Body Builder Xmas Special

It’s been hella quiet round here lately but that may change. I have been doing lots of music lately. This first track I’m putting up is  your Xmas present from me. Listen to it after eating to much. Love Steve.


I’m gonna be the biggest man that I possibly can I possibly can I possibly can

I’m not fuckin’ with ya I wanna pump til my muscles hump and til the veins in my arms explode

I’m gonna be the biggest man that I possibly can I possibly can I possibly can

I won’t lie to you now (Why would I lie to you now?) I won’t rest til I look the best because I’m carrying the heaviest load

I wanna be a bodybuilder

I’m gonna be a bodybuilder

ooh ahh

(Merry Xmas.)


The Transmission of a Legend

Southern Steve: ‘Legend’ Mp3

Love Will Tear Us Apart might be Joy Division’s best known song, but Transmission probably should be. It’s a better representation of the band’s musical and lyrical power.

Transmission…Radio, Live Transmission…Dance to the Radio…Listen to the Silence…Touching From A Distance…The Language of Sound…

All of those lyrical fragments have been used as the names of bootlegs, books, Myspace sites, magazines, 80s music nights, cover bands, and all hark back to the power of this one song.

The 1979 single version is fine enough but the earlier, slower version on the RCA demo is even better in my view; the band almost stand back from the song and allow that slow, arrogant two-note bass line and the rumbling drums to do their work.

Joy Division – Transmission MP3 (RCA Demo Version).

There is an excellent drum break at the end of this track, with Steven Morris  left to slow down the tempo on his own after the rest of the band have stopped playing.  It’s a gift to the would-be sampler, containing that hallmark “Joy Division move” as my mate Fraser recently described it: a single tom hit just after the 3rd beat snare, giving the whole thing that lurching, robotic feel. It’s the sound of the classic Joy Division flawed machine.

In my own tune, Legend, I’ve backed up those drums with a midi track including some syn-tom sounds a bit like the ones on Closer, another two note bassline, and some guitar and bass chords with valve distortion and delay, to replicate the sound of the band live, on an album like Live at Eindhoven.

I like the sound, but even as I was doing this song, it occurred to me what a forlorn process it all was, and the lyrics that came to me ended up being about the emptiness of replicating a long-gone original…

It’s Just a Legend

An Empty Legend

A Cold and Empty Legend

You Heard a Dream

And Tried to Make it Real

Anyway, I’ll be back later with some more maunderings,

GSS, feeling alright but a little bogged down,  Aug 2009.

Patrik Fitzgerald – Grubby Stories


Come and get yer punk in Woolworfs...

Really, you’d have thought a guy who was like a cross between Johnny Rotten and Bob Dylan would have been more famous. Or, maybe, way less famous. But I don’t think anyone could possibly have predicted that Patrik Fitzgerald (born ‘Patrick’ Fitzgerald) would have been exactly as famous as he was, no more and no less.

Mp3 file: Patrik Fitzgerald – 10 Songs from Grubby Stories (1979)

This guy has been making a right  nuisance of himself since 1975; knocking on managers’ doors, painting his name on people’s cars, crashing parties, stalking people, busking outside funerals,  and playing so many solo acoustic shows in front of punk punters that eventually Polydor went “Oh, alright Patrik, you can have your bloody record contract if you’ll just shut-up!'”And so Grubby Stories was born.

(Disclaimer: story not actually true. I just wanted to make it sound exciting and I didn’t want to copy the Wikipedia entry).

The truth is, my sister came home with a copy of this record one day (after borrowing it off this jerk called Nathan (who I once saw in his underwear (which was red))) and we decided it was just as good as all the other music we liked, and never gave it back.

I’ve spent the last twenty-five years vaguely wondering why no-one else ever seems to have heard of it, except for all the people who have (and they all seem to be wondering why no-one else has heard of it either).

Apparently Patrik moved from Polydor after a few records, and continued to make records which apparently sound increasingly like David Bowie on a bad day. He now lives in New Zealand where he has a Myspace and does solo shows and stuff, and maybe walks on the same bits of dirt that Chris Knox sometimes walks on. But I wouldn’t really know about any of that. I’ve only heard this record.

The story behind this mp3 is that a few years ago I dug this old bit of vinyl out of my cupboard, recorded it onto my computer (before I realised what the earthing wire on the stereo was for) and then sold it for ten dollars just before moving to the tropics.

(Nathan: I lost your record, I’m very sorry.)

Anyway, here is Patrik Fitzgerald, the forlorn pioneer of folk punk, in all his two chord acoustic wonderness. Well, most of it is acoustic, but some of it is played by a band featuring members of The Buzzcocks and Penetration, whom Patrik somehow managed to get to sound a fair bit like early U.K. Squeeze. But the lyrics are the main thing, really; alternately weird and very strightforward, and all delivered with a cockney nasal despair which is truly beautiful.

If you like your punk music strange and offbeat, I strongly advise that you listen to these tunes, at once.

Mp3 file: Patrik Fitzgerald – 10 Songs from Grubby Stories (1979)

The Ten Songs:

  • As Ugly As You
  • Nothing to Do Around Here (with evil children)
  • All My Friends Are Dead Now
  • Adopted Girl
  • When I Get Famous
  • Little Fishes (brilliant song, my favourite)
  • But Not Any More
  • Conventions of Life
  • They Make It Safe
  • Your Hero

March of the Stickmen

Here’s a double-take of one of my favourite discoveries of the last few years – Philadelphia band The Stickmen, who emerged in the post-punk chaos of the late 70s, made a few albums, had white vans that broke down, got given pretentious labels by critics, drank milkshakes, broke up, got mortgages, died tragically, reformed, had children, gained PhDs, got cynical, moved to the tropics, put out compilation albums, all the usual things.

Actually, some of that was me rather than the Stickmen. Sorry.

Anyway, what can you expect to hear? Imagine what the B52s would have sounded like if only their mothers had stopped drinking when they got pregnant, and then if their rhythm section got kidnappped and somehow replaced by some of the guys from the Birthday Party without anyone noticing, and then the resulting ensemble tried to play two different songs at the same time.

Or just listen to the tracks. Whichever you prefer….

I got these tracks a while back over on one of the usual post-punk haunts, PPJ I think, but they aren’t there now so I’m putting them back up for you. They are both from the Instiable compilation CD, and they both rawk. Frenetic dum-drums, bonky bass, twisty geetar, krazee v-v-v-vocals, squonky saxophone and gosh-darn weird clavinet! Go!


The End of the Ancient World

Free Mp3 – Useless Life

Once, when I was an undergraduate in History in the early nineties, I had this bizarre anti-epiphany about life and knowledge while I was in the library.

The exact trigger for the episode was a book called The End of the Ancient World and the Beginning of the Middle Ages by Ferdinand Lot. While the library did have this French edition, the edition I used was an authoritative, blue-bound hard-back from Oxford UP, whose very appearance promised definitive solutions to an essay due at the end of the week.

I think it must have been the OUP cover insignia that did it for me – many other books in the section were equally weighty, but that one, above all, called out to me and said:

You will never write a book like me. You will never read enough to know enough to write it, and even if you did, you would never be able to write it down. And even if you did, you would never get it published. And even if you did, you will never get it published by a major university press and have copies distributed around the world.

Don’t get me confused with Mark C., the guy at my university who actually did hear the books talking to him and is now on sickness benefit. This was just a feeling, but a very strong one, and one which made me leave the library in haste, feeling quite useless. I did not get that essay in.

As the years have gone by I have told myself that my skills lie in other areas. You know the drill: Herculean labours are not for me, I am a mercurial and whimsical critic, relying more on nuance than on stodgy completist scholarship to produce my masterwork, etc. (A masterpiece which, of course, is yet to be produced. And then published. By a major publisher.)

While studying medievalism, I had scumbag friends. One in particular, Janet C., had a heroin addiction which probably predated Ferdinand Lot, and often used to have trouble walking upright, not due to heroin but a combination of alcohol and methadone. She once told me she was quite happy to be useless but didn’t want her friends to be that way; her idea of the perfect day was one in which she could get drugged up and then just lie there on the couch while we played music, or talked about what we wanted to do with our lives.

Somehow, those two things sum up a place I’ve been, in one way or another, most of my life; not happy being useless, but not willing to chuck it in either, just slowly working away at things to better myself, a process that seems to take forever. And part of me is always wanting to hang out with the sort of people who haven’t got the slightest intention of “making something of themselves”, just because that sort of company can be so much more fun than being with stressed out career-heads; but then inevitably I wind up feeling on the outer, because in another way, I can’t relate to that. I’d love to make something of myself.

So anyways this song, Useless Life, is about all that. It has a little banjo, for those that dig it, but it’s mostly about the lyrics:

Someone figured out how to put a man in space

But you still ain’t got the world right

Someone figured out the circumference of the earth

And you can’t even walk straight

I think I’d like to come along with you

You could show me how to get nothing done

But you’d probably get bored with me

You probably got no use for me at all

I envy you

Even though you think you never know what to do

Just because you’re happy to be useless

Because you’re happy to lead a useless life.

Oh, by the way, I’m moving to Australia next week.  And thanks to Janet for recent kind words, and to Kevin Dunn, who has been giving me props, and playing my tunes on his podcast.


Steve McK, November 14 2008

A Career in Virtue

Great Southern Steve – A Career in Virtue (mp3)

Here’s some more banjo folk from the Live at Home album, as a few folks liked the Golden Retriever tune from a few posts back.

This song, however, is anything but jaunty, although it does have kind of sombre sea-shanty thing going on. It’s based on a banjo riff I wrote when I was about nineteen. It’s worth remembering the things you wrote when you are nineteen because they are often more natural than things you write later.

Anyway, I had in mind for the lyrics the character of a priest in a remote location, who had brought his wife along, promising glory in the service of God, but delivering misery in the service of his alcoholism.

Yes, I know, what a cheery thing to write about. I’m such a ray of sunshine.

The final part was written over here in Melanesia. ‘Blacktop’ is what they call a ‘tar’ road, to distinguish between that and most of the roads, which are just dirt. It is dusty, hot and everyone drinks too much.

Anyway here it is.

So starch my collar up and bring my liquor down

And I’ll kill the memories that dog my days

Even if I’d lived across the other side of town

I’ll bet this would have happened anyway

I gave up a career in virtue

For the chance to hold you by my side

I promised that nothing could hurt you

Sweet innocence,

You know I lied.

Local Heroes Sw9 – Drip Dry Zone

Buy it from Amazon...

Buy it from Amazon...

In the heady year of 1980, when I was ten, Kevin Armstrong (guitar, vox), Kim Barti (drums), and Matthew Seligman (bass) recorded and released a hidden classic of British post-punk, the album Drip Dry Zone. The trio were later joined by Thomas Dolby on synths for a subsequent release called New Opium, before Dolby went solo, Armstrong decided to become a session musician rather than a front man, and Seligman continued with the Soft Boys and then also turned to session work.

I know it is a cliché to say that bands “should have gained more recognition” when all you really mean is that you like them. So, to cut to the chase, I really like this band. They have hints of XTC, the Clash, the Soft Boys, the Jam, and the Police, but with a great deal of their own charm. The bass playing is wonderful and the guitar is layered and intricate, the songs well written, the singing grainy and emotive and very English. All in all, the sound is a winner.

Local Heroes SW9 were a British post-punk band not afraid of being clever, and this may have cost them the exposure that many lesser and more derivative acts attracted.  But it’s not too late. Check out these two tracks, and if you want to buy the album (really, it’s all good), click the cover to go to Amazon, or start by reading this thread at Charlie Gillett’s website. It tells the story of how the digital re-release of the two albums was inspired, and contains posts from Armstrong himself on its creation.