truths to be found within, telling it straight, if you like, without the influence of the collective cacophony of urban America to impede the flow. This is a soundtrack of a sabbatical of solitude into the mountains, like that in which Bon Iver participated in recently with such successful results. It also reminds me of beat generation writer Jack Kerouac’s time working as a fire-watcher on remote Desolation Peak in North Cascades National Park, as chronicled in his books 'Desolation Angels' and 'Dharma Bums' , with his wish to strip away the confusion to gain a new enlightenment about the nature of life.

Matt assembled a cast of talented performers for contributions on his second full length studio album, including Angel Deradoorian (Dirty Projectors), Alela Diane, Mariee Sioux, Greg McMullen (Chris Whitley), Elizabeth Dotson-Westphalen (St. Vincent), Nathan Wanta (Last of the Blacksmiths), Angela Webster (Rhett Miller), and longtime collaborator Frank Floyd.
The album The Island Moved In The Storm is released on 2nd September 2008
through La Société Expéditionnaire. Matt has already released an E.P called 'Wasps and White Roses' via Crossbill Records in 2006 and a self-released album in 2004 titled 'Nandina'

I have to thank muzzleofbees for enlightening me to the joys of Matt Bauer, that’s what it’s all about, spreading the word about music that we appreciate and deserves wider attention, also a nod to thankcaptainobvious for his excellent posting on our man Bauer.

Don't Let Me Out

He off on a U.S tour so catch him at the following locations, how about crossing the pond at some point soon Matt? You’ll go down a storm!

08/29/08 - Brooklyn, NY - Union Pool
09/04/08 - Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's
09/05/08 - Baltimore, MD - Golden West
09/06/08 - Chapel Hill, NC - Eaglewing Farm
09/08/08 - Knoxville, TN - The Pilot Light
09/09/08 - Nashville, TN - The End
09/12/08 - Norman, OK - Opolis
09/13/08 - Dallas, TX - The Cavern w/Evangelicals
09/14/08 - Austin, TX - Emos Lounge
09/17/08 - Tuscon, AZ - Plush
09/18/08 - Los Angeles, CA - Hotel Cafe
09/19/08 - KDVS fm - Live on Cool as Folk radio
09/19/08 - Davis, CA - Primary Concepts
09/21/08 - Sacramento, CA - Luigi's Fun Garden
09/24/08 - Santa Cruz, CA - The Crepe Place
10/02/08 - Seattle, WA - Sunset Tavern
10/03/08 - Portland, OR - Holocene
10/04/08 - Yakima, WA - Yakima Sports Center
10/09/08 - Des Moines, IA - Vaudville Mews
10/11/08 - Chicago, IL - AV-Aerie
10/13/08 - Bloomington, IN - Cinemat
10/16/08 - Lexington, KY - Al's Bar
10/17/08 - Columbus, OH - Cafe Bourbon St.
10/18/08 - Pittsburgh, PA - Club Cafe w/Woven Hand

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


If you are in need a serious injection of sunny summer pop loveliness, Headlights are your band. They are an indie threesome from Champaign, Illinois, who deliver a plethora of pastoral pop, that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and mellow your mood. It's like lying in a meadow, watching the clouds drift by and listening to the crows make the most of the farmer harvesting the crops in the distance. This is a corn doll not corn ball experience.

The group are principally made up of Erin Fein on vocals and keyboards, Tristan Wraight on vocals, guitar, plus bass and Brett Sanderson on drums. They formed in 2004 from the remnants of two bands Maserati and Absinthe Blind. They released an E.P 'The Enemies' which was picked up by the Polyvinyl label and re-released in 2005. A debut album 'Kill Them With Kindness' followed in 2006 and they performed a gruelling schedule of 300 gigs up until Spring 2007 when the trio retreated to the nest, for some well deserved R&R.

The nest was an old two-story farmhouse near Champaign from where Headlights began crafting their next full length album, 'Some Racing, Some Stopping' Listening to tracks hatched from this collection, the influence of their semi-rural surroundings is obvious, as the music has a kick back, drink some iced tea and feel the breeze in your hair, quality about it.

Headlights-Cherry Tulips


The band are back on tour, augmented by Nick Sanborn and John Owen, to promote the new album worldwide, throughout the rest of 2008. They bring a reputation for putting on a quality show and are chirpier than a field of crickets, so be prepared to be dazzled by Headlights, my music loving bunnies, hop to the beat and scamper to the sounds of summer.

U.S.A leg of the tour 2008

30th August Champaign, IL Courtyard Cafe
6th September Brooklyn , NY Brooklyn Bridge Park
19th September Madison, WI Forward Music Festival
20th September Urbana, IL Pygmalion Music Festival
27th September Cincinnati, OH Midpoint Music Festival
28thSeptember Columbus, OH High Five
29th September Upland, IN Taylor University

U.K leg of the tour 2008

22nd October Hull, The Adelphi
23rd October Kingston, New Slang
24th October Newport, Le Pub
25th October Exeter, Cavern Club
26th October Belfast, Auntie Annies
27th October Dublin, Whelans
28th October Leeds, The Faversham
29th October London, Windmill

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Rodrigeuz - Cold Fact

There was genuine excitement here at Scratchy Towers, upon hearing of the imminent re-issue of Cold Fact by Rodriguez. He is bone-a-fide cult singer songwriter, from the cusp of the sixties/Seventies, who fully merits the hype and plaudits now being heaped upon him. His debut album is one of those golden nuggets that slipped through the fingers of the industry first time around and his music deserves to reach a wider audience today.

I say ‘wider audience’ but Rodriguez already has a huge following in Australia, New Zealand and especially in South Africa, where his anti establishment lyrics stuck a chord with the youth, during the apartheid era. He has also become a staple soundtrack of certain alternative communities, particularly in the surfing crowd, where his popularity has spread largely through word of mouth and this is the route by which this album crossed my path. Now usually, I’d approach any recommendation from a shark dodging wave monkey, with severe trepidation, mainly because the track record of surfer approved artists is littered with second rate grunge rockers and sensitive dread locked white dudes strumming about soul surfing. However, this is very much the exception to the rule and so I consigned a copy of the C.D to tape ‘HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC’ It got played very regularly until it was nearly worn out, eventually the tape somehow got lost in transit. Now, I can finally get a replacement and make up for past illegal taping activities!

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez born in Detroit in 1942, the sixthsixto child of a middle class immigrant Mexican family. He picked up the guitar, when he was sixteen and Sixto soon became adept at playing and writing songs with a folk/blues style.

In 1967 he released a single ‘I'll Slip Away’ under the moniker of Rod Riguez, though the small label ‘Impact’ Unfortunately, it didn’t make an impact, but by 1969 he had come to the attention of Dennis Coffey from Motown Record's legendary session group ‘The Funk Brothers’ Coffey enlisted fellow 'Brother' Mike Theodore and together they produced Sixto's debut record at the Tera-Shirma Studio in Detroit, fleshing out his acoustic guitar, with fellow Funk Brother Bob Babbet contributing on bass, Bob Pangborn on percussion and Andrew Smith on drums. ‘Cold Fact’ was released in March 1970 on Sussex Records, a subsidiary of the famous Buddah label.

Cold Fact is a blend of psychedelic folk, rock and blues but what was extraordinary, is that beneath the hippie folk veneer, lurked a hauntingly downbeat vibe. The soul of this record is deeply troubled with cynical lyrics, that speak of inner-city bitterness, paranoia and angst set to a disintegrating urban backdrop. A comparison can be drawn with Arthur Lee’s band Love. The legendary 'Forever Changes' has a mellow pastoral beauty on the surface, but if you listen closely, there’s a similar despondent paranoid air just like on Cold Fact. The ‘Sugar Man’ track has a drug dealing/addiction theme and ‘I Wonder’ is an exercise in sexual suspicion. These were fractious times in America and perhaps it wasn’t ready for a musical mirror being held up to reflect some unpalatable truths. Whatever the reason, the reality was, that commercially speaking, Cold Fact bombed in the U.S.A .

The follow up album ‘Coming From Reality’ was recorded in London with producer Steve Rowland who had previously worked with The Pretty Things and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich Rodrigeuz was backed by a pack of top British session studio players. It was released in November 1971 through Sussex Records but despite the input of this quality, the record fared even worse than it's predecessor, Sixto parted company from the label and from the wider music scene.

This is where the story like Sixto's would usually end as a mere footnote in pop history, but the remarkable rise in his popularity outside of the States and the U.K, that happened in his absence, meant that his music didn't fade into obscurity. Blue Goose Music bought the Australian rights to his back catalogue and re-issued the albums for an eager new fanbase. By the late Seventies, the cult of Rodiguez had grown to the extent, that he toured Australia and went back for a final tour in 1981 supporting Midnight Oil.

He dropped off the radar once more and speculation was rife about his whereabouts. Wild rumours spread: he had died of a heroin overdose, been committed to an asylum or even that he had been killed on stage. The reality was that he was living in his native Detroit with his two daughters, working as a gas station attendant, construction worker, school teacher, social worker and even involved in politics, running independently, but unsuccessfully for mayor (twice) senator and city council.

In 1998, his daughter Regan learnt of his fame in South Africa, through a fan site and so Sixto was persuaded to perform again for a sold-out tour and he also toured Sweden in June 1998.
Interest was further rekindled, when rapper Nas sampled the track 'Sugar Man' on 'You're Da Man' in 2001 and David Holmes used 'Sugar Man' track as part of his 'Presents The Free Association' compilation in 2003.

Light in The Attic are due to re-issue Cold Fact on C.D on September 8th 2008 in the U.K
and 19th August 2008 in North America, the rest of the world it's 1st September 2008.
They have produced a limited edition vinyl LP (1,000 copies) using 180 gram wax, hand-numbered old school tip-on jacket, bonus 45, full color liner notes insert and fifty of the thousand LPs 'WILL CONTAIN SIGNED POSTERS AUTOGRAPHED BY RODRIGUEZ' Three cheers for putting some effort into this kind of packaging for the plastic lovers.

Sugar Man

Official Site:

Buy the album: + free 'Sugar Man' mp3

Friday, 22 August 2008

2 Pigs 1 'Up?

Those of a nervous disposition should look away now. AVERT YOUR EYES lest your conscious be consumed by all the shame & fear in your heart!

If you were born post 1970 it's very likely you have no memory of these little chaps save from sickly 'remember the 60's - weren't they crap' video clip shows.

The product of 2 Czech immigrants Jan & Vlasta Dalibor, they were the teletubbies of the day for 11 years until they were canned in 1968. With "cute" speeded up voices & covers of popular tunes (including - of course - "puppet on a string"!) they became the first single ever bought for me.

Ahh, Bless! *pauses to vom*

It's very hard for me to rate these tracks as they invoke overriding memories for me (and for the nursery rhyme LP that I couldn't listen to the last track of cos it really shitted me up!). I leave it to you to judge for yourselves.

They say time is a healer (at least, Little Feat did) - I'm going to go cuddle teddy now.

The "Up, Up & Away" single features:

1. Up, UP & Away (Webb)

2. Doctor Doolittle (Bricusse)

3. Puppet on a String (Martin-Coulter)

4. All You Need Is Love (Lennon-McCartney)

You can hear rips of these at

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Sparky's Magic Piano

Sparky's Magic Piano is a record, based on the exploits of a little boy with an over active imagination. This is the second in a series of children’s audio stories featuring Sparky, an original character created for Capitol Records in 1947. The album shown is a double header with ‘Sparky and the Talking Train’ on the flip side, my copy was pressed in 1961. Henry Blair portrayed Sparky, throughout most of the series, Ray Turner carried out piano duties, the music was credited to Billy May and narration of the story on is by Verne Smith.

The story concerns a little boy who has got an over active imagination, that takes him off into a dream world, where he can talk to his piano. Sparky initially, doesn’t like taking his piano lessons, but when he starts to communicate with his special piano, he is suddenly able to play brilliantly, to the amazement of his mother and piano teacher. A concert tour follows and Sparky turns into a star, but the adulation goes to his head. The piano has had enough of this behaviour and decides to take him down a peg or two. It refuses to co-operate during a big performance, at Carnegie Hall, leading to onstage disaster and humiliation for the young lad. Sparky is brought back down to earth and also back to reality with a bump, but not before he vows to practice properly and gain achievement on merit this time.

On the flip side, is 'Sparky and the Magic Train' In this story, Sparky hears the voice of a steam train that he’s on, who warns him of impending disaster further up the track. No one believes him at first of course, and why should they, he’s a serial fibber, however he eventually persuades the driver to stop the train in the nick of time and all ends well.

The kid's obviously prone to telling a few whoppers and needs something to calm him down. To be frank, Sparky's a bit of a pain, with his wholesome as apple pie demeanour, but you can’t deny the timeless quality of the tales, which have a lasting appeal for children. Luckily, I grew up on stuff like ‘The Faraway Tree’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ they were proper left field fables to engage and freak out an overly imaginative youngster and reading them never did me any harm, let me tell you.

Sparky has also appeared in comic books as a side kick to Capitol’s other famous creation, Bozo The Clown.

If you feel the need to listen to it, Sparky can be downloaded here or there

One of the many pleasures of trawling for new music, is having a happy little accident and stumbling across an interesting band, that’s previously been off my radar. This is the case with Sparky’s Magic Piano, a duo from London, whose website popped up, whilst doing some perfunctory research for the above item.

Marion Turnbull and Oliver Bartlett create a D.I.Y indie-electro groove thang with glockenspiels, recorders and synthesisers thrown into the mix. The results are simple and charming pop tunes that give a warm glow, like toasting marshmallows by the open fire on a Sunday, waiting for ‘The Muppet Show’ to come on. Marion’s very English clipped vocals remind me of Sarah Nixey's on Luke Haines Black Box Recorder project, with a sprinkling of Saint Etienne's approach to music making, cast into the mix. They self released a debut album in 2007, called ‘Feel The Beat And Do It Anyway!’ on Melody Factory label. The single ‘Like Falling In Love’ is particularly perky and as they develop, I'm sure extra sparks will create some more spell binding magical songs, in the near future.

Monday, 18 August 2008

The First Legendary London Chazza Hunt!

Here is the first of an ongoing series of reports, documenting our record hunting forays into the wilds of the nation's charity shops, the route was designed to take in some quality boozers along the way. Actually, this is our second joint chazza hunt/pub crawl, but we neglected to get the necessary evidence last time around, this was when we landed our ‘belly dancing’ finds (see January 2008) as the fruits of our labours. Itchy decided that Balham would be our happy hunting ground, so we set out on a sunny Saturday, with a spring in our step.

The first port of call was at a proper chazza, no corporate branding here, the sign does what it says, in a no nonsense fashion. Inside it was packed full of actual gifted items, not clogged up with scented candles sent by head office. Proper volunteers were doing sterling work behind the counter, in aid of a good cause. I set about looking through the plastic pile and settled on ZZ Top, Bon Jovi and Madness, I also persuaded Itchy to try out Van Halen's classic Fair Warning, though he's usually non plussed at listening to the denim clad end of the rock spectrum. It's like we’ve been transported back to my youth, Marty McFly style, head banging heaven.

Next stop was the FARA shop, where I had been promised a basement full of cratey delights to check through, a veritable Aladdin’s cave, including a turntable to test out any prospective purchases. Unfortunately, it was out of action, so it was back to the trusty Scratchy sixth sense.

A Ghostface/Method Man album sampler quickly popped up, followed by an Animals That Swim long player and a Ride E.P. Then most gratifyingly for me, was The Darkside album, which I'd been meaning to get since 1990, when Spacemen 3 was at the centre of my turntable universe. Other contenders, were a signed Dodgy double album that turned out to be missing one record and Crazy Horses by The Osmonds, which was scratched to buggery. Locating a haul of interesting singles made up for those disappointments. Itchy sniffed out some dance stuff and it was onwards to our next target, with an increasingly heavy record bag.

Object d'art of the day was in the form of a device, labelled ‘car bomb’ for £4. We appreciated the humour, but didn't buy it, as the men from the ministry might have be watching and haul us off for a long stretch at Guantánamo Bay, with no recourse to any sort of trial, so we left the trinket!

Itchy was keen to get to the Trinity Hospice, where he nattered to the friendly bloke behind the counter, as I sauntered over to the record basket. A Violinski single on Jet Records from 1979 appeared - it had to be connected to E.L.O so I snapped it up for my sins. The Starlings twelve inch also caught my eye as did the autobiography of Slash on the bookshelves. This must be a tale of true rock’n’roll Sodom and Gomorrah, only surpassed by Led Zeppelin’s ‘Hammer of the Gods’ and the Motley Crue biography! but at £4 it was a budget buster, so it was left to gather some more dust.

A quick hop and a step across the road, took us into one of the corporate chazzas. A British Heart Foundation, with copious amounts of laminate and missing that tell tale mouldy atmosphere that authentic chazzas exude. It made me want to rip my shirt off, light a cigar and yell “I love the smell of mustiness in the morning” Ashopolipse Now style. There was a small section of the precious black stuff and we saw a promising fifties design with ‘Penthouse’ on the title and a lewd cover, however on closer inspection, it looked like a standard lounge act. We left the premises empty handed, our first strike out of the day.

The final visit of the day was to Cancer Research establishment. Our progress was temporally halted by the presence of a couple of young whippersnappers, however the overbearing hovering of a couple of sweaty ole geezers, meant that these scenesters swiftly departed, clearing the way for Itchy to continue on his quest to pick up obscure dance platters. I settled on a Jerry Harrison album mainly because it had a Sebastiao Salgado photograph on the front cover and Gold Mother by indie/baggy manc poppits James. We had run out of juice by now, it was time to sit down, so it was off to the pub on the last leg of our journey.

We zipped over The Clarency or ‘The Dog's Arse Sniffer’ as it had been rechristened, where we took the weight off our feet and surveyed our haul of treasure. The friendly waitress sportingly offered that it was ‘awesome’ as she must have inwardly wondered, about what kind of oddballs, had stumbled in on her shift. Beers were quaffed, lunch was consumed and we kicked back to spectacle of the Olympic coverage of the women’s weight lifting competition. Seeing agricultural ladies lift unfeasible amounts of weight above their heads, was oddly compelling and a fine conclusion to the inaugural Great London Chazza Spectacular.

Scratchy’s Final Tally with initial impressions


Animals that Swim- I Was The King, I Really Was The King
clever rock with similarities to The Auteurs
Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet
poodle hair rock classic
The Darkside - All That Noise
solid if unspectacular fuzz rock
James - Gold Mother
couple of crackers and plenty of filler
Jerry HarrisonCasual Gods
Talking Heads lite
Method Man/ Ghostface - Tical 0 Album Sampler
shocking, this is no Ironman, worst buy of the day!
ZZ Top - Afterburner
afterthought to Eliminator the synths are annoying
Madness - Keep Moving
A band running out of steam, saved by Michael Caine


Ride Dreams Burn Down (Fall)Reverb aplenty, the shoegaze revival must be around the corner!
Verrucca Salt - Seether
An exquisite Lo Fi/grunge pop classic, of course
The Starlings - Wasn’t Born To Follow
Chirpy fey indie from the Eighties


- Sea Dust
Post rock chilledness
The Cardigans - Sick And Tired
Nordic indie pop loveliness
The Cardigans - Carnival
more pop perfection with a bonus flipside Ozzy Osborne’s Mr Crowley done acapella style, lovely and haunting.
Violinski - Time To Live
footnote to the E.L.O story
Tarnation - There’s Someone
A soundtrack to an art house western movie , interesting a winner!

Dirty Three/Scenic
(split7”) – Strange Holiday/When The Time Comes
alt shoegaze/post rock, an unassuming gem
Minital Rock Steady Vol 1 (split 4ways) Formula One/Magic Water/Chevette/Ricky Spontane
Possibly find of the day - fun packed D.I.Y indie pop
Superchunk - Hello Hawk
Like your favourite chocolate that’s been downsized to ‘funsize’
Inperial Teen -You’re One
adolescent tantrums throwing a musical strop on - good stuff

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Feral Children

We have lots of feral children round our way, roaming in packs, all exuding a savage demeanour with an underlying aura of menace. It's all part of the collapse of civilised culture in British urban communities, or the increasing neglect and demonisation of our nations misunderstood youth, depending on whether you're a hand wringing wet nosed liberal or a 'bring back National Service' type with a hang'em and flog 'em approach to discipline.

Feral Children are a Seattle based, experimental rock five piece, who have recently released their debut album 'Second to The Last Frontier' on Sarathan Records. They recorded it in six days and enlisted Scott Colburn, of Animal Collective, Arcade Fire, Mudhoney and Modest Mouse production merit, to do the studio magic. The band have just one previous release, with a four track E.P called 'Eternity Emergency' which came out in 2006.

Jim Cotton (bass/vocals) and Jeff Keenan (guitar/vocals/percussion) were junior high school friends from the backwater town Maple Valley, WA, they started playing music as a diversion from the boredom of these rural surroundings. They recruited guitarist Josh Gamble and keyboardist Sergy Posrednikov and became Blood Alley Accident. After graduating from high school, the band went their separate ways for a couple of years, but Cotton reassembled his musical compatriots, in the musical cauldron of Seattle, enlisting a second drummer, Bill Cole as well and F.C were born. These guys are by no means the finished article, but tracks like Jaundice Giraffe and Spy/Glasshouse stand out, as fizzling with enough malevolent energy, to make one sit up and take notice. It's a vibe that should connect with an eager indie/alt/new wave rock audience.

They quote The Raincoats as an influence and a nod towards Killing Joke and The God Machine springs to mind, but Feral Children are less relentless in the pursuit of a sonic attack and can change the pace of the tunes, by side stepping into more delicate sequences. The music has a brooding intensity, with duel drums orchestrating a heathen beat, images of a tribal gathering are conjured up, where some unspeakable sacrifice might just take place. Arcade Fire references are also bandied about, but this is a bit of a red herring, as the almost religious fervor, that is induced by the Fire's rich layered sound, is akin to them playing to a converted congregation. F.C are more primal in their approach, a street preacher hectoring passing pedestrians if you like, demanding that they stop and listen to his tormented rant, for the good of their souls.

They exude that 'frontier' quality of their album title, that nestles within the dark underbelly of American culture. It's all about claiming a piece of the virgin soil, pitching up and surviving the first harsh winter, establishing yourself on the farm and perhaps even prospering, according to to your will to survive. Picture Grant Wood's 'American Gothic' painting, pitchfork and all, think about an obscure religious sect, set in the Kansas countryside, with failing crops ravaged by disease, whose children are struck down by strange afflictions, brought on by too much interbreeding. Feral Children are the sounds lurking inside a deserted trailer in Blair Witch territory. They are the child Laura Ingalls Wilder never speaks of, tapping away in the cellar, beneath the Little House on Prairie!

Get free mp3s here

Friday, 8 August 2008

Paddy Roberts 'Songs For Gay Dogs'

Here's another one of those classic album covers, that needs to be documented and celebrated. The title is a bit misleading, in that it's referring to 'jolly' canines, rather than out and proud mutts. In fact, the only gay dog I can think of, off the top of my head, is Sparky from South Park, though I'm sure there must be other rainbow rovers around and about.

Paddy Roberts (1910-1975) was a singer/songwriter, who's act consisted of singing songs with slightly risqué lyrics, which would now be described as a bit naughty or politically incorrect. He had a very well refined laid back delivery, with a cut glass English accent, that reminds one of a John Le Mesurier or Noel Coward persona of a typical dapper English gentleman. This belied his South African roots, having been born in Durban as John Godfrey Owen Roberts, growing up in a comfortably off, professional family environment. He arrived in Britain in 1936 and began to build up commercial songwriting credentials, co-writing his earliest hits 'Angel Of The Great White Way' in 1938 and 'Horsey Horsey'. He also appeared on B.B.C radio, as part of the Tin Pan Alley trio. However, this burgeoning career was put on hold, at the outbreak of the Second World War, when Paddy joined the R.A.F and served as a pilot. After the War, he continued to work as a commercial pilot until the 1950's, when he resumed his songwriting career. He built up a reputation of being a prolific writer of popular songs, including a number one hit, 'Softly Softly' sung by Ruby Murray in 1955. In the same year, he contributed a tune called 'I'm in Love for the Very First Time' to the soundtrack of the film 'An Alligator named Daisy' which notably, gained him an Ivor Novello Award.

His career took another turn in 1959, when he met Frank Lee, the artists' manager for Decca Records, who was looking to follow up on the recent successful release of 'A Night With' Tom Lehrer comedy album. Paddy demonstrated some of his folk song parodies and was invited to record them as well so he was thus reinvented, as a comedy singer songwriter. The 'Strictly For Grown-ups' album was released in 1959 and reached number 8 in the U.K charts, shown above is the cover of the E.P release from that album. The hit tune 'The Ballard Of Bethnel Green' was awarded an Ivor Novello Award for best novelty song of that year. The follow up 'Paddy Roberts Tries Again' came out a year later and was another chart success for Paddy, peeking at number 16 (U.K) This was swiftly followed by 'Paddy Roberts at the Blue Angel' live album (1961) and finally, our album of choice 'Songs For Gay Dogs' (1963)

They don't appear to make characters like Paddy Roberts anymore. The civilised English gentleman type doesn't appear to exist any more, unless I'm just too common to hang around in such elevated circles. His mischievous humour, harks back to a time where 'manners maketh man' but also mischief could made, with the inclusion of a double entrendre and a 'nod and a wink' could loosen a stiff upper lip or two. Paddy promised us on the sleeve notes to this album that THIS IS A VULGAR RECORD, what he actually delivered was a CHARMING SNAPSHOT of a more refined era of British humour!

Track Listing of 'Songs For Gay Dogs'
Side A
1. Three Old Ladies
2. Down in Drury Lane
3. Don't Use the WC/Gentlemen Must Refrain
4. Ten in a Bed
5. Foggy Foggy Dew
6. Lady Jane
7. How the Money Rolls In
8. Woodpecker's Hole
9. Turn Over

Side B
10. Virgin Sturgeon
11. Elsie Elsie
12. Sweet Fanny Adams
13. Sammy Hall
14. Whore of Dunblane
15. Cow Kicked Nelly
16. Little Piggy
17. That's All for Now

A comprehensive biography can be found at

Paddy is covered and can be heard at

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Furry Stylus

The team here at Scratchy Towers are proud to announce the arrival of a new member of the squad. We have dipped into the transfer market, searched for an old pro who brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm, and found the player that fits the bill exactly. He's passed the medical, agreed terms and conditions and we are looking to throw him straight into the action at the start of the new season, on Saturday.

He will dazzle the younger lads with his D.J dexterity and the crowd will lap up his silky skills, as he pulls out timeless classics, from his bag of tricks. Some detractors have remarked that we have picked up a dodgy ole journeyman, looking for one last paycheck before he retires, who will spend more time crocked in the physio room, but we will have no countenance with such tittle tattle. Furry is our Teddy Sheringham if you like, a Dean Windass if you must, heading for the Premier League for one last hurrah! remember age is temporary but quality is permanent! Welcome aboard Furry Stylus!!

Eux Autres

Eux Autres (roughly translated as The Others) are a duo based in Portland, Oregon. The band consists of brother and sister Heather on drums and Nicholas Larimerpop on guitar. They both sing in that kind of 'back and forth' manner that only siblings can muster. My theory as to the origins of this kind of sixth sense of timing, which underpins these sibling singalongs, is that they are finely tuned from years of practice, of having verbal squabbles, over the family dinner table.

The music is a sweet, but sparse indie lo-fi rock and they're not averse to breaking out into a twangy guitar garage rock frenzy, from time to time. The refreshing twist is the influence of a - pop vibe, that comes to the forefront, when Heather sings in French, with her crystal clear voice and accompanied by some well appointed hand claps. It all sounds very sophisticated and graceful, like a girl who's obviously had a good education and been to a finishing school run by Francoise Hardy. It's all too easy to be awe struck in their presence and dazzled by their poise, as they deliver witty conversation about cosmopolitan subjects, yet there remains a charming homespun sensibility, around the music. The overall sound is comparable to Belle & Sebastian, St Etienne or Stereolab. They've come a long way, for a couple of kids originally from Omaha, Nebraska.

A lesson to be learned, from their website/myspace page is the importance of keeping your promotional materials updated. There has been no updates from the band since the end of 2007, which leads me to think.. are they still going? Have they had an almighty row, culminating in one sibling doing away with the other, in some sort of Greek tragedy scenario? Are they immersed in recording the next album, locked in a bunker, by an evil Svengali manager, who demands nothing less than perfection. As you can see, where there is a vacuum of concrete information, the void is filled with wild and fanciful rumours. Just a little snippet of news would be helpful guys, we're on tenterhooks here and expectations are hanging heavy on our shoulders..

They have produced a handful of E.Ps since 2003 and Eux Autres are two albums into their career with 'Hell Is Eux Autres' released in 2006 and 'Cold City' on Happy Happy Records in 2007, we look forward to the third one shortly ?!

Download When I'm Up and Ecoutez Bien

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The Long-Player Goodbye

This recently published book, is doing the literary rounds with the tag line pushing it as "The history of the album from the invention of vinyl and the LP to its revival in our i-pod age"

I haven't actually read it yet, so this can't be thought of as a review, not that this minor aberration stops many a reviewer, but I thought it's premise sounds interesting enough to us 'vinylophiles' that it's worth a mention.

There have been a spate of articles on the current state of records, as a format. The two prevailing arguments tend to be of the 'let's mourn the passing of this dead format' or more recently 'vinyl's not dead! let's all celebrate the revival of this format' variety. Neither of these assessments are particularly accurate. Vinyl is not a dead format, in the way let's say 8track, mini-disc or audio cassettes can be described as so. People, like myself, were still purchasing music on vinyl, throughout the Nineties, when the majority of music fans were persuaded to buy Cd's. Dance music D.Js also helped keep the faint beating heart of vinyl sales ticking over, during this era.

A common misconception, is that we're vinyl revivalists, who are on some sort of nostalgia trip, i.e we're wilfully disregarding other 'superior' formats, due to an obstinate Luddite mindset. The truth is that, analogue records provide a better sound experience, which is superior to the digital Cd sound, even with all the crackles and pops. I admit, that Cd's have an advantage over it's predecessor, in storage and convenience, but let's not perpetuate the myth that Cd's are virtually indestructible, as we were led to believe. Anyone who has cut their finger trying to get to the inserts of those crappy plastic jewel cases, which promptly crack and break, can testify to the inherent design flaws of a CD. Records provide a more satisfying visual and tactile experience, and when packaged with proper love, care and attention to detail, they become beautiful artifacts in themselves. I draw to your attention, Johnny Flynn's recently released 'A Larum' album, as a prime example.

Records have survived, despite the best efforts of the music industry, to give it the last rites. In fact, sales are booming, admittedly from a low base, but none the less, it's lasting appeal is recognised by music fans of all age groups. The competition between formats, is not between Cd's and vinyl, but between Cd's and Mp3's. This invisible format, made up of bits and bites, has blown Cd's sails out of the water, it's convenience, mobility and user friendlyness, makes Cd's redundant. Mp3's have also revolutionised people's listening habits, as they take charge of how they consume a product. A single song can be cherry picked from an artist's catalogue, freeing the consumer, from the insistence of the creator, to follow a set list of songs, this can be shuffled into a mix of thousands of other tunes, all catering exactly to the owner's taste. Whether or not it's progress to disregard an artist's concept of a collection of tunes, is another debate. Most importantly of all for the consumer, they can access an almost limitless choice of tunes, from the comfort and convenience of their computer. The need to physically go into a shop again is bypassed. The need to pay money again is often also bypassed, but again, that's a discussion for another day. Mp3's have trounced the CD and the music industry is only just coming to terms with this, after sticking their heads in the sand for a good few years, but at least they are still in the business loop. The retailers are out on a limb and are heading for oblivion.

This brings me back full circle, to what got me thinking about this whole scenario. I was in one of the U.K's leading music/entertainment outlets this week, browsing through their pitifully small section of vinyl, trying to remember the last time, I had experienced this shop, when it was busy. It got me thinking about supply and demand, they weren't supplying me the shopping experience I desired, I still enjoy browsing in record stores and I had money that I was ready to spend, however they weren't providing the product I was demanding: vinyl.

I prefer to buy my vinyl from a shop, rather than risk receiving it through our postal system and all the inherent possibilities of damage this can entail. I want to buy something solid and tangible and I'm keen on picking up newly released singles/albums. Whilst observing a teenager sift through the box of singles, in the fruitless search of the latest hot tune, I reflected that I'm not alone in this desire, nor is it an age thing. I believe the trend for some of the i-pod generation is to listen to all their music in the Mp3 format, but search out favoured tracks on vinyl, with the intent to store them in pristine condition as an artifact, there is also a small but significant resurgence of interest from sections of this age group, in record collecting as a whole, so let's not dismiss this desire of mine, as the last gasps of a dinosaur. We both left the shop empty handed, I would have been delighted to hand over money, for something like a vinyl/mp3 combo deal. O.K the profits margins might be negligible, but it turns over money and gets consumers into their premises. Who knows what else I might have spotted, if I carried on browsing, perhaps some DVDs, which have taken over the prime space on the shop floor. By the way, selling DVDs is a short term solution to shifting units, as these will be all soon be piped directly into our homes, on demand. So I left, not knowing whether I'd bother to return, the retailer had failed to recognise growing trends and as we all know, if you can't adapt quickly enough in business, you will fail. The death of vinyl has been greatly exaggerated, but not I fear, the end of the record store.

Jon Savage reviews the book here..

It was also reviewed in The Observer...

and The Indie have covered it..

so have The Daily Mail, but I'll never link to that rag!

Wanna buy it? Amazon U.K are pushing it for under a tenner..

Friday, 1 August 2008


Time to roll out some of the booty, that I accumulated from Cornwall, the land of the ship wreckers. The album in question was actually bought from a car boot sale, but I prefer to think of it scavenging for flotsam and jetsam, which sounds more exciting. The 'booties' in this part of the country seem to take place at a much more reasonable time of day, compared to your usual, up at the crack of dawn affair, your average Kernow collector obviously appreciates their sleep, they're not daft are dem folks down that way. This one started at Midday and my chauffeur ;-) suggested this was designed to lure in the 'emmets' market (holiday maker, i.e me) well it worked, because it was heaving with booty hunters.

Back in the Sixties, the attitude of the music biz was somewhat 'dinosaur-like' when it came to girls with guitars, they weren't taken seriously and the presumption was, that the pop paying public wouldn't take to an all female rock band. However, there were pioneers of 'Wimmin's Rock' who were determined to smash down this prejudice and show the world that they could belt out the rawk, just like the boys. Goldie and The Gingerbreads, Fanny, The Deadly Nightshade and Isis all broke down barriers and paved the way for a new generation of girls to boogie in the Seventies, helping the likes of Ann and Nancy Wilson, from Heart (my favourite hard rocking and singing sisters) to become international stars.

The front cover of Birtha's Can't Stop the Madness album had Rosemary Butler (bass, vocals), Sherry Hagler (keyboards), Olivia (Liver) Favela (drums), and Shele Pinizzotto (guitar, vocals) decked out in rawk denim, raawk haircuts and most revealing of all; raaawwk dungarees! I knew then, that I had unearthed some vinyl with some seriously sweet lady rock action on it.

School friends, Rosemary and Shele, formed their first band called The Rapunzels. Rosemary then played in The Ladybirds, who supported The Rolling Stones, in 1965 and Shele worked in a recording studio during this time. They were also in The Daisy Chain, who recorded a sole, very hard to find hippie influenced pop album, Straight Or Lame, in 1967. During this time they were known to turn up at gigs on Sunset Boulevard in a daisy painted car. Later that year, the duo reunited for a new project, they recruited Sherry and soon after Liver joined, to complete the classic Birtha line up. They gigged around the West Coast for four years, before cutting their eponymous debut album, from it came the Free Spirit single. This was promoted, by their enterprising label, with t-shirts and badges declaring the now legendary slogan 'Birtha Has Balls'

A year later, a follow up gatefold album was released called 'Can't Stop The Madness' with all bar one track being original tunes. Curiously, the track listing on the sleeve bears no resemblance to the actual order on the record. On my copy, the previous owner had helpfully identified, matched and numbered the correct order, possibly the only reason I can think of, that it's forgivable to write on an album sleeve.

They toured with such legends as BB King, Three Dog Night, The Who and with The Kinks in England, becoming a firm favourite with the rock crowds at festivals. Despite having a wealth of musical talent and three members capable of holding a tune, Liver's Joplinesque rasp is my favourite, sadly they failed to make enough of a commercial impact and decided to call it a day soon after being dropped by their label.

Both albums were reissued as a twoforone CD on the See For Miles label in the UK in 1997 and are throughly recommended for connoiseurs of classic rock with a feminine touch.

Birtha (1972) released on Dunhill Records (Probe)
A1 Free Spirit
A2 Fine Talking Man
A3 Tuesday
A4 Feeling Lonely
A5 She Was Good To Me

B1 Work On A Dream
B2 Too Much Woman (For A Hen Pecked Man)
B3 Judgement Day
B4 Forgotten Soul

Can't Stop The Madness
(1973) released on Dunhill Records (Probe)

Side 1

It's a tambourine slapping upbeat opener that reminds me of The Monkees at their most effervescent.

Ma Man Told Me
Southern Rawk at it's finest..

Don't Let It Get You Down
A soulful number that really displays the influence of Steppenwolf (of whom, producer Gabriel Mekler also worked with) The strongest song of this side.

It's chant, it's funky it's hot!

Let Us Sing
A soulful gentle ballad with top harmonies showing off the girls' voices to the max, with a nice acoustic accompaniment.

Side 2
Rock Me
A fairly standard rock romp opens this side, probably the weakest song on this side.

All This Love
It's the stand out track on the album with a classic rock mood and a catchy chorus, it should have been a hit!

(When Will Ya) Understand
This was the epic track with a touch of the Deep Purple keyboards accompanying the wailing vocals.

My Pants Are Too Short
They can never be too short laaaadies! giggity giggity goo Oops! I've slipped into Seventies Music Biz Exec mode. A chunky bluesy beat makes this a real bump'n'grinder like Free in their heyday.

Can't Stop The Madness
Some hot guitar picking and fine singing make for a corking finale.