heard on the wire

You lose your sting and die

Sinatra

A friend and reader suggested recently this week that ELO might have been better than New Order. Doctors have been called. (He’s a Brentford fan, so he has previous).

He was referring to the bands’ performances at the recent Glastonbury festival, where Jeff Lynne’s ELO, as the hirsute, prog-ish, sometimes-pretentious rockers are now known, brought lots of grey-haired, pot-bellied men of my age to the Pyramid stage on a soggy afternoon. Later New Order lit up the night sky on one of the festival’s plethora of other stages, presumably to an audience comprising, in a not insignificant part, of grey-haired, pot-bellied men of my age.

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Pretending that I’ve got a clue

Lucky Soul

And so it was that in response to a Facebook meme I posted a list of the 12 LPs that have had the most influence on me, both personally and musically. And it was like looking in a mirror, for all was male and white.

So, I thought, what if the list weren’t male and white (for I like to use the subjunctive). And so I sat down with my MacBook Pro and my text editor of choice (iA Writer, since you didn’t ask) and…. Well the first few records came easily. The rest not so. This puzzled me till I realised that most of the black, female music I like is soul music, a “genre” that has always leant itself to the single rather than the long player.

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You can’t beat a boy who loves New Order

DeeDee

There are some bands who get a free pass, whose new records will be bought without a second thought, who even manage to survive the occasional indiscretion.

The Fall, Half Man Half Biscuit, Nick Cave, Helen Love, the Wedding Present and Cinerama are definitely on that list, but top of it are New Order. That they’re top is odd in some ways, since of them all they have perhaps committed the worse indiscretion — the mediocrity that was their last full LP, Waiting for the Sirens’ Call whose low points, the title track and the Scissor Sister-accompanied Jetstream, are such an execrably bad records that I stopped buying every version I could find, something I’d been doing since I bought Temptation on seven- and 12-inch.

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The birds fly a lot better than we do

Dandelions

Since it began broadcasting in 2006, the estimable Dandelion Radio has been the home of the “official” Festive Fifty, the annual listeners’ chart that John Peel started in 1976.

That first chart was compiled from listeners’ favourite records of all time and, with Led Zeppelin at number one, stands as a pre-punk anomaly. Henceforth the top spot would be shared by the Sex Pistols and Joy Division until 1982, when Peel retired the all-time list and introduced an annual chart. The ’82, ’83 and ’84 versions are perhaps the finest end-of-year countdowns ever compiled, reflecting a time when Peel truly was shaping the musical landscape. Later, 90s charts tended more to the dull and predictable, to the extent that Peel threatened to abandon the rundown altogether, not least because he was still totting up the votes by hand. But it survived, the last Peel 50 being chosen and broadcast in the wake of his untimely death in 2004.

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Play some punk rock songs as Santa passes by

Bauble tree

Marrs’ 1987 number one smash hasn’t exactly sprung to mind when I’ve thought of Christmas records, but it will now, thanks to the enduring pop genius of perennial smithsock favourite Helen Love.

Helen is no stranger to seasonal songs, having graced the festive airwaves on several occasions, and this year is no exception. Marrs, on the other hand, was a one-off collaboration that produced its seminal chart topper in the distinctly non-festive month of October.

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Let’s hear it for that beautiful note

Helen Love Atomic

Teenagers today prefer to watch their music, The Guardian reported last year, after a survey revealed that American teens preferred to listen to music on YouTube than on any other media.

It’s difficult for anyone raised in the pre-Internet age—when having a tactile, palpable relationship to music personalised it—to understand. Even now, when “owning” a record can amount to nothing more than propriety over a string of ones and zeroes, there is still that sense of having something. By contrast watching a song on YouTube seems so ephemeral, so disposable, soulless.

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Moderns, you should stay home

Tracks

The world’s finest music festival takes place this weekend and as usual I won’t be there to see smithsocksimon faves such as When Nalda Became Punk, Camera Obscura, Alpaca Sports and Helen Love.

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Don’t tell your Mum

Preston Bus Station

It’s a joyful slice of perfect electro pop from Wales’s finest and it’s the best record I’ve heard this year.

A heartwarming and heartbreaking tale of teenage love, it’s everything a 45 should be.

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And the Salvation Army band plays

My favourite song of the season. Happy Holidays!

Helen Love and Richard Autobahn :: And the Salvation Army Band Plays

He couldn’t believe that everyone in the world liked their songs

Polyhedron

Apologies for the absence of posts recently, it’s been rather busy at SmithSockTowers. In lieu of some hot contemporary tunes, here are some videos I like.

First up, the ever-wonderful Helen Love and a five-star single from 1997.

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heard on the wire is a blog about music old and new, but mostly new. It occasionally uses 21st century file formats that may not be supported by 20th century web browsers. For best results use Safari or Chrome. And If you like the music posted here, please think of the effort and expense that has gone into making it and consider buying a copy of your own.

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All the music on this site is posted to encourage listeners to enjoy it and then rush out and buy as many songs by the artist as they possibly can. Any artist, record label boss, publisher or other rightsholder who doesn't want their works featured here only needs to get in touch and the offending file(s) will be removed at the earliest opportunity.