We look at Rolling Stone’s new Best 500 Albums update and think … where’s the 80s? Where’s the British stuff? Where’s the jazz, country, dance music, electronic, heavy metal? Is it just the classics plus hip-hop? Is it as useful as Elvis Costello’s Best 500 albums in Vanity Fair or Dave Marsh’s 1001 singles? Plus Michael Kiwanuka, the Mercury Prize and the Booker. And ’80s Peel Show acts with amusing names.
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Old pal Owen Parker on Street Life, Message In A Bottle, Superstition and other recordings that accelerate and the nightmarish complexity of playing stadiums to a click-track. Plus we predict the fate of CDs, invent ‘record collection wallpaper’ and look at Vertigo label landfill prog bands and the songs of John Shuttleworth.
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Mark Ellen talks to David Hepworth about his new book “Overpaid, Oversexed and Over There” which describes how British imitations came out from under the shadow of American originators in the early 60s, how a handful of acts from the UK went on to command the heights of the worldwide music industry, the things they learned, the things they taught and the transatlantic traffic in sounds and styles which led from the Beatles to Boy George. Also includes: the amazing story of the Dave Clark Five, the strange genius of the Animals, how the British invented the guitar hero, what the Stones learned in America, the bands that were built in the UK with the US in mind, why punk rock took years to detonate in America, the one thing that makes American music stars different from their British counterparts and the reason 2020 may turn out to be just like 1961.
In which we rope in a real musician – aka our producer Magic Alex – to discover why bands always play their big hits too fast (‘are you a dragger or a pusher?’), decode stage names (Perry Farrell, Lipps Inc, Fay Fife …), delight in Trump’s recent campaign trail faux pas with John Fogerty’s Fortunate Son and remember pop exploitation films (Gonks Go Beat!) and ill-advised rock star advertising capers.
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In which we dig out a Smash Hits from ‘79 (entirely written by D Hepworth), wonder if Ian Brown’s gone stir crazy, watch it kick off between Dylan and the Beatles (in ’66), navigate the enriching waters of NTS Radio, remember when Kevin and Perry went Mancunian and stage a stand-off between ‘60s folk revivalists and punning rock memoir titles (‘Kiss And Make-Up’ – Gene Simmons’; ‘I Did It Otway!’ etc).
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Writer and highly entertaining metal connoisseur Justin Quirk – the man behind Nothin’ But A Good Time: the Spectacular Rise and Fall of Glam Metal – on the age of big hair, frocks coats, cowboy boots and fabulously cartoonish stage acts that began with MTV in ’83, developed a ‘slow puncture’ with Guns N’Roses and was killed off by Nirvana in ‘91 – includes the WWF Wrestling connection, the ‘branding exercise and pyramid selling scheme’ of Kiss, the key role of Ozzy Osbourne (‘the world’s least convincing werewolf’), the Thiller-like construction of Def Leppard’s Hysteria, the highs of Wasp and Motley Crue, the lows of Tigertailz and Wrathchild, and Glam Metal’s last hurrah before the arrival of the age of irony.
In which we’re joined by our producer Magic Alex for a scenic tour of ‘Landfill Indie’ (“the Libertines were our Beatles!”), check the musicians incensed by Trump’s use of their music, applaud the best wearers of Shorts In Pop (where Andrew Ridgeley meets Bob Weir), navigate the mob-handed hook-and-track systems of 21st Century songwriting, and invent fake psychobilly bands and rock star film cameos.
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Author, renowned Beatles authority, ‘Pop Professor’ and old pal of the pod Kenneth Womack talks about ‘John Lennon 1980: the Last Days In The Life’, his riveting account of events in the Dakota and beyond. Things covered in fascinating detail: the fond and complex relationship with McCartney, the tangled friendship with Dylan, TV watched, stuff bought and sold, the return to the studio and not-so-secret recordings, the withering album reviews, the future plans and the trials of a life lived at this level of celebrity.
In which we look at Chris Frantz’s memoir and its exasperated take on David Byrne (bang goes the Talking Heads reunion), revisit late ’60s Laurel Canyon, unravel some Zappa album titles, marvel at brave new adventures in vinyl sales and how Freddie Mercury’s teeth got the Pistols their big break, and get Hilary Mantel’s tilt on Madonna (“the plain girl’s revenge”).
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Writer and counter-cultural connoisseur Joe Banks joins us to talk about Hawkwind: Days Of The Underground, his sparkling account of the rise and 51 year trajectory of the unsung revolutionary heroes. All the following are entertainingly included – their ‘creation myth’ in the white heat of Ladbroke Grove and days as the house band of Radical Politics, the sci-fi adventure with Michael Moorcock and Robert Calvert, the Silver Machine saga, the pioneering rock theatre of Space Ritual, their roles in punk and Krautrock and the saucer-eyed cast members who’ve kept them “the alternative to the alternative”. Key fact: Joe has a Labrador puppy called Lemmy.