FEATURE: Steely Dan: Reelin’ Back the Years



Steely Dan:


Image result for steely DAN  

Reelin’ Back the Years


IN November, it will be forty-five years since…

Image result for steely dan can't buy a thrill

Steely Dan’s debut album, Can’t Buy a Thrill, was revealed to the public. The reason for writing this was not merely to state the case and give it a round of applause – I wanted to investigate a duo/band who have made an incredible impact on music and are still, despite their successes, one of those ‘hidden treasures’. When detailing my love of Steely Dan, I often have to start by explaining who they are. The way some people blank me would make you think I was describing the Piltdown Man – or they want me to shut up and leave them alone! We might well arrive at the day when a band like The Beatles cause a youngster to glaze over in confusion. I hope I am not alive to witness that – if I am I will be hurling myself in front of the closest lorry – but I feel aggravated when people overlook and do not recognise Steely Dan. Their debut album, perhaps, gets the most airplay but they have, until this day, recorded nine albums and toured around the world. In fact, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker will be heading to the U.K. in late-October as part of Blues Fest. Until then, they have U.S. commitments and are keeping busy.

I hope they have another album in them because it would be a shame to think their recording days are through.

My first taste of Steely Dan was hearing Can’t Buy a Thrill as a child. Listening to those incredible compositions – rich in saxophone and blissful of vibes – took me to another world and instantly impressed my fertile mind. Kings, the underrated and evocative beauty; the wistfulness of Reelin’ in the Years – if that is the correct word for it?! – and the beauty and grace of Dirty Work – again, they might plump for other terms! I always loved Midnite Cruiser (Jim Hodder on vocals) and that first song out the traps: the sensational and legendary Do It Again. At the time, critics had heard nothing like it; so the press wasn’t as positive as it should have been. Sales were not too bad but one feels Steely Dan were a bit ahead of their time – retrospective reviews have been a lot more pragmatic and seen the album for what it is.

Image may contain: text

Many debate whether Can’t Buy a Thrill is the band’s finest hour – I maintain Aja, Pretzel Logic and Countdown to Ecstasy are better – but it was a stunning start. Yes, a couple of the songs were a bit rough. The reason David Palmer did not make it onto Steely Dan’s second album was the nature of his performances – over-sung and not quite the fit Fagen and Becker were looking for. In that sense, the debut is an insight into what Steely Dan were capable of. Listen to the album and the thing that remains and shines is the incredible songwriting. Witty, caustic and intellectual: quite opposed to the rather one-dimensional and meat-headed (by comparison) songbook of many of their contemporaries (in 1972). Before we get to the Cuervo Gold and the “fine Columbian” of Hey Nineteen – the last album before Steely Dan went on a twenty-year hiatus – I want to look at the albums that really cemented their reputation: Countdown to Ecstasy (1973) and Pretzel Logic (1974). The fact the band released three albums in as many years proved how hungry and productive they were – few modern bands could keep that pace; they definitely couldn’t match the quality! Those disappointed and confused by Can’t Buy a Thrill didn’t have to wait too long before an alternative was on the shelves. The leap of quality (of Countdown to Ecstasy) reminds me of Radiohead and Nirvana – following up so-so debuts with world-class sophomore efforts.

Maybe the gulf is not THAT large with Steely Dan but their second album was at tighter, more assured and personality-driven record.

Gone were the vocal collaborations and guest spots. It was, for the most part, Fagen and Becker producing an album they wanted. Can’t Buy a Thrill was quite a smooth, seductive and chilled album for the most part. Countdown to Ecstasy, by contrast, featured hard riffs, percussion and horn flourishes – some of the most uplifting and invigorating solos that side of the Atlantic!

Image result for steely dan countdown to ecstasy album cover

There was not much of a departure between albums in terms of themes – West Cost excess; drugs and youthful escapades; the female grifter of Your Gold Teeth. It is the dossier of users, (loveable) losers and oddities – the sort one might associate with ‘Steely Dan’ (if you have read William S. Borroughs’ Naked Lunch, it will make more sense!). Fagen felt (the album) represented the hubris of Hippies; the quick-fix of the times – that insatiable lure of the East. Countdown to Ecstasy was a sales disaster compared to Can’t Buy a Thrill but resonated stronger with critics – David Palmer gone as vocalist; Fagen and Becker throwing away needless bodies. It is a taut and exciting album best personified by My Old School. It only takes a single hit of that chorus – the stuttering, syncopated guitars and celebratory horns; the addictive-as-heroine lyrics and Mardi Gras excess – to hook the sternest and most rigid of listeners. Call them arty or erudite: this was music of the highest calibre. The jaded and disgruntled alumni one hears on My Old School – people who are best left in the past – and the too-cool-for-anyone else people on Show Biz Kids (you know they “don’t give a f*ck about anybody else”) presented fascinating stories and a snapshot into the bohemian lifestyle of Fagen and Becker – or the fact they didn’t fit in with a lot of the arseholes that festooned their world.

Alongside My Old School and Show Biz Kids is the exquisite The Boston Rag: a triumvirate of Steely songs that meant the rest of the album could be crap and it will still be lauded – the fact it contained diamonds and alchemy made it one of the finest albums of the 1970s.

The public only had to wait a further six months until Steely Dan’s third album, Pretzel Logic, arrived. More confident in their songwriting (Can’t Buy a Thrill’s ten songs was reduced to eight on Countdown’; here, there were eleven numbers) and winning the critical heartbeat – it was helped by the fact Rikki Don’t Lose That Number was a big hit – things started to steer in the right direction. Philosophical, poetic and ambiguous: the lyrics intrigued reviewers; the fluid and cinematic flair of the music resounded with listeners in 1974 – looking for something deep, nuanced and different.

Image result for steely dan pretzel logic

You only have to say the word ‘musicianship’ and you’ll picture Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. From Night by Night’s warped guitars and exceptional solos; the suave and racing horns; the hands-in-the-air build-up on the chorus – it is a swaggering and incredible song. Following Rikki Don’t Lose That Number – no slouch in terms of energy and memorability – it is a perfect one-two. Throughout the album, Becker and Fagen synthesised their passion for Jazz and ventures into Rock. Any Major Dude Will Tell You is a smooth Californian story that offers help to a friend going through hard times – any world that falls apart, as it is said, will fall together again. It shows the guys were capable of sensitivity and empathy – in addition to their sardonic, witty and acid-tongued observations. East St. Louis Toodle-Oo (a Duke Ellington/Bubber Miley cover) might seem like a misstep on paper but sounds expert in the hands of Steely Dan. The confidence as high: Becker and Fagen experimenting and embracing their inner-mojo. Not to skip past Katy Lied (1975) and The Royal Scam (1976) – but they were never going to be banana skins. Katy Lied, in my view, contains two of their biggest songs: Black Friday and Bad Sneakers. Steely Dan were on a roll and this is personified in tracks such as Kid Charlemagne – and its drug dealers packing their stuff and making a run for it – and Haitian Divorce.

Some critics, at the time, felt there was little musical advancement. Retrospective common sense has led to many claiming it is Steely Dan’s greatest work – contentious but a worthy argument, none-the-less.

Becker and Fagen were used to putting out an album each year: this would not change and, in 1977, they released the peerless Aja. I often go back and forth as to whether this, Pretzel Logic or Countdown to Ecstasy is their most impressive work – many fans agree Aja is their pinnacle. It has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame (winning a Grammy itself) and often seen as one of the finest albums of the 1970s – if not, all-time!

Image result for steely dan aja

The title track is that, largely wordless, multi-part suite that seems Steely Dan’s equivalent of Bohemian Rhapsody – pretty apt considering the bohemian nature of the rhapsody within Aja. The song has an interesting background – a high school friend’s brother (of Fagen and Becker) married a woman named Aja whilst serving in the army – and incredible solos. I have not mentioned the array of musicians, at this time, Steely Dan employed to get their sound as good. Steve Gadd’s percussion almost steals the show – the saxophone of Wayne Shorter probably did (Shorter had played with Miles Davis so was no stranger to the demands Becker and Fagen had for the song). Simple, more straightforward tracks like Black Cow and Peg showed Steely Dan had lost none of their focus and ability to craft a catchy chorus – the latter features a particularly pleasing vocal from Michael McDonald. Josie is that vivid and scenic story of a heroine/anti-heroine coming back home to cause music, chaos and celebration in the neighbourhood – it is one of the most conventional songs but has plenty of complexities. Its open fifths and driven rhythms echo, at times, Disco but never parody it. A tight, modal tune graced with intimate and intelligent counter-rhythms; some of the band’s most-quotable lyrics and a chorus you can really get your voice around. Home at Last and I Got the News might be seen, by Steely Dan’s standards, as B-sides. They are brilliant songs but pale when compared with their career high: the majestic Deacon Blues. I could pretty much revolve an entire piece around this one song – I won’t, you’ll be thrilled to hear!

It is, as fans can attest, the greatest song from Becker and Fagen – and remains my favourite song ever.

The incredible score is only matched by the origins and lyrics. That loveable, take-a-chance loser (who will “learn to work the saxophone” rather than play it) crawls the suburban street; his back against the wall, a victim of laughing chance (…“This is for me, the essence of true romance”). One wonders how much of Fagen and Becker goes into the song – as it documents a Jazz performer rising when the sun goes down; taking every game and chance available in the hope the dream will be achieved.

Image result for steely dan deacon blues

It is, essentially, an anthem for life’s losers deriving its birth from Fagen and Becker learning the University of Alabama’s football team labelled themselves the ‘Crimson Tide’. That grandiose and near-biblical name seemed ridiculous for a bunch of Southern football players. Revelling in the absurdity of that proclamation – from Fagen’s Malibu residence – the duo set to work on what would become their most-famous work.

If a football team could have a jumped-up and ludicrous name like that: could there be a name for the losers in the world?!

Deacon Blues was that retort and a name/song whose influence spread beyond the time in which it was recorded – Scottish band Deacon Blue named themselves after the track. The broken man living that broken dream (a broken record, of sorts) thought he could be a famous musician but, in actuality, sips into the seediness and anonymity of the street. It is a song that sticks in my heart because, in a way, I see a little of myself in that track. By the chorus, the anti-hero, having drunk Scotch whisky all-night-long, sees himself dying at the wheel – a predicament that seems rather romantic in the context of the song. It is a glorious work of art and a song that, some five years after their debut, marks the peak of Steely Dan’s career. The chaps would produce the stunning, if patchy, Gaucho in 1980 – an album with a few exceptional numbers but some forgettable ones, too. Babylon Sisters was as suave and sophisticated as they had ever been; Hey Nineteen the tale of the older, ‘wiser’ man unable to gel with the young naïve girl (who does not know who Aretha Franklin is) – destined to watch the coke-snorting, tequila-chugging throng surrender to poor judgement and youthful recklessness (feeling awkward and lost in a generation gap; Fagen wants to be taken down with the rest of them). There are glimmers of Steely Dan’s best work but, three years after the exhausting Aja, it is understandable Becker and Fagen would not be able to replicate their greatest albums. Nevertheless, it is a fine album and one that sadly, would be the last from them – for two decades, at least.

Image result for steely dan two against nature

Two Against Nature (2000) and Everything Must Go (2003) were received fondly but showed cracks and a weaker economy. The sheer gap between albums would always lead to some inconsistent results. That said, Donald Fagen created stunning solo albums in The Nightfly (1982) and Morph the Cat (2006). One hopes the duo will produce another Steely Dan album but, the more time goes on, the less likely it seems.

It is wonderful we have such a bountiful archive of music from them.

Whatever your personal preferences – if you favour the crystallisation and epiphany of Countdown to Ecstasy or the experimentation of Aja – there is an album that will suit your needs. I am not too stringent when deciding upon my favourite Steely Dan albums. To me, Steely Dan is about those songs and rich musical tapestries. I love the perfectionist tendencies and the effort expended in each album. Maybe it is not possible in today’s music – bands and artists need to have their albums out quickly who capitalise on expectation and market demands – so, perhaps, they are a product of a past (better) age for music. I do not know. All I do know is how inspiring their music is and how relevant it is right now. I hear a few artists who take bits and pieces from Steely Dan but none that have the same qualities. I feel the U.S. duo deserve more acclaim and representation. Those who will be catching them on tour know what I mean; the people who listen to their music regularly understand that – what about those unaware of Steely Dan and all they have done for music?! I opened by stating, with genuine horror, how appalling it is facing youthful ignorance – people not knowing classic acts and drawing a blank. This year, Can’t Buy a Thrill will celebrate its forty-fifth anniversary: a timely and appropriate reminder why Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are regarded as two of the greatest musicians…

Image may contain: 2 people, indoor

WHO ever lived.

FEATURE: The July Playlist: Vol. 1: The Big Guns Are Out



The July Playlist




Vol. 1: The Big Guns Are Out


ANOTHER warm week; another sizzling-hot…

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor and closeup


one for big releases. Broken Social Scene, The National and Arcade Fire; St. Vincent and The National all have songs out. There are some fantastic videos and a confident new slice from Liam Gallagher. Throw in Lucy Rose, Mogwai and The Killers and it is a fantastic cupboard of music treats. There are gems and delights from new artists and unexpected releases.

It is a fantastic week for music. Included are the best from Hip-Hop and Indie; some great songs from the best young artists around and a song from all the big albums releases of the week. Sit back and enjoy a bumper-load of fantastic sounds…


Image may contain: 10 people, outdoor


Broken Social SceneStay Happy

Image may contain: 1 person

The xx I Dare You

Image may contain: sky, mountain, outdoor and nature

Arcade Fire Signs of Life

Image may contain: 1 person

St. VincentNew York

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and text

The NationalGuilty Party

Image may contain: 1 person

Liam GallagherChinatown

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, shoes, beard and outdoor

Kendrick LamarELEMENT.

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing, shoes and outdoor

PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Sweeney

MogwaiParty in the Dark

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

The Killers The Man

No automatic alt text available.

British Sea PowerDon’t Let the Sun Get in the Way

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

Lucy RoseMoirai

Image may contain: 1 person, selfie, closeup and outdoor

Clean Bandit (ft. Marina)Disconnect

No automatic alt text available.

Hare SqueadFlowers

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Noga Erez – Noisy

Image may contain: 1 person

Grace LightmanFangs

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, wedding and indoor


WWWaterPink Letters

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, flower

PHOTO CREDIT: Pamela Littky

Fall Out Boy – Champion

Image may contain: 1 person

PHOTO CREDIT: Stian Andersen

Astrid S Such a Boy

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, sky, mountain and outdoor

Louise Lemón – Appalacherna

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and indoor

EMADown and Out

Image may contain: 1 person, shoes

Billie Eilish watch

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing, closeup and indoor

PHOTO CREDIT: Wolf James Photography

JAGARA – Real Love

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing

Toro Y MoiYou and I

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

Bugzy Malone Bruce Wayne

Image may contain: outdoor

Mr Jukes (ft. De La Soul, Horace Andy)Leap of Faith

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, sunglasses and outdoor

Redlight (ft. Liv Dawson and Kojo Funds) – I’ll Be Waiting

Image may contain: 4 people

PHOTO CREDIT: Anna Maria Lopez

Sundara KarmaExplore

Image may contain: one or more people and text

Áine CahillAngels & Demons

No automatic alt text available.

Vessels (ft. The Flaming Lips)Deflect the Light

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, eyeglasses and closeup

Stanaj The Way I Love Her

Image may contain: 1 person, tennis and outdoor

NERVO (ft. Kylie Minogue, Jake Shears and Nile Rodgers)The Other Boys

Image may contain: 1 person

HarperBad Luck

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing

PHOTO CREDIT: Jason Palmer-Dawson

RedFacesWise Up

Image may contain: one or more people and guitar

MetalicaNow That We’re Dead

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Matt WillsVirtue

Image may contain: 2 people

Dusky GreyCall Me Over

Image may contain: 4 people, shoes

The Vamps and Martin JensenMiddle of the Night

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and outdoor

DNCE (ft. Nicki Minaj)Kissing Strangers

Image may contain: 2 people, outdoor

Confidence ManBoyfriend

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing, sunglasses and text

The StrypesBehind Closed Doors

Image may contain: sky, tree, plant and outdoor

Angel (ft. Protoje)Hi Grade

Image may contain: one or more people and closeup

Freya RidingsMaps

No automatic alt text available.

Mallory Knox California

Image may contain: outdoor

TYNILate Spring

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

GIRLI (ft. Lethal Bizzle)Feel Ok

Image result for drake

Drake Signs

Image may contain: one or more people

Mura Masa (ft. Christine & the Queens)Second 2 None

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, ocean, outdoor, water and nature

A Blaze of Feather – Soft Day

Image may contain: 4 people, beard

Rudimental (ft. James Arthur)Sun Comes Up

Image may contain: 1 person

Machinedrum and Rosie LoweWhat Is This

Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Dan Caplen (ft. RAY BLK)Flat Champagne

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup


Baio – Out of Tune

Image may contain: 1 person, sunglasses, closeup and outdoor

Roy Woods (ft. MADEINTYO)Instinct

No automatic alt text available.

KidekoDum Dum

Image may contain: 1 person

– Nights with You

Image result for bella thorne just call

Prince Fox (ft. Bella Thorne)Just Call

Image may contain: 1 person, beard, sunglasses and outdoor

Calvin Harris (ft. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean)Feels 

Image may contain: outdoor

PHOTO CREDIT: Jon Estwards

Doldrums – Perv

No automatic alt text available.

Future (ft. Chris Brown)PIE

Image may contain: night

Floating Points – Kites

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing

LANYGood Girls

Image may contain: 1 person


Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, people sitting

Lil YachtyDirty Mouth

Image may contain: 1 person, sky, tree, cloud and outdoor

PHOTO CREDIT: James Perolls

Laurel HaloWho Won?

Image may contain: one or more people

Nothing MoreGo to War

Image may contain: one or more people

Saya Cold Fire

Image may contain: one or more people


Moses Sumney Doomed

Image may contain: 1 person, shoes and outdoor

PHOTO CREDIT: @isseymiyake__

Tyga (ft. King)Flossin

Image may contain: 1 person, beard and closeup


John Smith Joanna

Image may contain: 1 person

IMAGE CREDIT: Impossible Brief

The Chainsmokers Young

Image may contain: plant, grass, outdoor, nature and text


PHOTO CREDIT: Rodmund Bulaclac

Young ClancySlo-Mo

No automatic alt text available.

Stone Sour – The Witness Trees

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, tree, outdoor, nature and water

Manchester OrchestraThe Alien

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, ocean, outdoor and nature

LOYALReset in Colour

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

Kacy HillStatic

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

Bobby Brackins (ft. Marc E. Bassy)OB

Image may contain: one or more people

Louis Berry25 Reasons

Image may contain: one or more people and closeup

Anna of the NorthSomeone

Image may contain: 2 people

TLC – Perfect Girls

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor

Noah KahanYoung Blood

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

Meek Mill (ft. The-Dream)Young Black America

Image may contain: 1 person, cloud, sky and outdoor

KlyneYour Touch

Image may contain: 1 person


No automatic alt text available.

Washed OutDown and Out

Image may contain: one or more people

It is exceptional seeing a new song from both The National and Arcade Fire. They are two of the biggest bands around and I am very excited by their forthcoming albums. Liam Gallagher is in fine fettle; St. Vincent is back and determined to lay down her maker – a brilliant video from Kendrick Lamar to top it all off!

Of course, it is not only the bigger artists: we have a collection of confection from the more ‘modest’ acts around. It is the perfect soundtrack for a warm and pleasant day. Crank up the volume and get your ears on these sumptuous tunes.

TRACK REVIEW: Smidley – No One Likes You






No One Likes You






No One Likes You is available at:





St. Louis, U.S.A.

The album, Smidley, is available here:


Recorded at Headroom Studio Philadelphia, PA
Produced and mixed by Joe Reinhart
Additional engineering by Sean Price & Eric Hudson
Mastered by Ryan Shwabe
Album art by Hayden Molinarolo
Vocals – Conor Murphy
Guitar – Joe Reinhart
Drums – Eric Slick
Guitar – Jon Heredia
Bass – Tyler Long
Guitar – Ben Walsh
Saxophone – Cameron Boucher
Guitar – Dominic Angelella
Percussion – Ricardo Lagomisino


2nd June, 2017


THIS is a rare occasion where I get to review an American artist.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

I have reviewed plenty before but I am doing a lot of U.K. reviews at the moment. Before I come to Smidley; there are a few things that need covering – bringing him in as an example and inspiration point. I wanted to look at the music of Missouri (Smidley is from St. Louis) and the strength of the American market; the inspiration for songs and how odd tangents can compel songwriting; having fun making music and being unconcerned with expectations and demands; inventiveness and skewed instrumentation and musicians who create side projects – having been in successful bands. I’ll open by talking about Missouri – which doesn’t sound like the hotspot for American music. Smidley is from St. Louis which is, to the best of my knowledge, the largest metropolitan area in Missouri and one of the most-populous in the U.S. A lot of the income St. Louis generates is from trade and manufacturing: there is a big tourism industry and attractions that bring people in from all around the world. It is small wonder so many people flock to the city. In terms of attraction, one can view the magnificence of Gateway Arch and St. Louis Art Museum. There is the City Museum and Botanical Garden; St. Louis Zoo and the Science Center. Plenty for any taste and persuasion. Lots to see and do and some great architecture. The city is Democrat-run has a wide and varied population. There is a great mix of people and some fantastic transportation links. Akon and Maya Angelou are notable residents; Chuck Berry and Nelly hail from the city. It is a bustling and wonderful part of the U.S. that does not get the attention it deserves. Excuse my travelogue, but I wanted to contextualise St. Louis in terms of Missouri and what a jewel it is. There are seventy-nine government-designated neighbourhoods in the city and a wonderful cultural scene. In terms of classic/legendary musicians from the city; I have mentioned Nelly – maybe not that big a legend but certainly relevant. T Bone Burnett and Donny Hathaway are from St. Louis; Fontella Bass and Billy Davis Jr.

Image may contain: 5 people, people sitting, shoes, child and outdoor

A lot of the best Urban music hails from St. Louis and there are some great newcomers emerging. Smidley sits in a city (and state) that is fostering some terrific artists right now. In terms of the last few years; Water Liars are one of those acts that have put St. Louis on the map. They mix awesome basslines with Doo-Wop keys (on $100) and seem to nod to older styles of music – Folk cuts such as Dog Eaten seem to have their heart in times past. Sleepy Kitty is a male/female duo and has a 1990s Rock style that seems fresh and contemporary. They can pen catchy songs and have grown over the past few years – one of the most exciting acts to come out of St. Louis. Old Lights boast calming vocals and perfect melodies with energetic performances and a tightness most bands lack. They can do instrumental songs (Loud Song is predominantly instrumental) with melody-heavy gems – Wilder Honey is a perfect example. Dots Not Feathers are another act that goes from strength-to-strength and is a five-piece who can nail harmonies. Their Jazz progressions and Folk melodies are placed alongside mature lyrics and some of the most beautiful music you will hear. Bo and the Locomotives are one of your more good-time acts. They play up-tempo music to get the feet moving and have a perfect Indie sound. They complete a small round-up of St. Louis acts worth watching. It is a variegated and diverse city that supports its artists and has a great sense of community. It seems Smidley is in a great place to create work and grow as an artist. I will look at the music venues in St. Louis a bit later but, Missouri as a state, is one of the most productive in the country. There are great artists in Kansas and Columbia; Kansas City – being the largest city in Missouri – is championing some future mainstays.

I shall move on from St. Louis but I find it helpful explaining where an artist comes from and the sort of music happening around them. I often switch between the U.S. and U.K. when it comes to the best music in the world. I believe these two nations are the finest out there – countries like Sweden and Canada are great – and seem to have the biggest stars. There are similarities in terms of tastes and artists but each country has its merits. I find the U.K. is best when it comes to bands and those artists that get the body moving and the voice ringing. The U.S. seems to have a better expertise in regards genres like Pop, Electro. and Urban. It seems there is more depth and range in America. Maybe that is by virtue of their increased population – and I may be over-simplifying – but the U.S. has a lot more going on. I look at a city like New York and see such promise. The various boroughs each have their own sound and strengths. Go to L.A. and one can see differences in various parts of the city. Malibu and Miami have their own thing going on; Nashville is always producing sensational music whilst Seattle and Detroit are still active and relevant. We forget about areas like St. Louis and assume the finest music is reserved to the more tourist-aware areas. New York and L.A. are, naturally, vital sources of great music but not the only reason to be excited about American music. We here try our best to assess and represent the best American artists around but do get caught up with the mainstream examples. Smidley is in a nation that continues to show the rest of the world how it should be done. I am always going to stick to U.K. music and feel we are the equal of America. What I love about Britain is the richness and complexity of our music scene. We cover all genres and have so many treasures that need greater exposure.

Image may contain: one or more people, drink and closeup

The U.S. is a larger nation and, as such, has a more fascinating musical geography. I have mentioned St. Louis – more on that later – but cities like Nashville are extraordinary and inspiring. America has its political issues but its music scene seems untarnished and unaffected by the problems around it. Smidley must vibe and take heart from the mass of wonderful artists creating around him. Before I come to look at Smidley’s latest track – and the inspiration behind it – I want to bring up an aside. It is rather cute/tragic that Smiley’s moniker derives from his sadly-departed mutt. It is always interesting discovering where artists take their name from. In this case, a much-loved family pet is the inspiration. It may seem like an odd tangent but most people do not query where bands/artists get their names. I am fascinated by it because there are so many unoriginal ones out there. In fact, it is not such a diversion – it forms its own point. Smidley is an artist who takes care of every aspect of his music. He is slavish when it comes to quality and image. Someone who takes nothing for granted and ensures he stands out from the crowd. I get depressed when hearing bands/artists with obvious names or that which will never stick in the mind. I know it is hard formulating an original name but, in truth, there are plenty of options out there – you can take words from every language in the world and think of something wonderful. It seems a lot of artists are not taking the necessary time to have a good think and realise how important their name is. It has to stick in the mind and be easy to find – I find so many acts have weird spellings and common names – it means search results bring up hundreds of other things before you actually find the act. In that same spirit, so many people put their names in capitals – which drives me nuts – or have common nouns/adjectives as their name. It means they do not stand out and, in a lot of cases, infuriate people. Smidley is, not only an inventive and original choice, but has that familial tie. It is rather sad to think where that name came from but is a touching tribute. Because of this, I am more drawn to the St. Louis musicians and know he is someone who has great heart and sensitivity. He could have chosen an asinine name – or something common and inspired – but chose to distinguish himself with that brilliant choice. The pet lives on – seemed like a wonderful dog – and it provides journalist like me with something to get their teeth into.

I want to look at the inspiration behind No One Likes You and its background. I shall dissect the song and why I love it but, as Smidley attests, it stems from a joke. It is one of his most honest songs and gained its creation from an unexpected source – the songwriter talking to himself in the car. We all do it but few of us actually get to the point of writing a song. Smidley thinks of himself as slightly lunatic but there is a lack of caring that is refreshing. Those insecurities are cast off and there is a freedom being able to do what you want. I am not sure, specifically, where that title comes from but it all stems from that realisation. So many songs have boring and predictable routes so it is nice finding an artist who takes impetus from left-field areas. In this case, we have a young man who likes to listen to music in the car and have a chatter. Not in an insane way but, I guess, a chance to verbalise any doubts and get his feelings out. If we sit (alone) in silence, it can be quite odd and unusual. It seems strange being placid and silent when we have the physicality and propulsion of the open road. We sing to music without thinking about it – it is no less unusual than talking to oneself, I guess. I, myself, have been known to verbalise various thoughts and questions – if there is nobody around to hear/judge you then what is the harm?! I think a lot of people find themselves more secure and at-peace in the confirmed of a vehicle. It can be a mobile confession booth; places we can cut loose and castigate inhibitions. Smidley might feel a little self-conscious rambling to himself but it has lit the spark for an incredible song. I feel there are musicians who overlook how influential everyday life. Many will not pen a song until they have their heart broken – the commercial lure of loss and romantic fracture need to be reviewed. If you are relying on love and relations alone; I feel there is little point being a musician.

The world around us is vast and ever-changing. There are so many countries and cultures musicians could source from. Smidley takes his name from his lost pet and song derivation from his in-car talk. Because of this lyrical approach; the music has the chance to break from convention and be different. Even established and reputable artists show little flexibility and it can be quite galling. Maybe it is challenging writing about something quirky and unusual but music thrives when it is broad-minded and varied. Yes, Smidley writes from the heart and does not ignore the importance of personal relations. He is not someone who is obsessed by it and shows little interest in anything else. That Archimedes moment can occur at any times: one of the greatest things about songwriting and what can set it off. Whether there are domestic influences or you are captivated by the news: songs can take shape from the smallest and most unusual places. I am more attached to artists who go beyond what is expected and write songs that are a little unusual and unexpected. Smidley’s latest cut is certainly that and one that makes you smile – before you have even heard a note sung. He is, at heart, an optimist and a person who does not want to drag the listener down. Again, there is too much negative and self-examination in modern music. It is an established and popular area but one that seems to dominate the music industry. I am not suggesting every artist dispenses with relationship songs and writes something more interesting. There are plenty who want to hear these kinds of songs – it is familiar and can provide guidance and comfort to those in a similar predicament – but what is the harm in mixing things up?! There are few who take the trouble to push their imagination. Finding artists like Smidley take the initiative and do something unique will give motivation and push to artists around him.

No automatic alt text available.

I shall talk about Smidley’s former incarnation but, before then, a little on why his album, Smidley, stands out. It was, as his confesses, one of the most enjoyable experiences of his life. Many artists talk about various songs but rarely say whether making an album was fun or not. Some do, sure, but it is rare finding an artist having a ball putting an album down. Produced by Hop Along’s Joe Reinhart – recorded in Philadelphia at Headroom – it was a carefree experience that led to some terrific results. One need only listen to a song like No One Likes You to know Smidley sounds secure and relaxed in his surroundings. The song brims with life and humour; it has so many possibilities and is a song, one imagines, came together pretty quickly. That organic and free-flowing approach to music means it is the most carefree and fun Smidley had making an album. That is heartening to see and, let’s hope, this dynamic and pleasure continue into his next release. Maybe it was the time it was recorded; perhaps, the state of mind he was in but I feel it was down to a lack of expectations. His previous band, Foxing, had a certain structure and way of working. There was commercial pressure and certain expectations. I feel this is why a lot of modern musicians suffer anxiety and put out sub-standard records. There is that need to put an album out quickly and please record labels. Many artists have to create songs of a certain nature – about love or reflecting on relations – which stifles creative endeavour. A lot of time, an artist has to think about more than the music. There is promotion and interviews; getting Spotify streams up and making sure videos are as evocative and eye-catching as they can be. Not only is modern music a full-time job but it can cripple many. The pressure our young artists are under is immense. That is not suggesting that is the experience with everyone but is true of many mainstream acts.

Image may contain: 5 people, people sitting, shoes, child and outdoor

Smidley would have felt this as part of Foxing. They put out The Albatross in 2013 – again, I will focus on them soon – and followed that with 2015’s Dealer. There was commercial pressure following the success of their debut and a certain way of working. Maybe quite constrained and confined – bands write and create differently to solo artists – it would have been quite an exhaustive experience. Smidley is a solo venture that allows Conor Murphy the opportunity to create music the way he wants to. Casting off the shackles and armour of the band dynamic shows throughout the latest album. It is nice to hear an artist come out and testify as to the pleasures of creating and recording. That lack of anxiety and happiness really shows. Sure, there would have been stressful times but, on the whole, a pleasurable experience that sticks in the mind. I am not overly-aware of the Philadelphia music scene – the city gets slammed and has a certain ‘reputation’ – but it seems like a hospitable and compelling area of the U.S. that Smidley felt comfortable in. Not only has this relaxed body created some wonderful music but is among the most inventive and surprising I have heard. The arrangements are never predictable and obvious. You have these, at times, twisted and swooping compositions and wonderful little asides. The vocals are warm and rich but carry so many different colours and contours. The production is polished and assured – without draining the songs of their authenticity and rawness – and the entire effect is wonderful. That band life was a memorable one but it was quite a draining experience. Smidley, as a lone artist, was not tied to strict deadlines and had that weight on the shoulders. If you have a band who has crafted a certain sound – many expect that to be repeated and there is that stress. I can understand why Smidley stepped aside and has gone alone. What we hear is a man comfortable and inspired by music. He is at his creative peak and getting song ideas from the most unexpected places.

I am hearing a lot of new artists come through the breakage/embers of a band. Recently, I interviewed Toothless. That is the moniker of Bombay Bicycle Club’s Ed Nash and a chance of the musician to write different types of music. The band has not written music for a while – not sure if they are ended or on a hiatus – but Nash has the chance to make music the way he wants to. There are no outside voices and direction from the record label. Murphy had a great time working in Foxing and would have taken a lot from that time. I am not sure if the guys will ever release another album but it seems Smidley is a happier endeavour. Sometimes, bands can break up and, whether acrimonious or not, members feel reluctant to make more music. Music is tough and demanding so one can appreciate that need to disconnect and pursue other avenues. Bands are the most popular configuration in music and a currency that attracts so many young artists. Many get strings of gigs and play all around the world. Bands, unlike solo artists, can create a bigger sound and are less confined than solo artists. It is great working with others and friendships can be cemented. It is exciting crafting a song together and seeing that realised on the stage. The rush and excitement of that lifestyle is attractive but it can all end. In the case of Smidley; that project has formed from the negatives of the band. The demands and brutal lifestyle of being in a band – more in terms of demands and creative limitations as opposed to personal relations – took its toll. I know being in a band is not always that bad but many ambitious songwriters can find themselves limited and frustrated. Conor Murphy is a man who pushes boundaries and is not your average musician. Being in Foxing allowed him the chance to spread his wings but he would not have had the mobility he does as Smidley. It is great he did not give up on music and, instead, regenerated and found fresh inspiration.

Image may contain: one or more people, drink and closeup

One of the great things about Smidley’s eponymous album is the varied and unusual compositions. We have drums, bass and guitars; saxophone and sensational vocals. Rather than pen something rather straightforward and easy; Smidley has penned a set of songs that fascinate and compel the mind. Just look at some of the song titles – Dead Retrievers, Power Word Kill and Milkshake – and you are already fascinated. Murphy takes great care to ensure song titles and his music stands out and intrigue the listener. Not only are those title and lyrics packed with wonderful lines and nuanced sentiments: the compositions are among the most impressive I have heard this year. I shall not go into the album track-by-track but urge people to investigate the record in its full splendour. What one will discover is an artist who is having a great time recording and feels less encumbered than ever. The guitars, bass and guitars add weight, candour and strength; the vocals are nimble and fulsome whist saxophone adds a richness and suaveness. It is a banquet of sounds and instruments that help forge compositions of the highest order. Smidley seems like the complete package and someone who wants to make a name for himself. The way he approaches music – and the brilliance of his songs – will lead to big rewards. I will look at his future in the conclusion but am always impressed by stunning musicianship. I am, actually, writing a piece on Steely Dan later today. Their music has touched me (and millions) and they are a duo that ensured all their songs were as good as they could be. That perfectionist tendency was not there to annoy other musicians – those who played on the record – but ensure the songs would be remembered these many years down the line. I think a lot of new music has to be recorded so quickly there are no real chances to chisel and experiment. Smidley seems to be someone taking a Steely Dan approach to his music. It is looser than a lot of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker’s music but no less interesting. He places a lot of importance on sonic textures and ensuring the music perfectly complements the lyrics.

The vocal comes straight into the song and has that unique Conor Murphy sound. It is an unusual delivery but one that warms the heart and gets you standing to attention. So much emotion and passion go into the performance. No One Likes You is a wonderful song but I was lucky enough to find the lyrics alone. Owing to Murphy’s pronunciation and delivery – the instruments and production mean the vocals lose some of their intelligibility – it can be hard picking up on the words. With a lyrics sheet, it makes it a much fuller experience. “I’m a soccer mon in the spring” is one of the first lines that fire into the brain – “No one likes you on the high-horse you ride on”, it is said. Maybe there is some personal revelation and back-story in the tale – “The crowds do not applaud/’cause no one likes you or the band you’re in at all”. That would be cruel to Foxing but there seems to be a mix of the personal and detached. Maybe Smidley was the results of reaching a plateau. There is no sense of the man chatting with himself in the car but, perhaps, these thoughts and insights came to him on a drive. The band days are over for Conor Murphy but that sense of feeling surplus to requirements and past his prime – that need to make a change and do something new. Smidley needs to crack a grin (as he’s young) and make the most of it. Perhaps there is that sense that, because he was in a band, he has nothing to complain about. When one is in an established group; the media thinks it is all rosy and there are no troubles. The reality might be a lot different. I cannot speak for Murphy and how things are with his Foxing brothers but one can sense that tangible dissatisfaction. Self-deprecating at times (people thinking Murphy is a bit s*it); the young artist taking charge and assessing his options. The vocal is stunning in the sense it does not merely read the lyrics. What one gets is a sermon and performance piece. The words are twisted and stretched; there are accents on certain syllables and it is like a skilled storyteller wringing as much potential and possibility from his words.

No automatic alt text available.

The guitars chug and the drum rumble as Smidley, exasperated by the reality of the situation, almost screams the chorus. It is a realisation that is hard to take. Maybe there is that sense of talking about someone else – maybe documenting a fellow musician or borrowing from fiction. Luckily, the second verse is clearer than the first: listeners will be able to pick up the story and follow it without straining their ears. Our man wants to take acid and play ping-pong with Ian Jones – whomever that may be! No one likes the “basement you came from” or that “hundred-year-old home”. One gets a view of charming domesticity and the need for a normal life – albeit it, one where you drop acid and play table tennis with a mate. It might be a need to detach from the constant travel of the band and find some normalcy. My brain was split between seeing the song as that transitional epiphany from band-to-solo; maybe it is about a peer and someone who is struggling in the life they have created. Smidley attested how freeing and happy the recording experience was. There was no real accusation or bitterness it seems. No One Likes You is a man – seemingly talking to himself in the car – piecing things together and trying to reinvent himself. That is impressive because, if you get in that state, it can be hard to find the strength to do something constructive. For Smidley, the past has been fun but the best days might have passed. Now, there is that need to do something else and regain a sense of popularity and perspective. Perhaps I am being too literal thinking it is a personal song – maybe a general assessment of the way some people can get stuck in a rut and jaded by life.

Image may contain: 5 people, people sitting, shoes, child and outdoor

Whatever the truth and origin of the song; it is highly addictive and nuanced. I keep coming back to experience that vocal. There is nobody like Conor Murphy when it comes to delivery. He makes sure all the words get into the mind and they are provided proper care and respect. It is a quirky, beautiful and strong performance from someone fully immersed in the music. The composition switches from tender and calmed beauty to a full-out rager. By the final notes, I could not leave it there so had to go back and revisit the song. No One Likes You is the author’s favourite song and the standout from Smidley’s eponymous album. There are ample treasures on the L.P. so do not think No One Likes You is as good as things get. In fact, there are so many subjects and stories covered on the record, you need a lot of time to focus on it and unravel all the pieces. What I love about Smidley – having recently discovered him – is the way he takes a potential fraught time and turns it into something positive and inspiring. Many could have spat the words out with anger and regret. It seems, if it is a personal account, the past is just that and not something that should hinder the future. He realises there is that desire and yearning to change things for the better. What resulted was that transformation from band leader to reborn solo artist. The smile comes to the face when you listen to No One Likes You and one imagines Smidley would have been grinning when recording the track. The instrumentation is amazing and never predictable. The entire song is a thrill-ride and a unique beast. I will follow Smidley’s career and look (with interest) where he goes next.

I shall end this now but want to have a quick glance to the future. Smidley is out now and a confident and assured album from the Foxing frontman. It is a record that brings elements of Foxing but expands a lot more. Conor Murphy has more room to manoeuvre as a songwriter and sourcing inspiration from other places. There is not the same commercial pressure and, as such, it seems like Smidley is a venture that could continue for many years. Let’s hope there are more albums in him. I know there will be U.S. tour dates but I hope Smidley comes to Europe. In the U.K., there would be chances for him to perform but the fanbase might need to grow first. There a lot of American supporters in his corner but how many here in Britain?! Maybe places like London would bring crowds in but one wonders about other areas. When word spreads – and the music reaches radio stations here – that popularity will grow and a chance for him to perform a lot in this country. One assumes European dates will be in his mind – interesting to see how far he can go. I shall end things soon but will come back to those original points. I looked at St. Louis and a few of the artists making big waves there. Over the past few years, so many different artists have emerged from the city and marked themselves as mainstream-worthy. There is a wealth of music and culture in St. Louis so small wonder artists like Smidley are happy to remain there. It is not like Britain where there are a few large cities artists can find success – many in towns and villages do not have chances and success so have to come to places like London. In the U.S., there are a lot more choices and it is not quite as hard-going. St. Louis continues to grow and has some of the finest venues in America. The Old Rock House takes its name from a riverside saloon that attracted the like of Mark Twain. It is a beautiful space that has been renovated and offers so much for the modern music-lover. It is adaptable in the sense it can be a trendy nightclub but a more relaxed space. Not a surprise many artists want to play there. It is one of the most impressive performance spaces in St. Louis and, certainly, one of the most picturesque.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Joe Edwards, owner of Blubbery Hill, opened The Pageant in 2000. It has the look of an Art-Deco cinema/theatre and has been a go-to mid-sized venue for local Rock/Alternative acts in the city. Inside, it is like a cabaret venue: tables and chairs at the back with plenty of room for people to dance at the front. National and local artists alike play there and it is a thriving venue in St. Louis. The Firebird, down Olive Street, is a great Rock venue and is one of the most intimate in the city. If that is not your bag then Off Broadway – down Lemp Avenue – is a brick garage-turned-bar that hosts live shows by national and local artists. There is such a spread of venues that suit all tastes. Smidley has some wonderful contemporaries around him and great venues to play his music. I guess he will be looking beyond St. Louis – Missouri is a vast state that has the likes of Kansas City nearby – but he seems comfortable gaining inspiration from a terrific part of the U.S. It is under most people’s radar and deserves more acclaim. One need only look at the stunning venues and attractions to relaise why it is so popular. American music is among the best (if not the best) in the world. I am glad I get to review an American artist as it provides an opportunity to see what is happening in the country. I get too obsessed with the likes of L.A. and New York and forget there is forty-eight other states with great music in them. Missouri is a state I am not overly-familiar with but, reviewing Smidley, have learnt a lot. One of the thing that hooks me – talking about Smidley – is where his music comes from. I have explained how his moniker is dog-related and has that original derivation. He is equally fascinating when it comes to song inspiration. No One Likes You could have been about a love-gone-wrong and all the recriminations associated with it. Instead, its bones and blood come from the fact he likes to chat to himself in the car. It is not the only thread but relates to times when we stop thinking about what the rest of the world thinks and relaxes those constraints. I talk to myself in the car (sing more often than talk) but I can understand why people do it.

Image may contain: one or more people, drink and closeup

If you are alone, you might have thoughts in your head and things that need verbalising. It is not mad saying things out loud – even if others might see it that way – and it is a brilliant source for a song. I wish more artists would take this approach and let songs stem from rare sources. Love is important but, every now and then, the listener wants something unique and unexpected. That is what you get with No One Likes You. It is a song that stands out in Smidley’s mind. He claims, I think, it is his favourite song and reflects the happiness and comfort he felt recording his album. I am always lifted hearing artists say how pleasurable it is recording albums. One gets to learn about various songs – what compelled them and what they relate to – but few bands/acts say why an album was great to record. We often associate music with a certain pressure and sense of insularity. Smidley felt a bit of this in his band, Foxing, but now he is free to create as he wishes. Music is stronger and more nuanced when the artist is enjoying the moment and properly involved. If you create music to fill deadlines and keep your name relevant, you are going to last only a short time. There is no point recording material for the sake of it. Smidley, in his eponymous album, sounds like a man rediscovering his passion for music. It is a wonderful ten-track release that overflows with wonderful moments and sensational performances. Those skewed instrumentations and off-kilter asides fit with conventional cores and heartfelt delivery. A heady mix of light-hearted melodicism sits with sounds that could be compared with The Shins and Car Seat Headrest. Above all this, one hears Conor Murphy emerge from the constraints and pressures of the band past and mark himself as a solo artist to watch closely. Once he has taken in the U.S. and impressed crowds there, let’s hope he finds some time to fly over here and…

COME see us.


Follow Smidley

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup














Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, concert and indoor




BIRD is back and flying with her latest single, Hurricane.

Image may contain: 1 person, text and closeup

She has been branded an ‘Electro-Pop’ artist but is more Trans-Genre. Hurricane boasts epic string passages and pumping drums: a confident lead performance and whoosing pads. It is the latest release from the album, Inside Out, and documents the storm one can experience in a relationship – where the parties who live in an unhappy relationship and want something more. I ask her about the song – which has been remixed by Ash Howes, Tin Tin Out and Philip Larsen (in different versions) – and what more we can expect from Inside Out. Previous albums have revolved around the voice (Girl and a Cello) and computers (Figments of Our Imagination) – I am fascinated by the evolution and diversity of a promising and fantastic young songwriter.

Bird discusses whether we will see more remixes from Inside Out; how she fuses genres together and what kind of music upbringing she had. I ask about her favourite musical memory to date and whether there will be any tour dates coming – and the three albums that mean the most to her.


Hi, Bird. How are you? How has your week been?


I’m in the middle of working on a chill-out remix of my own single – with remixer LA Son.

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?


I’m Bird. I’m a singer-songwriter making alternative Electro/Pop music (although I prefer to be described as ‘Trans-Genre’).

I’m a multi-instrumentalist. I also write and produce for other artists.

Did you catch Glastonbury? What was your opinion? Any performances stand out to you? 

Sadly not yet – been too busy in the studio.

The new single, Hurricane, is out on 11th August. What can you tell us about its themes and background?

It’s about a fictional affair – two people looking for more but know, that in getting what they want, they may create a terrible storm.

I don’t like to write directly about anyone in particular so I make songs out of all the little stories and things I hear or experience.

It is the second single from the album, Inside Out. What more can you reveal about the album and the sort of songs we can expect?

I am trying to co-write as much as possible.

The last album I did pretty much alone – including playing everything – so I wanted to be more sociable this time round!

I was also inspired by an album I worked on last year – that was entirely created by a series of collaborations – and thought I’d like to try doing something similar.

In terms of composition and producing, you are one of those people who take care of everything and does not need many other bodies. Is it quite hard tackling it all or do you prefer that approach?

It’s not been a conscious choice really – it’s just the way it’s happened.

I like working alone, but equally, when I am not being ‘Bird’, I write and work with other artists – so I love the collaborative process too.

Apparently, genres as far-flung as Trip-Hop and Soul will make their way into the album. Is it quite hard recording one song in a particular headspace and stepping somewhere different for another track?


It’s actually a lot easier in some ways – you have more freedom to create whatever you fancy.

In the past, you have given your music to D.J.s and producers to remix. Will this happen with Inside Out, do you think?

Almost definitely

How early did music hit you? I know you picked up the cello at a young age. Were you always driven to be a musician?


I was six when I started playing the cello. I never thought about it as a ‘job’ because it is not work; it’s part of me – so I never grew up thinking one day I’ll be a professional musician.

I grew up knowing I’d always make music…

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and indoor

Can you remember the artists you grew up to that sparked that ambition and passion?

Playing sparked that ambition: listening to other people just confirmed it.

What have been your favourite memories in music so far? Is there a live date or achievement that you would single out?

I co-wrote and sung a song last year – that was the title track on an album that went to number one in Belgium last year.

That was my first number one and that was cool.

Playing Glastonbury was great but the coolest gigs are the little intimate ones.

Can we expect any tour dates in the coming months?


Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Perfect Plush are doing a really interesting project – they’re from Copenhagen.

If you had to select three albums that have meant the most to you; which would they be and why?

Michael JacksonOff the Wall

I got given it by the man who owned the bar I was dancing in. I was about seven, on holiday in Holland, I think.

Apparently, I did a great spin to Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.

The PoliceZenyatta Mondatta

I’d just started playing the drums – and hearing the drumming on this album blew my mind.

Elliot Smith – Figure 8

Simply beautiful songwriting – inspires me endlessly.

What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?

Make music because you can’t imagine not doing it. Play because you can’t stop – and only listen to people if they have something constructive to tell you.

NEVER let anyone tell you you’re too old, too young – too whatever.

Music has no boundaries – only societies have those.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that). Let’s get your audience spinning too…

Michael JacksonDon’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough


Follow Bird

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and sunglasses















TRACK REVIEW: Saints Patience – Taste of You



Saints Patience



Taste of You





Taste of You - Saints Patience 

Taste of You is available at:



Classic-Rock; Funk


London, U.K.

Image may contain: one or more people and beard 

The album, Weather the Storm, is available at:



19th May, 2017


I have broken one of my reviewing rules…

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, beard and indoor

and am returning to an act I have featured before – I am only taking new artists for the next few months. I had to make an exception because of the sheer quality of Saints Patience. I shall come to them in a bit but, before I do, wanted to look at a few different areas. The first relates to a Classic-Rock sound and mixing it with Funk; the next is the weight and relevance of London and its bands. Following that, I want to talk about how hard it is getting an album together (and sacrifices needed); addictive and effective songwriting and  the importance of seeing bands live. To start with – and something I covered last time I reviewed the band – a look at mixing Classic-Rock sounds with sounds contemporary. By ‘Classic-Rock’, I don’t mean it is a mix of Chicago, Lynyrd Skynyrd  and Boston. Not that there is anything wrong with those bands: my featured act takes whispers of those kind of bands but instills the essence of the genre into their music. We all get distinct views when certain genres are mentioned. To me, we need more acts that have contemporary flair but look back at the best Rock acts of the past. In the case of Saints Patience; the band are original and fresh but have the epic stadium-sized potential of the Rock greats. Classic-Rock is a genre that really interests me. A lot of modern Rock tries it best to evoke the brilliance of past sounds but falls a bit short. There are some great artists around but, when it comes to Rock, I feel there aren’t many bands that linger in the memory. Many are questioning whether Rock is dead and that is an interesting thing to raise. There are a few wonderful acts that have stunning tracks and a unique sound but, for the most part, we get a rather predictable and uninspiring fare. Even established artists like Royal Blood – in spite of the epic noise and stage presence – have very little to offer – when compared to their debut album.

Image may contain: 4 people, people sitting and indoor

What I love about Classic-Rock is how rare it is today. Maybe a few acts are trying it but, for the most part, Rock artists are putting Indie and Alternative sounds together. It is very modern and urgent but there is something missing. Saints Patience are unique in the sense they represent the spirit and flair of 1970s Rock (some 1980s in there) but have a funky edge. It is hard to keep the hips dormant when listening to one of their tracks. A rare blend that finds accessible and sing-along choruses – perfect for stadiums and those who like their music addictive – with sassy swivel and some spicy Funk workouts. The bass is taut and slithering whilst the drums power with potency and authority. The vocals are commanding and sensual whilst the guitars sting and explode with colour and fire. In a time where many artists are being accused of lacking longevity and anything new – bands like Saints Patience act as guidance. The band know people want something fresh and relatable. Many people do not want to investigate older music and are attached to everything current and new. Saints Patience play music that could feature on BBC Radio 1 – and youth-targeting stations – but they appeal to a range of tastes/generations. There is a touch of those legendary Rock acts – together with some cool-edged Funk. I know the band are fans of acts like Led Zeppelin (and Jimi Hendrix) so there is a bit of the ‘60s in there, too. Such a rich and varied blend from a band who has a passion for various types of music and the need to create something unexpected and long-lasting. You listen to an album like Weather the Storm and hear the best Classic-Rock sounds together with brilliant Funk and modern Alternative. Whilst we struggle to find great Rock bands that provide something original and exciting; a band like Saints Patient are a solid and dependable option.

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, playing a musical instrument, concert, night and indoor

I always talk about London and how strong its music scene is. That is not going to change because, with artists like Saints Patience around, the capital is showing its diversity and strength. I know the band live in different parts of the country but they come together and gig in London. Right now, there is a lot of focus on London – following Grenfell and other events – and there is a sense of expectation on musicians. Not that music has to fill a gap or offer hope: many want to embrace great sounds and find solace and comfort in music. London is at the centre of things and is the beating heart of this country’s music industry. There are so many different bands playing around London – all with their own style and agenda. Why I want to focus on London is because of the sheer quality I am hearing. This applies to other parts of the U.K. but, to my ears, there is nowhere stronger than London right now. It is not only bands impressing but duos, solo artists and trios. I am exciting seeing how the rest of this year plays out but, already, I am discovering new artists who have the potential to last for a long time. Saints Patience are among them and take inspiration from the capital. Having seen the guys play – more on that later – I can attest what a reception they get from people in London and how at-home they seem here. That is another reason London is such an attractive proposition: so many various-sized venues for artists to play in. I think there is a school of thought that considers London a rough and stressful place to make a career in. In terms of ‘regular’ jobs, that might be the case but, when speaking of music, I feel life is a bit easier. Of course, there are a lot of artists in London but there are more than enough spaces to accommodate. From charming pubs to arenas, one has a bounty on their doorstep. Saints Patience have played some of London’s best venues but I feel they deserve a lot more attention.

Image may contain: one or more people and beard

Weather the Storm was put together and played by Spencer and Mudibu. The band have a bassist and drummer – for live commitments – so they are capable of producing big band performances or something a bit more ‘intimate’. I know, from speaking with Spencer a while back, it can be challenging getting gigs but, in a way, I feel this is down to a lack of management. The band have to take care of every dimension of their work. They have a record label behind them but need that extra pair of hands when it comes to scouting for gigs. The band have the potential to carve up a large percentage of London’s venues so it is merely a case of finding the right person to further their career. As a duo and four-piece; there is a connection and solidity that goes right into the music. I hope the remainder of 2017 finds the band grab some great gigs in London because the city is thriving right now. I have argued the case for places like Manchester and Glasgow but I feel London is leading the pack right now. It brings me to a point about live gigs and the importance of seeing an act in the flesh. I have not been to many gigs – time and financial constraints – and it is always a regret. Not all bands/artists are great live but most are. It is where they have to earn their living so, as such, are motivated and determined. The last time I saw Saints Patience was last year and was amazed by their stage presence. The confidence and connection between the players was amazing. Mudibu up-front, swaggering and dancing about the stage; the cut and fire of the guitar; Amanda’s powerful and intense drumming – epic bass lines and liquid grooves. It all gelled so well and led to an unforgettable and much-talked-about gig.

Most of my time is spent reviewing things via music-sharing sites. It is the easiest way to do things but I spend a lot of time on a laptop. A lot of my exposure to music is digital so it is always refreshing getting out there and seeing an artist play. Not only are gigs a great way to discover new music but can provide new light and revelation. I had only heard Saints Patience through music-streaming sites so had certain knowledge of their sound. It was only when meeting them – and seeing them take to the stage – new nuances and qualities were revealed. It has, after the fact, made me more curious about live acts and the band themselves. Weather the Storm is an album that has a live sound and could have been taken from the stage. Having seen the band play live; I was excited to sit down with the album – and Taste of You especially – and see whether there was any difference between their live sound and recorded material. It only takes a few bars of the song to feel the raw energy and realness of their gigs. There is very little polish: one gets a direct hit of Saints Patience at their most uncomplicated and direct. Were I to encounter Saints Patience on the album and not see them live, I feel I’d be missing out on a great experience. Seeing artists in the flesh means you get a chance to connect with them and see how their music differs – compared to how it sounds on the record. It gives a full appreciation of music and provides a lot more to the passionate listener. In terms of Saints Patience, I have encountered a wonderful band on the stage and got to sit down and review their new music. I can see how their live experience and gigging has gone into the record. I reviewed Break of Dawn a while back and can see new elements and qualities come into their music. There is extra confidence and sounds; the album brims with invention and standout moments.

Taste of You - Saints Patience

There are few enduring bands/artists who pen long-lasting songs that you carry around with you. I hear a lot of acts and like a song upon first listen – only to have it slip from the brain a few hours/days after the fact. It is not their fault – perhaps my attention span is short – because there are so many artists around. I feel it is becoming harder and harder to create something truly original. What we can learn from that is, perhaps, there needs to be some sort of limitation I guess? It might sound extraordinary limiting music and stopping people from recording. I suppose that is some form of communism but all I mean is encouraging our new artists to push themselves. There are so many generic and unspectacular artists around it makes it harder discovering genuinely brilliant ones. Maybe, a better alternative perhaps, we have to rely on our own tastes and expend more time discovering music. Many still rely on radio and sites like Spotify for their tunes. If we all take the effort to dig deeper; we will come across some new treasures and artists we hadn’t encountered before. I always maintain there should be a website where we can discover sounds bespoke to us – new recommendations based on our tastes. I know there are sites like Deezer – and others that employ algorithms that customise playlists – but we can do better. I would like to see something that pulls together the best radio stations out there and filters their finest tunes into a playlist. The same way YouTube remembers the songs I like – and recommends others on that basis – collating the best of the best, as it were. That way, the listener would get quality and consistency – they would have recommendations and guidance when it comes to new acts. At the moment, we are flooded by the Internet, social media and radio. It is challenging sifting through it all and picking out the gold. I feel music would be stronger and more rewarding if we had a way of organise the best acts into one source – allowing our brain to switch off from the remainder.

Image may contain: 2 people, people on stage, people playing musical instruments and people standing

Some would say it is impossible or foolhardy – all artists deserve a shot; quality is a subjective term – but I feel artists like Saints Patience deserve a lot more fans than they have. They have few equals when it comes to their showmanship, live performances and memorable songwriting. One need only listen to Taste of You to get an impression of what they are about. I have looked at the hip-moving Break of Dawn and know Weather the Storm is rammed with quality tunes. The guys have a knack for taking the funkiest jams and lacing them around rock-solid jams. In terms of music, the compositions are rich, invigorating and nuanced. The vocals, from Mudibu, are always electric and striking; the guitar work from Spencer consistently strong and exhilarating. Throw those songs into the live arena, and the fall band are capable of whipping up a frenzy. When I hosted the guys at The Finsbury; so many people were struck, not only by the great performance, but the way the songs get straight into the brain. One is awed and in love straight away. There are not many artists you can say that about, I guess. It seems music should be a meritocracy but that is not what’s happening. There is still that imbalance that means the best out there have to work harder than those who get a commercial/label hand. Saints Patience have Lost in the Manor helping them and pushing their music but one feels they deserve a rite-of-passage to the biggest gigs and venues around. I hope that will happen soon enough but there needs to be an easier way for our finest musicians to get the credit they deserve. Weather the Storm is an album that will go a long way to creating a dialogue – one of the strongest I have heard in a long time, for sure.

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing, beard and indoor

Before I come to look at the song in question; I want to talk about Saints Patience and how their album came together. I spoke with Spencer a while ago and got an insight into how a record comes together. He explained how the band – or him and Mudibu – were piecing together songs gradually and it was a case of finding time and money to put the songs together. They had songs formulated and ready but it was a case of waiting until they could afford to get into the studio. Well, in fact, the songs were home-recorded and put together in a very modest space. Many of us assume bands/acts go into a glitzy studio and, if a song sounds polished and professional, it must have been put together by high-paid producers in a luxury space. That might be the case with a lot of professionals and mainstream artists but it is a different reality for new artists. They do not have the cash to go into those spaces so, quite often, have to find more pragmatic alternatives. Live dates are the main source of revenue for most artists so, depending on how many gigs they play, often determines the sort of toys they have to play with for an album. A band like Saints Patience relies on solid songwriting and effusive performances but, like every act, they need to get the quality up there. That does not only rely on time but technology and equipment. In the case of Saints Patience, they had recording equipment but it was not money that was the main consideration but energy and time. I know Spencer was tirelessly working through mixes and spending all hours putting songs together. I can only imagine the work effort needed to get things together but it would have been a case of working on each song and seeing it through to the end. There were no shortcuts and raft of producers getting it all sounds perfect. The guys would have shouldered that and had to take care of every component.

Image may contain: one or more people and beard

Even if you are in love with the material being produced, the sacrifices associated with putting it all together can be brutal. I am not saying every album experience is like that but, in this modern age, it can be tough. There are long hours – often going deep into the night – and a lot of compromises. An artist might need to take a second job – in addition to finding time between jobs to record music – and push the limits of their homes/limited record equipment. So long as the passion and focus is strong, it can override these logistical challenges but I understand how draining it can be for artists. Saints Patience’s Spencer and Mudibu hunkered down and laboured hard. A few of the songs had already been performed live – Break of Dawn released a single – so it was a case of getting those existing songs down on tape and making sure the new material sounded great. Taste of You is a terrific example of what Saints Patience are about and how good their music is. I am glad the album is together but realise how difficult and time-consuming it was. That should not put off new artists but act as a reminder of the hurdles associated. The rewards, for most, outweigh the negatives: music is something that demands a lot of commitment and a realistic sense of turnaround. Of course, Saints Patience are not fresh out the blocks and expect it to be a few years until they start making it big. The thing is, they have music so fresh and impressive it deserves that sort of exposure right now. Weather the Storm is their mandate and business plan – let’s hope it finds willing investors and a hungry audience.

Taste of You - Saints Patience

Taste of You wastes no time in getting involved and building up the momentum. There are finger-clicks and synths. working together to create something late-night and curious. Like someone on the prowl for excitement and activity; the song searches and explores the land. The beats are tense and tight: contrasting the swaying and swaggering nature of the electronics. Before long, the mood and noise heightens into an audio burst. Mudibu’s voice, oddly, has flecks of Paul Weller when coming to the microphone. One hears embers of The Modfather in places which is quite pleasing. Of course, his natural accent and tones come through but there is that underlying Punk/Rock sounds. Taste of You is funky and head-nodding throughout and, in a way, has Disco flavours to it. The hero likes the taste of the heroine and, from the off, has the chest pumping and heart on the sleeve. It is a confident and compelling opening that ensures the listener is excited and curious. We are “innocent”, as the hero explains. There is no one else around and being together is the way to be. One or two of the words are lost in the mix – the percussion and electronics do get intrusive at times – so you cannot piece things together as quickly as hoped. Not that this is ever an issue. What one gains from the initial seconds is a complete and busy song that vibrates, dances and races into the mind. The intentions are clear and earnest: our man wants his girl close to him. Maybe there have been obstacles that meant they could not be together. Finally, that moment has arrived and it is important not a second is wasted.

That need to seize the day and get surrender to the moment comes through in a determined and stunning vocal. There are wordless vocals that add a choral effect and the beats – machine-fed and compacted – are perfect for the song. Something more agile and natural might not give the song the urgency and singularity it needs. Taste of You is about getting with the girl and having that opportunity. As such, the beats need to reflect a tense heartbeat, sense of sweat and physicality. We get that coming through. The composition projects so many different emotions, possibilities and visions. It is exciting and surging but has complexity and colour. The girl is the ecstasy and inspiration. Our hero wants her close to him forever. I am not sure the background of the song – whether Mudibu sources from his own experiences – but one can hear how meaningful this song is. Every word explodes off the page in a storm of passion, sweat and desire. There is that yearning to not let the girl go. He wants the woman and needs everything from her – not only sex and commitment but her thoughts, feeling and emotions. Our man is committed and in this for the long-run. There is history, I feel, and some bad days. Now, things cannot go the same way and this bond cannot be broken. By the time the verse comes down, and we are in the midst of that catchy and compelling wordlessness, there is a wave of Funk and excitement. Your head and toes are united and the song takes over. Few songs have the potential to make that big an impact the first time you hear it. The heroine is lying next to her man – he likes the shape of her – and there is that impression of afterglow and pride. Mudibu is backed by an arsenal of sonic wingmanship and evocativeness. There are howling, echoed electronics and those teasing beats. It is a perfect backdrop for his words of affection and dedicated. A lot of lovers are not loyal and that honest, but here, one hears a man in the throes of love.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, indoor

In a sense, Weather the Storm has a conceptual arc running through it. Break of Dawn opens and it is a track that demands dancing and consistent boogying. Awaken and Control arrives shortly after and projects something more introspective and investigative. Tongue Tied and What Makes You Free leads to You Came Along; Taste of You seems like the result of that filtration, build-up and expectation. In that context, one is relieved the lovers are together and the hero has that sense of satisfaction. He is not someone who is going to dispense with the girl once he’s had his fun. No. What we have is a man who is tired of the chase and wants to settle into something more solid. That chorus gets into the head and those vital messages reinforced. The hero does not want to waste a moment and is not letting anything fall to chance. In a way, I could imagine Michael Jackson tackling a song like this during his Bad/Dangerous days. The former album was a softer affair but had some tough moments. Dangerous was a harder and more physical album. Taste of You could have sat on either album – one can only imagine what the King of Pop would have done with the song. I am not sure whether Saints Patience are inspired by Jacko but Mudibu has that same sort of command and intrigue when he’s on the mic. Regardless of the history – another cheeky Jacko reference! – there is no debating how meaningful this moment is. One can picture (although, not too vividly) the lovers entwined and surrendering to their shared lust. Weather the Storm has so much variation and genre-mix. Here, we get an all-out Funk gem that demonstrates what a talent Spencer and Mudibu are. Spencer’s production, compositional input and guidance cannot be understated. He creates a mix that has choral, wordless vocals; sizzling electronics and some of the tightest beats south of the River. Tie that to one of Mudibu’s strongest and most assured vocals and it is a song that shows how good Saints Patience is.

Image may contain: one or more people and beard

The guys have played The Pack and Carriage very recently and seen Weather the Storm pick up some great reviews. It is encouraging the band has gigs lined up and a chance to get that material out to the crowds. I hope that continues through the summer. They are the type of group that can get the crowds moving and leave smiles on faces. As I said, my experience seeing them live remains with me still. I know many others have Saints Patience in their heart. The more the band perform and the greater number of gigs they get; it will compel and propel them to continue making music and taking their songs around that world. I can imagine them succeeding on a European tour and finding fans across America. Australia loves Funk and Rock so I would not rule that out. Great and eager artists deserve a lot of attention and opportunity. Maybe money and demand might limit their horizons – whether the audience is quite big enough to justify a jaunt over the waters – but that will change very soon. Before I close this, I will look ahead to Saints Patience’s future and some points I raised earlier. Spencer and Mudibu have laid the album down but Amanda and Ed join them on the stage. It is when they are all together; I think, they are at their strongest. Of course, they began as a duo so are used to that recording process but that is the great thing about Saints Patience – that duel-configuration means they are adaptable and not constrained in any way. Being such a powerhouse band, I would expect them to get gigs in London and play some new venues. It is a competitive and busy market but one that rewards the very best. I know there will be some trials along the way but the band can handle anything that comes their way. The music is so strong and captivating it is going to see them succeed and grow. What form that takes – international gigs or mainstream recognition – I am excited by the prospect of more music. Weather the Storm is a fantastic album; Taste of You a terrific example of what it is all about. Make sure you check the album out (on Spotify) and hear what all the hard work and graft has resulted in.

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor

Maybe I should return to that last point and highlight how much effort was expended by Spencer and Mudibu when creating the album. They did not have deep pockets to facilitate their ambitions – only a determination to get the music sounding right. Long nights and endless days; that desire to hear their music played on radio stations and heard by the masses – that is what kept them going and alive. It may sound a bit Draconian and cruel but there was a lot of uplift and pleasure along the way. I would have liked the guys to have had that option to go into the studio and some of the burden lifted. Get the four-piece in a room and capture the same sort of sound I heard back at The Finsbury. Weather the Storm sounds sensational as it is but, I know, the guys would have liked the option to get their cohorts together. That is the reality of music today: it is so difficult putting stuff together inexpensively; you have to make hard choices and accept it will not be easy. Again, a bit grim but it is, as I said, the passion and love of music that gets artists through. London is a heaving and bubbling cauldron that is producing some of the world’s best music. Many will contend places like L.A. and Glasgow are better but I feel that is untrue. The capital has the greatest solo artists and finest bands: exciting and brilliant music that is more than a match for any other area. We have the best venues a really strong and together community. The spirit and buzz coming out of London is inspiring so many artists to move and settle themselves here. I know it is a crowded city but, for musicians, there is enough for everyone.

Not only does one have a cavalcade of venues at their feet but so many other acts around them. To me, London is the Mecca of the music industry. There are so many options for artists and the beating heart of the media resides here. If one wants to get under the microscope, there is no finer place to do so. I have a lot of love for cities like New York and Los Angeles but know there is nowhere quite like London. Saints Patience have that affection for London and getting gigs at some wonderful spots. Although they are among hundreds of other acts in the capital (thousands, possibly), they have a genuine gift for live performance. I mentioned how crucial it is to see bands/acts live – giving one a full understanding of what they are about and how their music translates – and can recommend a good night would be seeing Saints Patience play. I get invited to see artists play all the time and always have to turn people down. It is a shame but, being based just outside the city, it is tough finding the time and money to commute. In addition to making a full move to London – thus, affording myself the closeness and convenience – I want to detach more from the laptop and get myself out the in ether. That sociability and humanness one forsakes when being a journalist (well, me, at least) is hard to take. There are demands on one and it is not often practical to sack off an evening and see a band play. If you are in demand, you are expected to put the work effort in. I feel, however, it is always prudent to switch off one side of your brain now and then and give yourself a chance to recharge. Gigs are a wonderful way of meeting people and seeing a great act perform. Saints Patience are an incredible live act that has a loyal fan base but so much potential. The more gigs they get – and the more they can get out there – will determine how quickly they ascend to the mainstream. Performing is where their strengths lie and I know, first-hand, how affecting and memorable they are.

Image may contain: 2 people

One of the reasons they are being heralded by reviewers and fans is the mix of sounds employed. On the one hand, they go back in time and source from the Classic-Rock annals. No specific band comes to mind: one gets a fusion of U.S. giants and the best of British. It is an intoxicating blast that is not nostalgic but current and relevant. They take that established and full genre and add their own spin to it. Classic-Rock is anthemic and suited for those who like their music epic and rousing. Seeing Mudibu sing and one gets touches of the great showmen of Rock. He has that flamboyance and physicality the likes of Freddie Mercury were synonymous with. That goes into the music and one hears a singer with flair and personality. On the other hand, Saints Patience takes touches of Funk and sprinkles that into the pot. Again, there is a balance of British and American. A lot of their music is designed to project optimism and hope. Break of Dawn urges people to dance until the sun comes up. Taste of You has some personal revelations but leaves a very pleasing aftertaste. It is a song that has the energy and spritz of their previous material but something romantic and subtle lingering. The band/duo are masterful when it comes to penning familiar and accessible songs that get the heart thumping, feet tapping and the voice singing. Not many can claim that so, because of that alone, they deserve huge kudos. I shall leave things now but it has been enjoyable discovering the latest (and best) work from Saints Patience. Even though I have broken one of my reviewing rules – assessing acts I have previously featured – I shall forgive myself this time. Taste of You is a song I HAD to look into: the finest cut (I feel) from Weather the Storm. Get involved with the album from a music force that will not remain a secret…

Taste of You - Saints Patience

FOR much longer.


Follow Saints Patience














FEATURE: The New Summer of Love





The New Summer of Love


FIFTY years ago this summer…

Image result for summer of love

over one-hundred-thousand people converged to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood to celebrate something wonderful. There was no social media or any sort of cynical build-up. Whether opposed to the Vietnam War or the consumerist values of the time – it was a movement that brought Hippies together to promulgate love and togetherness. Liverpool is hosting its 50 Summers of Love and getting into the spirit of things. I have seen articles published that state how different life was in England during 1967. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band stirred a movement of sorts but there was not the same commune, mass and excitement as there was in San Francisco. Here, we had Hippie movements and counter-culture rebellion – nothing quite as pronounced and notable as in the U.S. Here, people were busy working and there was a  sense of countries being divided. Bands like The Beatles went some way to representing the spirit and psychedelia unfolding in the U.S. but how different were the experiences? Whatever the splits and reality gaps between the nations; that Summer of Love has gone down in history as a time when everyone came together – forget war and hate and all join in arms, flowers and peace. Yes, there were a lot of drugs flying about – that was part of the culture – but it is not the defining take-away from summer of 1967. It was the way, against the tyranny and fear at the time, the masses assembled and linked arms. A lot of the music at the time promoted a sense of freedom and hope. The experimentation the likes of The Beatles showcased extended to the U.S. (and other bands around the world). It was never gimmicky or intended to placate the government. It was a passive and wonderful way of spreading something warm and wonderful.

The corner of Masonic and Haight streets in 1967. Photo: © Jim Marshall Photography LLC

PHOTO CREDIT:  Jim Marshall Photography LLC

Cynics can claim it is a 1960s hangover that was merely peace-signs, drop and colourful clothing – not a lot of substance and concrete ideology. It was never intended as a real political movement or alternate governance. What it was, in essence, was a way to forget the barbarism of war and the corruption that was happening in the U.S. Sure, the movement bled into Britain but it was never as full-on and vociferous as in San Francisco. That out-right rejection of scrupulous leadership and poor decisions, in this day and age, would be violent and vocal. In 1967, there was plenty of protest but the need to counterbalance bloodshed with familial understanding and communal unification. The reason I wanted to mark this time – and why its anniversary is so important – is because society has really not grown since 1967. We know more and have more technology at our fingertips. There are more people and we have seen some horrible events unfold (the last fifty years). Governments have come and gone and we have all survived some bleak days. One would think, given our shared history and lessons from the past, we would learn and avoid the same issues and ignorance of the 1960s. I guess society and government are always going to be infused with a degree of malevolence, selfishness and double-crossing. I would have thought they’d be less terrorism and fewer incidences that provoke such negative reactions and shared anger. Now, we live in a time where the government are hanging by a thread and terrorist incidents are happening more regularly than past decades. We are all wary and scared right now: something that counteracts that and channels it into warmth and love is much-needed. My suggestion would be setting up a series of events/concerts that bring all kind of musicians together.

Image result for 50 summers of love

It need not be a replication of the Summer of Love – we are a little more stringent with regards drugs and fashions today – but a modern-day equivalent would be welcomed. Being more conservative and rule-conscious; it would be a tempered and muted comparison. We can retain the colours, fashions and general ethos – the togetherness and love – but replace the narcotics and free sexual expression with alternate methods of fun. In fact, it is starting to sound like one of those gluten/sugar/fat-free dishes with tremendous calorific promise – little taste and flavour to tantalise the senses. That isn’t the case here: we must be pragmatic and sensible in 2017. There are hordes of musicians and artists who, down to the compartmentalised nature of music, often perform at different festivals and events. That is only natural given the sheer scale and depth of music. What I am suggesting, aligning itself to commemorations like 50 Summers of Love, is a mix of a gathering and music day. Maybe in London or Manchester (or both) there would be a day where people could express love, unity and peace. We are seeing a lot of disgust after the Grenfell Tower fire. Rightful tensions have been created but we are seeing a campaign of community cooperation and support – the victims being helped; funds being raised to help get them back on their feet. In essence, the common man is doing more (with limited funds and times) than the government is. I know it is challenging for any government to predict something like Grenfell – or stop terrorist attacks – but there are definite holes that need plugging. There is instability and uncertainty about the Conservative government so, rather than shout them out with violent force, create a sweet-vibed chorus of people who offers a more peaceful and loving environment. Many might feel there is no point: it will not affect any changes and seems quite insubstantial. It is not designed to be a political tactic (kill them with kindness?!) but a chance to get everyone together and stand arm-in-arm.

Image result for summer of love

The musical component is the thing I am most interested in. I know there will be events up and down the country that nod to 1967 and try and recapture some of that spirit. There will be remembrance, nostalgia and celebration but we must not use this anniversary as a chance to reflect without taking action. Of course, Grenfell is fresh in the minds – there are lots of events and gigs to raise money and awareness – but so much going on that requires the spirit and mass of love we have been seeing lately. It would be the culmination of community we saw following the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, too. There could be a day of music that coincides with the Summer of Love anniversary – our own version, as it were! It would be wonderful to see a mini-festival/one-day event that puts women as headliners (or most) and mixes genres, ages and nations. A multinational, cross-genre music-jam that would foster support towards one another a general feel-good sensation. If that all sounds retro-Hippie then forgive me but it seems like there is a tide of opinion that requires such a movement – however brief it happens to burn. Whether it took the form of a gig or congregation; it would be good to involve the music community and have their talents lead the way. Music is the thing that bonds us and creates that universal positivity. If it were to be harnessed, if only for one day, it would much-needed and a wonderful way for the country to come together. The U.S. could join and it could be a duel-national rebellion. I am not sure what is being planned – and something similar is shaping right now – but it seems like an opportune moment to go for it. There would be little of the clothing, ideologies and drug motifs of the original Summer of Love but, moving with the times, we can create our own version. Maybe not a summer, as such, but a number of days. Bring great music, art and culture together; create films, pieces and fight heartache, anger and insincerity with something much more inspirational and creative. The sun is warming us and thoughts are turning to summer. Let’s hope this one…

Thanks for Diggers New Years Eve Wail 1967. Photo: © Jim Marshall Photography LLC

PHOTO CREDIT:  Jim Marshall Photography LLC

IS an extra-special one.



INTERVIEW: Auction for the Promise Club



Image may contain: one or more people


Auction for the Promise Club


EMERGING fresh to my willing earbuds…

Image may contain: ocean, cloud, sky, text and water

is the Cornish trio, Auction for the Promise Club. I HAD to ask where that name comes from – they, as it seems, will take that proprietary knowledge the icy depths of the grave! Not so inscrutable and secretive in other areas; I get the skinny on their new album, Silence, and a bit more on the songs included. Zoe White Chambers, her brother Toby and Perran Tremewan have a dynamic sound – I ask how the White Chambers met Tremewan and whether there was an instant connection.

The guys talk about recording at Airfield Studios with Paul Reeve (Muse; Beta Band) and what it is like being signed to Easy Action Records. I ask whether they caught Glastonbury – and if they had any highlights – what their favourite albums are and where they might be headed in the next few months.


Hi, guys. How are you? How have your weeks been? 


Very good, thank you; busy as usual (like yourself, I’m sure)!

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?


We are Auction for the Promise Club: a female-fronted three-piece Indie/Rock band from Cornwall.

Did you guys watch Glastonbury? What did you make of it? Any highlights? 


Big Radiohead fan. They are always magical.

It looked like a good line up; very eclectic.

Zoe and Toby, you are siblings. How did you come to hook-up with Perran Tremewan? Was it quite an instant relationship?

A friend called Kenver introduced Zoe and Perran.

They started playing acoustically first…then it got louder!

‘Auction for the Promise Club’ is an intriguing name. What is the derivation of the moniker?

Oh geez, I can’t tell you; no one can.

It’s secret, like the Coca-Cola recipe – we even have to fly on separate aeroplanes in case we all die in a plane crash and the secret is lost forever….

The video for new track, You Don’t Love Me, is out.  Whose concept was it and was it quite cool watching it for the first time? 

A very talented animator friend called Adam Taylor made it.  He came up with the concept and made the video in an amazingly short space of time!  Very clever stuff.

Your debut album, Silence is out now. I believe the record has been getting a lot of love. How encouraging is it to receive that kind of backing?

It’s so cool to have the collection of songs released as a package; a physical product to hold.

We have worked really hard, met some absolutely amazing people and had some awesome adventures.  The support has been fantastic, fingers crossed we can keep building on it!

You recorded it at Cornwall’s Airfield Studios with producer Paul Reeve. What was it like working in that space with such an acclaimed producer?

Paul is a lovely guy; very knowledgeable and good fun!

It’s a special space. I can’t really describe it but it has the same feel as Abbey Road – the whole studio and the history – the previous people who have recorded there to the new projects going on.

Do you guys have a favourite song from the album or particular track that means the most?

Time to Breathe.

I know you have recently signed to Easy Action Records. How supportive have the label been and what changes have you noticed from being a label-band to your unsigned, previous state?

They have been really supportive. Such a great label to be associated with, nurturing us!

There hasn’t really been much change other than release plans and being a little more organised… a little.

Who are the bands and artists that you grew up to? Any artists inspire the sound one hears through Silence?

Massive bands like Radiohead, Placebo – and musicians like Björk and Nick Cave.

What plans do you have for the rest of this year? Any touring approaching?

We have plans to get back to Germany as soon as we can – we had a blast over there.

Fingers crossed for autumn.

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Not sure if they are new but Poliça; Fever Ray etc.

But, local artists like The Rezner, Waxx and Tall Ships (if they are still going?!)

If you each had to select one album each that has meant the most to you; which would they be and why?

Zoe: Radiohead OK Computer

Magic; iconic.

Toby: Bon Iver Bon Iver

Blend of Pop inflexions and epic Alternative routes.

Perran: Nick Cave and the Bad SeedsYour Funeral…My Trial

Dark; cheeky; powerful.

What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?

Keep writing: it’s all about the songs.

Save up and work with people you know will do a top job recording the music.

Build a buzz and keep that momentum going.

Finally, and for being good sports, you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that). 

WAXX My Friends

Wolf NoteMove It On

The ReznorCruel & Kind


Follow Auction for the Promise Club

 Image may contain: 1 person, standing, sky, ocean and shoes