I had to share these few masterpieces I have been listening to all week. Matt Berry is known for comedy, rather like Neil Innes was but as Madness or the Monkees show, lines get blurred. Even more so with these gems which compare to Mike Oldfield (Tubular Bells style Intro!) Vangellis, Jean Michel Jarre (Oxygene), Brian Eno (Music for Airports) and even a bit of Kraftwerk. The vocals are also very 1970’s progressive in terms of vocal styles Genesis or King Crimson used with choirs, also the case with Steve Hackett’s Voyage of the Acolyte for example. For these wonderful ambient soundscapes Berry deserves serious recognition. To illustrate the point further of comedy/tragedy (only tragic if the music isnt recognized I guess) I have included my fave (Oasis sounding before Oasis) classic Rutles song. Usually a great musical discovery by an artist comes BEFORE they dabble as an older person in acting or comedy but clearly Berry has his own way and its to be commended but I would never write off his music, its far from comedy. Even if Berry dressed as Vangellis once in a comedy was one of the funniest things I have seen in recent years. I do have to add that toward the end of part two when he plays around with the Jarre style melody that perhaps he has a Mozart style joke on us. But as an Ambient listen this is up the with the Orb in places…
I was ploughing through all my old records the other day pondering on the longevity of certain artists – Weller, Bowie ect…and then other short lived genius whether a Syd Barrett or a great one off record like Paul Hardcastle’s record “19” – an amazing unique record that the artist never really bettered (though he did do other fine music less well known) and then there are complete one hit wonders like say “Safety Dance” by Men without Hats, “Heartache Avenue” the classic white soul 80’s number by the Maisonettes or Fiction Factory’s “Feels like heaven”. Then there are talented musicians like Jona Lewie..a two hit wonder! (Again far more to his music but Kitchen at Parties and Stop the Cavalry are the two songs in question) . It made me realize just how few, if any, artists have ever matched early work. I could not think of one! Certainly even rarer are original line ups. Kraftwerk when they reformed in 2003 for an album wasnt the original line up and they mainly remixed old classic Tour De France tracks. Take Simple Minds or the Stranglers. Two seminal bands but neither kept the original strongest line up. I could only really think of four examples. Although The Stranglers “Norfolk Coast” is a great Album I have included Hugh Cornwell here as I think his “Monster” album was possibly other than perhaps Leonard Cohen or some Bowie, one of the great unsung comeback LP’s. It is very rare to match earlier eras for any particular songwriter. Monster for me is the strongest set of original songs Hugh produced since the stranglers and matches the finest post Hugh stranglers efforts in my view (which when it comes to music i change my mind all the time as all music is connected- certainly across genre). On a few tracks I do miss Dave Greenfield’s Swirling mastery but who cares its a vintage set. Its interesting to note how Cornwell is a big admirer of Weller in the way he split the Jam and followed his instincts, however his fate until recently was to fall well behind The Stranglers themselves who had way more success without him himself for many years. Of course in Weller’s case its been quite the opposite. The Intro to Pure Evel is wonderfully like LA Woman by The Doors. In my view the album is not only his finest solo work BUT in an extraordinary exception- i believe it to be possibly better than all other post Hugh Stranglers work without him but I cant really say that as the band have been so strong without him and JJ Burnel is also another fave artist of mine so its tough to say, but i do find other than Norfolk Coast that this seems the strongest. I was told at a Stranglers gig by a joking fan that if i meet him and if he finds out JJ Burnel would have my guts for garters as they say in the East End!!!
My next choice is ULTRAVOX. Sadly sometime in the 1990’s many music journalists would trash Midge Ure era Ultravox, which was very confusing for fans of the band as the vast majority discovered them via the commercially successful Midge Ure era (Phil Collins/ Peter Gabriel Syd Barrett /Dave Gilmour are similar examples). I still feel his was the strongest era- however I do adore Jon Foxx era too – particularly “Quiet Men” and “I cant stay long”. Other than U2 there arent really any original line ups of bands that i can find that have matched anything like earlier music (U2 havent) and thats if they ever got back together at all. Of course bands with endless changes of line up like Hawkwind are in their own category! So I have included a track from the “Brilliant” album,-which for a reformation years later was surprisingly good. Like Hugh (who i did get to meet briefly) i saw Ultravox live. To my ears this has a slight Trevor Horn Production sound. I wonder what that would have been like had they collaborated back in the mid eighties!
My next choice is sadly not an original line up due to MOONIE and THE OX being sadly no longer with us. However this track (pretty much a solo Townsend inclusion on the amazing recent albums cd issue. The best WHO album since Who are you and the late great Keith Moon. Having lived in the states for a few years myself I am glad to say I never really experienced guns!
This recent track by the MONKEES rubs shoulders convincingly in comparison with earlier work. Also includes some songs by Andy Partridge of XTC and Dukes of Stratosphere , like the track ive included. Also Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher contribute elsewhere on the album. It is a really authentic listen! (Even if shy of the late great Davy Jones) Below I have included one of my favorite songs. Its written by Andy Partridge and captures 1967 in 1985. It also is very much the same sound as his song penned for the Monkees.
HERE IS THE START OF MY VRIL SUPERNATURAL SCI FI SERIES AUDIOBOOK CHAPTER ONE AND PROLOGUE. THIS WEEK TWO PUBLISHERS HAVE EXPRESSED INTEREST – JOHN HUNT AND JO FLETCHER BOOKS.
THIS WEEK I BEGAN MY NEW NOVEL AND INTEND OVER COMING WEEKS TO PUBLISH SERIALIZATION EXCERPTS. I WILL BE PLACING EXCERPTS IN LY LITERARY SECTION.
THE PLOT FOLLOWS TWO LOVABLE ROGUES WHO DECIDE TO USE FACEBOOK TO CON THEIR WAY ACROSS AMERICA. THEY BEGIN TO REALIZE WHILE THE TECHNOLOGY IS NEW THAT THERE ARE PLENTY OF RICH OLDER WOMEN TO CHASE…SO VIA A MYSTERIOUS BEAUTIFUL BLONDE THEY DECIDE TO CHANCE THEIR LUCK IN CALIFORNIA AND BEVERLY HILLS…WITH HILARIOUS RESULTS!
DO LOOK OUT FOR EXCERPTS OF THIS GRITTY COMEDY FULL OF A COLORFUL CAST OF DOTTY CALIFORNIANS SEDUCED BY TWO CHANCERS.
Greetings to my few subscribers after a 6 year rest! Rest assured a more colorful artistic endeavor is on the way – I am hoping to collaborate on literature and Music projects using my vocals for singing, spoken word as well as my songs and lyrics/ poems set to music by myself and primarily Esther Hopkins. (Hopkins is related to a member of the Dudley Moore Trio…Pete Morgan-I have to mention that as A Moore fan!)
Hopkins was taught by the incredible Nainita Desai at Goldsmiths.
The project will be launched later in 2021 post (Hopefully) the Pandemic. Please do spread the word that I will be un – retiring this blog! Less for literature or hobbies…more for MUSIC! BOTH MINE AND OTHERS!
My last gigs pre COVID were Hugh Cornwell of the Stranglers who i briefly met along with Lightening Seeds at Watchet Music Fest and Hawkwind Live at the Royal Albert hall where i briefly said Hi and a forgettable bye in passing to the Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding who was chatting to a boozed up Hawkwind fan, Fielding looked stoned as was I as he attempted a comical getaway from the star struck drunk.
In recent times when the late great KEN RUSSELL’s widow commended my efforts to get the 1970’s biopic of the romantic poets released (which is still unreleased because of an odd copyright ban – My writing on the film was featured in the Coleridge Society journal – the friends bulletin”) It felt like a sign . Not least because of Kens amazing music movies on Elgar and The Who- Tommy. TOMMY (Which was on TV as i lay near death in hospital after i suffered my heart attack and seemed apt) remains my fave rock opera and inspired by it I am. Ken had set his film many years ago in Alfoxden House in Somerset- a fave haunt of mine – which faced complete ruin. My little film i wrote and presented on the house had seen me previously work with RICHARD HILL (Who studied under George Solti and Leonard Bernstien) who allowed me to use his BEN KINGSLEY narrated music IMAGES OF KUBLA KHAN in my campaign movie to save poet COLERIDGE’S Alfoxton house in Somerset from ruin.
As you can see from my acting and music links to my singing – i love my music (https://www.starnow.co.uk/benmanning). As a music journalist in Bournemouth in the 1990s i met endless famous bands – Ocean Colour Scene, Ride, Blur and as a local journalist I interviewed Paul Weller Collaborator Carleen Anderson and bands like Yes and Blur.
As a child i was in school bands performing arts courses and as a small child i was in a Siouxsie and the Banchees video via carona stage school.
My performing arts degree led to a place at Bournemouth Arts university – the top arts school in Europe. Whilst there I managed and even did a bit of backing vocals in studio and percussion for Giles Gooden and his band Alfie who had been featured in a national Ad campaign so i had a short stint at managing with mixed results. Though when I met Paul Weller briefly in a pub in Goodge st around the corner from where he was recording, he was very encouraging as I nervously asked for an autograph… I then did a global entertainment music industry course On the HMS President meeting and volunteering for E.D Berman’s charity based on board. Ed’s major theatre charity was formed with Sir Tom Stoppard in the 1970’s to help poor kids embrace the Arts. On the course i met James Wilkinson of the BETA BAND who played Trumpet for them. He and the band played Live at Glastonbury 2000 and we shared a flat and planned musical world domination. They played just before David Bowie on the other main stage . It was through him I met Esther Hopkins Who studied at royal college of music with the grand daughter of Olivier Messaen and pianist Graeme Thewlis with whom she collaborates (Pet Shop Boys).
As a music mad young man i met Paul Weller and Neil Innes many times (I was featured at Glasto fest 94 at a weller gig on the cover of the Times!) salvaging signed set lists and drumsticks as well as sharing a beer with many a legend! I discovered music via opera and motown at the age of 3 with a record player. sadly my dyslexia and various health issues held me back from music but i hope to express myself
I performed at Beautiful Days Music and Poetry festival in Devon sharing the stage with major bands. My singing is available on soundcloud.