What Presence: The Rock Photography of Harry Papadopolous

There's a great exhibition on at Street Level Photoworks in King St, showing the rock photographs of Harry Papadopolous. It's a huge selection of atmospheric photos, really out of the ordinary in style and subject as far as music photography goes. Also, the Lovely Photos of Edwyn Collins-quotient is very high.

Harry was born in Helensburgh and became staff photographer for Sounds magazine. His friendship with fellows Scots in bands like Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and The Bluebells led to an archive of great candid photos like this one.

Aztec Camera by Harry Papadopolous

The whole exhibition really sums up the spirit of the early 80s - handmade haircuts, dodgy jumpers, charity shop chic which somehow came together to be cool. The exhibition is on until 25 February so catch it while you can.

Current reading

Here's my reading for the year so far. Past: The Celestial Cafe by Stuart Murdoch. Present: Nileism: The Strange Course of the Blue Nile by Allan Brown. Future: It's Lovely To Be Here: The Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent by James Yorkston.

Together they're a good Scottish musical trio. The Celestial Cafe collects short pieces of writing previously published on the Belle & Sebastian website in one book. It covers a few years from 2002-06, dipping in and out of different tours and albums, showing life on the road and at home. I absolutely loved it and was sorry when it ended. The writing is lovely, really warm and funny, like someone talking to you. It's good if you're a B&S fan but is more of a love poem to Glasgow than a warts and all rock biog.

The last chapter of The Celestial Cafe is called "Tinseltown In The Rain" which leads nicely into Nileism. The Blue Nile are a huge band in a small way. Also based in Glasgow, they released four albums over twenty years and made few personal appearances but their music was so distinct and atmospheric that they attracted a huge reputation and a devoted following. "A riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a raincoat", as it says in the book.

Only one member of the band was interviewed for the book (the band's singer, Paul Buchanan) so it reads more like a standard rock biography than an intimate memoir. As one of the devoted few I'm looking forward to reading more about them. I'm only a few pages in at the moment so the enigma remains.

Finally, I've sneakily dipped into It's Lovely To Be Here: The Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent and it seems very good, full of James Yorkston's tales of life on the road (and in Fife) with the Fence Collective. I'm looking forward to reading more as I like these kind of books - a little glimpse into someone else's life, a bonus if it's musical.

If any of you can recommend other music biographies I'd love to add them to my reading list.

I was very sad to hear the news that Trish Keenan from Broadcast died this morning. I first saw them supporting Stereloab in the mid-90s and it was immediately clear that they were in a different class to most other bands around. They were one of a kind and wrote songs that linger in the best ways.

This song, Message From Home was the first one I thought of when I heard the news. Probably because the line "Now the leaves are off the trees / The view is clear, this time of year" comes to mind so often on cold, clear winter days.

Current listening: Jonny - the joyful collaboration between Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub and Euros Child ex of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci.

The single, Candyfloss, is out on 17 January with an album following on 31 January. There's also a free EP available at Turnstile.

Lovely jaunty pop to start the year.

Current listening: Lost and found by Steve Mason. He has one of my favourite voices ever and I'm a big fan of his various musical incarnations (Beta Band, King Biscuit Time, Black Affair). I like the way this just plods along gently. Took me a while to recognise the man in the video - see if you can place him.

I was really sad to wake up and find out that Alex Chilton has died. Big Star were a massive band during my formative years - so many great bands from Glasgow (and beyond) cited them as an influence. The song Thank You Friends (above) is such a happy sad one. RIP Alex.

Title from Alex Chilton by the Replacements which I've had in my head all day.

A little bit buried, for obvious reasons, is the sad news of Sky Saxon's death. His band The Seeds, were legendary - for their haircuts as much as their music. Mr Farmer had a regular slot on the playlist at Texas Fever, the first indie club I remember going to in Glasgow, and a number of the young men in attendance rocked that Sky Saxon look. I've noticed the odd young fella in similar garb lately. It's hard not to notice a giant bowl cut and some very tight trousers really.

More Seeds videos on YouTube:

For a few years now, there's been talk of the girl group musical that Stuart Murdoch from Belle and Sebastian has been making. As with many of his projects, it sounds totally unlikely - he advertised for some girl singers in the paper, did online auditions and wrote a musical to suit these characters he imagined so clearly. But if there's one person who can pull this sort of thing off it's Stuart and now here's a sneak preview of God Help The Girl. I'm very excited. It sounds great.

The single, 'Come Monday Night' will be out on 11 May and the album on the 22nd June (23rd US). Hopefully at some point it will be turned into a full-on Umbrellas of Cherbourg-style film, full of mini-kilted international beauties.

I've been listening to this a lot, Messages by OMD. For younger readers, OMD (full name Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark) were an 80s synthpop band from The Wirral. I can't decide if they were cool or not (I mean, at the time). They were and they weren't from what I remember. A bit nerdy, but it's easier to get away with that kind of thing these days. Some of their songs still sound amazing. Their biography is a good read. And wasn't their pompous band name the inspiration for The Smiths getting their name?

Where are they now? According to wikipedia, Andy McCluskey was reponsible for Atomic Kitten and the other one is making music with her out of Propaganda.

My coping strategy for returning work tomorrow is to listen to Matt Monro's We're Gonna Change the World (mp3) full bung on the short, yet depressing walk between the daydreamy cocoon of the train and the stark reality of the office*. And to keep listening until I believe that glorious, people-powered change is possible. Every I time hear this it puts a spring in my step because the tune is so jolly and the lyrics are so bizarre. It's a good tune to start a new year.

And here's 2007's new year tune. There wasn't one for 2008. Very remiss of me. That's probably why it wasn't a great year. It didn't have an anthem.

* Songs 1, 2, 3 and 7 of my most listened to songs are the ones deployed on this journey. Those and The Man Don't Give A F*ck by the Super Furry Animals.

Thanks to the wonder of last.fm*, I know exactly what I listened to in 2008. I'm too old to care about the music papers, have given up on 6music (apart from Adam and Joe) and have relied on last.fm and Twitter as musical radar.

Most listened to bands

  1. Belle and Sebastian
  2. Stereolab
  3. Blur
  4. The Smiths
  5. The Beach Boys
  6. The Beatles
  7. The Beta Band
  8. The Byrds
  9. The Kinks
  10. The Young Knives

Do more band names begin with a B than any other letter? It seems like quite a conservative list, but most of those bands have been serving me well for 20 years, no need to change now.

Most listened to songs

  1. The Young Knives – Rollerskater
  2. Boney M. – Rasputin
  3. Interpol – Length of Love
  4. Erlend Øye – Sheltered Life
  5. The Beatles – Fixing a Hole
  6. Stereolab – Wow and Flutter
  7. The Dandy Warhols – Everyday Should Be A Holiday
  8. Erlend Øye – A While Ago and Recently
  9. Belle and Sebastian – White Collar Boy
  10. Fleet Foxes – Quiet Houses
  11. Paul McCartney & Wings – Jet
  12. Radiohead – Backdrifts

You could get a good party started with that playlist. There's something in there for everyone. So all year the only new bands I've listened to are Fleet Foxes, Neon Neon, The Shortwave Set and Friendly Fires. Plus new albums by old artists Elbow, Glen Campbell and Grace Jones. The rest of 2008's musical output has totally passed me by. What did I miss?

* Please be my friend. I like seeing what other people are listening to.

Bit of a busy week this, so here's a musical interlude - Glen Campbell and The Beach Boys singing Guess I'm Dumb, one of the loveliest songs ever. You can't go wrong with that combination, can you? Backed by dancing girls, punctuated by screams - now that's what I call music.

France's Eurovision entry, Sebastian Tellier singing Divine was clearly too good to get anywhere in the competition. Obviously an eccentric man singing a lovely slice of breezy pop with nonsense lyrics just doesn't work anymore. It has to be all overblown and Russian to win. What a disappointment. Must be bad if Terry Wogan is thinking of throwing in the towel.

There's something I don't quite trust about Goldfrapp. They seem like musical tourists - "now we're visiting folk!", that sort of thing. But that aside, I've been won over by their latest single Happiness and its accompanying video, which is a little bundle of joy (via Creative Review which links to an extensive discussion of whether or not it's any good/what is it ripped off etc). The director, Dougal Wilson has an impressive track record having done Goldfrapp's A&E, Jarvis's Don't Let Him Waste Your Time and that freaky Will Young video.

My blogging mojo has totally gone this week so here's a video for Traffic's Paper Sun. The song is a fab sitar-heavy stomper and the video stands out from all the other clips of 60s bands in suits and screaming girlies by featuring them wandering languidly round a natural history museum (possibly the Natural History Museum). Sound and vision don't seem to be in harmony but each one is a pleasure in itself.

Got a bit of sad news today from audiac - Glasgow's RAFA Club is closing this weekend. An anonymous-looking little place off Woodlands Road, it's an indie mecca, hosting characterful club nights within its quirky walls. Certainly I used to go there back in the day, first to Good Foot, then Twister and some club that Alan Horne (of Postcard) ran for a while, amongst others. It's a brilliant venue. There's a ballroom downstairs that has a huge Mod target printed on the ceiling and a mural of fighter planes down one wall. Pictures of the Queen everywhere. Were there Airfix models hanging from the ceiling or is that the drink talking? The dancefloor was just big enough and it was dingy in a sort of atmospheric way. The booze was cheap and the (ex-RAF) bar staff were lovely. They'd make you a hot toddy when it got cold. It was weird going in (wasn't there something odd like you had to buy a raffle ticket to get in?); indie kids shuffling past the veterans but everyone got along fine. My favourite memory was turning up early one night to find that the charity danceathon in aid of Childline was overrunning. There were lots of 12-year old in leotards jumping about while the bowlies lined up on the stairs. It was that kind of place.

If you'd like to pay your last respects National Pop League are doing their Little League night there on Friday. Somebody get some photos, will ya? As a musical tribute, here's a song that really reminds me of going there:

This used to be a Good Foot favourite, although it's more baroque pop than northern soul. That was one of the great things about growing up in Glasgow. These clubs provided such a great musical education and there were lots of blurred lines between different tastes and genres. And good influences beget good bands which explains why Glasgow's produced so many of them. I hope the old place gets a good send off tomorrow.

I've been a bit distracted for the past few days so here's a musical interlude. Stereolab's Wow and Flutter on YouTube. God, I love this song. They were always so cool, it's good to see them pratting about in capes. Nice line in Open University-style infographics too.

I watched the Mercury Music Prize last night hoping The Young Knives would win. It didn't seem very likely but the winner is usually so random they probably stood as good a chance as anyone. Last night they had the best suits and even better glasses and were one of the few bands who could string a sentence together. The video above for Weekdays and Bleakdays has a whole slew of great things in it - boring jobs, chippies, postcards, picnic baskets, seaside, camping stoves, and I like the way they go to the beach and keep their suits on. More videos here:

'I used to say some people make money and some make history - which is very funny until you find you can't afford to keep yourself alive' - Anthony H. Wilson.

I only heard this quote recently and thought it was very clever and very true (although I didn't realise how true it was for him) - the sort of thing you could expect from Tony Wilson, who died yesterday aged 57. I read 24 Hour Party People recently, which is brilliant. Amazing and exciting. Makes you realise what a special thing he did. There's real inspiration in his bloody-minded determination to do something you believe in and to fight conventional wisdom with common sense and a bit of spark. Before that I read Stoned by Andrew Loog Oldham who was doing something similar in the 60s. They both show how difficult it was (and probably still is) to change the way an industry works. It's easy to sit in a stultifying office job and think it must be really exciting to work in the entertainment industry, how it would all be different there, but these stories make it clear it's just the same. Constantly battling against bosses and bureaucracy and entrenched ways of working that no longer deliver what people want. So, there's a lot of inspiration in seeing how people create something great. They might make mistakes in the process, but they follow their noses and get somewhere in the end. What they both demonstrate is how you can do something amazing by not worrying about perfecting a finished product or making a fortune but actually doing something and getting it out there then seeing what happens next. Taking chances and making mistakes. It's staggering how difficult it is to do that. So, respect due.

Lee Hazlewood

RIP Lee Hazlewood 1929-2007. Probably my favourite singer of all time and one of the few people who could get away with a moustache like that. There are tributes all over the internet so there's no need to say more. Suffice to say it's a sad day, even though it's been on the cards for a while. These are for everyone who was a fan - two of my favourites from Love and Other Crimes:

New favourite tune - I Wish I Could Have Loved You More by Candie Payne, from Liverpool. They must pump 60s nostalgia through the water there. This is heavily influenced by lots of good things - cool film soundtracks more than anything else. Enjoy.

Day 5: music. I didn't think I was too bad with music, having my finger maybe not on the pulse but a pulse at least. Last year I enjoyed lots of new music and lots of old music as well. I'm trying to thing of what was new: King Creosote, King Biscuit Time (two bands from Fife with King in their name - what are the chances?), Maximo Park, and one Sufjan Stephens song which left me wanting more. The most different band I heard was The North Sea Radio Orchestra who have an amazingly distinct sound, like a sort of Broadcast meets University Challenge. Also found today these lovely people - Hamilton Yarns from Brighton who sound like Ivor Cutler crossed with Oliver Postgate. Sweet. I still end up listening to the same old stuff though and need a bit of variety. One new blog Crying All The Way To The Chip Shop looks like it's full of inspiring stuff. What else am I missing?

I always find new year quite a miserable time. It's the post-holiday come down and the grind of going back to work; the weight of unmade or quickly broken resolutions - knowing that this is it for another year and come December nothing will have changed. So I start each year thinking that something amazing might happen. It might not, but that's not worth contemplating. Instead I convince myself that this year something really great is going to come out of the blue and make everything okay. I don't know what the thing is, or exactly what okay means but still, I started last year like this and it got me through. Giving up some responsibility to fate takes the pressure off a bit. And it always makes me think of this lovely Zombies song. I'm sure 2007 will be our year. For sure.

The Zombies - This will be our year (mp3).


Colours Are Brighter
is an album of songs for children, compiled by Mick Cooke of Belle & Sebastian. The line-up is impressive (B&S, Franz Ferdinand, The Divine Comedy and more), the songs sound good, and the artwork by Marc Baines is lovely. Plus it's for a good cause - proceeds to Save the Children. The only drawback is it's not out until October 16.

Love singer Arthur Lee dies at 61. This has been a bad year. Another legend gone. Shame.

The Commodores' keyboard player died recently, and in an obit Alvin read it mentioned how the band found their name - by opening a dictionary at random. They could have been called Commode had they been unlucky. On Thursday, Alvin and I opened our respective dictionaries at random, finding words to turn into bands, the object of the game being to try to describe how a band of the moniker in question would sound. Trying to make the bands seem plausible.

Burly : 1974 masculine glam (with beards ?). Four Len Tuckeys in Bully Beef-style hooped jumpers. Geordie soundalikes. On a smallish label like Penny Farthing. Recently rediscovered by third division glam archaeologists like Bob Stanley.

The Even-Stevens : Speccy-four-eyes literate indie, 'eighties-style : Smiths; Go-Betweens; Servants.

The Leer : Directionless 1981 sixth form band consisting of a mod, a wannabe arty boy in eyeliner, a Stranglers fan and a meat-and-potatoes rock drummer.

The full list is on Steviecat's Livejournal. Well worth a read.

Sad. Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett dies at 60. Two from him: It is obvious, the first song I thought of, and Late night, my favourite. For Cas and all Syd fans everywhere.*

* I don't know much about posting mp3s. Is there a better way to do it?

I've never seen the Beatles cartoons before so I'm working through some clips on YouTube. They're great. Some of the animation was directed by George Dunning at the same studio (TVC) as Yellow Submarine so it's really colourful and wiggy. The accents done by US voiceover artist Paul Frees (John and George) and famous UK posh bloke Lance Percival (Paul and Ringo) are fantastically all-over-the-place. They were "Americanised" to suit the US audience but it's more like a mixture of Scouse, Welsh and Pakistani. There are some nice little singalong bits like Paperback Writer and She said she said and as they were made between 1965 and 1969 the songs are some of their finest. Two more clips: Strawberry Fields Forever and And Your Bird Can Sing, and more background on the series at Television Heaven. And for dessert two clips of the real life human Beatles looking gorgeous in Kew Gardens: Paperback Writer and Rain.

Very sad - Grant McLennan from The Go-Betweens died at home in Brisbane yesterday. I saw them in Govan Town Hall years and years ago - they were a great band. I still get that that "Tallulah took a shower for an hour" line in my head every time I have one. Some clips from YouTube - Bachelor Kisses, Spring Rain and Right Here.

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