Kings of Leon (Rock A-Z) Part #50

Formed in Nashville, Tennessee in the first year of the 21st century, Kings of Leon started life as a backing band in churches for the Rev. Followill, father to brothers Caleb, Jared and Nathan, founder band members together with cousin Matthew. The travelling roadshow moved from one trailer park to the next before deciding to go it alone with the release of the Southern Fried debut EP ‘Holy Roller Novocaine in early 2003.

This was closely followed by a break into the charts a few months later with ‘What I saw’ and ‘Youth & young manhood’ which made it into the UK top 5. Being picked up by the NME  gave them the type they needed though, and the excellent single ‘Molly Chambers’ (also from the ‘Holy Roller’ EP) shot into the UK charts in its own right, sealing the band’s future success.

Janis Joplin (Rock A-Z part #49)

Janis Joplin is (unfortunately) also a post-humous member of the infamous ’27 club’. However, like all of her fellow club members, her gift to the music industry in the short time she was with us lives on 45 years after her passing.

Born in Port Arthur, Texas in January 1943, she hitched to California in the early 1960’s and started singing in ‘The Waller Creek Boys Trio’ who, in 1963, appeared opposite Jorma Kaukonen (later to join Jefferson Airplane). After a brief return to Texas to rehearse (but never perform) with ‘The 13th Floor Elevators’, she returned to San Francisco in 1966 and joined ‘Big Brother & The Holding Company’.

The band released two albums, the second of which – Cheap Thrills – stayed at the top of the US charts for 8 weeks. Temporarily folding in late 1968 saw Janis going solo, although her alcohol and substance abuse was becoming increasingly pronounced. Although this affected some minor performances, it didn’t stop her selling out at three majors – London’s Royal Albert Hall, the Newport Festival and the New Orleans Pop Festival – and giving subliminal performances at others including Woodstock (August 1969)

Late in 1969 she released ‘I got dem ol’ kosmic blues again’ which made the US top 5 and, early the following year, formed her new band – The Full-Tilt Boogie Band. However, before the band’s debut album was completed, Janis Joplin died from an accidental overdose on 4th October 1970.

Post-humously, her last recording – ‘Pearl’ – was released early in 1971 topping the US charts for 9 weeks and featuring ‘Mercedes Benz’, a tune which, amongst others, had become a standard for her live performances.

INXS (Rock A-Z part #48)

On 22 November 1997, the rock world lost another hero to an untimely demise. No-one really knows how Michael Hutchence came to die – there’s been a lot of speculation – but one thing’s certain, the genius behind Australia’s INXS can now only live on in its twenty year history.

Formed in Sydney in 1977 as ‘The Farriss Brothers’ by Tim, Andrew and Jon Farriss, Michael Hutchence, Kirk Pengilly and Garry Beers. The band briefly moved to Perth but in 1978 retuned to Sydney as INXS, gigging extensively and eventually landing a deal with ‘Deluxe’, a subsidiary of ‘RCA’. Their second single, ‘Just keep walking’ was a domestic hit in 1980 and, after a couple of off-the-shelf rock efforts, the band were picked up by the American-based Atlantic-affiliated ‘Atco’ label.

Their major label debut ‘Shabooh Shabooh’ in 1982 eventually reached the lower fringes of the US top 40 on the strength of single ‘The One Thing’ which MTV had latched onto. And the band’s new-groove rock sound combined with Hutchence’s classic rock-god looks made them hot property in the emerging video generation.

The band’s big break though came with 1985’s ‘Listen like Thieves’, a top 20 album in Britain with the single ‘What you need’ reaching the UK top 5. Following this with ‘Kick’ in 1987, the band moved into the mega-stardom league with the album spawning no less than five international hit singles – ‘New Sensation’, ‘Devil Inside’, ‘Need you tonight’, ‘Never tear us apart’ and (of course) ‘Kick’

‘X’ in 1990 trod the same path as ‘Kick’ albeit without quite as big an impact. It still spawned two reasonable singles – ‘Suicide Blonde’ and ‘Disappear’ though. However, having packed out London’s Wembley Stadium in 1991, the band attempted a different path with the experimental ‘Welcome to wherever you are’ in 1992. The album contained the lovely ‘Beautiful Girl’ single, as good as anything the band had recorded to that point.The album idea was a reasonable one but the band saw the wood through the trees again the following year ‘Full Moon, Dirty Hearts’, an attempted return to their earlier rock roots. It was, however, something of a flop, failing completely in the UK.

Despite the ‘Full Moon, Dirty Hearts’ flop, the band continued to release some remix singles followed by a very successful ‘Greatest Hits’ album in 1994. But the last album before Michael Hutchence’s death/suicide came with the release of ‘Elegantly Wasted’ in April 1997. Here’s the title track, typically INXS, typically Hutchence, typically brilliant.

 

Jimi Hendrix (Rock A-Z part #47)

hendrix-woodstock

Mentioned in the same sentence, what do Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse, Alan ‘Blind Dog’ Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Richey Edwards and Jim Morrison all have in common? Sadly, they’re all posthumously part of the infamous ’27 Club’.

Of course, each will always be remembered first for their incredible contributions to the music industry and the gifts they’ve left which we all love and listen to time and time again years and years after their passing. But, as the ’27 club’ has been coined, sadly, you can’t really think of each now without also thinking about that.

The reason it’s cropped up now is that I’ve been asked (as part of an ice-breaker for a conference I’m attending at the end of the month) to pick three people (living, deceased or fictitious) who I’d invite for a TV chat-show I’m hosting.

Jimi Hendrix is my first choice and I think I’d ask him two key things. Firstly what tune is currently the favourite of the ’27 club’ and secondly, what genre he’d be embracing now had he lived beyond 18 September 1970.

Given similar opportunity, who would you invite and what two questions would you ask?

Meantime and whilst you have a think about that, here’s the excellent Isle of Wight version of ‘Foxy Lady’ performed on 31 August 1970 just three weeks before Jimi died.

Wildlife Festival

IMGP7135

Wildlife Festival took place over the weekend of 6 & 7 June 2015 at Shoreham Airport, Sussex, UK. The biggest music festival to date in Sussex and one of the biggest in Southern England, it attracted 35,000 for headline acts including George Ezra, Rudimental, Annie Mac, Nas and Disclosure.

IMGP7078

The site was huge; aircraft were grounded for the weekend and the fenced off area over the east-west runway included the main stage, two dance stages like the above built to resemble the art deco 1930’s airport terminus and two massive DJ set marquees.

IMGP7100

Having a festival of such calibre right on one’s doorstep is a massive bonus; being able to walk from home through our town, across the river and into the grounds and hear and see a host of live music and thumping tunes is a second-to-none privilege which very few actually get to be part of. The queue for advance sale tickets back in a winter storm in January was well worth the wait.

IMGP7110

There was so much to choose from that, on the Saturday, all we did was wander from dance tent to marquee to main stage and back, taking in a bit of this and a bit of that and simply soaking up the joy of being there. And in the sun!

IMGP7189

Soul II Soul followed by George Ezra probably stole the show for the Saturday afternoon with similar glory going to Nas and Rudimental for the night time slots. However, the wind had got up by the time Nas came on so we were content to listen to his set over the air as we wandered back home to the warmth.

DSCN0605

Annie Mac’s DJ slot early on Sunday evening  was sublime, capturing the spirt of the occasion and working the enthusiastic crowd admirably towards a crescendo warm up to the kingpin act of the weekend – Sunday night’s Disclosure.

DSCN0677

And what a way to finish a totally stunning festival. Disclosure creamed it. With a light show to quite literally blow your mind and a series of guest performers, the DJ duo of Guy and Howard Lawrence took the enraptured crowd though a blistering set of old and new tracks, including at least half a dozen from their soon-to-be-released new album.

DSCN0704

Hawkwind (A-Z #46)

One of my all-time favourite tracks comes from Hawkwind’s 1971 follow-up to their debut of the previous year. ‘You shouldn’t do that’ – a 15 minute monster – sets the scene as the opening track from “In search of Space and Time” and sealed Hawkwind’s future as a provider of truly tripped-out space rock.

Formed in mid-1969 as ‘Group X’ by ex-Famous Cure members Dave Brock and Mick Slattery, they were joined for what would soon become ‘Hawkwind Zoo’ by Nik Turner, Terry Ollis, Dik Mik and John Harrison. Dropping the ‘zoo’ bit from their name, Hawkweed signed to United Artist in late 1969 and released their debut album late the following summer.

However, although the follow-up ‘In Search of Space & Time’ made it into the top 20, the band smashed into the top 3 the following summer with the release of the single ‘Silver Machine, also from the album. Featuring the pile-driving bass talents of Lemmy Kilmister (aka ‘Lemmy’ of Motorhead fame), the track featured on the ‘Glastonbury Fayre’ album released as the soundtrack to the film of the festival, then in its second year.

The success of the single secured Hawkwind a top 20 placing for each of their subsequent four albums on the United Artists label. However, when following the departure of Lemmy for Motorhead, the band signed to ‘Charisma’, although they continued to see moderate success, they were dogged by legal impacts which gradually began to have an impact. Despite this, the band – in a succession of different line-ups – continued and are still together. Dave Brock’s the only original member these days though.

Rory Gallagher (A-Z #45)

IMGP2490

Born in March 1949 in Ballyshannon, Donegal, Ireland, Rory Gallagher started his musical career in a series of school bands in Cork before forming his first true band – The Fontana Showband. A little later they changed this to The Impact and by 1965 had secured a residency in Hamburg mostly playing Chuck Berry covers.

In 1966, just as the British blues revival was gathering steam, Rory disbanded The Impact to form ‘Taste’ with Norman Damery and Eric Kitteringham. Although the band’s debut album failed to break through, Taste persevered and hit the top 20 with the 1970 release of the follow-up ‘On the Boards’.

The album established Rory Gallagher as Ireland’s ambassador of the blues guitar and set the stage for his forthcoming solo career. Releasing a self-titled debut which made the top 40 in 1971, Rory continued to build his audience base with an exhausting touring schedule. Described as ‘the working man’s guitarist’, mainly due to his non-conformist attire of checked shirts, jeans and ruffled hair, he followed the debut with ‘Deuce’ later in 1971. But it was the massive top 10 success of ‘Live in Europe’ released in 1972 that catapulted him to super-stardom.

For me though, excellent as ‘Live in Europe’ is, there are several other albums which are unjustifiably under-rated. ‘Blueprint’ (1972), ‘Tattoo’ (1973), ‘The story so far’ (1976) and ‘Fresh Evidence’ (1990) stand amongst his most overlooked.

Moving to Chrysalis records shortly after the release of the double live album ‘Irish Tour 74′, sadly his form began to slump a little faced with the pressure of a new, leaner breed of up and coming guitar acts. But, although his commercial appeal subsided a little with each subsequent album release, his live performances never waned.

Ultimately death was the only thing that could prise Rory Gallagher away from his guitar. He passed away in June 1995 after suffering complications following a liver transplant. However, even though it’s now almost twenty years, the excitement and sheer brilliance that sealed his entry into the ‘Rock n Roll hall of fame’ lives on in this electrifying version of ‘Bullfrog Blues’ from a French gig in 1980.