My true love has given me quite a few things so far to help me celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. I’m not quite sure what to do with todays gift of 8 maids a milking; any suggestions? In reality though the milk maid was replaced by industrial milking machines many years ago. Back in 1995 there were 35,741 dairy farmers in the UK, in 2011 there were only 14,793. Surely we are consuming at least as much milk as in 1995 though, aren’t we? Maybe these farmers just own bigger farms and dairy herds these days. I have a tenuous connection to the UK dairy industry as my Dad was a milkman for nearly 30 years. I worked as his milk boy from 1970 to 1975. As for todays songs, well let’s just say I am very satisfied indeed with my choices. Firstly I bring you a classic from what is in my opinion an unsung band, the marvellous Be Bop Deluxe with “Maid In Heaven”. The song featured on the bands ‘Futurama’ album from 1975. It was later used as the lead track on the Hot Valves EP and under that guise it reached number 36 in the UK singles chart. The band was formed in 1972 in Wakefield, Yorkshire and the only constant member was leader and guitar hero Bill Nelson. It was Nelson that wrote “Maid In Heaven”. Paul Jeffreys was the bands bass player for a short time in the mid 70s. He also played with Cockney Rebel, the Warm Jets and the Electric Eels. He sadly lost his life aged just 36 as a passenger on Pan Am flight 103 which was brought down over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988. Today’s second song comes from what I would consider to be another unsung band, although they did shine quite brightly from 1995 to the early ‘noughties’. Butch Vig, producer of the seminal Nirvana album ‘Nevermind’ was trying to put a band together during 1994 and decided that he would like to try things with a female vocalist. He and his friend Duke Erikson were shown a video of Shirley Manson singing with Angelfish and decided that she might be perfect for the band that became Garbage. I believe they were very much correct. The track I have selected is, rather obviously, “Milk” from the bands eponymously titled début album from 1995. (Hmmmmm, 1995 eh? Did Garbage precipitate the demise of the UK Dairy industry?) It was the fifth single to be released from that album, following “Vow”, “Only Happy When It Rains”, “Queer” and “Stupid Girl”. The album made it to number 6 in the UK and number 20 in the US, it did make it to the top of the chart in New Zealand though. The single of the song reached number 10 in the UK in late 1996 but failed to make the top 100 in the USA. It wasn’t the bands highest UK chart placing, they had five other top 10 hits. It did marginally climb higher than their James Bond theme song “The World Is Not Enough” from 1999, which stalled at number 11. The song is Shirley Manson’s favourite from the album and was written by Shirley, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson and Steve Marker. Some versions of the song feature some vocals from UK trip hop maestro Tricky. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P99KwIZlsVY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALuZRsFaXas
Day 2 is here and my feet are blistered from wearing new and very heavy (steel toe capped) wellies, I wore them again today, but the forecast looks good for better shoes on day 3. The first band we saw was Soul Circus on the BBC Introducing stage. They were on when we arrived so we didn’t see their whole set, but they were very good, the vocalist in particular was excellent. We stayed at the Introducing stage for the next band, they were Penguin from Wakefield. I think it’s fair to say that they rock!
After that we paid our first visit of the weekend to the Alternative stage aka the Comedy tent, we were hoping to see Kevin Bridges but his flight back from Edinburgh (he had been there for the festival) was late. He was replaced by an American comedian and I use that word reluctantly, he calls himself Neil Hamburger but his real name is Greg Turkington. He got off on the wrong foot and went further down that same road throughout his act. Firstly he told all the folks that were there expecting Kevin Bridges that they could “fuck off” and then called those of us who remained “pieces of human shit”. The audience was to barrack him for his whole act with chants of “off, off, off” and “you’re shit and you know you are”. There was a fair array of missiles sent stage wards too. The only way he could have redeemed himself would have been if his jokes were funny, they weren’t! The funniest thing he said was “I guess I’ll do my encore now” as the compere opened the backstage curtains. But for us it was entertaining for us anyway!
Over to the Main Stage next for the fabulous Gaslight Anthem from New Jersey and they were an amazing live band. I know they are close to Bruce Springsteen and I reckon they could turn on a lot of the younger generation to Bruce. I would definitely pay to see these boys. A trek back to the Introducing Stage was next on the agenda for the mystery special guest slot. It was Everything Everything with a couple of acoustic songs and an interview for Radio 1’s Live Lounge. They finished with a Shakira cover and given what was going on in the crowd I’m amazed that they didn’t get a fit of the giggles. There was a guy on someone’s shoulders in the crowd and he was wearing a leather fetish mask in the shape of a dog’s head. If that wasn’t funny enough he then produced a large black strap on dildo which he fellated, much to our own and the rest of the audience’s amusement. If you re that person then get in touch, I’d be happy to give you a mention on the blog!
The Festival Republic stage was our next destination for I Blame Coco. It would be fair to say that Coco does pop and does it very well. (Feel free to insert your own Coco Pops joke here). We returned to the Comedy Tent after that in order to redress the Neil Hamburger experience. JJ Whitehead, a Canadian, was the performer and he is a very good comedian. Much of his act is really well thought out observational comedy and he works the audience really well. I loved the story about pretending to be retarded at Disney in Florida. The next band we saw, albeit briefly was Chapel Club. I liked the sound of them and will be checking them out on line, some good tunes. Then it was My Forever at the Introducing stage (we really have been there a lot!) This was jangly indie pop with an edge and done really well.
I don’t how I have managed to miss Frank Turner on all my many visits to this festival, but I didn’t miss him this time. He was abso-fucking-lutely brilliant. He has passion, power, excitement and an audience that love him. I also see him as a Billy Bragg for this generation and I will definitely be buying some of his material when I get home. I hope he’s back next year too. We stayed for the first part of Serge Tankian’s (off of System Of A Down) set. He had and orchestral ensemble and introduced the rest of his band as ‘The Flying ****s Of Chaos’ (word starred out for the more easily offended of you dear readers, well actually I’d prefer that my Mum didn’t see that I had used ‘that C word’, those of you who are not easily offended can click on the stars to see the missing word on Wikipedia). He was good but not as good as when I saw him before a couple of years back. We joined Nick’s son Jake, who was with his girlfriend Suzie in the Festival Republic tent to see Villagers. The lead singer Conor came out on his own for the first song, cue my joke about it being a small village which did amuse one Villagers fan standing next to me. This is a very good band and I would say genre defying too. I reckon that if the original Wicker Man movie had a house band this would be them. I can almost picture Britt Ekland’s body double dancing to them!
So now for the Libertines, their entrance was preceded by Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again”. This was all very sentimentally Albion, but guys cut the schmaltz, you did this for the money! I have seen them here twice before and as always they were very good, but for me they will never be a truly great band. I may take some stick for that comment, but folks it is just my opinion ok? The crowd loved them though and it seemed that over exuberance in the crowd caused a short break in their set in which Pete and Carl were escorted from the stage. Arcade Fire were today’s headliners and any reservations I had about them filling that were quickly blown away. They were bloody amazing and even managed a little dig at the previous night’s headliner’s Guns N Roses by saying how punctual they were. The vibrancy, energy and power they display is phenomenal. The stage set including the film projection was at times weird and disturbing, but added to an overall brilliant experience. Obviously as they have performed with David Bowie before I was hoping for an appearance by the great man, but despite seeing some helicopter traffic during their set it never happened. I guess I should have crossed my toes as well as the fingers!
So in summary, Day 2 was another excellent Reading day. We’re knackered but still looking forward with excitement to Day 3!