About three years ago I was commissioned to write sleeve notes for two upgraded CDs by a singer-songwriter originally signed to the Deram label who found greater success elsewhere. Part of the brief was to write something about the label itself. Since it appears that this project has been put on indefinite hold, I have decided to post the piece about the label on my blog. In the fullness of time I may post the far longer pieces about the albums and artist involved who, for now, must remain nameless.

The Deram label was launched by Decca Records in June of 1966 as a subsidiary outlet for more experimental pop music. Decca, which like its great rival EMI also manufactured other electrical goods, had already used the term ‘Deram’ on a cartridge device for holding the stylus that was detachable from the arm on the turntable of a stereo record player. It was also an abbreviation of the term ‘Deramic’ which Decca had coined for their brainchild Decca Panoramic Sound, designed to create a more natural sounding stereo spread.
         Decca’s Deram label initiative reflected a need on the part of major record companies not to appear staid in an era when pop was changing fast and more forward-thinking, fleet-footed independent labels like Island, Immediate, Track, Chrysalis and Charisma were on the rise. The response from EMI was to launch Harvest Records while Philips inaugurated the Vertigo label with a design on the actual label in the centre of vinyl LPs that, when spinning, rendered the viewer as vertiginously dizzy as the name implied.
         Based in Decca’s offices on the Albert Embankment, the label’s key man was Promotions Manager Tony Hall, with A&R under the control of Dick Rowe and his assistant Hugh Mendl, all of whom were technically Decca staff. Dick Rowe, of course, became famous as the man who turned down The Beatles but history has been unkind to an A&R executive who was otherwise eminently successful and, in any case, John, Paul, George & Pete Best were pretty lacklustre during their audition for Decca on New Year’s Day 1962.
         Deram made its debut with Denny Cordell’s production of 20-year-old Beverley (Kutner, soon to be [Mrs] Beverley Martyn) singing ‘Happy New Year’, a sprightly take on an early Randy Newman song on which she was accompanied by half of the future Led Zeppelin – Jimmy Page on guitar and John Paul Jones on bass – alongside ace session pianist Nicky Hopkins and drummer Andy White who took over from Ringo on the Beatles’ first recording of ‘Love Me Do’. As the first ever Deram release it was given the catalogue number DM 101. Cat Stevens’ ‘I Love My Dog’, the label’s first hit (#28, 1966) was DM 102.
         Deram soon went from strength to strength. As well as other early hits by Cat Stevens, most notably ‘Matthew And Son’ (#2, 1967) and ‘I’m Gonna Get Me A Gun’ (#6, also 1967), it released the first two hits by The Move – ‘Night Of Fear’ (#2, 1967) and ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ (#5, also 1967) – and the evergreen ‘Nights In White Satin’ (#19, 1967) by The Moody Blues. 
         The label’s most significant early success, however, was Procol Harum’s debut single ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ (#1, 1967), the defining song of that year’s Summer of Love and, arguably, British psychedelia. With surrealistic, impenetrable lyrics and an undulating melody that sounded like an inversion of JS Bach’s ‘Air On A G String’ (Orchestra Suite No 3, BWV 1068), ‘… Pale’ held the top place on the singles charts for six weeks, went on to become one of the best-selling singles in history and is now recognised as the most-played record by British broadcasting of the past 70 years. The track, also produced by Denny Cordell, was the only Procol Harum record to be released on Deram, Cordell electing to switch labels – to EMI-controlled Regal Zonophone – thereafter. The Move went with them.
         Cat Stevens’ debut LP Matthew And Son reached number seven on the LP charts in 1967 but Deram wasn’t so successful with David Bowie whose own debut album, titled simply David Bowie, was released by the label on June 1, 1967. Produced by Mike Vernon, it was engineered by Gus Dudgeon, producer of Bowie’s first hit ‘Space Oddity’, who later commented: “Listening to it now I can’t believe that it was actually released because it must have been about the weirdest thing Deram had ever put out. In fact it must be about the weirdest thing any record company have ever put out.” Dudgeon was probably correct in this assessment. “[It]… consists of 14 short narrative vignettes delivered in a mannered cockney indebted to Anthony Newley,” wrote Bowie biographer David Buckley. “Newley’s 1960 ATV surrealist comedy programme, The Strange World of Gurney Slade, had been a prime influence on the young soon-to be musician, a world within a world in which inanimate objects speak, and poster girls come to life.”
         As well as these recordings by artists of note, Deram released a number of records by lesser known but noteworthy acts that enjoyed cult followings, many of which were one-off records designed to fulfil the label’s original premise of experimental pop. These included Timebox, Eyes Of Blue, Denny Laine (after he left the Moody Blues), drummer Keef Hartley, Alan Bown and East of Eden, led by violinist Dave Arbus, who had a hit with ‘Jig-A-Jig’ (#7, 1971) and played the outro solo on The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ on their 1971 LP Who’s Next.
         The label also enjoyed hits by Amen Corner, the Welsh R&B septet led by Andy Fairweather Low (‘Bend Me Shape Me’, #3, 1968, and ‘High In The Sky’, #6, 1968); The Flowerpot Men (‘Let’s Go To San Francisco’, #4, 1967), a group formed from session musicians that included future Deep Purple organist Jon Lord on keyboards; ‘I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman’ (#5, 1967) by Whistling Jack Smith; and the exquisite baroque single ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’ (#8, 1968) by Honeybus, which became the soundtrack to a TV commercial for Nimble bread.
         Like Procol Harum, Amen Corner, The Move and Cat Stevens, most Deram acts left the label after their initial success which suggests that those in charge of the its affairs viewed it more as an incubation chamber than a long term home for successful artists. Nevertheless, it continued into the seventies by releasing albums by Caravan, the progressive rock band from Canterbury, Cream lyricist Pete Brown, Daryl Way’s Wolf and, later, Way’s group Curved Air. Far and away the label’s most successful act of the seventies, however, was Ten Years After, the Nottingham-based blues rock quartet led by guitarist Alvin Lee who for a period early in the decade was a contender for the title of ‘fastest guitar on the block’. Four of the first five TYA albums made the top ten LP charts between 1969 and 1971.
         Deram appeared to have become moribund in the late seventies but was revived in the early eighties with singles by new wave acts like Splodgenessabounds, whose novelty hit ‘Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps Please’ reached number seven in 1980, The Modettes’ ‘Paint It Black, a ska arrangement of the Rolling Stones’ 1966 hit that reached number 42 in 1980, and Bananarama whose recording of ‘Really Saying Something’, a cover of a song by US girl-group The Velvelettes, became their second top ten hit (#5, 1982). Like so many others before them, however, Bananarama left the label immediately afterwards – moving to Decca subsidiary London Records – for the long string of hits they enjoyed from 1982 onwards.
         While never as acclaimed as other progressive labels – Vertigo, Harvest or Elektra – Deram nevertheless helped reposition Decca as a force to be reckoned with at a time when it was regarded by many in the industry as a rather unadventurous label, especially after the Rolling Stones left to sign with Atlantic, simultaneously carping about the label’s conservative outlook. The label is now owned by Universal Music which acquired Decca in 1998.



Here’s another old Who-related review of mine that I found in The Who Article Archive, this one from Melody Maker dated October 14, 1972, my review of Who Came First, Pete Townshend’s first officially released solo LP. At the time it wasn’t generally known that The Who’s modus operandi was for Pete to record demos of his songs, on which he sang and played all the instruments, that were then circulated to Roger, John and Keith to learn from prior to recording.
         Neither was I aware at the time that the LP was recorded as a response to MCA’s belief that the two albums Pete had recorded privately for release only to followers of Meher Baba had been bootlegged. Evidently MCA, The Who's US label, persuaded Pete that the best way to combat these was to record an ‘official’ solo LP, and this explains its copious references to Baba.
         I still have my original vinyl Track LP, no doubt the one I listened to as I made notes 48 years ago. It’s in remarkably good condition too, which suggests I didn’t play it all that much. Oddly, it is credited to ‘Peter Townshend’ on the spine but ‘Pete Townshend’ on the label. A new CD I have, with six additional tracks, is credited to ‘Pete’.

PETER TOWNSHEND. Who Came First (Track). Whatever else one feels about this album, it REALLY is a solo album in the strict sense of the word. When Rod Stewart and a heap of other make solo albums – good though they may be – they seem to collect a huge cluster of musicians to help them, and the more musicians helping the less solo the albums get to be.
         But here Pete Townshend has done virtually everything himself with one or two slight exceptions. Apart from brief appearances by Ronnie Lane, of Faces fame, and Caleb Quaye, of Hookfoot, and occasional assistance in the writing by other followers of Meher Baba, Pete has done everything himself – sung, written, played guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and synthesisers, and engineered, mixed and produced the whole thing. It really IS a solo album.
         While Townshend could doubtless have recruited some of the best rock musicians in the world to help him, he’s decided to do the lot himself – and as a result it sounds a bit thin here and there compared to the guts of The Who. Pete isn’t the best singer in the world, neither is he the best drummer and it’s on these two points that the album loses marks. But it picks up a load of marks on the songs, the simple but effective guitar picking throughout and on the general feeling of the record which is dedicated to Meher Baba, the religious guru who, apparently, changed Pete’s outlook on life so dramatically.
         Highlights are ‘Pure And Easy’, a song that sounds rather like the closing bars of ‘The Song Is Over’ on the Who’s Next LP, and the ever so laid back version of ‘Let’s See Action’ which is far superior to The Who’s single. Ronnie Lane takes the vocal on ‘Evolution’, a Lane composition, which is C&W influenced, and Caleb Quaye is on lead guitar on’ Forever Is No Time At All’, another goodie.
         It’s on side two that the standard seems to falter. It just doesn’t seem right, somehow, to hear Pete Townshend, the gymnast guitarist supreme, singing ‘There’s A Heartache Following Me’, titled here as ‘Heartache’, which was one of Baba’s favourite songs. ‘Sheraton Gibson’ is a pleasant little number, not unlike ‘Going Mobile’. ‘Content’ and ‘Parvardigar’ are really strictly for Baba followers. If it’s Pete’s intention to turn people on to Baba through the album, they are the all-important tracks. They are not unlike psalms with Pete airing them – as he says himself – like Vera Lynn.
         The words to ‘Parvardigar’ are beautiful but it clashes head on with the sleeve photo of Pete in which he resembles a character from A Clockwork Orange in his white boiler suit. I honestly can’t take the album too seriously. The more I play it, however, the more I like it – but is isn’t the Pete Townshend who dominates the stage like no other guitarist in rock.



The Who Article Archive: 1964-1979 book that I wrote about in January contains at least once Melody Maker piece of mine that I’d completely forgotten about. It appeared in MM dated November 7, 1970, and was a brief interview with their soundman Bob Pridden about the group’s equipment, hardly scintillating stuff when you consider the electrifying press interviews that Pete often gave and the antics of Keith that we reported on. It may be that it appeared as editorial padding for one of those MM advertising supplements, this one designed to sell PA systems.
         It’s rather quaint now, but it gives an insight into what was probably the most powerful on the road amplification system of its era. The only other act that might have had as much gear in those days was Led Zeppelin. Here is it is:

“We’ve got enough gear to start three shops,” says jovial Bob Pridden, the man with the unenviable – but very responsible – job of looking after The Who’s thousands of pounds of wattage and making sure the group’s ear-shattering act runs – and sounds – smoothly from start to finish.
         Few groups carry around as much equipment as The Who. Their PA alone takes up one gigantic truck – and the guitar amps occupy another. In all the group put out a total of 2,000 watts – a figure unheard of five years ago when 300 watt PAs were the norm and stacks for guitarists a rarity.
         “The PA we use for a gig depends on the size of the booking,” says Bob. “If there are about 2,000 people at the show we use about 1,200 watts in the PA and another 300 in the monitoring system. So we can hear what is going on. It is all WEM [Watkins Electric Music] equipment but we have added ideas of our own. In fact WEM designed it for us although we have put on things to make it better for our sound.
         “The PA has ten large cabinets, that six 8 x 12, two 8 x 10 and two 4 x 15 cabinets and four 4 x 12 cabinets with tweeter columns. For the monitoring system we use another six 4 x1 2 cabinets linked up to three individual systems of 100 watts each. Roger has three cabinets placed for him, Pete has two and I have one.
         “We use three five channel mixers and a Watkins Copycat echo box which we have mucked about with. The drums are amplified through five mikes and mixed into a different channel and there are four vocal mikes, one on Pete’s guitar amp and one on Keith’s blocks. The mikes are Shure 565 Unispheres.
         “I would say the PA costs about £5,000 – and we have extra amps that we use in America where more power is needed. In really big places we use up to 2,000 watts.”
         Bob has three road managers under him to to help set up the gear which may take up to three hours. Firstly, it takes an hour and a half to put the speakers in the right positions and then the same again to balance everything properly. They use a Ford four-ton lorry to carry the PA round and a big Avis van for the rest of the equipment.
         “Pete uses four 4 x 12 cabinets and two 100-watt Hi-Watt amps, one wired to the top two cabinets  and the other wired to the bottom two. John uses the same cabinets and amps, although sometimes he might use two 4 x 15 cabinets instead. Also, we have 100-watt 4 x 12 cabinets from Pete’s amplifier set up near John so he can hear what Pete is doing during solos.
         “We carry a lot of spares with us, so that if an amp goes during a show we can easily substitute another.  I think we have enough gear to stock three shops and it’s all owned by The Who. Some groups hire equipment for tours but I don’t think it’s a good idea. When you own it you can do what you like with it.”

That last remark no doubt hides the fact that equipment rental companies might just have been unwilling to do business with The Who in those destructive days.

I found the picture of The Who’s set up for Leeds University on February 14, 1970, the show that was recorded for Live At Leeds, on this website:


HATE FOR SALE – The Pretenders

A false start, a wonky note, then the right one and off we go with The Pretenders sounding pretty much like they always did, which is no bad thing. My old colleague Allan Jones recalled in his review of Hate For Sale that Chrissie Hynde once stated that all subsequent line-ups of The Pretenders following the all too brief first incarnation have been tribute bands to that original group, and – shrewd cookie that she is – she’s not wrong. Most of the songs on this new album do sound like the old Pretenders in one way or another, and one in particular is so similar to ‘Kid’ that if anyone else had recorded it I’m sure Chrissie would have been on the phone to her lawyer.
         On the cover they look like a gang you’d cross the road to avoid, all sneers and black leather, a bit angry. And since no album featuring Chrissie Hynde would be complete without an angry song, on Hate For Sale she wastes no time in putting the boot in. It comes immediately after that false start, the title track, the first word we hear is ‘hate’ and Chrissie leads her gang into a careering downhill charge against the kind of men who’d support POTUS and would certainly have her door slammed their faces if ever they were darken it. It’s a fine upbeat start which ends abruptly before we reach ‘The Buzz, which, with its descending bass lines, occasionally replicated by a twangy Fender lead that brings to mind Jimmy of Pretenders Mark I, is almost – but not quite – as lovely as the song it so resembles. The first few notes of the solo are so reminiscent of that wondrous solo in ‘Kid’ that I had to play ‘Kid’ again to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. I wasn’t.
         ‘Lightning Man’ has a whiff of blue beat about it, and sharp guitar lines that, with added tremolo, reminded me a bit of Hank Marvin’s clean Echoplex sound. ‘Turf Accountant Daddy’ hints at Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie’ in its basic riff, a song that might or might not be a warning against the perils of gambling, and things slow down for ‘You Can’t Hurt A Fool’, a power ballad that responds to the female condition. ‘I Didn’t Know When To Stop’ shudders along in a fitful way and at the close manages to fit in the same two chords that introduce ‘You Really Got Me’ by The Kinks, which suggests Chrissie still can’t wash that man out of her hair.
         On reflection ‘Maybe Love Is In NYC’ is my pick of the album, a real throwback to the early Pretenders sound with its shining, sustained guitar, a feast of descending arpeggios that resolve on a top note, and a solo to lift the heartstrings. I think it’s a tribute to The Big Apple. A contrastingly distorted guitar heralds ‘Junkie Walk’, another jittery, unmelodic song, that stamps out a warning not to indulge in Class A. ‘Didn’t Want To Be This Lonely’ is a Bo Diddley variation and the album closes with ‘Crying In Public’, a slow, piano-led weepie, complete with strings, that draws further attention to the woes that inflict jilted women.
         Finally, it needs to be said that, enjoyable as it is, Hate For Sale is pretty short for a CD; ten songs, the longest of which is 3.50, the shortest 2.30. It clocks in at only just over 31 minutes.


UTOPIA AVENUE by David Mitchell

In the spring of 2010 I joined a queue of Ian McEwan fans in Hatchards bookshop on Piccadilly, my mission to obtain a personally signed copy of the author’s latest novel Solar. I was and am a huge fan of McEwan whom I regard as the UK’s finest contemporary novelist. I’ve read all his books and noted that some contain allusions to the world of rock music: a bloke who runs an independent record shop, a son who plays blues guitar, a fan of Cream.
         These rock references were by no means crucial to the stories in which they appeared and, truth to tell, I thought they didn’t quite ring true, that they were slightly clumsy elements of otherwise exemplary books. So it was that when it came to my turn to get my book signed I decided to offer the great man my business card and tell him that if ever he needed any help with his research into an aspect of rock music I’d be happy to oblige. Fans wanting books signed by famous authors at events like this are generally sycophantic in the extreme and, after a selfie, hustled along quickly as there are many more behind them in the queue, and McEwan was clearly unprepared for an impudent upstart suggesting ways in which his work might be improved. Still, he took my card, on the back of which I’d written the name and URL of this blog. It seemed to me that he understood what I was saying but the conversation was very brief. I am still waiting to hear from him.
         All of this came back to me this week as I read David Mitchell’s latest novel Utopia Avenue which will sit on my bookshelf beside a growing collection of rock fiction, the most recent Marc Bolan Dies In Car Crash (by Ira Robbins)[1] which followed Daisy Jones & The Six (Taylor Jenkins)[2], Wonderkid (Wesley Stace)[3] and The Last Mad Surge of Youth (Mark Hodkinson)[4], all reviewed here. There’s a few more on that shelf that aren’t reviewed here, largely because I read them long after publication, among them Too Weird For Ziggy by Sylvie Simmons, a collection of interlinked noirish R&R short stories that's definitely worth considerably more than the £3.28 Amazon currently demand.
         But I digress. From a literary standpoint David Mitchell is far more distinguished than any of these authors, a writer whose books are regularly reviewed by fellow writers in upmarket broadsheets. His best known work, Cloud Atlas, is a dazzling pyramid of a novel in which six interconnected, dreamlike stories are nested together, each beginning in the first half of the book and resolving conversely in its second half, so the first story reaches its denouement on the final page. With Utopia Avenue, Mitchell, twice nominated for the Booker and the recipient of literary awards galore, is the most eminent author yet to turn his hand to rock, telling the story of the rise and fall of the imaginary group after whom the book is titled. I was hoping for great things.
         Utopia Avenue are a quartet, a bit trippy, a bit Traffic meets The Incredible String Band meets early Pink Floyd, as befitting the time period which is 1967/8. Elf, their singer and keyboard player, is the romantically disillusioned middle girl of a middle-class family whose bank manager patriarch strongly disapproves of his daughter’s career choice. For Elf read Sandy Denny. Dean the bass player is a talented, runaway, blues-loving satyr whose angry alcoholic dad threw his first electric guitar on a bonfire, along with his much-prized signed photograph of Little Richard. Not quite so easy to place him but I’ll settle for Brian Jones. Griff the drummer is a big, untidy, beer-swilling bear of a man from Yorkshire, fond of jazz and swearing, not necessarily in that order. For Griff read John Bonham. Jasper, the guitarist is the most mysterious, a quirky, taciturn musical genius of moneyed semi-Dutch parentage who hears strange sounds and has ancestral mental issues that influence the story in ways that echo Mitchell’s predisposition towards reincarnation, as seen in Cloud Atlas. For Jasper, read Syd Barrett with a sprinkling of Jimi. Elf, Dean and Jasper write the songs, individually.
         Utopia Avenue are assembled from the remnants of other groups by a gay Canadian who means well and has a whiff of Brian Epstein about him, and they all endure the usual indignities on the ladder to acclaim. They mooch around Soho with empty pockets, hang out in the Giaconda on Denmark Street and, to an absurd extent, encounter real-life rock musicians with alarming regularity in their work, rest and play. At a party at a mansion belonging to a film director they meet Bowie, Moon, Barrett, Hendrix and Lennon, coincidentally all departed and no prizes for guessing what state of mind they are all in. Unnecessarily, bassist Dean muses over whether he impregnated a groupie at ‘the party of a pal of Roger Daltrey in Notting Hill’. In New York, our foursome encounter Cohen, Joplin and Browne in the Chelsea Hotel. With dreary inevitability, in LA they find themselves at Mama Cass’ house hanging out with CS&N, Joni and Zappa, so it’s palpably predictable that in San Francisco they’re invited to 710 Ashbury where Dean trips with Garcia while Kantner cries off because he’s got a gig and manager Bill Graham is a hard taskmaster. The only one missing from the story is Dylan.
         Most of these cameos feature assumed dialogue that is on the cheesy side, though, with one or two exceptions – Elf is friends with Eno? Deep Purple toured the US with Cream? – I can’t fault the historical accuracy of Mitchell’s rock references. However, he overdoes it to such an extent that I had a sneaking suspicion he wrote Utopia Avenue to audition for a job on Rolling Stone. Either way, none of these many encounters move the plot along or impact meaningfully on the dramatis personae.
         Back in the primary narrative, the members of the group suffer more than their fair share of calamities, among them bereavement, drug woes and incarceration, and weather the storms until a fateful, unexpected twist at the end. But their upwardly mobile procession all happens much too quickly for me, in too short a time span, far more so than it would in reality, and the hackneyed rock clichés and trite generational divides – old men disrespecting boys with long hair by suggesting they are girls – tend to grate. Oddly, the book is divided into three separate ‘albums’ with chapters as ‘tracks’, each one written from the standpoint of a member of the group, a ploy that to my mind reflects a desperate, but wholly unnecessary, need to appear authentic. Similarly, the pages are full of the group’s imaginary lyrics, mostly enigmatic reflections on their experiences, and technical musical data regarding chord changes and composition. This doesn’t edge the plot forward either.
         More importantly, the quality of the prose lacks the elegance and authority I would expect from an author of Mitchell’s stature, and this brings me back to where I started, to Ian McEwan. If he was so minded, I believe the author of Atonement, Saturday, Chesil Beach et al would have written something far more insightful and convincing, a rock’n’roll rite-of-passage story with more emotion and resonance that was not necessarily longer in page terms – Utopia Avenue clocks in at a weighty 560+ – but in time span which, of course, would have given it far greater depth.
         With the exception of Elf here and there, only rarely did I feel any real sympathy with the characters. Still, it wasn’t boring – if it was I wouldn’t have finished it in four days – and after all that happens to the fictitious foursome you can’t help but cheer them on as their brief career accelerates. That said, I was hoping for something a lot more profound from Mitchell than this. In short, I was hoping for The Definitive Rock Novel at last – but Utopia Avenue isn’t it.


SUNSHINE WALKERS - The Best of Kimberley Rew and Lee Cave-Berry

Every so often someone associated with a band reads my blog, figures out the kind of stuff I like and sends me some music in the hope that I’ll write about it. In the far off days when I wrote about music full time for a living it happened all the time, now only rarely, but this is how I came into possession of Sunshine Walkers - The Best of Kimberley Rew and Lee Cave-Berry which I was playing last week as I neared the end of a big, month-long editing job that has kept me from posting much recently.
         Susannah Hoff’s bewitching eyes had nothing do with it when I became hooked by The Bangles singing ‘Going Down To Liverpool’. I first heard that song on a cassette given away by a music mag and thought it effortlessly catchy, wafting in on a summer breeze that blew The Mamas And The Papas and maybe even The Turtles into an updraft of sixties revivalism by way of chiming guitars and a kind of naïve innocence that enhanced their palpable Anglophobia. How on earth could four foxy girls from America’s West Cost even know what a UB40 was?
         At first I was unaware that it was written by Kimberley Rew for his group Katrina & The Waves. Stupidly, I assumed The Bangles had written it themselves and it wasn’t until I delved further that I became aware that Rew is a songwriter and guitarist who belongs in that same tradition of musicians that I wrote about in January, in a post titled ‘Recurring Dream’ after the Crowded House song that I began by confessing “I’ve always been a sucker for songs that feature jangling guitars.” I guess that gave the game away.
         Now comes this Sunshine Walkers set of 21 songs selected from Rew’s deep catalogue that eschews his better known material like ‘Walking On Sunshine’, ‘Love Shine A Light’ and ‘… Liverpool’ in favour of slightly whimsical choices best reflected in the opener, ‘The Dog Song’ that grooves along like a Chevy on Route 66, driven by Chuck. Next up is ‘It Makes Me Happy’, one of those songs that relies on the kind of staccato chords favoured by Tom Petty, all resolving into an exuberant chorus, while ‘Bloody Old England’ is a merry singalong celebrating the worst of our island. Similarly tongue-in-cheek is Lee’s ‘Backing Singer Blues’ a rockabilly lament on the trials of those who all too often stand at the back and sing ‘shooby-doo-wop’ while the spotlight is focused elsewhere. ‘The End Of Our Rainbow’, set to a cod-ska beat, sounds like Wings and in its cheerfulness harks back to that song on the White Album that John so detested. 
         ‘English Road’, which rattles along like something Rockpile or any band featuring Nick Lowe might have recorded, summarises Kim’s feelings about his homeland without any of the unpleasant patriotism that undermines too much of today’s politics. “Don’t ever let them carve it up and sell the pieces to the States”, a line written in 2002, seems all the more pertinent today.
         And so it goes on with many more beautifully crafted, understated songs that put me in mind of Badfinger, or The Pretenders, or Teenage Fan Club or Squeeze or – come to think of it – heaps more post-punk, new wave power poppers that I still enjoy. Great summer listening, especially as a the third Test against the Windies takes place tomorrow. Appropriate too – Robyn Hitchcock once said, “Kimberley could sustain out of a cricket bat.”