Sunday, 29 March 2015

Beyond the band #3: Pete Williams

Nicely connected after a lifetime of rock and roll ups, downs and setbacks, Pete Williams is punching out fabulous songs.

It didn't start with his bass work with Dexy's Midnight Runners in the 80s, or even through the revived Dexy's in the Noughties and again in 2012. But often that's all that you read about him. Pete played in both bands, and people always want to talk about the juicy stuff.

There's a lot more. Williams has just come out with his second, very successfully crowd-funded, album, Roughnecks and Roustabouts, and he's doing shows, on the road in his own name. The past may be lurid and colourful, although much of it is not of his own making. But it's what's come out of that past now that matters.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Catching the buzz: Rhino and The Ranters

That critical moment when it all starts to work...

Assuming there's merit and talent in a band, and that the band then backs it up with graft and a bit of a marketing push, there's usually a point when word gets out. Suddenly, big numbers show up for gigs. Suddenly, the name gets bandied around. Suddenly, there are faces turning up to check out the new boys on the block. Suddenly, people you tend to listen to are mentioning them.

Last week, at Dylan Gibbons' Blues Night at the Spotted Dog, you could see the signs. There were faces aplenty, come to take a look at Rhino and The Ranters. And it was a cracking gig. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Curtis Little: goodbye to one of the greats

On Friday, I went to another funeral. 

It was to send the great Curtis Little on his way, and to celebrate his life. 

When I landed in Birmingham, two generations ago, I was taken, very early, by Slender Loris, a band that mixed complex intelligent songs with delivery, from Curtis, that was punchy as hell. 

As a DJ, I couldn't believe my luck: a voice like that? On my patch?

Whip-thin, all sinew and muscle, not a spare ounce on his frame, Curtis was the epitome of a front man. He had a voice to die for, rich, soulful, deep, and he really knew how to use it. Where it came from, God only knows. But he was a joy to watch. 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Old folks boogie: astute business by Ricky Cool

Wander into Broad Street's Brasshouse at the right time, and you're in for a treat. A free treat. 

    Photo: Birmingham Post 
It's weird. Broad Street Birmingham is the last place I'd expect to see decent live music. The place swapped Ronnie Scott's jazz venue for a lap-dancing club, just when Birmingham was trying to get City Of Culture. The place is full of loud chain pubs, industrial dance joints, karaoke bars and some very iffy catering. You go there to drink, lots.

As the night wears on, Broad Street becomes Purgatory Street: shrieking hen parties, testosterone morons in sports cars and quad bikes, pissed-up conventioneers and lads on the pull. Buses don't stop there now on Friday and Saturday nights. And just watch where you put your feet.

But on a Sunday lunchtime, once they've hosed it down and swept it up, it's a whole different place. In the Brasshouse, you can now catch, free, some of this city's most experienced bands, playing to an up for it, older, crowd. These aren't lame covers outfits who don't 'get' the music they serve up. These are players.

It's all good. And it's all been set up by local muso veteran, Ricky Cool.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The great BBC Midlands underspend: the Birmingham Post and Mail wade in


On Birmingham streets this week
I've written about this before. You may have already seen the posts; if so, I thank you. There are links to my main blog outpourings on this at the bottom of this post. 

Some background: the Campaign for Regional Broadcasting Midlands have been lobbying hard about this for some time now; they are absolutely right. But there has been little or no serious response, let alone attempts to address the issues raised. 

I'll sum it up: The BBC Midlands region sends more money down to headquarters in London that any other region, and gets an insultingly small amount spent back locally, way less than any other region. 

This has led to a collapse in the regional broadcast sector. It has done damage. It has stunted careers and jobs growth. 

Frustrating. How do you reverse arrogant and remote corporate mindsets and actions which have, very deliberately, crippled job prospects and hobbled creativity in the region?