Saturday, June 15, 2019


Woah, this might cause some ruffles, SMM being often/usually/mostly a rap and hip-hop free zone, with the name above capable of causing resonating ripples of fear amongst our faithful readership. (Hi, Mom!) Panic not, whilst I have heard of the Bobby Valentino, mainly through search engine malarkey, I am unfamiliar with his body of work. And I am told body is the correct word. In the plural. O, go on, then....... 

I refer to the other Bobby Valentino. I dare say you may have seen him, on videos, perhaps more often than necessarily known who he is. A staple on the UK scene for 30 odd years, he has popped up on many a bands output, whenever violin is required to give some additional flavour. Thus, if you remember the the Bluebells, Style Council, Big Country and the Christians, whenever you hear fiddle, chances are it's him. He has also appeared with artists as diverse as Tom Petty and Mark Knopfler. The brother of notable arranger and member of the Art of Noise, Ann Dudley, he is probably best known for his part in the UK top 10 single, 'Young at Heart', by the Bluebells, from which he belatedly received a writing credit, having successfully convinced a judge of the integral part of his violin part. Used extensively in a VW worldwide advert, which gave an even more successful return hit, this income has probably kept him in 'tache wax and hair oil ever since.        


Yes, it is also his distinctive appearance, a Clark Gable lookalike, that has arguably as much kept him in the limelight as his playing, although, to be fair, he is no slouch, able also on guitar and mandolin, posessing a  delightful baritone croon. I have caught a fair amount of his lesser known and more full-time musical activities, being an acknowledged fan of pedal-steel maestro and maverick, B.J. Cole. Valentino and Cole have had a long running involvement together, first as members of Hank Wangford, the singing gynaecologist's band(s), secondly in their own intermittent country-rock band, Los Pistoleros, with ex-Graham Parker and the Rumour guitarist, Martin Belmont. They are an absolute hoot live, and still  gig from time to time, other commitments willing. Valentino has also made a trio of solo recordings, or perhaps the same one thrice, as many of the songs are duplicated across each of them, as well as on Pistoleros recordings. I'll forgive him for this as I am a fan. He has also been a longterm occasional member of another favourite band of mine, The Men They Couldn't Hang, featured here. In fact, I have just bought a ticket for a duo gig, Valentino with Phil 'Swill' Odgers, one of the lead singers/writers of said band.

As an afterword, perhaps buoyed by his earlier success, he took the Bobby Valentino I haven't discussed to court, enforcing the once named Bobby Williams to change his stage name to Bobby V. (I wonder what this fella would have had to say about that?)

You're in the groove, Jackson, is his best record!

Thursday, June 13, 2019


So which Jones do you want? Mick, Mick(e)y, Mike or Michael? And which do you expect?
Let's be honest, Jones isn't such an unusual name, to the extent potential siblings David and Thomas may turn up in related contributions, but with Jones, M, we really are spoilt for choice. But I am not going to touch on the Micks of that ilk, too obvious, so how about a brace of Mickys, additional e optional.

I don't know so much about Mickey Jones beyond his being the drummer in the Dylan goes electric tour of 1966. Yup, me too, I had always assumed that Levon Helm had that seat, but he had quit the transitional Hawks --> Band shortly beforehand. Jones, having been drumming for other giants of the counter culture like Trini Lopez, was hired, staying until the fabled motorbike crash that took Dylan off the boards for a while. Jones took the opportunity for a change in career, via a short spell with Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, yes, playing on that song. He then spent the remainder of his career playing bit parts in films memorable and unmemorable, playing characters credited and uncredited, like 'Burly Miner' in 'Total Recall' and 'Mechanic' in 'National Lampoon's Vacation'.

Micky Jones, however, was possibly instrumental in one of the best and most long-standing Jam bands these islands have produced, and certainly the best from Wales, being that principalities version of the Grateful Dead. What do you mean you have never heard of Man?

Man formed out of the ashes of a not entirely unsuccessful 60s band, the Bystanders, who had some minor chart success and were regulars on the radio, when 'needle time' restrictions required there to be bands willing to play live, often performing cover versions of chart hits. However as the dawn of the 70s approached, a core of that band, principally Micky Jones, on guitar and vocals, wished to try a new direction, having been vitalised by some of the music outpouring fro the West Coast of the U.S, Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Dead, guitar bands with well-honed improvisational skills, able to freewheel a 3 minute LP track into a 10 -20 minute live behemoth, sometimes longer. Initially more popular in mainland Europe, particularly Germany, the style of gigging there, involving multiple sets over a single evening, on successive nights, as a 'residency', ring any bells,  assuring their jamming competencies were put to the test. A test they passed and surpassed. A regular line-up was never quite achievable, as Jones apart, there seemed almost a revolving door policy on several members, leaving or being sacked and being recruited on several occasions. One famous member was Deke Leonard, known in his own right, left and joined again on at least 4 occasions. Perhaps best known, in his later, sometimes contemporaneous bands, was drummer Terry Williams, later of Rockpile and Dire Straits.There always seemed someone available, old or new, able to dep at moments notice, their myriad live recordings bearing witness to an astonishing array of recruits, including one John Cipollina, erstwhile member of Quicksilver Messenger Service, a case of influence joining influencee. I got to hear the band at their peak period, the early 70s, during which the most characteristic studio recordings were made. 'Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day' exemplifies both their style and their attitude. Coming out in 1972, this record had 2 tracks on each side, each a free wheeling extemporisation around fairly simple themes. Live, of course, only the stag curfew held any limit. It was no secret they were fans of the weed, their best known song, 'Bananas', being a celebration, in its short vocal interlude, to cannabis sativa and why. The album also gives a good potted history of Welsh rock which, despite his having been in one of his 'between' (sacked) periods, was penned by Leonard.

                                                                                                   Bananas 1972

Between 1977 and 1983 the band retired itself, the flavour of the day no longer being for long hair, dope and guitar solos. But you can't keep a good man (ouch, sorry) down and they lurched back into life, still very much under the de facto leadership of Micky Jones. Recruiting, yet again, Leonard/ also on guitar, and longterm bassist Martin Ace, together with an only once changing drummer, this line-up lasted an astonishing 9 years, ahead of then recruiting a keyboard player back into the fold. Health issues then began to arise. Jones developed signs of a brain tumour in 2002, having to leave for treatment. Intriguingly, given the title of this piece, his place was taken by his son, George. Clearly not that one. When Jones Sr. returned, Leonard again left, so George stayed on. A further deterioration meant another absence, with Martin Ace's son, Josh, replacing Micky, until the band eventually split, in 2006. Micky Jones had further tumours and eventually died as a result, in 2010. Leonard had a number of strokes and died in 2017. Various other band members have also died, often of respiratory related conditions such as lung cancer or emphysema, should all that heavy duty spliffage leave you to draw any conclusions. End of the story?

Of course not! Man continue to play, now under the helm of last man standing Martin Ace, along with his son, and Micky's son, the latter 2 having spent a spell playing under the 'Son of Man' name, ahead of becoming absorbed back into the mothership. Sort of son is the father of the man, man!

                                                                                                   Bananas 2017

Here, should this extraordinary history entice, is a greater historical detail, from the band's own site. Meanwhile, as the band have always said, quite whatever it means, keep on crinting!!!

I like to eat bananas
'Cos they got no bones
I like marijuana
'Cos it gets me stoned

Be good!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Same Name/Different Artist: Ian M(a)cDonald

King Crimson: The Court of the Crimson King
[purchase In The Court of the Crimson King]
Fairport Convention: Time Will Show The Wiser
[purchase Fairport Convention]
Quiet Sun: Rongwrong
[purchase Mainstream]

Surprisingly, there are a few Ian McDonalds or MacDonalds who are prominent in British music, although maybe it isn’t all that surprising, since I bet it is a pretty common name over there (and here, for that matter, according to Google). And there are some connections among them. So, you need to pay close attention here, or you might get lost.

Let’s start with multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald, born in 1946 in Osterly, England, best known for his woodwind playing. This McDonald participated in sessions in 1968 with Michael and Peter Giles, Robert Fripp and McDonald’s then-girlfriend, Judy Dyble (who had recently been replaced in Fairport Convention by Sandy Denny). After some personnel shifting, the nucleus of Fripp, Michael Giles and McDonald, along with Greg Lake, became King Crimson, releasing the classic In The Court of the Crimson King. He left the band after that record along with percussionist Michael Giles, and recorded an album as McDonald and Giles (although Giles also appeared on King Crimson’s second album as a session musician).

McDonald became a session musician playing on, among other songs, T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong,” before guesting on King Crimson’s great Red album, with plans to rejoin the band, until Fripp (temporarily) disbanded it. Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, he became a founding member of Foreigner (with one of the Mick Joneses), forcing me to mention that execrable band (Note—it is hard to type while holding your nose).

Thereafter, he was a member of the 21st Century Schizoid Band, essentially a Crimson cover band featuring mostly former (and future) members of King Crimson, has backed a number of other musicians, including former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, former King Crimson singer/bassist John Wetton, Dyble, and others, and has guested with Asia.

Moving on to Ian Matthews MacDonald, also born in 1946 (9 days before the guy above), in the delightfully named Barton-upon Humber, England, although he later moved to the not delightfully named Scunthorpe. In 1967, this MacDonald was recruited to join Fairport Convention, and sang on their first two albums, the first of which included Judy Dyble. At some point, he changed his name to Ian Matthews, to avoid confusion with the King Crimson McDonald. When Fairport Convention began to move away from American folk/rock music and toward British folk, Ian found himself not invited to recording sessions, and quit/was fired before the release of Fairport’s great Unhalfbricking album.

Matthews then formed Matthews’ Southern Comfort, an essentially Americana album, initially featuring a number of members of Fairport and their circle—his second album spawned a hit cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” After that, he was in and out of various bands and released solo albums with very occasional commercial success, and changed the spelling of his first name to Iain.

British music critic Ian MacCormick changed his name to Ian MacDonald and is best known for a book, Revolution in the Head, a critical history of the Beatles. But this MacDonald was also a musician, providing lyrics to the band Quiet Sun, which featured his brother Bill MacCormick and future Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera. He sang backup on Quiet Sun’s excellent “reunion” album Mainstream. Maybe he is on this song. Sadly, he committed suicide in 2003 after suffering for years with depression.

There’s also an American actor named Ian MacDonald (born Ulva Pippy in 1914), possibly best known as villain Frank Miller in High Noon (although in 1949’s Come to the Stable, he played Mr. Matthews). I have no idea if his character’s first name was Ian, or Iain, for that matter.