Gig ticker     Humdrum Express at Katie Fitzgerald's Stourbridge July 28th...     Electric Swing Circus at Mac Arena B'ham July 28th...     Mahalia at Glee Club B'ham July 29th...     Nightingales + The Courtesy Group + The Nature Centre at Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton July 29th...     Rhino & The Ranters at Dark Horse B'ham July 29th...     Carina Round at Hare and Hounds B'ham August 4th...     Bentley Rhythm Ace at Hare and Hounds B'ham August 12th...     Terry and Gerry's Garden Party at Blue Piano B'ham August 20th...     Soweto Kinch's Flyover Show FREE daytime event at Hockley Flyover B'ham August 20th...     UB40 at Tudor Grange Park, Solihull August 20th...     Jerry Dammers DJ set + Kioko at Hare & Hounds B'ham August 28th...     Harry Jordan + The Fidgets at Sunflower Lounge B'ham September 3rd...     

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Brexit, the Brum Music Biz and three wise men called John.


I can't believe it's only been three weeks.



I voted Remain, for what it's worth. I'm still gobsmacked I had to vote at all. Still stunned at David Cameron's catastrophic unleashing of a political and economic sh*t-storm.

It's been three convulsive, compulsive weeks. The Tories have slaughtered one another spectacularly and dishonourably. Labour is doing much the same thing, just more slowly and messily. Labour doesn't do clean-cut, but they match the Tories for dirt. Tragically, no matter who comes out on top in the Labour leadership race, the party will probably now never be a real-world, viable, opposition again. I really, really hope I'm wrong, but I won't hold my breath. Just do the math. 

Sorry, I realise I'm venting, and this is a music and radio blog. I don't usually touch on politics, but this is massive. It impacts on all of us.

Brexit and Brum music? 
It's not good news. John #1 says so. John #2 is cautious at best; John #3 has already taken the hit.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The connections game. Spot that muso!


Who's that guy on guitar? Didn't he use to be in...?


Seen those fingers on that fretboard, yep. But where? Duane Storey, Flickr
Like most people who care about creativity, inclusivity, positivity and the arts – especially, for me, music – Friday 24th was a bad, bad day. I spent most of it in a sleep-deprived haze, with too much time on social media, either commiserating with friends or raging at the toxic mix of stupidity, vanity and plain racism which has led my country to its present pass. 

Solitary rage and despair isn't healthy. So I headed to the Blue Piano to catch Fred Skidmore's trio doing 60s jazz from the Jimmy Smith/McGriff canon. A summer evening, beer in hand; a lovely garden with good friends and great, comforting, grooves. Just what the doctor ordered. 

The Blue Piano is always full of musos. Lots of veterans; some hot young guns. I reckon there's maybe a thousand years of live experience in the place on a good night. I started to play the connections game. It's fatal: once you start, you can't stop. 

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.