A Song for Sunrise – The Eagles

A Song for Sunrise – The Eagles. It’s the weekend. The all-night partygoers are on the beach watching the night out and the day begin. The evidence of the party chill is right there in the form of a phalanx of empty Corona bottles. The sun is beginning to burn a hole in the blue. Conversation fades and it’s just time to let those sloe colors do their magic. And if the luck is still on your side it’ll be a dash...

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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...

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Scandal in the Graveyard – L’Affaire Victor Noir

Scandal in the Graveyard – L’Affaire Victor Noir. Andy Royston tells the story of the most scandalous gravestone in Paris and the story of Victor Noir. After having outraged each of my relations, you insult me with the pen of one of your menials. My turn had to come. I therefore ask you whether your inkpot is guaranteed by your breast… I live, not in a palace, but at 59, rue d’Auteuil. I promise to you that if...

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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...

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Who is Travis McGee?

Who is Travis McGee? Living down in the Venice of America, you can still feel the unmistakeable live-aboard vibe if you look hard enough. There’s a characterful crowd of folks who choose to live on docked boats and yachts; idling away the hours for the rest of us. If you’re really lucky, you can still find the Friday night Marguaritatimers sitting around on dock chairs putting the goddam world to rights. As wave upon wave...

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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...

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Art Matters: The Fighting Temeraire

Andy Royston talks us through his favourite painting by JMW Turner – ‘Ye mariners of England, That guard our native seas!  Whose flag has braved a thousand years, The battle and the breeze!‘  Thomas Campbell  “Ye Mariners of England” In this famous painting by J.M.W. Turner, the great old warship Temeraire no longer flies the union flag. Just a white flag flutters from the mast of the tug, showing that a ship is now...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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Just Kids – Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe

I first heard Patti Smith as a teenager. The song – if you can call it a song, was Piss Factory, an extraordinary conversational poem set to haunting improvised free-jazz piano by Richard Sohl. It turned out to be from Patti Smith’s first recording session, and tells a story partly related to her time working in a low paid job back in New Jersey, at a factory that made baby buggies. It was a soul destroying environment,...

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Art Matters: L.S. Lowry on Match Day

Andy Royston’s back on the terraces with one of England’s most beloved painters, L.S. Lowry. One cold and rainy evening in West London I found myself wandering towards a set of bright floodlights shining above the houses. Brentford FC were playing Gillingham in some cup game and Griffin Park was offering tickets on the turnstiles. So in I went, picked up a cup of Bovril from the Ealing Road end and, as the drizzle faded...

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Ted Hughes, An Unauthorized Life

Andy Royston walks out on the wily windy moors with the ghost of Ted Hughes. Poor Heathcliff trying to tear away the veil between death and life… crying out to Cathy’s soul… to haunt him and torment him… till he died.” Emily Brontë “I have often had the fancy that there is one myth for every man, which, if we but knew it, would make us understand all he did and thought” W.B. Yeats Living as I...

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Rockin’ Roots: Maybellene by Chuck Berry

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 the Palladium Theater, and – the story goes – Muddy directed him to go see Leonard Chess. It’s likely that...

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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...

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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...

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The Train Whistle Blows

You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are? Anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles. George Bailey – It’s A Wonderful Life. It seems quite odd these days to imagine inventing the steam engine but not having any means of signalling a train’s imminence. But when George Stephenson was developing his steam engines, back in 1814, his first engines travelled so slowly and made such a racket...

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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...

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Michael Who? – When England Beat Germany

“Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win.” Gary Lineker Fifteen years on, Andy Royston remembers a memorable day in English football history, and a mad Florida house party. One sunny day back in 2001 I was minding my own business in a Florida swimming pool just a linebacker’s throw from the Gulf of Mexico. A friend had just come back from the beach holding a hammerhead shark...

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Songs For New Orleans : Katrina

New Orleans is my essence, my soul, my muse, and I can only dream that one day she will recapture her glory – Harry Connick Jr.   All the songs - Spotify playlist A catastrophe like Katrina changes everything. The harsh and painful realities are so hard to bear. The experience losing your home and possessions, of enforced exile, of desperate choices forced on families, on entire communities can be a massive challenge to...

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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...

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Song for Sunrise: Ed Harcourt

‘Watching The Sun Come Up’ A daily routine of mine is a beach walk in the early hours. I usually make it to the shore before sunrise and I witness the day begin over the great Atlantic Ocean from a South Florida shore. My twilight journey to the shore is a song long – in that there’s usually time for a piece of music to play through before I walk out onto the sands to forget myself. There are lots of songs that...

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Frenchman Street Blues

I’m always a sucker for Brits who came to America on vacation and never got around to leaving. Jon Cleary turned up in New Orleans in his teens and ended up working doing odd jobs and bar work in one of New Orleans liveliest live venues. The star attraction at the The Maple Leaf back then was one of the great barrelhouse blues pianomen, James Booker, and Cleary got to watch Booker doing his own thing before the customers packed...

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Accentuate the Positive – The language of Louise Bennett

Accentuate the Positive – The language of Louise Bennett. Back in my high school days the deputy headmaster was trying to make a point about accent and dialect. He turned to me and suddenly I was held up as an example of someone making no effort to speak properly; what he called the Queen’s English. I was dumbfounded (or should I say gobsmacked) by this. I hadn’t considered that the way that I spoke made any...

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Art Matters: George Grosz

 “Come out of your rooms, even if you find it an effort, pull down your individual barriers, let yourselves be caught up by the ideas of working people and help them in the struggle against a corrupt society.” George Grosz In 1912 a rebellious young artist from north eastern Germany moved to the Wedding district of northern Berlin. George Grosz was already proving a distinctive draftsman, influenced by the expressionist...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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Art Matters: Vincent and Paul

Andy Royston takes a look at Vincent van Gogh’s Chairs of 1888, and a fraught relationship with his houseguest, Paul Gauguin. ‘At the bottom of our hearts good old Gauguin and I understand each other, and if we’re a bit mad, so be it, aren’t we also a little sufficiently deeply artistic to contradict anxieties in that regard by what we say with the brush?‘  Vincent Van Gogh –  letter to Theo van Gogh. Arles,...

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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...

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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...

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In praise of sensational women – Siouxsie

Andy Royston continues his series of articles on the women in popular culture who made his world quake. “There is a fun, flippant side to me, of course. But I would much rather be known as the Ice Queen. Susan Ballion/Siouxsie  I started to pay attention to Siouxie after a trip to London. There used to be an open air street market at the end of Gerard Street, on Newport Court not far from Leicester Square. There was a stall...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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The Man in Black: The Legend of Dale Earnhardt

The Man in Black: The Legend of Dale Earnhardt. It was on the third lap of the 2002 Daytona 500 that the tribute began. Fans stood silently as the NASCAR field thundered on. Fittingly the leading cars, the silver 29 and the NAPA 15 were both owned by Dale Earnhardt Incorporated – and the fans held hands aloft with three fingers high. The intent was to remember friends and heroes but at that moment they had only one man in mind....

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Songs for Sunrise: Nina Simone

“Feelin’ Good’ Sometimes I see it in the eyes of people as I walk the dawn shores. They are here at the beach for a purpose. For change. In their eye the sunrise marks an important moment of inspiration. The time for change is now. A sunrise can be a catalyst for action – witnessing the dawn with a new, steely eye, a clarity of purpose and understanding can be a life-changing thing. In these moments the sunrise...

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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...

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Electrophobia!

Andy Royston looks into the darker side of this newfangled electricity fad. I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak . . . and so soon as the dazzling light vanished the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump. . . . I eagerly inquired of my father the nature and origin of thunder and lightning. He replied, “Electricity.”- Victor Frankenstein 1880, New York City. The metropolis...

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Paul Robeson’s Proud Valley

As the shadows of World War II were beginning to cast long shadows over London, Ealing Studios were beginning an ambitious new film. It was shot partly in the coal mining region of South Wales, and adapted the story of a black miner from West Virginia who drifted to Wales by way of England, searching for work. It documented the hard realities of Welsh coal miners’ lives and at the same time created a role that its star, legendary...

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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...

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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...

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Songs For Cities : Dublin

Jackeens, Dubs and Liffysiders. Songs for the city of Dublin by Andy Royston  I first arrived in Dublin late in the year, November. I remember it was chucking down, and the place I stayed was on the northside, a block from the river, right up beyond the old Jameson Distillery. The whole place is all gentrified now, and posh trams run right through the place, but back then the area was all run down and deserted, and after dark the...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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Design Classic : The American Fire Hydrant

When visiting a county for the first time, travelling around and feeling the essence of place what is it that remains in the memory. What stays with you as a signifier of that country. What brings back the essence of things. In places like London it can be easy; the red phone box, the black cabs and the double-decker buses. In France it’s safe to say that it is the food – the baguette, the fromage and the bottles of wine....

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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...

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Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti

41 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...

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World Cup Heroes: Jimmy Greaves

From the point of view of a ten year old in the thrall of World Cup football it was hard to believe that Jimmy Greaves – that amiable joker on Saturday lunchtime telly, where he presented a football show called ‘On The Ball’ – was a genuine England football legend. Dad was sanguine. “You should have seen him play back in the day. He was amazing. He would have been playing in that 1966 World Cup Final if...

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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...

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Who Was Erik Rhodes?

Erik Rhodes is one of those actors from the dim and distant past whose name no one remembers. But the instant he appears on screen you know. He was a Broadway bit-parter born in Oklahoma who hit upon a role that propelled him to stardom. He played a thick-skinned suave continental gigolos so well that he would almost steal the show from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers with the finest barrage of one-liners in movie history. Twice. Who...

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A Song for Sunrise : Bob Marley

Picking a sunshine song from the great Robert Nesta Marley isn’t too difficult; most of his music has the glow of the dawn about it. I always turn to the glorious sun-baked Sun Is Shining to throw some light on the day. It dates from my favorite Wailers era – that period in the early 1970s, when, for want of musical direction (a cover of The Archies’ ‘Sugar Sugar’ and the similarly saccharine Dance Do The...

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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...

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When Fats Waller Met Al Capone

Fats should have seen it coming. But playing at the Sherman House Hotel, in the swinging heart of Chicago’s loop, he must have felt safe from the mob. As the song goes, the joint was jumpin’. Fats was only 21 years old in ’26 but he was already a big draw. He’d been making records for four years and was about to enter his first peak period. His solo stride piano and pipe organ playing may have found him fans...

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Florida Songs: Margaritaville

And before you ask, it IS a song. Sure, now you can mosey into your big-resort Margaritaville restaurant and order your “Who’s to Blame” cocktail with your Cheeseburger In Paradise, and wash it down with Landshark Lager before heading into the casino for your Mississippi Stud or Texas Hold’em. Faux air-conditioned beaches, fake palm trees, old-time photos on the wall and Hawaiian shirts on backs of the...

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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 mind, they still managed to express themselves in a...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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Journey from the Middle of Nowhere to BFE

‘I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth’. Steve McQueen Where on earth is Bumfuck Egypt? We’ve all been there. So far off the beaten track that the word lost doesn’t even begin to describe it. The middle of nowhere. The back of beyond. Out in the sticks where Jesus lost his sandals. The kind of place that is so dense and confusing that the end of the earth surely can’t...

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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...

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In praise of sensational women – Debbie Allen

Andy Royston introduces a new series of articles on the women in popular culture who made his  world quake. “I don’t have time for prima donnas. You want to become a dancer? You’re going to have to work.You’ve got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here’s where you start paying in sweat. I want to see sweat. And the better you are, the more sweat I’m going to demand. So if you...

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Songs For Swinging London

Andy Royston takes a look at swinging London and picks out the songs (and videos) that defined the era. ” Suddenly life broke out in warm colors again, so young and beautiful that a lot of people couldn’t stand to look at it. For the first time ever, kids were teenagers. They had loot, however come by, and loot’s for spending. And where there’s loot, trouble follows.” – Absolute Beginners Colin...

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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...

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iPhone Photography 101 – Silhouettes and Sunshine

iPhone Photography 101 – Silhouettes and Sunshine. As a beach photographer I find that I’m constantly looking for new ways to make my sunrise shots memorable. I take photographs every day, regardless of the weather, and I try to find different ways of capturing the moment. Silhouettes have become an important part of my workflow and have played a part in creating some very dramatic photographs. Here in Florida a bright sun...

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Favourite Movies – Woody Allen’s Radio Days

“Like Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder before him, Woody Allen is a writer-director with a distinctive voice and a satirical thrust. I appreciate his tone, which is bitter-sweet and self-conscious. At their best his films reflect on the process of cinematic storytelling” David Evanier : PBS Interview  Woody Allen emerged into moviemaking just after American Jews – who had pretty much build the American movie industry...

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All Time Hero: Jack Johnson

We learn and grow, we make heroes of our own. For me, being a child of the 60s there were astronauts and civil rights leaders, soccer stars and Olympic champs. Gran loved her music, so Nat King Cole, Paul Robeson and Ray Charles were high on my list. Dad’s a big sports fan, and Cassius Clay impressed as much by his trash talking as his skills in the ring. The undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World. If someone wanted to...

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Songs For London – Music Hall to Rock n Roll

Andy Royston puts on his titfer and whistle and wraps his britneys around some ding dongs. I should cocoa… Music hall songs are London’s folk songs. This is easy music, delivered in language as familiar to the elderly as to the child in the streets. Themes are interwoven with songs learned in the playground and the Sunday Schools, and delivered in the voices of the street barker and the barrow boy. They’ve borrowed...

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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...

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A Soap Opera – The Invention of Sunlight

Andy Royston gets all in a lather about a bar of soap. “I know half my advertising isn’t working, I just don’t know which half”. W.H. Lever Before Victorian times hard soap would be made at home – a simple mix of ashes and fat, with dry weather and salt to set the soap. If you bought, you would buy a piece cut from a block. In the 1800s block soap was simple stuff. There were about a half dozen basic...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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Under The Covers – Hallelujah

Andy Royston looks at how a quiet and modest song became one of the most performed rock songs in history. Hallelujah is a Hebrew word, which means ‘glory to the Lord’. The song explains that many kinds of hallelujahs do exist. I say all the perfect and broken hallelujahs have an equal value. It’s a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal or religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion. Leonard Cohen...

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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...

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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....

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Art Matters : Paris Street, Rainy Day

Andy Royston meets an old friend unexpectedly on a Chicago street. I thought I knew Gustav Caillebotte. I know that he was a rich man who was able to retire from work as a lawyer and indulge in his love of art and of impressionism while still in his 20s. Freed from having to worry about the bills, or even sell his work, Caillebotte lived in the newly developed 8th arrondissement district and painted realistic and impressionistic...

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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...

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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...

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“Miss Bacall Did Her Own Singing…”

“Miss Bacall Did Her Own Singing…” The scene is a bar room in French Martinique, a hot and noisy club setting where a piano player called Cricket (Hoagy Carmichael ) is playing for a gorgeous teenage singer, Slim. Slim was Lauren Bacall in her first movie role, and what a star turn she gave, singing one of Carmichael’s most memorable songs, How Little We Know. Her vocal training was coming along, but no-one...

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Songs For New York – 21st Century

Andy Royston concludes his three part Songs for New York with a look at Millennial recordings featuring this great city. You can read part one here, and part two here. New York is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village – the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying this way is up. EB White Here Is New York, 1949 Now you’re in New York, these streets will feel brand new, the lights...

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Berlin’s beloved Ampelmännchen

Andy Royston tells the story of Berlin’s best loved street characters – the Ampelmännchen. Angels over Berlin My own first visit to the city of Berlin came after the re-unification of Germany, at a time when the city was going through a period of great changes. I wanted to visit the city before too much of the ‘old’ east had been wiped away, and see some of the city that I knew from my favourite film of the...

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Art and Film : Midnight In Paris

Andy Royston reviews a movie that fulfills the ultimate artists’ fantasy – going back in time to hang out with the greats. “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Ernest Hemingway. “I have a tendency to romanticize Paris. When the lights come up and it’s almost midnight, everything...

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Songs about New York : The Streets

Andy Royston continues his New York music odyssey – and takes it to the streets. Read Part One here. I regret profoundly that I was not an American and not born in Greenwich Village. It might be dying, and there might be a lot of dirt in the air you breathe, but this is where it’s happening. John Lennon People are working every minute. The machinery is always going. Even when you sleep. Andy Warhol Songs For New York –...

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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,...

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Tribute to Mum and Dad – Joan and Colin

Andy Royston celebrates his parents, Joan and Colin, Yorkshire born and bred. Inspired by Sam Monaco’s moving tribute to his own parents.   The older I get, and the more people that I meet, I’m beginning to realize that I must be the luckiest man in the world. I didn’t think so when I was a kid, growing up in a small farming village at the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfields. I didn’t think that I was...

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Best of British – Night Mail

Andy Royston celebrates Night Mail, one of the most influential documentary films of all time. “If you wanted to see what camera and sound could really do, you had to see some little film sponsored by the Post Office or the Gas, Light & Coke company.” J.B. Priestley For much of the time between the wars the General Post Office (GPO) was the largest employer in Britain. It was at the leading edge of business practice...

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Songs about New York : From Broadway to Harlem

Andy Royston writes about the songs that made New York. Part One : From Broadway to Harlem To say that New York came up to its advance billing would be the baldest of understatements. Being there was like being in heaven without going to all the bother and expense of dying. – P.G. Wodehouse New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten the children, its traffic is madness,...

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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...

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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...

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Hollywood Redheads – Wilma Flintstone

Andy Royston pays tribute to one of the original Hollywood Wives. Wilma Flintstone. Television’s image of the American woman, 1964, is a stupid, unattractive, insecure little household drudge who spends her martyred, mindless, boring days dreaming of love – and plotting nasty revenge against her husband. Betty Freidan – Television and the Feminine Mystique.  I love thee Wilma, with hair like silk, Lips like cherries,...

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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...

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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...

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Art Matters – Nocturne in Black and Gold

Andy Royston takes a closer look at the painting that sparked a notorious libel case, Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket by James Abbott McNeill Whistler Nature contains the elements, in colour and form, of all pictures, as the keyboard contains the notes of all music. But the artist is born to pick and choose… that the result may be beautiful – as the musician gathers his notes, and forms his chords, until he brings...

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More of Hollywood’s Finest Redheads

Andy Royston continues his appreciation of Hollywood’s redheads. “It is observed that the red-haired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest, whom yet they much exceed in strength and activity” –  Jonathan Swift, Gullivers Travels “You’d find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair, people who haven’t red hair don’t know what trouble is” – Anne of Green Gables In Part One...

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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...

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Hollywood’s Finest Redheads

An appreciation of big screen redheads by Andy Royston “I would always hesitate to recommend as a life’s companion a young lady with quite such a vivid shade of red hair. Red hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous.” P.G. Wodehouse – Very Good Jeeves “Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead.”  ― Lucille Ball In 2014 something extraordinary happened. A rubescence of...

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