Archive for Music

Morrissey – California Son

morrissey-california-sonCALIFORNIA SON, Morrissey’s twelfth studio album, is a collection of covers including a few familiar old classics and some maybe lesser known American protest and social justice songs from the 60s and 70s. Morrissey and his band never shy away from imaginative musical arrangements, often seeking out unusual instruments, and there are influences here from New Orleans, the old-time crooners and a touch of Broadway. No doubt this is a nod to his recent sell-out residency at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City (NYC).

The album opens with Morning Starship, the 1973 song by Jobriath. Morrissey has talked about covering this song for many years, and his version does not disappoint. He strips back the glam rock just enough to emphasise his wide range of vocals. It is an uplifting track and was well received when he sang it live on Broadway.

Next up is his version of Joni Mitchell’s Don’t interrupt the Sorrow, a song about women standing up to male dominance from her 1975 The Hissing of Summer Lawns album. Originally a folky song with lots of hand drums it is given the full Morrissey crooner treatment. Now in his 60th year, Morrissey seems to be embracing the role of modern-day crooner and it is a sound that repeats on several tracks throughout this album, not least on the very good Wedding Bell Blues on which Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong adds backing vocals.

Morrissey is never one to shy away from a song with a powerful message and chose to include the 1964 Bob Dylan song Only A Pawn in their Game, written following the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers. The message in this song is that the killer was as much a victim or “pawn” of the elites in power as was his victim. The song was sung at the rally where Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech. It’s an interesting choice, as is his excellent cover of Days of Decision. This is taken from the 1965 Phil Ochs album Ain’t Marching Anymore, with its lyrics: “you can do what’s right or you can do what you are told.” Maybe in these choices, Morrissey is encouraging the listener to look at the lessons of history and to question things a little more?

Buffy Sainte Marie’s Suffer the Little Children is given the full Broadway treatment with big instrumentals and hand clapping. Buffy, in an interview, said she loved it.

There are very good versions of Carly Simon’s When you close your eyes and Dione Warwick’s Loneliness Remembers What Happiness Forgets. Gary Puckett’s Lady Willpower is also very well done. Tim Hardin’s eulogy to his friend Lenny Bruce, Lenny’s Tune is perfect for the melancholic signature sound of Morrissey, and whilst this version is not as haunting as the Nico cover it does justice to the original.

Roy Orbison’s It’s Over stays true to the original and is one of the best tracks on the album. He closes with Melanie Safka’s 1971 Some Say (I got Devil). The vocals here are excellent and the addition of instrumentals on what was originally an acoustic guitar ballad gives the song new depth.

There really is not a bad track here but the real gift of this album is that it brings to a new generation a selection of protest songs about freedom, social justice and liberty that have a message relevant to today. It encourages you to seek out the original recordings and the stories behind them. Morrissey is not afraid to try new genres, or of working with material that others might now find too controversial. It is why his music endures despite the controversy, the bad press, the lack of radio coverage and the constant personal attacks. He has already recorded an album of new material for release later in the year. Retirement does not appear to be on the horizon just yet.

Reviewed by Jacqui Cosgree

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California Sun – Morrissey

CALIFORNIA SON, Morrissey’s twelfth studio album, is a collection of covers including a few familiar old classics and some maybe lesser known American protest and social

morrissey-california-son

justice songs from the 60s and 70s.  Morrissey and his band never shy away from imaginative musical arrangements, often seeking out unusual instruments, and there are influences here from New Orleans, the old time crooners and a touch of Broadway.  No doubt this is a nod 

 

to his recent sell out residency at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City (NYC).  

The album opens with Morning Starship, the 1973 song by Jobriath.  Morrissey has talked about covering this song for many years, and his version does not disappoint.  He strips back the glam rock just enough to emphasise his wide range of vocals.  It is an uplifting track and was well received when he sang it live on Broadway.

Next up is his version of Joni Mitchell’s Don’t interrupt the Sorrow, a song about Women standing up to male dominance from her 1975 The Hissing of Summer Lawns album.  Originally a folky song with lots of hand drums it is given the full Morrissey crooner treatment. Now in his 60th yeapeats on several tracks throughout this album, not least on the very good Wedding Bell Blues on which Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong adds backing vocals.

Morrissey is never one to shy away from a song with a powerful message, and chose to include the 1964 Bob Dylan song Only A Pawn in their Game, written following the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.  The message in this song is that the killer was as much a victim or “pawn” of the elites in power as was his victim.  The song was sung at the rally where Martin Luther King gave his“I have a dream” speech.  It’s an interesting choice, as is his excellent cover of Days of Decision.  This is taken from the 1965 Phil Ochs album Ain’t Marching Anymore, with its lyrics: “you can do what’s right or you can do what you are told.”  Maybe in these choices Morrissey is encouraging the listener to look at the lessons of history and to question things a little more?

Buffy Sainte Marie’s Suffer the Little Children is given the full Broadway treatment with big instrumentals and hand clapping.  Buffy, in an interview, said she loved it.

There are very good versions of Carly Simon’s When you close your eyes and Dione Warwick’s Loneliness Remembers what Happiness Forgets.  Gary Puckett’s Lady Willpower is also very well done.  Tim Hardin’s eulogy to his friend Lenny Bruce, Lenny’sTune is perfect for the melancholic signature sound of Morrissey, and whilst this version is not as haunting as the Nico cover it does justice to the original.

Roy Orbison’s It’s Over stays true to the original and is one of the best tracks on the album.  He closes with Melanie Safka’s 1971 Some Say (I got Devil).  The vocals here are excellent and the addition of instrumentals on what was originally an acoustic guitar ballad gives the song new depth.

There really is not a bad track here but the real gift of this album is that it brings to a new generation a selection of protest songs about freedom, social justice and liberty that have a message relevant to today.  It encourages you to seek out the original recordings and the stories behind them.  Morrissey is not afraid to try new genres, or of working with material that others might now find too controversial.  It is why his music endures despite the controversy, the bad press, the lack of radio coverage and the constant personal attacks.  He has already recorded an album of new material for release later in the year.  Retirement does not appear to be on the horizon just yet.

Reviewed by Jacqui Cosgree

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17 Million Fuck Offs

DominicFrisby-Edinburgh-headshot-3-sparkles-A4

17 Million Fuck Offs.  Written and performed by Dominic Frisby.  Music composed and played by Martin Wheatley (based on a traditional Devon folk song).  Video directed by Anon.   Audio mixed and recorded by Wayne McIntyre.  Assistant Director Mark “Yeti” Cribbs.  Available from: https://www.amazon.co.uk/17-Million-Fuck-Offs-Explicit/dp/B07PKY39CK/ref=sr_1_3_twi_mus_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1552953132&sr=8-3&keywords=dominic+frisby

INDIVIDUAL TRACK reviews for Counter Culture are like busses – you wait ages for them to arrive and then two come along at once!

Eagle-eyed readers may recall that – towards the end of last month – I reviewed a track called The Dirty Fucking Hippies Were Right!  You can read the review here https://countercultureuk.com/2019/04/25/the-dirty-fucking-hippies-were-right/ and listen to the track here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKEZoY-TMG4 At the time (and to the best of my knowledge) I’d never reviewed an individual music track before.  Little did I know that I’d be at it again so quickly.

As with last months track, I can’t recall where (or when) I first became aware of 17 Million Fuck Offs but I somehow came across it on YouTube.  You can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiUFPjulTW8

Remarkably, there are several similarities and differences between The Dirty Fucking Hippies Were Right! and 17 Million Fuck Offs.  For instance, both deal with important subject matters.  The first was a track about an entire counter cultural movement – the Hippies – which had its origins in the 60s.  The second track is about a specific event, the EU referendum of 23rd June 2016.

Mystery surrounds those who wrote and performed The Dirty Fucking Hippies Were Right! although it’s been attributed to George Carlin (1937 – 2008) the American stand-up comedian, actor, author, and social critic.  However, there’s no mystery about 17 Million Fuck Offs which is the work of Dominic Frisby.  According to his web-site – https://dominicfrisby.com/ – Frisby is a libertarian and a ‘writer-performer’.  However, this brief description is very modest indeed, for he combines straight stand-up and character comedy with writing books about the economy as well as acting, presenting, voiceovers and public speaking.

So much for the differences between the two singles.  The one obvious similarity is the use of the Anglo-Saxon word, ‘Fuck’, in both titles.  Whilst it’s still considered a reasonably offensive swear word, many people seem to use it – maybe even unconsciously – in everyday speech.  To this extent, the word has become somewhat ‘normalised’.  However, I believe that it’s used on both tracks for description and emphasis.  The hippies were way, way before my time, and I’m far from an expert on them, but I believe that they were sometimes described as ‘dirty fucking hippies’.  That would explain its use on the first track.  On 17 Million Fuck Offs it’s used to great comedic effect – especially as it appears like a bolt out of the blue.  Based on a traditional Devon folk song, Frisby sets the scene at the start of the track and sings in a very authoritative manner:

‘On the 23rd of June, 2016
The people of the United Kingdom – and Gibraltar – went to vote
On an issue that for some had been burning for years
The question in full – and unaltered – was – I quote

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union
or leave the European Union?

It was the greatest democratic turnout in British history, I do not scoff
And when the time came to speak the British said fuck off.
Fuck off.’

I’ve shown the YouTube video to a few people and they’ve always reacted with a great big belly laugh when they first hear the words ‘fuck off’.  Have a listen to it yourself and you’ll know what I mean.

Dominic Frisby spends most of his time on the track ridiculing the warnings that the establishment made in the run up to the EU referendum.  Known as ‘Project Fear’ the electorate were warned, if they voted for Brexit, that ‘you’ll lose your job’, ‘you’ll lose yourhome’ and that there would be all manner of food shortages, no medicines, grounded planes and the stock market would collapse. However, most terrifying of all, there’d be ‘an outbreak of super gonorrhea. They seriously said that’. 

He also calls out various members of the establishment who promoted ‘Project Fear’.  They include politicians like David Cameron, Theresa May, George Osborne and Tony Blair – who, in my honest opinion, should be doing serious bird for war crimes – right the way through to ‘celebrities’ like Gary Lineker, JK Rowling and the deliberately (yet delightfully) misnamed Benedict Cumbertwat.  At the end of the list comes Labour’s Lord Adonis.  Frisby proves that he’s truly a great iconoclast when he asks the question on everyone’s lips:‘Who the fuck’s he anyway?’

Listening to the track, it struck me that this was the first time I’d heard a pro-Brexit comedy song.  Indeed, 17 Million Fuck Offs was only song in support of Brexit that I’d come across, no matter what genre it hailed from.

This is odd – to say the very least!  Brexit should’ve provided plenty of material for various mainstream artists & comedians to work with.  For instance, for three years now we’ve been in the ridiculous position of having those MPs who ‘represent’ their constituents in the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ trying to overturn the democratic will of those very same constituents.  It’s absolute comedy gold!  So where are all of the mainstream artists and comedians – shouldn’t they be calling out these MPs on their failure to carry out the express will of the people?  After all, we live in a democracy, don’t we?

Despite the reluctance of many ‘household names’ to point out the obvious – that representative democracy is no longer representative or democratic – Dominic Frisby has managed to do so using both gentle humour and biting satire.  This makes 17 Million Fuck Offsvery important as it reminds us why the electorate voted for Brexit and why the public is so frustrated with the current political stalemate.  To do so using music must be a nightmare for Remainers – that’s because music is universal and can cross so many barriers.  Indeed, music has the ability to touch everyone, no matter who they are.

Have a listen to both the original track – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiUFPjulTW8– or the Ramona Ricketts Mix –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oD-Sz8S7bA0– which has a slight Irish lilt to it.  And don’t forget to let Counter Culture know what you think of  Dominic Frisby’s highly original work – both in terms of musical comedy and the message it conveys.

Reviewed by John Field.

• LOOK OUT for Dominic Frisby’s Libertarian Love Songs later this year at the Edinburgh Fringe.

 

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The Romantic Rocker – Some Thoughts on Phil Lynott

phillynottWhat made Phil an ‘outsider’? Well, was this rowdy rocker and party goer, really an outsider? I think so. Of course just the hue of his skin in Dublin at the time would have ‘marked him out’. A black Irishman in the 50s and 60s – there was a novelty. Either he had to live up to that difference  or retreat from it – Phil, ostensibly, lived up to it. In fact he had been born at West Bromich in the West Midlands of England close to where I grew up. But Phil was sent to Dublin to live with and be brought up by his grandmother and family. He pays tribute to her in one of his songs titled ‘Sarah’. He wrote another ‘Sarah’ for his first born.

Phil was ‘black’, living apart from his mother, with an estranged father. He was brought up in Catholic Ireland – so different at the time, say, from ‘Swinging London’ and more generally the ‘swinging sixties’ – the decade when he first began to play music. Phil was tall, very leggy and eventually grew an impressive ‘Afro’ hair cut. There was no mistaking him. But there was always a dichotomy about his nature. I met and talked with him a few times (I’m lucky to be able to say) even got to play drums along with him once! With his doleful eyes, lush Dublin brogue and gentle demeanour OFF-stage (I never witnessed his wild side) – this was contrasted with the posing rocker, ‘eye-for-a-lady’, ‘jack-the-lad’, ‘twinkle in the eye’ hard rocker ON stage. Thin Lizzy were a SUPERB live act. They made their reputation and career from their live performances. And they had (to quote a song and album title) a ‘bad reputation’.

There was though, more to this rocker than one would expect. Yes he could write heavy songs with swagger such as ‘The Rocker’: I am your main man if you’re looking for trouble but also some of the most beautiful ballads, such as ‘Still in Love With You’: Think I’ll just fall to pieces/if I don’t find something else to do/ this sadness it never ceases/ I’m still in love with you. Or there were the songs of yearning, ‘Wild One’ being an example with its lines: How can we carry on, now you are gone, my wild one. There were many songs imbued with Irish legend of myth and adventure and with more contemporary reference such as, ‘Freedom Song’: I believe in the freedom song/Long live liberty/I believe in the freedom song/Doesn’t matter what you do to me.

But there was also his religious/spiritual side. I’m writing these words now because the following lines often pop into my head, from the song ‘Dear Lord’: Dear Lord, this is a prayer, just let me know if you’re really there/Dear Lord, come gain control, oh Lord, come save my soul/Give me dignity, restore my sanity, oh Lord, come rescue me/
Dear Lord, my vanity, oh Lord, it’s killin’ me, it’s killin’ me.

Phil had a sense of the Divine… a sense of the world beyond…I even think he had a sense of his impending mortality. This mix of rocker and romantic gave his songs a quality so often lacking from his contemporaries. Thin Lizzy’s songs had this mixture of Rock; Romance; Celtic History; Religion/Spirituality.

Phil was an outsider by nature not by choice. He was ‘Johnny’ the character popping up in many of his songs – he was ‘The Cowboy’, his childhood reflecting children’s awe then of the Wild West and he bringing these romantic adventures to life in the raw 1970s: I am just a cowboy, lonesome on the trail…

Well if you don’t know, Phil succumbed to the effects of drugs and their long-term use in the mid-80s. Perhaps that was always going to be his destiny. Never to grow old. Always remembered as the rocker, the gypsy with his dangling, hooped earring. His playfulness and talent. But it’s still a damn shame he’s gone.  These words reflect just a slight insight into the man and his songs. If you don’t know him and Thin Lizzy check out their back catalogue. ‘Vagabonds of the Western World’ is a raw, solid, Irish, romantic flavoured album from the band as a three-piece; ‘Nightlife’ is a soulful peculiarity (and my favourite album); Jailbreak is the ‘Classic Line-up’ at its height, containing their most famous hit song, ‘The Boys are Back in Town’.

If you don’t know Thin Lizzy and you like your rock delivered with feeling and intensity and yet with some beautiful slow ballads and thought-provoking lyrics – you will be highly delighted when you do. If you already know them – you’ll understand everything I have written. Phil’s life was a romantic-tragedy – with all the paradox that those two words combining bring. I’ll leave you with this stanza from his song, ‘Spirit Slips Away’. Written when he and the band were on the cusp of real stardom.

And when the music that makes you blue
Unfolds its secrets, the mysteries are told to you
May the angels sing rejoice to you
That fateful day when your spirit slips away

By Tim Bragg

Phil Lynott (20 August 1949 – 4 January 1986) was best known as the singer, frontman and bassist with Thin Lizzy

Tim Bragg is author of ‘Lyrics to Live by: Keys to Self-Help; Notes for a Better Life: https://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B07FW1BC5D/thirdway0c

 

 

 

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 Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Freddie_Mercury_performing_in_New_Haven,_CT,_November_1977

Freddie Mercury:  a skilled performer with flair

PG-13 | 2h 14min | 2 November 2018 (USA)
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Anthony McCarten (story by), Peter Morgan (story by) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee

Wow! I loved this film. It transported me back to the 80s and reminded me what a great group Queen were and of the power of Rock music. 

The film tells us the story of Farrokh Bulsara (played superbly by Rami Malek) as he becomes Freddie Mercury. Bulsara is the son of immigrants from Zanzibar (now in Tanzania) who were Parsees, Zoroastrians who fled to India from Muslim persecution in Persia during the 7th–8th centuries. His family had moved to Zanzibar so that his father could continue his job as a cashier at the British Colonial Office. At the age of 17, Mercury and his family fled from Zanzibar because of the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution, in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed. To the credit of the film this is made clear (though not explained or emphasised).

I was intrigued by his family relationships. His father Bomi Bulsara (Ace Bhatti) was a conservative figure who had a portrait of our Queen on his wall and emphasised the three commandments preached by Zoroaster: good thoughts, good words and good actions repeatedly and sometimes critically to Freddie! His relationship with his Father, thankfully, improved over time. It can’t have been easy for either of them given their different natures. Brian May noted in 2016, “It’s probably true to say that Freddie’s father, strongly committed to the Parsee faith, didn’t find it easy that Freddie took the path he did, as a rock musician, and a fairly irreverent one, at that. Nevertheless the support was always there.”It’s one of the joys of this film that we see their understanding and acceptance of each other develop. His mother Jer Bulsara (Meneka Das) was more directly supportive.

We also see a young Freddie working as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport and experiencing the casual racism that was sadly the norm for many back then, there and on the street. Music was another side to his life. He was writing songs and watching local bands at small clubs. We see how Freddie first meets Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy). Bohemian Rhapsody leads us through the history from the origins of Queen right up to Freddie’s tragic death (he died from AIDS-related pneumonia in 1991).

There is so much of interest in Bohemian Rhapsody that it is only possible to mention some of it in any review. I loved to see Freddie’s relationship with his cats, his love of opera and his interest in fashion. His personal relationships with Kenny Everett and his manager (a devil figure in the film) and record companies are worthy of separate consideration. The effects of addiction to alcohol and drugs on his health and music and personal relationships are a darker theme.

The film doesn’t shy away from looking at Freddie’s sexuality. Freddie married Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). In one scene Freddie tells Mary “I think I’m bisexual.” She says: “No, Freddie. You’re gay.”

Some have called the film out on this. Billboard said: “For many out there, this particular moment almost rang too true to real life. Bisexual people face the reality of bi-erasure on a near-daily basis, being told that they’re either “too gay” or “not gay enough,” with little to no attention paid to their actual sexual identity. So it’s natural that many critics and Twitter users would call Bohemian Rhapsody out for attempting to erase Mercury’s bisexuality in this scene, especially in a film meant to celebrate him.”

I’m not sure about that. Freddie wanted his private life to be private. He wanted his fans and the press to focus on his music. He never publicly identified his sexuality. Should he have had to? Should anyone have to define their sexuality publicly? At the time Freddie was pressured by the media to do so, now some LGBT people take the view that he somehow let the side down. Freddie saw himself first and foremost as a performer who was there to entertain the public with great shows and music. That was his choice.

There is a harrowing press conference in the film where we see the gutter press try to pressure him to answer questions on his sexuality in the style of a baying mob.

This wasn’t a case of exaggeration the press had no shame. In December 1974, the New Musical Express asked him, “So how about being bent?”. Even his illness was seen as ‘fair play’ by the irresponsible media. In October 1986, the British press reported that Mercury had his blood tested for HIV/AIDS at a Harley Street clinic. A reporter for The Sun, Hugh Whittow, questioned him intrusively about this. Anyone whoever read the late and unlamented News of the World will know full well how the gutter press hypocrites tried to trash people. Yet who now remembers the low-lives of the British gutter press? Yet Freddie Mercury left a legacy of great shows and music behind him. His music continues to uplift people.

Bohemian Rhapsody ends with Queen’s performance at Live Aid in 1985. I remember watching this at the time. To be frank to that point Live Aid wasn’t matching the hype. The performance from Queen changed that. It was electric. It’s given an incredible poignancy in the film by the knowledge that Freddie is doomed. Bittersweet and emotionally moving. Freddie knew how to deliver to his audience. He went out on a high note with a strutting, high energy and also nuanced performance as he was determined to do. True to his art and his fans to the very end.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop

Blazing A TrailTill 25 November 2018
National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh

Rip it Up: The Story of Scottish Pop is the first major exhibition dedicated to Scottish pop music, exploring the musical culture of the nation over more than half a century, the first big exhibition dedicated to Scottish pop music, exploring the musical culture of the nation over more than half a century, from influential indie pioneers to global superstars.

Featured artists and bands include Lonnie Donegan, Gerry Rafferty, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Lulu, The Rezillos, Midge Ure, Simple Minds, The Skids, Big Country, Garbage, Franz Ferdinand, Young Fathers, and many more. The exhibition has been brought to life through original stage outfits and instruments, many loaned by the artists themselves, plus memorabilia, props, film and, of course, music.

Stephen Allen, Exhibition Curator said:
“Popular music is a shared experience, and a really important one in many people’s lives. We want the exhibition to capture people’s imagination and allow them to reflect on their own experiences of listening to and enjoying music. Between the objects, the AV and the music, people will be able to learn more about their favourite artists and see their treasured objects up close, but also to discover music that is new to them in a whistlestop tour of over six decades of Scottish pop.”

Everyone will have a different experience of this exhibition. It covers a broad time period and diverse types of music. There are over 300 items on display as well as film contributions and music. Some was familiar to me. Although sometimes I don’t know why and I didn’t know there was a Scottish connection at all when I first heard it. I always liked The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (particularly Faith Healer). I think it was how theatrical and unusual they were! Much later I was drawn to punk and politics. So I was interested to see the Rock Against Racism (RAR) poster from 5 August 1978 advertising the Scars, Valves and Josef K (among others) playing in Craigmillar Park. It’s interesting to note that the reasons for the foundation of RAR are somewhat glossed over. RAR was formed because of comments made by Eric Clapton at a Birmingham concert in 1976.Clapton had urged his audience to back former Conservative MP Enoch Powell’s anti-immigration stance. The guitarist, who has since said he is not a racist, suggested Britain was becoming “a black colony”. Inconvenient history.

Less so the Proclaimers poster for anti-apartheid gigs!

I was also interested to see that emphasis was given to independent Scottish record labels such as Postcard, Creation and Fast Product. These helped foster bands in Scotland. The media and production centre was always very much London of course but there was an attempt to do something different by creating local centres.

There was also a lot of material which provides you with further avenues of enquiry. I was really intrigued to listen to the excellent Needle of Death by Bert Jansch. As someone who has lost friends to heroin addiction it really moved me. I’ve since listened to many of his songs. All thanks to this exhibition. That’s just one of the things I took from the exhibition and followed up. As a big Bowie fan I was intrigued to see his connection to The Beatstalkers highlighted. They recorded a Bowie song called Silver Treetop School for Boys. A connection to another band Clouds wasn’t featured.

Pop quiz! Which Scottish artists did James Bond themes?

The exhibition had so much in it of interest that I couldn’t absorb it all in one viewing. I’m actually thinking of going again.

If you are interested in pop culture you would be foolish to miss this. I hope it tours other areas to make it easier for people to see who don’t live near Edinburgh! Go see it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3X9T3rxmRk

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Songs from the Kop

songsfromthekop2

The Kop

Brunswick Young Women`s Players (Australia)
C too at St. Columba`s by the Castle

Inspired by the grandfather (a £10 Pom from Liverpool who emigrated to Australia in the post-war period) of Josie Coyle ,who introduced the performance, this was a lively and fitting musical tribute to a great period (1962-1994) in the history of Liverpool Football Club through the eyes of the Kop. The Kop was a terrace holding 28,000 standing supporters at the Anfield Road end of Liverpool`s Anfield Ground. Originally it was a vast mound of earth which acquired its name because it reminded soldiers returning from the Second Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa of Spion Kop, the Hill on which many soldiers from Lancashire had lost their lives in an unsuccessful attempt to relieve Ladysmith.

Before 1962 Liverpool F.C. had enjoyed an undistinguished history, inferior in every way to that of their great local rivals Everton. This was transformed by the appointment of Bill Shankly as Manager, which co-incided with the advent of the Mersey Beat, of which the Beatles are by far the most important example. Shankly`s rapport with the crowd and the performance of his team on the field transformed the atmosphere at Anfield. Success in Cup and League was accompanied by Shankly`s encouragement of the Kop to sing the hit song from “Carousel”, re-popularised by Gerry and the Pacemakers, “You`ll Never Walk Alone”, which has been the Liverpool Anthem ever since. By the time of Shankly`s retirement in 1974, although he never enjoyed success in the European Cup, he had become a legend. His successor, Bob Paisley, built on this, with his success in League and Cup AND three European Cups. Liverpool`s slow decline began after his retirement, and at the time of writing it is 28 years since Liverpool last won the League title. They have never won the English Premiership.

Unsurprisingly, the production concentrated on the glory years. The production was imaginative and performed enthusiastically. The songs, particularly the adaptation of the “Fields of Athenry”, were both relevant and moving. The inclusion of numbers hostile to Liverpool`s great rivals of the period, Nottingham Forest (who knocked out Liverpool in the First Round of the European Cup in 1978 and went on to win two European Cups themselves), Everton (inevitably) and Manchester United (who have won two fewer European Cups than Liverpool but two more League Championships) were not inappropriate. No-one who has ever attended a football match at Anfield can fail to have been moved by the Kop`s rendering of “You`ll Never Walk Alone” – an experience surely unequaled at any sporting venue in the world – and the audience participation in it proved a fitting end to the performance.

The Hillsborough tragedy of April 1989, when 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives, took over the last third of the performance. The anger of the population of the city at the way in which the supporters were traduced by the press, blamed unfairly by the police and let down by the criminal justice system, was transmitted to the audience effectively by the whole cast, with Matt Hood`s solo as a climax. I was, however, left with an uneasy feeling. No mention was made of the events of May 1985 in Brussels, when 39 Juventus supporters were killed when charged by a group of Liverpool supporters, compounded by the Club`s attempt to deflect the blame elsewhere – a mirror image of the behaviour of the police at Hillsborough. Don’t the deaths of Italians also matter?

Reviewed by Henry Falconer

Gold star

Gold star

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