Banana Splits

Today I was reading some comments about Village Green Machine on Facebook. I was so happy to read such praise and appreciation- the one bloke said, my God bloody brilliant! And they say 'totally awesome' and say they love England's Dreaming Spires. Available today folks, from the official Village Green Machine website. First of all you can download 2 of my best songs free, by going to my front page at the website. Its easy to download them.

I was flattered when Mark Lamarr said I'd made a great album, and when Dr Robert said how much he liked it, of course I was pleased. If you like 60s music and would like some new music which sounds like 60s music, have no fear, I am doing it. I dig all the 60s pop- people are a bit worried when I say this. You know, I met this gentleman a while back, who told me I needed to visit a support group, because I like the Beatles. What do you think about that, my friends? I wonder what he would have said if I admitted to also liking the Monkees, and, The Banana Splits. Look, I like Booker T and The MGs as well, so don't disappear just yet. Actually I was playing Banana Splits earlier. Its trashy 60s pop- I like that! But to be honest, the album I have goes a bit too serious for me. (I just wanted the one which goes la la la, la la la la). I love 60s pop, in all its different guises, but I don't like all of it. I always contend that the 60s was the best decade for music because there were more good records in the charts during that decade than any other. PS You could find The Beatles in there with the 4 Tops, Smokey maybe, The Move, Sandie Shaw next to Dusty and Dionne...and obviously when Strawberry Fields was number 2, someone like Ken Dodd would be no 1- just to throw a spanner in the works. Or was that Engelbert Humperdink?

This week, at Village Green Machine we have begun filming a video, maybe to go with Psychodrama. I have never rated music videos, but we are doing this one on our own terms, and I feel extremely happy with the approach we are taking. We also did some more music recording at the church hall, building up the new one 'Tomgirl'. Its a psychedelic 60s sounding pop rocker. I dubbed the Danelectro guitar like a 12 string, its all sounding fab though I say it myself. We were listening back to another track called Kitten Power, which is like a 1965 or 6 take on The Stooges. Its a one off, with multi tracked bass and rhythm guitars, as if Phil Spector had been recording Iggy and co. And it blows the roof off, with the basses up loud, and laconic drums with bad ass attitude.

What about politics this week then? Is Gordon Brown about to go? By the time you read this maybe he will have. He strikes me as a nice bloke. I don't think hes stood much chance. They are so interchangeable though, aren't they, politicians now. When I was growing up in the 1980s, I remember a different scene. There was Margaret Thatcher, a formidable firebrand, the bouffant peroxide bombshell, the iron lady. She wasn't too hot on animal rights issues, and told unemployed to get on their bikes...and move down South to find a job! Her husband Dennis always appeared to be very drunk, and was known to play a lot of golf and basically get pissed. It emerged that he was in fact partly the brains behind she, and that the goofy drunk image was something of a contrivance to cover up the fact he was in fact very much, involved in her premiership. Of course, the Tory government of that time stood for all sorts which was deeply unpopular with the left wing. I remember watching the party conferences, sat there with my egg and soldiers. The labour conference was a complete shambles, it was anarchy. Apparently back then, Tony Benn, God Bless the good gentleman who is still going, had a band of followers who thought he was from outer space. Or something. However could they have thought such a thing as that? It was all, ''right on'' back in the 80s. Green hair, vegan, Greenham common, etc. But those people , who were into meditation, and new age, this general group, were on the outer fringes of society. And slap bang in the middle were the Tories, the ruling party, whose general agenda perhaps reflected society at that time. i.e., conservative with a small 'c'. Mostly, they seemed very much a social elite, the Tories. Most Tory ministers seemed more or less like Alan Clarke, i.e. they appeared to be from ludicrously privileged backgrounds, rather than working class. They had formidable educations, unlike working class labour supporters. They wore decent shoes...and scandalously expensive tailored suits. Now, you can relate to that all you mods! The 80s Tories had people like William Whitelaw, (everyone should have a Willie, said Mrs Thatcher live before a TV audience) Douglas Hurd, and Sir Geoffrey Howe. Indeed it was his resignation which really sent Mrs Thatcher reeling- I wonder if Browns lemmings will affect him as Thatchers heavyweight resignations affected her- if so we'll have an empty Prime Ministers chair by the time you read this. I am sure nothing dates quicker than political news, and likewise nothing dates less than 1960s music so perhaps I'll change tack here, after I have found another drink.

Yes damn it, I have been sober all week. No cigarettes either, I radiate light and virtue, I honestly do! Actually, it is a shroud of cigarette smoke, or it will be in a minute when I light up my once a week (in theory) Marlboro Lite.

Now, 1960s music. The recording processes distorted the true sound of the music, you know. Tape, valves and all that. But that's what made it sound so great- that and the music itself being generally very good of course. My last blog featured Chris Farlowe- I am pleased to announce I will be interviewing Frank Allan from The Searchers for Letter From England soon. Until then, I will talk a little about artists at the root of sixties music.

It has been said Buddy Holly was ahead of his time. I have his early records, they were country and were ok, as he tried to find his true singing voice. He was a young lad. But then, he matured really quickly as an artist, with astounding results.I remember as a child, a BBC engineer friend of my fathers played me Peggy Sue on his hi-fi. I had an earth shattering experience. It was the sound, of the reverb drums, it changed my life. I bought a record of Buddy's greatest hits, on the original Coral label. And that was it. There were other songs on there like Its So Easy, how fantastic. Not Fade Away, that boy was avante garde! That'll Be The Day. Listen To Me. These and all the others, were my true initiation into music. Roll Over Beethoven indeed...I still have that vinyl LP and to this day have never bought a stronger album. Back to back classics, followed up by another excellent volume of hits on Coral records. Then there were great offcuts, like Love's Made A Fool Of You, and Wishing. I'm not an expert on Buddy, but regard him as an out and out genius. His records were economical, with no flack, no padding. Just great melodies, and a fairly intelligent take on the standard love lyrics found in so many old songs. To this day I seek to learn from Buddy. I think George Martin's production on The Beatles has much in common with the Buddy records- there were great guitar hooks, great vocal hooks, and great concise song structures. Inspirational. The Beatles revered Holly as much it seems as the black r&b artists.

The Everly Brothers too made most formidable commercial singles. Again, their concise arrangements seem very much the precursor to sixties pop. Their sublime country pop ballads and exciting rockers were surely part of the blueprint for early Beatles records, which in turn created a blueprint for much of the sixties pop format.The Everlies like Holly wrote some of their material, such as Cathy's Clown and the incredible The Price Of Love. It still sounds fantastic, it still sounds sublime, especially on a good Radiogram, and the 45s are going for peanuts on ebay. And so are the radiograms. More primal were the rhythms of Bo Diddley, with his primitivist boneshaker rocking 45s, a direct influence on my Village Green Machine stuff. Hypnotic African rhythms, strong, again concise songs, scratchy percussive rhythm guitar and a sound quality so low they sounded like they were recorded in a dustbin, he was of course the grandfather of lo-fi, along with Link Wray. When Keith Richards said they wanted the Stones records to sound rough, perhaps he had these men in mind, and of course the blues fathers. Now, I really don't know much about blues, as my learning to play lead guitar came from 50s rock & roll originally. But, I do think Elmore James was incredible and I like Muddy Waters. It is this truth expression in their music, this lack of dressing up on their records, which inspires. Unexpectedly it came through very strongly with the White Stripes. Raw, heartspun, primal. That's a back to basics I can relate to. Sixties pop was rather more commercialised than all this. The Everlies were highly commercial, but then you get The Price Of Love and it goes beyond that. That's real. The Beatles- it was sugar coated commercial pop. But you can hear the grit showing through. In a future blog I will tell you what the Searchers said to me about The Beatles and Mick Jagger... until then, I suggest you listen to the great stuff, I never listen to even 2 seconds of trash these days.

Wishing you well...

Mark Lemon
Village Green Machine

England's Dreaming Spires is available now from the official band website on CD or download and is available from Itunes and other download sites.

Reading Village Green Machine's ezine. Banana Splits
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