It is, without doubt, the most famous album of all time, though whether it is the best is still being debated. Marking the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’s release tomorrow comes a special edition*, like all such artefacts a lavish affair available in different formats and price ranges, from a deluxe multi-disc package at £109.99 to a humble single CD that is £100 cheaper. All promise enhanced sound and most a selection of outtakes and alternate versions of the songs that famously promised to ‘guarantee a splendid time for all’.  
Whatever its musical merits – and they are considerable – the album represented a high water mark in The Beatles’ career, the culmination of their precedent-setting decision to abandon touring and devote all their energies to working in the studio. With more time on their hands to write, record and experiment, The Beatles created an album that somehow encapsulated 1967’s Summer of Love to perfection, and through its production, artwork and timing, not to mention the pre-eminence of its creators, screamed its supremacy from the rooftops.
In 1967 it was simply unthinkable not to like Sgt Pepper. Its absolute dominance prompted Rolling Stone’s Langdon Winner to write, without irony: “The closest Western Civilization has come to unity since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 was the week the Sgt Pepper album was released…. For a brief while the irreparably fragmented consciousness of the West was unified, at least in the minds of the young.”
Largely the creation of Paul McCartney, who devised the concept and contributed the lion’s share of the songs, Sgt Pepper was conceived as an integrated work with none of its tracks released as singles. Nevertheless, many have become as well loved as any of the group’s chart toppers: the opening title track, reprised later, a delicious hors d’oeuvre in which the songs are framed; Ringo’s agreeably light-hearted ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’, later covered imperiously by Joe Cocker (with Jimmy Page on guitar); John’s surreal, acid-drenched ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ and playful fairground pastiche ‘For The Benefit Of Mister Kite’; George’s deeply contemplative Indian raga-like ‘Within You Without You’; and Paul’s poignant ‘She’s Leaving Home’, his elegant meditation on the alienating impact of the generation gap, and chirpy ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’, a throwback to his love of music hall. Above all, though, Sgt Pepper brought us ‘A Day In The Life’, an elusive fragment of spectral reportage that is now widely recognised as the greatest track The Beatles ever recorded. A genuine collaboration between John and Paul at a time when they were increasingly writing apart, no other song of theirs contrasts their differing styles so boldly yet at the same time combines them so flawlessly. “It remains the most penetrating and innovative artistic reflection of its era,” wrote critic Ian MacDonald in Revolution In The Head, his definitive analysis of the music of The Beatles. “[It is] their finest single achievement.”
In hindsight, however, Sgt Pepper’s greatest strength was not the songs contained within Peter Blake’s famously colourful gate-fold sleeve or even its role in briefly unifying the world’s competing ideologies. Primarily, Sgt Pepper was the first LP to draw a line between ‘rock’ and ‘pop’: from now on there would be a conspicuous distinction between ‘rock bands’, of which The Beatles were the leading role model, and ‘pop groups’, which was all those unwilling or unable to follow them along the road to something more profound, a better world in many ways but one that lacked the joyful innocence of simply wanting to hold your hand.
Either way, after Sgt Pepper, nothing would ever be the same again.

* I am reassured that the new edition does not contain ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Strawberry Field Forever’, as suggested by earlier reports and denounced by me in a post on Just Backdated on March 3. Evidently these two tracks will be on another CD within the package, along with other ‘extras’.



After breakfast this morning I made a quick iPod playlist of 70 tracks, a bit random but all songs I love, almost all of them from the 50s, 60s and 70s which was deliberate. No real surprises I don't suppose, and more recent songs can wait for another day. I could have done 700, of course, but that would have taken too long and I didn’t want to waste time while the sun was out. Either way I’ve probably missed some favourites and I made a rule to limit the number of songs to one per artist. (I broke that rule, but only with Beatles, Who, Bowie and Dylan.) Then I got in my car and headed south, to Lancing, and walked along the beach towards Brighton with these songs playing in my head. The weather was wonderful, warm, all blue skies and fluffy clouds, and the beach was largely deserted. I knew which song on the playlist was number 35, so after that played (and by an odd coincidence it was Dusty singing ‘Goin’ Back’) I walked back to Lancing, had a coffee in the Perch cafĂ© and then drove home.
            Music has been a constant in my life since I was nine or ten, so it seemed only right to spend the first part of this day with songs I've grown up with. It took just over four hours and here’s what I listened to…
Mystery Train – Elvis
Great Balls of Fire – Jerry LL
Tutti Frutti – Little R
Rave On – Buddy H
Summertime Blues – Eddie C
Claudette – Everlys
Only The Lonely – Roy O
You Need Love – Muddy W
Hellhound On My Tail – Robert J
Sweet Little Sixteen – Chuck B
Long Tall Sally – Beatles
Satisfaction – Stones
Rising Sun – Animals
Respect – Aretha F
Sweet Soul Music – A Conley
Slippin’ & Slidin’ – Band (live)
Don’t Worry Baby – Beach Boys
Waterloo Sunset – Kinks
Hello Mary Lou – R Nelson
Here Comes The Night – Van M
Substitute – Who
Who Do You Love – Bo D
Mr Tambourine Man – Dylan
Shakin’ All Over – J Kidd & Pirates
I Fought The Law – Bobby Fuller 4
Move It – Cliff R
Time Is Tight – BT & MGs
Bells of Rhymney – Byrds
Stop In The Name of Love – Supremes
Tracks Of My Tears – Smokey R & Miracles
Walk Away Renee – Four Tops
My Girl – Temptations
Midnight Hour – Wilson P
Ecstasy of Gold – Ennio M
Goin’ Back – Dusty S
I Want You – Dylan
4 + 20 – CSN&Y
Don’t Let Me Down – Beatles
I Can’t Let Maggie Go – Honeybus
I Can Hear The Grass Grow – Move
Save The Last Dance For Me – Drifters
Be My Baby – Ronettes
Gasoline Alley – Rod Stewart
Knock On Wood – Eddie Floyd
When You Walk In The Room – Agnetha F
How Can You Mend A Broken Heart – Al Green
River Man – Nick Drake
See Emily Play – P Floyd
Hold On I’m Coming – Sam & Dave
Who’ll Stop The Rain – CCR
Winner Takes It All – Abba
Everybody’s Talkin’ – Harry N
If Paradise Is Half As Nice – Amen Corner
All Right Now – Free
Starman – Bowie
Chimes Of Freedom (live) – Bruce S
Me & Bobby McGhee – Janis J
Rock’n’Roll – Led Zep
Europa Endlos – Kraftwerk
Heroes – Bowie
I Can See For Miles - Who
Dixie Chicken – Little F
There She Goes – The La’s
Like A Hurricane – Neil Young
Baby Blue – Badfinger
Hello In There – John Prine
Highway Man – Albert Lee & HH
Blitzkrieg Bop – Ramones
Dreaming – Blondie
Elvis Presley Blues – Gillian Welch


JUST BACKDATED GETS 500,000th HIT – Shock, Horror!

Someone somewhere who read my Blondie review last week became the music fan who clicked on Just Backdated for the 500,000th time. Thank you very much whoever you are.
It has been my custom to mark significant milestones with a post about the blog, citing various statistics; things like the most popular posts, the countries from where Just Backdated attracts most hits and any odd anomalies that occur, like all those hits from Russia that arrived suddenly last year and disappeared equally suddenly, a bit sinister that. Us bloggers have access to pages that give us this kind of data, and through them I know precisely how many hits every single one of all my posts, now numbering 638, has received.
Here then is the top 10, with the date of the post in brackets, followed by the number of hits:

1) JOHN, PAUL & KEITH In Santa Monica (June 3, 2014) – 13,874
2) PALAZZO DARIO – The Palace That Tommy Bought (Feb 10, 2016) – 5,400
3) WHO UK TOUR 2014 (June 30, 2014) – 5,165
4) JIMMY PAGE – The Day Jimmy Met Robert (July 28, 2016) – 4,638
5) LAUNCHING DEAR BOY (Feb 13, 2015) – 4,149
6) THE WHO – My Hidden Gems Album (Aug 21, 2014) – 3,697
7) THE WHO – Hyde Park, London (June 27, 2015) – 3,589
8) PRETEND YOU’RE IN A WAR – Who Book Review (Sep 9, 2014) – 2,831
9) UNDERTURE – Keith’s Great Triumph (Oct 7, 2014) – 2,806
10) PETE TOWNSHEND INTERVIEW – June 1974 (May 25, 2014) – 2,747

While it’s not surprising that nine out of the top 10 are Who-related posts, it is perhaps surprising that three out of the nine relate directly to Keith Moon, including the number one which has had more than twice as many hits as the runner-up, thus retaining the unassailable lead it has enjoyed since it was first posted. Obviously a combination of Moonie and John & Paul Beatle is unbeatable.
        I’m still slightly puzzled by how many (presumably) Who fans hit on the second-placed post about Kit Lambert’s palace in Venice, which I would have thought was of marginal interest compared to more primary Who posts like show reviews and interviews from their golden era or reports on the group’s history and personnel. My only explanation is that it was posted last year, after Just Backdated had become reasonably well established, of which more later.
Bubbling under, ie over 2,000 hits, are loads more Who-related posts but looking back over all 638 I noticed that Blogspot’s mathematics is not infallible, and that according to the overall listing (as opposed to most hits) my post about Rory Gallagher’s battered old Fender Stratocaster (Oct 14, 2014) has actually received 3,113 hits which would put it in eighth place in the table above. The only other non-Who post above 2,000 is the one about Deep Purple’s misadventures in Jakarta, an extract from my book about the group, which is on 2,527.
Hovering just below the 2,000 mark are my obituary of Slade’s tour manager Graham ‘Swin’ Swinnerton (1,914) and one or two others (Jim Lea, Adrian Boot, Wilko Johnson, Jimmy Page, Bowie and Beatles). It’s gratifying to see that a few of my book reviews are read by around 1,500 viewers and that the hits are gathering steam the longer Just Backdated continues, the daily rate now rarely below 600. Last week’s Blondie review is just shy of 500 already and as far as I am aware it hasn’t been shared on any fan or Blondie-related sites, unlike many of my Who posts and a few on Abba, Led Zep and The Beatles.
With regard to JB becoming more established, it’s clear to me that regardless of their subject matter more recent posts seem to get more hits than those from a year ago, let alone when JB was launched at the end of 2013. One of my earliest ever posts was the heartfelt and well-received appreciation of John Entwistle that I wrote for Bass Guitar magazine (which has now had 2,543 hits) and I tend to think that if it was posted for the first time tomorrow I’d get double that. It’s right at the bottom of the Who listings now, but it gets a spike whenever the anniversary of John’s death comes around, even if it is a bit hard to find. This steady increase, of course, is reflected in the shorter time spans between landmarks like 400,000 hits to 500,000 etc.
As for geographical data, the US tops the league with 223,765 followed by the UK (103,523), Russia (37,186), Canada (15,595) and Germany (13,127). The bottom half of the top 10 is occupied by France, Japan, Australia, Ukraine and The Netherlands.
If I add up the hits from the top ten countries I get 417,639 which means over 80,000 hits are from the rest of the world, and I’ve noticed that in the past few months I’ve had hits from South Korea and, more recently, China, so Just Backdated is slowly but surely creeping across the Far East. I’d like to welcome my Chinese followers and, in case they missed the post from April 23, 2015, offer you absolute proof that The Beatles were compatriots of yours.

Anyway, thanks again to all who visit Just Backdated and I’ll try to keep up the good work, which more or less means you’re unlikely to find a report on this Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest or, for that matter, any televised music show of a competitive nature that’s a descendant of Carol Levis Discoveries or, for younger readers, Opportunity Knocks. 


BLONDIE, The Roundhouse, May 3, 2017

Anyone labouring under the misapprehension that Blondie is an oldies act sustaining their career into the 21st Century by relying on a catalogue of juicy hits from yesteryear would have been rudely awakened at London’s Roundhouse last night. The group’s tight and assured 15-song set included no fewer than five new songs from the album Pollinator, due for release tomorrow, and it must have been heartening for them to observe how the packed crowd responded, evidently enjoying the new material almost as much as they did tried and tested favourites like ‘Rapture’, ‘Heart Of Glass’ and ‘Atomic’. This probably had something to do with the fact that they sounded a bit like Blondie of old, of which more later.
Indeed, it is a tribute to the confidence of the present-day Blondie that three of their biggest hits – ‘Sunday Girl’, ‘The Tide Is High’ (both UK number ones) and ‘Denis (Denee)’ (their UK chart debut at number two) – went unplayed. This is a supercharged, thoroughly modern Blondie, match fit through extensive touring; together now since 2010, when guitarist Tommy Kessler replaced Paul Carbonara, joining the core trio of original members – singer Debbie Harry, guitarist Chris Stein and drummer Clem Burke – alongside relative newcomers Leigh Fox (who arrived in 1999) on bass, and multi-keyboard player Matt Katz-Bohan (2008).
Arriving on stage promptly at ten minutes to nine the group tore into ‘One Way Or Another’, the same opening song as when I last saw them about two and a half years ago at this same venue. On that occasion it was a double bill with Chrissie Hynde, who opened the show, but this time Blondie were on their own, poised and in command of the stage from the outset, and after a slight adjustment to the sound levels – up in the balcony I couldn’t hear the vocals at first – we had lift off.
Throughout the group played before a backdrop that alternated between futuristic films of the sci-fi variety and footage from their first flush of success, and for the first four songs Debbie chose to wear a black smock with the legend ‘Stop Fucking The Planet’ over her red dress, leaving little doubt about her attitude towards the current incumbent of the White House. Almost 40 years to the day from Blondie’s UK debut (Bournemouth, May 17, 1977), their singer is a legend now and rightly so, but she’s no Greta Garbo, shrinking into a closeted hinterland of introspection to grudgingly observe the many who have jumped on the bandwagon she herself launched. Using the whole of a large stage to greet her fans, she has an affable, warm personality that comes across rather like a favourite aunt, the one in whom you could confide when you were a teenager. As I noted at that earlier show, however, she is still as pretty as a picture, an ageless miracle in fact, her peroxide blonde hair falling over her shoulders and shimmering beneath the spotlights as she sings. Her voice is in good shape too, with solid vocal back up from Stein, Kessler and, most especially, Katz-Bohan. Immediately behind her Clem Burke is fronted by a transparent Perspex screen and from where I was sat it was possible to make out Debbie’s rather ghostly reflection when she was stage centre and the lighting just so. I suspect she wasn’t even aware of the effect.
‘One Way…’ was followed by ‘Hanging On The Telephone’, preceded by a brief explanation from Debbie about the nature of phones in the era it was recorded (1978) in case any in the mobile-fixated audience found the lyrics bewildering. Next up was ‘Fun’, the first of the five new songs and, like the others (‘My Monster’, ‘Fragments’, ‘Long Time’ and ‘Gravity’), it was clear that the group is seeking to replicate the power pop sound with which they triumphed in their heyday. Less experimental in tone and with more emphasis on uplifting choruses, they sound like the Blondie of the late seventies, though ‘Fragments’ goes through varying tempos, and a keyboard solo in ‘Long Time’ sounded like the theme from one of those old westerns when a male voice choir serenaded a coffin up Dead Man’s Hill.

Judiciously blended with the new material were old favourites like ‘Call Me’, which featured Katz-Bohan soloing on one of those portable keyboards around his neck; ‘In The Flesh’, their first hit, given a slow, dramatic but slightly ponderous reading; and ‘Rapture’, which as before segued into ‘Fight For The Right To Party’, a rap extravaganza reflecting Blondie’s early pioneering of this style. It gave Chris Stein a chance to solo, playing with harmonics and feedback, his most upfront contribution to the evening, while Clem turbo powered consistently from the back.
These days Stein seems content to play a supportive role in the stage group, the wise old lion looking on while the younger cubs prance around. ‘Rapture’ aside, he confines himself to chords and riffs, usually on the lower strings on his guitar, cool as ice, permanently shaded, his hair white now, the soul of the group. His fellow stalwart Burke, on the other hand, is still the band’s engine room, unrelenting, staunch and sturdy. I probably wasn’t alone in noticing that Clem wore a New York City t-shirt in the design favoured by John Lennon that for the encore he had changed to one emblazoned with the logo of CBGBs. Always the Blondie man most respectful of rock’s past, he is a showman drummer in the tradition of Keith Moon, chucking his sticks into the air, tumbling around the kit and at one point adopting one of those Moon poses with one arm high in the air and the other at right angles. He is largely responsible for bringing many of Blondie’s songs to a thumping close, soloing briefly before the final crashing chord, and tireless throughout. 
A glorious ‘Atomic’ proved a crowd favourite, greatly extended as Tommy Kessler, as skinny as a whippet, played the guitar hero in an expanded coda, ending up on top of a speaker cabinet and playing behind his neck while Debbie watched from the side, content to let the spotlight fall elsewhere. ‘Heart Of Glass’, more muscular than the discofied hit single, brought the set proper to a close before a three-song encore that opened with ‘Maria’, another sing-along, and closed on a full-tilt ‘Dreaming’, Clem as busy and irreplaceable as ever.
Ninety minutes had passed remarkably quickly, and on my way out I found myself in step behind Keren Woodward, Sarah Dallin and Siobhan Fahey, the reunited Bananarama, unchaperoned and no doubt deep in thought after watching Debbie Harry and her men demonstrate how it should be done. If Bananarama can muster up half the panache of Blondie they’ll do ok.