Play On!

I love music.  There’s no other way to say it really.  I cannot go through the day without some music in my life, whether it’s the radio, picking a CD or singing to myself as I stroll round the streets.  My life would be poorer without it and poorer for not having met the folk I know through music.  My earliest memory is of music – the Bony King of Nowhere song from Bagpuss – and a snatch of a song can take me back to a moment in my life.  I know that my life would be less rich without music running through it.

I had a wonderful conversation with a man in South Gyle Mains about music and how it keeps me going while delivering leaflets on the campaign trail.  Most of the time I can’t remember all the lyrics so just sing snatches or three to keep me company and in good spirits.  We discussed many different artists and performers, which made me think I should share some of my favourites.  The first five I’d say are my permanent top five bands or musicians, the “if in doubt then play” artists.  The rest are my current favourites, although that is quite flexible. So, without further ado, play on!

Thin Lizzy

FACT: Ireland has never produced a better singer/songwriter than Phil Lynott.  Nor has it produced a better band, albeit one that was half-Irish by the time they broke up.  They’re a rock band but with the influence of Ireland’s show bands coming through at times.  I can remember them appearing on the Tube and Phil saying, ever so slightly tongue in cheek, that they were “very metal” when Paula Yates asked what type of band they were.  Phil could write wonderful, evocative and emotional songs like “Kathleen” or “Sarah,” about his children.  He could also write a damn fine rock song, like the “Boys are Back in Town,” “Killer on the Loose” or “Got to Give it Up.”

For me though, this song says it all, but then I always get chocolate stains on my pants.

Amanda Palmer

I first heard Ms Palmer when she was in the Dresden Dolls – the song “Girl Anachronism” came over the radio and I was hooked.  I’d never heard anything like it – pounding drums by Brian Viglione, her vocals and piano laid on top, along with arresting lyrics.  Wonderful stuff. I am a self-confessed Palmer junkie/geek and even travelled to Bordeaux last year to see her.  I have met truly wonderful and caring people through my love of her music.  Both they and the music have helped me through some tough times.

Ms Palmer didn’t write the lyrics to this song, some young laddie called Neil Gaiman did.  I reckon if he keeps at it he might turn into a half-decent writer.

Warren Zevon

Most folk don’t know who Warren Zevon is, sadly.  He was a contemporary of the Eagles and good friends with Jackson Browne and Springsteen.  Think Randy Newman, but rockier and with darker, more cutting lyrics.  Better yet, just go out and buy a greatest hits album and enjoy.

Zevon studied classical music under Igor Stravinsky before trying his luck as a folk singer in the 60s LA.  During the early 1970s, he toured regularly with the Everly Brothers as keyboard player and band leader/musical co-ordinator.  He eventually released a self-titled album in 1977 and had a hit single the follow year with “Werewolves of London.” Sadly, after a lifelong phobia of doctors and little medical attention, he was diagnosed with inoperable mesothelioma.  Warren went on to record his last album, refusing treatment for fear it would inhibit his ability to record and work.  He taught me to laugh at life and to enjoy every sandwich.  Sadly, I can’t find a clip of “Piano Fighter,” so here’s one of my favourites from that 1977 album.

David Bowie

Look, anybody who does not like AT LEAST one Bowie song is suspect in my opinion.  I still hope that one day I’ll grow up to be him.  Either that or a cosmonaut. I don’t think he needs any introduction.  The hardest part was deciding which song to pick but in the end, despite strong running by the Tin Machine material, I had to go for this.  Dedicated to my wonderful, gawjhus children.


During the dark, heady days of punk, I was heavily influenced by my older sister and brother on the music front.  We pooled pocket money and they helped me ‘pick’ what I bought.  One band has always had a special place in my life, with the lead singer having a profound affect on my life, especially during my teenage years.  If you look at the history of punk, the modestly titled Tom Robinson Band has somehow disappeared.  Despite sharing the stage with the Clash at Rock Against Racism events, rubbing shoulders with Lydon and the like, TRB doesn’t feature much these days.  Perhaps it was down to Tom’s openness about his sexuality or the band’s overt political stance.  Maybe even it was the gloriously camp, disco-influenced “Never Gonna Fall In Love (Again)” released in 1979 that was the cause.  All I know is they wrote wonderful, guitar charged rock songs that more people should know and love.

Miles Davis

I like jazz and I’m not ashamed to say it.  Whether it is the real noodly stuff or traditional, New Orleans jazz, I like it. Apart from Acker Bilk, but then that goes without saying.  The song I’ve picked for Miles Davis is one that wouldn’t feature in many fans top ten but it is the first one of his I can remember hearing.  I loved the way it sounded and how the video looked – they totally bowled me over.  After hearing it I can remember asking my father who this guy was, which greatly amused him

Sadly this won’t open up here but it is worth having a look & listen to.

Field Music

There’s a link ’twixt Miles Davis and Field Music.  You can hear his flights of fancy reflected in their music.  I love the way they warp their instruments’ sound, making them sound grandiose and threatening, way beyond their indie kids origins.  This is adult music and something that deserves repeated listening to.

Little Comets

The Little Comets are young, humorous, talented, good-looking, multi-instrumentalists and very gracious when dealing with middle-aged fan boys.  I hate them for all of those reasons and more.  Grin.


What can I say about P-Funk that others haven’t said before and better?  A pal’s boyfriend introduced me to George Clinton and his day-glo funkateers late one night, putting “Maggotbrain” onto the turntable and introducing it with the words “You’ll like this, it will blow you away.”  He was right & I was hooked, hunting through second hand shops for albums or buying the re-issues as they came along.  I didn’t care what the artist was called – Parliament, Funkadelic, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, the Horny Horns or, my personal favourite and prized possession, the Brides of Funkenstein.  As a yo-ho-delic, you gotta make my funk the p-funk, I want to get funked up.


The wonderful Alex Harvey and his Sensational band are legends in Scotland and rightly so.  Sadly, large parts of the world have forgotten them but their legend plays on.  Playful, glam, threatening, immersed in pop culture and comic books, Alex once won a competition that sought “Scotland’s answer to Tommy Steele.”  They played and toured hard, partying even more so.  Tony Blackburn was on the receiving end once when introducing them on a recording of Top of the Pops.  The unfortunate DJ announced “It’s the Alex Harvey Band,” only to have a strong Glaswegian accent shout loudly from the side of the stage: “It’s the fucking SENSATIONAL Alex Harvey Band.”  Blackburn never made that mistake again. Well, you wouldn’t take the chance, would you?

Also, what else would you listen to when watching the women cooking gravy apart from SAHB?

Siouxie & the Banshees

The Banshees were the first band I ever saw, well the first headline band rather.  I was eight and I’ve never looked back since.  If goth and punk has a grand dame, then it is Siouxie Sioux.  A wonderful performer, a great singer, great looking, gregarious and with a vicious tongue on her.  She was there for that famous Bill Grundy interview but is more than just that, she’s also highly influential on modern music.  If she was a bloke, every Brit pop band would have referenced her.  Instead they went for Paul Weller.

Famously, after twenty years of recording and touring, the Banshees finally called it a day just as all their old punk comrades were reforming to cash in on the late 90s nostalgia fest. A true original & a goddess. I hope she records another album soon.  Music is too dull without her.

Of course, this is just the tip of my music loves.  There’s Akira the Don, Bitter Ruin, Everything Everything, the Faith Brothers, Galliano, Jamie T, Jason Webley, Just Jack, Kyle’s Dilemma, Manifesto, Portnawak and the Woo and Two Wounded Birds to name but a few.  Look them up, listen to them and enjoy.

Before finishing, I have to give due thanks to a man who has introduced me to many great bands, including five of those listed above.  He’s shared wonderful rockanory stories with me, whether in person or over the radio.  Tom Robinson hosts two shows on 6 Music, BBC’s digital music station.  The first, Now Playing @ 6 Music, is an interactive show that reflects the most talked about tracks online, what is creating the most hype on blogs and invites the audience to contribute, debate and mould the playlist.  The other is Fresh On The Net, where he showcases the best new online tunes from upcoming artists, as recommended by listeners and musicians.

Tom made my teenage years easier, either through his music or the advice he gave me and my friends.  I can honestly say that I would not be the person I am today without him.  For this and for so many other things, I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

No-one’s ever known a person like Tom, no-one’s ever known a man like him.

Lastly, I can’t really end without including this song.  I really like this, always have and used to use it in my DJ sets way back in the day.  See if you can guess why.

Mind, I think the graphics are slightly wrong, just need to get rid of that “RE-” bit.

About LothiansKen

I'm a middle classed kiddie, but I know where I stand.
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3 Responses to Play On!

  1. I totally share you appreciation for music Ken!

    Music has had a very influential affect on my life. Indeed, I don’t know how I would have got through certain periods of my life if it weren’t for music. ( Particularly teenage angst years! )

    I have a very eclectic taste in music. There is a great radio show on Radio Scotland on weeknights called Get It On which chooses a theme and plays songs around that theme. My favourite radio show!

    However, the period you grow up in, often dictates which music is at the top of your play list. For me, being a teenager for the start of the 90’s, it has to be Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Soul Asylum, REM and the like.

    Do you associate yourself with the Heart of Lothian by Marillion??!!

    • LothiansKen says:

      Hi there Reluctant Hero. How’s it going?

      I agree that the period you grew up in does affect your tastes, but not all of it stays with you. I loved the early house music but don’t often listen to it now, some of it is great for dancing to but not for cooking to say. I’m a fan of Bryan Burnett’s show and know it well too.

      As for Marillion, or rather proper Marillion as I think of them, I am a huge fan and still have all the albums and twelve inches. The trouble was limiting the bands that I love. Like you, I have a very varied taste, spanning the years. Do I associate with “Heart of Lothian”? Yes and no, especially since I’m of Edinburgh but not from here. However, from memory, on the outskirts of nowhere, on the ringroad to somewhere, I’ll always take the roundabout way. ;-}

  2. Pingback: Review – Turntable/Edinburgh | LothiansKen

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