I’m still listening to the MainMan podcast each week. Avidly devouring each new episode every Thursday night (a distraction from an otherwise hollow “Kerrsday”).
This week’s episode was centred around the early career of Marc Bolan – as a rival (but also sometimes collaborator) and contemporary of David Bowie’s and how firstly with Tyrannosaurus Rex and then, latterly, the diminutively titled T Rex, Bolan got the early success.
They spoke with both Tony’s Defries and Visconti about their thoughts and feelings on Bolan. Visconti being the producer of the early Tyrannosaurus Rex albums, first of which was the succinctly (not!) named “My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair…But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars In Their Brows.”
Up for discussion within it was Ride A White Swan – which I freely admit to not knowing that well. Or at least not as well as I should do, perhaps. Actually, truth be told, Bolan and T. Rex hadn’t been something I have ever much immersed myself in to. Of course I have been aware of Marc Bolan for many years and have known several T. Rex songs. Love several of them, in fact! And I have been long aware (as an avid Bowie fan) of the rivalry, bond and – quite often grudging – respect both men had for each other.
I decided that once I had listened to the podcast, I’d give Ride A White Swan a listen. I would be able to hear it with completely fresh ears as I had never really taken much notice of it at all to be fair. Unlike knowing my way around Get It On, Jeepster, Children Of The Revolution, 20th Century Boy, Cosmic Dancer or Metal Guru…for example.
I did a bit of research first. Just a quick look around the Tyrannosaurus Rex discography, just to see if (at a glance) you could detect the dividing line between what was Tyrannosaurus Rex to T. Rex. The first defining part is when Marc Bolan fires Steve Peregrin Took. The second is the move from acoustic to electric guitars.
So, what did I think of Ride A White Swan? Not a lot, be honest with you. I’m all for nonsense pop. And things that are upbeat and lightweight but. I dunno. It’s quite repetitive and his vocal on it really is the most annoying version of that “baa lamb” singing style he had.
Released almost 50 years to the day, it only seemed to have appeared as a single. It wasn’t a track on the T. Rex album, nor did it appear on Electric Warrior. Tyrannosaurus Rex had THREE albums out before Bolan ousted Steve Peregrin Took and replaced him with Mickey Finn and shortened the band name to T. Rex, went electric and released the fourth, eponymously titled album. In fact, a lot of the T. Rex album had already been written – and some already previously recorded.
I am actually surprised how indifferent I feel to the song as from Hot Love onwards, right up to 20th Century Boy, I love every single there is.
Perhaps I need to do more delving as well? More exploration.
One also can’t help but wonder how things would have continued for Bolan, had tragedy not struck on that fateful day in September, ‘77. Esp. as it had seen Bowie and Bolan back recording together since recording The Prettiest Star together way back in 1970.
Marc seemed less adaptable than David. Who knows how his career would have continued on? Perhaps he’d have found his own way of reinventing himself? We’ll never know.
Anyway, despite my own indifference, I wish a happy 50th anniversary to Ride A White Swan – it’s a whole week older than me!
So…what do you people think of Ride A White Swan? I’d like to hear from anyone reading this on your thoughts about it. Get in touch in whatever means. Comment here on the blog, or if I’ve shared via social media comment there. All thoughts are welcome.
Over the past week, I feel the word “punk” has been sullied by a couple of people. One retrospectively. Let me explain:
In a previous post here on the blog, I talked about a letter that John Foxx had shared on his FB page. The letter was from David Bowie to Tony Visconti of a shopping list of new singles and albums DB was keen to get his hands on. Within it he talked about punk and flippantly used the words “pink, peak poak, pan” and then said “Oh, yes. PUNK” in brackets referring to the shop that Visconti may find the records that were on said shopping list. I felt DB’s flippancy was about the stupid labels and pigeonholes we place upon things – but I could be wrong? Perhaps by this time for Bowie “punk” was indeed a dirty word?
The other has been in recent days. A fan on SMOG talking about the influence punk had on early Simple Minds. He seemed to talk about it with much disdain. Saying stuff like “thank God you guys moved away from punk.” I didn’t get involved in it because, well…to each their own what they think about particular genres of music. I thought their ideas and opinions were rather misguided but…it’s not my place to educate anyone on anything. He ruffled enough feathers to even have Jim himself (? It’s a bone of contention, actually. I was led to believe by a certain source that this account *is* genuinely Jim but…I dunno. Who knows? I’m trying to get myself away from all this “hanging on his every word and feeling like my life isn’t worth living if he doesn’t speak to me” bullshit that I keep cycling through endlessly and doing my own fucking head in with!) reply to him.
The guy followed it up with a further post about the hypothesis of what/where/how things would have panned out for SM had they stuck with punk. This was when I came in on things.
For one, punk started much earlier than its deemed apex in 1977. I definitely hear and feel and get a sense of punk from Velvet Underground recordings. Listen to the album with Nico – the Warhol banana covered one. Where is the maestro musicianship on that? Tell me! No one plays THAT well on it. Lou Reed is not exactly the best singer in the world. Nico does that kind of – and there is an actual German word for this that eludes me right now – “speak singing” she does. The only one that sounds like he tries to hold a note when singing is John Cale. The Velvet Underground is DEFINITELY punk. In its truest context. That the music, the story, the telling of the tale is MORE important than the musicianship. Or that…it’s okay not to be perfect, if the message is conveyed right.
Because, Lou might not be the best singer in the world – but he’s a poet and a realist and an orator for the time. And, a damn incredible songwriter. A filter. A channel for the message to be projected through.
Likewise, Nico may not have the voice of an angel, as such – but she certainly conveys emotion and she makes you take notice.
The Stooges were formed in the late sixties. Iggy Pop by much touted definition is deemed the “Godfather of punk.”
The New York Dolls were punk. Well, perhaps straddled punk with aspects of glam. I mean, nobody ever sees Slade as glam in terms of their musical output compared to their wardrobe. Well, for me it’s the same with New York Dolls. To me they are 100% punk. They just didn’t dress punk.
The Ramones – punk all the way. But there is sssoooo much rockabilly in their sound too. Listen to Rock n’ Roll High School, FFS. It’s far more 50s throwback rockabilly to my ears than what the UK brings forward as punk.
And as I said to Philip – there is so much more to the word “punk” than a strict musical styling. It’s a culture. A mindset. An ethos. An attitude. A banner. A proclamation.
And there’s also one of its earlier exponents too! MC5 – Kick Out The Jams! Released in 1969, my friends. NINETEEN SIXTY NINE!
When I saw Alice Cooper last year, they were on the bill of support acts as (as they are called these days) MC50. They still have it.
Punk, as a word that became a touchstone, is ssooo much more than music. Look at all that it gave to a generation of the UK as a result! An attitude, a mindset that said “I have creativity inside of me. I don’t need a fine arts degree to be told I am good at this. I’ll get ahead and make my own way!” It gave the working classes freedom to believe they could express their creativity and pursue a future in the arts without – one: feeling they needed a financial foundation – because frankly – there was NOTHING to lose and two: that they should suppress what they feel they want to express due to their background.
Vivienne Westwood is punk.
John Cooper Clarke is punk.
Smash Hits magazine is punk.
Postcard Records is punk.
Factory Records is punk.
The Hacienda is (was) punk.
Anything that you can think of…not just in music…all if it that comes out from the late 1970s, it’s all rooted in that punk spirit.
As Jim said in his reply to Philip: “without the punk ethic we would never have begun and evolved into Simple Minds. That is a fact!”
Punk was a gateway to so much more.
Photo by the wonderful Laurie Evans
Is it a dirty word? It seems to be for Philip. Why? I’m not quite sure. I just don’t think he sees the fluidity in the word itself. To him, I am guessing “punk” is this awful style of music that he doesn’t like very much and that’s that.
Oh, but it is ssssooomuch more than that! It is all of the above! And – it is Simple Minds! Even their name is rooted in punk. Yes, it may have come from a David Bowie song but…just listen to it. Really take in what the name sounds like.
I’m not sure I have put this post across as I wanted to. SOMEONE came along throwing a spanner in the works this morning – distracting me with a post just as I was getting my brain cogs in motion and piecing together this post – making bullet points to it and giving myself a bit of dictation on my phone so I would stick with how I wanted this post to go.
Oh, well. He can disturb and distract me whenever he likes! I shouldn’t be bloody complaining that he distracted me now, should I? Geez! Lol. Cry out for the man’s attention and then when I got something from him, I’m there saying “Fuck off, Jim! I’m busy. Do you mind, pal?!” Lol. Hilarious!
And hey, I just remembered – I’M “Punk”! Lol. This silly nickname my brother David gave me many moons ago. When he wanted to antagonise me. Wind me up. He’d call me “punk”. With a kind of spit of disdain he’d say it to me. “Go away, punk”, when I was annoying him. Lol. Oh, god I loved him! ❤️
Someone I follow on Facebook shared a post by John Foxx’s page (actually officially labelled as “John Foxx and The Maths”) in which he posted this image of a letter from David Bowie to Tony Visconti. Foxx added – “Interesting to read this note from David Bowie to Tony Visconti from the 1970s – sending him on a mission for a copy of ‘any Ultravox album’.”
I’m taking by the things he’s asking for and esp. from the time of release on the singles that it is probably this time of year in 1977 this letter was written.
He’d be ramping up for the release of Heroes. The single comes out the same week as The Clash’s Complete Control – September 23rd, 1977. The album is released (“Heroes”) three weeks later. Episode one of the second series of So It Goes airs on October 9th.
As a “magpie” – he was always pretty quick on the uptake. It’s actually kind of intriguing to see him just…buying stuff like us normal plebs. You’d think he’d have extra know-how or would already be somehow exposed to these things and have “insider knowledge”.
There had already been one series of So It Goes by this point…but I guess it was regional and only airing on Granada in the Manchester area so…why would he know?
I love the off-handed almost disdain and disregard of punk – by his faffing about with it. Lol. But then maybe it was more his annoyance at yet another pigeonhole label for yet another genre of music that never seemed fitting? And well, I guess, for him, “punk” would be old. It had been a word used in the U.S. and New York in particular as a style of music for a few years by this point.
“Swizzleland”. Lol. He just sounds so…ordinary.
But he never was. Never ever.
It’s also brought home to me how very little I have listened to him in recent years. So caught up in all things Simple Minds and my….fixation with a certain Glaswegian fae Toryglen, that I have hardly given David’s music any of my time at all.
But I have still been avidly tuning in to the MainMan podcast every week and will be devouring the latest episode this evening. Perhaps even partaking in a listen of a Bowie album afterwards.
“Heroes” seems apt somehow.
Most appropriate tune off the album right now? Sense Of Doubt. For me. For the world. All of it.
As Woody declared when he was given a special “Aylesbury hero” award (I’m not sure that was the correct title of the award, but it was something along those lines). He, Tony Visconti, and the rest of Holy Holy were awarded it.
It was a fabulous night. It wasn’t without a hitch, but that’s live music for you. I absolutely loved it. Sang my heart out to every song…danced and stomped my feet away in my seat.
The OH wasn’t best pleased when they started with Width Of A Circle. Lol. She can’t stand the song. I think it’s a heavy prog rock epic! And it was a stunning version.
They then proceeded to perform all of The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, from start to finish, track by track. Glenn Gregory fluffed the lines on Star, so they stopped completely and started the song again.
There were then songs from Hunky Dory and other tracks from The Man Who Sold The World performed. And the final song was Heroes.
I just sang and sang. I was in heaven. Didn’t want it to end!
Woody gave a little speech at the end, and then was surprised by his award. It was so lovely. It felt really special. The crowd were great, really feeding off the band. There was a lot of love in the room.
Wonderful. A wonderful time.
A bit of footage of them performing (as part of a longer medley) the Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud.
A link to Jim’s post this morning about the European leg of the Acoustic Tour soon kicking off. Less than a week to go until the first gig in Essen, Germany.
Alex Gains in his comment said “see you next month”. Well, I never even thought about being able to word it like that! It makes it sound wonderfully imminent to do so! OMG!
But before all that, there is tonight’s gig of Woody Woodmansey’s (and Tony Visconti’s) Holy Holy at Aylesbury. That wonderful Bowie history linked to the place as well. I can’t believe I’ll be seeing a genuine Spider and the producing/engeneering/mixing genuis of Visconti also (and he can play a MEAN bass – listen to She Shook Me Cold off The Man Who Sold The World album if you don’t believe me!). It should be a great night.
And from there, the amazing gift that is John Grant! My anticipation for this one is almost exceeding the SM gigs!
A slight change of pace then, when a few days prior to the Glasgow kick off, I see David Tennant in Don Juan In Soho (in London…but not Soho). Haven’t seen him in a play in six years, and Don Juan In Soho sounds saucy and raucous. I can’t wait!