“The United State” is more than an album, it’s a journey and it’s a journey that we all take, from the cradle to the grave or, more accurately, the womb to the tomb. That’s the way Justin Wells conceived the project; he came up with concept then wrote the songs to fit in with the storyboarded sequence. It turned his normal way of writing upside down, imposing a completely different discipline to the creative process. The recording process was a similar trial, using a host of guest musicians to create some fascinating sonic textures and styles ranging across atmospheric instrumental, a cappella, country, country rock, slow blues and Southern funk to bring the story to life (and death).

The album opens in the womb with a short, atmospheric instrumental featuring slide and ambient guitar sounds and ends with the ethereal a cappella of “Farewell, Mr Hooper” representing death and between the two, there are ten strong and varied songs moving the narrative along. The second single from the album, “No Time For a Broken Heart” is out now; it’s a nod in the direction of The Band and the message is pretty simple – life ain’t easy, but we have to take what it throws at us and get on with it. The electric piano and resonator move the song just a little out of the country mainstream into more eclectic territory.

Other standouts for me are “Never Better”, a four-to-the-floor stomp with a Southern boogie feel given a twist with a touch of electric piano again and the slow blues “After the Fall” with a full band sound, including three guitars and some powerful solos and twin guitar breaks hinting at the stylings of Keith Richards and Mick Taylor/Ronnie Wood. The theme of the song is classic obsession with the ‘fallen woman’ and the inability to walk away. It’s the centrepiece of the album, showcasing Justin Wells’ rasping blues vocal and some classic blues soloing. It’s followed by the Lowell George-tinged “It’ll All Work Out”, which is dominated by keys and some lovely slide playing. The chorus sounds positive but the message is that people will tell you it’ll all work out, but it ain’t necessarily so.

“The United State” is packed with songs that work perfectly well in isolation but, in sequence, tell a universal story; we all know the ending, but the interest is in how you get there and this is a very interesting album indeed.

“The United State” is released on Friday August 28th on SINGULAR RECORDINGS (SNG202001JW).

Occasionally, just occasionally a song can be so powerful and visceral that it strips away my natural instinct to ‘give it another listen or two’ before trying to write about it. Danny Schmidt has already done that to me a couple of times this summer with his two ‘state of the nation’ singles, “A Prayer for the Sane” and “2020 Vision”. After listening to the new single “Black & Blue” once, I’m ready to tell you that it’s something you need to hear.

Danny, inspired by the very early civil rights campaigner and escaped slave, Frederick Douglass, looked at the American constitution as a work in progress and, in the light of the George Floyd murder, assessed how far the USA still has to go; it’s a long way. Danny wrote and recorded the song at the end of June and released it on July 4th. On its own, the song is forceful and emotive, but the images Danny has put together for the lyric video ram the message home that this annual review is far from satisfactory.

“Black & Blue” is a heart-rending indictment of the state of affairs in the land of the free today and it’s out now. Don’t take my word for it, just watch the video:

I wish I could give an exact date for this one, but I can’t and, as you’ll see, things got bit vague towards the end of the evening. I’m going for late ’78 (autumn term at Uni). It was probably November because it was bloody cold – who am I kidding it was cold virtually all the time I was in Dundee. I was at home in Mansfield between mid-June and October; whatever sun there was I missed it. Anyway, I arrived back in early October to be greeted by Steve Jenner, the very same Steve J that reviews live music (remember that) for Music Riot to this day. After the customary pub lunch of beer and a Scottish mutton pie (lukewarm on the outside, volcanic on the inside), Steve invited me to grab a handful of the summer promos that I had missed out on. One of them was the Chris Rea debut, “Whatever Happened to Benny Santini”, which I took a bit of a shine to, particularly the title song.

It got better; Magnet Records was putting a lot of oomph behind Chris Rea. They’d snagged a support slot on a tour by the newly-reformed and resurgent Lindisfarne, capitalising on their Top Ten single “Run for Home” and they were playing the Caird Hall on a Saturday night. Did I fancy being on the guest list? I did, but there was a little bit of a problem; Frankie Miller was playing at the Students’ Union that night and I didn’t want to miss that. I was sure I could work something out.

I got into the Caird Hall, did the guest list thing and took my seat in the balcony. Just after Chris Rea started his set, someone took he seat next to me and introduced himself as Chris Rea’s personal manager. No false modesty here, but it was obviously a slow night if a students’ union DJ was top of the VIP list. I wasn’t complaining.

We watched Chris Rea’s set, chatting between songs (as I vainly tried to grab a halfway decent photo) and at the end of the set, I was invited backstage to meet Chris, who was still wearing the Scotland football top that he’d worn on stage – that was a smart move, appealing to patriotism in Dundee. He was a good guy and gave me another copy of the album, this time with an autograph. I still have that album. That was followed by a quick visit to say hello to Lindisfarne before their set. After a very quick knock on the door, we walked into a frantic attempt to hide the jazz fags before the band realised it wasn’t a bust. Introductions done (nice guys again), we ventured back to the balcony.

A couple of songs into Lindisfarne’s set I had an idea. Why didn’t we both take the ten-minute walk up the road to see Frankie Miller? There wasn’t even any hesitation; let’s do it. After being entertained by Chris Rea’s team for a while, it was my turn for the hospitality now. Frankie Miller at that time was hot; his albums were good, but the live experience was something else. The band (which included Paul Carrack) was on fire and Frankie had just scored his biggest hit with “Darlin’”, which pointed in a new direction that the live set hadn’t yet taken; it was still rock and soul in equal measures and I’ll take that any day of the week.

So now it was my turn to use my DJ and entertainments crew influence. The gig was sold out (full house, if you like) and I really didn’t fancy drinking warm Tennent’s from the can bar. I grabbed a key for the unused fifth floor balcony, which had three massive advantages over the Union’s main hall. The view of the stage was perfect, the sound was pretty good (for a big box of a room with a high ceiling) and, most importantly, it was a few metres from the fifth floor bar and a good selection of beers served in proper glasses at the right temperature. It wasn’t the Royal Box, but it felt like it that night; sensational band at the top of their game and a steady supply of bevvies. I even managed to sneak away (after making sure that the beer supplies were adequate for my ten minute absence) to grab a few shots of Frankie from the wings before settling down to enjoy the gig and the beers.

You’ve probably guessed that it got a bit messy after that; a students’ union bar is a really good way to stretch out the per diems, and we worked really hard to get through that day’s allowance, wearing a path through the floor tiles to the bar. Great gig, great company and a thumping hangover the following day; does that sound familiar to anyone? It’s over forty years ago and about 500 miles away but hearing Frankie’s acoustic anthem “Drunken Nights in the City” takes me back there every time.

And the signed copy of “Whatever Happened to Benny Santini” and all of the Frankie Miller vinyl albums have survived eleven house moves.

Ward Richmond’s a great example of the way the music sector (it’s difficult to call it a business or an industry) works these days. After touring in various bands with varying degrees of success between 1998 and 2006, he left live music behind in favour of a more traditional career path. In times past, that would have meant goodbye to music, with its cycle of album releases and tours, but times have changed. It’s more difficult to make a decent living from music now, but it’s much easier to release an album when you have it ready to go. That’s the route Ward Richmond’s gone down; he released “The Warden” in 2016 and four years later he’s releasing “Highly Meditated”.

The album’s a fascinating mix of humour, nostalgia, anxieties and gradual renunciation of vices (all the usual ones) and introduction of virtues (meditation and yoga). It’s a midlife album, but it’s far from a crisis; Ward is weighing up the pros and cons of the old and the new existence through the lens of parenthood. However happy the memories of the past are, it’s a country we no longer live in, and that’s message of “Highly Meditated”.

The musical stylings are mainly country-inflected but with a few notable exceptions, such as the final song “These Days” which opens with a drum pattern that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an Adam and the Ants single in the eighties before morphing into a rockabilly workout punctuated by a spoken middle eight about the virtues of hot yoga. “I Need A Water Fountain” references another facet of the eighties (and late seventies), FM radio drivetime with maybe a hint of Journey in there, whereas “Hey Levi” looks back a decade further to the sound of The Band at their peak.

Ward Richmond looks forward and backward with a wry sense of humour that’s obvious in the lyrics and sometimes in the musical stylings as well. There’s plenty of self-deprecation in the backward and forward views that, along with humour, somehow underlines the seriousness of the overall message; at some point, most of us actually grow up.

“Highly Meditated” is out now as a download.

It’s fair to say that this is at the poppier end of the music we feature on musicriot.co.uk, but we always like to keep an open mind. Astraea has one of those voices that sounds like you’ve heard it before, and you probably have. She’s done loads of stuff across various platforms and her voice also has hints of Kate Bush (with steroid production) and maybe Ellie Goulding as well. Not only that, she writes, performs and produces and does her own distribution as well. In a musical world that’s so male-dominated, that has to be a good thing. And it’s obviously working, because her high-profile collaborations include Jack Savoretti, Ward Thomas, Nina Nesbitt and Lewis Capaldi.

So that’s Astraea, what about the song? It’s a love song and it opens quietly with a gentle vocal, subtle bass, and piano arpeggios, then builds and keeps on building, each chorus getting bigger and louder providing more and more support for the breathy, ethereal voice. There’s also a niggling familiarity about the pre-chorus; it has a melody that’s similar to the pre-chorus in “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and leads perfectly into the chorus in exactly the same way. Like a good story, “Nobody Loves Me Like You” has a start, a middle and an ending, all in the right order; it’s uplifting and you’ll feel better for hearing it.

“Nobody Loves Me Like You” is out now. Have a listen here:

 

 

Just like you, The Riot Squad is going crazy at the lack of live music at the moment. We published a piece by Allan in February (just over three weeks before lockdown) celebrating the anniversary of his first gig in 1974. It was really popular and it was followed by a piece celebrating Steve Jenner’s first gig. After three months of musical famine we thought it would be good to ask some of our contributors and some of the artists we’ve reviewed in the past to write about a memorable gig that they saw or played. First out of the blocks was Danny Schmidt. We’re huge admirers of Danny’s work; he’s a gifted, erudite and passionate singer/songwriter (check out the review of his recent brace of singles “A Prayer for the Sane” and “2020 Vision”) and we’re delighted that he’s agreed to share this memory with us:

 

Danny Schmidt by Theo Looijmans

One of the most memorable live shows of my life was the night I saw Eric Johnson at Steamboat in Austin, TX on August 28th, 1990.  I remember the date distinctly because it was the day after Stevie Ray Vaughan died.  Having grown up in Austin, I was a massive fan of both Eric Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  They were two of my biggest guitar heroes, and I saw them live every chance I got from the time I was old enough to attend live shows.  And while their styles were vastly different, they were two branches descended off the same Jimi Hendrix-influenced tree.  And as I understood it, they were each huge admirers of the other’s work, if not close personal friends.

In 1990, Eric Johnson’s star was really ascending quickly, and he played two sold out nights, back-to-back at Steamboat, and I had tickets to both nights.  The first night was striking because Eric’s management team had upped the production value (and theatrics) of his live shows by having him enter the stage to a huge laser and smoke show, for several minutes, while he improvised riffs with his signature guitar tone, hidden from our view within the visual spectacle.  And the guitar built the crowd into a frenzy before the smoke cleared, leaving Eric in a literal star of lasers and a single blinding spotlight from behind, full-on Guitar God, shredding the room from his monolithic place at the center of the stage.  It worked my teenage self into an ecstatic state of guitar delirium.  That was how the first night of the two-show stand began.

Late that night after we’d all gone home and gone to sleep, in another part of the country, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s helicopter crashed, ending his life tragically, at the age of 35 years old.  We all learned of the news first thing the next morning.

The city of Austin was crushed, devastated.  The town was silent and shocked.  I felt hollow all day, in disbelief.  That night, I had to drag myself to Eric’s show, night #2 at Steamboat.

Instead of smoke and lasers and high drama, Eric took the stage silently, no lights, no effects, no roaring feedback guitar, no PA announcer welcoming him to the stage.  No one really knew the show was even starting.  Instead, he just shuffled to the mic, more of a fragile slumped human being than a guitar god.  And instead of shrieks of guitar, he gave a quiet, humble, candid, unrehearsed, vulnerable, heartfelt tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan.  He just told the crowd how much Stevie had meant to him, and how much his work had meant to him.  The speech ended when he didn’t have anything else to say.  He just stood in silence for an extra few awkward seconds, and then turned and picked up his guitar.

He then proceeded to draw fire from the strings, and fill the room with a whirlwind of sadness, madness, grief, angst, fury, exhaustion, all of it.  He brought Stevie Ray’s Texas flood to life inside the walls of Steamboat. 

Eric is truly a virtuoso.  His technical skills are legendary, and even the hyperbolic statements about what his fingers are capable of doing on the strings are understatements.  Some have questioned his musicality and the emotional connection to his songs, or the inaccessibility of his music sometimes.  But on that particular night, we all bore witness to what’s possible when a bon afide virtuoso is channelling a well of emotion from the depth of his broken heart to the tips of his mythical fingers. 

It was an experience that literally left us all speechless.  As much as I remember Eric’s actual playing that night, I remember the faces of my two best friends who were with me at the show even clearer.  Between every song we would look at each other and try and utter some sort of statement expressing how amazing it was what we had just witnessed.  And instead, we could only stammer nonsensical sounds at each other, unable to form actual thoughts and words.  And instead we would just hug or high-five.  And then Eric would fire up the next song.

To this day, I can’t properly articulate the power and energy which swirled around the room that night, emanating from the stage, from Eric’s guitar, from Eric himself, with no theatrics . . . just a true master and a room full of open ears meeting together to share a night of grief and celebration.  For me, that night set the bar for what’s emotionally possible throughs the kinetic power of music.

 

Was this crowd hard?  They would have crucified Barabbas as well, but that’s Dundee for you.

 Once again, I blame Steve Jenner for this one. He couldn’t be satisfied with making us perform behind the decks with a semblance of professionalism on our own territory.  No, he had to go out and get us gigs in Beanoland as well; which is why I found myself doing a gig at the Royal Centre Hotel on a Tuesday night in January.  Now, if that’s not a sought-after gig, I don’t know what is.  A gig to die for, and I nearly did.

Despite my reservations (and they were many and varied), I allowed Steve to persuade me that this would be good for my personal development as a DJ, would help to improve relations between town and gown and more importantly would generate extra beer tokens.  The gig was going pretty well.  OK, none of the local virgins were importuning me to indulge in post-performance amorous antics but, equally importantly, nobody had threatened to panel my coupon for me.  Not a bad compromise.

This wasn’t a dancing gig.  The idea was to get the crowd in the mood to visit the hotel’s nightclub, Teazers, when the bar closed.  I was doing pretty well, perhaps too well because they weren’t starting to drift through to the club yet and closing time was approaching.  I tried to get in as many requests as I could and I thought I was worth a 2-0 lead with 5 minutes to go.  So the last record’s crucial; I need to give them something to remember me by and I succeeded only too well.

I’d already called last orders at the bar and I cued up something that I was positive they wouldn’t have heard a DJ play there before; once again my reasoning was perfect.  As I wished everyone good night and hoped that they would pay a visit to Dundee’s premier nitespot, Teazers, I hit the play button on the final track of the Queen album “A Night at the Opera” which was Brian May’s multi-layered guitar instrumental version of “God Save the Queen”.  Very ironic, I thought; a reference to the end of a night at the pictures.  The irony works on so many different levels.

I think I single-handedly set back town and gown relations by 20 years that night.  I was in the saloon and the bad guy, probably Jack Palance had just kicked open the doors.  Within 2 seconds all conversation stopped and every pair of eyes in the place was on me, pouring out a hatred that went all the way back to 1314 (and I don’t mean quarter past one).  I got a few boos and whistles but, thankfully, no physical violence was visited on my frail and puny body.  I heard a few remarks like “student poof” and “English wanker” (now that’s ironic on more than one count because I strongly resent being labelled English).

Fortunately I escaped with my life on this occasion for 2 reasons; the lure of the dancefloor and the fact that the only place to top up the alcohol level was the nightclub.  I learned 2 valuable lessons that night: don’t play any version of “God Save the Queen” (unless it’s by the Sex Pistols) in Scotland; and, never underestimate the ability of a crowd to turn from happy punters to a brooding, malevolent mob with murderous intent at the drop of a stylus.  The manager wasn’t very happy.  Mind you I wouldn’t be a ray of sunshine if I’d had to contend with 40 years of being called Willie Rasch (his real name, seriously) and that was the end of my brief but tempestuous career as a student ambassador to the good people of Dundee.

I still think Jenner should have known better than to think we could do these gigs and escape with our lives.  I say this because of something that happened on our second full day in Dundee.  We decided to sample some of Dundee’s finest hostelries in search of some foaming Scottish ales for some lunchtime refreshment and visited one of the pubs down by the docks; “The Gauger”, I think.  Steve made his way to the bar, which was pretty quiet, and spent about 5 minutes trying to order beer in his best East Midlands accent.  The penny finally dropped.  I tapped him on the shoulder and told him to sit down.  Assuming the broadest Fife accent I could muster after 8 years away, I said those words which would be repeated many times over the next 3 years: “A pint of 80/- and a pint of Tennent’s please.”  Within 30 seconds, 2 foaming pints appeared in front of me and were dispatched in short order before moving on to somewhere a little more welcoming and tolerant. I wish I’d tried to pay with an English fiver.   I’m as guilty as the next person of refusing to let history go (unless the next person’s a member of Settler Watch) but I wouldn’t let it get in the way of making a living.

Even the best of us get it wrong sometimes (or make slight misjudgements). Mr Jenner himself nearly provoked a riot in the Tav Bar by playing a stirring Hughie Green version of “Land of Hope and Glory” to bring the evening to a very hostile close.  And there’s no way of denying that one because it was immortalised on a TDK cassette and is now available on shiny digitally remastered CD. I like to listen to it now and again because it makes me feel a little bit better about my own brush with the baying nationalist mob in the Royal Centre.

Some albums in your collection, however important they are musically, take on an importance in your life that goes way beyond some sounds coming out of boxes in the corner. Sometimes an album worms its way through your defences to connect up with all sorts of other parts of life and, before you know it, the songs have become inextricably entangled with memories of friends, family and lovers; and there’s no way of untying those knots. “Aja” is one of those albums for me; it has mellow memories of my student years, memories of friends met along the way and tragic memories of one of those friends taken when she had everything before her.

“Aja” was released in October 1977 and the timing was perfect for me. It was the start of my second year at Uni and I’d escaped from halls into a flat where I shared a room with a mate from my first year. We were both musicheads, both played guitar after a fashion and I had a reasonably good stereo. It’s fair to say there was music playing from the moment one of us woke up until the last head (usually mine) hit the pillow. I had a well-paid summer job (which I could tell you a few stories about), so I hit Dundee every October with plenty of readies to support the local record shops.

I was already a bit of a Steely Dan fan, so “Aja” was a no-brainer for me. As I listened to it end-to-end for the first time, I read the lyrics, the list of musicians involved on each track (which I now realise was a guide to the best session guys in the world at that time) and the sleeve notes written by Michael Phalen after spending some fraught and unprofitable time with Becker and Fagen trying to extract some sensible contributions. Typical of their contributions was the description of “Peg” as a ‘pantonal thirteen blues with chorus’; luckily Michael wasn’t a guy to bear a grudge.

It was a strange time for a band like Steely Dan; they were the antithesis of the punk philosophy. I loved the energy of punk/new wave/power pop but I wasn’t willing to take the slash and burn attitude to older music (it cost me a fortune to buy this stuff, no bloody way was I just ditching it). The album took an age to make, the playing was exquisite and there were only seven tracks, none of them less than four minutes long. Just compare that to a Ramones album with fourteen songs, none much more than two minutes long (and I loved The Ramones as well), but “Aja” was about pure musical class, cryptic and coded lyrics with a seedy undertone and some outrageously good solo playing. I didn’t realise at the time that I’d bought a jazz album.

And talking of jazz, that was exactly the kind of cigarettes that accompanied listening to “Aja” for my university years; it was the perfect match, mostly laid-back arrangements, lots of space and perfect to chill out to. It was one of half a dozen albums that always found their way to the deck over the next three years, however many new albums I bought. I wasn’t even choosy about picking favourites; there are seven tracks, “Black Cow”, “Aja”, “Deacon Blues”, “Peg”, “Home at Last”, “I Got the News” and “Josie” and they’re all stunningly good. I would happily listen to any of those songs at any time. But the university idyll couldn’t last forever and I settled back in with my family for a while after graduation. It was the beginning of the Thatcher era and I was living in Mansfield; it was obviously going to be grim, or so I thought.

I settled into a temporary job and listened to a lot of depressing post-punk until something very strange happened. On the regular Friday night out, a mate suggested a visit to The Red Lion, a fun pub (think sleazy, cheesy and very camp) that had just taken off. I was hooked, and after the second visit I landed a weekend bar job there. If the memoirs ever come together, there’s a chapter there that might need very careful legal scrutiny. And that’s where I met Gill (beautiful with a razor-sharp wit) and her friend Denise, both nurses doing part-time bar work. Within a few weeks, we’d all decided to share a house together on Woodhouse Road with another friend, Andy, and I was living a student life again.

I brought one important thing to the party; my record collection. Within a few days, Gill had discovered “Aja” and I realised I would never really own the album again. As much as I loved you Gill, I have to say you absolutely trashed that album; fingerprints all over the first track on each side, and the album never, ever went back in its sleeve. Did it matter? No it didn’t, because she loved the album with such a passion I couldn’t get angry about it. It wasn’t unusual to walk in and find Gill in her underwear ironing that night’s outfit while listening to “Aja” (we always popped a head round the living room door before inviting guests in). We were great mates anyway, but this album was something that created an everlasting bond. While we shared that house, we both formed the relationships that defined our lives (and a few that didn’t); and “Aja” was always there in the background.

Life moved on, the way it does in your early twenties when you think you’ll live forever, and we all left the house to move in with our various partners but kept in touch, directly or on the grapevine as we moved in our chosen directions. Gill started a successful business, fell in love with a nice guy and they had three beautiful daughters. I drifted through nightclub and pub management, the dole queue and self-employment and finally, in 1992, landed a job in entertainments for the armed forces. It was great news and I was all ready to make a new start on a residential training course. Everything was good; and then the doorbell rang.

Denise was on the doorstep, in tears. Gill wasn’t with us any more; she’d had a massive brain haemorrhage a few days before while out shopping and her life support had just been switched off. It wasn’t the first time I’d had to deal with a sudden death (from the other side of the doorstep), but this was someone I’d lived with, and loved, and I thought would always be a part of my life. She had a loving husband and three daughters under five and she had gone, forever. Because of the new job two hundred miles away, I couldn’t get to the funeral (an older me would say ‘Fuck the new job’), so I had to be represented. I still miss Gill to this day; she was the kind of person that took up a huge space in your life and there was a huge hole when she left.

And what was left? Well, I still love “Aja”, and every time I listen to the album, particularly the vinyl version that still has all of the marks and noises left by Gill, I remember that beautiful person ironing in her bra and knickers and singing along to “Peg” at the top of her voice.

And there’s a postscript to this story. On October 30th 2017, I finally got to see Steely Dan live on a double bill with The Doobie Brothers at the 02. The band, as you would expect, was absolutely superb, but the atmosphere was slightly muted because of the death, less than two months before, of Walter Becker. A few gallons of silent tears were shed that night, but mine didn’t really have anything to do with mourning Walter Becker.

It’s a bit of a rock/pop tradition; the weekend song. They’re liberally sprinkled through the history of the rock era and the best of them have a bit of an edge. Dave Edmunds, not surprisingly had more than one, his Nick Lowe co-write “Here Comes the Weekend” and the John Fogerty cover “Almost Saturday Night”. Even Elton got in on the act with “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”.  As we moved towards the 21st century, the emphasis shifted from booze to clubs and chemicals – David Gray’s “Babylon” and Hard-Fi’s “Living for the Weekend”. Which points us to 2020 and the new single from Anton and the Colts, “Boy Living for the Weekend”.

Anton O’Donnell, who fronts Anton & The Colts, is based in Glasgow (bear with me here) the subject of a very famous music-hall song on a similar theme, “I Belong to Glasgow”, written by Will Fyffe a hundred years ago in 1920. “Boy Living for the Weekend” opens with a plaintive harmonica evoking the horn of a train heading for the city before breaking into a Celtabilly shuffle that has a lot in common with the Dave Edmunds offerings. Lyrically, it’s a 2020 version of all the songs above – let’s shake off the shackles of the weekly grind and take everything (every little bit) that the weekend has to offer. After all, we’ve got five days to regret and recover.

Sonically, it’s a lot like a seventies/eighties Dave Edmunds Spector-like Wall of Sound mix. There’s a lot going on, with two guitars, the punchy rhythm section, piano and loads of harmonica fills under Anton’s gruff American-tinged vocal. It’s the kind of production that would take your head off played on a Rock-Ola; it’s a full-on assault on the senses in the same way as the anticipated weekend will be, and once it starts, there’s no letting up until it’s over.

“Boy Living for the Weekend” is out now as a download and on streaming platforms and will be available as a limited run of 300 seven-inch singles later in the year.

Here’s a bit of a late addition, the video which was released this week:

It’s not the first single I ever bought, but this is my first memory of the combination of music and film, a couple of decades before the pop video and MTV took hold. Where do you think the least likely place would be to see (and hear, because you certainly bloody heard it) a Scopitone film clip of a huge sixties tune. An instrumental that managed to imprint itself on my consciousness because it’s a cracking, ground-breaking tune and for another unrelated reason I’ll revisit later. That place was a pit canteen on the east coast of Fife and the tune was “Telstar” by The Tornados. Unlikely? Maybe, but true nevertheless.

It seems unlikely now, but at that time, nearly sixty years ago, the Fife coast between Kirkcaldy and Methil was a string of mines ripping coal out from underneath the River Forth. The Michael Colliery in East Wemyss was just one of those mines, providing work for the community and blackening the coastline. South-west of Kirkcaldy and north-east of Methil the beaches were golden; between those two towns, the coast was a uniform black and it’s just beginning to recover now, fifty years after the mines closed.

The villages along this stretch of coast, Dysart, West Wemyss, Coaltown of Wemyss, East Wemyss, Buckhaven (Buckhyne if you’re a true Fifer) and Methil were mining communities and the pit canteen was as much of a social hub as the local pub or club. I don’t know about The Frances in Dysart (or The Dubbie as we knew it) or The Wellesley in Buckhaven, but The Michael in the early sixties had a Scopitone video jukebox and it was the eighth wonder of the world. My introduction to this wonderful device changed my life forever.

In a small village and tight-knit community, news spreads quickly and the installation of a jukebox that showed films had as much of an impact as the Cuban missile crisis. Security at the Michael site was non-existent and anyone could walk in to the canteen, so why wouldn’t you just do it, even at the age of seven. Obviously, I didn’t have any money to feed the Scopitone beast when I made my first visit to its lair, but it didn’t matter; someone with incredibly good musical taste had already fed the monster. I looked the Scopitone in the eye and waited for a reaction.

Exciting doesn’t really do it justice; the sound that came out of that beast was breath-taking and it was combined with film of The Tornados and a satellite launch. Like most jukeboxes, the tube amplifier was powerful and definitely not subtle. It was all about excitement and maximum impact; combine the pulsing sci-fi sound effects and the ascending organ pattern of the intro leading up to the eruption of the main melody with a shot of a Saturn I thrusting upwards into space spliced with shots of the band performing on 16mm colour film and you have something that, for me, was literally out of this world. From that moment on I was hooked. I liked the pop music of the time when I got to hear it on the radio or on a small black and white TV, but this was something completely different; it was loud, it was visceral and impossible to ignore. I knew that I wanted more of it, and I still do.

It was only years later that I understood the significance of Telstar’s creator, Joe Meek, in pop history, but I knew at the time that I had heard a glorious noise and I was desperate to hear more of the same.

Le Scopitone was a French invention that achieved limited success despite its great potential as a promotional tool. It was bulky but reasonably reliable, although the number of songs was limited compared to an audio-only jukebox and production costs were obviously much higher where film was involved. Also, Scopitone never managed to lure the real superstars of the time to the format. It managed to survive until 1978 (only three years before the official launch of MTV) when it succumbed to the new, more cost-effective, video tape. I hope Le Scopitone had the same effect on others as it had on me.

Let’s get back to “Telstar” and the other association that explains why I love this tune so much. From about the age of five, my dad took me to Bayview (where the terraces were made of railway sleepers and gravel, with the odd crush barrier) to watch our local team East Fife, hoisting me over the turnstile so it wouldn’t register and he wouldn’t have to pay for me. A huge part of the ritual is applauding your team on to the pitch as the run-on music plays and you can probably guess by now what the run-on music was at Bayview. Fifty-five years and more (and a few relocations) have passed since then, but my team is still East Fife and they still run on to “Telstar” at New Bayview on the banks of The Forth. Some things don’t need to change or be improved.

And I still love to listen to “Telstar”, preferably my 7” vinyl copy. The anticipation as the stylus touches down and, the crackles and scratches and the rush as the intro builds up all take me back to that day in a pit canteen in East Wemyss, a lifetime ago.

Finally, a couple of pieces of trivia for you. The legendary Clem Cattini played drums on “Telstar” and George Bellamy (father of Muse’s Matt) played rhythm guitar – did you ever wonder where “Knights of Cydonia” came from?