Michael Halpin Journalism


Louder Than War: Live Review – Sleaford Mods – Academy, Manchester – 27th October 2016

Sleaford Mods

Manchester, Academy

27th October 2016

Britain’s most articulate and outspoken band came to Manchester last Thursday as part of their UK tour. Louder Than War’s Michael Halpin was there to take it all in.

The evening began with a DJ presumably being employed to carry out the wonderful job of winding the audience up. Prior to Sleaford Mods taking to the stage the gathered throng were treated to a selection of cheesy disco “classics”. ‘It’s Raining Men’, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, ‘Love Isn’t Always On Time’, ‘The Theme From Friends’…you get the picture. Some members of the audience simply didn’t seem to get the point or appreciate the juxtaposition however. Surely these people didn’t have to be reminded of the purpose behind Sleaford Mods, did they? Sleaford Mods are here to drag us away from the soulless, saccharin cheesy-pop fest that was awful in the 1980s and is just as awful now. They are here to rant and vent against all that is false, against all that is fake. They sing about the state of modern Britain and the state of modern popular culture. Sadly some boys, as well as some girls, in the audience did appear to ‘Just Wanna Have Fun’. That’s fine but those boys and girls are missing the point when it comes to Sleaford Mods.

Fortunately, the majority of the audience tonight do get the point. The evening was a gathering of the sub-culture tribes, each with their own reason for being there. You could spot Indie, Mod, punk, hip-hop, dance…you name it, it was there. The audience was reminiscent of a Glastonbury audience prior to the era when going to Glastonbury simply became the thing to do.

Singer Jason Williamson greeted the Manchester audience with the cry, “You fuckin’ know don’t you?!” and it genuinely felt like they did. Sleaford Mods are that band. The band you can believe in. The important band. The band who actually have something to say. Williamson delivers every single lyric like his life depends on it. Like a man who really could be possessed and this is exactly what 2016 needs. We need another Ian Curtis, Iggy Pop, Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer. Williamson is more than just a simple amalgamation of those who many of us see as heroes of the working classes. His stage persona hints at Ian Dury, Norman Wisdom, Richard III and Quasimodo. We get Dalek impersonations, Metal Mickey impersonations and impersonations of the robots from the cult 1980s ‘Smash Makes Mash’ adverts. Add to that random sheep noises, genuine wit and the odd blown raspberry and you’re beginning to get the picture.

As Williamson ranted through ‘I Can Tell’, ‘Take It’, ‘Faces’ and ‘Fizzy’ as well as new numbers ‘BHS’ and ‘T.C.R.’, his musical partner in crime Andrew Fearn nodded and bobbed his head along to his no frills laptop and was admirable in his honestly – he was basically pressing play and pressing stop and didn’t care who knew it.


Williamson mocks the debacle of the encore in modern entertainment but managed to wind himself back up instantly to spit out ‘Jobseeker’, ‘Tied up In Nottz’ and ‘Tweet Tweet Tweet’.

Sleaford Mods are a million miles away from the top ten of the UK singles chart. They’re a million miles away from a Brit Award but they say more about the UK and Britain in 2016 than any other artist living in Britain today.

Sleaford Mods are on both Facebook and Twitter They can also be found at their website

Words by Michael Halpin. You can find more of Michael’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive.

Photos by Melanie Smith. More work by Mel on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Photography portfolio can be found here and Flickr



Louder Than War: Live Review – Daughter @ Manchester Academy – 24th October 2016




Academy, Manchester

24th October 2016

Louder Than War’s Michael Halpin watched Daughter live at the Academy in Manchester on Monday night. They are certainly masters of their craft.

Although Daughter’s laid-back, mesmeric style may not be to everyone’s taste, their intricate, well thought out music certainly lifted the boredom out of an autumnal Monday evening in Manchester. Their other-wordly musical creations taking the audience to an entirely different place. Clever lighting enhanced the reflective, introspective nature of Daughter who appear to be lovely people, humbled by the reactions they received from their Manchester audience. Granted they do not possess the fire or shot-in-the-arm that many say music needs right now but as escapism, Daughter definitely allow you to forget your surroundings.

Opening with ‘New Ways’ and ‘Numbers’ from this years ‘Not To Disappear’ album, Daughter received a warm reaction from their audience.

Singer Elena Torna’s vocals rode the wave of Igor Haefeli’s guitar lines beautifully and the additional musicians onstage served well in embellishing Daughter’s sound at the Academy. BBC 6 Music favourite ‘Alone/With You’ followed ‘Numbers’ before ‘How’ and ‘Tomorrow’ really set the mood.

Daughter’s debut album ‘If You Leave’ was represented well also. Numbers like ‘Winter’ and ‘Youth’ being greeted enthusiastically by the pleasant audience. ‘Mothers’ provided the most heart-felt and emotional moment of the evening with the lyrics being genuinely difficult to listen to on a level that strikes a chord instantly within the listener.

More than ever before there is room for the likes of Daughter in popular music. Fan favourites ‘Smother’ and Shallows’ gaining a reaction that reflected exactly this.

An enthusiastically received encore followed in the shape of ‘Medicine’ and ‘Fossa’ and those who care for what Daughter do appeared to go home both happy and content.



Live Review for Louder Than War: Jake Bugg: The O2 Apollo, Manchester – 19th October



Written by michaelhalpin

Manchester, O2 Apollo

19th October 2016

Louder Than War’s Michael Halpin was there…

The public persona of Jake Bugg as a morose, moody and grumpy individual, along with both his Snow Patrol assisted song writing, has left me in an unforgiving mood of late with all that surrounds the Nottingham musician. Throw into the mix the frankly awful ‘On My One’ single from earlier this year and its safe to say that my expectations were low regarding last nights gig.

Opening with the aforementioned ‘On My One’, the chav-tastic title and cringe-worthy opening line, “I’m just a poor boy, from Nottinghuuuummmmm” would leave Bugg’s folk-singing hero Woody Guthrie stone cold. Bugg’s execution of the offending line is almost beyond parody on record and was no better live. Couple with that the fact that his onstage persona vaguely resembled Bob Dylan’s in his ‘Don’t Look Back’ phase, only served to make the heart sink further. While Dylan looked sharp and contemporary in 1965, Bugg appeared casual at best in 2016. Is it ever acceptable for a musician to appear onstage looking so none descript? There was better dressed people at the bar last night!

Aside from the criticisms flanked at the 22-year-old, one aspect that cannot be denied is Jake Bugg’s guitar playing capabilities. On numerous occasions last night (particularly on ‘Strange Creatures’ and ‘Bitter Salt’) Bugg displayed both his fingerpicking talent and his flair for a guitar solo. The latter being an aspect of his arsenal that reveals itself far too little on record. To give him his due, the boy can sing as well. He belted out “his” numbers with a compelling force and what he lacks in visible vitriol, he more than makes up for in his ability to connect with the whole audience through his vocals.

In a set-list lasting just under ninety minutes, Bugg managed to rattle through an impressive twenty-one songs. ‘Two Fingers’, ‘Seen It All’ and ‘Messed Up Kids’ appearing to be almost effortless.

‘Love, Hope and Misery’ is an astonishing song and begs the question, ‘Could this have been a genuinely big commercial radio hit in the right hands?’ while ‘Never Wanna Dance’ could seriously have been written for Marvin Gaye to perform.

‘Trouble Town’, ‘Put Out The Fire’ and ‘Taste It’ were executed perfectly before the most tender and beautiful moment of the evening occurred during ‘Broken’. Again, one has to concede that as a singer and guitar player Jake Bugg is an extremely talented young man.

Closing with ‘Lightning Bolt’ the audience went home happy and did not seem to care whether or not the songs sung tonight were solely written by the person who performed them. The fact that it has taken Jake Bugg until his third album to manage write all of his songs himself will still leave some of us with mixed feelings about “his” music. Yes, he can sing and he can certainly play, but regarding every other aspect of him as an artist the jury is definitely still out.

Words by Michael Halpin. You can find more of Michael’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive.





Louder Than War: The Rolling Stones In Mono Box Set and How To Buy Their 60s Albums


The Rolling Stones In Mono Box Set and How To Buy Their 60s Albums



Buying the Rolling Stones 1960s back-catalogue can be a tricky and frustrating business. For years record buyers have been irritated by a lack of respect afforded to Stones 1960s material by both the company owning the rights to the songs (ABKCO) and the Rolling Stones themselves. Unfortunately it appears that in 2016, as the band release their ‘Rolling Stones In Mono’ box set, very little has changed.

Many Stones fans have bemoaned the fact that The Rolling Stones 1960s material has never been represented correctly. In 1986, when the Stones 60s material was released on CD for the first time, the strange decision to release the material in stereo, rather than the original mono, was made. As a result, the ‘art of weaving’ as Keith Richards has often called the Stones guitar interplay, was lost as the bands sound was spread across a stereo spectrum with very little care or attention to detail and thus omitted an intrinsic part of what made the Stones sound so unique. Thankfully the ‘Rolling Stones In Mono’ has rectified the problem by referring back to the original 1960s mixes and a generation of fans will now be able to hear the Stones 60s material as it was originally intended.

First generation fans by contrast no longer have to be puzzled as to why ‘Paint It, Black’ or ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’ do not sound quite as exhilarating as they once did.

One ghost of the 1986 CD releases still remains however. When ABKCO released the Stones back-catalogue on CD, many of the U.S. versions of the Stones albums took precedence over the UK versions and for the best part of thirty years, the US albums have appeared on the shelves of record shops (and more recently on download sites), posing as original Rolling Stones album releases. The fact is, they never were.

In the 1960s themselves, the Rolling Stones U.S. record label (ironically called ‘London’) crassly chopped up and slimmed down the Stones original UK album releases in order to squeeze every last cent out of the U.S. record buyer. Through chopping up every single Rolling Stones album recorded between 1964 and 1967, tracks that remained unreleased in America, along with stand alone singles, b-sides and EP numbers, found themselves cobbled together in order to create ‘new’ Rolling Stones albums. Releases such as ‘12×5’, ‘The Rolling Stones, Now!’, ‘Decembers Children (and Everybody’s)’ and ‘Flowers’ never appeared as UK releases and are, in truth, little more than compilation albums. Further to this, albums such as ‘Out Of Our Heads’, ‘Aftermath’ and ‘Between The Buttons’, upon their original release, were presented with different running orders in the U.S. as well as being presented with several key tracks omitted.

In 2016, as the Stones finally show the 21st century how their 60s material was meant to be heard, surely a great historian such as Keith Richards would want his own history to be represented correctly? Sadly not it would seem.

Granted, the ‘Rolling Stones In Mono’ does contain the original UK albums within but bizarrely also contains the U.S. versions in the same box. It appears that those with a disposable income will have no option but to be saddled with the U.S. versions of albums that will rarely ever reach their CD player.

It would appear that the best option for fans keen to hear the Stones as originally intended, is to hang fire and wait until the albums are released individually in 2017.

Those new to the Rolling Stones, or those wanting to simply delve further than the greatest hits compilations, may not know where to begin purchasing the Stones back catalogue but Louder Than War’s Michael Halpin is on hand to guide you, ranking the Stones UK released albums and taking us through the key tracks of each.

1) Let It Bleed – Released 5th December 1969



Not only the Stones best album from the 60s but arguably the best album the Rolling Stones have ever produced. ‘Let It Bleed’ was the first Rolling Stones album to feature Brian Jones’ replacement Mick Taylor.


‘Gimme Shelter’ – Suspected to have been written by Keith Richards when he assumed that his then girlfriend Anti Pallenberg was having an affair with Mick Jagger as they filmed their roles for the 1969 movie ‘Performance’.

Stand back and admire the pregnant session singer Merry Clayton share the majority of the lead-vocal with Mick Jagger and subsequently leave him in the shade. Pay particular attention at 3:50 when Clayton’s voice cracks wonderfully and Jagger can be heard in the background giving an approving ‘woo!’

Martin Scorsese is clearly a fan of the song using ‘Gimme Shelter’ on three separate occasions in his movies; ‘Goodfellas (1990)’, ‘Casino (1995)’ and ‘The Departed (2006)’.

‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ – Used as the b-side of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ in July 1969 before appearing on the ‘Let It Bleed’ album five months later. ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ features Northern Soul heroes Madeline Bell and Doris Troy as part of the vocal choir. Debuted live in December 1968 on ‘The Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus’ the film shows the bands last live performance with an extremely fragile looking Brian Jones.

‘Midnight Rambler’ – Deemed to be written about the Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo.


‘Love In Vain’ – A country fuelled cover of the legendary bluesman, Robert Johnson.

‘Let It Bleed’ – Featuring Ry Cooder on slide guitar, was this a nod to the then recorded but unreleased Beatles track ‘Let It Be’?

‘Country Honk’ – A country version of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ released as a single five months previously.

‘Monkey Man’ – Used wonderfully by Martin Scorsese in ‘Goodfellas (1990)’.

2) Beggars Banquet – Released 6th December 1968


The album where the Rolling Stones ‘sound’ was born. Keith Richards discovered open-tuning and finally got chance to delve even deeper into his growing collection of blues records. With the Stones scaling back their tour commitments by 1968 (Brian Jones being too much of a liability), Keith had time to sit back and listen. It showed.


‘Sympathy For The Devil’ – Simply one of the greatest, most iconic rock songs ever written. The celebrated backing vocals and Keith’s piercing guitar solo have cemented this song into rock history. The performance during the Maysles brothers 1970 movie ‘Gimme Shelter’ is one of the darkest musical moments to ever to be captured on film.

‘Street Fighting Man’ – Inspired by both the Paris student riots of spring 1968 and an anti-Vietnam war protest march which Jagger himself attended, ‘Street Fighting Man’ was released as a U.S. only single four months prior to being included on the ‘Beggars Banquet’ album.

One of the last significant contributions Brian Jones made to a Stones track is the songs slightly off-kilter sitar drone. Charlie Watts meanwhile took the decision to play a child’s drum kit on the track.


‘No Expectations’ – Beautiful slide guitar from Brian Jones. Again, one of his final significant contributions. Once more, the footage of Jones playing the song live on ‘The Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus’ is painful to watch.

‘Dear Doctor’ – A genuinely funny blues-county pastiche.

‘Stray Cat Blues’ – The riff, the vocals, the piano and Charlie’s drum fills are all astonishing. Just be wary of the lyrics

‘Salt Of The Earth’ – Lead vocals are shared by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Keith doing something of a passable Bob Dylan impression while the wonderful Watts Street Gospel Choir make this the seed of an idea which would later develop into ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want.’

3) The Rolling Stones – Released 16th April 1964 (UK Version)


The Rolling Stones debut album. More than any other album, ‘The Rolling Stones’ introduced both the beauty and thrill of rhythm and blues to a mass audience on both sides of the Atlantic.


‘(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66’ – Written by Bobby Troup in 1946 and originally recorded by Nat King Cole’s The King Cole Trio, the Rolling Stones picked up the song via Chuck Berry’s Rock ‘n’ Roll version in 1961. This was the beginning of the Stones and the Beatles showing white America that it already had a goldmine of popular music worth exploring.

‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’ – Written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by the Rolling Stones blues hero Muddy Waters. The Stones give it an amphetamine fuelled British R’n’B treatment and footage of the band playing the track live at the NME poll winners party in 1964 is still exhilarating 52 years later.


‘Little By Little’ – The b-side of the Stones first top ten hit, ‘Not Fade Away’.

Song writing credits go to Nanker- Phelge & Spector, Nanker-Phelge being the pseudonym used by the Stones when all five members of the band contributed to the writing of a track. Phil Spector also received a credit for simply being in the studio it seems. The interplay of guitar and harmonica solos between Mick and Keith holds a genuine raw charm.

‘Tell Me’ – One of Jagger and Richards first song writing attempts. Surprisingly Mersey beat sounding rather than rhythm and blues. The track appeared in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Mean Streets’ in 1973 – one of the first instances in which a pop song was used in the background of a scene rather than being used as a focal point.

4) Aftermath – Released 15th April 1966 (UK Version)

The Rolling Stones answer to the Beatles ‘Rubber Soul’ and the first Stones album to consist entirely of Jagger & Richards material.


‘Mothers Little Helper’ – Reflecting the darker side of the swinging sixties, ‘Mothers Little Helper’ laments the increased use of valium as a prescription drug in the UK. The sitar-sounding intro is actually Keith Richards playing slide on a 12-string guitar.

‘Under My Thumb’ – Influenced by the Four Tops ‘It’s The Same Old Song’, ‘Under My Thumb’ features both an intriguing fuzz-bass from Bill Wyman and an exotic sounding marimba from Brian Jones.

One of the Stones most popular songs from the period, classic footage of the Stones performing the song on the ‘Rolling Stones Special’ for the highly influential ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ from 1966 is available to be viewed on www.youtube.com

The Who recorded and rush-released both ‘Under My Thumb’ and ‘The Last Time’ as a good-will gesture when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards appeared to be facing prison sentences for drug possession. Pete Townshend stated that the gesture was as a way of keeping the Rolling Stones material in the public eye.


‘Lady Jane’ – Written by Mick Jagger after reading the then controversial ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, the intrinsically English-sounding composition features a beautifully played dulcimer courtesy of Brian Jones who, although losing his grip as the bands leader (it was Jones who formed the band in 1962) took on the mantle of the bands multi-instrumentalist, finding unusual instrumentation and musical textures designed to develop the Stones sound.

‘Out Of Time’ – British R’n’B singer Chris Farlowe’s cover of ‘Out Of Time’ was number 1 in the UK charts during the week in which England won the World Cup in 1966.

Like the majority of the material on ‘Aftermath’, ‘Out Of Time’ benefits from the unusual instrumentation afforded to it by Brian Jones. In this particular case, Jones adding a marimba to the recording.

Stinker: Stupid Girl

5) Out Of Our Heads – Released 24th September 1965 (UK Version)


Although not filled with classic Stones material, The Stones third album interestingly see’s the band moving away from blues covers and over to more soul based material. If anything, the album almost presents itself as ‘The Rolling Stones Sing Soul’.

This was the last Rolling Stones album to be predominantly cover version based.


‘I’m Free’ – Best known as the original version of the Soup Dragons 1990 top 5 hit, the track is worth the time of day for that alone.

‘Good Times’ – A faithful cover of the Sam Cooke classic, again, at the time the Rolling Stones were managing to turn young people onto both rhythm and blues and soul on both sides of the Atlantic.

‘Hitch Hike’ – A cover of Marvin Gaye’s 1962 hit, the Stones version was cited by Lou Reed as the inspiration for the Velvet Underground’s ‘There She Goes Again’.

‘That’s How Strong My Love Is’ – A tender cover of the O.V. Wright classic. The Stones version leans more towards the Otis Redding rendition and again classic footage is available of the Stones performing the number on ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ in 1965.

‘Heart of Stone’ – An early Jagger & Richards composition. Mick and Keith appear to be finding their feet in writing songs in the style of their rhythm and blues heroes.

6) Their Satanic Majesties Request…The Rolling Stones – Released 8th December 1967


The Stones infamously go psychedelic. Not as bad an album as its reputation in rock history suggests.

The album suffered from being recorded during Mick Jagger and Keith Richards high profile ‘Redlands’ court case and you can almost hear the fact that their minds are on other things.


‘She’s A Rainbow’ – The playful, almost childlike ‘She’s A Rainbow’ is arguably the most beautiful song the Rolling Stones have ever recorded and session musician Nicky Hopkins contributes a mesmeric piano line which gives ‘She’s A Rainbow’ its main area of intrigue. Future Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, a seasoned session musician at the time, composed the string arrangement for the track while Brian Jones’s mellotron adds further psychedelic weight.

‘2000 Light Years From Home’ – Legend has it that Mick Jagger wrote the lyrics for ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ whilst in Brixton Prison following his conviction for drug possession in June 1967.

A wonderful version of the Stones performing the track “live” can be viewed on Tony Palmer’s excellent pop music documentary, ‘All My Loving’ from 1968.


‘Citadel’ – The most typically Stones-like song on ‘Their Satanic Majesties…’ the songs chorus refers to Candy Darling, the transgender muse of both the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol who met the Rolling Stones in a New York City hotel during the months leading up to the recording of ‘Their Satanic Majesties…’

‘In Another Land’ – The Bill Wyman penned number is worth a listen for the simple fact that it features the Small Faces Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane on backing vocals, with Steve Marriott effortlessly out-singing Mick Jagger on the chorus.

Stinkers: ‘Sing This All Together (See What Happens)’ and ‘Gomper’

7) Between The Buttons – Released 20th January 1967 (UK version)


Like ‘Out Of Our Heads’, ‘Between The Buttons’ is not an album filled with Rolling Stones classics and much of the best material recorded during the album sessions did not make it onto the UK release. Songs like ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, ‘Ruby Tuesday’ and ‘Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow?’ were all released as stand-alone singles when in truth, ‘Between The Buttons’ could and would have benefitted from the addition of these tracks.


‘Yesterday’s Papers’ – The first song Mick Jagger wrote completely on his own. It has been suggested that the song was directed at Jagger’s ex-girlfriend Chrissy Shrimpton (sister of iconic 60s model Jean Shrimpton).

‘Back Street Girl’ – Revisiting the English-folk theme of ‘Lady Jane’, Brian Jones plays an enchanting vibraphone while Phil Spector collaborator, Jack Nitzsche, contributes a wonderful harpsichord.

‘All Sold Out’ – The rockiest song on the album, a wonderful fuzz-bass from Bill Wyman and some equally wonderful distorted guitar from Keith reflects, as well as anything else of the era, the point where pop music was just about to become psychedelic rock.

Stinker – ‘Something Happened To Me Yesterday’

8) Rolling Stones No. 2 – Released 15th January 1965


Like their debut from the year previous, ‘Rolling Stones No.2’ is, aside from three Jagger and Richards originals, an album filled with blues covers. The return is slightly diminished however in comparison to their 1964 debut release.


‘Time Is On My Side’ – A cover of the beloved rhythm and blues favourite by Irma Thomas.


‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’ – A faithful version of the Muddy Waters hit, sixteen years after the release of the original.

All words Michael Halpin. More writing by Michael on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.


Black Grape: The Victoria Warehouse, Manchester – Live Review for Louder Than War


Black Grape: The Victoria Warehouse, Manchester – Live Review



Black Grape

The Victoria Warehouse


24th September 2016

Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse saw the first Brit Project take place over the weekend with a mix of legendary artists and breakthrough bands sharing two stages in one of Manchester’s most intriguing venues.  Louder Than War’s Michael Halpin was there to tell us all about it. Photos by Paul Husband

The likes of Primal Scream, Black Grape, Badly Drawn Boy and Dodgy lined-up alongside The Watchmakers, Glass Caves, Feed The Kid and Sitting Pretty for this unique live music event.

Of the unsigned acts, The Watchmakers held their own most self-assuredly alongside the likes of Reverend and The Makers and Dodgy, the latter churning out their back catalogue of crowd pleasing hits.

Manchester’s own Badly Drawn Boy (AKA Damon Gough) followed Dodgy onstage, cutting a lone figure – just one man and his guitar.  The charismatic individual that he is however managed to charm the audience throughout his set. ‘Everybody’s Stalking’, ‘The Shining’, ‘Disillusion’ and ‘Once Around The Block’ sounded delightful when stripped down to their bare bones, as did a medley of ‘People Get Ready/Sexual Healing and Mohammed Ali’ before Gough closed his set with a beautiful cover of Black’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

Headliners Primal Scream played a greatest-hits-heavy set which included ‘Moving On Up’, ‘Loaded’, ‘Come Together’, ‘Higher Than The Sun’, ‘Rocks’ and ‘Country Girl’ but numbers from their questionable new album ‘Chaosmosis’ meant that this was not vintage Primal Scream and the evening was stolen by the recently reformed Black Grape.

Opening with their 1995 top ten hit ‘In The Name Of The Father’, Black Grape brought the Victoria Warehouse to life and the band, albeit not the original members, sounded far better than they ever did in the 90s.  There were grins aplenty onstage and Shaun Ryder appeared to be genuinely enjoying himself.  Possibly, for the first time in years.

‘Tramazi Parti’ followed ‘In The Name Of The Father’ and it was almost too difficult to think about writing a review when all I really wanted to do was throw a few Bez shapes like I did in the days when I was a touch more agile!

‘Reverend Black Grape’ appeared too early in the set but was as rabble-rousing in 2016 as it was over twenty years ago.  Ryder kicked into an impromptu ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ style “woo-woo” but the real excitement came from Kermit who certainly seems to have a good set of vocal pipes on him.  Again, far better than what can be recalled from the mid-90s.

The groove on ‘A Big Day In The North’ and  ‘Shake Well Before Opening’ was immense and the 2016 version of Black Grape is a water tight, groovy-as-fuck band who sailed through tonight’s set with the confidence of a well oiled machine.

That confidence spilled into ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ as it slipped into ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll’ briefly before an extended ‘Little Bob’ ended the set triumphantly.

Primal Scream may have been the headliners tonight but the evening definitely belonged to Black Grape.





Words by Michael Halpin.  You can find more of Michael’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive.  He can also be found at http://www.michaelhalpinjournalism.co.uk

Photos by Paul Husband. He also tweets as @paul__husband.


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Live Review: Echo and The Bunnymen @ The Ritz, Manchester for Louder Than War



Echo and The Bunnymen: The Ritz, Manchester – live review

Echo and Bunnymen

Manchester, The Ritz

1st September 2016

Although it is a cliché to focus on age and appearance in an era when our musical heroes from days passed continuously reform and re-emerge, Echo and The Bunnymen’s two original members, Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant, certainly look better behind a cloud of dry ice and moody lighting in 2016. Unlike others of their ilk however, The Bunnymen’s aesthetic seems to carry purpose, and their visual and musical darkness created genuine escapism on a Thursday evening in Manchester.  This alone is testament to the integrity of their back catalogue as Michael Halpin found out.

A definite yin and yang surrounds Echo and The Bunnymen and this is part of tonight’s appeal. While the higher register of McCulloch’s vocals can take the audience onto an entirely higher plane, his Scouse drawl at the beginning of the evening brings proceedings right back down to earth, “alright Manchester ” couldn’t sound any less otherworldly if it tried.

Following an epic ‘All That Jazz’, McCulloch, surely one of British music’s most distinctive front men, announces, “I’m feeling shite tonight” and again we get the kind of contrast that the Bunnymen have always managed to charm with.

Will Sergeant’s guitar sounds positively violent during a psychotic ‘Do It Clean’ which briefly morphs into James Browns ‘Sex Machine’ and his 12-string guitar work on ‘Seven Seas’ proves to be as beautiful as expected.

‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’ is followed by McCulloch dryly announcing, “We played Oxford the other night…thick as pig shit there!” before the inevitable ‘Killing Moon’ naturally brings the house down.

McCulloch’s voice struggles during a slightly too urgent ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ but we do get a few improvised bars of ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ which softens the blow slightly.

‘The Cutter’ is remarkable during the first of two encores and that uncanny knack of being otherworldly in their music, whilst being completely down to earth in their persona, is complete.



You can find Echo & The Bunnymen online here. They also are on Facebook.

All words Michael Halpin. More writing by Michael on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.


The Stone Roses @ The Etihad Stadium – More Than Just Great Gigs

The Stone Roses at The Etihad Stadium – More Than Just Great Gigs


Louder Than War: Rubber Soul 50th Anniversary of The Beatles classic album


Rubber Soul – 50th Anniversary of The Beatles Classic album


rubber soul


The 3rd of December see’s the fiftieth anniversary of not only The Beatles ‘Rubber Soul’ album being released, but also the fiftieth anniversary of what many believe to be the turning point in The Beatles career. To many ‘Rubber Soul’ marked the period where The Beatles began to steer away from being the lovable mop-tops with a constant grin, and moved towards being the serious, experimental studio wizards who were quickly becoming the 20th century’s greatest songwriters and arguably the 20th century’s most influential band.

What lead The Beatles to steer away from their boy-meets-girl, royal family approved image, was a series of events that molded their ever evolving mindsets. The need for constant progression was always there, deeply embedded in them from their bohemian days and nights in both Liverpool and Hamburg, but as 1965 arrived, the musical and counter-cultural rulebook was changing at a vast rate of knots. While some of The Beatles contemporaries fell by the way side in 1965, The Beatles themselves, with their ability to move with, as well as reflect the times, managed to embrace all that was on offer around them, and rather than manage to merely stay afloat, they actually managed to maintain their status as the cream of popular music. What follows is the story of The Beatles growing up and leaving their rock ‘n’ roll roots behind. It is the story of them being bored when meeting Elvis, while being inspired when meeting The Byrds. It is a story of LSD, Sitars and Bob Dylan. It is the story of The Beatles moving away from being a two-albums-a-year pop group in order to satisfy demand, to being a group of intelligent young men who took control of not only the recording studio but also took control of their own career.


On the 6th August 1965, the Beatles released their fifth album, ‘Help!’ Predictably, it was a worldwide success and although the record contained additions to the Fab-Fours sound such as a string quartet (‘Yesterday’) flutes (‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’) and one of the earliest uses of the wah-wah pedal (‘I Need You’), The NME’s review of the album was somewhat lukewarm: “It’s typical Beatles material, and offers very few surprises. But then, who wants surprises from the Beatles?” read the music papers review one week before release. The review was of little consequence at a time when the music press was still light and snappy and popular music was yet to be fully realized as an actual art form.  Further to this, the album was still the secondary format in the pop world behind the seven-inch single. The NME’s review however, offended Paul McCartney. Be it The Supremes or Chubby Checker, The Beatles loathed artists who repeated themselves and repeated a formula.


Aside from Bob Dylan and marijuana entering The Beatles lives in the later part of 1964, early 1965 saw John and Cynthia Lennon, along with George Harrison and Patti Boyd experience an evening which would have far more significant an affect on the Beatles than all they had absorbed during their previous two-years in the public eye. Thought to have occurred at some point between January and April 1965, John, George and their respective Wag’s attend a dinner party held by George Harrison’s cosmetic dentist, the 34-year-old John Riley.  At the end of dinner, Riley placed a little known substance, in the form of a sugar cube, into their after-meal coffee. He informed the Lennon’s as well as George and Patti, that the substance, still legally obtainable at the time, was Lysergic Acid Dyatherlimide – LSD. Various accounts tell the tale of a wholly unpleasant trip which included Riley trying to get John, George and their partners to stay at his house for what appeared to be an orgy; George attempting to drive his Mini Cooper to London’s Pickwick Club only to arrive at the club believing that it was actually being bombed. Following that they moved onto the Ad Lib club to meet Ringo, only to THEN believe that the lift to the club was on fire! Poor George then had the misfortune of having to drive everybody home again! Lennon told Rolling Stone magazine in 1970, “It was terrifying but it was fantastic.”

beatles shea stadium

Approximately five months after John and George’s “terrifying” LSD experience, The Beatles began their second tour of America with a record-breaking gig at New York’s Shea Stadium in front of 56,000 fans. Subsequent dates on the American tour were the usual circus of increasingly tiresome screaming and poor PA systems and The Beatles, by now, played to their audiences through increasingly gritted teeth. Following a show in Portland on the 22nd of August, the band flew to Los Angeles for a mid-tour break staying in Benedict Canyon, Hollywood in a house belonging to Zsa Zsa Gabor. During the previous month, California’s The Byrds, with their 12-string Rickenbacker jangle, were touring Britain on the back of the number 1 success of the Bob Dylan penned ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ and although The Byrds gigs were met with mixed reviews in Britain, the band were championed and befriended by The Beatles. John and George having both attended The Byrds gig at London’s Blaises Club while Paul McCartney watching them at London’s Flamingo and then going on to introduce them to the sights and sounds of swinging London. Following this, The Byrds were invited to meet The Beatles again at Zsa Zsa Gabor’s home when the fab-four reached California in August.


On the 24th of August, Roger McGuinn and David Crosby were chauffeured to Zsa Zsa Gabor’s home at the invitation of The Beatles. Following John and George’s recent experience with LSD, they decided that their band mates also needed to experience the drug: “John and I decided that Paul and Ringo had to have acid, because we couldn’t relate to them any more.  Not just on the one level – we couldn’t relate to them on any level, because acid had changed us so much….so the plan was that when we got to Hollywood we were going to get them to take acid…we got some in New York and we’d been carrying these around all through the tour until we got to LA.” During the party, Ringo did indeed join George and John, Paul however was not so willing, “I think I was seen to stall a little bit within the group…talk about peer pressure, The Beatles!” Whereas in 1970 John Lennon told Rolling Stone, “Paul felt very out of it, because we were all slightly cruel, ‘we’re all taking it and you’re not'”. The party was a mix of Ringo swimming in what he thought was a pool filled with jelly, John, George and Ringo trying to watch Cat Ballou whilst tripping, George getting increasingly irritated by the cast of the movie and a very uncool Peter Fonda informing those on acid that he ‘knew what it was like to be dead.’


Also during the evening, George Harrison found that The Byrds were also becoming intrigued by Indian music. In Johnny Rogan’s Byrds biography, ‘Requiem for the Timeless’ Roger McGuinn tells Rogan, “We were sitting around on acid playing 12-strings in the shower. John, George, David (Crosby) and I were just sitting there playing. We were showing them what we knew about Ravi Shankar and they’d never heard of him.” In 2010 McGuinn told the Daily Telegraph, “I showed George Harrison some Ravi Shankar sounds; you can hear what I played him from The Byrds’ song ‘Why’. I had learned to play it on the guitar from listening to records of Ravi Shankar.”Three days after their party with The Byrds, The Beatles, still in LA, met their all time hero, Elvis Presley.  The visit, arranged by Colonel Tom Parker and Brian Epstein took place at Graceland. Unlike their meeting with The Byrds however the consensus seemed to be that they simply could not get close to Elvis.  They were a different generation, his stimulants appearing to be ‘uppers’ and Whiskey rather than weed and LSD. Lennon later remarked, ‘it had been about as exciting as meeting Engelbert Humperdinck’. The generation gap widening in The Beatles eyes as Elvis appeared to be a performer rather than a musician.


Following a further eight gigs is the US, The Beatles Returned to the UK and took a six-week break before entering the studio on October 12th to begin work on what would become ‘Rubber Soul’. The first song The Beatles set out to record was ‘Run for your life’. With its opening lyric lifted from Elvis Presley’s 1957 ‘Baby Lets Play House’, ‘Run For Your Life’ does little to suggests any new direction. Lennon going on to describe the song as ‘a glib throwaway’ that he ‘wished he’d never written’ to official Beatles biographer Hunter Davies. Reflecting on the album in Rolling Stone in 1970 Lennon said, “We finally took over the studio…we were learning the techniques. Then we got contemporary. I think ‘Rubber Soul’ was about when it started happening.” This, their sixth album was largely The Beatles taking a look around and absorbing the music directly surrounding them in 1965 and once ‘Run For Your Life’ was completed; Lennon’s theory began to take shape.


The second song to be recorded encompassed much of what the Beatles had been soaking up over the previous ten months. With Lennon attempting to match Dylan with his lyrical prowess, The Beatles also mixed their recent folks-rock acoustic leanings, so prevalent in 1965, with both a Byrds style guitar-figure and for the first time, the introduction of the sitar into western popular music. George Harrison’s recently purchased sitar from the unimaginatively named India Craft store on London’s Oxford Street, was about to set a president regarding what could actually be achieved within pop music as The Beatles set out to recorded the Lennon composition, ‘Norwegian Wood’. Although the ‘drone’ associated with Indian music had already been utilised by The Beatles (Ticket To Ride) The Kinks (See My Friends) and The Yardbirds (Heart Full Of Soul) earlier in 1965, the actual use of Indian instrumentation at this point was something unique to The Beatles. The songs subject, an affair that John Lennon was trying to write about without actually letting his wife Cynthia know, has been linked to various parties involved in Lennon’s life during the period: Sonny Drake (wife of ‘Rubber Soul’ photographer Robert Freeman) and Journalist Maureen Cleeve. The 3/4 time signature of ‘Norwegian Wood’ meant that in essence The Beatles had created a sea-shanty/folk song with an Indian backing.  This was the beginning of the melting pot of influences and sounds that would peak in The Beatles world over the next two-to-three-years.


In the light of Lennon not particularly liking ‘Run For a Your Life’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’ being a struggle to record (Lennon insisting on a remake 9 days after recording the original) ‘Rubber Soul’ did not get off to the best start. Further problems were encountered when Lennon and McCartney began a writing session at Lennon’s Weybridge home one Autumn afternoon. McCartney showed up at Lennon’s with a set of chords and a melody he was happy with but a set of lyrics that he despised.  The song would eventually evolve into the Volt/Stax inspired ‘Drive My Car’ but at this point, the lyric was lame and rudimentary. “I can buy you golden rings.”  Lennon and McCartney well aware that singing about “rings” was their default setting (‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, ‘I Feel Fine’) and wanted to steer away from the theme quickly. The songwriting session was later described by McCartney as being the nearest he and Lennon ever came to having a ‘dry session.’  After hours of getting nowhere they somehow stumbled upon the phrase ‘Drive My Car’ and with that came the idea of a chauffeur, Hollywood and stars of the screen – possibly due to the fact they had recently been in Hollywood with a plethora of LA girls hanging around and no doubt looking for a movie break.

gh sitar

Although The Beatles had already shown the influence of Motown, Stax and Atlantic on their work through songs like ‘You Can’t Do That’ and ‘She’s A Woman’, ‘Drive My Car’ betrayed a harder edged, more bottom-heavy sound.  George Harrison, the biggest soul fan of the four with an almost encyclopedic knowledge, played ‘Drive My Car’s’ bass-line and used Otis Redding’s ‘Respect’ as the inspiration. McCartney singing at the top end of his vocal register only added to the songs appeal which could have been custom built for Redding himself. Another soul inspired track on the album was ‘The Word’, John Lennon’s first attempt to write a song around love as a universal theme rather than a boy-meets-girl theme. It was also said to be Lennon and McCartney’s attempt to write a melody completely on just one note, “like ‘Long Tall Sally’” Paul McCartney told Alan Aldridge in an interview in 1990. Aside from the up-tempo soul that was influencing The Beatles heavily during this period, one of Lennon and McCartney’s most celebrated collaborations, ‘In My Life’, came about as a result of Smokey Robinson’s ability to write classic Motown ballads.


‘In My Life’ was by far Lennon and McCartney’s most mature piece of work to-date, Lennon having turned 25 less than 10 days before the song was recorded; McCartney was all of 23.


The much-revered ‘In My Life’ was arrived at, partly through Lennon’s new approach to songwriting.  An approach suggested by Journalist Kenneth Allsop.  Allsop encouraged Lennon not to separate his songwriting from the short stories and poems that he had penned for his two recently published books, ‘In His Own Write’ and ‘A Spaniard In The Works’. Allsop asked Lennon why he did not apply the same level of wit and intelligence to his songwriting as he did to his short stories and poems. ‘In My Life’ did indeed begin as a long poem covering various landmarks that John Lennon would observe during his bus journey from Menlove Avenue to Liverpool city centre.  Struggling to form the lines into a coherent song during one of Lennon and McCartney’s writing sessions, McCartney, told Barry Miles in 1997 that he ‘liked the open lines’ but that Lennon ‘didn’t have a tune’. McCartney then offered, ‘Let me just go and work on it.’ “I went down to the half-landing, where John had a Mellotron and I sat there and put together a tune based in my mind on Smokey Robinson and The Miracles…we tagged on the introduction which I think I thought up.”


The introduction appears to take inspiration from The Miracles ‘Tracks of My Tears’ while the chord structure is similar to that of ‘You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me’ which The Beatles were covering two years previously. Aside from the soul influence prevalent on ‘Rubber Soul’, the most direct result of The Beatles and The Byrds meeting in August came via George Harrison’s ‘If I Needed Someone’. Like Lennon’s guitar figure on ‘Norwegian Wood’, Harrison used the D-chord shape and note variation embraced by The Byrds in much of their early work.  Harrison’s riff, as he acknowledged himself at the time, is almost identical to that of Roger McGuinn’s on ‘The Bells of Rhymney’ while the drum pattern is inspired by The Byrds ‘She Don’t Care About Time’, a song that Paul and George were present for the recording of. Johnny Rogan tells how, prior to ‘Rubber Soul’s’ release, ‘George Harrison sent a copy of the album to Byrds publicist Derek Taylor, with a note reading, “Tell Roger and David that ‘If I Needed Someone’ is the riff from ‘The Bells Of Rhymney’ and the drumming is from ‘She Don’t Care About Time’”.


By the time The Beatles began recording ‘Rubber Soul’, Paul McCartney had been dating Jane Asher for two years. An accomplished actress from a young age, Asher, during the recording, was rehearsing in Bristol for an Old Vic production of ‘The Happiest Days of Your Life’. During this period Paul McCartney and Jane Asher separated, various commentators suspecting that this was due to the slightly old-fashioned McCartney who expected a woman’s place to be in the home. This argument may be slightly flawed however as McCartney’s own mother was a mid-wife and therefore not the ‘stay at home’ woman that some have suggested McCartney was looking for. Uncharacteristically for McCartney, two of his songs that appear on ‘Rubber Soul’ deal with his own emotions rather than the detached or third-person style compositions that cover much of his Beatles work. McCartney’s break-up with Jane Asher led him to write and record ‘You Won’t See Me’ and ‘I’m Looking Through You.’


‘I’m Looking Through You’, in its instrumentation, appears so show McCartney attempting to write a song with a folk-rock style verse and, through the agitated guitar stabs, a soul style chorus. The version that appears on The Beatles ‘Anthology 2’ album gives further back up to this theory. ‘You Won’t See Me’ with its chord progression lifted from The Four Tops ‘It’s The Same Old Song’ once again shows The Beatles


taking on a more contemporary influence (‘It’s the Same Old Song’ being released as a UK single in July of 1965) . McCartney (Many Years From Now): “To me it was very Motown-flavoured. It’s got a James Jamerson feel. He was the Motown bass player, he was fabulous, the guy who did all those melodic bass lines. It was him, me and Brian Wilson who were doing melodic bass lines at that time.”


While McCartney was suffering at the hands of a relationship break-up, John Lennon too was in a depressed frame of mind, calling this his ‘Fat Elvis’ period. Lennon said he was ‘eating and drinking like a pig’, he was also ‘smoking marijuana for breakfast’, was said to be bored in his mock-Tudor house in Weybridge, bored of his marriage, resentful of The Beatles image and jealous of Paul McCartney quickly becoming London’s counter-cultural man about town.


‘Nowhere Man’ was written with much of this mood in mind. Attempting to write the song after a particularly heavy night out, Lennon told Playboy magazine in a 1980, “I’d spent five hours that morning trying to write something meaningful and good, and I finally gave up and lay down. Then ‘Nowhere Man’ came, words and music, the whole damn thing.” McCartney picked up the story in ‘Many Years From Now’, “He (John) was kipping on the couch, very bleary eyed. It was really an anti-John song, written by John. He told me later, he didn’t tell me then. He said he’d written it about himself, feeling like he wasn’t going anywhere. Actually, I think it was about the state of his marriage. It was in a period where he was a bit dissatisfied with what was going on.”

The multi-layered harmonies, as well as the jangle of the guitars (curiously Fender Strat’s rather than the folk-rock staple Rickenbackers) once again betray the influence of The Byrds.


One song not influenced by The Byrds, Bob Dylan or Soul for that matter began life as a six-bar guitar figure created by Paul McCartney in the late 50’s for the solitary purpose of pretending to be French in order to impress girls at the art school parties John was introducing him and George to. Aside from the chorus being inspired by Nina Simone’s 1965 cover of ‘I Put A Spell On You’, ‘Michelle’s’ true source of inspiration was the Chet Atkins number, ‘Trambone’ and when Lennon and McCartney were in need of new material for Rubber Soul, the ‘Trambone’ influenced guitar figure was revived.


In 1965 McCartney and Lennon were both still in touch with Ivan Vaughan, the mutual friend who introduced them to each other back in 1957. One evening Paul McCartney and Jane Asher were having dinner with Ivan Vaughan and his wife, Jan, who was a language teacher. McCartney, ever the opportunist, asked Jan to assist him in the creation of the lyrics for ‘Michelle’. Jan duly did so and sometime later, when ‘Michelle’ became one of The Beatles most popular numbers, McCartney sent Jan Vaughan a generous royalty to cheque for her trouble. One person who was not a fan of ‘Michelle’ however was photographer David Bailey, “I saw David Bailey at the Ad Lib” McCartney told Barry Miles, “He said, ‘Ere, That ‘Michelle’. It is tongue in cheek, you are joking with that aren’t you?’ I said, ‘Fuck off!’ quite taken aback that he thought it was a joke. I was very insulted but I know what he meant.” As was often the case in Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting relationship, as one would write a song, the other would write something similar in idea in order to compete. ‘Girl’ for example, holds almost identical instrumentation to ‘Michelle’ and is a strong case for how Lennon and McCartney competed with each other as well as bouncing off each other.

One of the last numbers recorded for Rubber Soul was George Harrison’s ‘Think For Yourself’ described by Harrison in his autobiography, ‘I, Me, Mine’, as being ‘inspired by the government or something’. Musically, with the ‘fuzz’ bass employed by McCartney, there is little doubt that the use of ‘fuzz’ was inspired by the Rolling Stones ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ as well as the Phil Spector produced ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’ by Bob B Soxx and The Blue Jeans which employed one of the first uses of a ‘fuzz’ effect on a pop record.

One of the struggles that The Beatles had faced when preparing to release ‘Beatles For Sale’ in time for Christmas 1964, was their lack of original unrecorded material. To counter this The Beatles simply delved back into the endless supply of covers they played in their Cavern days and recorded a selection of their favourites. The following year however, they did not want to repeat the formula. Granted The Beatles could simply have thrown ‘Day Tripper’ and ‘We Can Work It Out’ (recorded at the same ‘Rubber Soul’ sessions) onto the album rather than use them as a stand-alone double-A-side or they could have cut ‘Rubber Soul’ down to twelve songs rather than their usual fourteen, as many of their contemporaries did. That was not The Beatles style however and for all of their fame and success, they still held the viewpoint of the record buyer and disliked the thought of being the type artists who released albums without any real substance or released albums with the simple purpose of cashing in as much as possible.

With that in mind The Beatles fell back on two number written for previous albums that were yet to be released, ‘What Goes on’ which gave Ringo first (part) songwriting credit and ‘Wait’.


‘What Goes On’ was originally attempted in 1963 with Lennon on vocals but unfinished. The songs Country and Western leanings as well as George’s Carl Perkins-style guitar work, leant itself perfectly to Ringo who loved both. ‘Wait’ meanwhile, intended for the ‘Help!’ album, was an unfinished piece of work that was revived and although the track does not stand out as one of ‘Rubber Soul’s’ highlights, it does encourage one wonder why it was not pursued further during its initial recording as,even without the overdubbed wah-wah pedal and percussion that was added during its ‘Rubber Soul’ revisit, ‘Wait’ is still superior to much of the material on the ‘Help!’ album.

Upon its release, ‘Rubber Soul’ spent eight weeks at number 1 in the UK. The usual clamber of cover versions of anything new by The Beatles saw The Hollies take ‘If I Needed Someone’ to number 20. The Hollies first single since their debut not to reach the top ten. The single may well have faired better had George Harrison not described it as ‘rubbish’ during an interview with the NME just prior to its release. St. Louis Union took ‘Girl’ to number 11 while The Overlanders had a number 1 with their cover of ‘Michelle’ in early 1966.The title ‘Rubber Soul’ can from a play on ‘Plastic Soul’, an expression that an unknown American blues singer used at the time to describe Mick Jagger’s vocals. On The Beatles ‘Anthology 2’ compilation Paul McCartney can be heard describing a vocal take he is unhappy with on ‘I’m Down’ as “plastic soul man, plastic soul.”


George Harrison called ‘Rubber Soul’ his ‘favourite album…at that time’ carrying on during The Beatles Anthology to state, “we did spend a bit more time on it and tried new things but the most important thing about it was that we were suddenly hearing sounds that we hadn’t heard before. Also, we were being more influenced by other people’s music and everything was blossoming at that time.”


Brian Wilson’s autobiography ‘Wouldn’t Be Nice’ recalls his first experience of hearing ‘Rubber Soul.’  As well as calling it ‘religious’ Wilson also commented, “I was knocked out, every song was great.

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They put only great stuff on the album. That’s what I want to do, I said.” The Beach Boys next album to be recorded would be the monumental ‘Pet Sounds.’


Bob Dylan’s reaction to the ‘Norwegian Wood’ that he so inspired, was write a parody of it in the form of ‘4th Time Around’ for his next album, Blonde On Blonde’.  John Lennon, paranoid about the meaning of ‘4th Time Around’ told Dylan he ‘didn’t like it’ he confessed in an interview for Rolling Stone magazine in 1968 going on to state, “I thought it was an out and out skit but it wasn’t.”

In April 1966, The Rolling Stones released their fourth studio album ‘Aftermath’. Taking the lead of both The Beatles and Bob Dylan, ‘Aftermath’ was the first Stones album not to feature any covered material.  The Stones used more acoustic guitars and wrote more Motown inspired bass lines.  They used glockenspiels and also employed various Indian instruments. During the same month however, The Beatles were one-step ahead yet again. They had just entered the studio to begin work on ‘Revolver’…


The Beatles’s official website is: www.thebeatles.com and they can be found on Facebook and Twitter

All words by Michael Halpin. More from Michael can be found at his Louder Than War author’s archive.


Record Collector Magazine: Donovan Live – Royal Northern College of Music 18th October 2015



View: stalls, centre-right

Alone, cross-legged and shoeless, Donovan was surrounded by goodwill as he plucked his way through Catch The Wind and Colours. Going on to delight those at his 50th anniversary show, he was never more than three songs from a hit. Jennifer Juniper, There Is A Mountain, Hurdy Gurdy Man and a wonderful rendition of Buffy Saint-Marie’s Universal Soldier abundantly displayed his folk guitar skills.

The real gems, however, came in the form of Josie, Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness) and an endless supply of 60s stories, ranging from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to Billy Fury. Happiness Runs preceded closing numbers, Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow. The aforementioned aptly summed up the slightly eccentric, charming Scotsman, who left everyone grinning ear-to-ear.

Reviewed by Michael Halpin


Crosby, Stills and Nash Live @ Bridgewater Hall, Manchester – Record Collector Magazine,



Crosby, Stills & Nash
Manchester Bridgewater Hall
21st September, 2015

View: stalls, centre-left

A homecoming gig for a humbled Nash set the tone for an evening filled with good vibes and warmth. A wonderful Marrakech Express saw the gap between band and audience quickly bridged, and hitting their stride during Long Time Gone, they followed with a mesmerising Cathedral and tender, heart-melting Our House. Before Déjà Vu, Crosby joked, “I’m the one who writes the weird shit!”, while Love The One You’re With, if exposing Stills’ vocal limitations, showcased his guitar virtuosity and that magical vocal blend.

Post-interval, Dylan’s Girl From The North Country led into two Nash solo numbers, the beautiful Myself At Last and Golden Days. A final flourish of Almost Cut My Hair and Wooden Ships instigated an ovation, before Teach Your Children and Suite: Judy Blue Eyes ended in charming fashion.