Americana Hero: Alejandro Escovedo's long journey from punk to troubadour

nancy rankin escovedoNancy Rankin-Escovedo photo.

In 2018 Alejandro Escovedo released "The Crossing", an album based on the story of two boys, one Mexican and one Italian, travelling across the United States. “I’ve always lived along the border in California and Texas, so it’s been part of my story,” Escovedo says. But while immigration is fundamental to the evolution of modern America, in recent years it’s has become a hot political topic.

(To accentuate the point, a few hours before my interview with Escovedo, US President Donald Trump invoked emergency powers to secure the funds to continue the building of his border wall between Mexico and the United States.)

Escovedo didn’t set out to write a political album; it’s just that “whenever you talk about immigration at this time it tends to be political because of what’s going on in America”.

John Dowler: He's Just a Modern Guy

dowler cover

FLASHBACK TO DATELINE 2002: A disclaimer first - I'm responsible for releasing the new Young Modern album "Live at...." on my reactivated Grown Up Wrong! label, so everything below should be taken with a grain of salt... Of course this is a band whose music turned my head in a big way back in '79, and who ultimately turned me onto the Flamin' Groovies and Big Star, so I do reckon you should pay some attention...

Young Modern existed between 1977-79. They formed in Adelaide, played their first gig supporting Radio Birdman, became a popular draw in their home town and moved to Sydney where they soon split, having been picked up by a powerful agency who had them working in the wrong venues. Along the way they cut a great self-released single with Steve Cummings of the Sports producing, and did some demos that came out after their split (with the single sides added) as the "Play Faster" album on the Local label - an album which also became the first release on Aztec when reissued on CD some years back.

Named "the first powerpop from Down Under" in a news piece in the Jan '79 issue of Bomp! (written by legendary Birdman/Hitmen soundman Andy 'Mort' Bradley), they had killer tunes by the bucketload (mostly written by rhythm guitarist Vic Yates and singer John Dowler) and did great covers of things like 'Mr Tambourine Man', 'She Loves You' and 'Its All Over Now'.

Still here, The Beasts continue to challenge

beasts still here seatedBoris Sujdovic, Tony Pola, Kim Salmon, Tex Perkins and Charlie Owen are The Beasts.

The Beasts of Bourbon formed, somewhat by accident, in 1984. If you were 12 today, would you really be inclined to take the trouble to listen to something recorded by a bunch of blokes who started back then?

Well, the hell with your boring old 12-year-old self. The new album by the Beasts of Bourbon's direct descendants, The Beasts, is called "Still Here" and it rates seven (if not eight) bottles (out of five) in my books. It's really simple: "Still Here" is essential if, as you claim, you're a Beasts of Bourbon fan, or if you think of yourself as someone who loves rock'n'roll. 

No farts are sacred when these girls light up

doremi vanessa elizabeth cole
Do Re Mi's Deborah Conway and Helen Carter. Vanessa Elizabeth-Colo photo

At this point I suppose I'm expected to wax lyrical about the number of times I saw Do Re Mi in the 1990s, the number of sweaty situations I got into, and how I finally threw out my dancing shoes because they were attracting cuckoos.

As you have probably guessed, I cannot do that, because I never saw Do Re Mi; not once. In fact, when the band split up and simger Deborah Conway's face and name suddenly began appearing when she launched her solo career, I had no idea who she was, nor her past. In fact, I still haven't heard a single Deborah Conway song.

A Whole Wide World of love for Rocket Man

wreckless zac bonnellWreckless Eric. Zac Bonnell photo. 

“I will never have anything said against that man!” Eric Goulden, aka Wreckless Eric, is waxing lyrical about a fellow traveller in the English rock’n’roll and pop scene.

You’d be forgiven for thinking Eric might be talking about the late Ian Dury, the iconoclastic poet-cum-musician who provided a rough template for Eric’s own career, or maybe one of the sundry punk rockers who attached themselves to Stiff Records around the same time Eric bounced into popular consciousness with the now classic "Whole World World". Maybe even Joe Strummer? Pete Shelley?

Don't let The Animals of 2018 be understood

the animals 1964The Animals in 1964 with John Steel behind the kit.

By now you will have heard that The Animals are returning to Australia in October-November.

Now, this isn't the version of The Animals which features Eric Burdon; Burdon also uses the name, which is handy because, like many a frontman who wants a solo career, Burdon's solo career didn't quite end up the way he'd hoped, so he can use The Animals name to get a bit more attention.

But really ... the way things have turned out, when you see The Animals name, most of us aren't thinking of Eric's LPs, however they're badged. 

LIke Shifting Sands through the hourglass, these are the days of their lives

izzy and geoffIzzy Mellor and Geoff Corbett. Cyrille Bellec photo.  

Sydney rock and roll fans are in for a special treat on November 17 when a roadshow of diverse but related Brisbane acts rolls into town. Marrickville Bowling Club will bear witness to the spectacular, self-destructing antics of Six Ft Hick, fronted by Geoff and Ben Corbett. The undercard is full of quieter moments, with Gentle Ben & his Shimmering Hands - a vehicle for Ben - and Shifting Sands, led by Geoff.

Oh you Pretty Things: Phil May looks back without sorrow

pretty things sepia

In the middle of 1968 The Pretty Things were seated in a conference room with EMI executives and production engineer Norman Smith at EMI’s corporate headquarters in Manchester Square, London. The Pretty Things were presenting their new album, and their first with EMI, a concept album based around the story of a fictional character by the name of Sebastian F Sorrow: SF Sorrow.

Standing at a lectern in the conference room, Smith, in-house engineer at Abbey Road studios where the album was recorded, read snippets from the story before the corresponding song on the album was played. But it was apparently immediately that the corporate stiffs had no empathy for The Pretty Things’ ground-breaking album.

“They’re all sitting there in their suits, looking a bit bemused,” recalls singer Phil May. “We weren’t sure how well it went down, so the next morning I get a phone call. Because we were going to have both the story and the lyrics on the cover, they rang me and asked me I really thought the story was important enough to print on the cover. I was gobsmacked. Why did we read it to them? What was the point of that whole exercise, and now you’re asking me ‘Was it important?’ Imagine if it came out with the story – it would have been really confusing! What the bloody hell is going on?”

Aussie troubadours take their brands of darkness on the road

plater live fawniaMichael Plater live. Fawnia photo. 

Now, there are a few of you out there who read The I-94 Bar regularly. You may have noticed I'm rather a fan of Australian musician/songwriters Michael Plater and Tim Hudspith.

Plater's music spans various indie, gothic folk, country and “noir” influences, and his first two albums “Exit Keys” (2012) and “Mythologies” (2016) have received worldwide critical acclaim. Hudspith plays guitar with  Goldentone, Colourhweel, The Low-Fi Cowboys, Death Valley PTA and Dead Eyed Seraphim and is a solo artist in his own right. 

This month Melbourne-based Plater and Adelaidian Hudspith (a Ballarat expat) will be touring select interstate venues with intertwining dates, plus some shows in their own right at the end. So, Sydneysiders, Brisvegas residents, Canbrites and Newkies, get out of the house. Dates are at the bottom of the article.  

I was hoping to see the two Sydney shows, but ... as you know, Adelaide's electricity bills aren't what they used to be, so I had to content myself with doing an interview with both Plater and Hudspith..