Sunday, 12 May 2013

My Top Ten: Is there one? Les Nemes

Les Nemes is famous for being Haircut 100's bass player and one of the three founder members.
Les Nemes is infamous for many things: one of them being his stint as bass player with Miracle Mile in the early days. He was part of a fabulous rhythm section alongside drummer Trevor Smith. Many happy gigs with those two and Steve Davis (guitar), Mark Hornby (guitar) and Phil Smith (sax and keyboards). Les played on both 'Bicycle Thieves' and 'Candids'. He left the band and the country to start a new life in Spain. He's still there, with his fingers in many paellas. There is talk of some new H100 recordings and a possible reissue of 'Pelican West' with some unheard recordings from that period. I'll keep you posted here.
Les is a top man, a very funny guy, a loyal friend and an undervalued musician.
Why not have a look at the master explaining his craft here...
Meanwhile; heeeeere's Leslie...

Oh yes erm .....
1: Electric Ladyland - The Jimi Hendrix Experience. When my Brother was conned into joining the army by my parents, (as they saw it as a perfect way to stop his wayward ways and bring some discipline into his life), he left all his albums for me to listen to. This was the one that really caught my ears. So different to anything that I had ever heard before. The perfect off the wall, break all the rules introduction to my love affair with music. I carried my love for this band through my secondary school years which, had the effect of segregating me from the rest of the kids as they were too busy listening to Sweet and Wizard but, I saw it as being my little secret. Jimi made me realise it was possible to play for a living.

2: A Nod's As Good As A Wink - To A Blind Horse - The Faces. My all time favourite band ... ever! Totally underrated and only just validated by their recent induction into the Rock 'n' Roll hall of fame which was long overdue. Better than the Stones by miles, they were the perfect English rock 'n' roll band. Not just the haphazard songs, the way they were played or the down to earth day to day poetry of the lyrics but more so the "had me a real good time" attitude you felt every time you saw them play. It was so obvious they were best mates, having a laugh, not taking it at all seriously and making the best of the situation they found themselves in. I saw them at the Lewisham Odeon at the age of 14 and walked out after the gig with my head totally blown off and so excited as I had realised in the moment ... "Now THAT ... is what I want to do for a living". Impossible to choose one Faces album over another as they are all perfect for different reasons but I will go for this one today as Ronnie Lane .. it was Ronnies band in all honesty ... is without doubt my major all time influence and hero. He is very heavily featured on this album as Rod was often off doing his own stuff so it seems to come from more of a bass players perspective. These albums are my bass playing bible, the bass lines on them made me who I am now and whenever I sit down to come up with a line for a new song, my first thought is always, "What would Ronnie play on this?" Listen to the track, "Last Orders Please" as a perfect example of the band and Ronnie at their best. The only reason that this is not number one on my list is that I heard Electric Ladyland first.

3: Never A Dull Moment - Rod Stewart. Although I much prefer Rod when he was "Fronting" the Faces, this album is still mentally pre-Britt Ekland who, in my opinion, was possibly responsible for sewing the "you don't need them" seed into his mind and also his fall into pop blandness. Most of the band are playing on this album anyway so he still had his Faces hat on when he wrote it as he was split between this and his commitment to the band which means that this could have been a Faces album anyway. My brothers fault again, I first heard this when he used to take me out in his MGB GT, racing down the road, top down and this album full volume on the 8 track player .. remember those? I was about 12 at the time and so impressed, my brother was my hero. Los Paraguayos and Italian girls are the perfect songs to accompany a drive to nowhere in particular.

4: XTC - English Settlement. The proper Haircuts, the four piece guitar band, grew up on a diet of Talking Heads, XTC, The Clash, The Jam and Squeeze. Talking Heads apart, we were really into the Englishness of pop because at the end of the day, no-one does it quite as well as the Brits. Having said that, the American Funk and Soul influence was also very prevalent, especially with the arrival of Blair into the band because his greatness allowed us to do it but at first, it was a secondary mix in as much as it was from bands like Talking Heads who came forward with their own version of funk, lots of picky and funky guitar lines with a solid but tuneful bass and drums underneath. The quality of the playing was nowhere near as good as that of the musicians who influenced it but ... I quite liked that about it. The early XTC was a big part of this, the Drums and Wires album in particular but .. for me .. the real standout album was to come later in the form of English Settlement. I listened to that album every day of my life for months on end. When we were on the tour bus or flight to somewhere, it was on the Walkman strapped to my head. Every time I listened to it, I heard something new and I still do. Layers and layers of sounds and parts that, even if you listen to it a hundred times, you only hear on the 99th time. Recorded at Richard Branson's studio, The Manor, in Oxfordshire it has a totally unique sound of it's own. For me, a great song is not just about the Old Grey Whistle test theory but also about what the musicians on the song play. When you listen to this, you can see that no-one at any point said, "That'll do". I loved Colin Moudlings playing as he was very similar to Ronnie Lane in as much as he traveled around the fret board. Every bass line is a little song in itself but never gets in the way and that is how I like it, it is especially highlighted on this album. After "What would Ronnie play" my second rule in coming up with lines is, wherever possible, start with any note apart from the root note. I think, this is Colin's way as well and this let's play something special attitude seems to be the number one rule and why this album is so special. We had the wonderful pleasure of recording our second album at the Manor and I soon as I walked into the live room, I swear I could still feel the vibe of English Settlement in there.

5: Steely Dan - The Royal Scam. If a favourtie album is measured by the amount of times one listens to it, then this has to be at least top five. Steely Dan are a band that I was always aware of but never really listened to in any big way until the mid 80's when a friend of mine had a restaurant and burger and steak bar with a very Americana theme. He went to the states for a few weeks buying up memorabilia and stuff like posters and number plates to furnish the place with. Of course, the music had to be spot on and I would often compile tapes to play in restaurant. Stuff like The Eagles, Frampton, The Stones(?), Fleetwood Mac, Bob Segar etc etc and of course ... Steely Dan. He would lend me his collection of their albums to use, he had them all and that is when I started really getting into them. I also heard the title track on Nicky Horn's night time show on Capital Radio and was blown away. This was the one album where I loved every track. I was well into my funk and soul phase by now and the combination of Chuck Rainey on bass, (another lovely "play all over the place bass player") and Bernard Purdie on drums was the funkiest and tightest rythmn section I had heard in years. Check out the playing just after the solo in Green Earrings when they settle down into the groove ... amazing! The piano solo and brass arrangement on "Sign In Stranger" and the wonderful take you away "The Royal Scam" are the highlights for me. An album I never tire of and always use for inspiration.

6: Be Bop Deluxe - Futurama and Sunburst Finish. - OK ... so I may be cheating on
this one, originally two separate albums but it is impossible to chose between the two and I didn't want to use up 6th and 7th place so ... as it WAS also released as a double album box set, I think it counts as one. Bill Nelson has to be THE most overlooked guitarist. Not only can he out-play every other guitar "hero" on the planet but, his solo's and playing are so totally thoughtful, musical, melodic and unique as is his songwriting. It is not just about how many notes you can play in every bar but the content of what you play and this is what makes him outstanding. The fact that he is not automatically in the top three
token list of best guitarists is just beyond me. Check out the two solo's on Crying to the Sky.... sublime! If you want mad solo's and technique, go no further than Stage Whispers, Sound Track or the backwards solo on Sister Seagull. If you want great commercial songwriting, listen to Maid in Heaven or Ships In The Night. Beautiful cherished acoustic? .. Jean Cocteau and ... for a few minutes of absolute bliss where he shows everyone that he can express mood without playing ten to the dozen, The Islands of the Dead. The bad were amazing too, from the tight fairground kick drum, to the wonderful Fender funk bass lines and keyboard solo's. If you missed them, check out this double album, a bit of an acquired taste but stick with it, it is well worth the effort.

7: Yes - Fragile. OK, this is where we go hippy. In this current world of must have this, must have that and must have it now, I am sure I am not the only one that likes to go old school by actually stopping to sit down and escape into music world by sitting back and letting a whole album take you through what it has to offer. Sometimes the only thing that will do is the "journey" album. The one that takes wraps you up, takes you away on an adventure and then brings you home safe and sound. Some of the titles that spring to mind are Trans Euro Express by Kaftwerk, Second Light by Dreadzone, Bandstand by Family, What's Going On by Marvin Gaye and Fragile ... Heart Of The Sunrise being the stand out track. I loved the way Punk Rock came along a blew apart all of this self indulgent clap trap but I cannot help also loving every second of it. A band that could carry you away but also come up with some of the most commercial and outstanding pop songs ever written.

8: Court and Spark - Joni Mitchell. I was listening to the Danny Baker radio show one morning as I always used to do on the way to work and this particular morning, he was on a "How good were the 70's" mission. To prove his point, he played about 10 seconds worth of intro to about ten classic songs of the decade while saying things like "For example this..." One of the intro's was to Help Me by Joni Mitchell which for me totally sealed and proved his point. From the acoustic prelude, to the drum fill and "Help me I think i'm falling.." first line, you are hooked in and cannot escape. He was of course, right. The 70's had everything from the leftovers of the great 60's artists who were by then at their most relaxed and prolific, to Rock, Funk, Disco, Reggae, Guitar hero's. Prog Rock, Jazz Funk, Jazz Rock, Pop and Punk with all the amazing bands and artists that grew from it like the Clash, The Police, Elvis Costello and The Pretenders. You name it, we had it. Never was there and never would there be such a varied, outstanding, inventive and inspiring decade of music. One of the highlights of that decade was Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell. I always found her other albums a little hard work but this one slipped by effortlessly. It colours every situation, you can chill to it, you can sing to it, you can drive to it but it always delivers. As with many of these albums from this era, it took me a while but I eventually discovered how many amazing musicians the 70's gave us, the un-sung hero's, people who you have never heard of but who's playing was the back bone of some of the greatest songs and albums of all time. This particular album has a whole bunch of them and as a bass player, I have drawn loads of ideas and influence from the playing on it.

9: Earth Wind and Fire - I Am. What can you say? Best funk band on the planet that just happened to also be able to write some of the most catchy songs ever heard. The quality of the musicianship broke all the moulds. Anyone who can keep their feet still to Can't Let Go or Boogie Wonderland must be at least physically dead!

10: Thin Lizzy - Live and Dangerous. Thin Lizzy, the perfect match of great playing and beautifully commercial and well written songs. This for me is the best line up. Phil Lynott, Scott Gorham, Brian Robertson and Brian Downey. Lynott is the all time classic rock star and front man. Gorham and Robertson play so well together, (the two solo's on Still In Love With You are perfect as are the harmonies they play) and Downey shows what a rock solid and creative drummer he is. This is one of those rare albums where the live versions of the classic songs are much better than the studio versions. Never ever get tired of it and a really sad loss.

So, there it is, these albums, can of course change positions at any time depending on my mood at the time!


  1. I love the way the list is tied into Les' life, with personal experience and bass playing so central. Has me listening to Be Bop Deluxe.

  2. As varied as the knitwear that only you can sport Lazlo. Marcus raves about Bebop Deluxe too, music be a bassist's union thing. Glad to see that you're sticking with your patron saint Ronnie; great that people honour their heroes in these transient times. I'm with you on Yes as well, oddly affecting is Heart of the Sunrise... I brought the Royal Scam on your say so many moos ago and still hold it high, just behind Aja and Pretzel Logic. I love a bit of XTC and English Settlement comes just behind Nonsuch and Skylarking (which I know you love too.) Glad to see that you still wear leather pants occasionally. Jimi and Lynott would grace any groupie's gusset...

  3. Splendid list. I love the Faces. The box set Five Guys Walk in to a bar.. is a thing of wonder. The most affecting music documentary I've seen in a while is the Passing Show - the life and music of Ronnie Lane. Went to a joyous solo show by Ian McLagan a couple of years back. His love for Ronnie was evident throughout and he played a wonderful version of Debris.Sitting beside me were 2 awestruck kids, they could not have been more than sixteen, with vinyl Faces albums, for Ian to sign. Gave me a warm glow.

  4. They should have been huge. Strange parallel with the Haircuts as the lead singer wandered as they were on the verge of greatness. Must stick in the craw regardless of past affections...

  5. There is something about a top ten list of albums. Great selection. I'm still working on mine !

  6. There is something about a top ten list of albums. Great selection. I'm still working on mine !

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