Clint West’s American Plus: Listening to Non-Americana Music

Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band

The controllers at Social Music Radio give me pretty much free rein to decide what goes into my show from a musical point of view. So, not wanting to be too shackled by the americana label, I called it ‘Clint West’s Americana Plus’. This gives me licence to play music from outside the genre. As an avid listener to the Andy Kershaw Show back in the day, I was always impressed by the fact that one minute you might be listening to Green on Red and the next minute to the Fugees or one of countless other contrasting artists that he championed. It was never my intention to emulate that model, but I didn’t want to be straight-jacketed either.

In recent weeks listeners will have heard me giving a lot of airtime to ‘Loophole’ the new album from Liverpool’s Michael Head and the Elastic Band. Head, once of The Pale Fountains, is a wonderful songwriter and although clearly not someone who could in any way be labelled as ‘americana’, he is definitely someone who I felt would strike a chord with the kind of americana fan, who like me, is drawn to the art of the songwriter. There are so many great songwriters within the americana genre, but even so, that doesn’t mean that I wish to ignore those that don’t accompany themselves with a banjo or a fiddle. Indeed, my choice for ‘Album of the Year’ in 2023 was ‘The Candle and the Flame’ by Robert Forster, another artist that I have not hesitated to play and support.

Soul music, another passion of mine, has also occasionally featured, but I’ve been reluctant to go too far down that particular rabbit-hole, partly because I am aware that many listeners might not share my enthusiasm for soul, but also because the channel already has an excellent soul music show and I don’t want to encroach too far on to someone else’s territory. Nevertheless, expect to hear the odd soul side now and again as I’m not good at completely curbing my musical urges.

Earlier in the year I was discussing pub-rock with a friend, trying to define it in terms of a timeframe, genre and geographical spread. This debate was then taken onto the airwaves and musical examples were exhibited to support the thesis that it lasted for approximately a decade from around 1972-1982, consisted of many genres – reference the ‘Hope and Anchor Front Row Festival Live’  LP (1978) which features a range of punk/new wave artists (XTC, The Stranglers, X-Ray Spex, The Only Ones etc) along with Dire Straits and Steel Pulse as well as the more usual suspects like The Pirates, Wilko Johnson and the Tyla Gang. Although it was largely a London phenomenon, it did also spread out beyond that – check out the 1980 LP ‘Brum Beat – Live at the Barrel Organ’, if you want conclusive proof.

When the wonderful people at Cherry Red Records issued a 3CD expanded version of The Long Ryders’ ‘Native Sons’ earlier this year I played a track from it and in praise of the label and the fantastic work that they do, I also illustrated that with tracks from other Cherry Red boxsets covering The Revillos and The Purple Hearts. The live Purple Hearts track in particular caused quite a stir because, many liked it, but hadn’t expected what they heard from a band associated with the much-maligned post-punk ‘Mod Revival’ movement of 1979-81. It was true that much of what came out of that movement wasn’t great. Cartoon bands like The Lambrettas and The Merton Parkas did it very few favours, whilst the manufactured swagger of Secret Affair added to the impression of a rather thin and shallow scene. However, the show attempted to convince listeners that actually there were some very good bands that emerged from that scene, the aforementioned Purple Hearts being one of them. The Chords and Squire also made some very good records. As with most musical movements its just a case of separating the wheat from the chaff.

The ‘Plus’ in the show title will continue to be an essential ingredient of present and future shows. I have and will continue to endeavour to bring you not only americana music, but anything else that I feel may be of interest to listeners – oh and the odd debating point too.

Clint West’s Americana Plus goes out every Tuesday night on between 8.00pm and 10.00pm and is also available on the station’s Rewind facility from the next day. Below is the Rewind of last week’s show.

About Clint West 326 Articles
From buying my first record aged 10 and attending my first gig at 14, music has been a lifelong obsession. A proud native of Suffolk, I have lived in and around Manchester for the best part of 30 years. My idea of a perfect day would be a new record arriving in the post in the morning, watching Ipswich Town win in the afternoon followed by a gig and a pint with my mates at night,
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