Book of Brilliant Things - Five things we’ve loved this week - 18th July
Updated: Jul 18, 2021
Been a bit busy with the day job last week, so took a week off writing, but here we go again!
1. back, Back, BACK!
As the pensions run low, the creative juices rise, differences disappear and bands are back, Back, BACK! The last few weeks have seen a bumper crop of reformations. Here's a quick look at three...
The Boo Radleys, scouse experimental indie popsters, are back after 23 years, sans songwriter and all-round mercurial genius Martin Carr. Not promising on paper, but the first single, A Full Syringe And Memories Of You is great - not immediate, but a real grower.
Meanwhile, Sneaker Pimps are back after 19 years - sadly, not with original singer, Kelli Dayton. New singer Simonne Jones is ok, and they are back with two singles released simultaneously - Fighter and Squaring The Circle. The former is good, the latter a little overblown - but it's no return to form. I miss the weird trip hop of their early stuff, like 6 Underground. Was anyone crying out for them to come back? Scottish Widows possibly....
Finally, Stephen Fretwell is back - most famous for Run, which closed the end of every episode of Gavin & Stacey. His story is sadder - lost his mojo after album number 2, ended up washing up in Wetherspoons, then being a house husband, looking after his kids (that bit isn't sad, it's lovely). But as the need to create returned, leading to the end of his marriage, which is very awful. He's back with an incredibly intimate, beautiful album, the ironically titled Busy Guy. Of all the returns, this one seems genuinely driven by the need to perform and write more than any of the others.
So one lovely return, one surprisingly promising return and one a bit "meh"...that's not bad? My favourite though is the Boos - they have woken up!
2. 20 Feet from Stardom
I finally got round to watching 20 Feet From Stardom, the 2013 documentary about the lives of a number of backing singers, including Merry Clayton (the amazing voice on Gimme Shelter), Darlene Love (lead singer of The Blossoms, and the real voice on many songs credited to The Crystals), Lisa Fischer (Sting, Luther Vandross, Tina Turner) and many more.
It's insightful, heartbreaking, and infuriating as you hear the terrible way some of these singers have been treated. But it's lovely hearing the genuine respect and admiration from some of the acts they have benefitted. Hearing that Merry Clayton sang Gimme Shelter, having been dragged out of bed in the early hours, in her dressing gown and curlers is brilliant - that she did it in two takes is awesome...
3. Self Esteem on Later with Jools Holland
Self Esteem is the nom de plume of artist Rebecca Lucy Taylor, formerly of the marvellous Slow Club. Her previous material was good, and her appearances with Django Django interesting....but new single I Do This All The Time is extraordinary and the performance on Later is just amazing. She's just lost in the song and when the backing singers come in, it's a real "hair on the back of the neck standing up" moment. Watch it, it's fabulous.
4. Gary Numan - (R)evolution
I have written elsewhere about my love for early Gary Numan, but his book is genuinely moving - far from the cold hearted android he portrayed himself to be in the 70s and 80s, he is a warm, kind, loving family man, who struggled with Asperger's and depression.
His success was overwhelming and came with universal hatred from the press. He does not shy away from his many catastrophic follies (flying around to world being particularly naff, some truly terrible music choices) and more.
But marrying Gemma, a super-fan who told her career teacher when she was 14 that she was going to marry Gary Numan, could have been disastrous. Instead he found his soul mate and they have three amazing daughters. You are cheering him on as he regains some success in 2017 and now he's a national treasure. It's a really open, honest and heart warming read.
Finally, I rediscovered a song from the 80s I forgot - Womack & Womack's Teardrops - I have played it loads this week and it makes me grin and I stroll along the road. If you are having a bad day, I promise you it will lift your spirits!
See you next week, stay safe, x