It’s a one hour five minute mix that contains Rolling Stones’ cover versions, remixes, re-edits, live recordings, bootlegs and samples - primarily from their 60s and 70s golden age. It’s been the most intricate mix I’ve ever made. I’m pleased with it too. I’ve tried to encapsulate their magic, their satanic majesty, their influences, and the way their own influence continues to reverberate from the 1960s and through into the 21st century.
Here’s what you’ll find on it (though within each track you’ll discover samples of the group being interviewed, old Stones advertisements, Stones documentaries, and other fun interesting stuff)…..
Keith Richards - My Father’s Ashes
Beta Hector - Angie
Ry Cooder - Get Away
Ananda Shankar - Jumpin’ Jack Flash
The Rolling Stones - 20,000 Light Years From Home
The Rolling Stones - Sympathy For The Devil Trailer
Jean Luc Godard - Sympathy For The Devil/One Plus One Trailer
Mo-dettes - Paint It Black
King Size Slim - Not Fade Away (Psychemagik’s Line Dance Mix)
Psychic TV - Godstar
Merry Clayton - Gimme Shelter
Ry Cooder - Middle America, What’s Happening To Your Kids?
The Rolling Stones - Drift Away
Melanie - Ruby Tuesday
The Rolling Stones - You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Soulwax Remix)
I saw Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo 3D’ yesterday. Cinematic perfection. It seemed to me that every frame had been carefully considered. The cast are universally wonderful and it’s a moving, funny, exhilarating film, that’s an imaginative history lesson in the form of a detective story. A masterpiece.
Absolute Bowie return to Komedia performing all the classic Bowie songs from the Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke eras.
Support from the country’s favourite T.Rex tribute Too Rex, playing all the classic Marc Bolan hits. Plus DJs playing 70s tunes.
I must confess I’m a bit conflicted about tribute bands. I generally prefer to look forward and enjoy new music rather than wallow in nostalgia. That said, David Bowie and T.Rex soundtracked my youth. I bought all the T.Rex singles as they came out and loved them as a child. As I started to buy LPs I got more and more into Bowie. I was a confirmed Bowie freak as a teenager in an era when, in my world, you knew someone was alright if they were into Bowie, Roxy, Iggy, Bolan & The Velvets. It was a simpler time believe me. When I heard about a Bowie night in Soho I was there like a shot. This was a tiny club called Billys - in Meard Street, Soho - and was the birth of what eventually became known as the New Romantics. I’m poised to celebrate 50 years on planet Earth, it’s also Xmas, so it all felt right to get along and, ahem, wallow in a bit of nostalgia and the upshot was…
…I had a great time. Dancing pretty much non stop. Too Rex are good (though not as good as T.Rex tribute rivals TRextasy) and played a short, crowd pleasing sets of my T.Rex faves. Hot Love predictably had the Komedia rocking.
Absolute Bowie played two sets. A Ziggy era set and an eighties era set (that included Rebel Rebel, through Young Americans, China Girl, “Heroes”, Boys Keep Swinging, Let’s Dance - and rather bizarrely Under Pressure (which I wonder if Bowie has ever played live)). I was very impressed. The bloke who does Bowie really does a good impersonation and the band were right on the money.
The crowd were a totally unpretentious bunch of (predominantly) 40 and 50 somethings who all seemed to have a wonderful time. I certainly did.
The greatest mix in the world for the greatest rock n roll band in the world.
Yes, this is my tribute to The Rolling Stones, a one hour mix that contains Rolling Stones’ cover versions, remixes, re-edits, live recordings, bootlegs and samples - primarily from their 60s and 70s golden age.
It has been a real labour of love, and I’ve tried to encapsulate their magic, their satanic majesty, their influences, and the way their own influence continues to reverberate from the 1960s and through into the 21st century. I hope you like it.
As someone who grew up buying singles I still constantly search for that manic pop thrill. Anyway I’ve been sucking a thoughtful tooth and thinking about 2011 in terms of tunes and I’m saying this has been a great year for new music. Here’s an unabridged list of my favourite tunes of 2011.
I love that my long-term heroes (yes, that’s you The Fall, Wire, Magazine, Luke Haines, Tom Waits, and Half Man Half Biscuit) are still making vital, lovely, wonderful tunes that can still grab me by the throat, shake me around, and make me oh so glad to be alive and grateful that I am still so in thrall to this glorious noise that we call music.
I remember, as a kid in the 70s, being told by my Mum that I was just wasting my money as I went to the record shop (ask your parents kids) to buy the latest Bowie or T.Rex 45 rpm single (ask your parents again kids). Mum, you got that one wrong. Here am I poised to turn 50 and it’s still the most important thing in my life (obviously I’m discounting my lovely family and friends in that analysis).
Anyway, getting back on track, these days there’s so much new stuff to try and hear but, it’s worth it, as there are still so many nuggets out there. Still some great mainstream pop tunes (hello Adele), and this despite the modern curse that is X F**t*r and the formulaic cynical pop tunes that result from it. Fortunately I can shut most of that codswallop out and concentrate on the good stuff. And what a lot there’s been eh?
The Black Keys (who aren’t so new I know) came out of nowhere towards the end of 2011 to make the monumental ‘Lonely Boy’ which could have been made pretty much anytime since 1970 but who cares, it’s magnificent.
Then there’s those great folky artists working away on the periphery, like The Felice Brothers (how great, how weird and how wonderful is ‘Fire At The Pagent’?) and Bill Callahan who gets better and better. ’America!’ is superb.
Then there’s what I’d broadly label dance-pop. The Rapture continue DFA’s amazing heritage and tradition. And Hot Chip’s Joe Godard made my favourite dance tune of the year.
Music is still getting bent out of shape by the likes of Suuns (and many, many, many more). I saw Suuns earlier this year and I’d say it was probably my gig of the year. Their album is stunning.
Rock n Roll still lives on too. I’ve mentioned The Black Keys but what about Yuck? I love Get Away. Mainly because it reminds me so much of Dinosaur Jr. But genius steals. Or something. And what about The Walkmen eh? Not sure why they don’t appear to get more recognition.
And pure pop-wise, Cults (who were the most disappointing live band I saw this year) are great on record (ask your parents yet again kids). When that post-Spector sound is done well it’s still sublime.
EDIT: Just mixed up my top 20 into a handy downloadable mix. Yep all 20 tracks in one gloriously gorgeous mixed up mess. I’ve thrown in a few effects, and generally dicked around, to make it a bit more idiosyncratic. So, have a listen and revel in some of the best tunes of 2011….
First impressions of the new album by The Black Keys are very positive. The opening three track salvo of - Lonely Boy - Dead and Gone - Gold On The Ceiling - left me breathless. It’s a singalong, punch the air in delight way to kick off the new record.
Glam slam, thank you ma’am.
Things ease of for track four - Little Black Submarines - or so it appears, but then halfway through even this more low key ballad explodes into a rocky beast of a tune.
And so it goes on - a 39 minute adrenaline rush of a record that harks back to my dirty, garage-blues favourites. Right now I love it, however…
….I’m a bit wary of this kind of record. The immediacy and accessibility might mean its charms are fleeting and I’ll be bored of it by Christmas.
That said, for now at least if feels like a breath of fresh air.
They’re each one long track. Personally, and for all kinds of reasons, I prefer to have them chopped up into the individual tracks so here’s links to a version that splits all the tracks - all tagged and ready to play on your iPod or whatever. Or you could burn a lovely CD of each mix. It’s up to you.
I was inspired by the amazing 'We Know Where The Time Goes' mix by The FLK. If you haven’t heard it then you should. It’s essential. The bastard love child of Cecil Sharp House and The KLF’s ‘Chill Out’.
Anyway, I basically chopped up ‘We Know Where The Time Goes’; added in a selection of my favourite folk, and folk-tinged, tunes; and mixed it all up into a heady folk brew.
Now I like a mix as much as the next human being. Actually I probably like a mix more than many. One of my all time favourites is The KLF’s seminal ‘Chill Out’. It’s about as good as it gets. On the off chance you’ve never heard it try to imagine a mythical night-time rail journey up the US Gulf Coast, from Texas into Louisiana, whilst Elvis Presley, Fleetwood Mac, Acker Bilk, and Tuvan throat singers, float in and out, in addition to numerous sound effects. Or better still just go and listen to it. You’ll thank me.
A few months ago a release by The FLK appeared. FLK is apparently text speak for FOLK. Yes that’s folk, perhaps the most interesting and beguiling music in the world. Especially those moments where it merges with psychedelia.
This mix is a wonderful exploration of the folk genre. Not just the folk genre though. It opens with (I think) one of the Copper Family talking before a snatch of All Around My Hat. In amongst the myriad samples I also heard Bauhaus’s ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ merged with Japan’s ‘Ghosts’. There’s much fun to be had playing spot the sample but the real pleasure for me was just listening to a really really inventive mix full of folk.
Now then why did I mention ‘Chill Out’? Well some people have suggested that this in fact a KLF release. It’s 23 years ago since they officially released anything and, at the time, they said they’d stay silent for 23 years. It’s also full of recognisable KLF tropes. Is it them? I doubt it. Does it matter? No. Is it a great mix? Oh yes.
What did Stephen Stills do that made some punk bands hate him so much?
It was all down to a series in Rolling Stone magazine called Rock Star Rate-A-Record. Simple concept: sit a musician down with a handful of current releases and let them give mini-reviews. Nothing illustrated the chasm between punk and the older rock establishment better than the Rate-A-Record session with Stills on 4th June 1977 :
Ramones - Sheena is a Punk Rocker
This is that punk shit everyone’s going nuts over? Sounds like four 6 year-olds picking up instruments for the first time. This sucks.
The Clash - White Riot
This is worse than the one you just played me. Whatever happened to singing? Is this some kind of pro-KKK thing? This is what we marched against back in the sixties!
Fleetwood Mac - Dreams
Now that’s more like it. This is a monster record by a great band. Listen to that groove my man Mick is laying down. Oh, Stevie, you are my number one gypsy goddess.
Sex Pistols - God Save the Queen
Johnny “Rotten” is right. What a crock of shit this band is. They think they’re dangerous? They’ve never seen Crosby when the burgers and beers run out.
The Eagles - Hotel California
Wow. This could be the best thing these cats have ever done. And that is saying something. Joe Walsh is killing it on that solo, too. A+
Patti Smith - Hey Joe
First question: is this a guy or a chick? Second question: How much do I have to pay him/her to never ruin another classic rock song again?
Foreigner - Feels Like the First Time
Now THIS is what the new rock and roll should sound like. The guitar is loud and dirty but also tasteful. And this guy can sing. Hey, Clash…school’s in session…and Foreigner is your teacher!
In the years since the great punk wars ended I’ve warmed to Stephen Stills and really like his 1970 solo album “Stephen Stills”. I can’t say I agree with his analysis of the punk classics above, but his comments do make me laugh.
Did you read the NME in the 1980s? Do you remember the compilation tapes they used to produce?
Now, though the wonders of the internet, you can relieve them all here.
This was one of the earliest I remember:
And of course the legendary C86:
This was the first one, which I can still remember clearly:
I’m looking forward to hearing these after so many years. I can’t remember when I got rid of all my cassettes but it must have been about 20 years ago. I had hundreds and hundreds.
Coincidentally a friend of mine, who I got back in touch with last week, was still lamenting the loss of one compilation I made him called ‘Surf’s Up’. He copied it to numerous friends who loved it. Ah, those were the days. All I can remember is that the first track was The KLF/JAMs ‘All You Need Is Love’.
Luke Haines celebrates scooping nigeyb’s album of year award
2. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful - upbeat Beasties magic. I’m a massive fan and this is right up to their usual standard. Great to have them back
Beastie Boys celebrate their runners up placing in nigeyb’s album of the year top ten
3. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
Worthy Merc Prize winner and how often can we say that?
4. Steve Mason and Dennis Bovell - Ghosts Outside
Dubbed up versh of Steve’s last album and yet works in its own right. Dubtastic.
5. Art Brut - Brilliant! Tragic!
I’m not sure they’ll ever top their wonderful debut but I’m glad they’re out there doing there thang and, well, it’s Art Brut innit? Went to a brilliant gig by them too.
6. King Creosote and Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine
A wonderful folky, ambienty marvel.
7. Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
2011 has been the year that I’ve properly woken up to the genius of Mogwai. Their set at End Of The Road will live long in my memory. “You’re Lionel Richie” is the song title of the year - and it lives up to the title’s promise too.
8. The Unthanks - Last
Folky loveliness. Again. Magical. Again.
9. The Waterboys - An Appointment with Mr Yeats
Never thought they’d top Fisherman’s Blues? Think again. OK, maybe it doesn’t top FB but it’s very, very good.
10. Half Man Half Biscuit - 90 Bisodol (Crimond)
Another excellent release from one of Britain’s most underrated bands. Yet more of their insight, wit and imagination. Half Man Half Biscuit say say more about the absurdities, frustrations and mundanities of life in modern Britain than any other band I know.
Other stuff I like includes the 2011 albums by The Fall, June Tabor & Oysterband, British Sea Power, Jonathan Wilson, Metronomy, The Vaccines, Wooden Shjips, Fleet Foxes, The Human League, Blancmange, The Walkmen, The Phoenix Foundation, Tom Waits, Wild Beasts, Sarabeth Tucek, Woods, Hollie Cook, The Black Keys, Magazine, Moon Duo, Laura Marling, Wooden Shjips, Fujiya & Miyagi, The Rapture, War On Drugs, YACHT, Suuns, The Field - and a few I’ve probably forgotten.
Last time I saw The Fall, at the End Of The Road Festival, they put in set that was the nearest I’ve seen them come to their Greatest Hits. By which I mean they played quite a few tracks that have already been recorded. During ’Bury Pts 1+3’ Mark E Smith turned up the bassist’s amp so the whole Garden Stage rumbled like the inside of Jah Shaka’s speakers.
MES seemed to be enjoying it too (so far as it’s ever possible to tell). After all these years it’s a miracle they can still be so great.
Here’s a photo what I took (standing a few rows back so not great quality)…
What will tomorrow night hold? The great thing is I just haven’t got a clue.
Just watched this stunning documentary by Martin Scorsese. At the time of writing it’s available to view on iPlayer.
I really, really enjoyed it. Three hours and forty minutes of George Harrison might sound like too much but the time flew by for me. The scale is massive. Childhood, The Beatles, George as a solo artist and all the key moments post-The Beatles….
- the success of All Things Must Pass,
- the Bangladesh concert,
- his dodgy 1974 tour,
- funding The Life Of Brian and forming Handmade Films,
- the Traveling Wilburys.
More significantly it gave me a really good feel for a man I knew very little about and I feel I got to know George the man. His faith, his spiritual quest, his friend and family. You really should watch it. Absolutely excellent. Get it on your Christmas list.
One of the best mixes I’ve ever heard. Made with a kaleidoscopic combination of original Psych, Rock, Folk, Children’s Records, Spoken Word Vinyl, Prog, and Instructional LPs. Apparently it took THE GAFF about 120 hours to create this mix and the good news is he’s working on the follow up - Beyond The Trip Beyond. Keep an eye on his Soundcloud page and his website.
As is often the way, thinking about Psychic TV, sent me back to a few of their tunes, which still sound pretty marvellous. That then inspired me to find out what Genesis is up to and I discovered that this film - The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye - has recently been made….
When Genesis met Lady Jaye in New York where she was working as a Dominatrix, it was love at first sight and the two became inseparable. Head over heels the pair began their “Pandrogyne” project and took medical steps to share their identity – with breast implants for Genesis and a nose job for Lady Jaye – among other tweaks.
And, for any fellow Brightonians, the documentary is being shown during the Brighton Film Festival on Monday 28 November at the Duke Of Yorks cinema. Trailer here.
I do keep mentioning the latest Luke Haines album. With good reason though. I have been thrilling to this album since buying it a few weeks ago. This is a review by Garry Mulholland - who is always worth reading. It’s the best review yet of my favourite album of 2011…
'9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early ’80s'
Ole Smokey is one of my all time favourite DJs and purveyors of fine Re-Edits. This is a spooky little mix he’s knocked up for Halloween. That said, remember, an Ole Smokey mix is not just for Halloween.
I must start by declaring that I am a huge admirer of the music of Luke Haines, and I have enjoyed all his incarnations - from The Auteurs, through to his solo work, via Baader Meinhof and Black Box Recorder. Another point to bear in mind is that I have an enormous affection for UK wrestling of the late 1970s and early 1980s. I was a part of the legion of small boys (and old ladies) who - in the 1970s and 1980s - thrilled to my wrestling heroes at 4 pm every Saturday on ITV’s World Of Sport. The mere mention of the name Kendo Nagasaki still provokes an involuntary glow of nostalgic pleasure.
So, with all that in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that I rate this album very highly. That said, I hope I’m also detached enough to recognise that - even by Luke’s high standards - this album is something special. It continues the trajectory set by Luke’s previous two solo releases (“Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop” and ”21st Century Man”). In common with “9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations…”, those records are full of well-crafted, melodic, witty, interesting pop songs. And that’s the bottom line, Luke’s songs get under my skin in a way that precious few other writers and performers achieve.
Luke being Luke, doesn’t merely produce a straightforward concept album. Nope. Many of the wrestling greats (take a bow Kendo Nagasaki and manager ”Gorgeous” George Gillette, Catweazle, ’Cry Baby’ Jim Breaks, Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy, Rollerball Rocco etc.) appear in both prosaic and psychedelic circumstances. Kendo Nagasaki writes a “Rock Opera in the Key of Existential Misery”; Big Daddy becomes besotted with a Casio VL Tone; Kendo Nagasaki watches TV whilst a treacherous plumber plans to reveal his identity; Rollerball Rocco regrets visiting Les Kellett’s greasy spoon cafe; and so on. It’s wonderful, and unquestionably my favourite album of 2011.
A knowledge of British Wrestling of the late 1970s and early 1980s certainly enhances my pleasure in this album, however Luke’s songwriting skills will ensure that there’s still plenty to enjoy for the casual listener. And on that note, anyone interested in 70s British Wrestling should get hold of ‘The Wrestling’ by Simon Garfield. A splendid book, and the perfect companion piece to this album.
Ok, let’s get one thing clear from the start. I love Adam Curtis. He’s one of those wonderful mavericks who consistently create thought provoking work. If you don’t know him, then I urge you to seek out his documentaries, and also to regularly visit his blog where you will discover a trove of stimulation and different perspectives.
"Everywhere on television today people hug and burst into tears. It happens in drama a lot - but it has completely taken over factual programmes too. It usually comes at the end when the characters finally realise that they should express their true feelings. And they do this by crying and hugging everyone in sight.
It is part of something much wider in modern society - the belief that one should aim to be “authentic”, and the way to do this, to become authentically yourself, is to learn to get in touch with your inner feelings and express them. If you button yourself up, have a stiff upper lip, and control your emotions then you are both inauthentic and somehow damaged as a human being.
Many factual TV programmes have become a central part of this belief system because they demonstrate in an intense and distilled form how to be a truly authentic person - how and when you should express your feelings. They are the modern guide to social etiquette.
I want to tell a brief history of the rise of the Hug on TV and also show some of the strange, odd heroic figures who held out against it.
But I also want to ask whether the TV hug has become oppressive and limiting.”
"So we’ve just come out of glut of Bank Holidays, bad news for me - can’t stand the amateurs clogging up my local parks and alehouses. But for you, for you hungry modernist, the bank holiday is a chance to hang with your all time idol of pop. Ding fucking dong, who’s that at the door dad? It’s only Paul Weller. That’s who. Right. The. Fuck. On.
Yep, the man known as the undisputed ‘Best Mod in Britain’ (Paul Weller) is standing outside your front door, and he wants to take you down to Brighton for a Bank Holiday ruck on the seafront and then on to an all nighter at some Locarno. Get your Parka on fucker, gulp down a load of purple hearts, take the Secret Affair album off the dansette, and jump astride your Vespa - you do not want to keep the ‘Best Mod in Britain’ waiting. You do not want to do that.
48 hours later, and you’re back at your awful home, you wave good bye to your new pals:
'Bye bye Phil Daniels and Leslie Ash, Bye Bye Bruce and Rick' you say sadly. Bruce Foxton and Rick Foxton, the Style Council's highly volatile identical twin sibling rhythm section, roar off on their stupid motorbikes. As does Phil Daniels and Leslie Ash. It's been a long weekend, what with all that fighting on the seafront, all that frothy coffee guzzling and all that frugging to the Shirelles and the Merton Parkas. But it's not over yet. Paul Weller wants to hang out with you a bit more, and he wants you to make him one of his favourite meals: Refried Beans with Salsa, and he wants you to serve it up to him so it looks like a 'mod target'. Christ's teeth - we got there in the end.”
Just caught up with this latest Mojo Filter Mixtape via AOR Disco.
Once again Mojo Filter proves why he’s one of my favourite DJ and Re-Editers. Eclectic, original and downright wonderful. The world’s a better place for mixes of this quality. Shine on Mr Filter. Shine on.
I had no idea - until a few minutes ago - that Bert Jansch had died. I had the pleasure of seeing him live at The Green Man Festival a few years ago. He was very wonderful. Farewell Bert - and thank you. RIP.
I am listening to a compilation called ‘The Ultimate John Barry’. It’s very good. I also own ‘Themeology’ (the one put together by Jonathan Ross) and ‘The Best of the EMI Years’. At this point I must fess up and explain that I am far from a John Barry expert but it strikes me that none of these compilations does the man justice.
For example ‘The Ultimate John Barry’ does not contain The Persuaders Theme. OK, I have a massive affection for the tune having grown up in the 1970s and defined my childhood Sundays by the unmissable double bill of The Big Match followed by The Persuaders - but it’s a great tune isn’t it?
Similarly these compilations seem to focus on the 1960s. I don’t know much about what followed apart from what I heard in the cinema (e.g Dances With Wolves, Indecent Proposal etc).
So here’s my question, what would you include in the genuinely ultimate John Barry best of compilation?
The Smiths soundtracked my mid 1980s. At the time, I lived with a Smiths fanatic who discovered them having seen them support The Fall at the Rock Garden, London in 1983. He corresponded with Morrissey during their early years, and diligently recorded each radio Session, therefore my indoctrination into the wonderful world of The Smiths was complete before they’d even released a record. The Smiths were, of course, completely wonderful. At the time they were a breath of fresh air and, in common with an extremely short list of artists, didn’t put a foot wrong during their far-too-short lifespan. Needless to say, I bought every album and every single on the day of release, and saw them live on many occasions. So, as you’ll realise, I am very familiar with these songs, love each and every one of them, and regard them as old friends.
That said, until yesterday - when my copy of this box set arrived - I only ever owned these recordings on vinyl. Each album has been remastered by Johnny Marr. I am not much of an audiophile, but the sound is great. The original production on the first album was a let down - and the new mix is the revelation here. It has been transformed. The bass and drums are now to the fore and it’s a much more satisfying listen and a big improvement. Hatful Of Hollow, the collection of BBC radio sessions, also sounds better - more vital and slightly beefier. I cannot discern any great difference on the other albums - suffice it to say, and you probably won’t need me to tell you this, they all still sound splendid. A wonderful, wonderful pop group the like of which only comes once in a generation.
The packaging was always important to the band and was another of the many factors that contributed to their excellence. I’m delighted to say that the each of the albums looks great - presented in a cardboard reproduction of the original release. The inner sleeves of the vinyl releases have been reproduced too which adds to the loveliness of the package. The free poster that came with Rank is even included.
This is the best £30.47 I’ve spent all year. That’s £3.81 per album. Whether you consider that good value may depend on whether you’ve already bought these albums on CD, but for this long-time fan it’s the bargain of the year. Come back to the old house. You’ll thank me.
The link above is to a review I wrote earlier of the new Half Man Half Biscuit album that was released on Monday 26 September 2011.
As I mention my favourite track is the final song that’s called “Rock And Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools”. I’d never come across the term Bad Wools before and wondered where it had come from. Thanks to the power of the internet and in particular this page, I was able to read about the strange and wonderful derivation of the term. And for what it’s worth, I’ve never watched Soccer AM.
OK then, because it does seem that “bad wools” needs some explanation.
First a bit about the Scouse term itself, and then the way (I am reliably informed) it is applied in this new song.
The internet and even some published books are full of crap about the origins of the Scouse term “woollyback” to refer to clueless outsiders. The term is not exclusive to Liverpool, incidentally, and has also been used in a very similar way in the North East. It is likely to originate from some or a combination or even all of the following: people from wool-producing areas; people bringing wool into the ports; people who wore sheepskin jackets; people with unkempt hair; people seen as “sheepshaggers”, hairy half-sheep, wide-eyed incomers there to be ‘fleeced’ as they passed through the port seeking work , or often on their way to a new life in the colonies or new world. Indeed, the term like a lot of Scouse-isms, like the word “Scouse” itself in fact, may well have originated at sea. Its first use may have been to refer to clueless, unkempt yokels amongst the crew and/or passengers.
The word has been around for a long, long time and does _not_ originate in any of the dock strikes, as some websites have it. Just because that’s the first time it came to wider attention, because it was “woollyback” labour from South Lancashire that was used to try to break the strikes, doesn’t mean that was its origin. Nor does it refer to wool left on dockers’ backs after carrying bales of wool. That would make the dockers themselves the woollybacks, which they weren’t.
In Liverpool it can refer geographically to people from Lancashire, people from the Wirral, Cheshire, Wales, etc. In Liverpool & Everton football circles it naturally came to refer to all non-Scouse supporters, even those like me who were born within a few miles of the ground.
“Woollyback” was abbreviated to “Woolly” and then just “Wool”.
These abbreviations became especially common in the aforementioned football circles. Wools were always objects of scorn for their fashion sense, which became symbolic of their general cluelessness about football. As the late 70s terrace song, still being sung today on the coaches to away matches, puts it:
“There’s a woolly over there (over there)
And he’s wearing brown Airwear (brown Airwear)
With a 3-star jumper halfway up his back,
He’s a f*ckin’ woollyback (woollyback)”
It was in the late 70s and early 80s that huge numbers of “Wools” from outside really started to jump on the LFC and EFC bandwagons, engendering hostility in some circles. But of course the reasonable view was that it was about “attitude not accent”, a phrase coined by one of the fanzine writers in one of the classic fanzines like The End or Everton’s When Skies Are Grey (WSAG) I think. Thus we gradually acquired the coinages “good wools” (people from outside town who get the culture of the club they claim to support) and “bad wools” (people who don’t, and who are an embarrassment).
These terms are more often that not still used geographically, but “bad wool behaviour” is something that is independent of geography. A surprising number of Scousers still have crap trainers, despite all the advantages of the local education system and some fine retail outlets offering reasonable prices; some Scousers can sometimes wear the latest horrible shiny football shirts over jumpers; a few Scousers have even been heard to get carried away and chant the dismal, generic Soccer AM “Who are Ya?” chant; one or two have perhaps got carried away and let their kids wear face-paint at cup finals; some of them get very excited about international football tournaments and do embarrassing things with national paraphernalia. There are even a few Scousers who adopt Woolly habits and refer to certain opposition teams as “The Scum”. Equally there many out-of-town supporters who would not do any such embarrassing things and are a credit to the fanbase. The famous “Norwegian Wools” flag you see at all Liverpool’s European away matches is welcomed because of its self-deprecating humour, whereas if a flag went up with let’s say “Chesterfield Reds on Tour”, it would soon meet a sticky end. Bad wool behaviour to make an embarrassing flag like that. Incidentally Liverpool supporters consider it very bad wool behaviour to write your club’s name on a national flag.
Clearly Nigel Blackwell is not using the term geographically. For a start, in a geographical sense, he is to many Scousers a “wool” himself, and his beloved Tranmere Rovers would be seen by many Scousers as a “woollyback” club (though I have also heard some of Tranmere’s finest and hardest use it ironically against Wrexham or Chester supporters). And if that wasn’t clear, well he told me last week that “as you know, our generation’s idea of a ‘wool’ is not a geographical notion in any way” and that “the biggest baddest wool I know is from [he specified a well-known area of central] Liverpool”. He also referred to “bad Wools who’ve just discovered Johnny Cash”, spreading the theme to another track off the new album.
So in his new song it refers to people like up-and-coming rock and pop stars who jump on the football bandwagon without a clue. They appear, for example, on the Soccer AM sofa and spout shite about “footy” to show how cool they are. In one live version of ‘A Country Practice’ a couple of years back, Nigel summed up his feelings on the matter as he screwed up his eyes and ranted as follows:
“Pop groups on the Saturday morning couch, yawning. Bad wools in the Luther Blissett Stand*. Bands on Soccer AM being asked “Well, you come from Southend do you ever get down to Roots Hall much ?” and they just look to the side to the TV chef, and they look at Razor Ruddock, but Razor Ruddock ain’t gonna help you now boys.
BAND: Yeah well there’s four of us in the band and one doesn’t like football. They support Manchester and Liverpool, and I errm, support Arsenal and Chelsea. Here’s our latest single.
This scenario is remarkably similar to the one described in the sample verse of the new song. Bad wools in this context = clueless fools, largely but not exclusively from the places like the home counties, largely middle class, with no idea of how to disguise their ignorance of real, traditional football culture at all gracefully.
* I hasten to add that I myself have only ever caught a couple of editions of the execrable excuse for a TV show ‘Soccer AM’, but for those unaware: ‘The Luther Blissett Stand’ is a particularly attention-seeking section of the audience of that particular Saturday morning show called on to represent ‘their’ club, all clad in their horrible shiny overpriced replica shirts of course. They have to take part in certain embarrassing challenges, especially embarrassing to other supporters of their own club, obviously. I am told that Nigel’s new song is not necessarily to be seen as an attack on Soccer AM itself, so much as the clueless fools who go on it, and especially those kinds of rock groups. The song then goes on to broaden the scope of its satire about clueless behaviour in rock circles.
What is really sad is that the Sky generation of kids are taking their example from these people and generally following the creeping shiny Americanisation of our game.
Your humble servant,
PS – See also the similar Scouse word ‘beauts’, meaning clueless idiots, whether they are local or not. Sometimes used for posh idiots, fresh-faced bosses who haven’t got a clue, etc. A word Nigel Blackwell has also used on stage recently. About Sebastian Coe, I believe.
Yes, the new HMHB album is out today. Let joy be unconfined.
As The Quietus has it: “For insight, wit and imagination, Half Man Half Biscuit are currently peerless. Sharp as The Fall, cackling through fag-smoke at earnest 80s positivity; jarring as The Kinks’ sardonic kitchen-sink palaver in the middle of a Swinging London youth-and-beauty cult. Over the past 20 years they’ve written fifty or sixty songs as smart, as clear-sighted and articulate as pretty much any pop music, ever (‘Tommy Walsh’s Eco House’, a rumbling squib from the new LP 90 Bisodol (Crimond), is a panic of fast-cut imagery which can hold its own with ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ for wordplay, and for paranoia at the pitch of farce). These songs may not be profound - as though more than a fistful of songs ever were - but the best of them say so much about what Britain has become, about frustrations and disappointments, and about life on the losing side of the endless war against intelligence, they’re as close to “important” as pop music gets, now it too has been subsumed into the mulch of modern living.”
Get yourself down to your nearest Woolwo… Our Pri… Virg… HM… ah never mind….
I wrote a a few thoughts in March. Here’s my latest thoughts on how 2011 is shaping up new music-wise. I can’t pretend to listen to that much new music, there’s just far too much, but I have come across some rather wonderful stuff, so - in no particular order - here’s what I’m enjoying….