There were a couple of recent(ish) episodes of the superb YouTube series ‘Produce Like A Pro’ that featured Roger Joseph Manning Jnr talking with the host Warren Huart about how Jellyfish recorded their wonderful ‘Bellybutton’ and ‘Spilt Milk’ albums. Within each of the enthralling episodes (a must-watch for music nerds everywhere, trust me) Roger revealed how the band would always go back to one other band’s music to sense check if what they were doing was right – and if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for us kind of thing -and (spoiler alert) that band was the greatest band to ever come out of Swindon, XTC.

 

So, what the hell has this got to do with the third studio album from Willie Dowling and Jon Poole I hear you ask? Well, Jellyfish and their influences are exactly the right place from which to start this review, not least because ‘See You See Me’ opens with a title track that welcomes the listener in like some long lost friend of the masters of 90s bubblegum pop, a band who introduced a whole new generation of us to the delights of Supertramp, The Beach Boys and the Raspberries amongst many others.

 

Where The Dowling Poole perhaps now have the slight edge on Jellyfish is that they have almost three decades of new influences that they can channel into their songwriting and that’s why whilst ‘The Product’ might sound at times like an in his prime Elvis Costello its comes complete with a haunting Rialto (remember them?) like harmony vocal refrain and sounds just like the guys had Missy Elliott helping out behind the desk. It really shouldn’t work, but by God it does.

 

Likewise, ‘Keeping The Stupid Stupid’ has that Marilyn Manson patented march as a backbeat but over it, Dowling and Poole sounds more like the modern-day Squeeze, and without a doubt things are certainly very cool for these cats.

 

Then there’s the white soul of recent video/single ‘Hope’ a song so fantastic you could just imagine Robert Palmer or Prince having it on one of their mega Platinum selling records. In fact, it’s a song I’d love to hear Jarle Bernhoft get to grips with one day. Now that really would be one hell of a collaboration.

 

Elsewhere ‘Made In Heaven’ suddenly has me looking for the Andy Partridge co-write credit on the press sheet, and ‘Human Soup’ has me thinking that The Dowling Poole might just be the ideal support act for Crowded House’s UK return this summer, and at the same time ‘Alison’s Going Home’ suddenly makes me want to go dig out those classic Head Automatica albums all over again.

 

Lyrically on point throughout the album, there are those who will argue that politics (however subliminal they might be) should be kept out of music, but when the songs are as joyous as those contained here on ‘See You See Me’ you’d have to be a total moron not to appreciate the social context in which these tracks are being written. Oh, and for those of you thinking “all he’s done here is reference other bands in his review”, just look at those bands, XTC, Jellyfish, Elvis Costello and Squeeze. I’m sure that’s a quartet of artists Willie Dowling and Jon Poole won’t mind sharing some review space with.

 

So, with their former Wildhearts bandmates justifiably receiving plaudits galore for their ‘Renaissance Men’ album, ‘See You See Me’ whilst an altogether different beast, is every bit as great as that record. The million-dollar question I suppose though is will you be brave enough to make the purchase leap when it’s released at the end of February? Go on I dare you – and who knows – perhaps in just a few years’ time we may be watching Willie and Jon doing their very own ‘Produce Like A Pro’ webisode, because to my ears ‘See You See Me’ is absolute powerpop genius.

Buy ‘See You See Me’: Here

Author: Johnny Hayward

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What’s that musty smell? Ah yes, it’s emanating from the veritable feast of vintage collectables housed in the Pop Culture Schlock archive. For your delectation today I take you back to the Christmas of 1979; a seminal decade of music about to come to an end and give way to the dawn of a more brash, more brazen ten year period…

 

If you were a good, music-loving boy or girl in 1979 and had a.) done well in school, and; b.) not scratched your big brother’s vinyl, then there was a good chance that you’d find the Rock On! Annual 1980 nestled under the Christmas tree in your modest living room.

 

“The Rock What Annual?” I hear you exclaim, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed at your lack of knowledge on this subject because, truth be told, Rock On! magazine was a short-lived, oft-forgotten publication… if you’d ever heard of it at all.

 

Rock On! magazine debuted with an issue cover-dated May 1978. Debbie Harry featured on its cover and the mag – costing a whole 25p – promised a healthy mix of punk, new wave, heavy metal, and prog rock. It kept its promise too as, over the course of seven eclectic issues, Rock On! dished out features and photo spreads on a dizzying cadre of top musical combos; from Status Quo to Sham 69, The Clash to KISS, Rush to The Rezillos. Meat Loaf graced a cover, Ozzy, too, until Issue 7, with Jimmy Pursey as its cover star, and cover-dated November 1978, when Rock On! disappeared from newsagent shelves. The editorial in that final issue wrote of the outrage of cutting off such a desirable publication in its prime but, if anything, Rock On! was a victim of its own blurring of genre lines: readers seemingly wanting specialist publications dedicated to singular strands of the rock ‘n’ roll world rather than this ambitious crossover style.

 

That final editorial, though, did offer some hope for the future; stating that it was the last Rock On! “in its present form”. Fast forward to around a year later and, in the Autumn of 1979, the true final piece of the Rock On! jigsaw arrived in shops and catalogues to complete the punk ‘n’ prog rocking picture.

With a scorching hot live photo of Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott on the cover, Rock On! Annual 1980 (price – £2.00) may well have been jostling for attention on the shelves alongside big-hitting television and film spin-off annuals, but it certainly looked the most badass. It was, the cover screamed, packed with pictures, facts, and quizzes on your favourite rock bands. It did not disappoint.

 

The heady mix of photo spreads and more in-depth features on select bands really did make Rock On! stand out from its competitors, and this annual amps that angle right up to eleven. The first photo spread was a “Tribute to Vocal Power!!!” (yes, with three exclamation marks) and featured cool live action shots of Joe Strummer, Johnny Rotten, Cherie Currie, Pete Townsend, Willy DeVille, Graham Parker, Joan Jett, and Mick Jagger. A good start, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Next up, a photo diary detailing a “hard band” going “soft” as The Stranglers met their devoted fans, followed by a quartet of stinging live shots of “the band the critics love to hate”, Status Quo. Rock On!’s attitude to those Quo critics could be “summed up in two fingers” readers were informed.

 

With barely a pause for breath, a six-page A-Z of Heavy Metal feature detailed the prime acts in the genre, from AC/DC to, erm, Wishbone Ash. A-W, then. A few curious names in this run-down, too: Prism, Quartz, and Mahogany Rush rubbing shoulders with the expected likes of Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and, a firm favourite on the turntable at RPM HQ, Uriah Heep. A “Heads Down Heavy Metal Quiz” followed: a select question being “On Your Feet Or On Your Knees was a double live album for which heavy metal superstars?”

 

A Ten Years of Genesis feature followed, the first in a series of in-depth essays by John Tobler. His similar two-page spread on the history of Queen followed, as did those dedicated to Thin Lizzy, Blue Öyster Cult, Rush, and KISS. The latter, subtitled “Kings of Shock Rock”, wrote of “the forty foot columns of fire that emit from Gene Simmons’ mouth” and, c’mon, if you were eight years old at Xmas 1979 you had every excuse for then falling head over platform heels in love with the idea of the hottest band in the world.

There was a Rock On! reggae report, a fashion guide of sorts where the Quo’s Rick Parfitt spoke of his love of jeans and Hugh Cornwell of The Stranglers of his love of raincoats (!), a Hi-Fi buying guide, a feature on sound engineers, a top DJ article covering John Peel and Anne Nightingale, plus one-page specials on Peter Gabriel and Ken Hensley of the Heep.

 

A photo spread of Ian Dury swimming (just your seven shots) padded out the pages, but not before an impressive photo set of live Black Sabbath shots appeared, a Star Cars article featuring Steve Jones, Meat Loaf, Midge Ure, and, ominously, Cozy Powell, a “Cult Heroes” feature detailing the likes of Iggy Pop, Nils Lofgren, Todd Rundgren, Tom Petty, and Bruce Spingsteen, and a “Sex ‘n’ Girls ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll” spread featuring Debbie Harry, Joan Jett, Siouxsie Sioux, Linda Ronstadt, Annie Golden, Poly Styrene, Stevie Nicks, and Rachel Sweet.

 

A “That Was The Year That Was” feature dedicated to 1978 was an obvious leftover from the previous year’s magazine and makes for entertaining if a little sombre reading amongst the other genuinely funny articles. Rock On! was a cool magazine, with its tongue firmly in its cheek and its love of a broad range of music at the forefront of any thinking. Your Uber Rocks, your RPMs are all subconscious descendants of Rock On! magazine.

No annual is complete, however, without a pull-out poster section (even if no kid ever dared pull a poster out of an annual!), and Rock On! Annual 1980 does not disappoint in that department. There are pin-ups of the aforementioned Pursey, Rezillos, Dury, Harry, Clash, and Lynott, plus Bob Geldof, Paul Weller, Freddie Mercury, David Lee Roth, Jon Anderson, Elvis Costello, Paul Stanley, and the Buzzcocks. Great photos too.

 

The Rock On! Annual 1980 may well be an uncommon piece in the average music memorabilia collection, but it is certainly a worthy one. Copies turn up on the secondary market relatively cheaply and, yeah, you should pick one up if you get the chance. The Rock On! staff were most certainly music journalist mavericks, and we’ve all tried to go there, right? Search for this precious, rockin’ tome… or you might never know how Rick Parfitt’s aunt ironed his double denim.

 

Thanks for reading, and for the feedback on my first column on the debut Alice Cooper comic. I’ll be back next month with something suitably archaic that the rock ‘n’ roll world tried to forget. Search for Pop Culture Schlock 365 on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook