Born To Run – Frankie Goes To Hollywood

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BBC Music recently announced the results of their “Greatest Covers” poll, the winner of which was Pet Shop Boys’ “Always On My Mind”. The usual suspects, such as Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You” and Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” were featured towards the top of the list of 50, with tracks like the rather superb “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill edging into the bottom half of the list.

Although the list was an unusual mix of predictability and surprises (I never realised Elvis Costello’s “Good Year For The Roses” was a cover), there was one glaring omission. That was one of my favourite covers, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Born To Run”, from their “Welcome To The Pleasuredome” album. Not only does the track perfectly capture the raw energy and attitude of the band, Holly Johnson actually sings the lyrics rather than slurring and mumbling his way through the song (cue the Springsteen fans’ complaints!).

I am sure many of you will look at the list, only to find your own favourite cover is missing:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4ybj81pWlfzqTSJfRh1x4K7/bbc-music-asked-you-to-vote-for-your-favourite-cover-versions-ever-now-here-are-the-results

Let me know which tracks you think should have been included. In the meantime, to show how a cover should be done, here is the best version of “Born To Run”…

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Art For Art’s Sake

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From a very young age, I have loved Art in all its forms. Whether it was my own early creations, which relatives dutifully received on every occasion I could deem special (basically any day ending in a Y!), or my attempts to “improve” my environment, which included a full-length painting on my bedroom door of my then favourite group, Immaculate Fools, when I was 14 (my parents were very encouraging and tolerant), I have painted and created. However, in more recent years the creativity has been inched out in favour of appreciation, which is why I could not resist the opportunity of viewing a Banksy creation in situ.

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So, last Sunday I made my way to Payers Park in Folkestone to view Banksy’s “Art Buff”. The photo shows me beside the artwork, which less than 24 hours later would have an unwarranted addition to its empty plinth:

http://www.kentonline.co.uk/folkestone/news/vandals-make-obscene-addition-to-25142/

Banksy aside, there are a number of urban artists producing some fantastic pieces, but who do not receive the media hype of the elusive artist. One such artist is Terry Sue-Patt (TSP Hoodie). If the name sounds familiar, you were probably a Grange Hill fan when the programme first launched. Terry played the part of Benny Green, 58680_10201586065125056_37009664_nthe sidekick of Peter “Tucker” Jenkins, and the first Grange Hill pupil to ever appear on our TV screens. Some of Terry’s work is inspired by, and features, his Grange Hill character. Exhibiting alongside the talents of artists such as Norwich-based David “Gnasher” Nash, and Lisa Richer (LisArt) in Brick Lane’s “Monty’s Bar”, Terry’s work is both accessible and affordable. Last year, I bought one of Terry’s “Benny Green” pieces, during his Grange Hill Exhibition at the bar, and it has hung proudly in my hallway ever since. I never tire of looking at it – surely a sign of enduring art.

I love to discuss Art almost as much as viewing and having a go at creating it, and was in my element when I happened to encounter an Art lecturer, whilst working in a book shop. What began as a discussion about a local Eric Gill sculpture, ended almost as a confessional of our own artistic shortcomings. He admitted that he hates people looking over his shoulder at what he is sketching, when he works outdoors. I revealed that for about the last ten years, I have not finished any of the paintings I have started. Some may only have an square inch piece missing, but they rePunkmain unfinished. The lecturer’s theory was that in not finishing my paintings, I was preventing them from being judged. When a painting is finished, the artist is saying they are happy with the piece (or at least happy for it to be viewed), and therefore open to criticism. In keeping my work incomplete, it stopped it being criticized. Heavy stuff, but it made sense.

In an attempt to get me past this fear of criticism, and to actually finish a painting for once, I thought I would publish some of my teenage artwork, which I did during the 80s. The punk was a school project, with the right half being cut from a magazine, and the left half painted by me when I was about 14.  I painted the (lopsided) Marlon Brando shortly afterwards, during some time off school, when I had happened to watch “On The Waterfront”.

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I had injured my arm, and had to have it in a sling, which meant I painted Marlon right-handed (I’m a leftie). That’s my excuse why he’s wonky anyway, and I’m sticking to it!

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I hope that anyone who owned a copy of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Welcome To The Pleasuredome”  album will recognise my efforts on the right. Again, this would have been drawn during my mid-teens. It was one of the many, many music based pictures I drew or painted, and now it, and my other work, is out there for the world to see…Don’t judge me too harshly!

Life on Marrs

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Last night saw me at a long-awaited Johnny Marr gig in Bexhill-on-Sea. The third gig in his recently launched Playland Tour, it was everything I had expected and more. From the moment Marr opened his set with the title track of the tour and his newly released album, we were treated to a stylish display of musicianship, in which he made his mastery of the guitar look effortless.

Alongside tracks from “Playland”, including his current single “Easy Money”, Marr performed tracks from his “The Messenger” album. My favourite was “Generate! Generate!”, which he played after verging on an “existential crisis” on stage! There was a cover of Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life”, and a few Smiths’ classics, including “Panic” and “Stop Me”. However, Johnny saved the best for last, with a hypnotic delivery of “How Soon Is Now?”. I know that some will consider it sacrilege, but Marr’s vocal last night was so much better than I had ever heard it performed by The Smiths. Sorry Morrissey!

In fact, there is nothing I can fault about last night’s gig. I was captivated from beginning to end. This video clip I took does not do the evening justice, as the quality is hardly top notch, but I hope it will give you an idea of the genius and class of the one and only Johnny F**kin’ Marr!

PopMaster and Paul Young

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One of the simple pleasures in my life is listening to Popmaster on Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 show. Having listened to the quiz for a few years, I woke up one Thursday morning last year and thought I would give it a go. I have heard stories of listeners trying for years to get on the show, so you can imagine my surprise when my call was answered first time. Even more amazing was answering the qualifying questions correctly, then receiving a call shortly afterwards, to say that I would be contestant number two!

I was fortunate that the questions fell right for me and, with 27 points, I beat my opponent. Next, I had to face the dreaded “3 in 10”. As anyone who has ever listened to Popmaster knows, naming three hit singles, by a particular artist, in ten seconds is no mean feat. Often, the first two roll off the tongue, but the elusive thir60430_10200443890851413_1250397547_nd title remains unspoken. Luckily, I had to name three hit singles by Paul Young. A fan of his since “Wherever I Lay My Hat” charted in 1983, I named that track, “Love Of The Common People” and my favourite song of his, “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down”. The digital radio was mine!

This post gives me the opportunity to share the montage of photos I took a when Paul Young played at an Eighties’ weekend in 2010, set to my favourite (and winning!) track:

Arc Of A Diver – Steve Winwood

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August 1988 saw me on a fortnight’s family holiday in the former Yugoslavia, on the island of Brač. This was at a time before tourism had really taken a hold of the island, and the stock on shop shelves tended to be rather sparse. Bizarrely, in the middle of one of these barren shops, I found a small selection of audio cassettes. Once I had rooted out all the ones with obscure covers written in Cyrillic script, I came across three little gems: Simply Red’s “Men and Women”, The Pretenders’ “The Singles” and Steve Winwood’s “Chronicles”. I bought the three cassettes for pence (well, a few dinar!), and those albums became the soundtrack of my holiday. Although I still love all three albums, it is Steve Winwood’s “Arc Of A Diver” that remains my favourite track from them. Not only is it instant sunshine whenever I hear this song (something I dearly need as we enter October), but Winwood’s vocals are nothing short of perfect.