The Elusive Comeback Album

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.

Two LadyKillers and A Smoking Barrel…By Ben Manning

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.

2021 and future plans…

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.

https://nainitadesai.com/

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.

I have come out of retirement to report the following wonderful communication from A very talented TV and film actress called Lisi Tribble- the late great KEN Russell’s widow – reproduced here are her kind words regarding Kens “lost” Coleridge masterpiece Clouds of Glory- perhaps changes are afoot?! “Dear Ben—brilliant article. We are working on getting it released…Screened it in Lake District and Belgium…I am with you on this! X”

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ALFOXTON HOUSE, SOMERSET- THE 1797 HOME OF WILLIAM WORDSWORTH – WHERE COLERIDGE FIRST READ ANCIENT MARINER. MY FILM TO HELP SAVE THE HOUSE FOR THE NATION

I AM PROUD TO SAY THE NEW OWNERS HAVE SENT ME A MESSAGE CLAIMING MY FILM WHICH I WROTE AND PRESENTED AND ALSO PLUGGED ON THE BBC  – INSPIRED THEM TO OBTAIN AND SAVE THE HOUSE AS A CHARITY.  SUCH A GREAT RESULT FOR TWO GREAT POETS AND ARTISTS.     WATCH MY LITTLE CAMPAIGN MOVIE alfoxdenCLICK HERE

BBC Sound of Song and Kraftwerk documentaries

The following are two letters i have posted to the BBC -Neither will be published due to length but i hope someone at the beeb takes note…

“I write regarding BBC 4’s “Sound of song” series. It was with trepidation that I watched the final episode. All previous episodes had been an entertaining if not always accurate potted history of the history of the song. It is impossible it has to be said as who knows how far undocumented songs go back in time, however, nothing truly prepared me for the rose tinted glasses Prozac popping presenter and his denial of the truth in the final episode.
It was almost embarrassing.
We had an “isn’t it wonderful” silent disco. Isn’t it rather sad the communal experience is truly lost in favour of people in a world of their own in company with others, yet in isolation? Oh yes…I guess on some handheld device they might be letting someone in on what they are listening to on the other side of the world…who they have never met.
The “Autotune” segment was also ludicrous. The vocal of the singer hired for the show was superb but was utterly ruined by what has become an overused clichéd piece of technology. Within a futuristic Kraftwerk style vision of the future fine but used on every song that otherwise might have sounded decent is just a joke. As is the fact that this “1998” invention actually has a not too distant vocal cousin with “Sparky’s Magic Piano” from the 1940’s!
Ignored was the fact that nearly every other person you meet admits that music is not what is used to be – both creatively and musically… let alone politically or sociologically speaking.
What about the remarkable new wave era? There was no mention of the two tone ska movement, Electropop and the New Romantics and all the bands from XTC and Big Country to Simple Minds or The Cult and Siouxie and the Banchees, who were at different times riding all sorts of movements and influencing them at different times. Bands such as The Jam or unusual moments such as Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen or Vienna by Ultravox were skirted over – but most notable of all was surely one of the most important significant moments in popular music history…”Cars” by Gary Numan – the first vocal and synthesizer international hit. Numan was the “Elvis” of electronica in a sense. Again the programme proudly educated us that the extended remix was an invention of American disco. Again, this is not true, it was Lee Scratch Perry , the classic Dub Reggae legend that pioneered the extended mix. Indeed, “Toasting” pre dated rapping and was a style of rhyming words over a beat…sound Familiar? We are talking about 1970 – ten years before Rap.
It was highlighted how the internet has produced more creativity than ever but how on earth can you be discovered, like a needle in a haystack when there is just too much of everything?
It should be about quality not quantity! Music sales have been sliding to an all-time low in the last 25 years.
Music is the darling of the manufacturers of product and the marketing and business interests produce a product above all substance.
It is the tragedy of this that was so typically ignored in your programme. Once again a poor BBC music documentary – on a par with your unfortunate eighties series last year, that managed to make the greatest of decades look daft in the extreme. Mainly due to ignoring all the best bands – just as “sound of song” has.

A wasted opportunity…

I now write regarding your long awaited “Pop Arts – Kraftwerk” documentary.
Paul Morley made a series of plain silly statements in what otherwise was an impressive documentary…at least to begin with. To compare to the Beatles is like saying “Handel was genius, whereas Beethoven is a bit over rated really”
To compare is daft! Both the Beatles and Kraftwerk are part of a wonderful era in creativity in popular and underground music. The Beatles played with electronic influences years earlier and whilst I empathize how the Beatles have always been acknowledged whilst Krattwerk have not, that is obviously as the contributors show…incorrect. It is like putting down Van Gogh to champion Picasso.
The description of a clichéd rock performer to highlight how superb Kraftwerk are is like saying Jimi Hendrix or The Doors have no merit in comparison. Not least many may think Kraftwerk might not be for them as a result. This would be tragic. Also Morley’s comment that original members being missing is of no consequence – well has anyone asked those original members or the fact only one partially new album has been produced in 30 years?! I know how Morley feels and empathize that Kraftwerk do have a unique concept that transcends ego and even humans in preference of Kratwerk robots…however, surely the lack of output since the late eighties and the leaving of those original members is worth noting?
Throughout the programme we saw endless comparisons with styles of black music that actually share very little of the vision and futuristic menace of Kraftwerk. I speak of “Hip Hop” and “Trance Rave” and House music’s. They undoubtedly have their merits, at least to begin with – but other than an admiration which was enjoyable to hear and the use of the same instruments I found the presenter/writer’s endless comparisons very disappointing. A segment of the show could have been devoted to the influence undoubtedly, but what about the earlier, perhaps even greater influence on a whole generation of acts from Gary Numan to OMD, to Human League and Japan to Ultravox, Simple Minds, A Flock of Seagulls, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Visage. Yet this whole revolutionary influence was ignored.
Instead we get repeated plays of a bland Coldplay stadium gig and a series of repeated segments from the same individuals, who whilst interesting, where limited in scope. This whole documentary was not only trying to reinvent history but was ultimately a wasted opportunity…disappointing.

BBC official link
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b050rbz8/sound-of-song-3-mix-it-up-and-start-again

KRAFTWERK bbc link
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b050rbzb

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