The Seahorses Play “Love is the Law”

Here’s a clip of Ex-Stone Roses axeman and all-around Brit-pop guitar hero John Squire with his band The Seahorses, playing their sole 1997 hit “Love is the Law” as taken from their album Do It Yourself.

In Britain the Stone Roses cast a long shadow, having been nearly universally loved by both indie fans and dance music fans.  The band, co-led by Squire and singer Ian Brown, had been successful in bringing the two seemingly disparate worlds together along with other bands of the early 90s era like Happy Mondays, Primal Scream, and Inspiral Carpets.  But, the Roses had the distinct advantage over and above their peers; they put out a signature album that was lauded as a masterpiece of the scene, that being their self-titled debut in 1989.

A British guitar hero, after the age of guitar heroes had passed.
John Squire: A British guitar hero, after the age of guitar heroes had passed.

The debut record seemed like the resurrection of the rock scene.  The genius of it was that it took many of its cues from the Manchester dance club scene too, as typified by what was going on at the Hacienda where bands like New Order were the leaders of the scene.  The debut ensured that the Roses would be recognized as one of the great British bands of the era, with many fans eager to hear what they would come up with next.

However, the follow-up album took five years to make, and when it hit, it came off as something of a disappointment even though it is a solid effort.  Brown and Squire were at odds creatively and personally. And with a record killed by its own hype, plus inter-band tensions, the group understandably disbanded officially in 1996.

For me, by the time I’d heard this record, I’d yet to hear anything from the Roses.  I was living in England at the time, and knew the Roses only by reputation.  This helped my view of “Love is the Law”, which is a bit more ‘rock’ than anything off of The Stone Roses.  Squire’s chops as a guitarist were undeniable, pulling from the styles of 60s and 70s influences, yet sounding thoroughly modern and fresh at the same time.  Much like the eagerness fans experienced in waiting for the Roses to follow up their debut, there was a great deal of expectation surrounding this new band and their new album too.

But, I just thought it was a great slab of British rock music – anthemic, melodic, and with sterling guitar playing too without being flashy.  Unfortunately, it went nowhere in terms of establishing a new career and band for Squire.  After the innovations of the Stone Roses, this new band were largely looked upon as being ordinary, which wasn’t what Squire had been known for by any stretch.   After a tour, and studio disagreements, the group split in 1999, not having put out a follow-up.

Squire is clearly a gifted player, with an ability of taking his influences and doing something really new and musically energizing.  His career and ability are not unlike another arguably underachieving Mancunian guitar hero – Johnny Marr.  Yet, even Marr found his way on to the records of others, and eventually found a new band too in Modest Mouse.  Let’s hope Squire’s solo career, with two albums put out, will frame his playing as it should.

For more information about John Squire, check out


Supergrass Perform “Tales of Endurance pts 4, 5, & 6”

Here’s a clip of former Oxfordian cheeky monkeys-turned Brit-rock defenders Supergrass with the lead track from their excellent and underappreciated 2005 Road to Rouen album, “Tales of Endurance pts 4, 5, & 6”. This clip is from a live show from Brazil, framing this song and the band themselves as a cross-section of all the best in British rock music from the 60s to the present day.

Supergrass debuted in 1995 with their just-in-time-for-Brit-pop album I Should Coco, which featured the hits “Caught By The Fuzz” and the effervescent “Alright”, the video for which caught the attention of one Steven Speilberg, who was interested in basing a TV show around Supergrass, not unlike a kind of 90s Monkees.  The creation of a follow up album however took precedence, and the band turned Speilberg down.

It’s hard to imagine how their career would have gone if they’d decided to accept Speilberg’s offer.  But, it’s even harder to imagine life without the follow up, ironically titled We’re In It For The Money, which is arguably the best album of their impressive list of good records.  Where that record certainly has some undeniable tracks, many of their follow-up albums do as well. From their debut, they managed to mature from cheeky chappies to creating work with a bit more depth. A dynamic live act, Supergrass were a trio for many years, with unofficial contributor Rob Coombes adding keyboards.  By Road to Rouen, Rob was in the band along with guitarist/frontman brother Gaz Coombes, bassist Mickey Quinn, and drummer Danny Goffey.

I really think this record is one of their best, slightly moody, and very ambitiously arranged.   This song kicks things off well, building the track from an acoustic guitar strum to a full-on rock out barrage.  At  just over 35 minutes, it never outstays its welcome, which is endemic of a lot of good albums these days which would otherwise by great albums.

Supergrass have a knack for being both a singles band, and an albums band, which is no small feat, appealing to casual music fans, and serious geeks like me in different, yet equal, ways.  And as mentioned, they have the balance to be able to incorporate a list of influences from the annals of British classic rock music – Marc Bolan, the Stones, the Small Faces, The Kinks – while still establishing their own identity, which may be an even harder feat.

For more music and news, check out the Supergrass MySpace page.


Former Blur Guitarist Graham Coxon Performs ‘Standing on My Own Again’

Here’s a clip of unsung Brit-pop architect and understated, yet imminently skilled guitarmeister Graham Coxon with “Standing On My Own Again” as taken from his Love Travels At Illegal Speeds album from 2006.

Graham Coxons interest in American indie rock allowed his group Blur to make a quiet exit from the Brit-Pop ghetto.  His continuing interest in bands like Pavement and The Pixies continues in his solo career.
Graham Coxon's interest in American indie rock allowed his group Blur to make a quiet exit from the Brit-Pop ghetto by 1997. His continuing interest in bands like Pavement and The Pixies continues in his solo career.

Coxon of course is known for his work with Blur, having come up with instantly recognizable and extremely ‘hooky’ guitar figures on singles like “There’s No Other Way”, “Parklife”,”Song 2″, and others.  But, by 2002, Coxon was restless, wanting to stretch out on his own.  His initial solo efforts had a decidedly experimental feel, leaving behind the right angles of pop structures for music that was a little less expected from a songwriter and guitarist from a pop band known for their accessible singles.

Some critics noted that Coxon was resisting his own instincts for pop writing on these records.  But, by the time he’d recorded this tune and the album, he had clearly embraced them again.  His touchstones of Kinks-influenced writing, mitigated by the intensity of statesmanlike punk-pop were once again allowed to take centre stage.  And yet, this isn’t a safe record either – it rocks, and on its own terms.

For more information, check out the official Graham Coxon website

And for more music, there’s always the Graham Coxon MySpace page.

The Small Faces Perform ‘Itchycoo Park’ from 1967

Here’s a clip of severely underrated British mod outfit the Small Faces performing their 1967 psych-pop gem “Itchycoo Park”, the track which served as a herald to their critically-acclaimed Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake album.

This track was one of the best pop songs about drugs in an era of songs about drugs, and one of the most blatant too I might add. It’s amazing to me just how upfront it is about its subject matter – getting together, and taking acid in the park (supposedly Little Ilford Park in London) . I mean, that’s probably what a lot of the band’s fans were doing at the time. But, this was also a time when the London police were cracking down on drug use, and actively pursuing pop stars to make examples of them in the most draconian ways possible.

Along with the Who, The Small Faces were very much a mod group, designing their sound around R&B and soul music as much as classic rock ‘n’ roll. Their exploration of psychedelia by the end of the 1960s rendered a classic album that has endured to today; Odgen’s Nut Gone Flake.

Maybe because of this trend in Cromwellian policework in London, most songs at this time were pretty shadowy when it came to writing about recreational pharmacology. But, not this one. What did you do there? I got high! . If the Beatles worried about saying “I’d love to turn you on” in “A Day in the Life” which was recorded the same year, then these guys put it right out there, seemingly without any concern at all.

And this was a hit song too, reaching #3 on the UK charts and #16 in the US charts. Not bad for a band of mods singing about taking acid in the park. Of course, much like what the aforementioned Beatles had done with Sgt. Pepper, the Small Faces had created a song, and later an full-length album, that was very hard to reproduce live. This was the beginning of an era where the studio was becoming an instrument, just as important as any guitar or drum. Like the tunes on Pepper, the song features some revolutionary techniques that marked the era and would influence other eras too. Specifically, “Itchycoo Park” was one of the first tracks to feature a technique called phasing or flanging; that is, two recordings of the same lines playing at the same time while also being slightly delayed from one another. This is what gives the track its otherworldly quality.

It seems to me that the Small Faces may be one of the most underexposed bands of the era. Along with the Zombies, they tend to get left out of the discussion when it comes to conversations about big 60s groups. Yet, the talent and the material is top drawer. Listen to lead singer Steve Marriott‘s vocal power, which is seemingly effortless in delicacy and rawness, sometimes from one note to the next. And Ian ‘Mac’ McLagan remains to be one of the most versatile rock keyboardists in music history, playing the blues and British musical hall sounds in equal measure to the spacey soundscapes you hear on this tune.

It’s almost a shame that this band ended by 1969. I say almost, because they morphed into The Faces, when Rod Stewart and Ron Wood late of the Jeff Beck Group joined remaining members Ronnie Lane (AKA ‘Plonk’), Kenney Jones, and Mac, creating something equally special. Marriott went onto form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton, and the 1970s commenced accordingly. Neither band gained much traction on the scale of the Stones or Bowie. Yet, “Itchycoo Park” and Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake have both been heralded as masterpieces by critics and prominent music papers.

I suppose the goal of every artist is to create something lasting, which the Small Faces certainly have. And beyond the exceptional catchiness and charm of this song, and the creativity that went into making the album, I think this tune remains to be one of the most honest statements of the entire ’60s decade of pop music. And of course, the influence of the Small Faces was felt well into the ’90s, with fans like Damon Albarn and other Brit-pop writers listening intently, and passing it along.

All too beautiful!


[Update! February 26, 2016. Check out this informative one hour-ish documentary about The Small Faces. Adjust the volume a little higher, and enjoy!]

Tales of Brit-pop 2: Suede Performs ‘Electricity’

Here’s a clip of Brit-pop darlings Suede (known on this side of the pond as The London Suede) doing their post-Brit pop era tune “Electricity” from the 1999 album Head Music.

Suede ElectricityI never did like this band much, it must be said. I like Bernard Butler’s guitar playing, but frontman Brett Anderson’s sub-Bowie/Bolan preening kind of put me off. I guess this is one of those examples of liking the wrong song, since this single and its album came out in 1999, which made these guys ancient as far as the hype of the Brit-pop era was concerned. But, this tune has a lot of balls, with a wall of guitar that sounds like lightning tearing its way through galvanized metal. This is rock music, albeit with the same Euro-pop glam overtones of their other material. I love that guitar, even if Butler isn’t playing it. The band got a new guy in for it – Richard Oakes.

I always found that Brit-pop never really had much in the way of guts. Most of its proponents only came into their own guts-wise after all the hype died down after 1996. Brit-pop classmates Supergrass and Blur, to name but two, branched out with In It For The Money, and Blur respectively, arguably their best albums. And Suede attempts a similar move here, with a decidedly rock approach, although with not quite as much cultural impact in the end. The group pretty much fizzled out after this in terms of being in the public and critical eye. How much life was left in this group by the end? One album it seems, before splitting in 2003.

Rumours abound that the group had been working on new material with Butler back in as guitarist. This is despite Anderson’s solo career – he released a record in 2007, some of which you can hear on the Brett Anderson MySpace page. Tell me what you think as always, good people.


Tales of Brit-Pop – Blur perform “Parklife”

Here’s a clip of Blur doing their song “Parklife” from the 1994 album of the same name, Parklife .

Blur ParklifeThis song is one of my favourites by a band I consider to be a great singles band. Phil Daniels, most famous for his portrayal as Jimmy in 1979’s Quadrophenia, is the perfect choice as the narrator of an Eastend wideboy’s tale of simple pleasures in a narrow world of his own. And guitarist Graham Coxon’s opening guitar figure is genius in its simplicity. In short, a memorable pop song.

The song and the album of course was released during the so-called Brit-pop era, when bands like Blur, along with Suede, Supergrass, Pulp (who had actually been around since 1983) and Oasis were making a splash in their native country. All tried to break America at the time, and all but Oasis failed, although many found select audiences. I think this is because the thing which typified the scene (if there even was one beyond the music press buzz) was an unabashed celebration of all things British – British accents, British cultural references, and British musical influences like the Kinks and the Small Faces, bands from the 60s who carved a similar path, and who had similarly select success Stateside.

The scene was of course short lived, and the respective bands either fizzled out entirely (Elastica, Suede, Echobelly, etc), or transformed themselves into something other than cheeky chappies (Supergrass and Blur). It’s arguable that the bands who are associated with Britpop couldn’t get a foothold in America because they refused to Americanize. But, I don’t think it’s entirely beyond reason that this was the case. I think this ultimately caused most Americans to scratch their heads, wondering if these guys even knew how to speak American.