The Stone Roses

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Music has for close to fifty years been a key component of the jigsaw of my life. I have loved music since I was a child captured by the exotica associated with some fine recording artists including Three Bob’s, Dylan – see my earlier post here – Bob Dylan  – Marley and Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, The Eagles, The Doors, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones and Tom Waits.

In later years, and for the best part of quarter of a century, I earned my living in the Law, specifically Music Law representing some fascinating entrepreneurs, vagabonds and minstrels. It paid the bills and kept my music opiates topped up. I met some truly extraordinary people, who often lived complicated but wonderful lives devoted to engaging and entertaining others. Equally, I have met a fair proportion of consummate egoists, disinterested in those who don’t pander to them.

Simply put, music talks to my soul. It evokes memories. It causes the recall of sights, sounds and emotions.

Asked for my favourite song – that’s easy – U2’s “One”. I can rarely listen that complete wonder of a composition without tears in my eyes.

My favourite – what we used to call “Album” – being a collection of several songs that the artist (or their record company) has deliberately chosen to join together in some overall theme, concept or message. Honestly, again, that’s an easy one, the 1989 iconic debut album of the Manchester band “The Stone Roses” is simply one of the most complete and luxuriously beautiful bodies of work ever collected onto a 12” vinyl record, 4” digital CD or stream.

Depending on the format and country of release, “The Stone Roses” comprises a minimum of 12 recording that lasso a time, a mood and a vibe of the UK pre-BritPop explosion of the early 1990’s. Along with fellow Manc, The Happy Mondays, this album defined an era and is the soundtrack to the lives of me and many of my contemporaries.

Ian Brown (vocals) and John Squire (guitars) who had known each other from Altrincham Grammar School For Boys – somewhere I often played rugby on Saturday mornings in the late 1970’s – formed and disbanded several bands prior to being joined by Gary “Mani” Mounfield (bass) and Alan John “Reni” Wren (drums) to form The Stone Roses (Squire’s name), a guitar indi-rock band that sprung from the vibrant Madchester scene of the UK’s second city.

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Having composed and recorded songs for a demo, the band sent out 100 demo cassettes that featured the artwork of Squire, a very talented fine artist. This was followed by touring, further production and the release of some tracks to little commercial effect.

In August 1988 the band played Dingwalls in London in the presence of A&R representatives from South African owned label, Zomba and Geoff Travis one of the founders of the seminal indie, Rough Trade.

Rough Trade paid for some studio time and suggested Peter Hook bassist with New Order as a potential producer, when Hook was unavailable, Geoff suggested John Leckie a former Abbey Road award winning producer with an amazing production pedigree including Pink Floyd, XTC and Radiohead. The Stone Rose were signed to Zomba by Roddy McKenna and appeared on Andrew Lauder and Andy Richmond’s  Silvertone inprint. Rough Trade sold their tapes of “Elephant Stone” to Zomba.

Singles from the eponymous album were released in early 1989 and drew the attention of the all important Radio One. The Album, with John Squire/Jackson Pollock inspired artwork, was released on 2nd May 1989, went on to win the NME Reader’s Poll for Best Album of the Year. The Album is certified in the UK as triple platinum, notching sales in excess of 900,000 units.

To add a copy of The Stone Roses to your collection – click the link below the image:

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The Stone Roses (20th Anniversary Legacy Edition)

Images used with grateful thanks – Sony Music and Ian Tilton/NME

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Arctic Monkeys “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”

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Here’s my 10 cents on the recent release by these icons of British music.

The Arctic Monkeys are not the same band they were in 2006 with “Whatever People say I am….” but twelve years on their songwriting and musicianship have matured, wonderfully.

“Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” is varied, complex and above all box-fresh.

I suspect the intention may be for it to be seen as a concept album – and here an ace is scored. It is also aimed at dissuading the purchase of single tracks – the scourge of the album market – and arguably disrespectful to an artist’s creative intentions.

As a piece of standalone mastery, it is a class all its own. That said stand-out tracks for me include the title track, “Four Out Of Five”, the more classic AM “Science Fiction” and “The Ultracheese”. Alex’s delivery is as usual, Sheffield steel and the reverb is wonderful.

The homage to Bowie is well done and there are so many film soundtracks and sound beds for commerials their music publishers must be thrilled!

Great job lads, brilliantly executed.

STOP PRESS:

In case you thought I was alone in loving this new album, then you’d be wrong! The judging panel of influential Q Magazine have just announced that “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” has been given the accolade of “Album of the Year 2018”.

Read the report here from the Irish Independent Tranquility Base Album of the Year 2018 – Q Magazine

Do yourself a favour and get a copy for the car and/or the turntable by clicking the Amazon link below the image on the album’s cover.

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Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino

In case you have not already heard the stunning debut album by the Arctic Monkeys from 2006 “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” please click on the Amazon link below the image to secure a CD or vinyl.

Remember this album not only won the Mercury Prize it was also the fastest selling debut Album ever in the history of the UK Charts!

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Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Image credits – with grateful thanks – Domino Recordings Limited

Bob Dylan

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I wasn’t early to the party. It was about 1975 when my sister introduced me to Bob Dylan’s astonishingly iconic performances on music-cassette. It was a Greatest Hits Album with Dylan shot in blue in profile on the inlay card and I am forever grateful.

My sister had a small Sony Music-cassette compact system featuring a cassette deck and radio with two detachable speakers – mid-seventies cool for sure. Remember this?

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She was training as a Nurse in the City of London at one of the UK finest teaching hospitals, paving the way for my arrival in the Smoke within eighteen months. She is two years older, had tried Gitanes before me and she had discovered Bob Dylan before me.

The Greatest Hits album – was in fact it was the Greatest Hits Volume 2 – from 1971 and was released in view of the dirth of new material from Dylan at the behest of Columbia Record’s label boss, Clive Davis. He became of some influence over my later career in music and some time later he left under a cloud. Initially reticent, Dylan had then agreed to compile it himself adding unreleased material from the Basment Tapes era but I am getting ahead here….

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volmne 2 – click the link below the image

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Vol. 2-Greatest Hits

I simply don’t believe anyone who says they don’t like Bob Dylan’s songs. I love almost all. That’s like saying I don’t really like Spring or Tulips. I get that his singing may sometimes be a challenge. His voice varies hugely from the sonous and walnut to a croak but his words, his rhymes and his use of language are simply sublime. Weaving morality tales and fables with the support of a simple folk riff, a country slide-guitar, a brassy pomp or a more complicated cajun orchestration.

Dylan – together with able foot-soldiers Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen – is the Voice of several generations. From the early 1960’s and the era of the Protest Song and the Civil Rights movement, to Woodstock and to the Summer of Love – see here our previous post – Peace Sign and The Summer of Love – to later “difficult albums” that explore love, loss and religion to more recent masterpieces that dwell on death and legacy.

In 2016, Dylan became the first songwriter ever  to win Nobel Prize For Literature.

Dylan has sold more than 100m copies of more than sixty albums. He has written, prolifically, broadcasted and podcasted for years and has nurtured a diverse and talented family.

I have seen Dylan perform live on several occasions including at Harvey Goldsmith’s promoted “The Picnic at Blackbushe Aerodrome” show in 1978. I still have the poster!

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Despite at times ill-health, his commitment to endless touring – since the late 1990’s – has become an enduring legacy allowing the faithful to flock to see his performances. In the earlier years shows performances were loyal to familiar songs, more recently Dylan’s treatment of his standards, deconstructing them to within an inch of their lives, has not always been well received. I guess the master artist needs stimulation and revising original orchestrations must be a way to keep things interesting. After all they are his songs!

I was in Los Angeles in 1980 and visiting the celebrated and iconic Polo Lounge at Beverley Hills Hotel. Arriving in a city taxi we pulled towards the entrance of the hotel and there, getting into a cherry red compact car, was the diminutive and slightly stooped stature of our hero. Something very domestic, almost deliberately improverished and above all not really giving a f**k about expectation, perception or pretense. The very anthesis of the image of Californian life.

Every filmed interview of Dylan – and there really aren’t many – from 1965 in San Francisco, to D A Pennebaker’s “Don’t Look Back” – 1967 traipse around Europe – to the media coverage of the his investigature as a Nobel Prizewinner is punctuated by his well intentioned and sincere confusion by all the fuss. The younger Dylan explaining to an overly fawning interviewer, who was clearly irritating, that he had nothing of interest to share and shouldn’t presume to be able to. His reluctant assumption of the role as “Spokesman of his Generation” is just ours for the invention. His “I just set up my stall, played a few tunes and the rest is down to you” appears to be his honest belief. No master manipulator, no synical plan.

Like many have before you – can you help understand a little more about Dylan’s work by reading his own writing from the autobiographical “Chronicles Part One”? – Click the link below the image 

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Chronicles: Volume One

Don’t tell me you haven’t tried! We’d all love to be able to master the riffs that make the songs sing – some will, some inevitably wont! I am one…..

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Bob Dylan Made Easy for the Guitar: 1

The Music – there are sixty albums to chose from but can I suggest a couple of starting places. I’d also suggest that you don’t stream – please enjoy the packaging as well as the songs – please click the link below the image 

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

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The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Bringing It All Back Home

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Bringing It All Back Home (2010 Mono Version)

Blood on The Tracks – for me probably the Best…..

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Blood On The Tracks

Desire

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Desire

Time Out Of Mind

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Time Out Of Mind

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Images courtesy of Milton Glaser, Sony, CBS and Columbia Record.

VéloSolex moped

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Increasingly dependent on getting from A to B as quickly as possible I have noticed a rise in commuters using electrically operated bicycles and small motorized scooters. They seem to offer limited comfort and even less protection for the rider who, for an inexplicable reason, think they have the power of a large Harley, BMW or Honda at their fingertips and get themselves into precarious positions on the road causing much frustration to others.

In a far gentler era the predecessor of these street demons was VéloSoleX or more frequently referred to as a Solex which was moped – or motorised bicycle – originally produced by Solex who were based in Paris (France) and founded by engineering friends, Maurice Goudard and Marcel Mennesson.

Designed by Mennesson during World War II, the Solex was produced between 1946 and 1988 in a variety of versions largely utilising the same technology of a motor with roller resting on and driving the front wheel of the bicycle.

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Being very competitively priced and hugely economical to run, the Soles was a massive success. In total it sold in excess of 7m units. In 1947 even BP created “Solexine”, a pre-mixed  oil and petrol mix for the Solex’s two stroke engine and sold in a 2L can. By the late 1940’s Solex was selling 100 units a day rising to 1500 a day by the mid-1960’s – when it was blessed with a new maximum – though limited – speed of 30 km.

The company now makes a range of electrically powered bicycles. An early version, designed by Pininfarina, was launched in 2005 as the E-Solex.

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By 2014 the Solexity Infinity was launched, again from the pen of Pininfarina – with capacity to travel up to 80 km on one charge – at the costs of around €2,000 – keeping the brand alive!

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As French as the Beret, Brie and Baguette, the Solex, a classic French icon of the mid-20th century, has a very special place in my psyche as I explored the opportunity in the 1980’s of importing them into the UK. It was perhaps my first brush with the ever increasing dominance of the words “Health & Safety” in our national idiom.

I was required to deliver details to the Ministry of Transport who after some consideration and lots of teeth sucking, decided that the fuel tank, which was then made of a reasonable durable plastic was too feeble to withstand any front-end impact and the risks of fire were too great.

Solex also commissioned various evocative advertising posters, which in their own right are increasingly collectable.

Solex Poster a

For our French speaking friend’s – we know who you are – the equivalent of a an Owner’s Manual for a Vélosolex is a must – Le Guide du Vélosolex click the Amazon link below the image to get yours!

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Le guide du Vélosolex

Why not pick up a classic French VeloSolex enamel sign that will look at home in your Gite in La Gironde, on the wall of your Flat in Fulham or your Man-cave in Manchester! Click the AMAZON link below the image

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FRENCH VINTAGE METAL SIGN 40x30cm RETRO AD VELOSOLEX LE VRAI BICYCLESD2C56E9B-03F2-4C9E-AF3A-13C55668EEA2

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FRENCH VINTAGE METAL SIGN 40x30cm RETRO AD VELOSOLEX REFERENDUM 2

I love VeloSolex – and all this little motor cycle represents – you can too with this iconic T Shirt! Please click the Amazon link below the image 

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Velosolex Moped T-Shirt. Gents Ladies Kids Sizes. Bike Cycling France Motorcycle:X Large – 48″

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Photo Credits – with grateful thanks – Solex SA

Iconic T-Shirts

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I came across the following list of the 100 Most Iconic T-Shirts on the CustomInk T-Shirt Designers blog. It was made to celebrate the 100th birthday of the T-Shirt in 2013. Apparently, in 1913 US Navy recruits were issued for the first time with white crewneck T-shirts that were made to be worn under their uniforms, giving birth to an American icon.

See it here (it’s a good read) 100 Most Iconic T-Shirts

I was really happy to see that two T-shirts that we have posted about are in the Top 10.

The Hard Rock Cafe T-Shirt at Number 7 – see our post here Hard Rock Cafe T Shirt

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and

The I ❤️NY T-Shirt at Number 1 – see our post here I ❤️ NY

Also see the accompanying video by the guys at “Toplists” for the Top 10 Iconic T Shirts. Top 10 Most Iconic T-Shirts

Harley-Davidson Motorcycles

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There’s a off London’s King’s Road – the Wandsworth Bridge Road end – called “Warrs” – who are the oldest Harley Davidson dealership in Europe. Founded in 1924 by Captain Frederick James Warr, in the same year they became an official Harley-Davidson outlet and Europe’s oldest Harley-Davidson dealership. The business is still run by the Warr Family, with John Warr as MD.

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There are very few motorised modes of transport that I prefer to just look at and listen rather than drive but large, powerful and iconic motorbikes fall into this category. They are thrilling and alluring but, for me, best ridden by someone else.

Harley-Davidson, Inc was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA in 1903 by twenty-two year old William S. Harley, and his childhood friend, Arthur Davidson, seen below on two early motorbikes bearing their names. They worked together on a design for a simple engine that would sit inside a bicycle frame – initially it was not a great success and required pedalling! A later and much bigger version proved  more successful and an early prototype – the very first Harley-Davidson – was raced in September 1904, at the Milwaukee’s State Fair Park.

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In 1906, Harley-Davidson built their first factory – making an initial 50 cycles per year yet quickly to expand to 150 per year by 1907 – on Juneau Avenue (Milwaukee) still the current location of Harley-Davidson’s corporate headquarters.

The V-Twin engine – with a 45 degree angle between the cylinders – was the next major development in 1909 and after 1913 the majority of Harley-Davidsons were V-Twins. Our inmate below is of a 1916 version of the V Twin.

1912 saw the arrival of the patented, and very recognisable, adjustable spung seat which was used until 1958.

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1917 saw the military purchasing over 20,000 motorcycles. Surviving the Great Depression by controlled expansion by the late 1930’s Harley-Davidson was again producing motorcycles for the US Army and delivered more than 90,000 for military use.

In 1941 the FL was introduced to the Harley-Davidson model line with its  “Knucklehead” OHV engine that was changed to the “Panhead” engine in 1948 with aluminium cylinder heads and improved cooling. In 1949, the FL – being renamed the Hydra Glide in 1950 – was given a new front suspension featuring distinctive hydraulically damped telescopic forks.

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The third and final change given to the basic FL model would occur in 1965 when Harley-Davidson engines were equipped with electric starters, an innovation that resulted in a new model name of the Electra Glide.

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Post War the company struggled and in 1969, American Machine and Foundry (AMF) bought Harley-Davidson, rationalised production and reduced the workforce, with a commensurate reduction in quality and non-competitive prices when compared to Japanese imports.

In 1981, AMF sold the company to a group of investors led by Vaughn Beals and Willie G. Davidson who deliberately exploited the retro appeal. The iconic Softail series of motorcycles – as in our featured image – was introduced in 1984 and in 1990, this was joined by the “Fat Boy”, in doing so Harley regained their preeminece in the heavyweight market.

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In 1994 the company unsuccessfully sort trade-mark protection for the distinctive sound made by a V-Twin.

In 2008, a 12,000 m2 Harley-Davidson Museum opened in the Menomonee Valley which houses the company’s heritage collection of  motorcycles and archives. To access the museum’s website please click the following link Harley-Davidson

If we have given you a taster of the history of this truely aesthetic and iconic US brand click the link below the image to get a copy of The Complete History of Harley-Davidson.

 

 

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Harley-Davidson: The Complete History 

If you are lucky enough own a Harley Sportster – a model first launch in 1957 – built between 1970 and 2010 it may be a wise investment to get the Haynes Manual – please click on the link below the image – You’ll know if your bike is a Sportster if it has the letters “XL” in its product number.

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Harley-Davidson Sportsters 1970 – 2010 (Haynes Service & Repair Manual)

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Images courtesy of Messrs Warr & Co and Harley-Davidson with grateful thanks

Hard Rock Cafe T Shirt

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In 1990 I joined a law firm that was based just off Piccadilly (London) and over the road from the merchandising shop of the “Hard Rock Cafe”.

At some point, the Manager gave a gold membership card that allowed me and my guests to queue-jump much to the frustration of those who’d waited patiently in the Mayfair drizzle to enjoy what in truth was a very good burger. There was and is to this day always a queue outside a Hard Rock Cafe whether you visit version in Paris, Madrid or Puerto Banus.

I recently tried to use the gold card at the Times Square Hard Rock Cafe much to the bemused amusement of the door security staff.

My law practice was in the music business so it was a constant fascination to the great and good – and the aspiring great and good – that a constant stream of wide-eyed primarily young or “young at heart” tourists from Europe and Japan would queue for many minutes to spend then, around £10.00 on a T shirt. But spend they did and today the iconic Hard Rock T Shirt – that I have included here not only to satiate my own nostalgia but also to venerate as a symbol – a continuing symbol – of the power of a great brand to evangelize its message.

It was usual that the Piccadilly venue would be used either as a venue for a band’s album launch or for the Brits nomination release party but there was always a buzz about the place. When the Coutts bank on the corner closed it seemed only fitting that the management of the Hard Rock should lease that space to launch a whole new merchandise operation. There was something fitting in a cash-cow business succeeding to the space occupied by a leading bank!

Long after Hard Rock as a music genre has faded – I wont say died out as I know its alive and well just not so prominent on the market – the Hard Rock Cafe shirt has featured in all manner of band video clips, catwalk shows and the pages of both the high and lower fashion press. It seems unlikely that the current crop of wearers have in fact ever eaten the mammoth burgers for which the Cafe became so famous.

The first Hard Rock Cafe was opened on Piccadilly on 14th June 1971 by Peter Morton and Isaac Tigrett. In 1979, the Hard Rock Cafe began covering its walls with rock and roll memorabilia. In 1990, The Rank Group from London acquired the Mecca Leisure Group and then made subsequent acquisitions ultimately controlling the Hard Rock Cafe brand worldwide. In 2007, Hard Rock was sold to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and is headquartered in Orlando, Florida for US$965m.

As of December 2015, there were 191 Hard Rock locations in 59 countries, including 168 cafes, 23 hotels, and 11 casinos.

Known for its expanding collection of rock and roll memorabilia which began in 1979 with a Red Fender Lead II guitar from Eric Clapton, the archive includes over 77,000 items one of the most prized is the Bedford VAL 6 axle coach used in the 1967 film The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour.

Image from the Hard Rock Cafe