Down With Kurt Cobain

Down With Kurt Cobain By Andy Royston Montage of Heck, a documentary film about the rock star Kurt Cobain, begins and ends with film of an adorable little boy, aged around eighteen months old. The film’s executive producer, Kurt’s daughter Frances Bean, was around the same age when her father was found dead at his Seattle home. He’d taken his own life. As a viewer one is left to contemplate the nature of...

Read More

Goodbye Chuck Berry

To mark the passing of rock-n-roll legend Chuck Berry, Andy Royston takes another listen to the man’s first big hit. It was a spring day in Chicago’s South Side, just off 47th St, then the home of the blues. Some guy up from St. Louis walked in the door on a mission to see Leonard Chess, owner of Chess Records to see if he could make a deal. His name? Chuck Berry. The night before Berry had been watching Muddy Waters at...

Read More

Don De Lion – Don Drummond and the Skatalites

Andy Royston takes another listen to one of Jamaica’s pioneer musicians and the scandal that shook the music. Extrovert, eccentric and self-taught Don Drummond’s trombone style has an earthiness and songlike quality that makes it immediately identifiable. His melodies are so simple, so perfectly constructed and memorable. Don Drummond was able to channel emotions from gentility to absolute rage through his music with as...

Read More

Lou Reed: A True Transformer

Written on October 27, 2013 I learned, just now, that Lou died today. I never met him or even saw him perform. But in so many small ways he made my life bigger and brighter and sharper and more inspirational. I was just eleven years old and living in a small Yorkshire village miles from Lou’s great New York City. He opened my eyes to a new world. It took just one song –  Walk On The Wild Side – to opened my ears to...

Read More

Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti

42 Years Ago – Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti At 4pm every weekday evening the parade across the fields began. The schoolkids from the village south of town would walk the two miles down into the hill, past the burned out coal mine and up the other side. In age they ranged from 11 to 18; all in school uniforms of black,gray and navy blue, with a hint of the fashions of the day. In February 1975 Maggie Thatcher had been...

Read More

Under the Covers: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Under the Covers: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow Andy Royston takes a listen to Carole King’s delightful song Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, and the different ways it has been covered through the years. The songs of Goffin and King are superb examples of the song writing craft of the Sixties. Finely honed to meet the demands of the clients who commissioned them, and written with the requirements of AM radio always firmly in...

Read More

The Cramps – Poison Ivy’s Rockin’ Sound

The first I heard of The Cramps was on late night radio. The DJ on some fading pirate station was playing a massive reverb filled swamp punk number called Under The Wire, a paean to dirty phone calls. It was simultaneously subversive and hilarious. The sound was deeply familiar but disturbing and wild as if from another era. A forbidden planet. A monster from outer space. It had as much to do with old surfer music like Duane Eddy and...

Read More

Allen Toussaint: Six of the Best

Six of the Best: Allen Toussaint. Andy Royston picks a half dozen favorite songs by the late New Orleans composer, pianist and producer Allen Toussaint. Toussaint is New Orleans music’s renaissance man, the golden boy in the golden age of rhythm and blues. Keith Spera Groove Interrupted: Loss, Renewal, and the Music of New Orleans “I have never doubted that Allen was a prince in a thin disguise” Elvis Costello...

Read More

Slim Gaillard

It was at a free concert on London’s South Bank; one of the many events put on by the soon-to-be-abolished Greater London Council. The open air event was held in Jubilee Gardens, where the London Eye is situated today. I’d shown up with friends to cheer on the likes of Billy Bragg and Eddy Grant, but it was an amazing old feller in a beret and a wild beard grooving away on piano that caught the imagination. I don’t...

Read More

Jimmy Buffett – The Road to Key West

After a year in Nashville, it was becoming clear things were not working out. Jimmy Buffett had moved to Nashville in late ’69 with a new wife and a promise of a music deal, but after a year it was falling apart. Out of work, his marriage already failing, his touring band breaking up within weeks… Things weren’t good. People were talking him up well enough. A local writer said “Jimmy’s music isn’t...

Read More

Fearless – Taylor Swift

Long before the fame and the glory and the VMA glamour turned her into the big superstar we know there was this honest-to-goodness teen talent. One look at this fair young swan and you know she was about to take off and really fly to the stars… On that video, though she was maybe 18, sitting with her buddies in a tour bus and doing a live spot for an Oregon country radio station.The kind of radio station you pick up on that long...

Read More

Ace of Bass: Jaco Pastorius

Andy Royston looks at home town connections to the world’s finest bass player, Jaco Pastorius. Jaco Pastorius is one of the great music teachers of all times, aside from just being an awesome musician, and a great catalyst. He’s kicked us all into gear. He’s directly responsible for any growth that’s perceptible in me. Joni Mitchell – In Her Own Words “Music is in the air; it’s my job to pull...

Read More

Bjork’s Vulnicura: An Emotional Release

I was one of the first to turn on to Bjork’s extraordinary solo talent. And I mean this literally – I was listening to her first album ‘Debut’ several months before its official release. Working on the fringes of the British music scene it was not unusual to find oneself holding pre-press or advanced copies of albums before public release. I’d written a good few music reviews for listings magazines and...

Read More

Joni and Jaco

Andy Royston takes a look how an unexpected musical collaboration – between folk singer Joni Mitchell and electric jazz genius Jaco Pastorius – created their finest music. He was an innovator. He was changing the bottom end of the time, and he knew it.  Joni Mitchell – Musician Magazine  It’s all in the hands; in order to get that sound, you have to know exactly where to touch the strings, exactly how much pressure...

Read More

Taking The Rap – When Broward got Nasty

”It is an appeal to dirty thoughts and the loins, not to the intellect and the mind.” Jose Gonzalez, Federal District Court – Southern District of Florida On Monday, February 26th 1990 a Broward County Deputy Sheriff walked into his local record store, Sound Warehouse on Oakland Park Boulevard, and bought a cassette tape by 2 Live Crew. The recording, As Nasty As They Wanna Be had been released in 1989 alongside a...

Read More

Wilco – An appreciation

Andy Royston explains his musical travel companions… There’s some part of my brain geared toward making songs up, and I know it’s collecting things and I know when I get a moment to be by myself, that’s when they come out. Jeff Tweedy – Wilco Picking out a favourite band or musician out of the many thousands I’ve seen, or listened to seems impossible. But when traveling – the one time I can...

Read More

Rico Rodriguez – Ska Trombone Legend

Andy Royston pays a heartfelt tribute to Rico, the ‘bone man from Wareika, who died in London on September 4th after a short illness. Rico Rodriguez – Ska Trombone Legend From crucial horn breaks on the earliest ska and rocksteady songs (recorded by Coxone Dodd and Duke Reid), though session work for Chris Blackwell and Island Records (touring with Bob Marley and the Wailers) to providing the brass backline for one of the...

Read More

Gonna Be Alright – A Tribute to Abram Wilson

An appreciation of Abram Wilson, written by Andy Royston. All photos by Benjamin Amure courtesy of the Abram Wilson Foundation. Gonna Be Alright – A Tribute to Abram Wilson. ” It’s about finding the inspiration and the energy to overcome any obstacles that might stand in your way as far as playing this music is concerned. You have to be a warrior to get through. It’s somebody who won’t stop pushing, who won’t give up on...

Read More

Under The Covers – Hey Mr. Tambourine Man

Andy Royston explores some his favourite cover versions and the stories behind them. There’s a new thing happening, and it probably started with Bob Dylan. He gave the audience a new vocabulary, a new set of symbols to fit the feelings exploding in and around them. The Byrds take his words and put them in the framework of the beat, and make imperative the meaning of those words. Billy James, Sleeve notes –  Mr Tambourine...

Read More

The Late Great Johnny Ace

“I will tell you exactly what happened! Johnny Ace had been drinking and he had this little pistol he was waving around the table and someone said ‘Be careful with that thing…’ and he said ‘It’s okay! Gun’s not loaded…see?’ and pointed it at himself with a smile on his face and ‘Bang!’—sad, sad thing. Big Mama ran out of the dressing room yelling ‘Johnny Ace just killed himself!” Curtis Tillman, bass player with Big Momma...

Read More

Rehabilitating Brian Jones

Review: Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones. One a summer’s night in 1969 in the wilds of East Sussex, Brian Jones was found motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool. No one knows for sure what happened to the Rolling Stones founder and guitarist. This was just 3 weeks after being fired from the band, and instantly he was at the center of outlandish conspiracy theories. Jones, just 27, drowned while under the...

Read More

Mick Hucknall and the Art of the Cover Version

Mick knew his stuff. I knew I was on a hiding to nothing when I walked in with a brown record bag. “Hey, what’ve you got there…” “Some obscure James Brown” I replied proudly. He took the bag and removed the second hand 45 within, Prisoner of Love, 1964 on London Records with a pushed-out centre. “Bollocks, he said laughing.  That’s not rare. Should be on King for a start. And it’s...

Read More

Sergeant Pepper Taught the Band to Play

Over the years there have been some spectacular Beatles cover versions. I was always partial to the ones with soul, with Richie Havens’ Here Comes The Sun, Ray Charles’ Eleanor Rigby and the Brothers Johnson’s, Come Together up at the top of the list. But one album that’s spawned more than a few monsters is Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. We could be here all day looking for the absolute worst. Scots...

Read More

Jazz Standards : Take the ‘A’ Train

Jazz Standards : Take the ‘A’ Train. The story of how Duke Ellington’s signature tune, Take The ‘A’ Train was written is a classic. Billy Strayhorn, future Duke’s right hand man,  was said to have written the piece after Ellington had offered him a job as a writer, arranger and piano man , sending money for him to travel from Pittsburgh to New York and then up to Ellington’s apartment in Sugar...

Read More

Little Stevie – That boy’s a wonder!

Little Stevie – That boy’s a wonder! How Stevie Wonder got his name. It started out with pots and pans. Lula Mae Morris Hardaway’s two year old son was driving everyone crazy banging out rhythms with a set of spoons. Tabletops. crockery, anythng to hand. She came home one day with a set of cardboard drums and little Stevie wore them out. A few years later an uncle had passed on a harmonica and he never went anywhere...

Read More

Don’t be a Dropout – James Brown and Education

Andy Royston pays tribute to the hardest working man in show business. I first saw James Brown’s amazing live act in London in the early 1980s. He was around 50 years old, but the show was every bit as passionate and energetic as it as when he exploded onto the stage in the early 1960s. A recent biopic concentrated on his musical impact, but equally important was the energies Brown devoted to social causes, particularly the...

Read More

My Favorite Album – Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life

Iggy Pop – Lust For Life Lust for Life, without question is the album that touches me the deepest. It’s by one of rock music’s most raw and outrageous singers and performers, Iggy Pop. As a kid I was a huge fan of David Bowie, and it was an article by him in an old music magazine (Music Scene) that changed my whole attitude and understanding of rock music. In the article Bowie talked of two musicians he idolized (and...

Read More

Don’t You Step on my Blue Suede Shoes

Don’t Step on my Blue Suede Shoes. A song’s got to start somewhere. This one started in Germany. A young guy called John Cash was assigned to the 12th Radio Mobile Radio Squadron of the US Air Force Security Service in Landsburg, Bavaria. A few years later John, now discharged and back in the USA, and a fellow rock n roller named Carl Perkins were sharing a car whilst touring the American mid-west. On the way to a date...

Read More

I Walk A Lonely Street – checking into Heartbreak Hotel

Andy Royston goes down to the end of lonely street in search of a rock and roll ghost. “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” Edna Buchanan 42nd street, just off Collins Avenue in Miami Beach doesn’t look anyone’s idea of lonely street. These days it is home to a fancy condominium tower, and at the end is a beautiful beach boardwalk right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, beloved of morning...

Read More

Bob Marley’s Family Legacy

Andy Royston marvels at the talent that continues to flow from the kids and grandkids of Robert Nesta Marley. “His work didn’t die with him; his legacy continues through his family. There is no end to Bob Marley’s reign. He will always be part of the existing world. Times change, generations change, but Bob Marley stays with the world. His work lives on.” Rita Marley – Interview, The Voice When Bob Marley married Alpharita...

Read More

In praise of Sensational Women – Mavis Staples

Andy Royston pays tribute to a true musical legend, the magnificent Mavis Staples. We’ve come here tonight to bring you some joy, some happiness, inspiration, and some positive vibrations! We want to leave you with enough to last you for maybe the next six months. – Mavis Staples / Live: Hope at the Hideout Mavis is coming to Fort Lauderdale,just a walk away from my home and I just cannot wait. Here is an American voice...

Read More

Album of the Year – Shearwater’s Jet Plane and Oxbow

Andy Royston reckons that the album of 2016 has already been released. “Shearwater strikes a proper balance between anxiety and artistry on this new record, a tenuous equilibrium that the world desperately needs to find on its own at the moment.” –  Erik Thompson: The Line of Best Fit. Keeping up with new music used to be easy. There was a time when radio DJs played what they wanted to play instead of by-the-book...

Read More

The Alternative Phil Collins

Andy Royston takes a look at the other Phil Collins, the hipster who played on some of the most artful records of the 1970s. “And, you know, I never wanted to be a singer.” Phil Collins Think Phil Collins and it’s hard not to run away with your hands over your ears. He’s been out of the public eye recently, so there was no danger of him popping up on the TV getting all angst ridden with Against all Odds or...

Read More

The Unknown Pleasures of Joy Division

Andy Royston takes a look back at Unknown Pleasures – a classic post-punk album by Joy Division, released in 1979. “What stunned me then, and still stuns me now, is how a band and their manager could have created a record of such awesome beauty and, by and large, fail to notice it” – Mick Middles: Factory – The Story of the Record Label I picked up my copy of Unknown Pleasures around my 18th birthday from...

Read More

The Velvet Voice – Appreciating Richard Hawley’s Coles Corner

The Velvet Voice – Appreciating Richard Hawley’s Coles Corner. My grandma Lily loved those velvet voices. Visits to gran’s house were so often soundtracked by her favorite crooners from the late 50s. Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra were the cornerstones of her musical appreciation and of course this rubbed off on my mother who carried the torch (song) into the sixties with her own Roy...

Read More

Forgiving David Bowie: China Girl

It’s a sign of how seriously I took popular music as a teenager that I would get so annoyed by a silly love song. A case in point was David Bowie’s smash hit in 1983 China Girl, which followed his Lets Dance song up the pop charts across the globe. Quite why I got so hot under the collar about it is because it was a song that – in my mind at least – had real depth and meaning, and Bowie had the temerity to turn...

Read More

While My Sitar Gently Weeps

It was February 1965 and the London R&B band Yardbirds had convened at a recording studio to record a follow up song to their smash hit For Your Love. The idea was to open the song – Heart Full of Soul – with a sitar riff and they’d recruited an authentic player from a local Indian restaurant to do the honors. Journalist Penny Valentine recalled “Apparently the man, a highly proficient classical musician...

Read More

Has Anyone Seen Our Pig?

On December 3rd 1976 a large inflatable pig made a run for it during a photoshoot at Battersea Power Station. Andy Royston investigates.  “I’ve a right to think,” said Alice sharply,  for she was beginning to feel a little worried. “Just about as much right,” said the Duchess, “as pigs have to fly.” Lewis Carroll It all started as Roger Waters’ bright idea to promote the new Pink Floyd album Animals. He lived within sight of the...

Read More

Modern Classics : The Family Silver

Andy Royston discovers a fine new album from England that’s an instant rock winner.  “He and his boys up there were keeping it new, at the risk of ruin, destruction, madness and death, in order to find new ways to make us listen. For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it must always be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light...

Read More

Forty Years Young – Anarchy in the UK

Andy Royston’s fifteen again, re-discovering his inner Sex Pistol… It was forty years ago this month that the Sex Pistols, a wild-eyed punk rock band from London, made the news headlines. Seriously, folks, it must have been a slow news day. I was fifteen years old, delivering newspapers in a small mining village in South Yorkshire, and there they were on the front page. The Sex Pistols. Fidel Castro took over as Cuban...

Read More

Under The Covers – Shipbuilding

Andy Royston revisits the Falklands crisis and one of the most poignant songs about war ever recorded. I’ve always been skeptical about protest songs. What is this thing, a song for the barricades or a sermon from the pulpit? Is that a broadside, a bulletin, a lecture? Can a mere song change people’s minds? I doubt that it is so, but a song can infiltrate your heart and the heart may change your mind. Elvis Costello...

Read More

The Loudness of Jack Bruce

“Cream’s last year was extremely painful for me. When we started in 1966, Eric and Jack had one Marshall each. Then it became a stack, then a double stack and finally a triple stack. By 1968, I was just the poor bastard stuck in the middle of these incredible noise-making things. It was ridiculous. I used to get back to the hotel and my ears were roaring.” Ginger Baker, Drummer: Cream Jack Bruce had been playing upright...

Read More

Bob Marley’s American Connection

Andy Royston re-traces reggae legend Bob Marley’s days living in Delaware in the 1960s and how it influenced his music. When Bob Marley left his new bride to fly to America it felt like history repeating. Bob Marley’s mother Ciddy had married captain Norval Marley, on Friday, June 9 1944, a pipe stuffing white superintendent for the crown lands. She was just eighteen; He was at least three years her father’s senior....

Read More

Party Like it’s 1989 – Ryan Adams covers Taylor Swift

They’re not cover songs. They’re reimaginings of my songs, and you can tell that he was in a different place emotionally than I was. There’s this beautiful aching sadness and longing in this album that doesn’t exist in the original. Taylor Swift When Ryan Adams let it slip that he was contemplating doing a cover album of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album it was hard to figure out if he was serious. He’s played a few curve balls...

Read More

Tougher than Tough – The Original Rude Boys

In the light of the 2014 exhibition The Return of the Rudeboys at London’s Somerset House, Andy Royston looks back at Jamaica’s original rude boys and the music they inspired. Rougher than rough, tougher than tough, Strong like lion, we are iron Rudies don’t fear no boys, rudies don’t fear – Derrick Morgan Rude bwoy is that person, native, who is totally disenchanted with the ruling system, who generally...

Read More

Under the Covers – Woodstock

Andy Royston gets muddy listening to cover versions of Joni Mitchell’s iconic anthem from of the Summer of Love.  “500,000 halos out shined the mud and history. We washed and drank in God’s tears of joy. And for once, and for everyone, the truth was not still a mystery.” Jimi Hendrix “There were a LOT of people there. It was more than a city of people – it was tribal. Fires were burning, smoke was rising,...

Read More

Higher Than The Sun – The Art of Paul Cannell

Andy Royston remembers one of London’s wildest artists, Paul Cannell, London’s Basquiat. “Like all great dyslexic artists Paul Cannell pants” JEFF BARRETT Jeff Coons? Do me a favour! Gilbert and George! Fuck off and die! The Grey Organisation?? In three years time if Paul Cannell is not a superstar artist with constant exhibitions in every main city throughout the world come and find me… EDWARD BALL...

Read More

Indie Classics : McCarthy – I Am A Wallet

Andy Royston revisits McCarthy’s ‘I Am A Wallet’, one of the great subversive indie records, as the band’s material gets a timely re-issue on bright red vinyl. Main headline photograph by Steve DT. “The most perfect record, a Communist manifesto with tunes” Nicky Wire – The Manic Street Preachers In modern rock and pop music the band that showed the most striking influence of the German...

Read More

The Magnificent Meschiya Lake

Andy Royston sings the praises of Meschiya Lake, New Orleans nightingale made good. “I was driving in to meet the circus. I’d been driving alone for about eight hours, and I stopped in the French Quarter to use a phone to find out where I was supposed to go to meet everyone. I looked around and noticed the gas lamps and the classic, Old World feel, just this feeling of timelessness. And I eventually learned that it’s a very...

Read More

Musical Journeys – The Mayan and the Whale

Andy Royston tells the story of David Crosby’s ’47 schooner, Mayan, and a legendary sail from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego. David was wonderful company and a great appreciator. When it comes to expressing infectious enthusiasm he is probably the most capable person I know. His eyes were like star sapphires to me. When he laughed they seemed to twinkle like no one else and so I fell into his merry company and we rode bikes...

Read More

Under The Covers : Heartbeats

The greatest cover versions and the stories behind them – by Andy Royston It would seem at first that this song owes its popularity to a TV ad. The presence of the song as soundtrack to an eye-catching commercial for a Sony television set has played a part in the careers of two entirely different Gothenburg musical acts. But the song has reaching into the furthest corners of the music world, with artists as diverse as The Gossip...

Read More

Under The Covers – Take Me To The River

Sometimes songs from one generation can be covered in quite a different way by musicians and singers from the next. One such song is Take Me To The River first released in 1974, written by Al Green. Here was a singer who moved freely between soul and gospel styles, and at his best was writing songs full of nuance – perfectly capturing both body and soul. Take me to the river, drop me in the water Push me in the river, dip me in...

Read More

My Parisian Soundtracks

If Paris was turning out hit songs, well I certainly didn’t notice. I had my ears glued to the radio for around half a century but very few French-flavored records made it across the English Channel much less the Atlantic Ocean. Trust me I would have heard them. In France a generation grew up on chanson – where surrealism, jazz and Gershwin met French music hall in the form of Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf and a host of...

Read More

Ukepocalypse Now!

The Great Ukulele Invasion by Andy Royston Way back in the summer 2009 the UK’s venerable old Albert Hall proms played host to the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – a sold out night where a good proportion of the audience had brought along their own instrument to join in. Now it’s all well out of hand with the now annual Ukulele Hooley – a festival that’s taking over Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin this...

Read More

Ukulele’s Coolest Moments

The uke is much maligned. This humble little instrument has had more than a few uncool moments, and it’s hard to recover from the triple whammy of George Formby, Tiny Tim and Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. Generations of Americans returned from their Hawaiian vacation with a plastic one. Cutesy kitsch from the Pacific islands. For Americans a visit to Hawaii was the dream trip during the 30s and 40s, and the appeal of the islands as a...

Read More

Ten hits that were live recordings

It’s one of those perennial pub quiz questions isn’t it. How many songs were hits as a live recording, in front of an audience. I don’t mean those ‘as live’ jams, like the sort that the Beatles used to specialize in. I mean a full on live show, with an audience yelling, screaming, or heckling. Live recording was – and still is – quite difficult to get right, so it’s something that...

Read More

Selling out – rock music in car advertising

Ever since I was a kid, and had an earful of Coca-cola’s hillside singers teaching the world to sing, I’ve been more than a little cynical about the use of music in advertising. A good song had great meaning and resonance and to use it in a commercial can seriously undermine the love and loyalty that the music has built up over the years. Take Renault’s use of Cream’s ‘I Feel Free’ to sell a...

Read More

Rogues Gallery – Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys

I’ve always been one for the eclectic, off-beat and downright wild compilation albums. It’s all because I grew up with a transistor radio glued to my ear late at night; listening to the shows of British radio legend John Peel, making and sharing mixtapes and slowly becoming a curator of all kinds of musical styles. As a consequence I like a wide variety in my music. Sitting down to listen to an entire album by one artist...

Read More

If you like Fleetwood Mac you’ll like… Haim

If you like Fleetwood Mac you’ll like… Haim In these days of TV talent show contestants hogging the airwaves one can be forgiven for getting the impression that teens are growing up ignorant of real music. But it’s also clear that playing a musical instrument hasn’t gone out of fashion. I think that we can thank our schools for this happy turn of events, and the growing amount of twenty-something musicians with...

Read More