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.