Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Take it easy chicken ...... Mansun

The opening track on any album is the opening door to what's lurking inside, within 20 seconds of the first play you can tell what the album will turn into. Albums like Going Blank Again by Ride, Urban Hyms by The Verve and The Stone Roses debut are just some of the albums throughout the 90's that had classic album openers.

Then along come a bunch of lads from Chester who would release one of the all time best debut albums to be released during the 90's even if it would signal the end of Britpop.

The album would be titled Attack Of The The Grey Lantern, the Opening track would be The Chad Who Loved Me and the band would be the very influential Mansun.

So on a technical note I must state that people have stated that Mansun were not a Britpop band, and to some point I agree but just because their debut album came out just as the Britpop bubble burst shouldn't mean they get dismissed as such. They released their debut single Take it Easy Chicken in 1995 just midway through scene and released in all seven singles before they released Lantern in 1997.  Now if you have taken a little peak at my blog at all then you would have read about what my defeniton of Britpop was and is. It's not about the sound as such or even the style that came from it. To me Britpop was about bands coming together for the first time since the sixties and forcing British bands into the public eye once again. All the bands have been influenced by other British artists from generations past and for once Great Britian had something to shout about and be proud of and also for kids like me it was the best time to be alive. 

Ok so back to the band. The first time I heard the band was from the legend Steve Lamacq from Radio 1's evening session.  From what I can recall they played Take it Easy Chicken even though the band had never played a gig but this resulted in the band securing their first record contract with Parlophone.  I personally fell in love with the band when they released their second single Skin up Pin up which I remember fondly with its distorted riffs and drum machine backed up beats all squeezed onto a single white coloured 7" vinyl record.  So even before their debut album the band had released seven singles which five of those were multi track E.p's.  That's some going for a band just getting started also considering that each song could easily be a single and not just an album filler.  The first time I saw them play live was around my birthday in 1995 and I saw them support Echobelly along with Heavy Stereo and it was quite a gig I can tell you.  Playing songs like Flourella, Take it Easy Chicken, Stripper Vicar, Ski Jump Nose and Skin up Pin up they were one of the best support acts that I have seen with such an energetic live presence but with all the charm and swagger of a established rock band. 

So with the massive singles Wide Open Space and She Makes my Nose Bleed being released to an enthusiastic audience the band released their debut album Attack Of The Grey Lantern, knocking Blur off the #1 spot in the album chart.  Fast forward to 1998 with Britpop fading in the memories of the British public and we see bands being dropped from their labels and disbanding and fading into the back of the nations minds. It was a tough time for new British bands to get noticed and established acts to find the strength to find new ways to carry on. We find Mansun releasing their last two albums to critical disappointment and not a commercial success as their debut and as a result the band split in 2003.

With a dedicated fan base always behind the band, the fans managed to get the band's record company to release the complication album titled Kleptomania which included songs from the bands unreleased fourth album mixed with a selection of B sides.

Although no longer around the band still have many fans around the world still playing their music and keeping the name alive.  Not bad for a band who have been banned from entering every Happy Eater and Holiday Inn around the UK. 


Thursday, 1 August 2013

I never want an easy life .............. The Charlatans

Some bands don't need an introduction.  The Band I am writing about here fall into this category but this blog is for people who have either forgotten, never heard of or have never let go of the bands I write about.  Some bands add to current music scenes and some bands create them.  There are bands who rise above the scenes that surround them and evolve with the times and sound current and fresh.

Throughout my life listening to music there have been only a few bands that invoke SOME of the qualities that I have just written about, but there is one band that invoke all these and more.  I firmly believe that without this band many doors would not have been opened for new kids wanting to start making music.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Charlatans.....

From their early beginnings in the late 80's they released their debut single "Indian Rope" on their own label "Dead Dead Good" and went on to sign to Beggars Banquet and release the massively influential single "The Only One I Know".   With Tims distinctive vocals twinned with Martin's non stop baselines and intertwined with Jon's dance tinged drum lines they had a sound that fitted the Madchester/Baggy scene that had just exploded.  But there was one thing that made The Charlatans stand out more than the other bands of the time and his name was Rob Collins with his mighty Hammond Organ and at that precise moment in time unbeknown to me I just found my first musical hero. 

To this day I stand by the fact that without the Charlatans and especially Rob Collins I would not have started my obsession into music, picked up my first musical instrument or started this blog.   The sound of that Hammond swirling and twisting up and down the musical scale sounded more like a second vocalist than a keyboard.  Songs like The Only One I Know, Then, White shirt, Who Wants to Know and Happened to Die made me get my first keyboard and try to copy the sound, musical movement and style that Rob showed on countless songs.

So with the debut album Some Friendly under their belts they produced one of my most played albums of all time. Between 10th and 11th was released just as the Madchester scene was dying out and received some negative reviews from the press but it didn't bother me. Tremolo Song and especially Weirdo remain classics to this day and an album with songs like Chewing Gum Weekend and Page One has stood the test of time. Even though their image took a beating because of the changing music scene at the time ignited by the press doing what they always do (build someone up to knock them down) The Charlatans would soon rise above.

Ok, so technically The Charlatans are not a Britpop band per-say but they did rise to greater fame during this era and helped to diversify a sound which was now being called Britpop.   A lot of people think bands like Blur, Oasis and Pulp and the use of Brass instruments were the forefront of the sound but I completely disagree.  For me it was bands like the ones I write about in this blog and The Charlatans played a big part of this.  They had already been a part of the Madchester/Baggy scene and had a good innings in the industry under their belts.  Bands from the 60's like The Kinks and The Zombies were pushing music further by writing about things that were particularly English and in the Britpop era this was to be focused on again.  The Charlatans had grown musically since 1989 and with the release of the album Up to Our Hips in 1994 you could hear that growth in the lyrics and the music.  Just take the instrumental track Feel Flows for instance and you hear a band just as good as their peers and an indie band that the new kids could look up to.  With songs like Can't get out of Bed and the spiky single Jesus Hairdo to the fantastically named "I Never Want an Easy Life if Me and He Were Ever to Get There"

Now we come to the biggie.  Their self titled 4th album would shove them into the public eye once more and this time they would receive the respect they deserved. With the first single Crashin in they released a monster of a single and it set the tune of what the forthcoming album would be sounding like. Two more singles would be released, my personal favourite Just Lookin (the video always seemed to be on the chart show every week) and the acoustic driven Just When You're Thinking Things Over. Things seemed perfect for the band as they were at the top of their game and riding high in the public eye and the charts. Life has a way of throwing a curveball at you from time to time and The Charlatans had their fair share of these but what happened next would normally destroy a band.

I will remember the 22nd of July 1996 for the rest of my life with great sadness and loss. My dad was driving us both home from work just like every other day and like every other day we had one of my new mix tapes on in the car.  I remember the tape stopped as it had reached the end of side A and the radio came on with the news that Rob Collins from The Charlatans had died in a car crash.  My world just seemed to cave in, my first music hero had been taken from us and the band that I most looked up to would obviously be disbanding and I would never hear Rob play on a record again.  Well this is where the band come into their own and instead of splitting they marched on in the memory of Rob and went ahead and released their third number one album Tellin Stories. For me the first single of the album One to Another would be Rob's song and a final goodbye but also a look to the future for a band who always come out fighting. 

So from 1989 and spanning eleven albums we find The Charlatans still touring and still making music and embracing the digital music revolution. The band seem to go from strength to strength with a sound of their own but not not being able to be pigeon holed or labelled. 

So there you go this page is dedicated to one of the greatest survivors of the British music scene and of course to Rob Collins who without both I would not be listening, playing, writing and breathing music to this day.