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Mega Smoke

Goes Chrimbo Crazy

Article from Making Music, December 1986

A special seasonal waft of your favourite news and gossip column, this time drifting through the whole magazine and including mini-interviews with the likes of China Crisis and jokes from the likes of us. The fun starts here.

S'enough of that old rubbish. This is... er... the beginning of December, probably, with a couple of weeks to go before that very famous birthday... yes Annie Lennox (the 25th, look it up.) We don't know when you pick the magazine up, do we? Could be November 48th for all we know. However, we feel Christmassy so here goes with a Smoke take-over on the rest of this month's issue.

Next month, we'll be announcing the results of your reader's poll. (Very interesting stuff so far. Saddest break up of the year appears to be the Space Shuttle.) But this month it's our turn with the Making Music staff and freelancers announcing their choices for the musical high points of the year or the Best "Thingy Of '86".

Jack Hues from WANG CHUNG says this about their new LP: "We chose the title ['Mosaic'] because life is made up of very disparate elements that combine to form a mosaic. The themes we deal with here are pure love, obsession, betrayal — or combinations of those — plus partying and art, among other things." We say "Pretentious, moi?"... apparently, FOREIGNER bestowed upon Trevor Horn the nickname of 'Ronnie Corbett' and he hates it... during his brief sojourn as a C&W star, Bobby Womack tried to call one of his LP's "Move Over Charlie Pride, And Give Another Nigger A Chance"; the record company said NO... has George Martin been working with Paul McCartney again7 Mayhap, we hear... ANNIE LENNOX has been working on a TV special for broadcast in the New Year, she sings at least one song according to our source... a recent MOTORHEAD gig at the Hammersmith Odeon saw a queue of 250 people outside waiting to get in. They were the ones on the guest-list. Victims included Girlschool and Andy Kershaw...

After BIG COUNTRY'S European and US tours were cancelled "for reasons better known to the record company", the group have been spending time in Edinburgh's new 24-track REL studio, recording the music that Stuart Adamson's written for a film called "Made In Heaven", rehearsing for their British tour (there was stuff from "The Seer" to learn), and, in the process, coming up with next-album ideas that went straight to tape in demo/master form. "Very much an experimental time," explained Mark Brzezicki.


Two things which are really one. It may be ungenerous, even cruel, but I was deeply chuffed to see that all the money, exposure and pimple bursting excesses of the media still cant get you anywhere if you can't write a decent song and then be able to play it to someone. Stand up Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Then go away. Conversely, there was a rosey glow from watching Level 42 finally get the album and single success they deserved, despite being constantly dismissed by the above mentioned papers as boring musos. The public does know what it wants. PAUL COLBERT

New U2 LP due in February. And did you know that they'd recorded a song with BOB GELDOF for his solo album? And did you know that Geldof left it out because it wasn't good enough?... GEORGE MICHAEL is reported as not being particularly happy with the mix of his duet with Aretha Franklin...

Is the B. Woolley who has cowritten most of the songs on the new GRACE JONES LP the same B. Woolley who used to have a Camera Club with Tom Dolby? The same B. Woolley who plays footer with the reviews ed. on Sundays?... we don't like to spread rumours about ill-feeling or anything, but we hear that the group photo on the cover of The Police's hits album is actually three individual mugshots. If so, then why is STING glaring at Stewart Copeland in all the ads?... Pete Burns gave Wayne Hussey of THE MISSION his big black hat. By the way, Mr Hussey refers to himself and his cohorts as 'goppies', a cross between Goths and Hippies. Or is it Yuppies?...

We happened upon several members of CHINA CRISIS the other day, and fortunately they helped us with our enquiries. Brian the keyboard player remembered his initiation into the group. "It was the end of my first tour, Dublin, the last night, and the roadies took my TROUSERS off and dumped me at the front of the stage. I just sort of layed there for a bit and then sort of hopped off."

If you reckon that was bad... listen to Kev the drummer (stop reading if you're eating right now). "It was about nine years ago in Stockholm, in the second number. I was SICK on stage, on to my snare drum." What do you blame for the vomit? "Er — I can't really say... but it covered everyone, cos you're still hitting the snare all the time, so there's bits of carrot flying off and going everywhere. Very visual, mind." Not so visual that they asked him to do it the next night, however.

Singist GAZZA chips in with his most unusual musical experience too.

"'Winsford's ELVIS PRESLEY' collapsing at my feet during 'Old Shep', new year's eve 1976." Mmm, sounds like a wild night.

Those nice WESTONE chappies have revamped the Thunder 1A series: both the six string and bass have new pickups, new push/pull knobs instead of switches, and chrome bridges. And they've discontinued the non-active models.

But probably more importantly, Westone distributors FCN are compounding their reputation for generosity by selling Westone T-shirts. Any Westone user who sends them the model, serial number, and information on where they bought their instrument can have one for £2.50. Anyone else pays £3 more. Dispatch your moola to FCN's T-Shirt Offer, Morley Road, Tonbridge, KENT TN6 1RA...


The inspiringly eclectic stream-of-consciousness music series 'Chasing Rainbows' on Channel 4; the Joe Jackson Band at Wembley, without smokebombs, back-projection, lasers etc — just MUSIC: rediscovering Steely Dan's beautifully lush "Gaucho" LP thanks to my clever new Philips 650 Compact Disc player; Tim Friese-Greene's weird Kurzweil solo on Talk Talk's 'Happiness Is Easy'; Bahiti's Khumalo's astonishing bass playing on most of Paul Simon's "Graceland" LP; everything but 'The Man Who Sailed...' on XTC's brilliant "Skylarking" album; hearing Clannad's Maire Brennan SING at the London Palladium; Diana Ross and the Supremes' superb everything-plus-a-bit "25th Anniversary" compilation. TONY BACON

Anyone go to the Barbican Guitar Weekend? While there was a strong turnout of smaller UK guitar makers and distributors, all displaying good looking instruments, the whole event seemed sadly disorganised - for example, we didn't receive our map and itinerary until the Monday after the show.

There was plenty to see; real live Synthaxes, all sorts of workshops, Gordon Giltrap, Martin Simpson, all those lovely guitars, lots of accessories, a repair workshop... so why spread it between the third and ninth floors, and then not adequately signpost the nine individual rooms? The exhibitors moaned about the lack of facilities (limited access, no storage space at all), and the punters complained about getting lost.

The Guitar Weekend is a beezer idea, but please, next year let's hold it somewhere other than the dreadful Barbican. And let's see some of the bigger names there - only Fender was present this year. Surely the Brits aren't frightened of comparison with the Japanese and US makers? Or could it be the other way round?


Meeting heroes (McGuinn, Diddley), buying guitars, particularly my 1965 FenderXII, making an LP, gigging, the South of France, Prince live, new Velvet Underground records, writing a hit single (ahem), successful friends, soul music, buying a camera, The Ramones still, a small hotel in Alston, discovering reverb with the Midiverb and the Roland DEP-5, Tommy James & The Shondells, and bestly, doing this job. JON LEWIN

If anyone has any doubts about 1986 being the Year Of Digital Reverb (told you so) better pay attention to the new new new Alesis Microverb. For £250 you may now purchase 13 conventional, two gated, and one reverse reverbs, all packed into a weeny box (three fit into a rack mount). Absence of MIDI, and very basic in/out/mix/select controls keep the price down, while you still get stereo input and output, and 10kHz top end. Review soon.


You're still in the studio working on a new album. How many's that, now?

"The third."

And what's it called?


Right, yeah, you always said you were inspired by Queen's "Sheer Heart Attack". Your best album yet?

"It will be."

Um... great, so like, exactly when did you first start playing guitar?


Fussy bugger aren't you?


If you've ever read anything about them, you'll know that the safest way of interviewing Jaz and Geordie from KILLING JOKE is by post.

But there are even problems involved in that: for instance, when Jaz says the best thing that's happened to him this year is finishing his book, he doesn't tell us what the book's about.

And Geordie only writes that "guitar and drums" are his favourite instruments, though Jaz is a little more specific: "Yamaha DX1". Unfortunately, he doesn't say where it turns up on their new album, "Brighter Than A Thousand Suns" (which is Geordie's choice of production of the year).

Jaz chooses himself as player of the year, while Geordie is a little more circumspect, picking KJ drummer Raven.

He and Geordie both agree that SSL mixing desks are this year's most helpful bit of technology, and that playing the Berlin Metropole was the best gig ("Ultra violence," wrote Jaz; "Because they knew," quoth his colleague. "Know what I mean?").

Jaz writes that the Deutsche Grammophon Berlin Philharmonic recording of Beethoven's Ninth was his Walkman Tape Of The Year, which probably explains why HERBERT VON KARAJAN is his first choice of other musicians to work with. Geordie's preferred listening is the two Last Poets' LPs, "This Is Madness" and "The Last Poets".

As for their hopes for next year, Geordie apparently wants "less lip", while Jaz is looking forward to "World War III".

That's my boys!

THOMAS DOLBY rang us up for some suggestions on a small drum machine and sequencer 'for a long plane journey'. He's just finished doing the soundtrack for Ken Russell's film 'Gothic'. 'There's a lot of odd sampled stuff, mostly orchestral, sort of Stravinsky and Bartok, and it's my first exploration of mega-long sampling, done on the Mark III FAIRLIGHT. Nothing ends up particularly recognisable, though — it gets very complex both rhythmically and harmonically." He's now going to start work on his next solo album. "Yes, it is about time, isn't it?"... Phone rings again. "Is MARTIN ROWSON there?" No, but we'll take a message. "OK, tell him Porky The Poet from RED WEDGE is after him. Tell him it will be felt pens at dawn." Something to do with last month's Dumb Chums? Coo, er, right... or should that be left?...

Even FIVE STAR aren't beyond a few end-of-tour high jinks: the brass section had their feet gaffa-ed together, the guitarist had glitter dropped all over him from the lighting rig, the drummer got abuse instead of a click track through his headphones during his solo, and the rest of the musicians were flanned. Kids, eh?... recent adverts, pt. 23: "For sale, One Banez steel string guitar, JUMPER size"... Warren Cucurullo, best known for doing it with Frank ZAPPA, has joined Duran DURAN, to do it with them. 'It' is playing guitar...

Panic in the Tape Manufacturer's Group? The anti-levy lobby just fielded a suit by the name of Andrew Howard on Channel 4's "Comment", who tear-jerkingly proceeded to misrepresent the proposed levy as a tax on blind cooks who couldn't read Braille with "fingers covered in pastry".

Perhaps he's just another clot who hasn't actually read the White Paper, which specifically excludes the blind. Or is it that the TMG prefer to ignore the facts? - ADRIAN LEGG (You taped that programme, then, did you Adrian? - Ed.)...


Philip Glass explaining his "additive method" by improvising a tune on the spot while tapping cross-rhythms on his knees; Prefab Sprout in Billy Jenkins's rehearsal rooms; the CD of Steely Dan's "Gaucho"; pounding out Motown songs on Sunday afternoons; the 1986 Beach Boys' convention in sun-kissed (OK, rain-drenched) Watford; Arvo Pärt at the Almeida Festival and the sick look on rival minimalist Michael Nyman's face at halftime; 'Tblisi', as played by the massed balalaikas of Plumstead; Dave Gregory's astonishing cover of 'Strawberry Fields Forever'; shaking hands with the man who produced the original; 'Homeless' from "Gracelands", if that's not too unsound. JOHN MORRISH

There's another whizzy new digital reverb on the horizon: the ART Pro-Verb should sell for under £400, and offers 100 presets, including reverbs, gated reverbs, reverse, choruses, delays, and echoes. They promise high quality and I want one..

Can it be true that CASIO are producing a MIDI interface for their weeny SK-1 samplerette? According to our Japanese contacts, this is the case... Pro-PA persons Ramsa proclaim the presentation of a pair of professional power amplifiers. The WP-9110 and 9220 put 100w and 200w into 8 ohms in stereo, or 300w and 600w in bridged mono mode. All sorts of safety features promise robustness, as well as the expected high quality performance. Prices are £576 and £800 respectively...

New in Japan from AKAI are the MG614 portastudio, and the EX Series of mini-rack effects (sound familiar?).

As far as we can tell, the MG614 is a six input four track with switchable tape speed, two effects sends, parametric, insert points on all channels, tape sync input — in short, facilities that put it on the same level as the Tascam 246 and Fostex 260. It'll cost £1199 when it arrives in February.

The five effects in the EX Series are Digital Delay, Compressor/Gate, Noise Reduction, Enhancer, and Parametric. No news on prices, but the EXs should start arriving by Christmas.

XTC. Mr Partridge once again, discussing a track called 'The Meeting Place'. Apparently a lot of the clanking, factory-like noises on it came from an LP of industrial noises that Todd had knocking around. "You know, 'Now That's What I Call INDUSTRIAL Noises Volume Eight'," suggests the XTC frontperson. What a wag, eh?

ANYONE who remembers Australian punkers THE SAINTS from eight years or so ago will be pleased to hear that the band is back. Saints' main man dapper Australian person-thing Chris Bailey, has a new line-up and a very good new album on Polydor, 'All Fools Day'.

"The very first time I ever played with the two guys who became the nucleus of The Saints was probably the best gig I've ever done. It was at a party, not really a gig: up to then I'd never thought of joining a band, let alone rock music as a career. I suddenly thought 'I think I can do this'. It was some Chuck Berry song that went into an hour long version of 'Land Of A 1000 Dances'. It was a bloody good party, even if we probably sounded like some unmentionable racket from hell."

"And as for the worst, well, I think it was playing on my own to a football crowd in Rouen; they were a little 'buoyed up' after losing a game... I think that's the closest I've ever got to DEATH onstage..."

Chris writes songs with a Tascam 244. "It's the greatest little invention for songwriters - I use it as a notebook. The way I record on it depends on how much I've had to drink — sometimes I'll just stick a mike in the room and sing into it."

Although he claims his favourite instrument is the cello (which he has yet to master), Chris is mainly a guitarist.

"I've got a Gretsch Anniversary, fairly old. As for amps I own a Marshall combo, but because we tour a lot we tend to rent, in which case I'd go for either a Vox AC30 or a Roland JC120."

"My favourite instrumentalist has to be BO DIDDLEY. I did a solo with him in Paris... I don't really have heroes at all, but it was bloody humbling being able to speak to him about the blues, having him portraying himself to me as a youngster. It made me think what a long way I have to go. He's an incredibly witty and humourous conversationalist..."

Even though Chris has finally managed to secure The Saints another major label deal after several years in the rock & roll wilderness, he still attributes "fornication" as his greatest source of pleasure this year. The man obviously has his priorities sorted...

Vox Univibe. Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face. Vox wah-wah. What do these effects boxes have in common? Yup, they formed the basic live treatment set-up of the legendary JIMI HENDRIX. But do you happen to have any of these boxes hidden away in a cupboard? If you have, the Norfolk-based Jimi Hendrix Archives would love to hear from you. Tony Brown, who runs the Archives, is also interested in hearing from musicians, engineers and others who worked with Jimi, anyone with taped interviews, original photographs or autographed material, and even people who saw Hendrix play and have vivid memories. Tony is in the closing stages of five years of research for a book on Jimi; write to him at Jimi Hendrix Archives, (Contact Details).

TERRY HALL's spiffing-ish Colourfield have been recording with Richard Gottehrer sitting in the canvas chair with 'Producer' on the back; apart from Richard Hell and Robert Gordon, Richard (you don't expect me to spell Gottehrer again, do you?) also produced Blondie's best albums...


For a wonderful, thrilling performance my Best Thingy of '86 Award goes to The Godfathers. Although slightly Sixties-influenced with their twangy guitars and Kray Twins image, they remain one of the few London bands managing to cause some havoc live. Proof? For one thing being catapulted from the audience to land bent double over the stage with my head at vocalist Peter Coyne's feet does not indicate a passive audience. Their musical attributes are just as forceful though fortunately less traumatic but not advisable for those of a nervous disposition. CAROL IRVING

YOU ARE at a rehearsal and someone shouts "Presto". Do you (a) ignore him or (b) wonder what supermarkets have to do with it? Both wrong. Presto is one of those lilting Italian phrases used to describe the speed of the music you're playing. THE TEMPO. In order we have: Presto (very fast, 168-208 Beats Per Minute), Allegro (fast, 120-168 BPM), Moderate (moderate speed, 108-120 BPM), Andante (a more reserved, walking pace, 76-108 BPM), Adagio (slow, apparently it means 'at ease', 66-76 BPM), and Largo which is an even slower, funereal form of alcohol brewed by time-taking Danes at between 40-66 BPM. For more precise definitions, there may be a direct tempo instruction at the beginning of the stave, a quarter note (crotchet) followed by an equals sign, and then your BPM.


Working with Steve Lipson and Trevor Horn on percussion for Frankie's "Liverpool" album was an inspiration. Why? Because they were concerned with quality and refused to leave a track alone until they genuinely felt that it sounded as good as it could. Despite having the most advanced technology available they were more interested in spontaneity and a sense of performance than in ruthlessly achieving 'perfection'. They wanted a creative contribution, not a yes person, and remained delightfully unprecious about it all. Anyway they let me play my berimbau. ANDY DUNCAN

PINO PALLADINO, the bassist with the creamiest fretless around, told us his favourite instrument this year was "the Hammond organ, as usual". Of course. Any favourite stops, then? "No, no - pull 'em all out! Get 'em all out, I say, and push it!" Right you are. Perhaps he's found some other piece of technology useful in '86? He thinks. "My lead. What I'd like to see in '87 is a PITCH-TO-VOLTAGE system that you could just plug any guitar, any bass, into. That would be fantastic. Get you to sound like STEVIE WONDER records instantly."


The general fabness of Stevie Winwood's "High Life" album. Discovering a fantastic, previously unknown Japanese percussionist, Shudyu Wakamada. Deserved wider recognition as a jolly fine skin-basher for Magnum's Mickey 'Trouser' Barker. Realising, about six years late, that for all those lovely whooshy FX, two combos are so much better than one. Seeing 'Aliens' and being (in this order) captivated by visual rhapsody Sigourney Weaver (she's so commanding too), scared shitless, and able to get to the local afterwards in time for last orders! JERRY UWINS

THE EDGE completed his first film soundtrack music this year, for 'Captive', which also produced a fine single in 'Heroine'. Which soundtracks does he rate, we wondered? 1 ENNIO MORRICONE The Good The Bad And The Ugly' (1966). "I love his stuff - the music he did for the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone films is brilliant. Morricone's music here really takes you right back to the film." 2 ANTON KARAS 'The Third Man' (1949). "That Orson Welles film. I thought the music was fantastic - for that moment you're almost back seeing that movie." 3 GIORGIO MORODER Midnight Express' (1978). "I thought this was an interesting juxtaposition. At the time the use of synthesisers was a bit revolutionary - thousands have imitated him since, of course, but it was very fresh then. In fact going back to it, as I did a couple of months ago, it still has a freshness where a lot of modern synthesiser records a bit jaded."

So you thought SIMMONS were being a bit quiet. Well, apart from winning all sorts of plaudits abroad, they've been inventing the SILICON MALLET. Phew. This is - basically — a digital xylophone: 36 touch sensitive bars for playing 19 presets and 80 programmable memories. On-board sounds range from vibraphone through marimbas and chimes, to bells and bass. The keyboard is splittable, footpedals are provided for sustain, modulation, and bending, and naturally there is a fully assignable MIDI interface. Big stuff, eh?


Standing transfixed at the printers watching the first issue of Making Music come off the presses. And then two weeks later, finding out from dealers that all the copies had gone from the shops. After all the dreaming, scheming and general paranoia we knew we had a success. Adrian Walker

If you've talked to the people in Arista's A&R department lately, you may have noticed them a bit more conversant in recording terminology. That's because the whole department recently went on one of the courses run by the GATEWAY School of Recording, presumably in an effort to clean up their dusty artist/A&R technical interface. The Gateway School, which resides above a professional 24-track studio in south London, runs courses on such musicianly topics as multitrack recording (beginners to advanced), using synthesisers, sampling, MIDI, arranging, synchronisation, even composing and producing radio and TV commercials. They are a friendly, helpful bunch at Gateway: find out more from them on (Contact Details).


The venue was Frankfurt February, the big trade fair. Earlier, Germany's top three piece, The Radio ('Der rardio') had been content with playing on a stage, equipped with freebie demo PAs and (groan) radio mikes. But now they'd locked themselves in Sennheiser's demo booth, donned their wireless transmitters, wound up the PA, and proceeded to jump and jam so the limited oxygen supply was saturated with sound 'n' sweat. Meanwhile outside, avid punters had donned Sennheiser's cans, and were ogling with noses pressed flat against the plate glass. The idea of hysterically popular musos performing in a 10 by 10 foot rectangular goldfish bowl appealed to me a lot. You wouldn't need an outfront PA, just 5090 pairs of cans. Happy Xmas, oh Music Box. BEN DUNCAN


I hear you just got married again. Must be about your fourth wife, eh?

"The Third."

Because you always had a reputation as a womaniser even though you tried to keep it quiet from the press. Wadda's she do for you that's so special, huh?

"Stroke it."

Amazing. Remind me, like how many groupies did you used to have at a time?


Young ones?


What a crazy guy.


You probably won't have heard of Jeb Million yet, as he's only recently signed to WEA. But he's had his songs recorded by the likes of Roger Daltrey, Shakin' Stevens, and Lulu.

So how does he do it? Apart from having a fairly useful home studio set-up (Fostex 8-track, Tascam 16 track desk, TR707 drum machine, JX8P, Roland rack-mount effects), he has one ber-illiant tip to pass on to budding writists: "If I'm writing a song, I mix down a rough version onto cassette, and then try arranging verse/chorus, verse/chorus, by dubbing the separate parts onto another cassette machine using the pause button; it sounds a bit arse backwards, but it saves a lot of time - rather than having to reprogram your drums and bass, it's a quick way of checking whether a new arrangement will work... then I go back and re-record."

Now why didn't we think of that? So simple, yet so... thingy.


The highlight of my year could easily have been the 'discovery' of a 1960s Vox Phantom sporting SEVEN pickups! However, the honour has to go to a very brief but eloquent statement made by Skip Henderson of City Lights Music in America. It displays great insight and passion; a message of hope to all we 'low-tech' mortals who appreciate guitars etc as they were, and there are more of us than the equipment manufacturers would like to admit! I will never forget these golden words: "F-K MIDI!" PAUL DAY

Well blow me down if it isn't our old mates IT BITES, keen to natter about 1986 and blah blah blah. 'Ere Bob, you're a drummer. What struck you as the best thing this year? "Moving out of the road crew's SQUAT and into the keyboard player's squat."

What do you do in a squat? You listen to tapes on your Walkman, of course. Which ones exactly? Well, we won't disturb them cos they're obviously enjoying them - we'll just peek through the little windows. Let's see. Francis the guitarist has a dead cool classical thing: Gustav and the Holsts doing their "PLANETS SUITE"; Dick the bassist is getting into ALLAN HOLDSWORTH's "Metal Fatigue"; Bob is a naughty boy cos he has a blank cassette with "YES live at Wembley 1978" scrawled on it; and John the synth bod has the suitably technical "Feels Good To Me" by BRUFORD, followed swiftly by the Berlin Philharmonic's groovy "Midsummer Night's Dream".

OK, they've all finished that. What developments for '86, then, oh Biting people? Francis: "I'd like to see bands stop using loads of SAMPLES, echoes, reverbs or other false things that make them sound better than they are. Let's get back to what bands really sound like." Dick: "I'd like to see better MUSICIANSHIP in young bands." Bob: "More musicians playing than people using STUDIO techniques." John: "A knobs-and-sliders type add-on programmer for a Yamaha DX7." Hmmm - seem like a sensible bunch, don't they?


Go to Hammersmith Odeon and sit in row five, five seats from the left. It will be very loud and you won't be able to see much as the left hand speaker stack is right in front of you. Like the crossing of ley-lines, however, this seat is a point of maximum constructive interference for all kick and snare drums. I should, therefore, like to thank Talk Talk's drummer for nearly bursting my chest last April — a very pleasurable experience — and I shall fight anyone for that seat on my next visit. MARTIN SHEEHAN

NME TALKS AT THE SPEAKING CLOCK book of tone poems "The Third Stroke" are petulant turmoils of angst in which he breaks through the fear of 80s Britain to meld fatalism and paranoia into a cry for our time. "IT WILL BE" he intones, catching all our dread certainty of a nuclear holocaust invoked by the fascist Reagan administration. "4.17?" speaks of everyone's secret conviction that time and civilisation are really standing still. And how else can we interpret the faltering "Precisely" than as a clarion call for the new celibacy and a denouncement of (subs please fill in most popular cause of the day, or whatever Billy Bragg's new single is about)...


Found B flat. Not much good except for mineral deposits. Stunned by Jessye Norman, humbled by Itzhak Perleman, exhilarated by Paul Simon, heartened by Tal Farlow, touched by Libby Cotton. Melody Maker slagging boosted the door-take on one of my London gigs. Moral: shit grows roses — who still reads it? A visiting Really Useful exec, described audience as "type who knit their own muesli". That's who.

Gittler's only got one pose, Jessye Norman is God and epoxy works Her miracles. I didn't want a Steinberger anyway, and lead weight sales are banned next year, except for swimfeeders. Peace and Heavy Maggots, man. ADRIAN LEGG


...Despite rallying in the New Year, the first issue of "Making Music" caused the patient a terrible and final relapse. His attempts to understand the paper's revolutionary new "layout" ended in what the US Courts judge to be "irreversible brain death". And yet, although what we doctors call "technically stiff', Rowson clings obstinately to a sort of life, continuing to draw indeed, courtesy of the Arthur Koestler foundation. As far as we can tell, his best musical experience of 1986 has been twitching to the slow, rhythmic bleep of the faltering encephalograph. Me? I like that Madonna! What a little raver, eh? A. DOCTOR.

After our chat with ROBERT CRAY last month, we bunged him a copy of our Kwistmas Kwestionnaire. This is what he wrote...

What's the best thing that's happened to you this year?

"Eric Clapton doing a version of my song 'Bad Influence', and being on his tour. That, and my deal with Phonogram."

Favourite instrument?

"My '58 Strat, even if it did cost an arm and a leg."

Favourite player?

"I like JIMMY VAUGHAN from the Fabulous Thunderbirds. He sat in with the Robert Cray Band one night — he sure plays that funky rhythm! But my favourite singer in the whole round world is a Southern R&B man, O V Wright, who died three or four years ago."

Best gig?

"The coolest gig I ever played was the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival, couple of years ago. Forty thousand people, cottonfields, all those things, which I'd never seen before, playing right where the blues came from."

Worst musical experience?

"I was late for a gig once because a volcano blew up.


Hearing the Fabulous Thunderbirds album (god bless Dave Edmunds) and seeing them sweaty, loud and very live; feeling the waves of warmth from the four-deep readers of our mighty organ round the stand at the BMF; and getting my first really good mix on my Porta One, years after giving up playing for real. BRIAN GIDDINGS


THERE'S AN awful lot of rain in songs. Never ordinary rain, mind you, it's invariably dark, cold, hard, chill, bitter and invisible, though strangely never wet. Rain is obviously versatile.

Which is more than can be said for the world's population of LYRIC writers which, considering the hundreds of millions of lines churned out each year, shows a disturbing gravitation towards a dull and tiny total of favourite words. There really are some words, and reasonably unusual ones, that come up over and over again in everyday lyrics.

With a spare moment, and a half litre of Stella to hand (blond biere deluxe) Smoke spilled a random sample of album sleeves across the turf to seek out the most popular entries in the rock'n'roll dictionary of song.

'Rain', as we said, is a keen choice. The seasons also feature heavily, 'Winter' in particular, closely followed by 'Spring' and 'Summer' with 'Autumn' trailing a poor fourth. Men or 'Man' when he appears is most often old. "A middle-aged man beckoned from the foot of a tree." Not right, somehow. Generally whenever there's a question of wisdom, advice, or o'er-shaded beckoning involved, an old man gets the contract. It has to be said, straight off, that the heavy metal/fantasy fraternity conceals the worst lyrical offenders. They populate entire albums with ancients sheltering under oaks in Wintery precipitation, and merely swap seasons and species for the next record.

They're not the only ones to try the mystical goobledegook, however. "Echoes growing in the heart of the twilight". Really. Yes, I see what you mean. Duran Duran penned that especially LUCID one liner. Still, you've got to knock a lot of dust off your album collection to get back to "Faster moments spent spread tales of change within the sound." All right, so Jon Anderson always trilled that he chose words for their sound not their meaning, but there must have been some very dodgy conversations with the rest of Yes over the mixing console - '"Spirit tones increasing passion oh soon the light shape?"... yeah, I think Jon is after some more bass in his cans.'

But we digress. Other favourites in the moody, scene setting style are: storm, sword, shadows, grey, evening, and afterglow. As in "the storm sword shadows the grey evening afterglow... er... rain." The old men don't say anything, they always 'tell of' it. If the subject of the song wants anything he's most often 'hungry' for it, and 'your touch' is what he gets especially famished about.

And now, just now, we know it's so, believe and listen, all right, yeah. That sentence took up a lot of space, and as far as I can tell, didn't say anything (akin to the whole feature - ed). Some examples, there, (that was another one) of lyrical breeze blocking - safe words which can pad out a line to fit the melody, without altering any of the meaning. Personally, I think it's a detestable habit. So you want to write lyrics that are one of cement, three of sand? I suppose they can be helpful, but would you do the same with notes?

One of the arch syllable criminals is PHIL COLLINS whose songs are peppered with unemployed 'you know's, 'tonights,' 'just's, 'and now's, 'why's, and 'even's. There was a corker on the last Genesis album which took four whole lines to arrive at the conclusion that if you speak, you hear your own voice.

"Late at night when you call my name/The only sound you'll hear/is the sound of your voice calling/calling after me." Brilliant, Phil.

Altogether a lot of names get 'called', 'cards played', 'nobody's fooled' and italls discarded, "throwing it all away" is a regular pastime amongst singists. And 'dreams' come into it a lot. I kid you not, on the last two albums I picked at random, the word 'dreams' was in the first line my eyes fell upon, both times. 'Crowds' are popular, as are 'dice', 'friends', 'trust', 'devils', 'smiles', 'power', 'eyes', and 'Mama'. Now I ask you, has anyone called anyone else Mama in the last 50 years?

Anyway. I know it isn't poetry, and rock'n'roll is not supposed to endure in granite, but I can't understand why bands should agonise to ensure their sound, style and choice of notes are unique, yet reach for the Janet and John book for the words. Excuse me, but I can see an OLD MAN beckoning from the shadow of a larch. And I think it's about to piss down.

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Publisher: Making Music - Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.

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Making Music - Dec 1986


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