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Splendour Festival 2019 Review

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Splendour Festival 2019 Review

Posted on 23 July 2019 by Joe

The day started off threatening biblical downpours. It eventually turned by mid afternoon into Benidorm.

This was the latest and largest Splendour Festival during its take over of the lustrous grounds of Wollaton Hall.


The red deer were away. The Hall closed. All that was left was to arrange a big pop party with 25,000 inebriated guests.

The Rifles brought the riffs. The Specials brought the ska. The Manic Street Preachers brought the memories.

With a full supporting cast it proved to be a grand day out. Split over two main stages and a number of smaller stages the entertainment had something for everyone. With lots of Nottingham talent on show it proved to be a big success, even showcasing some potentially very big hitters for the future.

Re Teu for example is someone to look out for. A flamboyant singer and guitarist who proved to be an early afternoon ray of sunshine. This was in The Courtyard,which used to be the old stables.

Velvet Blush

Quite what the horses would have made of the blues rock stylings of 94 Gunships is hard to gauge. The band were great but my tip for the top were Nottingham’s Velvet Blush  – playing some fantastic dirty rock n roll and fronted by a vocalist with a sweet voice and an equally sweet white guitar.

With hints of 1990s grunge it was hardly surprising that when we spoke to them afterwards we discovered they were big fans of Sonic Youth and The Breeders. I wanted to tell them I had seen both but they probably weren’t even born when I did.

A rush over to the Confetti stage saw The Rifles dishing out some retro mod rock. Better by far was ex Fine Young Cannables vocalist Roland Gift. He’s still the posessor of one of the most distinctive voices in pop and it was great to hear a live version of the old Elvis hit, Suspicious Minds.

IMG_9896 (2)

Now who doesn’t love a bit of anthemic ? The Splendour in Nottingham day’s fix came from Slow Readers Club. Think Editors , Simple Minds, New Order and you’re nearly there. I Saw Ghosts was the highlight of an extremely enjoyable and energising set.

Some brilliantly observed comedy from Roger Monkhouse on the Splendour Festival comedy stage was followed by more insanity on the Fringe Stage with a half an hour in the company of Mrs Green, who is basically a bloke with a beard dressed up as your gran (and on acid) singing cover versions. Not exactly cutting edge but we loved him.

Mrs Green

Mrs Green

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man was extremly popular and delivered a robust Splendour Festival set but it was the sensational double header of The Specials and Manic Street Preachers, both welcomed like gods, that really hit the spot.

Rag 'n' Bone Man

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man

Saffiyah Khan you might remember taking on the EDL. She came on half way through at Splendour Festival and whilst the band played some mighty dub sounds she walked into the huge crowd, talking all the time, a lot of people seemed bemused by this act, I though it was like some kind of living art installation, it was brave but extremely tense at the same time.

The Specials paced their set very nicely, refusing too pander to the audiences need to hear their biggest hits as soon as they hit the stage.  We got a more restrained flow of tunes such as Man at C and Stereotypes, Nightclub, A message to you Rudy and an immense  version of The Lunatics Have Taken over the Asylum (Boris are you listening?), then a rush to the finish line with timeless classics Gangsters and Much Too young.

The Specials

The Specials

As for the Manic Street Preachers, what can you say? Welsh national treasures who from critically lambasted begingings have now become part of our much loved rock furniture. They punched a hole  in the festival with some proper full on rock and roll. I never thought I’d ever hear You Love Us live ever again. How wrong I was. It was both rip and roaring. Richy would have been proud.

Manic Street Preachers

Manic Street Preachers

So watch out for Velvet Blush, My Pet Fauxes and fresh from his Glastonbury appearance local artist Rob Green.

Sadly we missed All Saints at Splendour Festival, as  I was on my hands and knees looking for my lost beer tokens. It was the best day out at Wollaton Park since I stole a deer last year. (I’m joking…it was a giraffe)

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.


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Splendour – Wollaton Park, Nottingham (July 18, 2015)

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Splendour – Wollaton Park, Nottingham (July 18, 2015)

Posted on 28 July 2015 by John Haylock

Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as you wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself,
It’s later than you think

…so sang The Specials back in the heady mists of post punk and on this sunny July day these lyrics rang truer than ever as what seemed like the entire population of Nottingham gathered in the beautiful grounds of Wollaton Hall for the biggest party of the year.

The Specials

This year’s Splendour had a distinctly retro feel, with The Specials topping a bill, which also included James and Banarama. It was like a Forest game but with a ‘Now ! that’s what I call Eighties!’ soundtrack. As well as this retro fell there were plenty more distractions at this family friendly event as well this year, including a funfair and extra stalls and more comedy acts.

Among the potential stars of the future that also appeared was Indiana, a local lass with a confident swagger and a really strong voice; a kind of Paloma Faith meets Roisin Murphy from Moloko vibe. She really got the crowd going and if she gets the breaks she deserves she’ll go far as she went down an absolute storm.

Unfortunately Lawson suffered disastrous sound gremlins at the start of their set and frantic hand gestures from the band to their road crew failed to rectify the sound until the third number. They pluckily soldiered on but the impetus had gone, a shame because their punchy pop recipe could have been a winner amongst an eager crowd of younger listeners.

Time to get down to the serious stuff and tell you about Nottingham’s best new band in years Eyre Llew. This trio of two guitarists and a keyboard player were playing only their third gig to a rapt audience on the Wollaton Hall Courtyard stage. Sadly they were only given half an hour but they used it wisely, utilising the quiet/loud aesthetic to great effect as they veered from hushed and whispered vocals to emotionally charged ambient guitar atmospherics. Next time lads, louder much, much louder! Watch this space.


Warning, this next paragraph contains references to “two thirds of the world’s best selling all girl band” (the compere’s words not mine).. “give it up for Bananarama”. In my time I’ve seen amongst others Dylan, Sabbath, Bowie, Nirvana, Cash, Cave, The Velvet Underground, The Flaming Lips. What am I doing here watching Banarama? Why, I’m dancing to ‘Robert De Niros Waiting’ that’s what, and you know what…they were great and I think the majority of middle aged mums present who still can’t dance for toffee agreed. Venus, Help and It Ain’t What Ya Do’ were blared out amongst a set that was cheesy, but magnificently so.

Who would have thought that of all the bands from the Eighties James would still be relevant and so bloody popular. They drew a huge crowd on the main stage with Tim Booth proving to be an evergreen front man; cool, calm, collected and prone to that funny dance he still does every five minutes. They kicked off with their biggest hit from their 90s heyday Sit Down and it was glorious, absolutely glorious. At one point guitarist Larry Gott sat on the monitor, Tim was above him singing and dancing totally in the zone. James must be one of our greatest pop treasures and long may they reign.


After a fractious Specials gig six months ago in Nottingham, there set was either going to be a 90 minute Terry Hall hissy fit or a delirious run through of some of the best loved songs you’ve ever heard. Fortunately for all concerned it turned out to be the latter.

Opening with the eerie strains of Ghost Town the band play out this number one mini-melodrama to great effect, even dragging it out to twice its original length and improvising.

They went on to kill a ravenous audience and they were not going through the motions either. They still meant it maaan as they ploughed through some of the most biting, politically astute observations you’ll ever hear in song. They tore through Stereotypes, the aforementioned Enjoy Yourself, Rat Race, Too Much, Too Young, Monkey Man, Message To You Rudy. By this time I half expected Brian Clough to descend grinning from the heavens, it was just wonderful to look around and see a vast heaving panorama of terrible dad dancing, mums throwing kids around with gay abandon and even sullen teenagers putting their phones away for five minutes to dance with complete strangers.

Terry Hall even asked someone to get the band a couple of 99s from the ice cream man half a field away, and later was heard to say where’s those fucking ice creams? Yes, I know this sounds crazy but even Terry was in a good mood.

Splendour continues to go from strength to strength, this now annual fixture set in such fantastic surroundings and with such a family orientated vibe is cheaper than Alton Towers, nearer than Skegness and infinitely less stressful than a Forest home game. Splendid.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes


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Top Ten Best Debut Albums (That Don’t Usually Make Best Debut Album Lists)

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Top Ten Best Debut Albums (That Don’t Usually Make Best Debut Album Lists)

Posted on 28 February 2014 by Dorian

A good debut album is a tough ask. Most bands starting out are mere songwriting and production novices who use their debut to test the water before unleashing a killer second or third album. Others just nail it first time. There has already been a fair few best debut albums lists but when we were looking through these we noticed a fair few noticeable absentees. We thought it was about time to give credit where its due and pay tribute to those that do not always make such lists. We’ve got lost albums that were only really heard decades later. We’ve also got popular albums that were perhaps not cool enough for some lists. We’ve also got others that were overshadowed by later releases. So what is our benchmark? Its simple, if it’s a great debut but not on the NME or Rolling Stone’s existing debut albums lists then its in. Anyway enough of the rambling, on with the list…

10. Tigercats – Isle of Dogs (2012)



On this most recent debut on our list London based indie-popsters Tigercats show that they have more about them than a penchant for an afro-beat guitar lick and smart lyric. Here they present a frantic road trip around their East End home, visiting record stores, laughing at hipsters in trendy bars and drunkenly staggering home lamenting on the social divides of the capital. Of course that’s our interpretation. When we asked lead singer Duncan Barrett about how they managed to come up with the concept, he revealed that the tracks were merely the best ones they had at the time. In fact he  looked somewhat puzzled when I even suggested it was a great ‘concept album’  for Coalition government era London.  Happy accident or not, we urge you to check this out. (JL)

9. The Specials – The Specials (1979)



I didn’t live in Coventry in the late 70s but amazingly this album almost makes me wish I had. Combining covers of 60s ska classics with a host of original material, there isn’t a duff track to be heard. Who can listen to Nite Klub without thinking it must have been written about somewhere they’ve been? Concrete Jungle combines social commentary with some amazing guitar playing, the lyrics should be depressing but instead are amazingly uplifting. Dawning of a New Era perfectly captures both the hope and despair as the 70s slipped away into what would be the Thatcherite 80s. The whole album combines great musicianship with thought provoking lyrics. Some of the characters in songs such as Too Much Too Young and Little Bitch are at face value pitiful yet somehow one can’t help but think everyone was having so much more fun back then. (MB)

8. The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004)



Thunder, Lightning, Strike is to all intent and purposes a solo album by bedroom recording artist Ian Parton. He cleverly records it under the Go! Team moniker (complete with esoteric punctuation) as he knows. as an obvious music geek, that the mystique of the “band” is part of the appeal. It is one of the most infectious albums of the last quarter century, immediate and energetic. It also performs a pretty neat trick of sounding unlike anything else, whilst being, partly through ingenious sample use. instantly familiar. Even the song titles make you smile and even if you don’t get the references, for example the  motorbiking TV show Junior Kick start is unlikely to be well known these days, they all sound pretty cool. As punky as it is funky, as much in thrall to film soundtracks as hip hop beats, it really is as much fun as you can cram on a CD. The current issue is great even if the extra track is unnecessary and the version of ‘Bottle Rocket’ isn’t as perfect as the original. (DR)

7. John Howard – Kid in a Big World (1975)


John Howard -Kid In A Big World

We’ve written about John Howard and his excellent debut album a lot since we were introduced to his music by Neonfiller.com favourite Ralegh Long. Snapped up by CBS in the 1970s he was sort of the next Elton John, but had more of an alternative, melancholy edge to his music. In the end his record company and mainstream radio didn’t really know how to market him to the masses. He made a few more records, but quit to became a music executive only to emerge in recent years with a second prolific recording career, with around a dozen releases since his 2005 comeback. It’s understandable why this album is not on other debut album lists, people quite simply never really got to hear it. But they were missing out. Here are some superb glam pop tracks and piano ballads, such as Family Man and Goodbye Suzie,  that in a more discerning alternative universe would have made him one of the biggest acts of the 1970s. (JL)

6. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Searching for the Young Soul Rebels (1980)



Like so many others I first got into Kevin Rowland and Dexy’s Midnight Runners because of the song Come On Eileen and the album Too Rye Aye. I became obsessed with them in a way only teenagers do and started to seek out their earlier material which soon led me to Searching for the Young Soul Rebels. Recorded only two years previously with a largely different band it’s a harder, edgier sound, swirling organs and storming brass overlaying  bass, drums and guitar are a marked contrast to the violins and banjos of the Eileen era but for me it is Rowland at his finest. There’s anger and passion a plenty in songs such as Burn it Down, Tell Me When My Light Turns Green and Seven Days Too Long, a number one hit in Geno, and my personal favourite There, There, My Dear. (MB)

5. Hefner – Breaking God’s Heart (1998)


Breaking Gods Heart

Darren Hayman has stated that Breaking God’s Heart is his least favourite Hefner album. It isn’t my favourite either, that is an accolade that swings regularly between The Fidelity Wars and We Love The City,  but it is a pretty perfect statement of intent and is an essential album in Hefner’s near perfect back catalogue. In fact it is the elements that make this such a good album that most likely bother Hayman, the rough edged recording, the adolescent lyrics and the far from perfect vocals. It sounds like a band starting out, like a band that is raw and passionate and a band that is bursting with brilliant songs they want to get on record. ‘The Sweetness That’s Withi’ is wonderful; not many bands start their first album with a song as strong as this. In fact the first four songs on the album, through The Sad Witch and the Hymn For The Postal Service are as good a quartet of album openers as I can remember. The last of the four Love Will Destroy Us In The End probably has the best opening 40 seconds of any indie pop song in the 90s. I suspect the same song also offers up the most cock-sure guitar solo of Hayman’s career. (DR)

4. The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band- Gorilla (1967)



Formed at art college in the 60s the Bonzos struck upon the decidedly odd idea to reinvent traditional 1920s jazz in a then modern age of psychedelia and kaftans. The result is funny,  inventive and above all superb. The key to the Bonzo’s success and the greatness of this, their best album, was the songwriting of Neil Inness and the late Vivian Stanshall. Liverpudlian Innes, the genius behind The Rutles, was arguably as good a song writer as Lennon and McCartney. His track Equestrian Statue is a real high point. As for Stanshall, the east end lad with a knack for lampooning the English upper classes like no other, he delivers vocal treat after treat on tracks such as Cool Britannia, the Intro and the Outro and I’m Bored, which to this day are regularly used on TV, film and advertising. (JL)

3. Blondie- Blondie (1976)



Perhaps opening your debut album with a song about a sex offender isn’t the most commercial of moves but in the long term it doesn’t seem to have done Blondie much harm. It’s an excellent start to an excellent album that sadly over the years has been overshadowed by the more fully realised new wave pop sound of their later albums Eat to the Beat and Parallel Lines. Tracks on this debut, such as Little Girl Lies have much more 60s rock ‘n roll influence but the new wave attitude is bubbling away nicely on Look Good in Blue, In the Sun and Rifle Range. Debbie Harry’s vocals, churning out these sassy and funny lyrics, sound amazing and the whole band is clearly reveling in the chance to leap out of the New York punk scene of clubs such as CBGBs and Kansas City for a short time and into the recording studio, where they continued to improve for the rest of the 70s. (MB)

2. Supergrass – I Should Coco (2005)



Why on earth doesn’t Supergrass’s  debut I Should CoCo take pride of place on other best debut albums lists?  It’s a glorious rollercoaster of a debut, packed with great guitar pop and above all fun. Just listen to one of its singles Caught by the Fuzz or Alright, and marvel at the cheeky chappie thrill ride of a three minute pop track that they are. I challenge you not to get up and start running across the nearest beach arms flailing around and declaring your adoration for life itself after listening to it this album. And it’s not just us that love it, even if it has been cruelly overlooked by the likes of NME and Rolling Stone. It reached number one in the UK album charts and is now platinum selling. The best Brit pop album of the 1990s? Well, its hard to find one that’s more fun certainly. (JL)

1. Sparklehorse – Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot (1995)



Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot seemed to come out of nowhere when I first purchased it in shortly after its release. I knew nothing of Mark Linkous and his time in the Dancing Hoods or even that he had co-written a song on one of my favourite Cracker albums, even though Cracker frontman David Lowery is a secret contributor on this album under the name David Charles. This was purely an on spec purchase that sucked me in from first listen and instantly gave them “my new favourite band” status. Linkous’s  issues with mental health, and his eventual suicide, cloud his music now but at the time (although there is obvious sadness on the album) it is a very uplifting recording.

Songs move from delicate, such as Homecoming Queen to the noisy, such as Rainmaker via surreal noise interludes, most notably 350 Double Pumper Holey, without sounding at all unnatural or lacking cohesion. This is an album that covers so much ground whilst retaining the unique Sparklehorse identity. You want a banjo driven country epic? Well, listen to Cow. You want an indie disco classic with crunching guitars? Well, there is Someday I Will Treat You Good to scratch that itch. This outstanding debut is oddly left off far too many debut albums lists and we are delighted to give it top billing here. (DR)

Written and compiled by Martin Burns, Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers


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