Friday, August 9, 2019

Cutlery that cuts: The First Cut is the deepest

purchase [ P.P. Arnold's The First Cut]

Well ... actually, no intent on the part of the moderator to incite or encourage violence. On the other hand, in my note to SMM bloggers, I pointed out that most of the initial round of posts were focused on spoons - as opposed to the alternative forks and knives. (Neglected to mention sporks!) So ... either forks (possibly as ... in the road ... ) or, of course, cutlery of the cutting kind.

There are a couple of note-worthy versions of <The First Cut is the Deepest>, but the first that caught my attention was from Cat Stevens. Actually, it was Tea for the Tillerman that turned me on to Cat Stevens (later Yusuf Islam) and it was only after the hits from Tea for the Tillerman that I went backwards and forwards to catch some of his other work - including, belatedly, The First Cut.
Although his version pre-dates most of the equally well-known renditions by Rod Stewart and Sheryl Crowe, it isn't particularly well-known that the first released version is from P.P. Arnold (released just before Stevens' own version).

Looking at the Cat Stevens official version, I find myself considering the roads he has been down. I trust he still likes dogs.

The song carries a poignant story line: you never forget your first love-loss. Probably true, and even shrinks of today with all their research and methods can't say for sure if it's true or not, right?
Not much here in the way of blood and gore of the type perpetrated by knives and similar blades. Sorry. 

In the end, the most famous version of the song appears to be the Rod Stewart version, included on his 1976 "Definitive Rod Stewart" and later releases.



Thursday, August 8, 2019


Week 3 of cutlery, the title now revealing the true needs of our admin guy: he didn't want posts about the transmission of food from plate to mouth, he wanted gore, guts and gristle, spoons eviscerating eyes, forks tining tongues and knives, well, knives carving, cutting, stabbing, slashing. I think.

This hit the spot? Buoyed by my recent referencing them here, I thought it not unreasonable to again revisit cartoon punksters, the Damned. The featured song, to my mind epitomises the glory and spirit of punk, a noisy, rudimentary canter through a couple of chords, short and to the point, waxing lyrically, if not that melodiously, about anything other than the moon in June. And, in the case of the Damned, more with a broad grin and a swagger than the sneer and spit of the Sex Pistols. OK, maybe not the peak cut from their career, but unarguably a synopsis of their sound and modus operandi. Mudhoney certainly thought so.

The Damned were in the right place and at the right time, London, the mid 1970s, all the original members part of the evolving scene that smashed, if but briefly, the reign of the older rock pantheon. Dave Vanian, vocals, Captain Sensible, bass, and Rat Scabies, drums, had performed together, along with future Pretender in chief, Chrissie Hynde, in the subtly entitled 'Masters of the Back Side'. Sadly, or perhaps for the best, no recordings were ever made, let alone live gigs performed. Brian James, the guitarist, had been in 'London SS', another not quite ever making it band, again with other alumni later to make names for themselves elsewhere, as members of the Clash and Generation X. (This I can't resist, Brian James then, the only one with the name his mother called him, right? Wrong, real name Brian Robertson, engaging possible confusion with this fella. Or worse.)

New Rose
So, 'New Rose', October '76, their first single and, more momentously, THE first UK punk single, beating the Sex Pistols to it by a week or five, credit being due to the savvy chutzpah of their record label, 'Stiff', and the no-nonsense, get on with it approach of then house producer, Nick Lowe. The parent album, 'Damned Damned Damned', swiftly following, it too the first in the field, the band joining the Pistols of the infamous 'Anarchy' tour of more cancellations than performances. A 2nd album, 'Music For Pleasure', followed hot on it's heels, adding 2nd guitarist, Lu Edmonds, currently in John Lydon's PiL. This wasn't any huge success and the band disintegrated.

Three years they were back, minus James and Edmonds, Sensible switching to guitar, adding aussie ex-Saint, Algy Ward on bass. As punk begat new wave, so the tone mellowed slightly, with cover versions appearing perhaps a little more necessarily, James having largely written the first 2 albums.

White Rabbit
In fact, if anything, as Vanian's image became increasingly vampyresque, it was the Goths to whom they were leaning. This became more overt as they moved forward, shedding and acquiring new bassists and additional keyboards along the way. Sensible gained a sudden unexpected UK number 1 hit single, 'Happy Talk', maintaining dual band and solo careers for a while, until he elected to leave the group, in 1984. This actually gave the band a boost, whilst he never quite stood the trajectory he had found himself on.

Grimly Fiendish
This song is, I feel, very redolent of Syd Barrett, and clearly fits in with the band trying, and failing, for their 2nd LP, to engage him as producer. (Erstwhile Pink Floyd bandmate Nick Mason did it instead.) Meanwhile, despite a top 3 single and their version of Alone Again Or, the band again fell apart in 1987. A short lived version built around residual duo, Vanian and Scabies, lurched into gear in the mid '90s, before they too fell out with each other. Then there was one.

In 1997 Captain Sensible and Vanian decided to relaunch the b(r)and, Sensible moving up to guitar, spending the next decade with various accomplices and little success. However, in the flurry of interest around the 30th anniversary of Punk, enthusiasm was re-awakened, together with back to back touring, and suddenly, in 2008, they were everywhere. In 2015 a documentary, 'Don't You Wish we Were Dead', was made, with a small clip here. It is worth the whole watch, if you can find it.

Evil Spirits
So, here we are, 2019, and, again, it is anniversaries that are keeping the Damned  extant. With a crowd-funded 2018 album,'Evil Spirits', produced by Tony Visconti, and a tour of 1979's 'Machine Gun Ettiquette' doing the rounds, it is, indeed, neat, neat, neat.

Damned if you don't.....