Ten Records That Changed My Life… REALLY changed my life.

Ten records that changed my life

Yesterday (8th Jan, 2014) a Facebook friend of mine, Bill Mallonee, posed the following question:

10 life changing records. (I know! It’s impossible!)
Take a deep breath & list ’em in less than 3 minutes.
Don’t over think it.

Well, you know what? I did over-think it. It’s pretty easy to reel off some of your favourite records, like I did here and here, but (being a pedantic git) I felt that if you’re going to describe something as life-changing it had better be something that really did have some particular concrete effect on your existence. So it took me longer than 3 minutes, but not much longer. Here’s a slightly edited and expanded version:

Ten Life Changing Records

Life changing? Life. Changing. Life changing. Records that really, really truly changed my life. Hmm. Not necessarily albums. Nor my favourite, nor the best, nor the coolest records.

1: Johnny Cash‘s first gospel LP (Hymns by Johnny Cash) – My parents had it it and it was probably the first record that felt blissful to me – that showed me how powerful music could be, even before I really became a “music fan”

2: Elton John‘s Crocodile Rock. For some strange reason hearing it on Top Of The Pops was a revelation to me that stupid, freakish, long-haired, ungodly, noisy rock’n’roll music was actually really great. [I know Crocodile Rock, while great, is not exactly the pinnacle of the form, but for me it was the key that unlocked the door.] It was the first record I ever bought and it instantly made me into a “music fan”.Ø

3-5: Larry Norman‘s three albums Upon This Rock, Only Visiting This Planet and Bootleg – My sister borrowed them and they taught me that rock’n’roll wasn’t evil and you could be funny, clever and talk about whatever you wanted [The Ku Klux Klan, Paul McCartney’s Hofner bass, venereal disease, Jesus]

6 – Neil Young‘s Zuma – I heard John Peel play the track Looking For A Love on the little transistor radio under my pillow one night in 1976. I’d never heard Neil Young before but I fell for the sound immediately. I went out and bought the album and it’s still, in my mind, the definitive “perfect electric guitar sound” that I basically strive for in my playing [much of the time, anyway].

7-9: Jonathan Richman & The Modern LoversRock’n’Roll With The Modern Lovers, Patrik Fitzgerald‘s Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart E.P.* & Wild Man Fischer‘s Wildmania!§ – the fact that Marjorie owned these three records that I also loved was a major factor in bringing us together at school in 1977, and we’re still married.

10 – Crowded House‘s Woodface – I’d gradually grown fond of them on the radio (They played Better Be Home Soon, Don’t Dream It’s Over, Fall At Your Feet, Sister Madly quite often on CFMI) when we lived in Vancouver, and finally bought the CD. Marjorie and I felt it was immediately fell for the album in a very, very deep way, particularly the first half, which seemed to representative another kind of perfect sound which we felt we’d been looking for all our lives. Marjorie loved them so much that (to cut a long story

11 – Some other Johnny Cash record – I was listening to him one day at work in the lab about ten years ago [I can’t remember which song but I think it was from his Sun years]

NOTES

Ø I subsequently bought the Daniel and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 45s and was settling in for a lifetime of brilliant Elton John releases, but I wasn’t so sure about Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting (it was OK, but I could think of better things to spend my 45p on)  and never again bought another Elton John single, or, for that matter, a post-1973 album of his. This was my first lesson in pop disappointment.

* Patrik was the first “folk-punk” guy (to release a record) in the original UK punk scene of 1976-78. I’ve always thought that Marjorie and I don’t have an “our song” in the way that Americans talk about it, but I guess Patrik’s Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart was Our Song!

§ Wild Man’s first, and most famous album, was the double album An Evening With Wild Man Fischer, about eight years before Wildmania!. This was his “comeback album”. John Peel played a track every night and I taped the whole album. I used to go round school singing the songs from it (and to think I say I only became a singer about ten years ago!) and some of the songs became quite popular among my friends. (“My name is Larry, I have a canary”, “I went to a disco in San Francisco” – you can see why).

One day Marjorie told me she’d got the album. I actually thought she was only joking as it wasn’t the kind of thing you’d find in the records shops in Portadown. And I think she was disappointed but didn’t really impress the fact on me. But some time later, when we were closer friends, I found it in her record collection and nearly died! It turned out she’d ordered it from “overseas” (i.e. England) out of an ad in the NME.

I spent years wondering how I could get the first album and I eventually found it in a shop in London. But despite it being, by far, the most famous and well-regarded, it’s nowhere near as good as Wildmania!, which, in my opinion, is where his art all came together in its most cohesive and beautiful form; in short, his masterpiece.

Crowded House are the reason we’re in Australia

If it weren’t for Crowded House we wouldn’t be living in Australia. Kinda. Sorta. Pretty much.

Marjorie and I came to the band late, not long before Together Alone came out, when I picked up Woodface somewhere on CD and we instantly realised that tracks such as It’s Only Natural and Fall At Your Feet were a kind of music we’d been yearning for but had never really managed to find except in our own heads. We lived in Vancouver, Canada at the time and when we moved there in 1988 from Northern Ireland we were simultaneously perturbed by the prevailing poodle bands on the charts and heartened by the fact that every time we turned on CFMI classic rock radio while driving we heard the likes of Steely Dan, Van Morrison and other artists who seemed forgotten back home, swept away by the punk that we ourselves had loved and followed.

We were both “pop music literate” and knew that Neil had been in Split Enz. We loved I Got You when it was a hit in the UK. I’d heard Better Be Home Soon in the car on this “classic rock radio” which seemed unique to the New World, and been struck by its Beatlesque qualities. And we both knew Don’t Dream It’s Over, of course, and had admired it vaguely from a distance. And I recalled seeing them once on the MTV VMA awards (see video) and being astounded that they seemed to be a real band, playing real instruments and singing a real song. With a Hammond organ! In the 80s! Ever since then I’d made a mental note to buy one of their albums, but it simply didn’t happen until I picked up Woodface at a bargain price in 1993.

Live in Canada

Sadly, drummer Paul Hester had quit the band just two weeks before we first saw them in Vancouver and Seattle, but they were still a revelation live, a band who played smart, concise pop songs in the spirit of the “jam bands” – they never played a song the same way twice and you never knew what was going to happen at any moment. Neil Finn was edgy in the sense that at any moment he felt the freedom to do whichever option popped into his head, whether it was to morph into a random cover, play an extended free-form guitar solo, swap instruments with the drummer, write a song on the spot based on the support band’s setlist, have the band jam along to a demo CD that an aspiring musician threw onto the stage…

19940506-Crowded House-Paramount Theater-Seattle-6-May-1994-backstage pass-DC CardwellCrowded House backstage pass!

We managed to score backstage passes for their Seattle show. The show was great but being backstage afterwards wasn’t the most exciting of experiences. However, I guess there was a certain thrill of anticipation and the pass itself is quite nice!

I was hacking gently into the hospital computer system at my work and discovered that the network was hooked into a mysterious entity, The Internet, involving such things as “gophers”, a search engine named “Veronica” and something called “email”. Much to my surprise I found that there was an active group of Crowded House fans exchanging information, and that I was even able to set up an email account on my home computer using Vancouver’s Freenet text-based email service. Marjorie and I joined this community, known asTongue In The Mail, and in fact we’re still in it (although it’s been partly superseded by the Frenz forum, which I also use).

Trip to New Zealand

At one point in 1995 Crowded House were about to tour New Zealand and there was a vague feeling in the ranks that they might split up soon and this could be their last outing. I vividly recall saying to Marjorie, “You should

Crowded House-Palmerston North-New Zealand-6-Feb-1995-B-ticket-DC CardwellMarjorie’s Ticket for the show in Palmerston North, New Zealand

go and see them!” while realising that this was completely unfeasible. However, she took me at my word and three days later she was in New Zealand! She’d made arrangements to meet up with various people we’d met online, and she traipsed around after the band. Some of the people she met were close to the band and managed to get her backstage where she met, not only the Crowded House members and Tim, but Mr. and Mrs. Finn senior. This was, needless to say, quite a bit of fun. She had coffee with Mike Chunn (Split Enz bass player) and Dave Dobbyn and generally was made very welcome on the other side of the world. Even back then we felt really old and grown-up, having two children and being well settled down, so it seemed almost ridiculous that Marjorie should be on such an adventure. We’d sometimes play our own gigs at Vancouver’s rock clubs, look around and think “we’re old enough to be these people’s parents and I’m sure they think we’re like old fogies from another era!” Of course, looking back, we were only in our early 30s and nearly 20 years later we’re still running after bands and and still playing to people who now could practically be our grandchildren!

Crowded House, New Zealand 1995 - by Marjorie CardwellMarjorie’s photo of Crowded House in New Zealand

But that’s beside the point. Marjorie had a stopover in Melbourne on her way back to Canada. Neither of us had ever been to Australia before, but Marjorie simply fell in love with this city. Another internet friend took her round to see some of the Crowdie sites, such as Paul Hester’s café and Neil Finn’s old house where he wrote many of the Woodface songs.

When she returned to Vancouver, Marjorie simply said “We should move to Melbourne, it’s really nice!” Of course, this is easier said than done, especially when you have two small kids and an elderly mother-in-law (Marjorie’s mother) who lives with you. But we got the permanent residence visa application forms and had a look at them. We’d already emigrated once so the forms weren’t daunting in the least. We figured out that I, as a medical scientist, would have a reasonable chance of being accepted, but that if you were over 35 you had extra “points” taken off which would effectively scupper your chances of getting a visa.

However, two weeks before I turned 35, I mentioned that if we didn’t do it now we’d never get a visa. So we sent of the forms just so that we could say we’d had a go. Very shortly afterwards we got a letter saying that we’d been accepted into Australia! No interview or anything! And with that piece of paper in hand, we decided we may as well go and see what it’s like to live in Australia.And anyway, Vancouver is “really nice” too, to say the least! It consistently vies with Melbourne for the title of “The World’s Most Livable City” and it’s undeniably beautiful and comfortable. And we loved the Canadian people and had many close friends. So we filled out the forms but didn’t bother sending them.

We moved in 1996, two boys and aging mother-in-law in tow (she’s still living with us 16 years later!) and have never regretted it, despite occasionally longing for real mountains, snow, the smell of cedar and the warm hospitality of Canadians… not that Australians aren’t hospitable, but they’re different.

Move to Australia

We stopped over in Auckland on our way to Australia, and were wined and dined very generously by ex-Split Enz members Paul Crowther and Mike Chunn. (We’d previously met Paul Crowther at a Mutton Birds show in Vancouver’s Railway Club when we popped in after our own gig over the road.)

ENZSO-Melbourne Park-Melbourne-4-Feb-1997-ticket-DC Cardwell

ENZSO Ticket (Split Enz with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra) 1997, Melbourne

One of our ENZSO tickets

As soon as we arrived in Melbourne we heard that there was to be an ENZSO concert in the Rod Laver Arena. Exasperatingly, we couldn’t afford to go but I got a job after only two weeks and the first thing I did was buy tickets. Due to a slight misadventure we arrived slightly late and it was a very bizarre feeling to walk into a packed arena-sized venue and hear a full orchestra playing Six Months In A Leaky Boat with the audience lapping it up!

We’ve seen an amazing run of Finn-related events here in the hometown of Split Enz and Crowded House. The most memorable – sorry, unforgettable – were the warm-up shows for the Sydney Opera House Farewell To The World mega-show in which we got to see Crowded House with Paul Hester two nights in a row, up close, at the intimate Corner Hotel, thus more than making up for having missed out on seeing him with Crowded House before he quit them. It was very much a “who would have thunk?” experience for us.

We saw two more impromptu reunions of core members Finn, Seymour and Hester, one at “Hessie’s Shed” in the Espy Hotel, St Kilda and one at the TV recording of a Neil Finn solo show. And then, tragically, Paulo was gone, his life snuffed out by his own hand in this very city. But that awful incident doesn’t erase our memories of the sheer, joyful, uninhibited exuberance that he personified on stage.

Ticket for Corner Hotel warm-up show, 1996Ticket for Corner Hotel warm-up show, 1996

We got to see another Crowded House warm-up at the Corner Hotel, this time for their comeback tour. And it was surprisingly magnificent! Neither Marjorie nor I have warmed hugely to the two albums by the reunified band (save for about three great tracks on the first one which are up there with their greatest work), but the live shows have been almost as good as ever. And it’s typically admirable of Finn and Co. that they haven’t just done the get-together-and-play-the-old-hits-for-the-money-on-a-nostalgia-tour thing, but they’ve done it as a real band, written new material and simply carried on from where they left off. We may never get another Woodface, but on the other hand, perhaps we will!

~ DC Cardwell

NOTE: This is a quick, rough piece that I wrote as a comment on another blog, but it got too big so I posted it here instead. I may well come back to it , tidy it up and expand (or maybe contract) it later on. It’s also subject to revision by Marjorie if I’ve got some of the facts wrong!

Marjorie Cardwell’s new album OUT NOW!

We’re very excited to announce the release of Marjorie Cardwell‘s new album “In Another World”!

It’s available as a beautiful looking CD (or download) at www.marjoriecardwell.com and you can preview some tracks there before you buy. And for a limited time it comes with a free mini-print of Marjorie’s artwork and a really cool Madcar Records fridge magnet! It’s also on iTunes and available at CD Baby, Amazon etc, if you prefer.

The album was produced by Marjorie along with her husband, award-winning singer-songwriter DC Cardwell. It features several guest musicians, including Kiwi legend Don McGlashan playing a sublime euphonium solo on the opening track, “Hole In My Head”, a song Marjorie wrote about her recent experience of being diagnosed with a brain tumour.  Thankfully, the tumour was benign and surgery was successful so she is already writing songs for her next album! Listen to the album below.

In Another World with card and magnet
In Another World with card and fridge magnet

The Adjectival Bob Dylan

Today we have a guest host – our son Samuel Cardwell posted this on Facebook and it’s too good not to share with the world!

___________________

This morning my father and I were talking about how rubbish it would have been if people had kept calling albums things like ‘With the Beatles’ and ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,’ and I got to wondering what it would have been like if Bob had kept using ‘The + Adjective+ Bob Dylan’ formula throughout his long career. I think it would have gone something like this:

  • The Hillbilly Bob Dylan (Bob Dylan)
  • The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
  • The Political Bob Dylan (The Times They Are A Changin’)
  • The Sarcastic Bob Dylan (Another Side of Bob Dylan)
  • The Dreamin’ Bob Dylan (Bringing It All Back Home)
  • The Growlin’ Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited)
  • The Surreal Bob Dylan (Blonde on Blonde)
  • The Garagey Bob Dylan (The Basement Tapes)
  • The Countrified Bob Dylan (John Wesley Harding)
  • The Weird-Voiced Bob Dylan (Nashville Skyline)
  • The Desultory Bob Dylan (Self Portrait)
  • The Optimistic Bob Dylan (New Morning)
  • The Cinematic Bob Dylan (Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid)
  • The Desultory Bob Dylan Vol. 2 (Dylan)
  • The Married Bob Dylan (Planet Waves)
  • The Divorced Bob Dylan (Blood on the Tracks)
  • The Collaboratin’ Bob Dylan (Desire)
  • The Shrill Bob Dylan (Street Legal)
  • The Evangelical Bob Dylan (Slow Train Coming)
  • The Devotional Bob Dylan (Saved)
  • The Hymnal Bob Dylan (Shot of Love)
  • The Reggae Bob Dylan (Infidels)
  • The Downhill Bob Dylan (Empire Burlesque)
  • The Regrettable Bob Dylan (Knocked Out Loaded)
  • The Forgettable Bob Dylan (Down In The Groove)
  • The Revitalised Bob Dylan (Oh Mercy)
  • The Giddy Bob Dylan (Under the Red Sky)
  • The Musicological Bob Dylan (Good As I Been To You)
  • The Musicological Bob Dylan Vol. 2 (World Gone Wrong)
  • The Bleak Bob Dylan (Time Out Of Mind)
  • The Pre-War Bob Dylan (“Love and Theft”)
  • The Languid Bob Dylan (Modern Times)
  • The Cajun Bob Dylan (Together Through Life)
  • The Joyeux Bob Dylan (Christmas in the Heart)

___________________

I think that list of Samuel’s is pretty much spot-on but does anyone have any other suggestions?

Bob Dylan at Slane Castle, Dublin,1984 - photos by DC Cardwell

Bob Dylan at Slane Castle, Dublin,1984 – photos by DC Cardwell

New DC Cardwell Album “Some Hope” Now Available!

The first reviews of my new album “Some Hope” are coming in!

This is my first “proper” release, and it’s available at Bandcamp, CD Baby and also from my own website, www.dccardwell.com. It’s in a very nice gatefold cardboard, vinyl-style sleeve and is basically a 16-song summation of my career so far.

You can also download it from iTunes, and amazon.com. (EDIT: and Spotify]

~ DC

DC Cardwell's Some Hope CD
It still blows me away that I have become a singer-songwriter who releases albums!


“DC Cardwell creates a heart felt acoustic gem here, full of wonderful melodic hooks and a Ray Davies styled vocal. The gentle minor chords and harmonies that open “I Am Still The Same” are both brilliant and poignant. “Birthday Present” is another example of solid composition and a revelatory Harrison styled guitar break. Some of the mid-tempo ballads (“The Quiet Ages”) are like magical combinations of both Paul Simon and McCartney.” – Aaron Kupferberg, Powerpopaholic

“Seriously I have a great respect for your songwriting and style. You have a unique delivery that for the uninitiated conjures the vocal prowess of Thom York blended with the edge of John Lennon and a tip of the hat to Bob Dylan. Bravo DC!!” – Doug Mitchell (record producer/engineer)

“DC Cardwell helps to prove my theory that the closer you get to Antarctica, the happier your songs sound… everyone from Crowded House to Midnight Oil, seems to have a knack for sweet melodies; and DC is no exception.” – Bruce Greenberg, LIVE365.com

“Exceptionally fine songs, DC. Who knew that depression, bitter irony, loneliness and mistrust could be so much fun? I’m not saying that sarcastically. You dig deep with such gentle and humorous resignation it’s impossible not to enjoy the bitter truths you unearth. I can’t pick a favorite song. They’re all my favorites.” – Christopher Morse (songwriter/publisher)

“An album filled with publishable songs and potential television soundtracks perhaps for the likes of shows like ‘Friends’ or ‘That 70’s Show’.” – Donna Greene (Global Thunda Network)

PLUS: Other Recording In Los Angeles

As well as my own self-recorded “Some Hope” album, In December I had the immense privilege of recording in Los Angeles with Jaymee Carpenter of Holliston Stops fame. Jaymee is known as a successful music supervisor, film/TV composer and producer and has two songs in the new film “The Fighter” starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. We recorded six of my songs, five of which are for a film which will be released in late 2011/early 2012. The movie is being produced and directed by some very notable Hollywood people including Michael Garcia, former Creative Vice-President of HBO, so it’s a wonderful opportunity for me and my music! I’ve made a little mini-documentary about my experience in L.A. which you can see RIGHT HERE, and in it you can also hear some of the music we recorded for the movie.

DC’s 15 Albums In 15 Minutes

THE RULES:  Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen albums you’ve heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what albums my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note).

Here goes – I tried to resist this latest question doing the rounds on Facebook, I really did! I think the last note I wrote was my top 20 albums. And I think I did my top 10 once as well. What will they think of next? Your Top 17?

This time I’m limiting it to “rock and roll” in the good old, 70s, wide sense of the term. And Hank Williams. Albums that really touched me, moved me, and each in their own way influenced me profoundly. I allowed compilations, but not multi-artist compilations. And one album per artist, with John and Paul cheating to get in by simply managing to make two of the greatest “solo albums” of all time. No Bob Dylan, which is really really really really silly, but I somehow forgot him until the 15 spaces were filled. And same goes for Bowie (David, not Lester or Zowie). And The Rolling Stones. No NZ representatives because Split Enz and Crowded House never quite managed to make a perfect album (for me – no flaming please – oh well – go ahead!) and, well, Mutton Birds and Dave Dobbyn did but I had to draw the line at 15 and the people in this list are all earlier formative influences. And nothing Australian or Irish. Oh crap, I forgot The Finn Brothers first solo album “Finn”, which IS perfect. And ABBA, although the perfect compilation only exists as a CD-R in my collection. And The Band! And Kate & Anna McGarrigle! And Richard & Linda Thompson! And Zep! Who said it had to be 15 albums?

Oh, and Hank Williams gets in just because he’s Hank.

01 – The Beatles – Revolver (of course)

02 – Hank Williams – 40 Greatest Hits (natch)

03 – Elvis Presley – The Sun Sessions (well like duh…)

04 – Al Green – The Belle Album

05 – Aretha Franklin – 30 Greatest Hits

06 – Neil Young – Zuma

07 – Larry Norman – Only Visiting This Planet

08 – Rezillos – Can’t Stand The Rezillos

09 – Buzzcocks – Love Bites

10 – The Alpha Band – The Statue Makers Of Hollywood

11 – Paul McCartney & Wings – Band On The Run

12 – John Lennon And The Plastic Ono Band – John Lennon And The Plastic Ono Band

13 – Stevie Wonder – The Original Musiquarium

14 – T-Bone Burnett – Truth Decay

15 – Sam Phillips – Cruel Inventions

For a more comprehensive (but by no means exhaustive) list of some of my fave artists, allow me to cut and paste from my fabulous MySpace page (which incidentally is at http://www.myspace.com/dccardwell)

Sam Phillips, The Beatles, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Martin, Neil Young, Al Green, T Bone Burnett, The Alpha Band, The Clark Sisters, The Rezillos, The Kinks, The Staple Singers, The Mutton Birds, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Crowded House, Neil Finn, Tim Finn, Phil Judd, Split Enz, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, The Heptones, Jackie Mittoo, Wild Man Fischer, Toots & The Maytals, Johnny Cash, Iris Dement, Ann Peebles, The Band, The Beach Boys, Larry Norman, Lester Young, The Meters, Gillian Welch, Sloan, Buddy & Julie Miller, NRBQ, Andrae Crouch, The Fall, Thelonious Monk, Andy Pratt, Loudon Wainwright III, Ace Of Base, Stevie Wonder, Arcade Fire, Dave Dobbyn, Billie Holiday & Lester Young, The Drifters, Wreckless Eric, Rodney Cordner, Django Reinhardt, Mark Heard, Gil Askey, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Led Zeppelin, Lefty Frizzell, The Rolling Stones, Rick Nelson, Ivor Cutler, Roy Harper, The Undertones, The Mighty Clouds Of Joy, Edwyn Collins, Vince Guaraldi, Blossom Dearie, George Jones, The Strokes, U2, Van Morrison, The Beach Boys, The Modern Jazz Quartet, The Pogues, Randy Stonehill, Nina Simone, Chuck Berry, Madeleine Peyroux, Al Bowlly, Ray Charles, James Brown, Jimmy Reed, The Everly Brothers, Gram Parsons, Elvis Costello, Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Bobby Womack, Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, ABBA, Richard and Linda Thompson, Frank Black and, of course, his Fabulous Pixies, The Mills Brothers, Duke Ellington, The Byrds, The Rutles, Elmore James, Buzzcocks, Booker T & The MGs, Randy Newman, Ella Fitzgerald, Marc Bolan and T-Rex, Louis Armstrong, The Dixie Hummingbirds, Television. Let’s face it, there are too many great artists, writers and producers to list but I especially like to listen to a lot of soul music including music from the Stax and Atlantic labels, Motown, 70s soul, doo-wop, be-bop, early rock and roll, ska, reggae and New Orleans R&B.

Review of Neil Young at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne, Australia, 28 Jan 2009

The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is a rather wonderful outdoor venue in the
heart of Melbourne’s King’s Domain. A natural amphitheatre with a large
stage and a covered area for those who can afford the expensive seats!
For once, I paid the extra to get up close to one of my major musical
heroes. I was accompanied by my wife Marjie and my son Samuel, both
also Neil Young fans.

But it was just too hot for me to really enjoy this show. I’ve been in
Melbourne for twelve years now, but for a Northern Ireland kid these
40+ days are hard to take, especially when they drag on for too long a
period! And after a long hot day and a scorching walk to the venue,
you’re not exactly in the mood to rock and roll all night long, free
world or not.

I regret that we stayed in our seats under the dome as it was indeed
like baking in an oven, but the heat was also making us feel so tired
that we were reluctant to move back to watch and listen from out in the
open air. I now wish we had, judging from other people’s comments.

I’m a long-time Neil fan (ever since I heard a track from the new album
Zuma in 1975 while listening to the John Peel Show on a little
transistor radio underneath my pillow) and his playing has influenced
me more than any other guitarist’s. Anyone who knows me will attest
that I am a huge Neil enthusiast.

And I’ve only seen him twice before – the last two and a half songs
(don’t ask!) of a show in Vancouver back in the early 90s and his last
appearance here in Melbourne on the Greendale tour, which was really
great but not a typical performance.

I’d read very good things about this tour, with the British leg being
hailed as his best since the famous Crazy Horse shows of the mid-70s.

So I was primed for this to be the “gig of a lifetime”, but it was not
to be – which was probably more due to the scorching weather, my
fragile physical state (for various reasons), poor sound from where I
was sitting, a guy to my left who was not large but somehow took up way
more space (mine) than was justified, and a song selection which was
not to my taste. So I’m surprised to be writing a
less-than-enthusiastic review and I apologise for it, because I think
most people there enjoyed it more than I did.

The Greendale show had been at the same venue, and from our vantage
point then, much further from the stage, the sound was perfect.
Tonight, down near the front, it was rather boxy and unfortunately the
drums were mixed way too loud and reverberant like any crappy bar band,
which was annoying most of the time, but especially in the ballads,
when it was completely ridiculous. I guess the covered part of the
venue (50 years old next month) was acoustically designed for classical
music, but that’s not good for rock’n’roll! And from where I was,
Neil’s acoustic guitar sounded really bad and that spoiled songs that
should have been good, like “The Needle And The Damage Done”.

I thought the backing vocals were spot-on and beautiful, especially
Neil’s wife Pegi‘s, and the playing was generally sympathetic, but I
couldn’t really hear the piano at all from where I was. And as for the
bass, it was pretty much impossible to clearly identify any particular
note, so we just got a general boominess in the lower registers.

Anyway, Neil was full of energy, which amazed me given the extreme
heat. He was wearing a white open-necked shirt and Eric Morecambe style
khaki Bermuda shorts. His voice was sounding fairly strong despite the
acoustics, however at the Greendale show five years ago his voice was
astoundingly good, in fact I didn’t even know he *could* sing like that!

And despite regretting not moving back, it was good to be close enough
to really *see* Neil and observe what he was doing with his guitar.

It was also a treat to see Ben Keith – someone who’s played with Neil
since those far-off legendary days of the early 70s. The full line-up
was Ben Keith (pedal steel, guitar, piano, organ), Rick Rosas (bass),
Chad Cromwell (drums), Anthony Crawford and Pegi Young (backing vocals,
piano and guitars).

An early song was a fave of mine, “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”
with its delectable la-la-las. But for my particular taste there were
just too many songs that I find mediocre, with throwaway tunes and
sophomoric homespun cod-religious or philosophical lyrics which are
probably crowd-pleasing but lack the depth of which he is capable. Many
of them had failed to interest me on the original albums and these live
performances didn’t enhance them any. I noticed that Marjie and Samuel
laughed heartily at some of them, and not in a good way!

An exception was “One Of These Days” which I had never liked much but
which suddenly rung very true on this occasion, and I guess it’s
moments like that which make a show worthwhile!

“Four Strong Winds” came across quite well too. The harmonium on
“Mother Earth” was nice, but, well, the song is laughable, really! I
mean, you’d think you can’t go wrong with the tune of “O Waly Waly“,
but the words… This was one which really had Marjie and Samuel
cracking up and who could blame them? (Flame away – we all have our
likes and dislikes and I’ve already stated that Neil is one of my absolute
fave artists so I don’t feel guilty!)

As others have commented online, “Cortez The Killer” was, well, killer,
and the only song of the night where he really let his guitar do what
it does so well – sing. (But you know, even though that song is one of
the best tracks on my favourite Neil album, the sentiment still really
bugs me because he suggests that sacrificing children is OK if you
think you’re going to get some mystical benefit from it. It doesn’t
exactly support his case against Cortez. There – I’ve written a song
about that, but now I’ve said it openly for the first time!)

For me, another highlight of the evening was “Words”. That was the only
song in which Neil played his white Gretsch and I hate to say this,
but it sounded way better than his legendary Les Paul, “Old Black”. I
think the cleaner, bitier sound helped make up for the muddiness of the
PA. I had never really loved this song on Harvest, but tonight the 11/8
time signatures (or whatever they are) sounded perfectly natural and
even swinging. Marjie hated it though!

The finale of “A Day In The Life” was brilliant. It’s a great song that
the Beatles made kinda difficult to cover (although I have a 45rpm
record of Wes Montgomery doing it) but it was good to hear it being
done so well by Neil. He and his band are as capable of doing
cacophonous wig-outs as anyone, as we all know, but they somehow
managed to make the orchestral crescendos sound remarkably like the Sgt
Pepper version! I was sure I could hear the swirling strings but it was
coming out of bass, drums, piano, organ and guitars. For the second
crescendo he proceeded to break all the strings on “Old Black” and thrash the
pickups with them, at great length and to noisy effect. The middle bit
(woke up, fell out of bed) was perhaps a little off, and Nil seemed to
be forgetting the words or forgetting to go up to the microphone, but
the overall effect was unforgettable.

Pegi had utilised the illuminated vibraphone in a pleasantly Motownish
way earlier in the evening, but for the climax of “A Day In The Life”
Neil ran up to where it was located at the back of the stage and hit a
percussive version of the Beatles’ famous piano chord. Not quite as
cute as the Rutles’ “plonk”, but a good way to end.

Review by DC Cardwell (www.dccardwell.com)

FULL SET LIST (thanks to http://www.setlist.fm)

1. Love And Only Love
2. Sea Change
3. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
4. I’ve Been Waiting For You
5. Spirit Road
6. Cortez The Killer
7. Cinnamon Girl
8. Mother Earth
9. The Needle And The Damage Done
10. Light A Candle
11. Four Strong Winds
12. Unknown Legend
13. One Of These Days
14. Get Back To The Country
15. Words
16. Just Singing A Song
17. Rockin’ In The Free World
18. A Day In The Life

This “20 Album” thingo off the top of my head (by Marjorie Cardwell)

One of those Facebook questions doing the rounds…

Larry Norman – Only Visiting This Planet
Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy
Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks
Buzzcocks – Love Bites
The Beatles – Revolver
Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers – Rock’n’Roll With The Modern Lovers
Alpha Band – Statue Makers of Hollywood
Elvis Presley – Gospel Album
Al Green – Belle Album
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong duets
Sam Phillips – Cruel Inventions
Hank Snow – The Day Tragedy Struck
Hank Williams – Greatest Hits
Ricky Nelson – Greatest Hits
George Jones – Greatest Hits
John Lennon – Rock and Roll
Neil Young – After the Goldrush
Django Reinhardt and Stephan Grappelly – best of
The Harder They Come – Soundtrack
American Grafitti – Soundtrack

 

SEE ALSO: DC’s Top 20 Albums

DC’s Top 20 Albums

[From Facebook – occasionally I give in and respond to these things…]

Here we go again… how did this happen to me!

THE RULES: Think of 20 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life… dug into your soul. The ones that you know backwards, forwards, up, and down, and are now a part of you. Then when you finish, tag 20 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill.
____________________________________

I thought this would be hard but I found it surprisingly easy to think of 20 that were pivotal in my life, at least as far as music goes. Only a few have affected me in non-musical ways.

And it was actually easier to put them in (roughly) chronological order of when I first fell in love with them, which I guess indicates how important they were to me. No modern music at all, because there is no good music any more. You kids don’t know squat.

I applied the usual rule of one-album-per-artist.

And as is often the case, black music and pre-rock music of all genres is woefully under-represented because there’s less of a focus on albums. My actual listening habits are very, very broad. I love all genres, and hate most music.

– DC

01. Larry Norman – Only Visting This Planet
02. Led Zeppelin – IV
03. Neil Young – Zuma
04. Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home
05. Buzzcocks – Love Bites
06. The Beatles – Revolver
07. Al Green – The Belle Album
08. Hank Williams – 40 Greatest Hits
09. Alpha Band – The Statue Makers Of Hollywood
10. Aretha Franklin – 30 Greatest Hits
11. Elvis Presley – The Sun Sessions
12. Various Artists – 20 Reggae Greats
13. Stevie Wonder – The Original Musiquarium
14. Charlie Parker – some old “Giants Of Jazz” LP
15. Ella Fitzgerald – The Cole Porter Songbook Vol. 1
16. Sam Phillips – Cruel Inventions
17. Crowded House – Woodface
18. The Mutton Birds – Salty
19. Dave Dobbyn – The Islander
20. The Strokes – Room On Fire

SEE ALSO: Marjorie’s Top 20 Albums

DC’s Review of CROWDED HOUSE at The Forum, Melbourne, 2nd Dec 2008

[Originally on Facebook Notes] Here’s my belated review of the recent top notch Crowded House show in Melbourne, Australia. I’m writing this nearly two weeks after the show, and forgetting a lot of the details, so if anyone has a recording of the show I’d love to have a copy!

BACKGROUND

Crowded House are known for their unpredictable shows with improvised music, banter and on-the-fly audience interaction, and Tuesday, 2nd December at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre was a classic of the genre. (Although I have to admit I came late to them and have only seen them live a handful of times – I do, however, have numerous live recordings and videos so I am still qualified to make this statement!)

This was the first of two Melbourne warm-up shows for the band’s appearance at Sydney’s Homebake Festival. The house was packed.

For those of you who are not already fans of the band, I should mention that they split around 1996 and sealed their career with a massive free farewell concert outside the Sydney Opera House, which was also preceded by two wonderful warm-up shows at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne which my wife Marjie and I had the pleasure of attending.

Leader Neil Finn subsequently embarked on an interesting but slightly disappointing (to me) solo career, releasing two albums on his own and one with his brother Tim, interspersed by other projects such as a Split Enz reunion tour and a collaboration with musicians such as ex-members of Radiohead, the Smiths and Pearl Jam.

In the meantime, their much loved drummer and manic funny man, Paul Hester, sadly took his own life a few years ago, leaving a big gap which seemed impossible to fill. However, to many people’s surprise, Neil reformed the band a couple of years ago the new Crowded House are producing new songs and albums and generally acting as a vital unit, unlike some play-the-hits-take-the-money-and-run nostalgia merchants.

New drummer Matt Sherrod (ex-Beck) does his job admirably from a musical point of view, and wisely doesn’t try to emulate Hester’s humour and stage presence.

Original bassist Nick Seymour and guitarist/keyboardist Mark Hart (who joined as a fully-fledged member around the recording of their last pre-split album) are also back in the fold.

THE VENUE

Melbourne can lay claim to being the band’s spiritual home as they formed here and were based here for most of their career. The Forum Theatre is a fascinating place in itself, with ‘stars’ glowing from its ceiling, and faux architecture and Roman statues visible in large balconies to each side of the stage, giving the illusion of being outdoors in an exotic locale.

Apart from diners at the back of the room, most of the audience were standing fairly well-packed in front of the stage. Marjorie and I were around ten rows of fans back from the stage, and the sound was very good and, as usual at Crowded House shows, not too loud. The drums sounded natural, without that annoying, larger-then-life quality that you get too often nowadays.

THE ENTRANCE

The band came onstage with the house and stage lights down, wearing those miner-style camping lamps that you put on your head. They played the first song, ‘Locked Out’, like that, so that you couldn’t really see their faces. I think some stage lights also swept across the audience. It was like a low-budget version of something Neil Young might do. Quite artistic, really, and it actually felt faintly moving that they might have been implying that they wanted to see the audience rather than being seen by them.

When they discarded the lamps and the stage lights came up we could see that they were wearing the trim, dapper suits that they seem to have taken to this century. Neil’s hair hasn’t got any rulier. Nick was almost shaven-headed.

A little later Neil revealed that he had cut his forehead (very slightly) taking the lamps off after the first song, and he and Nick joked about how rock’n’roll that was. They said that there was a fine line between rock’n’roll and stupidity, and I think it was Neil who wondered if there is a line at all. Someone said that rock’n’roll was stupidity with lamps attached.

They talked a bit about which shops they had searched in that day for the lamps, and of course it was endearing to know that it hadn’t been some kind of long-hatched, professionally staged stunt.

Once the lights came up we could see a fabric backdrop painted to look a little like wallpapered walls with framed paintings of various members of the band, along with a couple of slightly weird androgynous nudes. Probably Nick’s work, but I’m only guessing.

THE HELP

The band have often used auxiliary musicians over the years, with Neil’s son Liam recently holding down guitar duties, Eddie Rayner out of Split Enz playing his baroque keyboards in their early days, and I recall Jools their female roadie playing keyboards occasionally. Tonight Neil’s younger son, Elroy, lurked in the shadows playing acoustic and electric guitars for many of the songs. He sported a beard not quite as fulsome as his older brother’s, and an immaculately coiffed hairdo which could probably absorb quite a few bullets if necessary.

Rather more visible was Don McGlashan, who used to be the leader of the sadly defunct Mutton Birds, and must nearly equal Neil Finn as a beloved New Zealand singer-songwriter and all-round national treasure. Marjorie and I adored the Mutton Birds (BTW, you can see our names on ‘Flock’, their Greatest Hits CD!) so it was rather strange, and in fact unsettling, to see him up there as a general musical dogsbody and not get the chance to sing any of his own compositions. We had assumed he would be the support act, but no, that was the enjoyable but unremarkable Anika Moa.

Anyway, as I mentioned, Don was at least visually quite prominent, with a modest elevated home behind Nick stage left. He had a small electronic keyboard close to hand, a guitar or two, a little gourd-like mandolinish thingy, a toy piano, something like a fluegel horn, and of course, his trusty euphonium. When I spotted its comforting form I yelled in Marjorie’s ear, “Don’s got his euphonium!” and she nodded in enthusiastic acknowledgment. However, a minute later she yelled back in my ear, “I thought you said he’s got his wee podium!”

Don also popped up over on the Mark side of the stage playing the real keyboards once in a while.

THE MAIN SET

The review in Melbourne newspaper The Age* referred to the set as ‘fan-friendly’ and indeed it was. There was only one indisputable classic in the entire main set, ‘Fall At Your Feet’, and that didn’t come until near the end.

I guess I should fend off arguments by stating that ‘World Where You Live’, the second song, is a near-classic, but not quite of the same mass-recognisability as ‘Weather With You’ or ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ (which didn’t get an airing tonight).

The audience didn’t seem to mind the five new songs they played, although I have to say I found them a little dull, rather like some of the lesser songs on ‘Time On Earth’, the band’s first post-reformation album, which had started out as a Neil solo album. I expect they’ll grow on me, though.

‘Lucky’ was the title of one of the new songs and they attempted to throw in a bit of The Kinks’ ‘Lola’ but they didn’t really know the chords – there’s one to practise for next time! Another impromptu cover was ‘You Sexy Thing’, one I’ve heard them do before.

One of the greater songs on ‘Time On Earth’ was ‘Don’t Stop Now’, which to me was a little flat on this occasion. Nick seemed a little uncomfortable playing the keyboard bit at the beginning while holding his bass, and the whole thing never quite took off. I’ve seen them do it before perfectly successfully though – I guess it might have been just another thing to iron out on the warm-up show.

Pineapple Head segued into a cover of The Beatles’ ‘The End’ which was rather nice.

Neil referred to the fact that he had dreamed the previous night about being in bed with Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway out of Radiohead. Those two appeared on his ‘Seven Worlds Collide’ project a few years ago, and are scheduled to play with him again when he revisits the concept next year.

When Paul was around it seemed that almost all the banter and humour originated with him, but now Neil and Nick are almost as chatty as ever without him. Nick was famously very much against splitting the band, and you get the impression that he’s very happy indeed to be up there again. Perhaps the fact that he had become a father a few weeks previously also had a bearing on his cheerful demeanour. He talked with fondness about going that day to Bernard’s Magic Shop on Elizabeth Street which he used to visit as a child but realising now that all the toys and tricks were really crap.

At one point Neil managed to rib Nick, as he often does, about the Seymour Family Singers, his family’s band which he was in with his parents and siblings when he was growing up. Snippets from such classics as ‘Three Little Maids From School’ ensued.

The normally taciturn Mark actually went up to the mike and opened his mouth as if he was going to speak, but then changed his mind. Later on, though, he actually did come up with a few words, as I recall.

I was particularly happy to hear a couple of my favourites, ‘Not The Girl You Think You Are’ and ‘Whispers And Moans’, and the opening bars of both were greeted with warm recognition from the audience, suggesting that I am not the only one to hold those two songs in high regard. They also revived the great ‘Chocolate Cake’, which was preceded by a series of samples that featured in the Woodface recording of the song. Afterwards there were some allusions to Obama and his recently announced ‘Money Team’ but rather than give an unqualified vote of confidence to their ability to get the world out of recession, Neil circumspectly said, “we’ll just have to wait and see”.

Before the gig Marjorie and I had noted a person at the bar dressed up in fancy dress as 1965 Bob Dylan or John Cooper Clarke (take your pick) with elaborate yet immovable hair. During ‘Love You Til The Day I Die’ this creature joined the band, played a lively guitar solo and was introduced as Davey Lane from You Am I. There’s a tradition around here for people to chant “The Best Cold Beer Is Vic” at a certain point in this song, but tonight Neil had to do it himself with hardly any help from the audience, and he seemed a little disappointed. I think it was originally a Paul Hesterism, but perhaps someone can help me out with the story. The phrase itself is a slogan for our local king of beers, Victoria Bitter.

THE FIRST ENCORE

In the first encore we were treated to ‘It’s Only Natural’, another big fave of Marjie’s and mine, and it was good, as always, but they didn’t really play that odd but lovely riff properly at the beginning, and, as in all the Woodface Tim/Neil songs, Tim’s backing vocals were sorely missed. I’ve seen shows before where Mark did a reasonably good job of replicating them, but at this show they were very weak indeed and one had to sing them oneself to achieve anything approaching the desired effect. I guess this is what ‘warm-up’ shows are for!

Neil asked the audience if they had any questions for the band and then found a loose microphone on a lead and asked the audience to pass it around to the speakers. He asked us to police ourselves and was duly impressed by the orderly fashion in which this was done, and even more so by the fact that the microphone returned intact at the end of it all. (Not quite as cute as a tale I once heard of Don’s euphonium being crowd-surfed from soundboard to stage with a few detours in between.)

One guy mentioned that his wife was about to have a baby and had to miss the gig because of it. He requested that Mark think of a name for it if it turned out to be a girl, and Nick if it was a boy. He said he was serious and the name would actually be used, but Mark cruelly came up with ‘Atticus’, which he had heard on some TV program the night before. Neil made up a snatch of a song “Attaboy Addicus”. Nick asked what the surname would be (I forget) and came up with the very boring but much kinder suggestion, ‘Emily’.

Then some guy answered Neil’s earlier question to the audience about when the back balcony had got walled up by saying that when Neil played solo there in such-and-such a year it was still open, and after that gig he and his band had gone home and learned to play ‘Private Universe’. This, of course, was a cue for Neil to invite him and his friends to come up on stage and play the song, so they guy got up but the other two members took a while to materialise. So in the meantime some other enthusiastic bloke got up as well. I toyed with the idea of doing likewise but two things stopped me: (a) I don’t really like ‘Private Universe’ and (b) I wasn’t sure that I could succesfully climb up on to the stage. Of course I regretted it afterwards.

Eventually the other two guys materialised and with the help of the real band they played and sang the song. But for me the highlight was the young girl who clambered up unnoticed by Neil and proceeded to play along on Don’s euphonium! Audience participation is commonplace at Crowded House shows but I bet this was a first!

They finished the first encore with ‘Weather With You’, again suffering from sheer lack of Tim, but benefiting from Don playing enthusiastically on his little toy piano held up to the microphone and rather effective for it. This is yet another perfect singalong song, but as I’ve noticed before, there are two versions of the chorus, both of which resolve differently. Generally the audience doesn’t know which version is happening at any one time, and the thing collapses each time the resolution is reached and half the people sing a different thing from the other half. However Neil made much of the fact that, for the first time ever, we actually managed to get it right! That’s a hometown audience for you! He got us to run through it again both ways just to make sure.

THE SECOND ENCORE

Neil began by playing a lengthy drum solo while Matt wandered over to the keyboards and started making sounds. Neil attempted to get a rendition of Paul Hester’s ‘This Is Massive’ going but it didn’t really work out. Apart from this musical allusion, I don’t think Neil mentioned Paul at all, even though he was a Melbourne man and it would have seemed very natural to talk about him here. Neil regularly paid tribute to Paul frequently on the earlier tours of the reformed version of the band, but tonight he didn’t and afterwards I was absolutely amazed to realise that I had gone through the whole concert barely consciously thinking of him at all! I guess that’s a good thing in that it means that Matt is doing a great job on drums, but I almost felt guilty when it dawned on me.

Then it was ‘Fingers Of Love’ which Marjorie absolutely hates. I don’t mind it too much but Marjie’s detestation always rubs off on me a little so that I can’t really enjoy it.

Then they sang a live favourite, their version of Nick’s brother Mark’s ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’. An audience sing-along classic if ever there was one. We were happy that Neil gave Don a verse to sing, and he sounded truly magnificent. Only made me more cross that he didn’t get to sing any of his own songs!

Neil was clearly wanting the night to go on for ever and said that he couldn’t think of a way to end it so he gave Matt a drum solo. Parts of it seemed to me to be modeled along the lines of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Moby Dick’ so I was wishing the band to come in with that riff, but they had worked another Zep riff into ‘Chocolate Cake’ earlier so perhaps they didn’t want to overdo it!

Nick treated us to a rendition of ‘Hector The Safety Cat’ which must be some old Aussie public information film. I don’t think Neil had heard that one before.

Then they finished the night with ‘Better Be Home Soon’ – always a good way to end it! Throughout the evening the band seemed genuinely moved by the reception they got, and Neil specifically said that he didn’t want it to end. The show had lasted almost three hours and after a wildly received bow or two from the entire ensemble, Nick concluded it by warmly thanking his hometown of Melbourne.

– DC Cardwell 2008

Neil Finn – some banter from the gig

SET LIST (compiled from some other versions posted on the web – may not be entirely accurate but thanks to the kind anons from whom I pinched it)

1. Locked Out
2. World Where You Live
3. Isolation
4. Turn It Round
5. Pineapple Head/The End
6. Amsterdam
7. Don’t Stop Now
8. People Are Like Suns
9. Chocolate Cake
10. Not The Girl You Think You Are
11. Heaven That I’m Making
12. Lucky/Lola
13. Fall At Your Feet
14. Whispers And Moans
15. Love You Til The Day I Die
16. When You Come

_______________

17. It’s Only Natural
18. Cars Collide
19. Private Universe
20. Distant Sun
21. Weather With You
_____________

22. Neil Drum Jam/This Is Massive
23. Fingers Of Love
24. Throw Your Arms Around Me
25. Matt Drum Solo
26. Better Be Home Soon

_____________________

*Our son Samuel had mentioned to me the review in The Age but I couldn’t find it, and after I’d thumbed through the paper for some time Marjorie revealed that she’d used a few pages to wrap the Christmas Cake as it baked in the oven. She was kind enough to save the relevant article after the cake came out, and now I know that newsprint can survive such ordeals unscathed. I’ve heard of ‘half-baked’ reviews before, but I have the ‘completely-baked’ one in front of me as I type. It looks just fine.