Dreams In Your Pocket

I reached into the pocket of my coat this morning as the train trundled on its way to the city and my place of work. Being one for shoving things into said pockets, I’m never really surprised by what comes out at a later date. This morning, I pulled out a firm reminder of what I love doing best. Travelling.

The train tickets in my hand were for a journey from Nottingham to Huddersfield that I took back in March. The weather that day was glum and I spent the best part of it inside book stores waiting for the train. Needless to say, I bought a few paperbacks that day as well as a signed copy of Brett Anderson’s “Coal Black Mornings”, his first autobiography. Have I plugged this book enough yet? Probably not considering my regular highlighting of just how good it is. Maybe it’s time Brett slipped me a few quid for being his unofficial publicist? No, seriously. It’s time!

Travel is so important because it opens your mind to new adventures and experiences whilst allowing you to experience so many cultures along the way which help you grow into a more accepting person. I often wonder what kind of I would have been had I not spent most of my life exploring and creating adventures? Looking back, my pre-travel teenage self was incredibly inexperienced at life and I doubt I would have changed much had I not ventured out into the world.

This morning has been a good reminder to not allow myself to sit and stagnate. A wholesome reminder to start looking forward to new adventures however big or small they are. So now, where are you off to next and why are you going there?

Brett Anderson’s Spirited Autobiography

I’ve never been one for rock biographies.  You almost always know the outcome before you even set eyes upon the first page.  When Brett Anderson announced he was releasing his autobiography, my thoughts immediately drifted into the realms of possibility as to what he would come up with.  I soon learned that he was only writing up to the point where Suede singed their first record deal.  From this moment, I knew this was going to be different but how far off the track was anyone’s guess.  You see, he’s a funny character at the best of times.  Never one to trounce the traditional pathways that most music stars wear ever so thin, Brett can sometimes come across as a bit aloof and distant unless he feels as though he’s in his element.  He doesn’t suffer fools easily and if often happy to place art firmly ahead of success.  Like many, I was eagerly awaiting the release of Coal Black Mornings.  So much so, I had managed to secure a ticket to one of his public speaking appearances in London during March.

I’ve met Brett Anderson a handful of times now.  He’s signed a few records, taken a photo with me but generally, been in a hurry to be somewhere else.  The first time I met him was in 1999 outside the Marriott Hotel in Brisbane.  Suede had just played their first Australian gig at a festival the night before and had bottles thrown at them by a dubious crowd of red necks more interested in watching The Offspring.  A small legion of fans had been stalking the band in the hotel over the previous couple of days and Garbage and The Offspring had also decamped to this venue for privacy however, Brett was booked in under his own name so it made things all to easy to call through to his hotel room and have a quick chat on the Friday afternoon.  A few other fans tried to call his room the next day however, he had had his privacy protected in the time since I had conversed with him so there was no longer a Brett Anderson staying at The Marriott.  To be honest, he didn’t seem that interested in touring Australia (a point proven in part by the bands refusal to return since) and crazy young fans like myself probably didn’t help the cause too much.  I look back on that phone call now with a cringe worthy feeling.  The things you do when you are young?

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The morning after Suede’s festival appearance, I was the only one waiting for the band when they left the hotel so got my tour book, some CD’s and vinyl pressings singed which was cool.  Simon, as always was quite chatty whilst the others all looked a little leg weary.  So where am I going with this you ask?  Well, you see, I’d always had ambitions of becoming a music journalist and sitting down with my idols to hold in depth discussion about just about everything.  I would have loved to have chatted to Brett on a professional lever to talk, in depth about his youth and life growing up under the influence of his family and surroundings of which we knew very little about at the time.  Fast forward almost 20 years and that chance was finally her via Coal Black Mornings.

My trip to his book signing in London never materialized as I had double booked a trip to watch Borussia Dortmund and Mainz over two nights in Germany.  Just on a week later, I managed to set eyes on Coal Black Mornings in a Waterstones whilst trouncing about in the pouring rain that had besieged Nottingham.  It was a nice surprise to see that two copies on shelf had been signed by the author.  Lucky me!  Funny thing is, luck seems to follow me almost everywhere.  This is one time it certainly reared its not so ugly head in my direction.  Happy with my purchase, I wrapped the book u safely inside one of my Ben Sherman’s and packed it safely away for the flight home to Australia a week further down the track.  It was indeed quite hard not to settle into the pages within as I had been looking forward to reading Coal Black Mornings for some time.  I knew I would appreciate it more from the comfort of my own bed so used a great deal of restraint to leave it safely enclosed within a Ben Sherman for the time being.

Upon arriving home in Australia, it still took me a few weeks to start the journey.  I’m an avid reader but some books just need the right moment to commence.  Coal Black Mornings in one of those books.  Thankfully, that moment arrived not too far down the track.  The only problem was, I knocked it over within 3 days!  Yes, it’s that good.  But why is the back story of Brett Anderson’s youth in Haywards Heath so riveting?  The attention to detail is the first reason that springs to mind.  There are no pictorial guidelines that would normally give you an understanding of what Brett’s family looked like because he describes everyone in such graphic and explicit detail that you can almost close your eyes and place yourself in the scenes he describes.  Like many of us, Brett grew up during bleak times where hand me down clothes were the norm and each day was a struggle just to survive.  Perhaps one could label such a period as character building and just as we imagine the authors life during this grim period, you begin to reflect upon your own upbringing and the way life used to be before technology turned us all into experts on everything without really knowing anything.

When Brett Anderson was a boy, he listened to albums in full without skimming over songs and he used his imagination for entertainment within his council estate surroundings whilst taking inspiration from his mother, Sandra and her strength in dealing with a sometimes emotionally brutal marriage.  There are many tear provoking moments as his life unfolds, many of which are left best to reading for the first time yourself which is why I have chosen not to go into too much graphic detail within these walls.  All the way through from his formative years that twist through winding pathways to Suede, Brett Anderson struggles, faced with road blocks and difficulties that would most likely defeat many of us without question.  The uninitiated will learn that Anderson is a strong character who doesn’t know when to give up.  Reading Coal Black Mornings, you wonder if many of today’s musicians could face the same struggles and manage to find a way through?

A great insight from Coal Black Mornings comes from Brett’s glance into how particular songs from Suede’s early period came into being.  His songwriting ability develops with time to a point where he avidly captures the feeling on London in the early nineties like nobody else was able to at that time.  Reading on, you also learn of the company he was keeping at the time, the places he lived, his relationship heart aches suffered and how he copes when things don’t go to plan, which was a regular occurrence during his early band struggles.  A resilient character indeed he was at a time when grinding poverty was the norm for many youths living in and around England.

Some people in the past have readily informed me that Brett Anderson is a little arrogant, a bit of a twat, a snob, not very friendly and somewhat insensitive among other descriptive terms. I guess they don’t really understand just how much a deep and thoughtful thinker he truly is.  As you know, the deep thinkers often come over the wrong way to large quantity of the population.  Reading Coal Black Morning will give you a sharp, provocative and deep insight into a somewhat tortured yet creative soul who would blossom into one of Britain’s most important artists of the past thirty years.  Coal Black Mornings is an autobiography with a difference.  Perhaps in years to come more entertainers will see the light and realise that this is the way to go.  For now however, if you haven’t already done so, sit back, relax and enjoy Coal Black Mornings for the literary  tour de force it truly is.

For those of you still not impressed, the door is always open for Brett to pen that coke and gold discs memoir he ever so rigidly steered well away from this time around.

Lodger Turns 39!

Some 39 years ago today, Bowie’s Berlin “trip-tych” as he preferred it to be known came to and end with the release of his 13th studio LP, Lodger. Originally, Planned Accidents or Despite Strange Lines were potential titles before the more subtle Lodger was taken on board as recording finished up at Record Plant Studios in New York. The album originally began recorded life in Switzerland. The album would peak at number 4 in the U.K and reach a modest peak of 20 in the US album charts before fading into oblivion.

The record was essentially a postcard of Bowie’s travels to Kenya and Mombassa where he would meet the strangest characters. With over twenty songs recorded, the album continued in the experimental ways from Low and Heroes but also allowed Bowie the chance to write the lyrics some 6 months after much of the music was recorded back in September 1978.

At the time of release, Lodger was generally panned by critics and tossed on the heap, to be forgotten before a revival in interests over recent years. Last year, a new mix of the record was released as part of the New Career In A New Town box set and the mixing was done by none other than Tony Visconti. Philip Glass also recently announced that he will be premiering a Lodger symphony later in the year that will also see release on vinyl and compact disc.

As an interesting side note, Moby once said he got his first job as a golf caddy in order to raise enough money to buy Lodger from his local record store. My first experience of the album came via a rented CD copy in 1993 from an old store called Red Dog Entertainment. I took it home with a few other albums I had rented and copied it directly onto a cassette tape where it would be given regular playing on my way to and from school. It’s just a shame that a deluxe box set containing out-takes and demo recordings has never seen the light of day. There is of course hope that a 40th anniversary box could be on the cards for 2019 but I won’t be holding my breath.

Another unique aspect of the album were the videos for each single, DJ, Boys Keep Swinging and Look Back In Anger, which was also the most unique video due to its triple drag display played out by Bowie himself. Journalists were gathered in New York in early May 1979 and were shown all three videos as a special presentation to promote Lodger. Unfortunately, all three videos failed to promote sales of their respective singles or the album itself.

Lodger remains a unique collection of songs that has stood the test of time and is well overdue for a new appraisal.

The “Hoff” Has Only Gone And Covered “Heroes”!

No, this is not a joke! American actor (????) and part time singer (????), David Hasselhoff has only gone and released a cover version of Bowie’s “Heroes”. How did this come into being? Well, I’m still scratching my head too! Who gave this the green light?

The now 66 year old American has even recorded a German version otherwise known as “Heldon”. I’m just hoping he steers away from the French version to spare us all the pain and suffering. You can catch a live performance of the song recorded earlier this month and the studio version is available on Spotify as well as the other usual streaming outlets.

The Hoff was best known for his TV roles in Knight Rider and Baywatch but also shot to fame in 1989 with Looking For Freedom. The song was played far too many times to remember when the Berlin Wall can down in the November of that year.

I can’t see this latest Hoff release putting too much pressure on the pop charts though stranger things and all that in this age of viral fads.

Exciting Bowie Releases For June

As expected, Parlaphone will be issuing David Bowie’s Welcome To The Blackout triple vinyl set from RSD on a two CD set next month. The vinyl edition was rightly so, one of the biggest sellers this year on RSD and fans now have the opportunity to obtain this brilliant show on CD.

The album was mixed by Dave Richards and left in the can for 40 long years. One can only guess what else might be laying in wait? The Welcome To The Blackout CD release is expected on June 29.

Also being released on the same day will be a red vinyl pressing of Christiane F and a 10″ EP of the BAAL recordings that were also available as part of the RE: Call 3 disc from A New Career In A New Town box set from 2017.

Finally, the next instalment of the Bowie box set series is due in mid September with full details being released next month also. With this in mind, coupled with the releases at the end of the month, it’s going to be an exciting June coming up for Bowie collectors.

Beating The RSD Blues!

Yet another Record Store Day gem turned up in the post today. And, what’s more, it only cost me face vale from an independent record store here in Australia and meant I could cease my search for a reasonably priced copy through other outlets like eBay and Discogs. Another bonus was not having to fork out for the ever so expensive international postage charges that seem to rise with each and every passing year. It’s almost as if the postage companies around the world are happily seeing how badly they can take the piss! Bastards!

My copy of Welcome To The Blackout set me back $64.95 plus a further $12 for postage and packaging. Not to bad if you ask me. Copies have been floating about for anything between $125 and $300 since the triple vinyl was released just under 3 weeks ago. Most of those copies being sold were likely by the kind of people who flock to RSD every year simply to cash in. It’s been a bug bear of mine for some time and is only helped by those who pay the mental prices being asked. Whilst others don’t mind paying over the odds for these releases, I refuse to play ball with those who want to charge extortionate sums of hard earned money.

So what to make of the album itself? I mean, it’s a classic Bowie concert recorded in London that has been unleashed onto the record buying public we are talking about. Let me begin. It comes in a stunning and visually striking gatefold and heavyweight vinyl. The design itself is quite simplistic which makes a pleasant change from a lot of releases these days. Sometimes less is best and that is most certainly the case with Welcome To The Blackout. I’ve given the show itself a few listens thanks to a vinyl rip that was uploaded to YouTube within days of its original release. Compared to Stage, the band sound much more vibrant and Bowie himself appears to be riding the wave of what was, at the time, the final night of the tour. Of course, they would all reconvene in November and December for a tour to Australia and Japan but for now, Bowie seemed happy to be winding things up. As a whole the show is quite edgy whereas the original recording of Stage always felt a little stiff and suffering from far too much post production by Toni Visconti in the studio. This time around, Dave Richards has nailed the mix beautifully!

I’m actually starting to enjoy this record store day lark for a change. Perhaps it’s down to the ability to pick up most releases at face value still? Of course, this in part comes down to the artists labels realising a healthy number of copies on the market goes a long way to making the fans happy. I can’t tell you the amount of emails I have penned over the years to multiple record labels trying to impress how important it is to look after fans on RSD and allow larger quantities of vinyl into the market. I’m sure I’m not the only one to attempt this approach as it seems the labels are finally listening and allowing a greater circle of fans around the world to be well chuffed with their favourite bands and singers.

There are still a few items I’d very much like to turn up in the coming months from RSD 2018 and thankfully, it appears there is no longer such a great rush and clamour to obtain ones desired releases at disgustingly overwhelming prices. My only hope is the trend will continue into 2019 and beyond. Our fingers and toes are now firmly crossed. Record labels, it’s over to you!

Brett Anderson’s Final Frontier

Going from one of Britain’s most successful bands to a solo career can be fraught with danger.  Once you take away the ingredients of what originally made it all work to try new directions is an area that many musicians have failed at over the decades.  When Brett Anderson embarked on his own solo journey following a long hiatus from Suede, many critics had already written him off with next to zero chance of success.  His first post Suede project, The Tears, which saw him mend the bridges with Bernard Butler turned out to be a critical triumph.  It would be the first step to a new life in the world of music on his own.  Eventually.

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In the space of just over four years, Anderson released no less than four studio albums.  None of them performed well in the charts (his debut reached number 54 in the UK charts whilst the next three nose dived) though it really didn’t matter because he was a musician breaching new boundaries and creating some incredibly beautiful music so really, who gives a jack if the albums don’t sell?  His tours were intimate, almost sacred performances that allowed the adoring audiences to feel like part of the furniture.  Six shows from various cities and tours eventually made their way out and his Berlin show of 2010 was a concert that I was lucky enough to attend.  One of 5 shows on that particular tour actually and each and every one of them had their own touch and charm.

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I started off in London at the Shepherds Bush Empire amid a throng of adoring fans.  London crowds sometimes give of an arrogant smell at the best of times.  Thankfully, this was not one of those nights.  I’d taken my partner from Liverpool, Ali along for the weekend and show as it would be her first time listening to Brett’s sublime vocals.  Her earliest memory and more so, her most recent memory of Brett came from the mid 90’s when Suede were riding high off the back of Coming Up, an album that would, for a while, be the beginning of what many thought was the end.  Thankfully it wasn’t.  What was the beginning of the end was my relationship with Ali.

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A week later, I would be in Berlin for the memorable gig at Lido, a sizable venue that was most enthusiastic.  The crowd and singer worked well together during the show and I remember the USB stick that contained the complete show not being available as promised due to technical problems.  I’d have to buy a copy online at a later date.  Oh well, first world problems ey?  It was fantastic to finally see a gig in Berlin after travelling there many times previously.  It’s still, to this day, one of my favorite cities from travels around the world.

Brett was quite the chatty fellow during the show which made for a receptive audience who gave as good as they were given.  You could tell that Brett was made up for the show.  He played a total of 18 songs on the night, the same amount as London with a few slight tweaks in the running order.

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Two days later, I was in Milan, my least pleasurable city in all of Europe.  Essentially, if you have lots of money and enjoy shopping for clothes, you are set.  Otherwise, there isn’t a great deal to write home about.  The one bonus was that Brett’s gig at The Tunnel Bar was pretty much just that.  A bar.  And a small one at that.  From memory, it would have only held a couple of hundred people.  It was a low set stage which made for difficult viewing and also remained a very humid venue for the duration of the gig.  Perhaps due to my disdain for Milan, the show just didn’t reach the highs of the previous two gigs.  Who knows.  Either way, of the 5 gigs I attended, the Milan show sat firmly at the bottom of an otherwise impressive pile.  The set list on this evening was identical to Berlin.

Fast forward a further two days and I found myself meeting up in Paris with Ali.  With the gig being on a Friday evening, it left us with what I thought would be a romantic weekend in Paris and it all started well enough at the show with another enthusiastic audience set in an appreciative mood.  The only downside was that Scarecrows and Lilacs was omitted from the set list (bastard) reducing the total numbers played to 17.  The Parisian crowd didn’t step back when coming forward with their appreciation of Brett either.  Each song performed was met with applause and whistles of pleasure.  This was a great boost to Brett’s ego and boy did he let it show as he belted out each song with great gusto.  He’s the kind of artist that feeds off a good ego stroking and tonight he got it by the spade load.  I kind of feel that the French always look up to the English in some strange way.

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The weekend with Ali was jam packed with art galleries, museums and plenty of fighting.  At one point, we were approached by a shady gypsy lady trying to tell us we dropped a ring.  Of course it wasn’t our ring but he decided to humor the battered old lady and threw her a few loose coins.  Next thing we know, she was asking for 50 Euro’s as a “gift”.  We politely told her where to go and in return, she cast a spell on us.  You gotta laugh right?  Coincidentally, we spent the remainder of the weekend fighting and again two weeks later on a weekend in Dublin.  By the start of March we were no more and I was on my way back to Australia.  The superstitious side of me would like to think that the crazy gypsy lady had a hand in our demise however, I think Ali and I were just too different on too many levels to work.  It was a fun 9 months that had come to an abrupt end whilst playing a support role to my jaunt around the traps watching Brett Anderson gigs.

Between all that, I had one final gig to attend in Manchester on February 8th.  The running order remained the same as Paris for the few hundred hearty souls who turned up at the Manchester University and, as was the case with prior gigs, the crowd jumped into the palm of Brett’s hand and he put on one hell of a show.  The guy truly is a showman on many fronts.  You can put him front of any band or any crowd and he will, on almost every occasion, make sure everyone has a good time.  Being shows that included strictly solo material only, it was refreshing to not be peppered with Suede songs.  Of course, Suede were on the brink of returning yet for now, I was like a pig in mud enjoying Brett’s solo offerings in smallish venues for the best part and lapping up an already quality back catalogue of solo offerings.  I do hope Brett one day returns to the solo circuit when he’s done with Suede’s modern renaissance.  For now, we can continue to enjoy what Suede has to offer.

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My only regret about these shows is that I didn’t see more of them.  I could have and probably should have caught more gigs along the way but it’s always easy to say these things in hindsight.  On the flip side, I did manage to take in five extraordinary Brett Anderson concerts which is still nothing to be scoffed at.  What’s more, he played numbers from all three (at the time) solo albums so how can anyone not enjoy a concert embracing beautiful numbers in the shape of Back To You, Love Is Dead, Chinese Whispers, Julian’s Eyes, A Different Place and To The Winter to name but a few?

Long may live the musical output of Brett Anderson!