NO IDOL OF MINE

I wrote yesterday about my lack of love or respect for The Dickies and their take on the theme from the Banana Splits. They weren’t the only new wave/punk lot riding high in the charts who I despised (and at 15 years old, if you didn’t like a band or musician, they had to be despised….merely not liking wasn’t good enough).

Billy Idol and his band Generation X really got on my tits (hey, I know that’s not a PC description, but I’m thinking back to the sort of things I would say when talking to mates in my teenage years) for the simple reason that I thought he came aross as a complete wanker when he appeared on Top of The Pops and in print through the interviews he gave to the music press. They had already enjoyed a slightly more than minor hit a couple of years previously when this monstrosity just about went Top 10 in January 1979:-

mp3 : Generation X – King Rocker

Tedious, tiresome and cliched. And the song isn’t much better. The fact that Billy Idol would, just a couple of years later, relocate to New York and use his cartoon punk persona to find mainstream success, was no real surprise. His hit singles of the 80s are unlistenable.

What I didn’t know until looking into the release of King Rocker is that a fair bit of its success was down to it being released in five different formats, with the standard black vinyl being accompanied by red, pink, orange and yellow vinyl, all with different sleeves. It also had a cover version on the b-side:-

mp3 : Generation X – Gimme Some Truth

Yup, the John Lennon protest song. As recorded for a John Peel session in July 1977. It’s every bit as cartoon sounding as the single featured yesterday…..truth, truth, truth, truth, truth!!!!!!

I promise not to be as grumpy next time I’m on…..it’s SWC time again tomorrow

JC

TRA-LA-LA

I’m not sure if my American regulars are aware of the fact that Californian pop/punk combo The Dickies had a huge hit over here in 1979 with a frantic cover of the theme song from a kids TV show that had aired at the end of the 60s:-

mp3 : The Dickies – Banana Splits (Tra La La Song)

The near 16-year old me hated it, thinking that it was an aptly named bunch who were trying to make a quick buck by making fun of punk/new wave. Thinking back, I had a number of friends at school who were increasingly buying punk/new wave records but none of us had this in our collections. It reached #7 which in 1979, meant it must have sold a couple of hundred thousand copies, but to who?

Years later, I finally found someone who had a copy, and it was one of my student flatmates who was two years younger than me. Now, to be fair to him, he had an incredible record collection for someone so young,and he seemed to have just about every hit single with a punk/new wave edge that had been released since 1977 along with quite a few that were cult classics. He said he had bought the single back in the day simply for the fact that it was fast and furious and sounded as much of a punk record as anything by The Clash or The Sex Pistols or The Damned or anyone else who was being written about in 1979. He also loved the fact its two b-sides were each barely over a minute in length, which meant they could be added to the list of those that could be used at the end of a mixtape rather than have any dead time or silence.

mp3 : The Dickies – Hideous
mp3 : The Dickies – Got It At The Store

I conceded that in terms of the b-sides he had a point in that they could have been by any number of UK bands and were full of energy. But despite his best efforts to convince me of the merits of the a-side, bringing into the I remained a hater. And still am.

JC

45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 21)

A GUEST SERIES


25 – Little Fluffy Clouds – The Orb (1990 Big Life Records )

Released as a single in November 1990 (Reached Number 87)
Re-Released in November 1993 (Reached Number 10)

Some of you will remember that this was the song that Badger played when he was given the all clear by the doctors after finding a rather worrying lump in his ballsack four or five years ago. Badger loved The Orb, they were his go to ‘2am music’ but he didn’t always see them that way.

Just over ten years ago, Tim Badger described The Orb as ‘pretentious beardy weirdy, plinky plonky, new age, tied dyed t-shirt wearing wankpuffins’. This was after a night out in Torquay when I’d stuck one of their albums on in the car on the way home. To be fair to Tim he’d been drinking Long Island Teas for the past hour and was in his words “so drunk that he was pissing tequila”. He then went on to wax lyrical about how making tracks that were 40 minutes long was just silly and that playing chess on Top of the Pops was neither big nor clever.

So I was surprised when about roughly six weeks after that momentous statement. I received a phone call from Tim asking me if I was doing anything next Wednesday night. He wanted to know whether or not I wanted to go and see The Orb in Ashburton. I raised an eyebrow. Twice.

The first eyebrow rise was to question why The Orb were playing in Ashburton on a Wednesday in November. I mean this is 2008 or 2009 and I know that The Orb’s stock has fallen but this is still quite a thing.

Ashburton for those in the dark is a small market town in South Devon, that’s sole purpose in life is to provide walkers with somewhere to park before rambling across Dartmoor; back then it had literally no good pubs at all. Nowadays, it is a little better, it does at least have an artisan bakery that does very good olive bread.

The answer it turns out was because a friend of the band had just purchased a bar in the town and the band had offered to play an opening night gig at the venue. Tim had through his contacts managed to grab a couple of tickets for opening night.

The second eyebrow rise was to remind Tim that roughly six weeks ago he called them ‘beardy weirdy plinky plonky wankpuffins’. This was met with “Is that a no?

No, it’s a yes. I have to admit I was quite excited by the thought of seeing a secret Orb gig even if it was in Ashburton. Largely because they might play this

Toxygene (Kris Needs Up For A Fortnight Mix)

Because it’s an absolute banger.

Six days later we travelled down to Ashburton to the gig, our tickets clearly marked ‘Special Guests £12’ tucked inside our pockets safe and snug.

We arrive to find it full of tie dyed t-shirt wearing wankpuffins. As we walked through to the bar, Tim nudged me, pointed to a bloke with a beard that looked like a rose bush and said “told you, I bet the beer is organic and massively overpriced”.

The bar had two beers on tap, both of them organic, and cheap at £5 a pint. Oh, and the only snacks sold behind the bar was pretzels. Pretzels. In Ashburton. I’m going to briefly mention the toilets. Sorry. It’s not relevant to the story either, I just remember them vividly.

This is because there was a fish tank in the gents. I have no idea why. I’m told the ladies had pink plastic flamingos stuck to the wall.

Anyway, back to the gig. We stood and waited for about an hour, slowly sipping our organic beer (which tasted like pond water by the way) and munching on a solitary pretzel. It was ten pm when a bloke in a Levellers T-shirt jumped on stage and approached the mike.

I’ve never been a fan of compares at gig, you know what I mean, over enthusiastic chaps who jump on stage and encourage people to whoop and ‘give it up for…’ Well that happened.

Well sort of, Levellers man actually gave a speech. It turned this was the bar owner and he welcomed everyone to his pub. He said that this was his dream and that he wanted to put Ashburton on the musical map, this is met with cheers from the crowd, not all of them were sarcastic.

Five minutes later he finally introduced ‘tonights entertainment, the first of hopefully many lives acts to grace this stage’. Now, the word ‘hopefully’ stood out from this statement.

Then he paused…and said “We are so lucky to have got them before they go off on tour with The Orb, please clap wildly for…” Another pause…

And then he shouted “Dreadzone!!!!” so loudly that the floor shook. I turn and look at Badger who realising his mistake quickly looks at the floor, before telling me he was ‘going to the bar’.

It doesn’t matter as it happens because Dreadzone were excellent. They shuffled on to the stage, there was a couple of embraces with Levellers Man and then they burst into this

Fight The Power (1995, Virgin Records, Number 86)

And it was kind of brilliant. If brilliant is described as sixty or seventy predominantly white middle aged middle class blokes bopping up and down out of time to a throbbing bass and beats so deep and dubby that it makes you feel dirty.

The bar stayed open about a year. It’s a Chinese restaurant now. I’m told that System 7 played the opening night a few years back.

SWC

 

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #206 : THE METROGNOMES

Back in 2006, the Aufgeladen und Bereit label, based in Hamburg, Germany, released Get While The Getting’s Good, a 19-track compilation of material by bands from Scotland. I’ll direct you to this post on the Penny Black Music website for more info.

One of the tracks on the compilation is by a band called The MetroGnomes about which I can find very little other than a brief bio found on a website belonging to Frooki Records in repect of the release, in 2015, of an album called Des’O:-

A band from Fife (except Dave) Scotland.

The MetroGnomes are Pedro, Biscuits, Dave from Edinburgh, The Elusive MR IJ and Frook, with guest appearances from most of the folk they know.

Pedro (Peter Burns) – singer, the driving force behind the band, contributed the majority of the songs to the album with other songs coming from band members and friends.

Alternative / funk jazz / fusion hip hop rock mixed in with some folky bluesy country. A range of flavours to suit all tastes.

A gem of an album to the last.

The track made available on the 2006 compilation is not on that album, which itself can be found over at Spotify.

mp3 : The MetroGnomes – I Should’ve Known

Indeed, this track features a lead vocal from a female singer who must no longer be with the band.And it’s very much in the folky bluesy country areas of activitity.

Any more info from any of you?

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #245 : THE BLACK KEYS

A Guest Posting by Hybrid Soc Prof

Our Social Distancing Correspondent, now teaching on-line in Michigan

The Black Keys are a blues rock band that’s gradually moved, in fits and starts over the last 20 years, towards a kind of pop sensibility… or not.

The narrative I read, heard, and embraced as I bought each their long-playing efforts was that the band was two white guys from Akron, Ohio, who headed down to Southern juke joints and spent a months, years(?), at the feet of the Black masters of crossroads blues. And they jumped out of the blocks, hitting the track running, with the release of The Big Come Up (2002)… the most authentically raw, nasty blues-rock set “alt” types had connected with since, what?, Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs? Flat Duo Jets? The Gun Club’s Lucky Jim disc?

They seemed to have perfected that middle class white guy fantasy of achieving authenticity despite coming from blandness… and isn’t that why so many of us, especially in our 20s, got into punk, post-punk, reggae, blues, northern soul, folk, jazz, afro-beats or even minimalist neo-classicists like Steve Reich and Philip Glass? Seeking something more real than buying stuff by pursuing sublime niche cultural experiences?

As with all myths, the one around The Black Keys doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. I’m quite sure the trip South and the education was real but I think the rest of it has been projected onto the band by reviewers and fans, against the evidence… and in a way that denies the band it’s many and various influences. In the name of authenticity, I’ve watched all manner of reviewers and fans police the boundaries of genre and influences only serving to reinforce their own egos and global corporate marketing strategies.

I came to this general realization a long time ago – most notably when I interviewed Mojo Nixon circa 1990 and learned that he had little interest in talking about his stylistic influences but really wanted to talk about all the different music he was hearing, folks he was doing gigs with, and different traditions he liked. I was reminded of it around The Black Keys when I left their albums and started exploring their EPs and guest spots on topical collections.

To start, the first cut here, A Blueprint of Something Never Finished comes from their second release, an EP, The Six Parts Seven. It could almost be Mogwai… or some post-rock band like Kinski, Calla, Giardini di Mirò or, if you slowed it down a little bit more, something from Godspeed You! Black Emperor (wherever they are putting the exclamation point these days.) There was more going on there than met my eye!

Fever then leans technopop which is so much more tolerable when he’s singing it… likely for no reason other than I, too, connect that voice to something I still find authentic. What ties all the band’s songs together is Dan Auerbach’s oh-so distinctive voice and that continuity leaves people “hearing” The Big Come Up or Thickfreakness in stuff that’s simply not bluesy.

But, of course, The Keys also recorded an album with a raft of hip hop, soul, and R&B artists (Mos Def, Nicole Wray, Ludacris, Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, Raekwon, RZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastard of Wu-Tang Clan, among them – thanks Wikipedia!), making BlakRoc, and my favorite tune from that is What You Do to Me, likely the closest thing to a hit in the set.

And if this is a blues rock band, then how come I have this pretty awesome cover of The StoogesNo Fun, recorded as part of their first single? (If you haven’t played The Stooges or Fun House at a near-deafening volume, by my lights you might not have lived…)

Now, did I say they might be misunderstood as a blues-rock band? I might have been pushing it. Try out the bluesy glory of Can’t Find My Mind. They took a 50s monster record tribute song from The Cramps, added some 13th Floor Elevators, and baked up some fuzzy joy

That’s it for Side 1 – the “oh-no-they-aren’t” side.

Side 2 is the “well-actually-they-kinda-are-a-lot-of-the-time” side of the ICA.

The version of Thick Freakness, the retitled title tune to the band’s second long-player, but done much better for the BBC, rips and snorts, rises and falls just like you’d want a Black Keys tune to do.

If you know Junior Kimbrough’s music – perhaps from the Deep Blues documentary or soundtrack? – then you’ll recognize My Mind is Rambling as a Kimbrough song from the first note. There’s a dirtiness to the sustain, a signature grittiness that the Keys get just right… it’s almost like they stole his amp (pretty sure Kimbrough didn’t use pedals.)

I might have put Just a Little Heat on Side 1 but, after it’s Zeppelin-esque beginning it goes full blues-rock… staying in the juke joint vein laid out by My Mind is Rambling. (Of course, with apologies to Dave Davies, it’s the sort of song that reminds you that power chords, metal and significant portions of flatulent 70s art rock grew in the fertile soul the blues.)

She’s Long Gone, from Brothers, perhaps the quintessent distillation of all the band is… who else do you know who can make a lead guitar sound that much like harmonica? There ARE pedals here, used to great effect. (Quintessent isn’t a word, but, yeah, I’m using it!)

It might have been better to put Lies as the first cut on Side 2, since it was recorded in collaboration with Danger Mouse and intended for Ike Turner to sing and the Black Keys to back, but I like it where it is. Wait? Danger Mouse? Anyway, because a number of the songs here are pretty short, I made the executive decision that 11 would fit on the vinyl… which allowed me to end the collection with Do the Rump, the guitar from which set this whole thing in motion way back in 2002. I’m 99% sure it was the first song of theirs I heard, on a music blog or magazine collection, I can’t recall. But The Big Up was mine that afternoon, as fast as I could get across the street to Flat, Black and Circular – still the best music shop in town.

Side 1 (20:40)
A Blueprint of Something Never Finished from The Six Parts Seven EP (2003)
Fever from Turn Blue (2014)
What You Do to Me from BlakRoc (2009)
No Fun from The Moan CDS (2004/2002)
Can’t Find My Mind from Never Give Up On Your Hallucinations (2009)

Side 2 (23:37)
Thick Freakness from The BBC Sessions (2012)
My Mind is Rambling from Chulahouma: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough (2006)
Just a Little Heat from Magic Potion (2006)
She’s Long Gone from Brothers (2010)
Lies from Attack & Release (2008)
Do the Rump from The Big Up (2002)

HSP

(NB : Links can be found in the body of the main text)

45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 20)

A GUEST SERIES


26 – Come Home – James (Flood Mix) (1990 Fontana Records)

Released as a single in June 1990 (Reached Number 32)

More mixtapes of the heart today.

I was in a tent when I first heard ‘Come Home’ by James. Actually I’ll go further than that in an attempt to make myself cooler, I was in a tent that I wasn’t supposed to be in when I first heard ‘Come Home’ by James.

I wasn’t supposed to be there because it was the girl’s tent and I am a boy. It was the summer of 1990 and I had gone to Guernsey with the Scouts, yes the Scouts, shut up, when the zombie apocalypse arrives, you’ll be glad that I can tie a granny knot properly and know how to distinguish between a church with a spire and a church with a tower.

Anyway, we’d met some girl guides, whilst doing something scouty, like help old ladies across the road, or build a waterproof shelter out of matchsticks and old copies of Razzle. We got chatting to them when queuing for water. They were all from the Doncaster and Barnsley area of South Yorkshire and after about an hour showing off and general chit chat, the guides invited all of us to a disco that they were having at their campsite in a couple of days.

Which was nice of them.

The disco was awful. It consisted of bored looking adults chucking on a Now That’s What I Called Music CD (probably) and plying about 50 youths with Pepsi and jelly laces – the DJ was a guy called Barry, who rigged up some speakers through his car stereo so we could all hear Haddaway a bit better.

Which is sort of why I ended up in a tent with a girl guide.

Now.

There was no funny business, I want to make that clear. We were listening to music. I promise. We had two cans of Pepsi, a Walkman, two tapes and a pair of tinny little speakers. It turns out that Jackie, that was her name, was something of a kindred spirit, she loved indie guitars all most as much as I did. We sat there talking mainly, whilst her tapes played in the background.

I can remember that tape really well, the way that ‘There She Goes’ by the La’s ended and the opening whirls of ‘Come Home’ filled a little bit of the tent. I loved ‘Come Home’ and made a mental note to try and get a copy of it when I got home. Jackie promised to send me a copy of ‘Gold Mother’ if I gave her my address.

There She Goes – The La’s (1988, Go! Discs, Did Not Chart, Reissued 1990, Number 13)

‘Come Home’ was followed by this

I’m Free – Soup Dragons (1990 Big Life Records, Number 5)

And we were half way through that when the zip to the tent opened and a face peered through at us. It was Albert. Albert was one of the Scout Leaders and he went bat shit crazy at me, literally eyes popping out of his head style rage. I was dragged out of the tent by what our parents would call the scruff of my neck and in full view of about twenty five people he bollocked me. Which considering he was a Scout Leader was probably a lucky escape on my behalf.

He ended with him telling me that he was going to phone my father in the morning.

To which I shrugged my shoulders, my father wouldn’t really care, I could hear his voice now, “Being, caught in a girls tent, at night, well done son, have some extra pocket money”.

I never did get that copy of ‘Gold Mother’ either.

SWC

 

 

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (44)

There were less than 1,000 copies of the first pressing of this single, from July 1981.  Second-hand copies rarely come up for sale and can fetch up to £200.

The re-press, which differs in that the Athens, Georgia address of Hib-Tone Records has been printed on the label, is marginally easier to get a hold of in that around 6,000 were pressed up.  There’s a few for sale on Discogs, from the USA and Japan, with the asking price either side of £100.

Hib-Tone Records was a short-lived affair, founded by Johnny Hibbert, who actually seems to have had a bigger role to play in the R.E.M. story than I previously believed.

The version of Radio Free Europe which I’m linking to today is courtesy of the compilation album, Eponymous, released in 1988, that I’ve always thought was the original single as that is what it says on the album sleeve.

But, while researching for this post, I found that the Epnoymous version is, in fact, the demo which the band recorded with Mitch Easter in April 1981, while the version that came out on 7″ vinyl on Hib-Tone was one which had been re-mixed by Johnny Hibbert.  It turned out that the band, and in particular Peter Buck, wanted the original Easter version to be the single but the label-owner, who pointed out he was financing the manufacturing and distribution, wasn’t having it.

So….what follows isn’t what you’d hear if you pulled out the 7″ from the Hib-Tone sleeve, but is the version the band wanted and is the one most readily available (and the one I actually have!!)

mp3 : R.E.M. – Radio Free Europe

Here’s its b-side.  It was also later re-recorded for Murmur.

mp3 : R.E.M. – Sitting Still

There’s a very strong possibility that the Sunday singles slot, when it returns later in the year, will feature R.E.M.

JC