Peter’s been on the pod before talking about the Beatles and Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and he’s just published a fascinating account of the ‘60s sexual revolution, a time when a new and unimaginable freedom collided spectacularly with the hand-wringing Victorian values of the media. We talked to him at the West Hampstead Arts Club about Mick Jagger v Mary Whitehouse, the Avengers, Jenny Fabian’s Groupie, Bond movies, Germaine Greer, the Killing of Sister George, Dirk Bogarde, Cliff Richard as an unconvincing sex symbol, Jane Birkin, Michael Caine in Alfie, John & Yoko, the concept of ‘Kinkiness’ and the pop records that sailed close to the wind.
Recorded at the West Hampstead Arts Club – we’re back in the outside world! – the band’s bassist remembers their label’s hopes of selling 5,000 copies of their first album in the autumn of ’77. His just-published memoir recounts the rollercoaster that followed, from the London pub circuit to Compass Point, Live Aid, the gigantic world tours that took in the Eastern Bloc, the sales-boosting arrival of MTV and the CD boom, and how it felt to and back on earth when they called a halt in the mid-‘90s. The early days are fascinating too, a friendship forged with Mark Knopfler over Little Feat, JJ Cale and Ry Cooder albums and the dream-like events of their record deal and rapid ascent.
In which we remember being at Sarm Studios 37 years ago as Bob Geldof and Midge Ure marshalled the troops, and look at the reaction to the Get Back movie, Alan Hull, Al Stewart’s energetic love life, Billy Preston and others flown in to keep bands together, Lenny Kaye’s record-filing ruse and why John Illsey had the best job in the world. Plus the return of the Stackwaddy Game – spot the made up musical genre (Skweee, Simpsonwave, Soyabilly etc).
Lenny Kaye’s just published ‘Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments In Rock And Roll’, events in particular times and places that changed the landscape, among them (and discussed here) Liverpool in 1962, New York in 1975 and Seattle in 1991. In the digital world, will we ever have that kind of local music scene again? His fascinating observations include driving to San Francisco for the Love-In, the world of CBGBs, Norwegian Black Metal, life in the Patti Smith Group and some of “the eccentric characters I feel naturally drawn to” which include Joe Meek, Stiv Bators and the Ramones. Among the questions: what’s the correct way to file Captain Beefheart, under ‘C’ or ‘B’? This is a man whose record collection is divided into “food groups” and includes “a wacko section”. He’s wonderful company.
In which we watch a breathtaking 40-minute piece of oratory by EC that takes in David Hockney, TikTok, Laurel & Hardy, what Pete Thomas did during Lockdown and how to avoid your new album being “just another bucket of herring tossed into the stream”. And go to the Premiere of Peter Jackson’s Get Back. And remember some slightly hopeless second albums (ABC, Stones, Arctic Monkeys, Tracy Chapman) and some prime examples of the “front-loaded” LP (Let’s Dance, the Joshua Tree etc). And delight in discovering the snobbery of people who work in record shops is still apparent when you’re trying to buy an Ornette Coleman CD.
In which we salute the great ‘60s pop writer and Beatles associate Maureen Cleave, find a copy of Melody Maker from the week Hunky Dory was released (the Rainbow opens, Lindisfarne banned from Brighton Dome after fans dance in aisles! etc), talk to Chris Topham of the Plane Groovy label about the vinyl crisis (there’s a seven-month wait to get a record pressed), check the map of the biggest-selling music acts from each UK county and get to the root of the old Sounds headline “My naked bath-nights with Olivia Newton-John”.
In which we kick about with music at weddings, spin-off groups, the bracing challenge of Trout Mask Replica, why pop music needs no awards, the Lionel Blair gag on I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, a 42-disc boxset, skippable album tracks, the Stones still playing Midnight Rambler, McCartney on LP Hartley, Hamlet and Dylan Thomas, and rhyming slang we’d never heard – eg lunch: “a pint of Shaun Ryder, two Bills and a Giorgio Armani”. Plus the tragedy of the Astroworld Festival.
In which we debunk the eye-watering Adele Hyde Park ticket prices, note the crowd-losing absence of choruses in Nick Drake songs, remember the strangest onstage guests, marvel at McCartney’s childhood memories and applaud Steve Van Zandt’s theory about the beginning and end of rock music. And birthday patron Giles Fraser is piped aboard plus his proposition about rock and roll legacy.
Daniel Rachel, old pal of the pod, has just published ‘Like Some Forgotten Dream: What If The Beatles Hadn’t Split Up?’, much of it drawn from his access to the Let It Be tapes and full of enthralling details about the highs and lows of the band’s last year. This includes precisely what happened after George stormed out in Jan ’69, the stories of Gimme Some Truth, Cold Turkey and All Things Must Pass, missed press news opportunities, the Scottish car crash, the Toronto Peace Concert and a fantasy tracklist for the double album they could have made in 1970. And much fond talk of their personal chemistry. “There was no showboating, everybody served the song and the idea of making music surpassed everything.”
One of the great Lockdown success stories now has a book attached. This magnificent invention started in March last year and, at one point, Tim was hosting 10 Listening Parties a day. He looks back here at some of the ones he loved the most and how the Four Lions movie got the ball rolling. And talks about the Beach Boys, Iggy Pop, Discharge, Vashti Bunyan’s horse-drawn trip to the Hebrides and (aged 13) seeing Crass in a scout hut in Winsford.