SOME SONGS MAKE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 48)

A GUEST POSTING by KHAYEM

This is another one of those moments where I wish I’d kept a record of the gigs I’ve been to over the years… I saw James Yorkston & The Athletes in Bristol back in 2002. I have no recollection of the actual gig itself (I was clearly under the influence) other than coming away with a “Songs From Moving Up Country” sampler CD. I’m convinced that I saw them supporting a bigger act at the Anson Rooms but a quick Google search and the only Bristol date I can find for them is at The Louisiana. It must have been some night. Which appropriately leads us to Woozy With Cider.

I’ll admit, I had little interest in James Yorkston after said gig, but I would frequently see his name popping up in album reviews, lauding him as a songwriter of increasing importance, if not wider critical and commercial acclaim. Still, I stubbornly refused to take the bait and seek out his music. In true contrary fashion, I found my way to Woozy With Cider because I’d enjoyed a couple of remixes by electronic duo Quiet Village aka Matt Edwards and Joel Martin and I was seeking out more. I picked up a 2007 promo CD of Woozy With Cider, which includes no less than 7 remixes, based around Yorkston’s brilliantly observed tale:

Watching the park quieten from the hotel window
I hear you softly sleep amongst the cars and saluting songbirds
For a city whose size had scared me for years
Right now it’s a feeble evening roar
Not unsimilar to a beach evening ending

On the table to my left there’s a magazine with a picture of a dead monkey
Making a mockery of what I’d call art
But what would I know about the scene in the city
That has swallowed up friends, lovers and family
Just give me a village the size of a teacup

You have your hair spread out with your eyes closed
I feel I should order a drink in celebration to welcome the summer
Whose first day is ending
Should you awake you’d catch me of course
And ask me the wisdom of drinking once more

I cast my mind back to yesterday’s wedding
Where we got drunk and fell over
I did my best to be polite to a family I’d never met
But on numerous occasions, I guess, I could have tried harder
Of course by the end of the night
I was best friends with everyone and everyone’s wife
But right now I can’t remember their names
No matter how hard I try

As the sun glares through the hotel window
I wonder of our future and where it will lead to
I wonder if you’ll be laying there
10 years 20 years 30 years down the line
I’ll still be staring out at the street confused about love and life
It’ll be interesting to see if anyone ever bought those songs of mine
If anyone heard those words that I never got quite right

I think I can be honest in presuming
The world is not exactly going to be leaping out of its bed
To make me rich using my songs in adverts
Selling oranges or lemons

Who knows I may end up owning the whole street
Or more likely sleeping under tree in the park opposite
Would the runners keep me awake
Or would I keep them asleep?
I’d hope I’d have the sense to move back home
As lovely as today is
I’d imagine the winter would be rather cold

I’d been told for years that the devil had the best tunes
And that the devil lived down here
Whereas us country folk weren’t worth the salt from the road
Ex-pat magazine editors who choose to lose their temper
On the easily persuaded northern town dwellers
And sure enough 99 percent of the people I meet
Have scant regard for entertaining me
It seems I’m too old too slow too quiet and just wrong
And I’m glad

In their cocaine-fuelled electronic cabarets
I’ll be the man at the bar drinking overpriced whisky
From a bar maid who’s too good to catch my eye
She only works here two nights a week
The rest of the time she’s a singer in a rock and roll band
I bet she’d change her tune
If I told her my album had peaked at number 172
And that I also had friends who worked in bars
And that didn’t define who they are
Though it certainly helps their capacity to drink

But I’ve strayed off the subject
Now I’ll be leaning over and waking you up
And you’ll squint at me through the cracks between your eyelids
Woozy with cider
As if you’re asking just exactly where we are
And exactly what I wanted
And I’ll be happy because
We won’t be taking anything too seriously.

As usual, apologies for any misunderstood and poorly transcribed lyrics…

To avoid overkill, I’ve avoided the original version which you can find on his 2006 album, The Year Of The Leopard. I’ve limited to 3 remixes and perhaps surprisingly omitted the one by Quiet Village that brought me to the song in the first place. Steve Mason delivers a lovely minimal electronic take in his King Biscuit Time guise. I know nothing about Dusty Cabinets, but their uptempo, rumbling dancefloor mix adds an unsettling undercurrent which suits the vocals. Lastly, Jon Hopkins provides a beautifully understated piano accompaniment.

mp3: James Yorkston – Woozy With Cider (King Biscuit Time Remix)
mp3: James Yorkston – Woozy With Cider (Dusty Cabinets Remix)
mp3: James Yorkston – Woozy With Cider (Jon Hopkins Remix)

The happy ending is that by picking up this single, I finally began to appreciate James Yorkston’s music and storytelling, and made up for lost time by catching up with his back catalogue. Everyone’s a winner.

KHAYEM

JC adds…..

I’d also have seen James Yorkston & The Athletes on the same 2002 tour, but unlike Khayem, I’ve bought a fair bit of his stuff over the years, including a boxset of the album When The Haar Rolls In which included all sorts of bonus material, including  one of the mixes offered up today.  I also highly recommend James’ book, It’s Lovely To Be Here, as reviewed on this very blog back in 2015.

I really can’t let this one go by without posting the original version:-

mp3: James Yorkston – Woozy With Cider

Finally, just a quick mention that a link to Khayem’s own blog, Dubhead, has been added to the list under the ‘Inspirations and Occasional Contributors’ section.  There’s loads of great stuff out there, but I’m ashamed to say that I somehow never make the time to do justice to all the wonderful postings, thoughts and observations.

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Twenty : HAPPY TOGETHER

Taking my inspiration from The Robster‘s great new series on the imaginary 7″ singles from R.E.M albums, I’m offering up as today’s high quality vinyl rip what could have been a superb effort by The Jam almost forty years ago (!!!!), as a follow-up, or indeed alternative, double-A single to Town Called Malice/Precious which had provided what was then the UK’s biggest and most popular band with their third #1 hit in January 1982.

On one side would be the opening track from the album The Gift.  Here’s what I wrote back in December 2015 as part of The Jam ICA, itself an effort, consisting only on album tracks not issued as singles or b-sides:-

“Let’s get this party pumping. This is one where Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler really come into their own, driving the song along at a tremendous pace and in the bass player’s instance adding an essential backing vocal. The ending where Paul Weller chants out NOW!!!!!!! Is one of my favourite moments on any Jam song – single, b-side or album track.”

It would have been a sure-fire #1, blasting out of the radios at all times of the day and night. Some folk would likely have bought it simply for the short spoken word intro and the heartfelt shout of ‘BAAAAAAAABBBBBBBBYYYYY’

mp3: The Jam – Happy Together

But what would have been the ideal flip-side?

The then 23-year-old Paul Weller was worshipped by a congregation of fans, most of whom were around blokes his age or marginally younger.  While each of us will spout many different reasons for such devotion, I can safely say that the late-teenage me truly believed he was the spokesman for my generation and I hung on to just about every word he said, especially when he got political in his song lyrics and during his interviews.

I hated the Tories, and in particular their leader and the divisive Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.  So, the b-side has to be one of his more subtle political lyrics, one which I’ll be honest I didn’t get right away, only picking it up a few months later during a drunken session in the student union. It was a much older and wiser person, who was at university as a mature student who pointed out that it was really all about the hated PM and her desire to destroy anybody and anything who got in her way; he also helpfully explained that the unsettling and, to me, confusing final lines about looking in a mirror and seeing greed fear and hate, was really a warning of what often happens as you age and move on in life away from your teenage ideologies.

mp3: The Jam – Carnation

And here was me thinking it was a love song written by a bastard…….

So there you have it.  Two tracks what the band’s final album, one which has many high points but a couple of tunes that didn’t quite work out as expected as the frontman tried to take the band in a new direction but at the same time came to the realisation that his hopes, dreams and ambitions could only be achieved by breaking up The Jam and starting all over again.  There really was irony in opening up this album with a track called Happy Together…….

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 2)

There were just three months between the release of the debut single by The Fall and its follow-up, but there were already a couple of changes in personnel, with Yvonne Pawlett (keyboards) and Marc Riley (bass) coming in respectively for Una Baines and Tony Friel, to line-up alongside Mark E Smith (vocals), Martin Bramah (guitars) and Karl Burns (drums).

The facts.

Recorded on 9 September 1978 at Surrey Sound Studios which were located in Leatherhead, a town some 20 miles south of London.  The studios had been created in 1974 by Nigel Grey, a qualified medical doctor with a passion for music, initially as a basic and very affordable four-track set-up, before upgrading to 16-track in 1977.

It was inevitable given the fact that most singers and bands who used Surrey Sound were inexperienced, for Nigel Grey, to get involved in engineering and/or producing anyone who came through the doors of his studio.  He is listed as the engineer on this particular 45 with production being credited to The Fall, with some acknowledged help from the engineer.

Three months later, in the same week that The Fall’s second single was released, Nigel Grey’s life changed forever as another new band went to Surrey Sound to record their debut album, one which would go into sell in the millions and make pop/rock stars of Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland.  Indeed, The Police would record their first three albums at Surrey Sound, while others, such as Siouxsie & The Banshees, would also work with him as a producer in later years.

mp3: The Fall – It’s The New Thing
mp3: The Fall – Various Times

It’s probably just a coincidence that Nigel Grey worked on one of The Fall’s earliest examples of a catchy single, one that’s initially driven by a simple keyboard beat, before the new 17-year-old bass player (and former roadie) shows no fear alongside his more experienced bandmates, to create a single that, if it had come along a few years later when the band was slightly better known and had a larger fanbase, could well have been a hit. As it was, by May 1979, they had played it live for the very last time, an early indication that MES was always keen to continually move forward and not ever get nostalgic for his old material.

The b-side is quite different, being a 5-minute plus effort in which the musicians provide more than a hint of their new wave influences while MES delivers an extraordinary and beguiling lyric, spread out over three parts of the past, present and the future, albeit the future was only two years hence in 1980. All five musicians get a writing credit for the b-side, while the single is the work of Smith and Brammah.

It was, like the debut, issued by Step Forward Records. Again, It didn’t chart.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #263: PUNCH AND THE APOSTLES

As recently as last week, I mentioned that quite a few of the Scottish singers/groups to feature in this extremely long-running series will do so as a result of them contributing a song to a compilation album, with it being the only track of theirs I have on the hard drive.

I know nothing about Punch and The Apostles.  I only know of them as a track of theirs appears on Limbo Live Volume 01, issued in 2009 to commemorate and acknowledge a series of gigs put on at The Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh; almost held on a weekly basis, the first Limbo Live event was in November 2007 and the last one appears to have been in the summer of 2011.

Here’s what a local listings magazine had to say, back in late 2008, about today’s featured band:-

‘We’re not exactly palatable, but not immediately repulsive,’ suggests lead singer Paul Napier, to sum up the sound of Punch and the Apostles, the Glasgow seven-piece who’ve been bringing chaos to traditional folk music for almost a year now. Mashing up gypsy violins, flamenco guitars and frantic klezmer trumpets, PATA’s fashion-dodging approach to the music industry means they can blast out noises from a circus freak-show or bull-fight one minute, then whisk their crowd to a drunken bar mitzvah in bohemian Montmartre the next.

‘There’s a definite anti-commercial approach to what we do,’ says Napier, who plays guitar and keyboards while the others juggle diving bells, accordions and something called a ‘spinning jenny’ to create their old-fashioned, upbeat and riotous noise. ‘We’re sneaking old musical styles back in like a Trojan horse,’ he adds, explaining their weird hybrid of Tom Waits’ theatricality with tango, polka, Eastern European or blues styles. ‘We want to revive old music forms that people might have wrongly dismissed as boring.’

‘We’re not into slickness,’ points out his sister Juliana, PATA’s only female, and a fan of bands like Gogol Bordello and A Hawk and a Hacksaw. ‘So we wouldn’t want Timbaland producing our stuff. It’s very important for us to stay in control.’ Franz Ferdinand’s management are rumoured to have approached them, but they are still unsigned, giving them free reign to mess around with their fast-paced cacophony of styles. ‘There’s a lot of tripping over instruments when we perform live,’ says Juliana, ‘but that doesn’t stop us from dancing.’

mp3: Punch and The Apostles – Asylum (live)

Quite.

JC

POP THE CHAMPAGNE CORKS

It’s strange how some things often happen to coincide in various walks of life.

Today is the 3,000th posting on The (New Vinyl Villain) which means it has lasted longer and offered up around 500 more posts than could have been found over at the original site.  My thanks to everyone who has been part of this community over the years, whether in the guise of guest contributors, commentators or simply happy to drop in occasionally for a peek.  A huge thanks……..it’s knowing that folk are interested that keeps me motivated to ensure a posting appears every day, even if some of them are repeats from days of old.

Today also happens to be my 58th birthday.  For once, I’ve no plans in place to do anything special – Mrs Villain is actually away this weekend with some friends to one of the Scottish islands, a trip that has been much postponed and the next few days were one of those rare occasions when diaries allowed everyone to hook up.  Besides, I would have been pleading my case to stay indoors anyway as tonight sees the much awaited England v Scotland match in the European Championships.

I’ve thought long and hard about which songs to post today, and I’ve changed my mind on umpteen occasions. In the end, I went for the SWC and Tim Badger approach. Pick up the i-phone, hit shuffle and pause it on the songs that come in at #58 on the next ten occasions thus creating a wholly random birthday ICA. Note…there were 45,000 songs on this particular i-pod, so the odds of landing lucky were quite high.

Side One

1. Bettie Serveert – Hell=Other People (alternative version)

Bettie Serveert are an indie band from The Netherlands. Hell=Other People (alternative version) is from their 2006 album, Bare Stripped Naked, and is a cross between the softer side of The Cardigans and Camera Obscura.

2. Client – Pornography

Electronic pop from England. There were five albums between 2003 and 2014. Client originally consisted of Kate Holmes (ex Frazier Chrous) and Sarah Blackwood (ex Dubstar), but performing as Client A and Client B, specialising in the visual elements of performing as much as the singing. It’s all a bit complicated, so click on this wiki page for more. Pornography was a single released in 2005, and features a guest vocal from Carl Barat (The Libertines). I’ve a 7″ copy of the single which, in reaching #22, was their biggest hit.

3. XTC -Grass

As featured here, previously back in August 2017, as Part 22 of the XTC singles series

4. Dead Kennedys -When Ya Get Drafted

From the debut album Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1980).  Just 84 seconds long., so you best quickly get jumping around and working up that sweat.

5. Pet Shop Boys – Girls Don’t Cry

A more than decent b-side to I’m With Stupid, released in 2006 and which reached #8 in the UK charts.  I’m tempted, at some point, to have a Singular Adventures look at PSB….

Side Two

1. Aswad – It’s Not Our Wish (John Peel Session)

The lack of reggae on the blog over the years will give away the fact that I’m not the genre’s biggest connoisseur. Aswad, a London-based group, are the most successful reggae act to emerge from the UK, and are still have been on the go having formed in 1975. This was included on Movement, a 41-song compilation CD featuring John Peel Sessions between 1977 and 1979. It’s Not Our Wish was recorded on 10 October 1978 and broadcast on 18 December 1978.

2. Joe Jackson – One More Time

The opening track from the debut album Look Sharp (1979). A genuine classic of the post-punk/new wave genre that has been aired on many an occasion in Villain Towers and previous dwellings over the past 40+ years.

3. Sexy Boy – Franz Ferdinand

I’m not all that surprised that a cover came as one of the random songs given how many I have on the hard drive. This take on the breakthrough hit single (1998) by Air was recorded by the Glaswegian popsters as a b-side to the single Walk Away, which reached #13 in December 2005.

4. Something’s Got To Give – Beastie Boys

A wonderfully understated effort which is tucked away in the middle of the third album Check Your Head (1992). I’ve always pictured folk listening to this while they looked to unwind to this after a hard day at work (spliff is optional).

5. How Did This Happen?! – Bodega

The opening track on the critically acclaimed debut album Endless Scroll (2018). I wonder if Bodega will emerge unscathed from the COVID situation. They were making a real name for themselves much further afield than their native New York City, touring hard all across the globe, but their momentum was obviously halted and they might well find that everyone has moved on by the time they get back into the studio.

So there you have it. A sort of birthday ICA that is really more like a random jukebox, but hopefully there’s just about something for everyone, whatever your tastes.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #288 : BILLIE RAY MARTIN

A GUEST POSTING by KHAYEM

Soul Rebel Sold Out To Disco: A Billie Ray Martin ICA

There were two recent indirect nudges that finally got me to revisit and complete this ICA, one that I’ve been living with and playing around with in ridiculously expanded form for many, many months now:

1) The Vinyl Villain, April 20th – My Go-To Album When Out On Longer Walks: JC’s spotlight on HiFi Sean’s Ft. didn’t include the ’Ft. Billie Ray Martin’ song, but prompted me to get the album and discover it for myself;

2) Bagging Area, May 15th – Holding On: Swiss Adam’s feature on Circle Sky, one half of which is Richard Norris, that got a few of us commenting on his rich musical history and specifically the wonder that is Billie Ray Martin’s 4 Ambient Tales EP.

On her website, Billie Ray Martin describes herself as “a kid from Hamburg’s red-light district, who wanted to be a soul singer, but ended up playing repetitive machine music, while still trying to be a soul singer”, which is as good an introduction as any.

Born Birgit Dieckmann, Billie Ray Martin moved to Berlin then London in the 1980s, where her advert in Melody Maker – “Soul rebel searching for a genius” – led to the formation of Electribe 101. Managed by Tom Watkins, then riding high with Pet Shop Boys & Bros, Electribe 101 released their first single, Talking With Myself, in 1988. Re-released in 1990, it reached 23 in the UK charts, with the album Electribal Memories achieving a peak of 26 in the same year. By 1992, Electribe 101 split, without releasing their completed second album. Whilst the rest of the band formed Groove Corporation, Billie Ray Martin embarked on a solo career. Kind of.

In fact, her first two singles in 1993 were collaborations: a cover of Throbbing Gristle’s Persuasion with Spooky and the 4 Ambient Tales EP, produced by The Grid aka Dave Ball and Richard Norris. This was no surprise: Billie was also a memorable guest artist with S’Express, notably their Top 5 UK hit Superfly Guy. But it was these two records that left an indelible mark on me and embedded an enduring love of Billie Ray Martin’s voice, songwriting and music. Part of the challenge with this ICA is that I could have easily filled one side with these 5 songs alone.

Technically speaking, Billie Ray Martin has only released 3 solo albums so far – Deadline For My Memories (1996), 18 Carat Garbage (2001), The Soul Tapes (2016) – and is currently fundraising for the next three, with Gezeitenraum (translating as Tidal Space) hopefully due in 2021. However, add in demo and remix albums, singles, one-offs and collaborations, and Billie Ray Martin’s body of work is huge. This is possibly the most difficult of all the ICAs I’ve put together so far. Until the “nudge” in April/May, I’d only been able to get to a shortlist of 20 songs, never managing to settle on the final 10.

Billie Ray Martin only really had one “monster hit” – the re-release of Your Loving Arms in 1995, not included here – and I’ve largely bypassed her other arguably well-known singles such as Running Around Town (also 1995) and Honey (1999). The ICA starts and ends in 1993 with tracks from the aforementioned debut EPs and along the way takes in over two decades of collaborations, heartfelt lyrics and dancefloor cuts. And always the voice. Always the voice.

Side One

1) (I Spent Hours Again) Wishing You Well (Single Version): Billie Ray Martin (4 Ambient Tales EP, 1993)

I got the original CD single at the time of release, along with Persuasion, from a record shop in Derby and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve played this EP since. My mixtapes for friends from this period inevitably featured one or more of the four songs, and it’s difficult to choose a favourite. Produced by The Grid and featuring beautiful slide guitar from BJ Cole, 4 Ambient Tales hasn’t dated at all. I finally settled on this as the opener, which was originally a contender for the second Electribe 101 album. I think The Grid’s production elevates the song to a level that the original is unlikely to have achieved.

2) Bright Lights Fading (Original Edit): Slam ft. Billie Ray Martin (promo single, 2004)

I’m a massive fan of Slam; Orde Meikle & Stuart McMillan continue to surprise and delight, three decades on. This is a promo edit from their 2004 album Year Zero, with Billie Ray Martin recounting a tale of an out of work performer desperate for another gig, money for food and rent and “the bright spot lights”. The opening lines are superb:

Gimme gimme gimme one more chance
I spent my royalties on call boys
Just a temporary slip of fate
On a moonlit street

and the song is laden with other great lines:

There’s no guilt about the things I do
You’ve got to take it where you find it
And I’ve starved enough and worked hard enough

Hows a girl out of luck gonna find herself?
Call me a tramp and a drunk
Its just packaging
Just a part of fame

whilst Slam’s music is more than a match for the lyrical weight.

3) Heavy Game: Hifi Sean ft. Billie Ray Martin (Ft., 2016)

Hifi Sean’s debut album had completely slipped under my radar, until JC’s post earlier this year (and, I’m embarrassed to say, in spite of his TnVV previous post in 2018). I wonder how I ever missed the album, not least because it features so many brilliant guests, from Norman Blake to Fred Schneider to Paris Grey to Little Annie and Alan Vega. Billie Ray Martin’s appearance is a highlight on an all-round excellent album.

4) Talking With Myself (Live On Manchester Radio, 2002): Billie Ray Martin (Unplugged Live Radio Performance promo EP, 2002)

This is a vocal and piano cover of Electribe 101’s big hit, featured on Simon Forestiero’s “Got 2 Be Funky” show on Manchester’s Piccadilly Key 103 FM on 25 May 2002. Although the piano struggles to keep up with the repetition at times, it’s a great performance of a classic club song, and Billie’s vocals are on top form.

5) Hyper Lust (Album Version): MOTOR ft. Billie Ray Martin (Man Made Machine/single, 2012)

Similar to Slam’s Year Zero and Hifi Sean’s Ft., USA-based electro/industrial duo MOTOR’s album is laden with like-minded guest vocalists such as Gary Numan, Martin Gore and Douglas McCarthy. Again, Billie’s performance is a standout.

Side Two

6) I’ve Never Been To Memphis (Radio Edit): Billie Ray Martin (single, 2001)

From Billie’s 2001 album, 18 Carat Garbage, this is another classic hit-that-never-was. A lyrical companion to Slam’s Bright Lights Fading, it’s another fascinating take on the vagaries of fame, with some beautiful lines:

I saw my face in the paper today
[…] I read a tale of a girl with my name
It was not the one that I know

I want to see my name in neon lights
Cause the words that you write they don’t last, my friends
They only shine a day at a time
And leave stains on my hands

Billie’s vocals are perfectly complemented by the music, which I keep expecting to segue into The Hustle by Van McCoy at some point, which is no bad thing.

7) The Crackdown (Radio Edit By Märtini Brös.): Billie Ray Martin ft. Stephen Mallinder (The Crackdown Project EP, 2010)

In which Billie covers Cabaret Voltaire’s 1983 double A-side single, Crackdown / Just Fascination, in suitably dark electro style. Over two volumes (“Sold Out To Disco” and “Darkness Restored”), there are a heck of lot of versions (14 of Crackdown, 17 of Just Fascination). As with most of the selections here, for ICA timing reasons I’ve gone for the radio edit, which features new vocals from Stephen Mallinder himself, transforming the song into a suitably dark duet.

8) No Brakes On My Rollerskates (Mark Moore & Mr. Motion Mix): Hot Skates 3000 (single, 2003)

An obscure BRM one-off side project. As described by Billie on her Bandcamp page:

“A girl has to have fun. It was the time of Electroclash and i was on a rebellious trip. What can i say: Some may like this, some may not. I had fun, working in Berlin at the time with producer Robert Schirner. The Mark Moore mix and Futon Mixes both to me are just fabulous.”

She’s not wrong, this is a fun trip and a counterpoint to the deeper lyrics of her solo material. And Mark “S’Express” Moore & Mr. Motion’s remix is, well, fabulous.

9) Undisco Me (Original Radio Edit): Billie Ray Martin (single, 2007)

This single was born from a collaboration with Norwegian DJ & producer Lil’Wolf aka Vegard Wolf Dyvik. The previous song on this ICA was described as “somewhat resembling Donna Summer on acid”, but I think the comment is far more apt for this track. A disco belter, as they used to say.

10) Persuasion (SpookyBillie’s Ventriloquist Mix): Billie Ray Martin & Spooky (single, 1993)

Proposing a cover of Throbbing Gristle’s unsettling song from 1979’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats, you can maybe understand why the wheels may have started to come off the bus for Electribe 101’s second major label album. Launching your solo career with the same song may have seemed equally ill advised, but by then Billie had teamed up with superlative electronic duo Spooky aka Charlie May and Duncan Forbes and the single was released on the mighty Guerilla label, run by William Orbit and Dick O’Dell. There are a plethora of remixes, all brilliant, but I have opted to go with the closing track of the CD single, which goes for the minimalist approach, brings Billie’s vocals to the fore and cranks the creepiness up to 11.

Bonus 12” EP

In good conscience, I couldn’t help trying to sneak in a few extra songs…

A1) Captain Drag (Album Version): Billie Ray Martin ft. Ann Peebles & Carla Thomas (18 Carat Garbage, 2001)

Back during last year’s run of “opening tracks” ICAs, I played around with a few variations but never settled on one that I was happy to submit. This song was a constant though, and one of my favourites of Billie Ray Martin’s career. Less obvious here, but the album features backing vocals throughout from soul legends Ann Peebles & Carla Thomas.

A2) Candy Coated Crime (Disco Bloodbath Remix): The Opiates (Hollywood Cuts (The Remixes), 2012)

Another BRM side project, this time a collaboration with Norwegian DJ & producer Robert Solheim. They released a couple of EPs, an album and a remix companion. I discovered the album, Hollywood Under The Knife, by accident when browsing the bargain bin at Blackcat Records in Taunton during a business trip. It’s a great album, but I’ve opted here for the remix by Disco Bloodbath aka Ben Rymer & Dan Beaumont, which gives the song that little push over the cliff.

B1) You And I (Keep Holding On) (Album Version): Billie Ray Martin (Deadline For My Memories/single, 1996)

A straight soul song, which despite being co-produced by Brian Transeau aka BT, dodges the dancefloor and goes straight for the heart. I was surprised to find that this was related as the fifth and final single from her Top 10 album. It reached the dizzy lows of 76 in the UK chart, at a time when the Lighthouse Family were a regular feature of the Top 20. Go figure.

B2) The Long And Lonely Fall (Album Version): Billie Ray Martin (The Soul Tapes, 2016)

This was originally premiered back in 2003 as part of a “New Demos” promo, though songs were originally recorded in the mid-90s, prior to 18 Carat Garbage. The album never came to be and The Soul Tapes, following a mere 13 years later, features reworked versions of the original songs. Described as a “soul album country with a country twist”, it’s a natural progression from – and threaded throughout – her previous work, right back to Electribe 101 and 4 Ambient Tales. Interviewed by Songwriting Magazine in 2016, Billie was asked if this was the album that she always wanted to make, to which she replied, “No, it’s just one album that I made. And it’s great.”

And that just about sums up Billie’s questing nature: always moving on, always creating, always seeking new ways of expression. I’ve not heard any of the demos or songs from forthcoming Gezeitenraum, which was due in 2020 but (hopefully) coming soon, but I do know that it’ll be worth the wait

KHAYEM

SHE WAS IN THE OMEN WITH GREGORY PECK

The 1978 debut single by the Go-Betweens on one side featured a tribute to a Hollywood actress who Robert Forster had a crush on, while the other side was a tribute to a University librarian who Robert Forster had a crush on.

I’ve a couple of cover versions of Lee Remick, one of which is quite quirky, while the other is quite rocky:-

mp3: The King Of Luxembourg – Lee Remick
mp3: The Wannadies – Lee Remick

I was actually quite disappointed by The Wannadies take on things, reckoning it’s a tad perfunctory and not representative of their own highly enjoyable Scandi-pop output.

I’m quite smitten by The King Of Luxembourg‘s take on things, somehow managing to even more camp, silly and enjoyable than the original. I ‘discovered’ it thanks to it being included on the Scared To Get Happy : A Story of Indie-Pop 1980-1989 boxset that was issued a few years back by Cherry Red Records. Here’s what the accompanying booklet had to say:-

The King of Luxembourg was an alter ego for Simon Fisher Turner, an actor who’d also tasted fame as a teenage glam-era pop star on Jonathan King’s UK label. As The King of Luxembourg (and dressed accordingly), he covered The Monkees’ ‘Vallen’ on el in 1986. Debut album ‘Royal Bastard’ boasted more covers : The Television Personalities ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’, PiL’s ‘Poptones’ and The Castaways’ ‘Liar Liar’.

Simon’s quirky rendition of the Go-Betweens classic graced a maxi-EP of ‘Dorian Gray’. By contrast, he recorded the soundtrack to Derek Jarman’s film ‘Caravaggio’ under his own name.

The King of Luxembourg monicker was dropped after the second LP, ‘Sir’ (1987). He’s since recorded classical and electronic music for many labels, including Creation and Mute.

So, there you have it. And unless anyone wants to offer up a guest posting, this will be the debut and last appearance by The King of Luxembourg on this blog.

JC

BURNING BADGER’S VINYL – THE (NEARLY) A-Z OF INDIEPOP

SWC, who as part of the Devon & Cornwall constabulary, has been just a tad occupied with the recent G7 summit that was held on his patch last week.  But he’s back……….

Did you miss me? Sorry for the radio silence, I’ve been a bit busy. Anyway, where was I, Oh Yes, Aphex Twin records, that’s were I left everything. Well that was sort of the last record I was going to talk about but….then I decided to move Badgers records from the boxes and into my vinyl cupboard, which was not an easy task I’ll tell you. I had to make space and now much to the annoyance of Mrs SWC, I’ve got a big pile of records sat in the bottom of my wardrobe behind the picture of Sennen Cove I’ve been meaning to put up in the lounge for years.

Still, there I was lovingly putting all these records in alphabetical (and chronological) order in small piles. I am somewhat surrounded by records, it is a lovely feeling, I have a cup of tea close at hand, a small plate of biscuits and the digital radio (BBC Radio 6 Music) has just played this:-

Real Estate – Talking Backwards

I am quite content.

It then dawns on me – that once again, save for the obvious letters of Q, X, Y and Z, Badger has given me at least one piece of vinyl for every letter of the alphabet, and with that a little lightbulb sparks above my head. It turns out I have leant against the switch whilst I was casually the reading the label notes for ‘Mixed Up’ by The Cure.

I did also have an idea. The next few pieces in this series will be in alphabetical order (rather like the Charity Shop CD bit – more of that later) – some will be bunched together to avoid you having to read at least 22 pieces of this nonsense. Oh, and massive apologies well in advance, the only band starting with U was U2, ‘Pop’ era U2 at that, so that means Bono at his most pompous wraparound shades wearing worst I’m afraid. You have my permission to pretend your internet was broken all week on that day.

Let’s start with something a little bit brilliant (we’ll get progressively shitter as the weeks go on) and a band who did their own A to Z tour of the UK a few years back.

A is for ASH

Trailer (Infectious Records, 1994)

According to legend (or Wikipedia, whichever you like), Ash were called Ash because back in 1992 the band decided that if they were going to be taken seriously as a band, then being an Iron Maiden covers band called ‘Vietnam’ wasn’t a good enough. One of the band, probably the drummer, because, well its always the drummer, as we know, picked up a dictionary and starting with A they flicked through until they came across word that they all liked…talking of legends….

“There is a cave at the bottom of Tregarra Head where a mermaid lives…” is how the story told by an old fisherman who sits at the back drinking his ale from a jug, starts (if you went to the right pub that is). His purpose in life is to pass on information, stories, and tales. If you pay him in pints of Doom Bar he will regale you with a yarn from about the mermaid who lived in a cave below the mining village of Zennor.

He used to that is until 2009.

You will note I said until 2009, why..? Well because in 2009 a new Cornish legend was born, one that replaced the old, slightly creepy and probably not true story of the mermaid who lived in a cave below the mining village of Zennor. A story told by, let’s be honest, a man who should probably get a real job and seek help for his obvious and depressing descent into alcoholism.

The new legend was born towards the end of November 2009, when a band called Ash played the final gig of their aforementioned A to Z tour in the Village Hall at Zennor to a crowd of 70, why only 70? Well, because that’s the capacity.

Now when you stagger into the local pub in that tiny Cornish village and go up to the gnarly looking old guy in the corner with the chunky sweater and the yellow trousers and casually put down his pint of Doom. The fisherman will look at you and then rip off his chunky sweater to reveal an original ‘1977’ tour t shirt, he will then jump up on the bar and shout,

“Twas a cold November evening when lights dimmed in Zennor Village Hall and not a whisper could be heard until a voice shouted into the darkness “Hey, We’re fucking Ash and this is called ‘Kung Fu’”….

Here are three tracks from ‘Trailer’ all of which are excellent, and three of the reasons why Ash were so good back in the mid-nineties, of course you should have them:-

Jack Names The Planets
Petrol
Uncle Pat

There were a couple of other records in the ‘A’ Pile that were worthy of your attention, there was this:-

Alabama 3 – Speed of the Sound of Loneliness

which is all kinds of funky brilliance and way better than the original.

Audioweb – Sleeper

who Badger saw live in a BBC Studio once on the Jools Holland smug fest that is ‘Hootenanny’.

SWC

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Nineteen : SISTOSIG/STH

It’s just over five years since this double-A effort was featured in the series looking at the singles released by The Clash.  But this time round the mp3s come straight from the 12″ vinyl, ripped at 320 kpbs for a better listening experience.

Here’s what was said back in May 2016, along with a couple of things offered up in the comments by two of our Stateside regulars:-

“Released just three months after Rock The Casbah, a lot had changed for The Clash in the summer of 1982, not least the fact that they had ‘cracked’ America.  Combat Rock was proving to be an enduring album, going on to spend almost six months successively in the UK charts which was well beyond the time expected of any album by the band. They were now determined to get their music across to as wide an audience as possible, hence the decision to accept the task of opening for The Who at a series of outdoor stadium gigs in October 1982, although it is worth recalling that the band continued to headline at much smaller venues in the States at the same time.

The days of standing up to record company wishes to milk albums dry were also over as seen by the fact that the release of a double A single meant that exactly one-third of Combat Rock had been put out on the 45rpm format.  But in saying this, there’s no argument that it is one of the band’s finest 45s.

Straight To Hell -the very idea that one of the world’s foremost punk bands would, within just five years of their explosive and noisy debut, end up recording and releasing a song that leaned heavily on a bossa nova drumbeat devised by Topper Headon and a haunting violin sound would have been laughable. It has a stunning and thought-provoking lyric delivered by a resigned-sounding Joe Strummer who seems devastated by the fact that musicians cannot make the world’s problems disappear.

Radio stations and the general public however, preferred the charms of Should I Stay Or Should I Go. It has a great riff, a sing-a-long and infectiously catchy chorus and the most ridiculously yet charming backing vocals in some strange version of Spanish.  What’s not to like???

Jonny The Friendly Lawyer added:-

I was a massive Who fan since my sister bought me Who’s Next when I was a little kid. By the time I saw the Clash open for them at Shea Stadium I’d been a dedicated fan since London Calling, which was only 3 years earlier.

I had seen them once at the Bonds shows but the group were still not in the mainstream at that time. I just did not know what to make of the idea of The Clash, who’d been practically underground until a couple of years before, playing for rock giants who’d been at Woodstock and were pretty much on their last legs as a band. It sort of felt, to me, that this massive crowd (Shea was a baseball stadium that held over 55,000 — I’d been watching the Mets play there since 1968) didn’t DESERVE to be in on the act. The vast majority were there to see The ‘Oo, of course, who went through the motions satisfactorily, and I wanted to make a “punk meets the godfathers” mental connection, but just couldn’t.

If I remember correctly, Echorich not only saw many of the Bonds shows but also saw the Clash at the legendary Palladium gig from a couple of years prior, when NO ONE knew the band and they got zero radio play. I wonder what the slightly older than me crowd thought of the only band that mattered opening for the only band that used to matter.

Echorich chimed in:-

…yes I was at Shea Stadium – I was living walking distance from Shea at the time and one of the photographers I rep’ed at my agency, Bob Gruen – who drove the band to the show in his 50’s Cadillac, got us tix. Honestly, I would have been happy to sit outside the stadium in the parking lot listening to them tear down the house if I had to. But it was a weird feeling seeing a band I loved play in such an impersonal setting. The Clash rose to the challenge, but their show a month earlier, in the pouring rain at Pier 84, courting electrocution and drowning a few thousand in sound as much as rain was one of the most electric shows I’ve ever seen.

mp3: The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go
mp3: The Clash – Straight To Hell

I hope, gentlemen, that some further happy memories are triggered listening again to the tracks almost 40 years on.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 1)

 

If there’s one thing that the look back at all the R.E.M. singles has taught me, then it’s to make sure that you have a true fan on board when taking a look at the career of a much-loved band, particularly when :-

(a) they have been, or were, part of the fabric of essential music for decades;and

(b) my own efforts will be hampered by not actually having a copy of all the records due to be featured in any series.

Let’s face it, without The Robster on board, many of the Sundays over the past year or so would have been a washout.

I’ve thought long and hard about who next to shine the spotlight on. Prior to R.E.M., the singles series had been devoted to The Auteurs/Luke Haines, Simple Minds, Marc Almond, Paul Haig, Grinderman, New Order, XTC, Undertones, Buzzcocks, Cinerama, The Clash, The Style Council, The Jam, Altered Images and James.

It’s not too shabby a list, but there is one band I’ve long wanted to cover but always felt it would be too much of a challenge. Thankfully, Drew, doyen of From Across The Kitchen Table, (which has been in abeyance since the end of last year), has answered my plea for help as I’m not perfectly placed to take on the fresh challenge single-handedly.

Yup. The aim is to focus on the recorded output of The Fall, going back to the debut single in August 1978 and meandering our way through the following 40 years.

The thing is, I really have no idea what road the series will follow.

Drew, quite rightly, doesn’t want to be restricted solely to looking at singles as they don’t really give a true indication of things. At the same time, if the series was to try and look at every release, be they singles, EPs, studio albums, live albums, compilations and Peel Sessions, it would be akin to painting the Forth Rail Bridge (i.e., never ending).

So, get yourselves comfortably and safely seated, but fasten your safety belts as we get set to take you through this wonderful and frightening new series. Here’s how it all started:-

mp3: The Fall – Psycho Mafia
mp3: The Fall – Bingo-Master
mp3: The Fall – Repetition

The facts.

Recorded late 1977 in Manchester but not released until 11 August 1978 on Step Forward Records. It didn’t chart.

The players were Mark E Smith (vocals), Martin Bramah (guitar), Tony Friel (bass), Karl Burns (drums) and Una Baines (keyboards). All five members are credited with the writing of Repetition. Smith and Friel are responsible for Psycho Mafia, while Smith and Baines wrote Bingo Master. One interesting thing to note is that both Friel and Baines had left the band before the debut single was released….but they wouldn’t be the last musicians eligible to have ‘ex-The Fall’ after their name.

Nostalgically, it’s fair to say it really was something of a sensational debut, but it didn’t quite feel that way back in 1978. In the era of post-punk and just about anything being able to go, the harshness of the playing and the unusual vocal delivery did make it a challenging listen. If the band had broken up there and then, it would likely have been highly regarded as a cult single. Better songs would quickly follow, but all three of these remain essential and, while the next five different decades would see a continual re-invention and evolution, it is nevertheless a reasonable statement to make that these are damn near the perfect calling card as any type of introduction to The Fall.

Welcome aboard. One or both of us will be back next Sunday.

Oh, and if anyone wants to contribute at any point, they would be most welcome. But, please remember, the plan is to do things in a chronological fashion, and so it might be that your words, thoughts and promptings will be kept in a holding pattern until permission to land is granted.

JC and Drew

PS – another reminder for those who still might need their weekly R.E.M. fix that The Robster has an ongoing weekly series over at his place.  Click here for a Star Trek type transportation…..

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #262: PSYCHIC SOVIETS

I’ve mentioned before that quite a few of the Scottish singers/groups to feature in this extremely long-running series will do so as a result of them contributing a song to a compilation album, with it being the only track of theirs I have on the hard drive.

It was last December, in the posting on Pennycress, that I referenced David Cameron’s Eton Mess, a sixteen-song compilation issued in October 2015 on Song By Toad Records, with just about every contributor, at the time, being unknown with very little more than a few tracks available online or via a limited physical release, most often cheaply done on a cassette.

Psychic Soviets were also on the compilation.

mp3 : Psychic Soviets – I Become A Feminist

All I’ve been able to find out about them is via a promotional blurb to promote a gig the same month this particular compilation album was released:-

Psychic Soviets are a band that’s sound shouldn’t be compared to many other bands that have come out of Scotland in recent years, their unique sound is a twisted, pacey, aggressive, punky romp. The National Newspaper describe them as if the Dead Kennedys and The Strokes had followed Franz Ferdinand and Sparks’ lead and formed a supergroup, then recorded in a garage in a rage.  It is as raw & ugly as it gets, in your face music at its finest.

If this rocks your boat (and why shouldn’t it??) then you can head over to bandcamp and listen to four further songs which made up the limited edition cassette release (50 only) of A Capitalist Night-Time BreakfastClick here.

JC

FINALLY, A HALF- DECENT SONG ABOUT FOOTBALL


Today marks the start of the finals of the European Football Championships, originally meant to be played in 2020, but delayed by 12 months as a result of the impact of COVID 19.

Scotland are in the finals.  It’s the first time we have reached this stage of a major competition since 1998.  It’s been twenty-three long years and there’s a fair number of us excited about what lies ahead, although in typical fashion, we are likely to be one of the first to be eliminated (we have never got out of the group stages at any World Cup or European Championships in any of our previous nine campaigns in 1954, 1958, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1990, 1992, 1996 and 1998).

As ever, songs have been written and recorded to mark the occasion, although the COVID restrictions have meant, thankfully, that no official songs featuring the players have been inflicted on us.  With the exception of World In Motion by England/New Order in 1990, and the kitsch/tongue-in-cheek back in 1982 of We Have A Dream by the Scotland squad, along with John Gordon Sinclair, one of the stars of the film Gregory’s Girl, all the official efforts have been appalling.

One of my favourite indie bands, Randolph’s Leap, has been getting some good local press for their new single, They Didn’t See Us Coming.  Here’s some words lifted from the press pack issued by Olivegrove Records:-

“Scottish indie-band Randolph’s Leap have recorded a buoyant, singalong anthem, They Didn’t See Us Coming for Scotland’s Euro 2020 campaign. The single is officially released on 4th June and will raise money for two notable charities, Street Soccer Scotland and LEAP Sports.​

The lyrics for They Didn’t See Us Coming were penned by Adam Ross, the principal songwriter in the group who is based in St Cyrus near Montrose. He explained “I think music and football share a lot in common. They’re both valuable sources of escapism and have an amazing power to lift people’s spirits and help us connect with other humans. I think all of those things are really welcome and important right now.”​

Due to Covid restrictions, the song was recorded remotely and mixed in Glasgow by Randolph’s Leap keyboardist Pete MacDonald who even managed to incorporate Liam McLeod’s iconic, goosebump-inducing commentary from Scotland’s qualifying match. The SFA and BBC Scotland have granted permission for the band to sample McLeod’s voice which many will recognise from the nail-biting penalty shootout against Serbia, a play-off victory which sent the Scotland men’s team to their first major tournament finals since 1998.​

Scotland’s turbulent road to the competition is referenced in the song’s title They Didn’t See Us Coming as well as playful lyrics about “arriving fashionably late” (a nod to the team qualifying at a late stage via the UEFA Nations League route in November 2020). The chorus even pays brief homage to stadium-favourites “Doe-a-Deer”, “We’ll Be Coming Down The Road” and Baccara’s “Yes Sir I Can Boogie” which has become an unlikely anthem amongst the fans in recent years.​

“The song is a bit of an underdog anthem.” says Ross. “It’s about defying expectations but also remembering to have fun and make the most of these matches and the atmosphere that will accompany them. Who knows, it could be a while before it comes round again!”.

As the money raised from the single will be donated to a couple of well-deserving charities, (LEAP Sports is a Glasgow-based charity which aims to increase LGBTIQ+ representation in sport through work such as their ‘Football vs Homophobia’ campaign, while Street Soccer Scotland is  a social enterprise which uses football to tackle issues of isolation linked to poverty and social exclusion), I’m not going to post an mp3, but here’s a way to listen:-

I love the fact that the band have made a song that sounds like something from one of their albums, and in doing so have come up with a playful lyric which I think perfectly captures the mood of most of our fans in that we are perhaps unexpectedly in the finals, and we don’t really have any high expectations…..but in football, you just never know.

Here’s one I mentioned earlier.  I like to think of They Didn’t See Us Coming as being from the same genealogy:-

mp3: The Scotland World Cup Squad 1982 – We Have A Dream

Please click here to purchase the Randolph’s Leap song.

Cheers.

JC

THIS COULD HAVE MUSTERED AS AN ALBUM

A couple of weeks back, on a day recovering from the slight after effects of my second COVID vaccination, I decided to spend a few hours flicking through all sorts of music documentaries and shows that can be found via the TV, whether on channels or the likes of YouTube.  I couldn’t really settle on one thing, finding myself hopping from video to video, unable to get the sort of show or performance that would get my mind initially a bit more focussed and ultimately allowing me to feel more relaxed.

And then I saw a link to Radiohead‘s performance at Glastonbury in 1997 which came just a couple of weeks after the release of OK Computer.  I remembered seeing it live via the BBC coverage at the time, thinking that it had been one of the greatest things ever to hit the telly screen.  I wondered, however, how it would come across in 2021 given that the technology has moved on so much in the intervening years, and I reckoned it might well have sounded a bit thin and maybe tinny. I was also intrigued as a few years ago, on the 20th Anniversary of the performance, Thom Yorke had told the BBC that he had almost walked off mid-set as there were sound problems, something that I couldn’t recall being the case.

Turns out that time had not diminished the performance, nor could I really pick up where the sound issues had caused consternation, apart from a couple of occasions when there were slightly longer than usual delays in the next song starting up.

In a show packed with spine-tingling moments, the playing of this, as the second song of the night, was a real highlight:-

mp3: Radiohead – My Iron Lung

The My Iron Lung EP, in September 1994, bridged the gap between the albums Pablo Honey (1993) and The Bends (1995), albeit the title track would appear on the latter.  Here in the UK, it was released as a four-song EP on vinyl, with copies nowadays going for around £50 on the second hand market.  Like most other folk, I ended up instead with the CDs, with two of them being released, with the lead track on both occasions accompanied by three b-sides. Meanwhile, in Australia, it was released as a CD with eight songs, with the additional track being an acoustic version of Creep.

Many fans and critics have said, quite rightly, that the quality of the songs on the EP, all of which were recorded during the preparation or indeed the sessions for The Bends, would have made for a very decent album on its own. Judge for yourself:-

CD ONE

mp3: Radiohead – The Trickster
mp3: Radiohead – Punchdrunk Lovesong Singalong
mp3: Radiohead – Lozenge Of Love

CD TWO

mp3: Radiohead – Lewis (Mistreated)
mp3: Radiohead – Permanent Daylight
mp3: Radiohead – You Never Wash After Yourself

It’s quite scary that none of these songs were deemed good enough to be kept back for inclusion on the subsequent album. The Trickster and Permanent Daylight in particular have long been personal favourites, albeit the latter does come across as a tribute to Sonic Youth.

Radiohead were almost chosen as the subject of the forthcoming Sunday series replacement for R.E.M., but in the end, and after a great deal of soul-searching, they were put to one side. For the time being anyway.

Only 72 hours now till the big reveal.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #287 : DUM DUM GIRLS

A GUEST POSTING by MARTIN ELLIOTT

(Our Swedish Correspondent)

Hi Jim,

For a reason I can’t really explain the new, now paused, Monday series of landfill indie got me inspired to do this Dum Dum Girls ICA. Not that I consider this landfill, on the contrary Dum Dum Girls are/were really great indie (is/was?, despite the plural indication it is just Dee Dee Penny, real name Kristin Gundred, that make up DDG). Probably because I believe DDG is great indie too few have heard, although the TVV crowd is if any likely an exception to that assumption.

As Dum Dum Girls,  Dee Dee released 3 albums and a handful of singles/EP’s before she changed her recording name to Kristin Kontrol and released the so far only album X-Communicate in 2016. A really excellent album, but not included here as I focus on the Dum Dum Girls moniker.

Me finding her was a true chance meeting; for some years around the 2000-teens I worked intensively with our NA branch travelling 5 – 6 times a year to North Carolina. Staying a week each time, sharing my time between Charlotte and a small town about an hours drive east of Raleigh I always made the time to roam some of the record stores of Charlotte and Raleigh. Once, browsing through the “just in” bins in one of the Raleigh stores I came a cross a sleeve that caught my attention. Matte pink and grey, sturdy and looking high quality, it stood out among the rest. Picking it up I saw it was released on Sub Pop, another reason for interest, so I took it over to the record player in the store, put the headphones on and dropped the needle. The rest is as you say, history.

This was what I later learned her 2nd album – Only In Dreams from 2011. About a year later me and the family were in Lisbon for a weekend, walking through FNAC to satisfy the kids I just so happened to make my way by their music corner and saw another Dum Dum Girls album – Too True (from 2014) – for some reason on display despite this now being fall 2015. Picked it up and now really hooked I ventured to the internet to get her debut album from 2010 and 2 EP’s plus a lonely 7″ as well.

Dum Dum Girls never made (to my knowledge) any charts, Pitchfork had an eye for her/them but the larger music buying public apparently not. A shame if you ask me.

So let me introduce Dee Dee Penny and her Dum Dum Girls;

She Gets Me High – A Dum Dum Girls ICA

A1. Jail La La(I Will Be, 2010).

The first DDG album released in 2010 was very much a bedroom recording effort mostly by Dee Dee herself, with some added help. 10 songs rushed through in a rather frantic tempo with echoes of say The Mo-Dettes, or maybe even The Ramones. Most of the tracks clocks in just under 3 minutes, this being a prime example.

A2. Crystal Baby (single b-side, 2011).

Taken from the Coming Down single, another short track that after a gentle start builds in intensity.

A3. Heartbeat (Take It Away) (Only In Dreams, 2011)

The album that first caught my attention, and the first of the tracks I listened to that afternoon in Raleigh. Guitars and a bit of attitude. All you need.

A4. Too True To Be Good (Too True, 2014)

Title track of the third and last DDG album, a richer version of Dee Dee’s take on indie. She stated her influences for this album were darker than earlier, citing bands like The Cure and Siouxsie & The Banshees but also Stone Roses. To me a more mature, deeper, sound, and a needed step away from getting stuck in a too familiar mould.

A5. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (He Gets Me High, EP, 2011).

A great version of a great song by what was a great band. (And equally not great is how he who we don’t name turned out to be in later years.)

B1. Lost Boys And Girls Club (Too True).

Released as a single preceding the Too True album, the intro has some rather obvious traces of the Cure-influences she mentioned. Heavier drums driving the track along a darker path. My favourite track from the LP.

B2. He Gets Me High (He Gets Me High, EP).

Apart from giving this ICA its name, it’s another great guitar lead track. The steps in sound taken from the debut album to the Only In Dreams follow-up were for the most part already taken by the release of this EP.

B3. In My Head (Only In Dreams)

Thematically dealing with the same lonely and longing state of loss as He Gets Me High. Longing for someone not there anymore rather than moving on. “I’d rather visit you in my head”.

B4. I Got Nothing (End Of Daze, EP, 2012)

Is it a break-up song? The lyrics are dubious, the chorus gives the impression but especially the first verse I (at least) find ambiguous. What will I see if you’re not with me / What can I do, not without you”. Lyrics are a bit of pop-version Cure-gloom maybe, musically rather catchy .

B5. Coming Down (Only In Dreams).

An edit was released as single but this is the full album version in all its glory. A true album closer, even if it wasn’t placed as such on the album. Moody, and this is doubtlessly a break-up song, so if she wasn’t sure in I Got Nothing, now it’s over. (The song was featured in season 2 & 3 of “Orange Is The New Black”, still never hit any charts despite the exposure.)

MARTIN

NICE TRY, SUNSHINE!

I’m on the mailing list for Mono, the record shop in Glasgow owned and run by Stephen McRobbie (née Stephen Pastel).  It’s my go-to place for most new music, although I do often buy direct from the singer/band/label if the opportunity is there – it’s all about trying to spread the wealth.

A short time ago, I was attracted by one of the albums highlighted in their weekly round-up of new releases.  I ordered it from Mono as to do attempt to do so from the label, Appetite, which is based in Gothenburg, Sweden, would likely have seen me incur all sorts of shipping and customs charges in this post-Brexit situation that we are trying to get accustomed to.  Let’s just say, based on some of the horror stories I’ve been reading online, I’m highly unlikely to be going direct to any European countries in the foreseeable future.

Here’s how Appetite described the album in question:-

Nice Try, Sunshine! is a compilation of 14 Swedish underground pop hits that should have conquered the heart of every pop fan around the globe, but somehow has fallen into obscurity. The bands on this record were mainly active during the 2000’s and early in the following decade, with some obvious exceptions.

From the very first tones of Days’ lovely “Downhill” (a song that should be the very blueprint for any indie pop song written since), this record takes us to that place that only really beautiful pop music can, whether it is the heart crushing nostalgia of Ring Snuten, the pure indie bliss of Free Loan Investments or Jens Lekman backed by his childhood self

This is our way of showing respects to these little gems of pure pop beauty.

There were only 250 copies of the album pressed up, and not surprisingly it sold out quickly, leading to a further pressing of 100 albums, to be issued later this month but which also, according to the label’s bandcamp page, has sold out already.

But is it any good?

As with nearly all compilations, some tracks stand out a great deal more than others, and there are maybe one or two that I could happily live without, although I’m slowly coming round to them. The whole things clocks-in at a shade over 35 minutes, with half of the tracks being less than 150 seconds in length. Just about all the acts were new to me, and I’ll be on the look-out for a few more releases by some of them, although many of them, certainly according to Discogs, didn’t actually release all that much.

Take Days, for example.  The blurb for the album states that their song, Downhill, is one that should be the very blueprint for any indie pop song written since. For once, the hype is real – it’s a piece of perfect dreamy pop in which a Swede who would, without question, win the worldwide Neil Tennant soundalike contest, delivers something quite magical.

mp3: Days – Downhill

As far as I can tell, Days enjoyed just one release – a combined CD and 7″ single containing seven tracks all told – back in 2008. All I’ve been able to find is that they were from Gothenburg and had four members – Fabian Sahlqvist (vocals and guitars), John Ludvigsson (guitars), Andréas Uppman Nilsson (bass) and Philip Gates (drums).

If Martin, our Swedish Correspondent, or indeed anyone else out there can flesh things out, I’d love to hear from you.

JC

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Eighteen : HEART OF GLASS

Yup.  The 12″ single which rotates at thirty-three and one-third revolutions per minute.  And which, as a sad teenager, I stared at with a magnifying glass trying to work out if Debbie Harry was braless beneath that slip of a white dress.

mp3: Blondie – Heart Of Glass

Debbie and Chris Stein, in 2013, provided The Guardian with an explanation of how the song came to be:-

DH: In 1974, we were living in a loft in New York’s then notorious Bowery area, rehearsing at night in rooms so cold we had to wear gloves. Heart of Glass was one of the first songs Blondie wrote, but it was years before we recorded it properly. We’d tried it as a ballad, as reggae, but it never quite worked. At that point, it had no title. We just called it “the disco song”.

Then, in 1978, we got this producer, Mike Chapman, who asked us to play all the songs we had. At the end, he said: “Have you got anything else?” We sheepishly said: “Well, there is this old one.” He liked it – he thought it was very pretty and started to pull it into focus. The boys in the band had got their hands on a new toy: this little Roland drum machine. One day, we were fiddling around with it and Chapman said: “That’s a great sound.” So we used it.

Back then, it was very unusual for a guitar band to be using computerised sound. People got nervous and angry about us bringing different influences into rock. Although we’d covered Lady Marmalade and I Feel Love at gigs, lots of people were mad at us for “going disco” with Heart of Glass. There was the Disco Sucks! movement, and there had even been a riot in Chicago, with people burning disco records. Clem Burke, our drummer, refused to play the song live at first. When it became a hit, he said: “I guess I’ll have to.”

The lyrics weren’t about anyone. They were just a plaintive moan about lost love. At first, the song kept saying: “Once I had a love, it was a gas. Soon turned out, it was a pain in the ass.” We couldn’t keep saying that, so we came up with: “Soon turned out, had a heart of glass.” We kept one “pain in the ass” in – and the BBC bleeped it out for radio.

For the video, I wanted to dance around but they told us to remain static, while the cameras moved around. God only knows why. Maybe we were too clumsy. I wore an asymmetrical dress designed by Steve Sprouse, made the boys’ T-shirts myself, and probably did my own hair. Everyone says I look iconic and in control, but I prefer our other videos. It was No 1 around the world. We’d had a lot of hits, but this was our first at home. Chapman was in Milan with us and said: “Join me in the bar.” I thought: “Oh God, I just wanna go to bed.” But we dragged our asses down and he told us it was No 1 in America. We drank a lot.

CS: Recording with Mike was fun, if a little painstaking – we had to do things over and over. But Jimmy [Destri, keyboards] had a lot to do with how the record sounds, too. Although the song eventually became its own thing, at first he wanted it to sound like a Kraftwerk number.

It was Jimmy who brought in the drum machine and a synthesiser. Synchronising them was a big deal at the time. It all had to be done manually, with every note and beat played in real time rather than looped over. And on old disco tracks, the bass drum was always recorded separately, so Clem had to pound away on a foot-pedal for three hours until they got a take they were happy with.

As far as I was concerned, disco was part of R&B, which I’d always liked. The Ramones went on about us “going disco”, but it was tongue-in-cheek. They were our friends. In the video, there’s a shot of the legendary Studio 54, so everyone thought we shot the video there, but it was actually in a short-lived club called the Copa or something.

I came up with the phrase “heart of glass” without knowing anything about Werner Herzog or his movie of the same name, which is a great, weird film. It’s nice people now use the song to identify the period in films and documentaries. I’ve heard a million versions. There are lots of great mash-ups. My favourite features the song being played at super-low speed, like odd industrial music.

I never had an inkling it would be such a big hit, or become the song we’d be most remembered for. It’s very gratifying.

And here’s your instrumental b-side

mp3: Blondie – Heart Of Glass (instrumental)

While I’m on, I can’t resist posting another couple of versions, but not ripped at 320kpbs:-

mp3: Associates – Heart of Glass (Auchterhouse Mix)
mp3: Blondie & Philip Glass – Heart of Glass (Crabtree Mix)

The former is one of the 12″ versions of a flop single released in 1988. The latter is a mashup by producer Jonas Crabtree;  it fuses parts of the Blondie song with parts of the Violin Concerto by Philip Glass and was used to great effect in one of the key scenes in the first series of the TV adaption of The Handmaid’s Tale.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 58)

Only kidding!!!!!

The series did come to a halt last Sunday, but as The Robster promised, anybody needing their weekly fix of R.E.M. will be looked after over at his place, Is This The Life?

Click here to be magically transported.

This here blog you’re currently visiting will have a new Sunday series kicking off next week, one which it is hoped will provide just as much joy as provided by R.E.M. and fingers are crossed that there will also be a similar amount of interaction via the comments section.  It’s also going to be a series in which guest contributions will be made very welcome.

For now, I’ll just leave you with a cover:-

mp3: Editors – Orange Crush

After an unusual and quiet intro, it’s a fairly faithful interpretation.  Trust me, it’s worth a few minutes of your time.

JC

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #261: PRONTO MAMA

From the website of the Electric Honey record label:-

Describing themselves as a “past post-modern bug-eyed beatnik group”, the Glasgow-based alternative indie-rock group Pronto Mama were formed in 2011.

The band released their first two EPs, Lickety Split and Niche Market in 2014 in quick succession, with their energetic presence gaining support from the likes of BBC 1 Introducing’s Ally McCrae.

After playing numerous gigs and festivals over the years, such as T in The Park, Belladrum and even a few dates in Poland in 2015, the band signed to Electric Honey in 2017.

Their highly anticipated album, Any Joy, was released in May 2017 and has since received airplay from both BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6, as well as a nomination for Scottish Album of the Year.

I can remember exactly where I was when I picked up my copy of Any Joy. It was just over four years ago, when a group of bloggers from Germany, USA, England and Scotland decided it was time to put faces to the names and to have a weekend of fun and frivolity here in Glasgow. We had been in a few city centre ale houses but with it being a gloriously hot and sunny day, we made our way to a pub with outdoor seating, located on the banks of the River Kelvin in the West End. After a short time, a Glaswegian pop star walked into the pub. It was Ken McCluskey of The Bluebells, and of course I took the opportunity to say hello, introduce everyone and explain how we all got to know one another and the reasons for us being in Glasgow.

Ken was delighted to be able to say hello – Brian from Linear Tracking Lives in particular got a huge kick out of chatting to him. Ken also took the opportunity to introduce us to a brand-new CD, which wasn’t yet in the shops, by a band called Pronto Mama. It was due to be released on Electric Honey, a label attached to a college in Glasgow, where students can undertake a course looking at all aspects of the music business, and where Ken enjoyed a role, alongside the likes of Alan Rankine (ex-Associates) as one of the lecturers at the college. Ken very kindly gave Brian a free copy of the CD in acknowledgement of the fact he had come all the way over from Seattle, and while I was offered similar, I insisted on paying for mine.

mp3: Pronto Mama – Cold Arab Spring

Over the coming months, Any Joy got a fair amount of critical acclaim, and deservedly so, culminating in it being nominated for a SAY Award.  The thing is, and what sadly seems to be too often the case when a band wonders what to do on the back of a debut album, (or indeed EP or single), Pronto Mama have disappeared off the radar, and I assume at some point decided to spilt up.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (57)

I can’t recall hearing the debut single from Ian Dury played on Radio 1 back in August 1977.  But then again, it had the words ‘Sex’ and ‘Drugs’ in the title, so it was most likely blacklisted.

Ian Dury was 35 years of age at the time of its release, so he wasn’t in his first flush of youth, nor was he an overnight sensation. He had, back in the late 60s, made a career out of visual art, as a college lecturer and as an occasional illustrator.  He turned increasingly to the performing arts in the 70s, as frontman for Kilburn & The High Roads, one of the mainstays of the London pub circuit and who released two albums before breaking up in 1975.

His big break came in early 1977 when he hooked up with Chas Jankel, another veteran of the pub circuit, with Jankel adding killer tunes to Dury’s highly poetic and witty lyrics.  A small, hungry and independent label, Stiff, liked what they were hearing and signed Ian Dury to a solo contract.  Keen to get moving quickly to take advantage of the way punk was opening doors for all types of musicians and characters, Dury and Jankel recruited Norman Watt-Roy and Charlie Charles, two well-regarded session musicians, to respectively play bass and drums on the debut 45.

mp3: Ian Dury – Sex & Drugs & Rock’n’Roll

The single didn’t chart, but it was well-received by many of the critics and writers employed by all the main music papers in the UK, and Ian Dury was soon being talked of as a serious talent in the emerging scene.  This four-piece band would record the debut album, New Boots and Panties, which was a huge success, eventually reaching #5 despite not having any hit singles with which to be further promoted.

It was shortly after the completion of the album that the backing band expanded to take three other musicians – Mickey Gallagher (keyboards), John Turnbull (guitar) and Davey Payne (saxophone) – and be formalised as Ian Dury and The Blockheads, going on to enjoy fame and fortune including the very first #1 single for any independent label with Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick in January 1979, having been stuck behind YMCA by The Village People for a couple of weeks.

I think it’s fair to say that while Sex & Drugs & Rock’n’Roll was a very good, if not indeed an excellent debut, the continued development of Dury and Jankell’s song-writing partnership, allied to the musicianship of the Blockheads, meant many of those which followed were superior efforts.

The b-side of the debut saw Dury sit behind the drum kit while Jankell played the guitars and bass for an ode to some shoplifting exploits around soft-core porn magazines

mp3: Ian Dury – Razzle In My Pocket

It’s just occurred to me that I really should have kept this b-side for the ‘Great Short Stories’ series.

JC

FROM THE VAULTS OF A GLASGOW BASED INDIE-LABEL (2)

There wasn’t too much reaction to the first part of the look back at the output of Bubblegum Records, a Glasgow-based label that was in existence between 2009 and 2011, during which there were just over twenty releases from an incredible range of bands and musicians from all over the world.  Part One looked at Hyperbubble from San Antonio, Texas and at Lean Tales from Glasgow.

Part two looks at the magnificently named Tesco Chainstore Mascara, a duo consisting of David (instruments and vocals) and Katie (vocals), and whose band name is a pun on the 1974 slasher movie.

What else can I tell you?  David writes the tunes while Katie writes the words. I think they are from Burntwood, a former mining town in Staffordshire in the West Midlands of England (and if I’m wrong on that, blame their old myspace page).

In October 2009, their debut album Good Foundations was released on CD by Bubblegum Records.  It has 11 tracks and takes under 33 minutes to listen to.  It’s an album that has much going for it, particularly if your favourite bands have female lead singers with pleasant but not particularly distinctive voices. There are times when it reminds me of Dubstar which isn’t a bad thing, and occasionally I find myself thinking of The Primitives, The Darling Buds, Tracey Ullman, Amelia Fletcher, and, whisper it, Sarah Cracknell. Of the bands who have come along after them, then fans of The Lovely Eggs are likely to enjoy things.

mp3: Tesco Chainstore Mascara – You Lost Me At Hello
mp3: Tesco Chainstore Mascara – Beautiful Life
mp3: Tesco Chainstore Mascara – M62

Oh, and there’s one song where David takes the lead vocal:-

mp3: Tesco Chainstore Mascara – Just The Weight You Are

It’s a CD that won’t change the world – indeed, the fact that it was their only physical release during the time the duo were together, kind of proves that to be the case. But there are far worse and less interesting ways to spend your time listening to music.

JC