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Mark Radcliffe - "Best bang on a tune then"
on 17 May 2011
No point beating around the bush, Mark Radcliffe's 2009s "Thank you for the days" was not a uniquely entertaining memoir, indeed if truth were told it was rather dull in parts. A shame since he and his ex Fall best mate Marc Riley were an hilarious partnership. I once accidently spat tea at a passenger on a train as I spluttered laughing at a Mark and Lard's "Beat the clock" and a particularly vicious attack on Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics. Who could also forget "pathelogical News", "stone deaf again" and particularly "classic cuts" where their love of music was combined with wicked p-takes. The great news is that in terms of his new book "Reelin in the years: The soundtrack of a Northern life"" Radcliffe has decided to concentrate primarily on his first love for the music but obviously throw in plenty of autobiography, history and anecdotes for good measure. His premise is a cracking one to choose a song that soundtracked each of his 53 years on terra firma. This does not mean it will necessarily be the best song of that year. He accepts for example that in 1981 the defining song was the Specials anti Thatcher classic "Ghost Town". Instead he picks the wonderful "Love Action" by the Human League who started as a "four piece of badly dressed occasionally mustachioed and inadvisably coiffured blokes" and went on in their second phase to produce infectiously immaculate pop songs. He also thinks that Phil Oakley and Co have a classic ingredient, a fundamentally great band name, unlike the one judged by he and Marc Riley to be the worst ever - "Grab, Grab the Haddock".
Radcliffe manages not to pick any records by the Beatles, the Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Oasis and most surprisingly his hero David Bowie (except a cover). Equally six years before the punk explosion his choices define my own generations pre new wave musical confusion and schizophrenia. Ranging from 1970s Woodstock era Canned Heat "Lets work together", the 1971 hybrid skinhead/glam rock in Slade's "Cos I Luv You", the slightly less glam of 1972's Mott the Hoople's epic cover of Bowie's "All the Young Dudes", the first album chosen in the book Pink Floyd's 1973 "Dark side of the moon" and then a bit of prog in terms of Genesis 1974 "Lamb lies down on Broadway". The radical shift begins in 1975 with Bob Marley's "Trenchtown Rock" and then in 1976 comes the Damned punk epic "New Rose". True he flirts with Dire Straits and U2 in the mid 80s despite the "proselytising of St Bono", but reckons Eno's production of the "Where the streets have no name" demonstrates "the most important sonic manipulator of our generation". He also includes for good measure artists as diverse as Sandie Shaw's 1967 euro vision winner "Puppet on a string" to Grandaddy's 2000 Americana classic "The Crystal lake".
Unsurprisingly Manchester also plays a key part with Joy Division being the only band to feature on consecutive years with respectively "Transmission" and "Atmosphere" chosen for 1979 and 1980. The Stone Roses "Made of Stone" pops up ten years later in 1989 plus an amusing anecdote about a Scouse doorman announcing the arrival of the Greek keyboard conjurer Vangelis (described by Radcliffe "as the Appolion polyphonic Hagrid") over a studio intercom as "there's a Frank Ellis here to see you"
Radcliffe describes these 50 plus essays as "the addled ramblings of a middle aged disc jockey" but they are full of humour and warmth none more so when he his championing Pulp's brilliant 1995 anthem "Sorted for E's & whiz" or greatly enjoying the success of his friend Guy Garvey and Elbow's 2008s "One Day like this". Interestingly his 2010 choice is Band of Horses lush beauty "Factory" and he has also recently stated in an interview that PJ Harvey's "Let England Shake" looks like a "shoe in" for 2011. He concludes by recognizing that right now "someone, somewhere in the world is making my next new favourite record". A perfect sentiment to end a splendid book.