Thursday, November 18, 2021

Break/Broken: Convoy


purchase [  The Best of CW McCall ]

I would not have thought so, but apparently trucker CB radio is still a thing - even in this day of digital phones that do the same and more than Citizens Band radio. One source of internet information claims that CB use is fading. Another says that 90% of professional drivers call it a critical tool with about 6 million CB radios still in use in the US.

CB culture of the 1970s developed its own language, including the classic <Break> or sometimes <Breaker>: the code to interrupt all other comms on a channel and insert one's own message atop all others. A number of songs and movies dealt with the American fascination with trucker issues, many related to protests over the 55 MPH speed limit imposed to deal with rising oil prices during the 1973 energy crisis.

We got Smokey and the Bandit (Burt Reynolds), Steel Cowboy (James Brolin) and Over the Top (Sylvester Stallone). We got On the Road Again (Willie Nelson), Truck Driving Man (Buck Owen) and CW McCall's 1975 top of the charts hit Convoy:

The song starts, appropriately for our purposes with "breaker one-nine" and is peppered throughout with trucker-speak that might send you searching for a translation tool. The video here is scenes from the film of the same name based on the story in the song. IMDB rates the film a 6.3/10 with the comment "... the shallowest of Sam Peckinpah's films, but by no means the worst." Wikipedia says it was the most commercially successful of his films. C.W. McCall wrote a new version with "saltier" lyrics specifically for the film. Other musicians in the film's soundtrack include a veritable who's who of country: Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers and Doc Watson. There's also various other - some politically incorrect - versions of the song

Wednesday, November 17, 2021


If I get this in before a 'heart', I'll be surprised, the sentimental old buzzards that we all are, over here at SMS, but I'll have ago, knowing the thrill we all get from smashing a piano. No? Never done it? But you wan't to, don't you. Can you imagine the pure recidivist pleasure, the crash, the chords, the cacophony? We've all seen it done, surely?

Well, that was refreshing. Given custom and practice, what we now need is some music. Handily one Frank Turner has thoughtfully written a song on the subject, or about the post-traumatic debris. Wondering, perhaps, whether the piano is a metaphor for something else, the lyric certainly gives that suggestion. A pretty good song, isn't it, folk in its structure and melody, his voice in the unstructured school of similar observationalists like Billy Bragg. As the rhythm section come crashing in, the whole mood changes, into a bit of perfect and powerful 21st century pop music, indelibly English.

Broken Piano (2013)

I'll bet this is Carter's first appearance in these pages. He is an artist I have come to quite like these recent years, as he has gradually fought his way out of anonymous punky thrashes into a songwriter of some nuance. He has had a far from usual trajectory: old Etonians are more likely to end up running the country than topping the bill at medium sized music festivals; Eton College is the ultimate toff school in the country, a term there costing the price of a small family car, even before all the add-ons. Like the school uniform. Given the standard expectation for any self-respecting rocker to disguise their background, with

Joe Strummer and Shane McGowan each preferring folk forgot their sojourns at similar, if ever so slightly less elite institutions, the average public (as we call our private) school boy has to affect rough and tough back street upbringing to make it in the music biz. An Eton accent must have decimated credibility at the Roxy in 1975, or whenever. Indeed, the number of Old Etonians in the annals of popular music are relatively small. I couldn't find any, if you exclude Prince William, a contemporary of Turner, who is said to be quite the demon axe shredder. (I lied; he isn't.) But let's move on, Turner must be as sick as anyone by this concentration of his background. But, before doing so, given Eton has also a reputation as a finishing school for posh thick, Boris Johnson and that ilk, Turner actually completed his studies and then attended Mick Jaggers's old uni, the London School of Economics.

The Half-Life of Kissing/Kneejerk (2001)

A metalhead by choice in his teens, Iron Maiden* were his go-to band. And, surprise, surprise, like every other school or college, even Eton had its own band, Kneejerk, subsequently described as short-lived. From then he moved onto the post-hardcore (no, me neither) London band Million Dead. Around the time that band was appreciating 'irreconcilable differences', we should be grateful Turner caught hold of a cassette version of Bruce Springsteen's 'Nebraska'. This led to his style becoming more measured, with the introduction of melody, even if the words remained as vitriolic. Two well received albums under his name came out in the middle to late noughties, ahead of relative breakthrough, with 2009's 'Poetry of the Deed', bolstered by his relentless touring tendencies, becoming a summer festival staple across the realm of folk, roots, rock and alternative. His next move was to strip back further into a near acoustic mode, for 'England Keep My Bones'. Mind you, he kept his hardcore hand in, simultaneous touring with the unfortunately named Möngöl Horde. Switching allegiances between how much electricity he was needing to perform, The featured song for this piece comes from 2013's 'Tape Deck Heart', which, yes, was his break-up album, after the demise of a longterm relationship, making my suspicions above seem correct.

Live Fast, Die Old (2009)

I Still Believe (2012)

Keeping his b(r)and alive, a stream of EPS and compilations followed, until 2015's 'Positive Songs For Negative People', which drew some criticisms of being blander and more platitudinous lyrically, but was just as reassuringly and rousingly lively in its anthemic choruses. By now he was a chart regular, the album attaining a 2 in its week of domestic release, gaining also some US traction, 69 on the Billboard 

The Next Storm (2015)

chart. I personally didn't get on board until 2019's 'No Man's Land', a concept album, the subject matter and songs referring to powerful women, which included, in the final track, a tribute to his mother. Before, during and since he has maintained his hectic touring schedule, both solo and with the Sleeping Souls, the constant crew of musicians with him since 2006. Having discovered his work, I have delved back into his catalogue and, covid willing, he is one of the first acts I plan to see live when normal service fully resumes, this being something I have had yet to manage.

Rosemary Jane (2019)

Mindful I have strayed far from the theme, outwith the sole song offered, please accept the below as some slight recompense, being a revisioned version, 5 years on, from 2018's 'Songbook'.

Broken Piano (2018)

*Little known fact, in 2014 Turner appeared as a guest on BBC's Celebrity Mastermind, a special edition of the general knowledge quiz, wherein contestants start with a specialist round of questions. Turner chose Iron Maiden as his subject. And won!

To be perfectly Frank.....

Monday, November 15, 2021

Candy: Candy Says


Purchase [ Velvet Underground ]

Star Maker Machine has been around Halloween-themed things before (including Trick or Treat back in 2018), at which time I wrote about the self-same first idea that came to mind this time around: Grateful Dead's <Candyman>.

OK, so .. back to the drawing board. Guess that song meant (still means) a lot to me since it keeps coming to mind. But wait, a little digging shows that the Four Tops had something similar:

Then again, after another look, I see a song that (somewhat surprisingly) appears not to have ever appeared here at SMM - and it is one that I used to listento and appreciate, for the Veklvet Underground's XXX album:

<Candy Says> is a quintessential Velvet Underground piece: understated, but harmonious/melodic. it must be because of these attributes [understated foremost] that the band never achieved top-of-the-charts status: IMHO the song is just about perfect, but it would never be a "hit" (too laid back?)

Never really got into the darkness below Velvet Underground myself - but I always appreciated that side of the spectrum. The same for Lou Reed as well - music needs people like this to move on, but too dark and outre for me most of the time.

That said, Wiki tells us the song is written in the voice if a transgender woman - way back in 69 - outta time/outta space