It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Reading): ‘Interesting is too bland a word for someone like Dylan. He is off the scale’

Dylan books
Picture courtesy of Apostolis Giontzis / Shutterstock.com.

In the second half of a two-part article called It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Reading), to celebrate Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday, which is on May 24, Say It With Garage Flowers speaks to writer and broadcaster, Spencer Leigh, about his new book, Bob Dylan: Outlaw Bluesan impressive 450-page biography about the legendary singer-songwriter, which was published by McNidder & Grace in October last year.

For the book, Leigh, who has been broadcasting on BBC Radio Merseyside for over 40 years, and has written biographies on acts including The Beatles, Frank Sinatra,  Simon & Garfunkel and Elvis Presley, spoke to more than 300 musicians, friends and acquaintances of Dylan.

“Journalists are very fond of saying Bob Dylan is an enigma,” says Leigh, “but that word is flawed. It’s as good as saying you don’t know. I have determined that I will not call Bob Dylan an enigma at any point in the book and I’m trying to find an answer for everything.”

With that in mind, we asked him to tell us why, after all this time, people are still writing and reading books about Dylan, and if there is really anything new left to say?

The main reason for the fascination with Bob Dylan is that he has changed popular culture in a significant way for the better,” he says.  “He has rarely explained what he is doing, so there is an air of mystery about him, and this is one reason why he is studied at universities.

‘I hope there is something new on every page, but that’s for other people to say’

“What I think has been overlooked is that from time to time he has shown he can be a straight, down the line commercial songwriter, with If Not For You, Lay Lady Lay, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight and Make You Feel My Love. This has enabled him to have a significant role in the everyday commercial market. This is different from Zappa, Beefheart or Lou Reed. You couldn’t have got them to write commercial songs.”

He adds: “I never thought Bob Dylan was a hoarder and now he has sold his archive to the University of Tulsa. That could change our perception of things.”

Q&A

Why did you decide to write another hefty tome on Dylan and how did you ensure your book was different to what’s gone before?

Spencer Leigh: If people are good enough to spend time reading it, I don’t want to waste their time. I hope there is something new on every page, but that’s for other people to say. Over the years I have interviewed a lot of people for my BBC Radio Merseyside shows and so I had many quotes about Dylan, often from people who were there, like Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Hunter Davies says that when you move to a new chapter, you have to ask if the readers are still with you – it’s a good tip.

‘The most surprising thing is that I couldn’t find an interview with Dylan’s former wife, Sara’

Was it a difficult book to write and research? How long did it take from start to finish?

SL: I once asked Charles Aznavour how long it took to write a particular song and he said, “Twenty minutes and 20 years.”

What were some of the most surprising or interesting things you learnt from writing and researching the book?

SL: The most surprising thing, I suppose, is that I couldn’t find an interview with Dylan’s former wife, Sara. Was that part of the divorce settlement? I would guess so, but then again Jane Asher never talks of her time with Paul McCartney. It’s an angle of the story that we may never have.

Interesting is too bland a word for someone like Dylan. He is a good example of someone who is off the scale. I was intrigued to discover his affection for Liverpool. All the bits and pieces added up to that. I had thought that he might feel the same way about Birmingham or Edinburgh, but no, every couple of years there is some little remark or action to show he loves the place.

Spencer Leigh
Spencer Leigh

‘I’ve spoken to quite a lot of Dylan authors and this may make my book unique’

You have spoken to an impressive amount of people for the book. Who were you most happy to have had access to, and why? And, apart from Dylan biographer, Robert Shelton, was there anyone you’d have liked to have spoken to, but couldn’t?

SL: I did have a long conversation with Robert Shelton about how he wanted £50 for an interview. That was around 1985. I should have paid and not said, “The BBC never pays for interviews.” I’ve spoken to quite a lot of Dylan authors and this may make my book unique.

Dylan turns 80 on May 24 this year. Any thoughts on him hitting that milestone? 

SL: Well, I’m surprised he’s got that far, but you could say that about any rock star. I like his artwork a lot, but I would like more songs.

In the book, you touch on his epic 2020 single, Murder Most Foul. What did you think of the album it came from, Rough and Rowdy Ways, which wasn’t out at the time you’d finished the book?

SL: At the time I did the book, three tracks had been released. I’ve put a review of the rest of the album on my website. Dylan has now found a way of half-speaking, half-narrating his songs, which works very well. Okay, his singing voice is shot, but his speech is fantastic.

Do you have a favourite Bob Dylan song?

SL: I went to Liverpool recently for the first time in a year and bought the [new] Bob Dylan-1970 CD set. Although I’ve got many of the tracks on bootlegs, I am looking forward to hearing these cleaned-up versions.

A favourite song would be Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, on the ‘Judas’ tour of 1966. I was there in Liverpool and it was just as rowdy as Manchester. I had never seen an artist alienate a lot of his audience before and I am convinced, now that I have researched the book, that he was loving every minute of it.

Bob Dylan: Outlaw Blues by Spencer Leigh is out now. It’s published by McNidder & Grace. 

For more information, visit:

https://mcnidderandgrace.com/

http://www.spencerleigh.co.uk/

Read the first part of the article, here, which is an interview with K G Miles, co-author of the book Bob Dylan In London: Troubadour Tales (McNidder & Grace).

 

 

 

It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Reading): ‘Our book is a love letter to Dylan and London – a real project of passion’

 

Dylan books
Picture courtesy of Apostolis Giontzis / Shutterstock.com.

In the first of a two-part article called It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Reading), to celebrate Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday, which is on May 24, Say It With Garage Flowers speaks to writer K G Miles, co-author of the new book, Bob Dylan In London: Troubadour Tales, a brilliantly researched and easily accessible guide to the history of Dylan in London and his impact on the city’s music scene.

“We wanted it to be the antithesis of the normal Dylan book, which can be very turgid and very long,” he tells us. “I have no interest in relating the lyrics of Dylan to King Lear.”

Great, as we’d have no interest in reading about it, whereas his book is right up our Positively 4th Street…

There’s a line in Bob Dylan’s 1964 song, My Back Pages, that says: “Ah, but I was so much older then I’m younger than that now.”

It’s been interpreted as being about his growing disillusionment with the ‘60s folk protest movement that he was a part of, and his desire to move in a new musical direction, which he did, by ‘going electric’ a year after it was written. Dylan was in his early twenties when he wrote it – now, he really is so much older, as he turns 80 on May 24 this year.

The title, My Back Pages, also seems very fitting, as, in the run-up to Dylan’s milestone birthday, there’s been a glut of books published on him, as well as revised and updated versions of existing biographies. When it comes to rock’s back pages, no one – apart from The Beatles – has had so many tomes written about them.

Dylan continues to fascinate authors, academics and music fans alike – even more so in the wake of last year’s extraordinary 17-minute ‘comeback’ single, Murder Most Foul, released during lockdown, and its accompanying late-period masterpiece, Rough and Rowdy Ways – his 39th studio album.

‘Dylan continues to fascinate authors, academics and music fans. When it comes to rock’s back pages, no one – apart from The Beatles – has had so many tomes written about them’

One of the best recent books to join Dylan’s back pages is Bob Dylan In London: Troubadour Tales by Jackie Lees and K G Miles, which was published by McNidder & Grace in February of this year. For once, it’s a new Dylan publication that has a different story to tell – it’s a brilliantly researched and easily accessible guide to the history of Dylan in London and his impact on the city’s music scene.

As soon as you’ve read it, you’ll want to embark on a rock pilgrimage to explore the numerous London locations that are listed in the book, from The Troubadour Club in Old Brompton Road, where Dylan played in 1962, to the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, and the Savoy Steps, where the iconic promo film for Subterranean Homesick Blues was shot, and the north London streets of Camden and Crouch End, where Dylan hung out in the ‘90s.

Rather handily, as Bob Dylan In London: Troudadour Tales is a paperback that’s only just over 100 pages long, it’s easy to carry when you’re on the move. In 1962, Dylan wrote the song Let Me Die In My Footsteps – thanks to the book’s compact size, it means you won’t die from sheer exhaustion if you’re following in his.

In an exclusive interview, Say It With Garage Flowers spoke to one of the authors, K G Miles – aka Keith – who tells us: “There are thousands of books on Bob Dylan – it’s remarkable that we’ve found a gap in that huge market.”

Bob Dylan In London

Q&A

How did you come up with the idea for the book?

K G Miles: Jackie and I are both first-time authors – we’re just fans. We met at university in 1979 – on the cusp of Dylan’s ‘Christian’ era. We didn’t realise that we were both Dylan fans – it wasn’t until he won the Nobel Prize in Literature [in 2016] that we both came out of our closets, if you like, and decided to do a pilgrimage.

We knew there were stories about him playing London, but we didn’t know the whole truth. The project began as a pilgrimage to places like the Savoy Steps, where the world’s first music video was filmed – Subterranean Homesick Blues – and to the Troubadour Club, in Earls Court. We went into the Troubadour – Dylan played there in 1962, on his first trip to the UK, as did Jimi Hendrix and Paul Simon.

It’s a fantastic place and a wonderful piece of musical history, but there was nothing on the walls, so you wouldn’t know that. There were pictures of Arctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton – we thought that was wrong. We asked the owners if they would let us put a picture of Dylan up, but, to their credit, they gave us a whole room to kit out! Until lockdown, we were getting tourists visiting from all over – it’s a great venue for people to meet.

The Dylan Room, at The Troubadour
The Dylan Room, at The Troubadour Club. Picture by KG Miles.

We also looked at putting a blue plaque on the Savoy Steps and other things we could do.

We found out a lot of stuff along our journey and we had all these tales gathered together, so I said to Jackie, “Why don’t we put them out as a book, as people would be interested in them?”

It’s a love letter to Dylan and London – a real project of passion from two Londoners. There are thousands of books on Bob Dylan – it’s remarkable that we’ve found a gap in that huge market.

When I look back at the classic Dylan biographies by people like Robert Shelton and others, he has a tiny cursory paragraph about Dylan’s first ‘62/’63 trip to London. He writes that Dylan played at The Prospect of Whitby pub. I know that pub – there wasn’t a folk club there. I think he’s mistaken it for the Pindar of Wakefield. There’s a famous picture of Dylan playing the London Singers’ Club Christmas show, in which you can see the wallpaper behind him. If you compare that picture with one of the folk singer, Anne Briggs, which was taken at the Pindar of Wakefield, the wallpaper matches. Dylan’s first gig outside of America was at The King and Queen pub in London [Foley Street, Fitzrovia] – his first tentative steps out of the New York scene and onto the world’s stage. There’s a tiny picture there, but I’d love to have more.

Dylan playing the London Singers’ Club Christmas show, in 1962, at the Pindar of Wakefield.

That time was a critical one in Dylan’s career, but it’s been passed over. When Dylan came over for the Royal Festival Hall gig in 1964, it was so important, and in ’65 and ’66 you’ve got Don’t Look Back and that tour – rock ‘n’ roll Dylan. It’s still only a matter of weeks in Dylan’s history, but they’re disproportionately important to his development and musical history.

‘Dylan’s first gig outside of America was at The King and Queen pub in London – his first tentative steps out of the New York scene and onto the world’s stage’

In the book, you reference biographer Clinton Heylin’s point that Dylan’s month in London in the winter of ’62 was almost as influential as the previous two years he spent in New York. I think your book is brilliantly researched  – you’ve crammed so much into the 100 or so pages. How did you go about doing your homework?

KGM: When the Bob Dylan Archive was launched, in Tulsa, I was lucky enough to go there and talk at a conference about Dylan’s time with [poet and novelist] Robert Graves  – it’s a footnote in Dylan’s history, but it’s very important. Dylan puts a tiny quote about meeting Graves in London in his book, Chronicles: Volume One, but he gets it wrong – it’s the most beautiful autobiography, but it’s not to be trusted in any way. He talks about walking with Graves, after a party, in Paddington Square – if you look it up, there wasn’t a Paddington Square at that time, but there is now.

We’re doing musical archaeology – we’re putting two and two and two and two together. You can work out where the party, the house and the square were. We wanted to put right a lot of things that were incorrect. I loved doing the delving. Jackie and I are huge fans of London. In the book we also wanted to cover the buildings and the locations – the tourism side – so it could be a guide for people. We also always intended it to be fun. I would love to go to the back of the Savoy and see queues of Dylan fans with their cue cards, videoing and photographing each other. If I can persuade any number of tourists to go to the Savoy Steps, rather than Oxford Street, I would’ve done a wonderful job for London.

‘We wanted it to be the antithesis of the normal Dylan book, which can be very turgid and very long. I have no interest in relating the lyrics of Dylan to King Lear’

And you’ve included some social history too, haven’t you?

KGM: Exactly. We’re delighted that Dylan fans have enjoyed the book, but we’re also delighted that music fans have too, and people who have a passing interest, love London and love the stories. We wanted it to be very accessible and easy to read – the antithesis of the normal Dylan book, which can be very turgid and very long. I have no interest in relating the lyrics of Dylan to King Lear. Just go and enjoy the music – it’s wonderful.

You talked earlier about your passion for Dylan. You first saw him at the Isle of Wight Festival, in 1969, didn’t you?

KGM: Yes, but I was too young to appreciate it at the time – I was seven or eight. I was old enough to take it all in, but I wasn’t interested in the music.

‘Dylan’s first trip to London, in ’62/’63, was a critical time in his career, but it’s been passed over’

So when did you start getting into him?

KGM: I was that kid who, as a teenager, had posters of Dylan on the wall. I was too young for the ‘60s – I missed all that time – but, for a lot of my generation, the key album was the double one, More Bob Dylan Greatest Hits – it was such an important introduction to Dylan’s work and it had all different types of his music on it. It was a record that led you to explore other albums of his, but, also, it had tracks like Tomorrow Is A Long Time and songs from The Basement Tapes – songs we hadn’t heard. I’ve seen a picture of Marc Bolan with that album in his hand.

K G Miles

Have you seen Dylan play lots of times?

KGM: I haven’t seen him loads. In 1978, I queued overnight on the streets of Hammersmith to get tickets for his Earls Court gigs – that was a key moment for lots of people in this country. He hadn’t been over here on the mainland, if you like, for 12 years – we had a bit of Dylanmania at the time.

‘I’d like to write Dylan in Europe too, as I think there are so many wonderful tales that came out of his travels there’

Are you planning to write any more books on Dylan?

KGM: I’ve been asked by the publisher to do some further guides, like Dylan in New York and Dylan in Japan. I’d like to do Dylan in Europe too, as I think there are so many wonderful tales that came out of his travels there. I’m going to be keeping myself busy. There are still many stories to tell.

You could have a whole series of Dylan travel guides and call it Lonely Planet Waves...

KGM: That’s good – I might nick it!

Finally, Dylan turns 80 this month. Any thoughts on him hitting that milestone?

KGM: I think that 80 is a fabulous milestone for any human being, but for one that has lived life at such a breathtaking creative speed, and did so throughout the delicious excesses of rock ‘n’ roll in the ’60s and ’70s, it’s a joy and a miracle.

 

Bob Dylan In London: Troubadour Tales by Jackie Lees and K G Miles, which is published by McNidder & Grace, is out now. For more information, visit https://mcnidderandgrace.com/.

You can follow KG Miles on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/barberville

Look out for the second part of It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Reading), in which we speak to author and broadcaster, Spencer Leigh, about his new book, Bob Dylan: Outlaw Blues (McNidder & Grace). We’ll be posting the article soon, ahead of Dylan’s 80th birthday on May 24.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘I always try to write with unflinching honesty – it’s quite therapeutic to be honest’

Matt McManamon
Matt McManamon

One of Say It With Garage Flowers’ favourite albums of the year so far is Scally Folk – the debut solo record by Matt McManamon, the former frontman of noughties Scouse ska-punkers The Dead 60s.

Don’t expect to be skanking to it, though – his first release in 13 years, it’s a strong collection of reflective and autobiographical songs that are steeped in the tradition of Irish folk music – Liverpool-born McManamon’s family are from County Mayo – as well as the jangly Scouse indie sound of The La’s, and the Wirral psych-pop of The Coral, who were former Deltasonic label mates of The Dead 60s.

McManamon’s new single, Mulranny Smile, is a haunting, folky ballad that’s shrouded in Celtic sea mist, and if Lee Mavers had had tunes like What About You?, Out Of Time and Every Time I Close My Eyes up his sleeve, that second La’s album might’ve actually come out and been another classic.

“Traditional Irish folk, Scouse power-pop, classic ‘90s indie, West Coast American pop-punk and Americana have all influenced this record greatly,” McManamon tells us, in an exclusive interview.

“I think anyone who is aware of my musical past, and the type of music I have been previously associated with, will definitely be surprised, but I’m fairly confident it will be a welcome one.”

Q&A

Where are you and how’s it going?

Matt McManamon: I divide my time between the west coast and east coast of Ireland, but today I’m currently on the east coast in County Wexford. And it’s all going mightily.

You’re just about to release your debut solo album, Scally Folk, which is your first new music since your previous band, The Dead 60s, split up in 2008. What have you been up to since then and why has it taken 13 years to put a record out? Did you give up on music?

MM: Quite soon after The Dead 60s split, I moved back to my family’s ancestral home, in Ireland, and have been here ever since. I wouldn’t say I gave up on music, but I definitely did take a somewhat unwanted hiatus. I was always chipping away behind the scenes, and attempting various musical projects and activities, but, to be honest, they never came to fruition and barely made it out of the bedroom. That was largely down to confidence issues, which stemmed from The Dead 60s being dropped. I was definitely suffering from two issues in particular: fear of failure and fear of completion.

Through lack of confidence, I was unable to get anything over the finish line. I did, however, avail of the wonderful opportunity that was presented to me a few years back, when I was asked to join The Specials, as a live touring guitarist. That proved to be the first step in me re-finding my confidence and passion for music. It was a long slow process, but I’m pleased to tell you, I’m now firing on all cylinders again.

‘I wouldn’t say I gave up on music, but I definitely did take a somewhat unwanted hiatus’

Scally Folk took 13 years to come out, but only 14 days to record. How were the recording sessions at the Transmission Rooms studio in Drumlish, County Longford, Ireland?

MM: The sessions were wonderful – extremely productive. The studio itself is a great place to work and to get creative. Confidence was high and the results were achieved effortlessly.

Mick Cronin (Shane MacGowan, Kodeline) produced the record. How was it working with him? What did he bring to the process?

MM: Mick is a dear friend of mine – we’ve known each other for many years. I definitely had a firm idea and vision of how I wanted it to sound, and, in truth, we achieved it and more. It’s fair to say it eclipsed my expectations.

This was down to the invaluable input and musicianship – not only from Mick, but also from guitarist Vinny Redmond, bassist Enda Mulloy, keyboardist Dave Cox, multi-instrumentalist Kane O’Rourke, and whistle and box player, Andy Nolan. All of those people massively helped to shape the vision and sound of the songs.

Did Covid-19 affect your recording plans?

MM: We started the record on July 2 2020, which also happens to be my birthday. I took that as a great omen. In-between lockdown and travel restrictions, due to Covid-19, we did four sessions, lasting three days each, and then a final two days to put it to bed. That accumulated to 14 days’ total recording. It was all signed off, fully recorded, mixed and mastered by November 2020.

 

‘We started the record on July 2 2020, which is my birthday. I took that as a great omen’

One of my friends, singer-songwriter, John Murry, sings backing vocals on the album. How did you hook up with him?

MM: John just happened to be hanging around the studio, as he had recently completed a session there himself. We quite quickly hit it off, and we have become good friends. We regularly hang out and have some wicked conversations about music. He was highly enthusiastic and complimentary about my songs, as I am of his, so it just made sense to get him singing backing vocals on the album. I asked and he agreed – job done!

The record has Irish and Liverpudlian influences – trad folk and psych-power-pop. There’s a big nod to your roots, isn’t there?

MM: Yes – 100 per cent. I grew up in south Liverpool, in an Irish family that stems from County Mayo. I’ve always considered myself Liverpool-Irish, or Scouse-Irish, and I was very keen to get that point across on the record.

Liverpool power-pop and traditional Irish folk music, have, from an early age, been a great influence on me. I wanted to reflect that in the songs musically and lyrically, which I think I’ve managed to successfully do. I love the idea of flying the flag for Liverpool and Ireland. Hopefully that comes across.

The songs are autobiographical, aren’t they?

MM: Yes – everything I write about is something I’ve done, seen, or experienced. I always try to write with unflinching honesty and, in part, write about difficult subjects or situations that life has a habit of throwing at us. It’s quite therapeutic to be honest.

‘Liverpool power-pop and traditional Irish folk music, have, from an early age, been a great influence on me’

What’s your songwriting process?

MM: I write the songs at home on acoustic guitar, and once the general structure and blueprint is in place, I then bring it to my dear friend, guitarist and musical partner in crime, Vinny Redmond. We then set about finessing the songs by coming up with extra melodies, guitar parts and backing vocals. Lastly, they’re then brought to the wider group of musicians, before we set about recording them.

Were any of the songs old ones, or did you write them all for this album?

MM: There was a mixture of both. There are a couple of songs that were first written approximately 13 years ago, after the dissolution of The Dead 60s, yet there are also songs that were written literally a week before I commenced recording.

I tend not to ‘try’ and write songs – when they come to me, they come to me. The second album is already written and has been partially demoed. As bizarre as this may sound, I never once sat down to ‘write’ the second album. The songs just came out of me super-quick and with the utmost of ease.

What were your main influences for this album musical, or otherwise?

MM: Geographically speaking, Liverpool and Ireland are huge influences, as well as personal life experience. Musically speaking, traditional Irish folk, Scouse power-pop, classic ‘90s indie, West Coast American pop-punk and Americana have all influenced this record greatly.

‘The second album is already written.The songs just came out of me super-quick and with the utmost of ease’

Do you think the record will surprise people?

MM: I think anyone who is aware of my musical past, and the type of music I have been previously associated with, will definitely be surprised, but I’m fairly confident it will be a welcome one.

Tell me about the title of the album. It has a nice double meaning…

MM: The title came out of a conversation I had with Mick Cronin, when I started doing music professionally again. I would find myself constantly being asked, “What does it sound like?” I always struggled to give any kind of definitive answer.

One day, Mick said to me: “It’s dead easy – it sounds like scally folk”, and with that, not only did I have an album title, but quite possibly a new genre of music. I particularly liked the way it also gave a firm nod to my Liverpool-Irish roots.

Let’s talk about some of the songs on the record. What can you tell me about the first track, Gaslighting? It has some faint echoes of ska – a nod to your Dead 60s – past, doesn’t it?

MM: Yes it does, but that came about by accident. I’d initially intended that song to have a more straight-ish ‘indie’ feel to it, but once we started laying it down in the studio, Vinny came up with the idea of setting off a counter offbeat rhythm to my rhythm guitar, and it just worked fabulously.

I think that throughout the record there are some subconscious nods to The Dead 60s. That was never my intention, but The Dead 60s was a big part of me and who I am, so it stands to reason that hints of the past would invariably seep through.

What about the new single, Mulranny Smile? What can you tell me about that? It has a traditional Irish folk feel. What inspired it?

MM: Mulranny Smile is a dreamy, pure Celtic soul tribute to my grandfather, which also gives a firm nod to a place I came to call home – the picturesque coastal village of Mulranny. Anyone who knows me will tell you of my love for the west coast of Ireland and County Mayo, so the goal was also to immortalise the place in a song.

The song Liberty Shore is in a similar folky vein, isn’t it?

MM: Yes – it has a similar vibe. That song is actually about leaving London for a better future. It’s definitely inspired by some of the great Irish emigrant folk songs that I would’ve heard constantly as a youngster.

One of my favourite songs on the record is Out Of Time. It has a power-pop feel and a big, infectious chorus. I think there’s a La’s and Coral sound to it too. Jumpin’ The Gun comes from a similar place, doesn’t it, as does Every Time I Close My Eyes. I really like the sound of those songs – they’re great, melodic, jangly guitar pop.

MM: Out Of Time was one of the first songs to really spring into life while recording Scally Folk. It was originally intended to sound like a gypsy-esque folk song, but it took on a new lease of life – especially once we cranked up the guitars. It organically morphed into a Liverpool power-pop monster, as did Jumpin’ The Gun.

 

Every Time I Close My Eyes came out exactly how I envisaged it. Being likened to The Coral or The La’s is definitely no bad thing – it’s something I welcome. And, of course, The Coral were my old label mates.

Here Comes The Fear could be a prequel to There Goes The Fear by Doves, couldn’t it?

MM: That song was actually my attempt to sound like Simon & Garfunkel – again it just organically grew during the recording process. It actually did play on my mind that the title was similar to the Doves song, but musically it isn’t, so I quickly put that out of mind.

I’m a big fan of Doves – they’re a great band. I really wanna catch then live soon, or, better still, I’d love to support them. If any members of Doves happen to read this, I’d just like to let you know that I’m here and I’m available. Ha-ha.

Any plans to play live this year? 

MM: Yes, there’s going to be a small UK tour in November – details to come very soon, I’m just in the process of getting it all signed off.

There may well be something a little sooner this year, but it’s still too early for me to book anything with confidence, especially as Covid and Brexit seems to have worked a number on the live music scene.

What music – new and old – are you enjoying at the moment?

MM: Fontaines D.C., DMA’s, John Murry, Jagged Baptist Club, Paul Westerberg, and John McGlone and The Souls Of Emotion.

Can you recommend some other ‘scally folk’ to me? Music and/ or people?

MM: There’s nobody, to my knowledge, doing ‘scally folk’. It’s something that my crew and me have invented. I am the original and best scally folker. Ha-ha-ha.

‘One memory that springs to mind is meeting and hanging out with Paul McCartney in the studio, in New York, while we were recording our second album. That was pretty surreal’

A lot of bands from the era of The Dead 60s are reforming? Were you not tempted?

MM: At this moment in time, I’m too busy doing my solo stuff. I always say ‘never say never’ but, in all honesty, I can’t see it ever happening. The past is the past. Onwards & upwards – the future is scally folk.

Finally, any memories – good or bad – from your time in The Dead 60s that you can share?

MM: I have absolutely tons of good memories. One that springs to mind is meeting and hanging out with Paul McCartney in the studio, in New York, while we were recording our second album. That was pretty surreal. But, honestly, there are so many. I’d have to put them down in a book

‘A book?’ you say. Funny that!  I’ve been writing my memoirs and it’s very close to completion. It’s called: Giz A Gig… A Personal Journey Through The Liverpool Music Scene & Beyond. I’m hoping to get it published in the very near future. Watch this space.

Matt McManamon’s new single, Mulranny Smile, is out now on Fretsore Records. The album, Scally Folk, will be released on May 28.

https://mattmcmanamon.bandcamp.com/album/scally-folk

https://www.fretsorerecords.com/

 

‘Death has occupied my thoughts since I was a child…’

Daniel WylieThe last time Say It With Garage Flowers spoke to Glasgow singer-songwriter, Daniel Wylie, the former frontman of late ’90s / early noughties, Alan McGee-endorsed jangle-poppers, Cosmic Rough Riders, he was going into the studio to record his 2017 album Scenery For Dreamers, which showcased his love of heavy Neil Young and Crazy Horse-like electric guitars and the chiming Rickenbacker sound of The Byrds.

This year, he’s releasing a new record, Atoms and Energy, which is much more stripped-down than its predecessor. Neil Young is still an obvious influence, but it’s the Young of After The Goldrush and Only Love Can Break Your Heart, rather than Cortez The Killer.

“I wanted to make a completely different album from [2015’s] Chrome Cassettes and Scenery For Dreamers. Both of those had a similar approach and vibe to them and I felt it was time for a change,” he says.

“I wanted to write a classic ‘70s acoustic record, lyrically based around what was currently occupying my thoughts, and musically like my favourite ‘70s Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Cat Stevens and James Taylor records. That was the plan and I think we pulled it off pretty well.”

Q&A

When and how was Atoms and Energy written and recorded?

Daniel Wylie: I always write my song ideas on an acoustic guitar. I write almost daily, and when it’s time to make an album, I go through hundreds of those ideas and try to choose 10 that have great melodies – some kind of lyrical spark that I can work from and that fit well together as a collection of songs.

Initially, the plan was to go in and record 10 acoustic songs over two days. Just two guitars, one lead vocal and one harmony, with a little bit of percussion, piano and harmonica on a couple of the songs. However, once I got into the studio [La Chunky in Glasgow]  and started recording, my co-producer Johnny Smillie, suggested that some songs deserved a bigger setting, so the record evolved into something else.

Who did you work with on the album?

DW: Neil Sturgeon, Johnny Smillie and Stu Kidd are guest musicians. They are all great writers and artists in their own right and having them on board makes it easy work. They fully understand what I’m looking for and they’re just great players and good people.

Did Covid-19 mess up your plans for the record? How did you cope with lockdown? 

DW: Covid-19 totally messed with recording. However, lockdown turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Basically, I had to stop recording the album. My good pal Neil Sturgeon, had recorded his acoustic guitar parts, Stu Kidd had recorded his percussion parts and I’d recorded the vocals.  Eventually, Johnny Smillie began to work on some arrangements for me, in an attempt to get the record finished, which turned out to be a real blessing. Otherwise, it’s likely the record would still be sitting unfinished.

‘I was really ill for a while, with a dodgy heart. How do you conceive a plan for dying?’

Johnny would go in alone, do some work on arrangements, send them over to me and I’d relay back my likes and dislikes and any changes I wanted made. There’s a spontaneity about being in the studio, like instant ideas get put into action, so some of that is missing.

There’s also the fact that you suddenly have too much time on your hands to over-analyse stuff. There’s a madness to it all. Cabin fever played its part in the final outcome.

The record often feels melancholy, reflective and nostalgic. All the songs are either about relationships or death, aren’t they? Is it a kind of concept album? If you don’t mind me asking, have you had a tough time of it during the past few years?

DW: I almost called the album Relationship Songs. I can’t deny that I’m getting older and I was really ill for a while, with a dodgy heart. How do you conceive a plan for dying? I just thought it was time for reflection on relationships with people, time and events that shaped my life. A little bit of sadness for the things I got wrong along the way, and my thoughts on important people and events that brought me to where I am as a person and as an artist.

‘Alan McGee and Poptones found me the audience that has allowed me to continue to make music’

Dealing with the death of my mum five years ago from cancer, and, career-wise, being in the right place at the right time to get signed by Alan McGee, and also the negative side of that, which is being surrounded by the wrong people.

Another positive was the association with McGee and [his label] Poptones, which found me the audience that has allowed me to continue to make music. It’s really an album about what life has given to you and what it hasn’t.

The first song, The Bruises and the Blood, deals with a dark subject matter – domestic violence. It’s quite a shocking and unnerving start to the album – although, in typical Daniel Wylie style you’ve managed to mix a dark and powerful lyric with a great pop tune and some Beach Boys-style harmonies / vocal arrangements. What can you tell me about that song?

DW: When we were young, my wife and I lived in a flat in Castlemilk housing estate in Glasgow, and our upstairs neighbours were always fighting. It was terrible. He would beat her up and throw her out on the landing, naked. We’d take her in and call the cops on him, but nothing was ever done and at that time, she was scared to leave him, as she had nowhere else to go.

I kind of had that in my head when I was writing the song. On the outside, their relationship looked normal, and that’s what they presented to the world, but behind closed doors, it was an atmosphere of bullying, control and violence against the woman. Thankfully, I know that she escaped the situation and moved on to a better relationship. The melody is at odds with the lyrics, in the same way as their presentation to the world was at odds with what was really going on in their relationship.

What about the song Heaven’s Waiting Room? It deals with childhood friends, moving on and getting older…

DW: That song is referencing how quickly our childhoods pass and how much we cram into those formative, carefree years, and how many of our clearest and fondest memories are attached to those times…before we’re forced to grow up. For those who believe in something after death, Earth is basically heaven’s waiting room. We’re all sitting on this planet waiting and wondering what’s next.

Are you a nostalgic person?

DW: Yes. The older I get, the more I look back, and the more I look back, the more I realise how lucky I’ve been to have lived through so many historical moments, great inventions, avoiding wars on my doorstep, all the great scientific, technical and medical advances, films, art… and especially music. To have walked this planet in the same lifespan as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, R.E.M… How lucky is that?

How old are you? Do you worry about death and old age? Those themes crop up on the album a few times…

DW: I was born on January 2, 1959, so I’m 62. Death has occupied my thoughts since I was a child. It used to scare me, but as I get older, the inevitability of death is something I’ve come to terms with. I’ve noticed how younger generations come through and you no longer have anything much in common with them. Who wants to be here alone when all your friends have gone? There’s a line in my song Value Of Life, from the album, Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine: “while other people sleep, I lie awake and wonder why I’m here.” That was me singing about me worrying about death as a child, in my bed at night.

 

God is Nowhere, from the new album, is a song for atheists everywhere, isn’t it? You’re not a believer then? I love the fuzzy electric guitar sound on it it turns a sweet-sounding song into something more subversive. Was that the idea?

DW: I wrote it when I was angry. The lyric: “I said a begging prayer for your healing, but you still died,” is about my mother’s death. I’m not a believer in organised religion. I was brought up Catholic, but I knew I didn’t believe in all that, so I abandoned it. I do believe in a spiritual existence after death though, so I suppose I’m more of an agnostic rather than a complete atheist.

The song only has two chords. I tried to keep it to one chord, but the temptation to change got the better of me. I had the idea to try and make it sound like those late ‘60s/ early ‘70s Santana records, with Latin percussion and fuzz guitar. Johnny Smillie played the fuzz guitar, using a plectrum given to him by Carlos Santana, after a live show in which he used the plectrum to play with during the gig. How awesome is that?

Our Love Will Never Die is one of the more positive songs on the album, isn’t? It’s beautiful – a simple, honest love song. Did you write it for your wife? It reminds me of vintage Neil Young, circa his After The Goldrush album – it’s very like Only Love Can Break Your Heart. Was that intentional?

DW: I have no problem admitting my wife is the greatest person I’ve ever known and, yes, it was written for her. When I wrote the song, I had to double-check the Neil Young song to make sure I hadn’t ripped him off. When Johnny Smillie heard my home demo, he did the same, but after doing that, he told me it just sounded like me. There was never any intention to write a Neil Young song. I think because I’m such a fan of certain people, their influence will occasionally shine through.

‘I do believe in a spiritual existence after death, so I suppose I’m more of an agnostic, rather than a complete atheist’

In a just world, Our Love Will Never Die would be the soundtrack to lots of wedding first dances, wouldn’t it?

DW: One of my earlier songs, That Was The Day, has proved to be a favourite wedding song for a bunch of couples over the years. Funnily enough, it was also written for my wife. So, yeah, I’d be happy if Our Love Will Never Die became a wedding staple.

In total contrast, Ruth The Truth is a dark and sinister song lyrically, that’s tangled up in a web of lies. Musically, I think it has echoes of early R.E.M. What inspired it?

DW: I have a history of throwing out songs with girls’ names in the title. This is just the latest. It’s a story about how stupid men are when it comes to a beautiful lady – the shallowness of men who think with their dicks and whose brains are in their balls. The album needed a little pop tune, and I chose this song because of its catchy chorus.

‘I’d be happy if Our Love Will Never Die became a wedding staple’

One of my favourite songs on the album is the last one, Saddle Up The Horses. It deals with childhood memories – playing cowboys. What can you tell me about it?

DW: Children are dreamers. I had the cowboy hat, the gun belt, the gun – the children’s cowboy outfit – and as a child, I was a big fan of westerns. Back then, little boys of that age would play cowboys and Indians. I think the song captures that childhood innocence – to the point where you can’t fathom how dangerous a gun is.

Atoms and Energy - Daniel Wylie

Did you have a happy childhood? The pictures on the album artwork are of you as a kid…

DW: I had a pretty happy childhood. My dad took the album sleeve photo when I was around 12 years old. I didn’t realise how poor we were at the time, but you can see the poverty in that photograph.

Despite being poor, my parents did their best to make sure we knew our way around all the local parks and museums. We had an occasional holiday down the Ayrshire coast to Saltcoats or Troon, and, most importantly for me, our home was filled with great music. My parents had amazing taste in music – it was an education in itself.

What are your plans for the rest of the year? Will be you making another album? How about a return to big guitars?

DW: I hope to begin recording again later in the year. I’ve chosen 10 songs for my next album and finished writing them last week. It’ll be a full-band album with hooky choruses, loud guitars and harmonies. It might be called Shane, after one of my all-time favourite cowboy films. I even have the photo for the sleeve picked out.

Have you written many new songs during lockdown?

DW: Honestly, hundreds. I have 12 albums’ worth of really good tunes.I need a big lottery win, so I can afford to record them all. Do you happen to have the winning numbers?

I’m lucky – I can pick up a guitar, strum a few chords and a tune will be there in my head. I don’t know how or why it happens, but I’m not complaining. I genuinely think it’s just a gift I’ve been given, but it’s not to be questioned or analysed. Life and death inspires me, so does other people’s music, and the weather and nature.

You’ve been working with English singer-songwriter Ian M Bailey. Earlier this year, he released a great EP of songs you’d co-written together, called Shots of Sun. Do you have more songs with him coming out? How did you hook up?

DW: Yes – as well as writing a whole bunch of new songs for myself, I’ve co-written 12 songs with Ian. Last year, he sent me a couple of his videos of songs he’d written during the initial lockdown period. I thought they were excellent and told him so.

He suggested we maybe write a song together and I had so many songs half-written that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to use, so I sent him four and he liked them all – a song turned into an EP. Ian added his parts to complete the songs and we were both so pleased with the results that we decided to keep going and do an album.

I send him unfinished songs, sometimes a good chorus with no verse, or a verse and a chorus with no bridge, and sometimes he’ll write the chorus, and he adds his bits and then he records them himself. He’s a producer and one-man band. We’ll likely keep the songwriting thing going.

I’ve also been co-writing with other people. There’s a double A-side single I’ve written with Amanda Louise Thompson for her band The Big Believe. That’s more guitar pop-oriented, like an indie Blondie or something, and will be released before the end of 2021.

What music – new and old – are you enjoying at the moment?

DW: Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams;  Will Stratton – The Changing Wilderness;  Khruangbin & Leon Bridges – Texas Sun EP; Ray LaMontagne – Monovision; Fleet Foxes – Shore; The Milk And Honey Band – Songs From Truleigh Hill; The Chills – Scatterbrain; The Coral – Coral Island, and The Beatles – Esher Demos.

‘I do understand the convenience of streaming. Financially, though, something has to change. People need to eat’

The last time we spoke, you were anti-streaming – you told me you liked vinyl and CDs. Is that still the case?

DW: I love CDs and I love vinyl. I need the artwork with the music. I still don’t have Spotify, but I do understand the convenience of streaming. Financially, though, something has to change. People need to eat and need to be able to focus on creating the great music that the world loves. It costs money to do that.

Atoms And Energy is being released by Last Night From Glasgow records – they got their name from a line in the ABBA song Super Trouper. It’s on various formats. Green, yellow and black vinyl, CD and, eventually, the usual digital outlets.

At the end of this year, you’re reissuing the 2001 Cosmic Rough Riders compilation, Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine, on vinyl. It’s a compilation of material from your first two, self-funded, Cosmic Rough Riders albums, Deliverance and Panorama, plus a few other songs, and it was put out by Alan McGee’s Poptones label. What’s prompted the rerelease? It was a lot of people’s introduction to your music, wasn’t it?

DW: Ian Smith, from Last Night From Glasgow, asked me if I’d be up for reissuing it. I felt the time was right, so I said yes. There’s been a lot of interest in a vinyl reissue, so that’s what’s happening, and I’ve added I Call Her Name, to the end of side one. It’s from the same sessions and I always regretted not putting it on the original album. Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine sold over 100,000 copies when it was first released, but only 1,000 vinyl copies were pressed and they’ve been changing hands for silly money.

How do you feel about those songs now? What’s it like revisiting them?

DW: I had to listen to the master a couple of weeks ago – it’s the first time in years that I’ve heard it from start to finish, uninterrupted.

I really enjoyed listening to it again. It brought back some great memories of recording it with Stephen Fleming. I wrote the songs, but we did everything else as a team. We put everything we had into making sure it was as good as it could be and to my ears, it still sounds great. I’m so proud of it and how it changed my life. So now it’s coming out on some nice coloured vinyl: blue, orange, white, and black.

Do you have any regrets about Cosmic Rough Riders? Do you wish you’d been bigger?

DW: My main regret is using a band name and not just using my own name from the start. That way there would have been no confusion as to whose music it was. But, hey, I did come up with a great name that was worth using.

‘The celebrity thing freaks me out. Sometimes you have to get off the rollercoaster, before it kills you’

If Cosmic Rough Riders had been a bigger band, it would probably have changed my life too – or at least more than I was willing to give or accept. I was already becoming unrecognisable to myself. One time, I came home after a tour and my wife asked me to wash up some dishes. I said to her: “I don’t do dishes”. It sounds funny, but it was an indication that I was losing myself. When you have massive exposure on a show like Top of the Pops, things change. People treat you differently. It’s not like you suddenly have super powers or become a gifted brain surgeon who saves lives, but the celebrity thing freaks me out. Five minutes of it was enough for me. It’s always been about the music for me and I prefer being normal. Sometimes you have to get off the rollercoaster, before it kills you.

Finally, it’s 2021. Do we need a revolution in the summertime?

DW: Hah! People don’t get that song. It was written about a day I spent with some college friends in Glasgow’s Queen’s Park. The weather was super-sunny and the army had set up some kind of recruiting show in the park. I was thinking: ‘join the army? Or sit in the park, in the sunshine, with some beer, and watch our beautiful Scottish girls’. Stuff that for a revolution!

Atoms and Energy by Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders is available to pre-order on vinyl and CD from Last Night From Glasgow here. The physical albums will be officially released on July 2, but pre-orders will ship this month.

You can pre-order the reisssue of Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine on vinyl here.

 

Fat’s Entertainment

 

Paul Weller
Photo: Sandra Vijandi

Paul Weller’s latest album, Fat Pop (Volume 1) – his sixteenth – is one of his best. A collection of short, sharp and instant songs, its influences include soul, funk, Krautrock, synth-pop, dub and punk. Say It With Garage Flowers gets a sneak preview of its ever-changing moods.

When Say It With Garage Flowers spoke to Paul Weller’s long-term guitarist, Steve Cradock (Ocean Colour Scene, The Specials), earlier this year, he’d just emerged from Black Barn Studios in the village of Ripley, Surrey, where the Modfather and his band had been rehearsing a bunch of new songs.

“Weller’s made an album during lockdown – it’s called Fat Pop and it’s coming out in May,” he told us.

It’s fair to say that lockdown has been good for Weller. In just under 12 months, the elder statesman of Britpop has released two albums – the summery and soulful On Sunset and now its follow-up, Fat Pop (Volume 1), which, like its predecessor, is one of the strongest records he’s ever made.

In fact, it’s the latest in a purple patch that started with 2018’s True Meanings – his stripped- back and orchestrally-aided, introspective folk-rock album, which coincided with him turning 60. That was a career highlight and, along with his self-titled solo debut, from 1992, it’s easily one of our favourite Weller records.

Work on Fat Pop (Volume 1) began in spring 2020, when he needed something to focus on after his tour dates were postponed due to Covid-19. He had plenty of ideas for new songs stored on his phone, so he started to record them on his own, with just vocals, piano and guitar.

These were then sent to his core band members, Cradock, drummer Ben Gordelier, and bassist Andy Crofts (The Moons), who added their parts. “It was a bit weird not being together, but at least it kept the wheels rolling. I’d have gone potty otherwise,” says Weller.

When Covid restrictions were lifted, the group reconvened at his Black Barn Studios to finish the work.

Highlights of the new album’s predecessor, On Sunset, included the shimmering disco of Mirror Ball and Old Father Tyme; the uplifting, radio-friendly pop-soul of Village; the Kinks-ish Equanimity and the Bowiesque Rockets.

Some of Fat Pop (Volume 1) is cut from the same [three-button mod suit] cloth as the album that came before it. There’s a strong soul and funk feel to a few of the songs, but there’s also plenty of, er, fat pop.

“After True Meanings I thought I wouldn’t have any acoustic guitars for a little while, so I’ve largely avoided those with On Sunset and with Fat Pop,” says Weller. “But more than anything I wanted something vibey – something we could play live. God knows when that will be, bearing in mind where we are with the virus. But in the imaginary gig in my mind I can see us playing all of the songs on Fat Pop live, along with the songs from On Sunset, blending them with some of the old favourites too. What a great set that would be.”

He adds: “On Sunset was quite lavish in places, whereas with this one I wanted to limit it in some ways – make the production less expansive.”

It’s a rich-sounding and eclectic record – vibrant and colourful – and, considering the wide range of influences and styles, it hangs together really well. It feels like a complete piece of work, rather than just a collection of songs.

‘Some of Fat Pop is cut from the same [three-button mod suit] cloth as the album that preceded it. There’s a strong soul and funk feel to a few of the songs, but there’s also plenty of, er, fat pop’

Fat Pop (Volume 1) sees Weller continuing his working relationship with producer Jan ‘Stan’ Kybert, who’s been at the helm since 2012’s Sonik Kicks album.

Sadly, the album’s first single and opening song, the psychedelic, synth-pop-meets-Krautrock of Cosmic Fringes,  isn’t about lockdown haircuts, although Weller is sporting long locks at the moment. Lyrically, it concerns itself with a keyboard warrior: “I’m a sleeping giant, waiting to awake/I stumble to the fridge/then back to bed”, but to be fair, that does sound a lot like lockdown…

 

Weller says the song was written about a person who is constantly brainstorming ideas, but never gets around to doing them. With two strong albums under his belt in the past year, that’s not something you could accuse him of.

The punky True features an unexpected jazzy sax break, as well as guest vocals by Lia Metcalfe of Liverpool alt-rock band The Mysterines, while the dramatic, soaring and symphonic Shades of Blue was co-written by his daughter, Leah, who shares vocal duties on the song.

‘Sadly, the album’s first single and opening song, the psychedelic, synth-pop-meets-Krautrock of Cosmic Fringes, isn’t about lockdown haircuts, although Weller is sporting long locks at the moment’

The title track, a paean to the power of music, has a heavy, dubby bassline – Weller describes it as “Cypress Hill doing something that sounds like a DJ Muggs production”.

He adds: “It’s a celebration of music and what it’s given us all. No matter what situation you are in, and we’re in one now, music doesn’t let you down, does it? It’s my favourite song on the album, I think – it’s about all the times music’s been there for me.”

Glad Times is beautiful and melancholic  – space-age soul with strings. “It’s been around for a while  – it nearly made it onto On Sunset, but I didn’t quite fit,” says Weller. “I really liked it, though, so I’m really glad it made it onto this album instead.”

Testify, with guest vocals by Andy Fairweather Low of ‘60s Welsh pop band Amen Corner, is a great, ‘70s-style, funk-soul strut, with flute and sax supplied by acid jazz veteran Jacko Peake.

“We had actually done it live two or three years ago,” says Weller, “but while I loved the groove, I never really got a grip on the song. Then I did this charity gig in Guildford, one of the last things I’ve done probably – some Stax songs with Andy Fairweather Low. Our voices sound so good together and he’s such a lovely fellow, so I sent him the backing track. As soon as lockdown was lifted, he came down to the studio for the afternoon. We cut it live and that was it.”

 

Pastoral and acoustic guitar-led ballad, Cobwebs/Connections, which could’ve come off True Meanings, features a lovely string arrangement by Hannah Peel, who worked on that album. She also scores the gorgeous closing song, Still Glides The Stream – another reflective moment that was written as a remote collaboration between Weller and Cradock.

If it’s angry Weller you’re after, don’t worry, as he hasn’t completely mellowed with age. On the choppy, ska-tinged rallying call, That Pleasure, which was written as a reaction to the Black Lives Matter campaign and is swathed in lush, ‘70s Marvin Gaye-style strings, he urges us to “Lose your hypocrisy… lose your prejudice, lose this hatred,” adding, “It’s time to get involved.”

Photo: Sandra Vijandi.

Fat Pop (Volume 1) – Weller is keeping his options open for a second volume – is aptly named, as each of the 12 tracks is instant and any one of them could be a standalone single.

“That was a conscious design,” he says. “I even thought about putting every song as a single first then gathering them all on an album, but that wasn’t practical. They all have that strength and immediacy, I think, and they’re all short – three minutes or so maximum.”

Apparently, producer Kybert was so taken with the concept that he half-jokingly suggested that the album be called Greatest Hits, but, wisely, Weller decided against it.

“I quite liked the idea and every song does stand up as a single, I think,” says Weller, “but no, we couldn’t do that really.”

Ahead of making the album, Weller set himself the same task as he does before any recording. “Whenever I make an album I’m always just trying to at least match what’s gone before because each time I think the bar’s been raised. If all goes to plan, sometimes I manage to go over that bar too,” he says.

He’s done it again. Here’s to Volume 2 and plenty more fat pop content.

Fat Pop (Volume 1) is released on May 14 (Polydor Records). It’s available in a variety of versions and formats:

  • Standard CD
  • Individual exclusive cassettes for Indie Record Stores and Paul’s artist store
  • Individual exclusive coloured vinyl for Amazon, Indie Record Stores and Paul Weller’s artist store
  • Black Heavyweight vinyl
  • Exclusive picture disc vinyl
  • Deluxe Formats which include Fat Pop, Mid-Sömmer Musik (the live special from November last year) and bonus tracks:
  • Three-CD Box Set
  • Three-LP Box set – heavyweight black vinyl

www.paulweller.com

Please note: part of this review, although heavily edited, originally appeared in the May 2021 edition of Hi-Fi+ magazine, which Sean Hannam contributes to.