With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

‘Wrong Way Up’ – Brian Eno/John Cale and ‘Spinner’ – Brian Eno/Jah Wobble (Reissues) August 19, 2020


‘Wrong Way Up’

In an expression of purest irony, the collaborative efforts of two of the most experimental musicians of the 20th century has led to some of the most accessible & radio friendly music of either artist’s career. Personally, I was expecting something along the lines of droning noise music of ‘The Weight Of History/Only Once Away My Son’, Eno’s recent collaboration with My Bloody Valentine mastermind Kevin Shields. All ambient soundscapes and abrasive, distorted violas. Instead, ‘Wrong Way Up’ is a collection of upbeat, optimistically melodic Synth Pop music.

Eno and Cale had collaborated previously (Eno had produced Cale’s 1974 album ‘Fear’ and Cale played Viola on a couple of tunes on Eno’s 1975 album ‘Another Green World’) but ‘Wrong Way Up’ was the first album they recorded as a collaboration. Recorded in the dying days of the Soviet Union, the dawning of what Francis Fukuyama called ‘the end of history,’ there are certainly elements of nostalgia and retrophilia in the futuristic sonic landscapes. “I scramble in the dust of a failing nation,” Eno sings on opening track “Lay My Love”. Eno said they expected the album to turn out “quite stark and sort of, industrial.” In light of the upbeat, almost optimistic nature of this album, this contributes to the sense of irony I mention above.

In the most part, the songs are built around looping synthesised chord sequences and arpeggios, but there’s something organic and jam-like about many of the compositions. This is likely due to the array of interesting instruments used (Shinto Bell, Little Nigerian Organ) and an impressive array of guest musicians involved. Are there ghostly slivers of Eastern European folk melody embedded in the lush soundscapes of arpeggiated synths and drum machine loops? The ensemble of “non-standard” (for Rock and Pop music) percussion instruments like dumbeks, tablas and Indian Drums probably contributes to this atmosphere. These heavily processed acoustic instruments mix with the looped soundscapes and drum machine loops fantastically.

The bonus tracks added to the new rerelease, “Grandfather’s House” and “Palanquin”, are much more organic and traditional sounding than the parent album. “Grandfather’s House” is a mournful ballad sung over a folkish drone. Bursts of noisy viola, warm synth pads and reverb soaked piano notes create a cinematic soundscape for John Cale’s solemn, hymn like vocal. “Palanquin” is similarly downbeat but way more minimal. A simple Piano composition, instrumental, played with a huge amount of reverb, creating ghostly swirls of warm, immersive sound.

‘Spinner’

Like ‘Wrong Way Up’, ‘Spinner’ was a collaboration with a key member of a pioneering and genre-defining band. Jah Wobble famously the original bass player in John Lydon’s post-Pistols, Post Punk group Public Image Ltd. However, this is probably not a useful starting point when approaching ‘Spinner’. Originally conceived as the soundtrack to Derek Jarman’s film ‘Glitterbug’. As such, ‘Spinner’ is a much more experimental and instrumental album than ‘Wrong Way Up’, consisting of immersive dronescapes, hypnotic rhythms and discrete background noise.

Another major way in which ‘Spinner’ differs from ‘Wrong Way Up’ is in its production methods. Whereas the former album was a controlled, in-studio endeavour with both John Cale and Brian Eno working together to write and record everything, the latter was produced as a result of Eno passing partial tracks to Jah Wobble and allowing him to embellish upon them as he saw fit. This would have been quite unusual in the mid-‘90’s but is fairly commonplace today. The democratisation of music production, the ease of digital communication and the standardisation of digital audio file formats allow this kind of “file swapping” collaboration to prosper. This is just another way in which Brian Eno set the templates for the way the music industry works today.

Much of ‘Spinner’ is built around the kinds of Ambient minimalism we’ve come to expect from Eno over the years, the twinkling arpeggiation and glitched out machine noises of “Space Diary 1” or the droning synths of “Where We Lived” are one side of this unique album, but not the whole picture. The expressive bass playing in tracks like “Like Organza” lift the soundscaping up into a completely different place and, when coupled with the excellent drumming of Jaki Liebezeit (of Krautrock pioneers Can) we get to hear some of the most immersive and hypnotic music on the album. “Steam” is all sampled strings, swirling synths, dub-influenced bass riffs and the kind of motorik drums that define Krautrock. There’s a sense of building atmosphere which is truly engaging. “Marine Radio” is the place where Post-Punk and Dub collide, creating a kind of maritime Trip Hop sound. The menacing syncopation and digital vibrations of the title track create a sinister, action-packed centrepiece of the album, preparing us for the 8-minute epic, “Transmitter And Trumpet”. Marimbas and excellent drumming form a backdrop to some of the most Dub-like bass lines on the album, submerged in the Eno Wall of Sound. The effect is trancelike, hypnotic in the extreme and later on it descends into swirling swathes of noise, swooping around the stereo-field like a dive bomber.

Of the two bonus tracks added to the release, one is an original Brian Eno piece (from the ‘Glitterbug’ soundtrack) while the other is an original Jah Wobble piece. Eno’s “Stravinsky” is a classical inspired exercise in looping, improvisational orchestral sounds. High register violins duelling over lower tones reminiscent of oboes and cellos. Knowing Eno, they could be either live recorded and heavily processed or synthesised/sampled. They’d sound equally as good, either way. Wobble’s “Lockdown” is a semi-funky bass workout over sampled brass and motorik drum machine rhythms. It’s moody and atmospheric like the best material on ‘Spinner’. Pitchshifted vocals echo spectrally around the soundscape.

‘Wrong Way Up’ and ‘Spinner’ are released on 21st August on All Saints Records. It will be the first time physical media of the two albums have been available in fifteen years.

Written by Tom Ray.

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Play It Again Mayhem – “Pyjamarama” – Roxy Music June 11, 2020


This is the third in an occasional series of songs that I don’t believe ever got the airplay they deserved, or at least not much airplay since the original release. The previous two were “Everybody Was Rockin‘” by the late great Betty Wright and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” by Elton John. I hope that eventually there will be an accompanying playlist for this series!

Number three in the Play It Again Mayhem series is Roxy Music’s 1973 single “Pyjamarama” which reached number ten in the UK singles chart and stayed in the charts for twelve weeks. It was released between the first album ‘Roxy Music’ and the second album ‘For Your Pleasure’ but it featured on neither of them. It was only the band’s second single coming out around eight months after breakthrough hit “Virginia Plain”, which also never featured on a Roxy Music studio album (apart from some later pressings of the record). The band line up was largely the classic Roxy line up and still included Brian Eno. “Pyjamarama” was written by Bryan Ferry and was supposedly the first Roxy song that he wrote on the guitar. Instrumentally Phil Manzanera’s guitar sound is impeccable and I love Paul Thompson’s drum sound too. This is my favourite Roxy Music single by a long way! I also think it is one of the best one-word song titles ever. I would love to hear your thoughts on the track. Lyrics are copied below in case you want to sing along! There is also a video of a live version included which feels slowed down and quirky.

“Pyjamarama” – Lyrics (Bryan Ferry)

Couldn’t sleep a wink last night
Oh how I’d love to hold you tight
They say you have a secret life
Made sacrifice your key to paradise
Never mind, take the world by storm
Just boogaloo a rhapsody divine
Take a sweet girl just like you
How nice if only we could bill and coo

I may seem a fool to you for ev’rything
I say or think or do
How could I apologise for all those lies
The world may keep us far apart but up in heaven, angel
You can have my heart
Diamonds may be your best friend
But like laughter after tears
I’ll follow you to the end

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‘Transitions’ – Malcolm Galloway August 22, 2019


Malcolm Galloway from talented and in my opinion unsung prog rock/ electronica band Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate has a new solo album out now. It is called ‘Transitions’ and Malcolm says it is very much influenced by the personal transitions he is going through, he suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic collagen disorder. This causes joints and soft tissue to hurt and flare up unpredictably. Additionally, it causes nausea, fatigue, vomiting, and problems with the autonomic nervous system. It is an invisible disability, where the sufferer looks completely normal from the outside. This illness means that he has to leave his job as a neuropathologist, but he continues to make great music.

I have listened to ‘Transitions’ a few times now and I seem to find something new in the rich layered soundscapes every time I do. It is an instrumental album and I have benefited from listening to it while working on some intricate spreadsheets at work, relaxing at home and walking to the office. At times I felt the music owed a small debt to early Mike Oldfield, but that is not to take anything away from Malcolm’s achievement. This really is a beautiful suite of music. It runs to just over 45 minutes and contains three tracks; “Pattern Jugglers”, “Slow” and “Transition”, with the latter clocking in at more than 30 minutes. I feel that the album as a whole, but the epic title track, in particular, bear comparison with Philip Glass and at times Brian Eno. Although perhaps not quite as minimalist as some of Eno’s ambient masterpieces. I don’t know if Malcolm has ever considered writing the soundtrack to a film, or maybe he has done so. Either way, I think he could score some superb music for films. If you have never listened to Malcolm Galloway or Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate then now is the time to start. Click here to listen to ‘Transitions’ on Spotify. I for one am now really looking forward to getting to grips with the new Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate album; ‘Ark’.

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“Third Uncle” – Memory Keepers December 18, 2018

Filed under: Review — justwilliam1959 @ 11:25 pm
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Jared and Amarah from the Sour Notes have a side project under the alias of Memory Keepers. They have just given birth to their Daft Punk lite take on Brian Eno’s “Third Uncle”. Eno recorded and released his original as a part of his second solo album ‘Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)’. The song was also covered by Bauhaus in the early 80s. My memory of the Brian Eno track was that it was a ground breaking piece of electronica and it is. However Memory Keepers take it to yet another level of electronica. This is an infectious and insanely danceable version of a great song with treated vocals reminiscent of classic Air. The is the first release from an EP expected early next year. It was recorded at Sour Patch Bay in Austin, Texas. Then mixed at The Treehouse in Houston, Texas by Steve Christensen and mastered at Timeless Mastering in Brooklyn, New York by Heba Kadry. A big thank you to those lovely folk at Noisy Ghost PR for giving me the chance to take this track for a spin. Click here to listen to this exciting new release on SoundCloud.

 

“Riding The Space Potato” – Morpher May 27, 2017


Have you ever wanted to ride the Space Potato? You have? Well Morpher give you that opportunity with a fine slab of funky jazz entitled “Riding The Space Potato”. If you like your jazz funky, I do, then you will love this. For me there is also an undercurrent of Bowie‘s experimentation with Brian Eno on the second side of 1977’s ‘Low’ album. The sax soaked sound also seems to draw from PigBag and maybe even a little Madness. This track would not be out of place as an interlude on a Parliament/ Funkadelic album. Click here to check it out on BandCamp, take a listen even if you don’t think you like jazz, because this is a classy tune. There is a brief clip of the band playing it live below. I’m off to fire up the Space Potato to warp drive now……. bye!

 

 

“I watched it for a little while I love to watch things on TV” October 27, 2013


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I am sure that many of you have now heard of the sad passing of music icon Lou Reed aged 71. The Associated Press have said that he died of a ‘liver related ailment’ following a liver transplant earlier this year. Two of my favourite albums of all time are Lou Reed related. Firstly ‘The Velvet Underground And Nico‘ and the classic solo album ‘Transformer‘ from 1972.

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Being a Bowie fan I came across Lou Reed after Mr Bowie mentioned him often in interviews and then went on to produce ‘Transformer’ along with Mick Ronson. Lou has always in my opinion been very much his own man and often refused to play the music industry game. Personally I think he should be commended for that.

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Brian Eno once said ‘The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band’ to try to describe the wide influence that Lou Reed had on many fellow musicians. My thoughts go to Lou’s wife Laurie Anderson, his family, friends and fans. RIP Lou Reed you will be greatly missed.

 

“Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know he’s in the best selling show” David Bowie Is at the Victoria & Albert Museum 2013 May 5, 2013


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I am sure that by now you are all aware of the ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington, London. It began on 23rd March this year and runs until 11th August. It is also the fastest selling and best selling exhibition the museum has ever done. It includes many Bowie artefacts and costumes from his archive; many of which have never been shown to the public before. I booked my tickets ages ago and finally made it here on 5th May. ( I was joined by Catwoman and my good friends the Horslens)

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There are handwritten lyrics from throughout his career and stage designs for most of his major tours from the Diamond Dogs US tour in 1974 to the Outside Tour of 1995 via 1983’s Serious Moonlight. The costumes range from those worn in all the aforementioned tours along with all the classic Ziggy outfits; including the classic one worn on that famous Top of the Pops performance of “Starman” from way back in July 1972.

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The whole thing is incredibly arranged, directed and curated. The interactive audio headphones which trigger when you are near a particular exhibit are brilliant. I feel sure that Bowie has played a big part in the whole thing. There are some video shots and audio that have never legally seen the light of day before. I particularly loved the version of “Sweet Thing” from the 1974 US tour. There was also an excellent mock-up 3D stage set design for those shows. Those were possibly my two favourite things from the day.

david bowie.

Bowie has always been an artist and not just a rock star and this is clearly shown by the volume of his own paintings and sketches on display. Including a series of storyboard pictures for a ‘Diamond Dogs’ film that never got made. There were also some detailed notes showing that he had definitely intended for 1995’s ‘1: Outside’ album to be the first in a trilogy that would have ended in 1999. I wonder if he’ll ever make those other two? Sadly I think not.

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His set of oblique strategy cards used in the studio by Brian Eno are there along with the synthesiser used on the Berlin albums. Another room is dedicated to showing clips from his best known films including; ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth‘, ‘Labyrinth’, ‘The Prestige’, ‘Basquiat’, ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence‘ and ‘Absolute Beginners‘. There is also a rare public outing for a clip from his 1967 black and white short ‘The Image’ (as a bit of a Bowie anorak I already have this on DVD).. Costumes and props from some of these films are also on show.

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The Bowie items in the shop are quite tasteful too, in the main anyway! I had previously bought the David Bowie Is hardback book and today I bought the Ziggyology book along with the set of postcards that relate to the exhibition. Obviously I needed more stuff to continue the pimping of my man bag so I bought a pin badge emblazoned with the phrase ‘David Bowie Is turning us all into voyeurs’.

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I was excited before the exhibition and that was well justified excitement in my opinion. It exceeded my very high expectations by a very long way. If you have been or are planning to go I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you are unable to attend then you have missed something really special. Now let me sign off with a few Bowie classics.

David Bowie Is at the V&A Museum

 

“Flying like an autumn wind, lady did you lose a friend?” February 21, 2013


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I first heard Kevin Ayers back in the early 70s and ‘Joy Of A Toy’ remains a favourite album of mine. So it is with sadness that I am posting about his demise. He passed away in his sleep aged 68 on February 18th at his home in France. Ayers was a pioneer of the British psychedelic scene and first found fame with Soft Machine. John Peel once said this of him; “Kevin Ayers’ talent is so acute you could perform major eye surgery with it”. Click here to read the BBC report of Kevin’s death.

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Kevin has worked with many people, including Syd Barrett, Brian Eno, Mike Oldfield and John Cale. He was there for the formation of Soft Machine in the mid 60s. The band was named after the William S Burroughs novel ‘The Soft Machine’. Kevin once sold his Fender jazz bass to Noel Redding from Jimi Hendrix’ band. This was after an extensive US tour. He grew up in Canterbury and lived for some time in Ibiza and France.

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Interestingly he wasn’t the only one in the family with such a pioneering spirit. His father Rowan Ayers was a BBC Producer and was responsible for kicking off the classic BBC music show ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test‘. If you have never listened to Kevin Ayers then I suggest you rectify that right now! I have included a few of my favourite Ayers songs at the end of this post. My thoughts go to Kevin’s family, friends and fans. RIP Kevin Ayers – a true British Rock legend!

 

“But it’s worth it all just to hear them say that they care” May 17, 2012


Supreme Disco Diva Donna Summer passed away today aged just 63. It has been reported that she had battled breast cancer and lung cancer and died at her home in Key west, Florida. She was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines exactly 10 years and one day before me.

In the late 60s Donna auditioned for the part of Sheila in the Broadway production of ‘Hair’ but the part went to Melba Moore. However when the show moved to Europe she was offered the part and moved to Germany. She later went on to appear in the stage versions of ‘Godspell’ and ‘Showboat’.

While in Germany she married an Austrian, Helmuth Sommer in 1972. They divorced later but Donna kept an Anglicised version of her surname. She also learned to speak fluent German. She met influential producer Giorgio Moroder while she was singing backing vocals for Three Dog Night. Her first album came out in 1974 and was titled ‘Lady Of The Night’. A single taken from the album “The Hostage” went to number one in Belgium. Following this Donna worked with Moroder on an idea for a song that eventually became her first major hit, “Love To Love You Baby“. It was eventually released in November 1975 in both the edited 7 inch version and the extended 17 minute 12 inch version. The latter was at the request of Casablanca Records head honcho Neil Bogart. Many radio stations refused to play the song owing to the orgasmic moans it featured. Those noises certainly worked well on my teenage mind!

Donna Summer would be seen by many as a singles artist, but in my opinion she also released some superb albums. In particular the four albums that came out through 1976 to 1977; ‘A Love Trilogy‘, ‘Four Seasons Of Love’, ‘I Remember Yesterday‘ and ‘Once Upon A Time’. Of course the track that epitomizes the peak of her disco success was almost hidden away on ‘I Remember Yesterday’; that track was “I Feel Love“. There is a very strong argument to say that this song was one of the most influential songs ever, certainly of the 70s.  Without it there may never have been electro, techno and according to the Fatboy himself (that’ll be Norman Cook) no Acid House either. David Bowie recalled Brian Eno‘s reaction on hearing the song when they were recording in Berlin. Bowie said ‘One day in Berlin … Eno came running in and said, ‘I have heard the sound of the future.’ … he puts on ‘I Feel Love’, by Donna Summer … He said, ‘This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.’ Which was more or less right’

Her last big album of the 70s was 1979’s ‘Bad Girls’ which spawned three classic Donna Summer singles; “Hot Stuff”, “Bad Girls” and “Dim All The Lights”. Whilst the 70s was probably where she peaked she did release a few more classics. In the 80s there was “On The Radio”, “State Of Independence” and “She Works Hard For The Money”. Also in the 80s there was the stuff she recorded with Stock, Aitken and Waterman, notably “This Time I Know It’s For Real”. I heard Pete Waterman talking about Donna on Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 show earlier today. He said that she was by far one of the most amazing and talented vocalists he had ever worked with. She scored a few number ones on the US dance charts as late as 2008 and 2010. She also won five Grammys between 1979 and 1998.

She became embroiled in controversy over alleged derogatory comments about gay people and AIDS. However she refuted those claims and publicly apologised. But this should not mar her glittering career. I for one will miss such a great talent and my thoughts go to her family, friends and legions of fans across the world. Donna Summer RIP.

 

“From feudal serf to spender, this wonderful world of purchase power” September 15, 2009


Me and my helmet :-)

Me and my helmet 🙂

Here we go again folks and I have some brilliant news, well it was brilliant for me anyway. On Saturday I spent the day at the Riders Edge Harley Davidson centre in Wales. This was a gift experience which was given to me as a birthday present by the wonderful and beautiful Catwoman for my 50th birthday back in January. You have to bear in mind that I have never been on a motorbike in my life. So to say I was a little apprehensive at first would be a major understatement. Let’s just say that I made sure I packed a clean pair of under crackers…….just in case!

Anyway being a complete novice I spent the morning, around three hours riding a 500cc machine around the private roads within the Royal Welsh Showground at Builth Wells. Whilst I never fell off once I came close a couple of times! I guess I pictured in my head having to lean right over when taking corners, but that’s for the speed freaks, at the speeds I was doing taking a corner upright was easy. Incidentally while it felt much, much faster I don’t think I got above 40 mph. For me the coordination required to change gear with your left foot while not looking down at all was very difficult. But when you think about it it really shouldn’t be. I mean I don’t look down when I change gear in the car so why should I need to when riding a motorbike? Well perhaps because I’m not using a gear stick with my hand but trying to change it with my foot. But by the end of the morning session I had reached the dizzy heights of 5th gear twice and stalled less than ten times in total and as I said earlier, I never fell off or crashed once! The last part was a great result for me as I fully expected to take a few spills.

Me on a Harley

Me on a Harley

So after just three hours on the saddle they sadly weren’t going to let me loose on a fabulous Harley on my own. However I did get a pillion ride on a gorgeous Harley Davidson machine under the control of one of the Rider’s Edge expert instructors, Ian. Having never even ridden pillion before that too was also a great experience for me. Cruising around some wonderful Welsh countryside. Great weather, great views and remarkably attractive sheep, well at least I would imagine they are attractive if you’re perhaps Welsh or a Kiwi.

Uneasy Rider perhaps?

Uneasy Rider perhaps?

I would like to take this opportunity to say a big, big thank you to all the folks at Riders Edge. Especially Clive, who was my instructor in the morning and also Ian with whom I rode pillion in the afternoon.

In the meantime and as this is really a music related blog let’s steer it back in that direction! Can you guess what today’s theme might be? Well it’s a bit obvious really isn’t it? Today’s theme is Motorbikes! Here are a few motorbike or motorbike related songs with a morsel of trivia about each of the artists or songs

“Motorcycle Emptiness” – Manic Street Preachers. This was the fifth single to be taken from the band’s Generation Terrorists album in 1992. The lyrics are inspired by a book about biker gang culture called Rumble Fish which was written by S E Hinton

“Motorbikin’”– Chris Spedding. This 1975 Top 20 hit was Spedding’s biggest and he is perhaps best known as a sought after session guitarist. He has played with many artists including; Bryan Ferry, Roxy Music, Elton John, Brian Eno, Jack Bruce, Nick Mason, John Cale, Katie Melua, Harry Nilsson, Tom Waits, Paul McCartney, Jeff Wayne and even the Wombles! He also famously played on and produced three demos for the Sex Pistols in 1976. The three songs were “No Feelings”, “Problems” and “Pretty Vacant”

“Funky Moped” – Jasper Carrot. This was a surprise hit for Mr Carrot in 1975. The single was backed with a risque monologue based around the 60s TV series the “Magic Roundabout“, which at the time I thought was bloody hilarious! he also has a thespian daughter; Lucy Davis who played Dawn in the Office. She was excellent in that series don’t you think?

“Silver Dream Machine”– David Essex. At the age of 23 in 1971 David took the lead role in the musical Godspell on the London Stage. I actually went to see that show as part of a school trip in 1972 when he was still in it. Our coach was delayed because all the girls on the trip had gathered outside the stage door to scream and get his autograph. It was around the time he released his first major single “Rock On”. My first serious girlfriend; Gay Topsom, was a big David Essex fan and I remember buying her each of his singles as soon as they were released. I never had enough money to stretch to an album. But we were together for two years from 1975 to 1977 so I guess that’s a fair amount of singles. She left me for a guy who was slightly older and more importantly had a car! But you know what I’m over that now and if you’re reading this Gay, I forgive you 🙂

“Bat Out Of Hell”– Meatloaf. Meat was born Marvin Lee Aday on 27th September 1947 so he will turn 62 in a couple of weeks. get your cards written and sent now folks. Jim Steinman the producer and I suppose you could say creator of Meat’s landmark Bat Out Of Hell album was apparently trying to get something that sounded like a cross between Wagner, Phil Spector and Bruce Springsteen. Well I for one reckon he succeeded. What do you think?

“Born To Be Wild”– Steppenwolf. This band hailed from Toronto and many credit their recording of the iconic “Born To Be Wild” as the first Heavy Metal record, although just as many disagree. It has had a long association with motorbikes, very likely due to its inclusion on the soundtrack to the movie Easy Rider which starred Peter Fonda

I used to have this poster on my wall as a teenager :-)

I used to have this poster on my wall as a teenager 🙂

I am sure that you can think of plenty more so fire away folks!

This is the poster I really wanted on my wall as a teenager ;-)

This is the poster I really wanted on my wall as a teenager 😉

 

 
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