Keith Top Of The Pops is pure rock n’ roll. That was my impression of the man when I first met him – at the start of a long pub crawl, everyone else on halves for pace, Keith on multiple pints. He’s also one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet, but don’t let that fool you – he’s still pure rock n’ roll.
The first time I saw Keith TOTP & His Minor UK Indie All-Star Celebrity Backing Band (yes, that’s their name), it was chaos made sound – exciting, like rock n’ roll is supposed to be and almost never is. There are no rehearsals. In the early days most band members didn’t know the songs, having never even heard them before. Keith, if he felt like it, would shout out the chords. At times this loose (to put it mildly) approach causes the entire juggernaut to fall flat on its face, but when it works, which is more often than not, it is quite something to behold. And juggernaut it is – the live band often contains upwards of 20 people including Les “Fruitbat” Carter, Mikey Georgeson, various members of Art Brut, Charley Stone, Simon & Julia Indelicate, David Barnett, Micky Ciccone, Sue Denim and many more, seemingly whoever is around with an instrument (guitar, sax, musical saw…), new members joining as Keith pleases. One particular highlight came two years ago at the Buffalo Bar when Keith decided to cover David Devant & His Spirit Wife’s One Thing After Another. More than half the band had never heard the song and even the two members of David Devant (Mikey and Foz?) who were on stage with them that evening seemed to have little idea of what was going on. For the first couple of confusing minutes it was, in short, a mess. But then it all just cosmically clicked and lifted off into something spectacular, some say the definitive version of that song.
On the record, Fuck You! I’m Keith Top Of The Pops, they are joined by Carter’s Jimbob, Luke Haines, John Moore, Sarah Nixey, Tim Ten Yen and still more musicians, 28 in total. The sound is, unsurprisingly, full but not overly so, the mix being spot on. It’s a great rock n’ roll record. Personal highlights are It’s Slang, Go Away, Pretentious Title TBC and Two Of The Beatles Are Dead (containing one of the best ever couplets – “My favourite albums are the blue one and the red, two of the Beatles are dead”). The over-the-top chant “Fuck You! I’m Keith Top Of The Pops” has recently been changed live to a less egotistical “Fuck Yeah!” whilst singing the names of the other bands on the bill. But the true highlight, and which has always been of the live set, is “I Hate Your Band”, a joyous two-chord condemnation of the insipid music scene. Excellent enough on record, live it is simply glorious as over the musical bacchanalia Keith explains to the poor excuses that pass for rock stars and wannabe rock stars these days just what they’re doing wrong and then lists every band he happens to hate at the moment, always ending with Muse.
Fuck You! I’m Keith Top Of The Pops is in my Top 3 of albums of the year. 10 songs in 29 minutes. You can pay-what-you-want (including the free option) for the record at the Corporate Records site here or order the vinyl here. Fuck yeah!