Friday, 13 December 2019

New Rock - The compilation album that shaped my musical tastes of the following decade

It was - almost - a giveaway. A half price offer to be more precise. At a time when most vinyl records cost 250 drachmas, all you had to do was collect a coupon from the inside of POP AND ROCK magazine (the top selling music magazine at that time in Greece), present it to one of the paricipating record stores, pay 100 drachmas, and the record was yours. In 1979, I had already been listening to non-Greek music for just two years. I had started with Abba, progressed to Boney M, discovered The Beatles and Elvis Presley and then landed onto the soundtrack world of Saturday Night Fever and Grease. I had been reading Pop And Rock magazine for a while and I thought I should take advantage of this offer in order to get into "rock" music. I had heard "Sultans Of Swing" (the album's opening track) just a couple of times before and I knew of Blondie without having heard any of their songs. The latter had mainly caught my attention because I had seen pictures of Debbie Harry in the magazine and I knew that one day I was going to marry her. So after buying and listening to this album, I decided to buy records from the artists it featured and I started with the first, self-titled Dire Straits album on my birthday in 1979.
Now "New Rock" was supposed to be a new wave compilation (hence the name). What did Dire Straits have to do with it? Well, at the end of the seventies after a long period when progressive rock was the most popular music genre and just after the punk explosion which had come as a result of prog's dominance any new band that emerged was usually classified as "new wave". It didn't matter if they played plain old classic rock like Dire Straits did. Nor did it matter that guitar new wave gradually made way for synth based acts like Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark or Soft Cell. They were all classified as "new wave". We even thought Culture Club were "new wave" when they played Rock In Athens in 1985.
After Dire Straits, I decided to try The Jam whose track "David Watts" was the third on the album. (I didn't much care for Sham 69 then who not only had the second track on the album but also had another track in it). So, I bought the "Going Underground" 7 inch single and that was it: I was hooked! They became my favourite band and I followed Paul Weller on to his Style Council and solo days. And imagine that: "David Watts", the first Jam song I ever heard was one which Paul Weller didn't even sing! Lead vocals were by Bruce Foxton, the band's bassist. And it wasn't even their own song, it was a Kinks cover!
I then moved on to Blondie, as expected, buying not only their "Eat To The Beat" album, but also their "Heart Of Glass" single (my first 12 inch - and probably the first 12 inch single to be issued in Greece) and then their "Call Me" single on 7 inch. I continued with Magazine when I bought their live album "Play" and later "Magic, Murder And Their Weather", their final LP. Like several favourite bands of mine from "New Rock" such as The Jam and Blondie, Magazine also disbanded a few years later. I would continue buying records from artists featured in New Rock for the next four decades. In 1985 Flash And The Pan came to the forefront with their hit "Midnight Man" (one of my numerous 12 inch singles of that year). I remember how overjoyed I was in the summer of 1990 when a night club in the Greek island of Skiathos played "Down Among The Dead Men", the Flash And The Pan song featured on "New Rock". And although I did not have any Generation X records at that time, I had several by Billy Idol, their lead singer. As time went by and the CD era rushed in I would buy records from all the other artists on the album like Penetration, The Motors, Skids, The Members, City Boy, culminating with last month's purchases: a Sham 69 compilation from Amazon and the 12 inch of "Dancing With Myself" by Fingerprintz, the last track on the album, from Discogs.
But it wasn't just the artists featured on this album that I got interested in. This album turned me into the (mostly Brirish) New Wave genre so I bought records by other artists that I would read about in Pop And Rock magazine, usually without even having heard a single note of them. Back then, there was only one radio show in Greece playing pop and rock music called "Pop Club" hosted by Yiannis Petridis, who was also the chief editor of Pop And Rock magazine as well as the person who compiled the songs on "New Rock". And there was no YouTube either. So it was difficult for me to listen to all these bands mentioned in Pop And Rock magazine. As a result I would often buy a record because of something I had read in the magazine. (I bought my first two Depeche Mode records without having heard them actually). For example the next record I bought after "Eat To The Beat" by Blondie was "The Fine Art Of Surfacing" by The Boomtown Rats. And Polygram, the record company that issued the compilation used to display the covers of some of their other records on their inner sleeves, so I got to know (though not to hear) about bands as diverse as The Who, Status Quo, Jethro Tull, Thin Lizzy and even... La Bionda. Being very young though then, a pre-teen, I couldn't understand the artistic concept behind the record (it featured posters and photos of horror movies) on the front and on the back cover over the song titles and I remember writing a letter to the magazine about that. They answered (featuring my name printed on the magazine, wow!) that the pictures had nothing to do with the bands.

Pop And Rock gave away a couple more records a few years later, but these featured mostly b-sides. (These b-sides however were unavailable in Greece like "A Man Inside My Mouth" by The Cure). The songs featured on "New Rock" are mostly the bands' best. It comes as no surprise that the Magazine anthology was called "Touch And Go", the Penetration and The Members best of compilations were called "Don't Dictate" and "The Sounds Of The Suburbs" respectively plus the most famous song (and biggest hit) by The Motors is, of course, "Airport". In fact, Morrissey even played the Penetration's "Don't Dictate" video before coming on stage for his 2014 Athens concert. As for me, I listened to "New Rock" again, only a few hours before writing this post.
In 1998, when magazines very often gave away cover mounted CD's, Pop And Rock featured a CD compilation including some of the songs and several others by artists featured in "New Rock". It was called "Flash Back To '78"...

Side 1:
1. SULTANS OF SWING - Dire Straits
3. DAVID WATTS - The Jam
4. AIRPORT - The Motors
5. TOUCH AND GO - Magazine
7. 5-7-0-5 - City Boy
Side 2:
1. DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN - Flash And The Pan
4. KING ROCKER - Generation X
5. HURRY UP HARRY - Sham 69
6. DON'T DICTATE - Penetration
7. DANCING WITH MYSELF - Fingerprintz

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Rod Stewart live in Brighton

As I have already mentioned back in July, Rod Stewart's “Absolutely Live” was my favourite live album until “Live 1975-85” by Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band came along. That was the main reason I had always wanted to see him live. I never did until this summer, though. At first, it was because, like several other artists who are getting older (Bryan Ferry comes to mind), he had discovered “the great American songbook” and I thought I would be disappointed. I didn't want to listen to that, I wanted to hear the old classics that were included on “Absolutely Live” (and several others that came before and after that album). Later I thought that he would probably not be fit enough to perform (he's older than Bruce you know). Well, I needn't worry. A couple of years ago, if I remember well, he toured Europe and played in Italy and everyone was stunned! Friends who had attended told me that at the end of his concerts he was shooting footballs from the stage to the crowd, even at indoor arenas! So, I decided that I had to go and see him. 
When the tour was announced at the beginning of the year, I looked through the dates and settled on an indoor concert in Paris. I bought the ticket, but much later, parliamentary elections were announced in Greece for that weekend. This pushed the price of plane tickets way up, since many Greek expats living in France would be coming back for the weekend in order to vote. I could not afford them, especially if I was to be able to make my other concert trip, the following week in England for the Happy Mondays. So, I tried something that has worked well in the past for me before. I looked to see whether there were any dates on that tour in the south of England on that next weekend. And I found that there was one in Hove the day before the Happy Mondays gig in Margate. Hove? “Where's that?”, I wondered until I realized that it was practically next to Brighton. In fact, it is one town, Brighton & Hove. I was delighted that I would have the chance to see Brighton again, 18 years after my last visit, while I was still at university! So I bought the ticket and started preparing for my English summer seaside holiday.
I arrived in Brighton one day before the concert so I had the chance to take a swim at the beach. Very refreshing, it gave me energy for the whole of the following year!

The following day, after doing more sightseeing, all I had to do was walk to the cricket ground. 

Because it is in a residential area the concert had to finish by 9pm, so it started really early. Of course the residents of the nearby flats took advantage of this fact and were watching the concert from their balconies, together with their guests!

First on stage were Johnnie Mac And The Faithful, handpicked by Rod himself as a support band. The music they play fitted perfectly with Rod's and they even treated us to a cover of “The Handbags And The Gladrags”.

Next up, in a fanfare with fireworks in broad daylight was Rod. Now, I think I had missed whatever had been billed as a “Greatest Hits” tour in the past, so I imagined that he was mainly going to promote his latest album “Blood Red Roses” and with luck I would get to hear some of the old favourites. Imagine my surprise then, when for just his second song of the night he launched into “Young Turks”, the song that had made me a Rod Stewart fan when I was 14!

He did exactly what I wanted him to do; he played almost all of “Absolutely Live”! And then some! “Tonight I'm Yours”, “Sailing”, “I Don't Want To Talk About It”, “Maggie May”, “Rhythm Of My Heart”, “You're In My Heart” and more; all the favourites were thrown in the mix! And “Grace”, from the new album was also brilliant and has now become a new favourite of mine. He did seem to have a bit of trouble hitting the high notes on “Baby Jane” but his backing singers more than compensated for it.

In fact he gave his backing band their own time to shine when they played Mark Knopfler's “Going Home (Theme From Local Hero)” and Fleetwood Mac's “Go Your Own Way” by themselves.

And he did seem to enjoy the whole thing, talking to the ladies in the audience (“Alright Mrs Jones?”) and even acknowledging the guys in the nearby houses who were enjoying the show for free.

No football kicks this time, but fittingly enough, he closed the show with “Stay With Me”. Just like “Absolutely Live”! The customary firework display at the end of the show was performed in broad daylight!

As, once again on foot, I was making my way back to Brighton, I was thinking that this had been something that I would like to experience again. Yes, I would go to see Rod Stewart live again, even if he was to deliver the exact same show!

01. Having A Party
02. Young Turks
03. Some Guys Have All The Luck
04. Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)
05. Forever Young
06. Twistin' The Night Away
07. Rhythm Of My Heart
08. The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II)
09. It Takes Two
10. Tonight I'm Yours (Don't Hurt Me)
11. I'd Rather Go Blind
12. Rollin' And Tumblin'
13. Going Home (Theme From Local Hero) (band only)
14. Grace
15. I Don't Want To Talk About It
16. Dirty Old Town
17. Have I Told You Lately
18. Go Your Own Way (band only)
19. Baby Jane
20. Sailing
21. Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?
22. Maggie May
23. Stay With Me

Monday, 21 October 2019

Summer Nostos Festival 2019 - Neneh Cherry

Summer Nostos Festival is an annual week-long festival organized by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation at its wonderful Cultural Centre which also houses the Greek National Opera and the Greek National Library. There's so much more going on apart from concerts such as dance performances, art exhibitions, theatre, sports events and activities for families and children.

Last year I attended because I wanted to see Stereo Nova, Greece's most famous “techno” band from the 90's. This year I went in order to see the legendary and fabulous Neneh Cherry.
Not only is the festival free, but the center provides its own mini buses taking you to and from the nearest metro stations. We had arrived much earlier, so we had a chance to have a glimpse at Balthazar, the band playing before Neneh Cherry at another area of the festival grounds.

After that we walked straight on to the stage where Neneh Cherry would be appearing. She was right on time and one of the first songs she performed was “Manchild”. She continued both with songs from her latest albums and old favourites. My only complaint lies with “7 Seconds” and it is that the male voice was pre-recorded. She couldn't bring Youssou'N'Dour along with her of course, but I'm sure she could have added a decent backing singer to her band who would be up to the task. Her own performance was nevertheless wonderful. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Release Festival 2019 - New Order & Johnny Marr

My second, and final Release Festival date for 2019 was the most anticipated. 8 days after my first with Iggy Pop and James, I went back to Water Square to see New Order and Johnny Marr. I had always wanted to see New Order live. After having seen Peter Hook And The Light not once, but twice, performing the songs of Joy Division and New Order, I now wanted to see the real thing. Plus they are one of the “Girlfriend Bands”, one of her favourites along with Belle And Sebastian, Manic Street Preachers and Blossoms. As for Johnny Marr... well, since I had already seen his other half in The Smiths, Morrissey, I now wanted to see him as well. And it wasn't just Smiths songs that I was expecting to hear. “Easy Money” a single from his previous album was one of my favourites. But before these two I was going to see Morcheeba. It was more than 20 years ago that I first noticed them when “Let Me See” was used on a Bailey's commercial and on the Gwynneth Paltrow movie “Sliding Doors”. 

So, just after arriving at Water Square where the “Yesterday” double decker bus was still in place, their set began. They did play “Let Me See”, understandably towards the end of their set, but not before they had treated us to a wonderful cover version of David Bowie's “Let's Dance”. It was the second David Bowie tribute for me at this year's Release Festival since 8 days before that Iggy Pop had covered “The Jean Genie”.

After Morcheeba, it was time for the customary exploratory walk around the festival grounds, where I bought a t-shirt and by buying a coffee and playing an interactive game I won a bluetooth speaker. (Coffee? It wasn't time for coffee, it was time for a beer!). And moreover, after all these activities we managed to reach the front of the stage where we waited for Johnny Marr. Johnny Marr's set had a little bit of everything. First of all he played songs from his solo career: Quite a few from his latest album, but also my favourite “Easy Money” and even his cover of Depeche Mode's “I Feel You”. There were - of course - songs from the Smiths (his second song of the night was “Bigmouth Strikes Again” but the only song both he and Morrissey in his 2014 Athens gig played was “How Soon Is Now”). 

And finally there were Electronic songs. We were first treated to “Getting Away With It”, but a little bit later we witnessed an actual Electronic reunion when Bernard Sumner of New Order who were going to appear next came up on stage to duet on “Get The Message”. Only Neil Tennant was missing (who had actually appeared at Water Square six years before with the Pet Shop Boys). 

All in all, Johnny Marr live was a wonderful experience and I was so justified for wanting to see him live after having seen Morrissey!
Finally, it was time for New Order. This time it was the real thing and we knew what we would be getting: Hit after hit after hit. Not only New Order hits, but Joy Division as well! I must confess that I am basically a fan of their “Substance” period. That, for me, includes everything up to “Touched By The Hand Of God” and bits of the “Technique” album. “World In Motion” also belongs to that period and I love it but it's a completely different thing. I must confess that I was tempted to request it by shouting, but I thankfully restrained myself in the end. As you have probably deduced by now I am an 80's New Order fan. But then again one of their 90's tracks is, in my opinion, an absolute masterpiece: “Regret”. It's just that I'm not very much into their latest period, the one starting with “Get Ready” (“We're like crystal, we break easy”, I mean seriously?). Well, if you look at the setlist, you'll see that it was mostly suited to my tastes. “Regret' was played, early on, “Subculture” was played, a personal favourite which I first heard on a slightly different version on a 7'' EP given free with Record Mirror magazine in the 80's, and finally, Joy Division songs were played. Bernard was overjoyed that the audience responded so well to the Joy Division songs and as a result the band played two more of them including the obligatory “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. New Order and Johnny Marr on the same night plus a bonus Electronic reunion. Unforgettable!


01. Never Undo
02. Friction
03. Never An Easy Way
04. Otherwise
05. The Sea
06. Trigger Hippie
07. Blaze Away
08. Let's Dance
09. Blindfold
10. Let Me See
11. Summertime
12. Rome Wasn't Built In A Day

01. The Tracers
02. Bigmouth Strikes Again
03. Armatopia
04. Day In Day Out
05. New Dominions
06. Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before
07. Hi Hello
08. Walk Into The Sea
09. Getting Away With It
10. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
11. Spiral Cities
12. How Soon Is Now?
13. Get the Message (with Bernard Sumner)
14. Easy Money
15. I Feel You
16. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

01. Singularity
02. Regret
03. Restless
04. She's Lost Control
05. Shadowplay
06. Transmission
07. Your Silent Face
08. Bizarre Love Triangle
09. Subculture
10. Plastic
11. The Perfect Kiss
12. True Faith
13. Blue Monday
14. Temptation
15. Atmosphere
16. Love Will Tear Us Apart