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If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed.

Top tracks of 2017 – Gary Numan

Gary Numan returned with another album this year, and thus makes number ten on our annual countdown. Here’s the beautifully grimy My Name is Ruin:

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Chart for stowaways – 4 November 2017

I imagine that the Pet Shop Boys takeover of the charts will end at some point, but probably not till after Christmas. For the time being, the four artists on this week’s top ten are as follows:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Reunion
  2. Depeche Mode – Going Backwards
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Winner
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Vocal
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Dancing in the Dusk
  6. Pet Shop Boys – Invisible
  7. Pet Shop Boys – Wings and Faith
  8. Pet Shop Boys – My Girl
  9. David Bowie – Heroes
  10. Paul van Dyk – Tell Me Why (The Riddle)

NME Poll Winners 1952-1992 (Part Two)

Finally, having worked through all the other categories, let’s take a look at the artist winners for the NME Polls from 1952 to 1992. As I mentioned last week, it’s hard to trace the winners of a particular category through time, so I’ve taken a few liberties. Essentially anything that seems to be roughly the same category has been treated as the same thing. Also, for the year ranges, there are a few missing years here and there, so for instance 1967-1970 could mean anything between 2 and 3 wins.

Best Newcomer

For thirty-five years, the NME Poll included a newcomer award, variously titled “World’s Most Promising New Name”, “Best New Group”, and various other things. It’s an amazing time capsule of new acts throughout the ages – who would have thought that Cliff Richard and The Stone Roses could appear on the same list?

Best New Artist

  • 1956 – Ronnie Scott
  • 1958 – Cliff Richard
  • 1959 – Craig Douglas
  • 1960 – Emile Ford
  • 1961 – John Leyton
  • 1962 – Frank Ifield
  • 1963 – Gerry Marsden
  • 1964 – Mick Jagger
  • 1965 – Seekers (group) & Donovan (solo)
  • 1966 – Spencer Davis Group (group) & Stevie Winwood (solo)
  • 1967 – Bee Gees (group) & Engelbert Humperdinck (solo)
  • 1968 – Love Affair (group & Mary Hopkins (solo)
  • 1970 – Jethro Tull
  • 1971 – McGuinness Flint (group) & Elton John (solo)
  • 1972 – New Seekers (group) & Rod Stewart (solo)
  • 1973 – Golden Earring (World) & Leo Sayer (British)
  • 1975 – Bad Company
  • 1976 – Eddie and the Hot Rods
  • 1977 – Tom Robinson
  • 1978 – Public Image Ltd.
  • 1979 – The Specials
  • 1980 – UB40
  • 1981 – Altered Images
  • 1983 – The Smiths
  • 1984 – Bronski Beat
  • 1985 – The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • 1986 – The Housemartins
  • 1987 – The Proclaimers
  • 1988 – The House of Love
  • 1989 – The Stone Roses
  • 1990 – The Charlatans
  • 1991 – Kingmaker
  • 1992 – Suede

Technical Categories

A lot of categories seem to have come and gone throughout the history of the awards to celebrate particular types of performer. Here are some of the highlights!

Musician of the Year

  • 1952 – Ronnie Scott
  • 1954 – Eric Delaney
  • 1957 – Eddie Calvert

Best Guitarist

  • 1954 – Bert Weedon
  • 1973 – Eric Clapton
  • 1976 – Jimmy Page
  • 1978 – Mick Jones
  • 1979-1982 – Paul Weller
  • 1983 – The Edge

Best Bassist

  • 1973, 1976 – Paul McCartney
  • 1978 – Jean Jacques Burnel
  • 1979-1982 – Bruce Foxton
  • 1983 – Peter Hook

Best Keyboardist/Electronics

  • 1973, 1976-1977 – Rick Wakeman
  • 1978-1981 – Dave Greenfield
  • 1982 – Vince Clarke
  • 1983 – Steve Nieve

Best Drummer

  • 1973, 1975 – Carl Palmer
  • 1976 – John Bonham
  • 1977 – Paul Cook
  • 1978 – Keith Moon
  • 1979-1982 – Rick Buckler
  • 1983 – Budgie

Best Instrumentalist

  • 1962-1963 – Jet Harris
  • 1973 – Roy Wood
  • 1975-1977 – Mike Oldfield
  • 1981 – Saxa
  • 1982 – The Emerald Express, Violin
  • 1983 – The TKO Horns
  • 1985 – Johnny Marr

Best Producer

  • 1973 – David Bowie
  • 1975 – Eddie Offord

Best Songwriter/Composer

  • 1973 – Elton John / Bernie Taupin
  • 1976 – Bob Dylan
  • 1978 – Elvis Costello
  • 1979-1982 – Paul Weller
  • 1983 – Elvis Costello
  • 1984-1985 – Morrissey / Johnny Marr

Best Solo Artist

Curiously, the solo artist categories were for the longest time broken up into “world”, “British”, and even “US” for a while.

Best Female Singer

  • 1952-1954 – Lita Roza
  • 1957 – Ruby Murray
  • 1958 – Alma Cogan
  • 1959-1961 – Connie Francis
  • 1962-1964 – Brenda Lee
  • 1965-1967 – Dusty Springfield
  • 1968 – Lulu
  • 1970 – Dusty Springfield
  • 1971-1973 – Diana Ross
  • 1975 – Joni Mitchell
  • 1976 – Linda Ronstadt
  • 1977 – Julie Covington
  • 1978 – Debbie Harry
  • 1979 – Kate Bush
  • 1981-1983 – Siouxsie Sioux
  • 1984-1986 – Elizabeth Fraser
  • 1987 – Suzanne Vega

Best British Female Singer

  • 1955, 1957 – Alma Cogan
  • 1959-1960 – Shirley Bassey
  • 1961-1962 – Helen Shapiro
  • 1963 – Kathy Kirby
  • 1964-1966 – Dusty Springfield
  • 1968, 1970 – Lulu
  • 1971-1972 – Cilla Black
  • 1973 – Maggie Bell
  • 1975 – Kiki Dee

Best US Female Singer

  • 1955-1957 – Doris Day
  • 1958 – Connie Francis

Best Male Singer

  • 1952-1954 – Dickie Valentine
  • 1955 – Frank Sinatra
  • 1956 – Dickie Valentine
  • 1958 – Frankie Vaughan
  • 1959-1962 – Elvis Presley
  • 1963 – Cliff Richard
  • 1964-1972 – Elvis Presley
  • 1973 – David Bowie
  • 1975-1976 – Robert Plant
  • 1977-1978 – David Bowie
  • 1979 – Sting
  • 1980 – Paul Weller
  • 1981 – David Bowie
  • 1982 – Paul Weller
  • 1983 – David Bowie
  • 1984 – Bono
  • 1985-1992 – Morrissey

Best British Male Singer

  • 1955, 1957 – Dickie Valentine
  • 1959-1967 – Cliff Richard
  • 1968-1970 – Tom Jones
  • 1971-1972 – Cliff Richard
  • 1973 – David Bowie
  • 1975 – Paul Rodgers

Best US Male Singer

  • 1955-1956 – Frank Sinatra
  • 1957 – Pat Boone
  • 1958 – Elvis Presley

Outstanding Popular Singer

  • 1955 – Frank Sinatra
  • 1957 – Pat Boone
  • 1958 – Elvis Presley

Best Instrumental Personality

  • 1958 – Eddie Calvert
  • 1959-1960 – Russ Conway
  • 1961 – Bert Weedon

Best Musical Personality

  • 1955 – Bill Haley
  • 1956 – Dickie Valentine
  • 1957-1959 – Elvis Presley
  • 1960 – Duane Eddy
  • 1961-1972 – Elvis Presley

Best British Musical Personality

  • 1956 – Dickie Valentine
  • 1957 – Tommy Steele
  • 1958-1959 – Frankie Vaughan
  • 1960 – Lonnie Donegan
  • 1961 – Adam Faith
  • 1962-1963 – Joe Brown
  • 1964 – Cliff Richard
  • 1965 – John Lennon
  • 1966-1972 – Cliff Richard

Genre-Specific Categories

These are just a selection of the categories that relate to a particular genre of music.

Best Soul / Funk Act

  • 1973, 1975 – Stevie Wonder
  • 1984 – Womack & Womack
  • 1985 – Cameo

Best Reggae Act

  • 1984 – Smiley Culture
  • 1985 – UB40

Best R&B / Blues Act

  • 1964-1965 – The Rolling Stones
  • 1966 – Spencer Davis Group
  • 1967-1968 – The Rolling Stones
  • 1970 – Fleetwood Mac

Best Traditional Jazz Act

  • 1961 – Acker Bilk
  • 1962-1963 – Kenny Ball

Best Group

Finally, we reach the categories for best group – of which there are a few.

Best Group

  • 1954 – Stargazers
  • 1955 – Four Aces
  • 1956 – Stargazers
  • 1957 – The Platters
  • 1958-1962 – Everly Brothers
  • 1963-1965 – The Beatles
  • 1966 – The Beach Boys
  • 1967-1970 – The Beatles
  • 1971 – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • 1972 – T. Rex
  • 1973 – Yes
  • 1975 – Roxy Music
  • 1976 – Led Zeppelin
  • 1977 – Sex Pistols
  • 1978 – The Clash
  • 1979-1982 – The Jam
  • 1983 – New Order
  • 1984-1987 – The Smiths
  • 1988 – The Wedding Present
  • 1989 – The Stone Roses
  • 1990 – Happy Mondays
  • 1991-1992 – R.E.M.

Best British Group

  • 1955 – Stargazers
  • 1957 – King Brothers
  • 1958-1959 – The Mudlarks
  • 1960 – King Brothers
  • 1961-1962 – The Springfields
  • 1963-1971 – The Beatles
  • 1972 – T. Rex
  • 1973 – Yes

Best British Small Band

  • 1952 – Johnny Dankworth Seven
  • 1954 – Ronnie Scott and His Orchestra
  • 1955-1957 – The Kirchins
  • 1958-1959 – Lonnie Donegan
  • 1960-1963 – The Shadows

Best British Large Band or Orchestra

  • 1952-1961 – Ted Heath and His Music
  • 1962-1963 – Joe Loss

Best British Instrumental Unit

  • 1964-1971 – The Shadows
  • 1972 – Collective Consciousness Society

Best Live Act

  • 1973 – Alice Cooper (World) & Genesis (British)
  • 1975 – Genesis
  • 1982 – The Jam
  • 1985 – The Pogues

That’s it for now – we’ll continue our journey through the NME Awards soon.

Robert Miles – 23am

I was actually slightly surprised at how affected I was by the death of Robert Miles earlier this year. After all, he was hardly a superstar like Roger Moore. But he did define an entire (admittedly small) genre of music, dream music, and for a year or so while it lasted, it was actually pretty good, and I suppose he must have had much more of an impact on my life than I realised at the time.

His second album, the confusingly named 23am, was released an astonishing two decades ago this week. It opens with Introducing, a soft pad-and-thunder piece that sounds like something from Chicane but with very silly nonsensical babble over the top, before launching into A New Flower.

It doesn’t take a genius to work the concept of this album is going to be, as the baby noises kick in in earnest, but once the gentle acoustic guitar kicks in, this is actually a pretty nice track. Children it is not, but then neither was most of the first album.

Miles was, at this stage, not at his most creative though – the later albums where he really tried to innovate and explore are much more interesting. Many tracks, and particularly Everyday Life, would not have sounded too out of place on debut album Dreamland if he hadn’t been going out of his way to rehash Children at that point. This track was apparently a single in Italy, but it had to be backed with a couple of mixes of Fable to make people notice even in his homeland.

This album wasn’t the greatest commercial success either – Italy and Germany got another single, a huge package of remixes of Full Moon, but most countries only got Freedom, which reached a respectable number 15 in the UK. The three singles from the first album and the album itself had all hit the top ten, whereas this album fell just outside the top forty.

Which is not to say there’s anything particularly wrong with Freedom – it’s a good song. It does sound a little bit like Children though. Nothing really grabs you for a while during this middle section of the album – Textures is dull, and Enjoy is a pleasant dance track, again very much in the dream music vein, but it does sound pretty dated now.

This is not, to be blunt, an amazing album. Flying Away is unremarkable, and Heatwave is only entertaining thanks to the novelty of jazz-drum & bass-fusion. Which makes it all the more astonishing when Maresias starts. Named, presumably, after the beach in northern Brazil which is pretty much the only thing that turns up when you search for the title. This is a beautiful track, with an actual saxophone lead, some trumpets, and a whole lot of gently trippy drums. This is quite exceptional, and a complete surprise – it’s probably the best track that Miles ever recorded, and yet here it is hidden away towards the end of an unnoteworthy album.

This was, of course, a particularly extreme case of “difficult second album” syndrome – Robert Miles was very capable, as he proved on several individual tracks and some of his later works. He certainly wasn’t wrong to pull 23am together so soon after Dreamland, but under the circumstances it was probably never going to amount to much.

Full Moon is pleasant – again, one of the more interesting tracks on here, with some fun deep tribal beats. If this had turned up earlier in the album, it might have helped a lot. But it feels a bit too late now – all that’s left after this is Leaving Behind…, which echoes the first track, and the album is over.

But while 23am may have been his finest work, and it certainly hasn’t dated well in the intervening two decades, I’m still sorry that Robert Miles is no longer with us. At least once on every album – with ChildrenMaresias, and Paths from his third release – he pulled something incredible out of the bag. So long live the man who defined dream music, Robert Miles.

You can still find 23am at all major retailers.

Preview – Midge Ure

What we really need right now is to hear Midge Ure performing the hits of Ultravox with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Said nobody, ever. But by the sound of Vienna, it’s actually pretty good. OK, it’s lost all the electronic heartlessness of the original, which played so beautifully against Ure’s vocals, but it’s still an interesting perspective. Maybe one for the fans rather than newcomers though.

Retro chart for stowaways – 29 November 2014

For the first time ever, here’s a retro chart from the lifespan of this blog, never published before. Here are the albums from just three years ago this week:

  1. Röyksopp – The Inevitable End
  2. Erasure – The Violet Flame
  3. David Bowie – Nothing Has Changed
  4. Sparks – In Outer Space
  5. Goldfrapp – Tales of Us
  6. David Bowie – Reality
  7. New Order – Waiting for the Sirens’ Call
  8. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again
  9. William Orbit – Strange Cargo 5
  10. The Human League – Dare