This concert, on 14th December 1986, before eleven thousand people in the Sydney Entertainment Centre, was the last in a series of twenty seven performances covering all of Australia… You are joining the concert after the interval, just as the eighty eight-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is heard and seen for the first time on this, the last night of the tour…
There are absolutely no overdubs on this album.
Taken from the liner notes of the album, released in 1987.
Those words give this performance quite a build-up, don’t they? Twenty seven performances covering all of Australia, an eight eight-piece orchestra behind him, the last night of the tour. It was reportedly the first time anything like this had been attempted by a pop or rock artist and it took months and months of rehearsal, Elton himself paid a heavy price for this performance. During the tour, which began in in Brisbane on November 5th, specialists discovered nodules on his vocal cords, and he would go for surgery on them within a month of leaving this stage. Elton has since said that there was a very real fear that the last song he sang that night in December ’86, would be his last ever; Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me was then, a rather fitting choice.
The Seldom Seen Kid album will go down as a moment. A moment when critical acclaim and the eyes of the world found them. Their journey from Asleep in the Back through Leaders of the Free World was full of ups and downs and anyone listening since day one will know they always have the songs. The question was never about whether they could deliver, they always could, and they always had people by the ears and the hearts, they carried on despite, and sometimes fuelled by what was happening to them.
A lot of the album was written while the band had no record deal, after the collapse of V2. They were creating without knowing whether any of it would ever be heard outside of the elbow bubble. Guy Garvey said in 2009, “when we were doing the initial bit of writing for this record, we kind of knew our record deal was at an end and we didn’t have a new one. We didn’t know how we were going to sort out all the legal stuff”
The album contains reactions to love, death and friendship and there is as always a beautiful sense of place in the songs featured.
Bands sometimes sell out a little and depart from their core ideas to have the sort of success elbow had with Seldom. Elbow never did, they wrote here about the same things they were writing about in their debut, their debut that was lest we forget, nominated for a Mercury music award. They won that award for this album, and never lost what was important to them.
The Seldom Seen Kid is the result of a band with their backs to the wall, again, and it is creation that comes with cost.
In May 1971 John Lennon assembled some musician friends at his home studio in Ascot and began the main sessions for what would become the follow up album to Plastic Ono Band. As with his last album Phil Spector was invited to take on production duties and while Klaus Voormann did return, this is a grander affair than the three piece we heard in 1970. The band for the Imagine sessions at various times includes Nicky Hopkins on piano, members of Badfinger on acoustic guitars, Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon and Alan White on drums, and members of the New York Philharmonic orchestra on strings. George Harrison provides some quite beautiful moments on guitar, which is interesting as we remember that in 1970 the pair seemed, ideologically at least, quite far apart; Harrison was singing about his sweet lord while John was busy denouncing all false prophets in songs like I Found Out and God. Plastic Ono Band was recorded from September to October 1970 and the sessions for All Things Must Pass concluded in late October, so at times both men were in Abbey Road at the same time, a studio room away from each other but in very different places.
On his second album, John Lennon attempts to paint on a wider canvas and he gives himself many more colours to create with.
Brutal and Beautiful; John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band
As music goals go, John Lennon had it right; start a band, change the world, don’t hang around for people to get bored of you. It’s a simplistic way of looking at it of course, and it minimises the beautiful journey that everyone went on, the Beatles were after all the twentieth century’s greatest romance.
In 1970 John Lennon was not inviting passengers, he wasn’t even really looking to tell any stories aside from his own, he was stating his own truth. Plastic Ono Band, released in December of that year is his truth. It is harsh and brutal and beautiful all in one and the listener is meant to feel all the sharp edges because the man himself felt them all too. Plastic Ono Band isn’t for everyone, it’s almost as if the listener is a scruffy urchin, perhaps an Apple Scruffy urchin, standing on the roadside wanting to hitch a ride with the driver, and the driver has to pick us up because no one else will. We are merely catching a lift, it’s not our journey and we don’t have to go to his destination, but we are on the ride for the duration of this album at least, as uncomfortable as it may be.
At the end of the monumental hit movie Back to the Future, as a joke, the time-travelling Delorean containing Doc Brown and Marty McFly alongside Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer, takes off and zooms into the year 2015. Doc utters the words “roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads!” and the credits roll. The creators of the film never intended to make a sequel and ending the Back to the Future in this way created problems they’d struggle with once a sequel became inevitable, problems being the flying vehicle, and the presence of Marty’s girlfriend.
The second any film goes into the future, the makers are on a hiding to nothing because the majority of the future we see will be guess work. We are still waiting for a motorway in the sky and flying cars, for instance, but multi channel television screens are a thing, house security is pretty much where they said it would be and we had enough fun pubs in the nineties to show you the cafe 80’s looked positively prophetic.
One of the major plot points centres around a sports almanac Marty buys in an ‘antique’ store. In Hill Valley of 2015, books and magazines are considered artefacts of a bygone age. We watched that at the time and we thought it was funny.