Gig ticker     Swampmeat at Mama Roux's B'gham June 25th...     Swampmeat at Dark Horse Moseley B'ham July 1st...     Johnny Foreigner + Spills + Repeat Of Last Week at Sunflower Lounge B'ham July 8th...     Mostly Jazz Funk And Soul Festival, Moseley Park B'ham July 8th-10th...     Scott Matthews at Glee Club B'ham July 12th...     Mahalia at Glee Club B'ham July 29th...     Bently Rhythm Ace at Hare and Hounds B'ham August 12th...     Terry and Gerry's Garden Party at Blue Piano B'ham August 20th...     Jerry Dammers DJ set + Kioko at Hare & Hounds B'ham August 28th...     

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Payola? Still here. Methodology? Totally different


Some traditions never go away. They just morph 


I have a problem with hype. It's not new and it's not just with music. You see it with movies, gaming and more. The film industry does it best. They're brilliant - they sucker me every time. I wind up really wanting to catch a movie, and then, when I do, I often leave vaguely dissatisfied. Indie film makers with zero budgets must hate this. 

Hey, this is entertainment, where there's a need to recoup investments made sometimes on the back of risky emotive judgements. It gets vile and slimy when vast sums are laid out to manipulate public taste. In general, shamefully, the media know this. But they play along.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

The album, the artist, the audience. Are we going full circle?


Grudgingly, I find myself starting to agree with vinyl freaks. Weird. 


I posted a while back about the interesting origins of what we now call an album.  This was in the context of our new, brave MP3 world of digital downloads. After all, when you can cram an entire library onto a tiny piece of plastic, who needs those ancient concepts of singles, albums, EPs and CDs? Tech developments have moved so very fast. I'm not entirely sure that's all good.  

The vinyl revival was a surprise to me. It's really not a huge slice of the market. Vinyl gets more attention than it deserves because it's a retro vintage fashion thing. Personally, I find the obsession with vinyl as a style statement slightly ridiculous. 

But there's another reason for the continued survival of the album, over and above vinyl fetishes. And it's a lot more valid than a business proposition or a badge of identity.  

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Young Man Gone West

So what happened after City Boy, Steve? If you didn't know already, you'd never guess in a million years...


1978. I was conducting an interview on BRMB. It might well have been Bill Nelson from Bebop Deluxe, but I can't be sure. It was someone on the arty side of pop-rock, in any event. 

A call from security. Someone to see me: Steve Broughton, real name Steve Lunt. We were pals; I'd been championing his band, City Boy, for a couple of years. And they'd finally had a hit, '5705'. 

I hadn't seen him for some time. So, up he came... to hand me a silver disc for sales of their hit. I was chuffed, of course. It led to slightly awkward chat in the studio, in between records, with the three of us: me, my interview guest, who might have been excused for looking slightly askance at my visitor with his very pop hit. 

The following year, City Boy were in the States, a million-dollar contract with Atlantic records under their belts. That was the year they sacked Steve. 

Sunday, 29 May 2016

It was 45 years ago today...


I did my first radio gig. In the USA. On a Rock station.


Last week marked the start of my paid career in Radio. On 27 May 1971, jetlagged after flying in two days before, I went on the air on WPHD-FM in Buffalo, in upstate New York

I was a Brit import; they named me Robin Thomas. There were a handful of Brits in US radio; work permits and visas made it tricky.  

This was the early 70s, the time of the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Free, SabbathDerek and the Dominos. What we now call Classic Rock. A big big slice of that came from the UK. British rock really mattered in the US then - it certainly doesn't now.

And for US Rock stations, a Brit DJ was an asset.  That's why WPHD took a risk on an unproven kid with only UK college radio experience. Bless.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The fiddler in the shed and his army of bright-eyed Folk monsters



It's that time of year. The Folk Ensemble will run riot. All 50 of them.



I'm sitting with a university lecturer in deepest Smethwick. If truth be be told, I'm not here for his academic chops. He's a muso, and a bloody brilliant one at that. We're at the bottom of his garden, drinking coffee. In a shed; brick-built, but still a shed. But instead of bamboo canes, rakes, spaces and shears cluttering the floor, you step around guitars and fiddles. There's posters and a couple of really tasty speakers hanging off the walls, hooked up to quite a large Mac.

You've guessed by now. This is actually a studio. It belongs to the Urban Folk Quartet's Joe Broughton. This is his workplace.


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Rhino and The Ranters. A dirty taste. Music gourmets come running.


Rhino and The Ranters as a rice dish? Forget Risotto Milanese. Gotta be Louisiana Dirty Rice. 


Photo: Gavin Wray
14 months ago, I was at the Spotted Dog in Digbeth for Rhino And The Ranters, pretty new and already highly recommended, at Dylan Gibbons' Thursday Blues club night. They played to the regular Spotted Dog crowd: musos and interested types. They shook it up nicely. We talked, and I recorded a couple of songs for a 2015 blog post; there's one of them below, along with a brand new mix Ryan Webb kindly let me have.  

They were all over town, busy establishing themselves at any venue that would have them. We talked at length about that whole process. It wasn't long before they were pulling serious numbers. 

This summer, the gigs are fewer – it's all part of the process - but they're a lot bigger, and these days they're getting paid. Good going. Time for a catch-up?

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Whittingdale's little list: The White Paper and the BBC


Clowns to the left of them. Jokers to the right...


At the BBC: Ariel between Wisdom and Gaiety. Mike Knell, Flickr
I've got two pages open on my screen as I write this. Both make my blood boil. The first is yet another anti-BBC piece from Rupert Murdoch's Times, where Culture Secretary John Whittingdale is reported to have joked to a bunch of Tory Students that the end of the BBC might be 'a tempting prospect'. The article goes on to list Gary Lineker as the first to spring to the Beeb's defence. Go Gary, I say; power to you in your underpants.  

Item number two is just as jarring: a strident attack on the BBC from new boys Evolve Politics, who emerged after the Labour Leadership election, along with The Canary and Momentum. They're all over my Facebook feed. Depending on your politics and/or your Facebook 'friends', they may well be all over your Facebook too. That's the creepy way the thing works. Ironically, it's great for marketing...

Evolve Politics and pals are solidly, uncritically, behind Jeremy Corbyn; Jezza can do no wrong, ever ever ever. Evolve are never less than outraged. Here, they slam the BBC for being disgusting Tory stooges.  


Poor old Beeb, eh? Attacked on all sides, while the troops on the ground have to soldier on. It's reminding me of Tennyson's poem...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

The oldest studio in Brum - reborn?


Pretty sure Frank didn't record here. I'll ask...
These are tough times for recording studios and their owners. The loss of Highbury Studio, announced last week, was a body blow. This is terrible news, especially hard on the visionary John Mostyn, who has poured his heart and soul into Birmingham's music scene for decades now, sometimes at great personal cost.  I salute John for his work, and I sincerely hope that, should he so choose, he returns to a field where he has done so much good. 

But other studios are in trouble too. The middle ground is being squeezed almost to death. Is not the right time to be starting up with a brand new facility? Some people think so. Rob Bruce, another Brum musicbiz veteran, certainly does. 


Friday, 22 April 2016

What can DJs learn from Poets? Two separate worlds, right?


If you're going to talk, talk to me, not at me. And make it good. 


Guests David Calcutt with Helen Leavesley
Every month, a bunch of poets gather at Brum Radio and make a programme, obviously on poetry. The show, Brum Radio Poets, went out on Sunday 25th April, and will is also now up on MixCloud. I normally oversee the recording. I wouldn't go so far as to call it producing; others might. 'Studio Engineer' might cover it. Except that Brum radio only actually has one proper studio; we use a spare room. It's all very lo-fi and improvised. 

I really like working this way, miles away from the grandiose fuss of a full-on facility. You have to concentrate on the core: ideas, passion, communication. A stripped-down approach can go a long way with the right content. And if you think all this has nothing to do with DJs and music radio, you couldn't be more wrong. 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Festivals 2016! Mud! Rip-off prices! Well, hopefully not.


Which local festivals do best by local acts? Two are absolute stand outs. 


Nile tearing it up at MoJazz 
Here comes summer (although not as I write), and the promise of shimmering music in the sunshine, in good company. And new discoveries: acts you might have heard of but hadn't caught up with yet, playing to you live. Doesn't that sound nice? 

Festivals can mean different things: the term has stretched from the idea of a day or three of music in a field somewhere. Now it's one-dayers, sometimes inside, sometimes all night. Or it's mega operations - holiday camps with drugs - where tens of thousands of punters shell out fortunes to trudge through mud and pay over the odds for designer food. I'm not exactly broken up that Wireless have swerved Perry Park again. But I am dead chuffed that Moseley Folk has headed back closer to its folk roots.