SOME WORDS FROM AN EARLIER ICA (4)

Yesterday’s posting was inspired by an ICA featuring a b-side.   Well, whatdyaknow?  One of the very best ICAs was one which consisted solely of b-sides.

Here’s The Robster back on 23 June 2015 with something from ICA #18-

“Edam Anchorman : b-side of (Drawing) Rings Around The World (2001)

One of my fave Super Furry Animals singles had this little monkey hiding almost unnoticed on its flip. It reminds of so many other things that have come out much more recently, but as is the norm for the Furries, they seemed to be ahead of their time back in 2001. One of the biggest, most anthemic choruses they’ve done.”

(Drawing) Rings Around The World was the second single taken from the band’s fifth album, Rings Around The World. It was released on 8 October 2001 on 12″ vinyl and on enhanced CD which also contained the promo video.  Each version had three songs, albeit just two tunes:-

mp3: Super Furry Animals – (Drawing) Rings Around The World
mp3: Super Furry Animals – Edam Anchorman
mp3: Super Furry Animals – All The Shit U Do

The single did get to #28 in the UK charts, and was also voted in at #21 in the John Peel Festive 50 of 2001.

JC

SOME WORDS FROM AN EARLIER ICA (3)

Here’s Drew back on 15 May 2017 with something from ICA #123:-

“Rock & Roll

Rock & Roll recounts the story of Jenny whose life was saved by Rock & Roll. I read in notes to Peel Slowly and See that the song was about Reed himself, who wasn’t interested in anything until he heard rock and roll. “If I hadn’t heard rock and roll on the radio, I would have had no idea there was life on this planet”

It comes from the band’s final album, Loaded recorded for Atlantic. The band were on the point of implosion at this point but could still produce an LP “loaded” with hits or so Reed thought, and it is definitely the most commercial of their releases.”

Rock & Roll was released on a 45 by Atlantic in Germany and the UK back in 1973.  The picture sleeve used to illustrate this post is taken from one of the German releases as the UK single came housed in a plain sleeve.  You’ll have noticed that I said was ‘released on a 45, words chosen deliberately as it was actually the b-side.  It was also the first ever release attributed to more than just the band:-

mp3: The Velvet Underground featuring Lou Reed – Sweet Jane
mp3: The Velvet Underground featuring Lou Reed – Rock & Roll

It was, of course, a cash-in attempt, coming on the back of Walk On The Wild Side being a solo hit for Lou Reed in 1972 but it proved to be a flop, with Radio 1 not the slightest bit interested in playing it.

JC

SOME WORDS FROM AN EARLIER ICA (2)

Yesterday featured a song which peaked at #40 in the UK singles charts.  Well, whatdyaknow?  Its deja vu….

Here’s our much missed friend Tim Badger back on 26 July 2016 with something from ICA #86:-

Sparky’s Dream

Ok I’ll keep this one short – this is one of the best pop rock songs ever written. It’s another Gerard Love one and that bluesy slide guitar intro is divine and nearly every band I can think of would kill for it.”

Looking back, you can learn, or be reminded, that Sparky’s Dream was the lead single from the fifth studio album, Grand Prix.  It was released on 22 May 1995 as a 7″ single and on 2 x CDs.

I’ve one of the CDs in the collection:-

mp3: Teenage Fanclub – Sparky’s Dream
mp3: Teenage Fanclub – Burned
mp3: Teenage Fanclub – For You
mp3: Teenage Fanclub – Headstand

Burned is a cover of a Buffalo Springfield song, written by Neil Young and dating from 1966, and was made available on the 7″ and CD1. The latter is where you’ll also find the Raymond McGinley penned For You, and Headstand, another track written by Gerard Love.

I’ve also picked up, along the way, the lead track from CD2.

mp3: Teenage Fanclub – Sparky’s Dream (alternative version)

This is actually the recording for the BBC Radio 1 Evening Session that had been transmitted a few months earlier, on 23 January 1995.

JC

SOME WORDS FROM AN EARLIER ICA (1)

Lazy week (of sorts) for me.  The next few days will see me delve into some old ICAs and reproduce the words written about a particular song at the time, before expanding to include its b-sides.  Here’s SWC back on 25 March 2015 with something from ICA #9:-

North American Scum

You’ll all know this song but the point where the cowbell clangs and organ buzz that set off North American Scum is one of the greatest moments in recent music history. This is one of the finest anthems of our generation. There is an angry guitar that pushes its way to the front, and as it does burst through, you can’t help but grin at the stupidly brilliant American.”

Looking back, you can learn, or be reminded, that North American Scum was the lead single from the second studio album, Sound of Silver.  It was released on 26 February 2007 as a digital download and on 7″, 12″ and CD formats exactly one week later.

Here’s all the tracks you can expect to find across all the formats.

mp3: LCD Soundsystem – North American Scum
mp3: LCD Soundsystem – North American Scum (Kris Menace Remix)
mp3: LCD Soundsystem – North American Scum (Onastic Dub Mix by James Murphy and Eric Broucek)
mp3: LCD Soundsystem – Hippie-Priest Bum-Out

It peaked at #40 in the UK charts which, quite frankly, is another dreadful indictment of the taste of the record-buying public.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a few more guitars for those of you who prefer things that way.

JC

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Thirty One : TAKE THE SKINHEADS BOWLING

If the statement on the reverse of the sleeve is to be believed, then this was “recorded at Samurai Sound Labs in Davis, California, with mixing taking place at Samurai Sounds Labs & Chris Molla’s-enormous-piece-of-squid-in-the-fridge-studios while most everybody was naked or wearing massive fur boas & platform shoes.”

If only mobile phones and social media had been around back in 1984, then we would have an idea whether it is fact or fiction.  After all, who keeps giant squid in their fridge?

Camper Van Beethoven aren’t all that well known beyond this particular single, released here in the UK in early 1985 on Rough Trade.  It made it all the way to #8 in the Indie Charts and was voted in at #47 in the end of the year Peel Festive Fifty.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think it is one of the finest, funniest, freshest and most wonderful songs from that era, one which always got me off my seat every time it was aired at an indie-disco or night out.  My use of the past tense reflects how long since any such event has taken place, and the likelihood that, I edge towards turning 60 in twenty-one months time, my dancing days, if not completely over, will be restricted, and I’d only be able to shake my thang to Skinheads if it was aired after I’d been sitting down for at least ten minutes after my previous exertions.

mp3: Camper Van Beethoven – Take The Skinheads Bowling

I didn’t pick this up this back in the day.  In truth, it passed me by in 1986 and my recollection of being introduced to it was via listening to the Peel end-of-year rundown, which I was taping onto cassette each night.  Even then, I didn’t go out and seek it out, which would likely have been difficult as Rough Trade singles (with the exception of The Smiths), certainly in Scotland, were hard to track down once the shops had sold out their initial allocation.  But it is one I sought out, via Discogs, not long after starting the blog reignited fully the passion for vinyl.

I’d like to think you’re all smiling while listening to this today.  It really is that sort of song……

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 14)

Let’s get a misconception about this one right out of the way.

C.R.E.E.P. is not about recently departed band member, Marc Riley.

Brix Smith‘s book, The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise (2016) devotes a few paragraphs to the song, saying that she was excited by it, not least as she provides ‘bratty backing vocals that contested well with the darkness of The Fall’, and firmly believed it had a chance of cracking the singles chart. She also explains that the lyrics were aimed at another of the many hundreds of individuals who had upset Mark E Smith somewhere along the way, a German tour manager by the name of Scumech, whose name was turned into scum-egg as part of the lyric.  A bit of investigatory work by fans of the band later unearthed that the man in question was most likely Scumeck Sabottka, who would later make a fortune as the founder of one of the biggest online ticketing agencies in Germany – and looking at some of the photos of the man that can be found online, he does look something of a peace-loving, trendy wretch who was fond of ABC.  It would appear therefore that MES never gave him the look of love….

C.R.E.E.P. didn’t sound like anything the band had written, recorded and released up to this point.  It was even more ‘pop’ orientated than Oh! Brother.  It is very much a record on which the guiding influence of John Leckie in the producer’s chair is obvious, and the folk at Beggars Banquet must have been pleased at how it was all going.

Many years later, it would emerge that the tune had been written by the brothers Steve and Paul Hanley together with Craig Scanlon, just after The Man Whose Head Expanded had been recorded, but MES had hated it, throwing the cassette down in disdain, seemingly lost forever.  Brix, while doing a bit of serious cleaning in her new matrimonial abode, found the discarded tape and suggested that it would make for a good song if MES could come up with a lyric.  Still very much in love with his new wife, the cantankerous frontman didn’t let on what he really thought of the tune and in due course came up with the words. Oh, and Brix somehow manages to get a writing credit on the final version, possibly/probably because of the bratty backing vocal…..

I should at this stage owning up to having a real liking for C.R.E.E.P. but not buying it at the time of release, being content to hear it played on a reasonably regular basis at one disco or other in the Students; Union. The problem, however, was that the music critics weren’t all that keen, with some barbed comments that the new-look band, which had undergone a fairly radical image transformation, was now being fronted by the new wave equivalent of Dollar (click here if you need an explanation).  Many fans from way back didn’t care for it either, thinking it was clear evidence of the band selling-out to the man.

Similar to last time out, C.R.E.E.P., released on 24 August 1984, was made available on 7″ and 12″, with the latter being on green vinyl and containing a version which is almost two minutes longer, with particular prominence given to the bass playing skills of Steve Hanley:-

mp3: The Fall – C.R.E.E.P.
mp3: The Fall – C.R.E.E.P. (12″ version)

Despite Brix’s hopes, it stalled at #91, just two places higher than Oh! Brother. You might well be able to easily dance in the student unions to the music The Fall were now making, but it still wasn’t making any impact on the wider market of record buyers.

The b-side to the single was inspired by another individual whom The Fall had dealt with while on tour. Again, let’s turn to Brix’s book for the details:-

“The Fall’s American tour manager, Pat was a plump fellow from Hoboken, New Jersey. He was a fun-loving, beer-drinking kind of guy. Mark went to Pat and asked him for some pills. Pat removed a plastic bag full of colourful capsules.”

The capsules were emptied out and duly snorted, but instead of it being the anticipated speed it turned out to be nothing more than powdered caffeine….

mp3: The Fall – Pat-Trip Dispenser

It’s an absolute belter of a song…..one which benefits from the polish offered up by Leckie but without going down the truly commercial road. It seemed to bode well for the album that was being worked up……

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #275: ROBERT RENTAL

From bandcamp:

“Robert Rental is an artist as influential as he is overlooked.

An anchor of the early British DIY and post-punk scene, his name is most frequently uttered alongside illustrious collaborators such as Thomas Leer and Daniel Miller. Dark Entries and Optimo ally to illuminate some of Rental’s early solo works with an expanded reissue of his debut 7” Paralysis /A.C.C. self-released on Regular Records in 1978, around the same time as Leer’s Private Plane/International 7”.

The record is a perfect document of the DIY ethos. It was recorded with the assistance of Leer in the council flat that Robert lived in, using an assortment of budget electronics: a Roland drum machine, a Stylophone, an Electroharmonix DrQ, and a TEAC A3440 4-track recorder.

The record’s sleeves were surreptitiously photocopied after hours at the offices of Virgin Records by Robert’s partner Hilary Farrow, and the labels were hand-stamped The initial print run was a scant 650 copies. With its prominent notes of Krautrock, prog, dub, and ambient, Paralysis /A.C.C. points to a then-emergent musical form.

“Paralysis” makes its four and a half minute runtime feel like an eon, an endless morass of processed vocals and mournful melodies underpinned by the static whirrings of synthesizers. “A.C.C.” is an angular pop song that is at once both fractured and droning, like a skipping record that sounds incrementally more warped with each iteration.”

It was some fifteen months ago that I paid tribute to Robert Rental and Thomas Leer in this posting.  I made their two debut singles available via the blog, but in doing so was acutely aware that I had myself picked them up from elsewhere.  I’ve kind of made up for it by spending a small amount, via bandcamp, on the digital release of Paralysis and A.C.C, whih comes with three additional tracks, all of which were previously unreleased. Here’s the one which is described as “a sparse gem that layers Rental’s gently processed vox with guitar and drum machine, beautiful in its simplicity.

mp3: Robert Rental – Untitled

Here’s a link to the bandcamp site if you’re interested.

JC

SOME SONGS MAKE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 51)

It was back in 2014 that I wrote these words about this particular song:-

“…a truly astonishing single that remains my particular favourite from the band. A soap-opera in just under three minutes. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Boy and girl have sex…baby gets created. Parents of the boy and girl react with anger and horror…and completely ostracize their own offspring.

Their crime wasn’t to become unexpected parents. Their crime was to create a mixed-race baby.

Based on a true story. The teenage sister of saxophonist Lee Thomson had a black boyfriend and became pregnant, only to be horrified by the fact that many in her family shunned her.”

I do think that the lyric makes for a great short story….one that is particularly shocking, even back in that less enlightened and intolerant era:

Received a letter just the other day,
Don’t seem they wanna know you no more,
They’ve laid it down given you their score,
Within the first two lines it bluntly read.

You’re not to come and see us no more,
Keep away from our door,
Don’t come ’round here no more
What on earth did you do that for?

Our aunt, she don’t wanna know she says,
What will the neighbours think they’ll think,
We don’t that’s what they’ll think, we don’t,
But I will, ’cause I know they think I don’t.

Our uncle he don’t wanna know he says,
We are a disgrace to the human race he says,
How can you show your face,
When you’re a disgrace to the human race?

No commitment, you’re an embarrassment,
Yes, an embarrassment, a living endorsement,
The intention that you have booked,
Was an intention that was overlooked.

They say, stay away,
Don’t want you home today,
Keep away from our door,
Don’t come ’round here no more.

Our dad, he don’t wanna know he says,
This is a serious matter,
Too late to reconsider,
No one’s gonna wanna know ya!

Our mum, she don’t wanna know,
I’m feelin’ twice as old, she says,
Thought she had a head on her shoulder,
‘Cause I’m feelin’ twice as older,
I’m feelin’ twice as older.

You’re an embarrassment…

mp3: Madness – Embarrassment

The real life story turns out to have had a happy ending, with the family seeing sense after the baby girl was born. I’m guessing the existence of the song also played its part….

As I’ve used a copy of the 7″ single to supply the mp3, I thought it would be OK to also offer up its b-side:-

mp3:Madness – Crying Shame

Madness clearly had such an abundance of riches back in 1980 that this could be disposed of, almost as an afterthought.

JC

SOMETHING I ROLL OUT EVERY SIX YEARS

This is the third time these words have appeared on the blog.  The first was over at the old place in February 2009, while the second time was in February 2015.  I make no apologies for the repeat…..

Back in the late 1990s, I was in a job that involved the occasional bit of overseas travel. To those of you who don’t ever have to do that for a living it might sound like a great way of life, but believe me, aside from the excitement of arriving somewhere for the first time and enjoying, if you’re lucky, a bit of sightseeing, the joys of being far away from home for a few days isn’t any fun.

It was in 1997 that I went on what proved to be my furthest ever jaunt, to Kuala Lumper in Malaysia to accompany my boss who was giving the keynote speech to a conference of civic leaders – I was there partly as the bag-carrier and logistics organiser, but I was also around to make any last-minute changes to the speech and presentation.

I have three abiding memories of the trip.

Firstly, it was very very hot and humid with the most amazing bursts of thunder and lightning I ever imagine I will see.

Secondly, as someone who is not a fan of any sort of exotic food, my participation in a 16-course banquet held in honour of the boss was torture of the worst kind – I was pretty ill for 48 hours afterwards but still had to be seen in and around the conference venue and elsewhere at all times. I made sure I knew where the nearest toilet was.

Thirdly, I heard Moaner by Underworld for the first ever time.

I was having real problems sleeping during the trip, and in the middle of one night I found myself tuned into MTV Asia. It was a station dominated by all sorts of American rock’n’roll stadium acts, particularly Guns’n’Roses who seemed to be on every other song. Then out-of-the-blue came a video that seemed to be a soundtrack to the latest Batman movie – a throbbing, thumping, grinding, intense and manic bit of music that got louder and louder and hugely intense….and just when it seemed to be hitting some sort of ecstatic peak it disappeared without warning, leaving no trace at all of its presence. I was hooked and promised myself that if I ever got back in one piece, I’d immediately track down the song so I’d have one happy abiding memory from the trip.

This proved to be far more difficult than I imagined, as the only way to get hold of it was to buy a single on an expensive import or shell out for the soundtrack LP to Batman & Robin. In the end, I did the latter. And while it is a soundtrack that I have never played in its entirety (too many things on it that were a total turn-off), the Underworld track became a huge favourite.

Coming in at more than 10 minutes in length, it was of course much longer than the version that I had heard back in Malaysia, but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. However, if the truth be told, for a long while I could really only listen to the opening six and a bit minutes up to the part that I so remembered from that first time….the ecstatic point where the vocal screams ‘down to the waterfront.’ I used to put the track on every C90 compilation of that era, but I always hit the stop button right at that moment….but as time has marched on and the full song has found its way on to the i-pod I’ve learned to love every single note.

And despite the title of this posting, I can also say that I’ve never had the opportunity to properly dance to the track (i.e, in a club). Yes, I’ve jumped around an empty flat with nobody watching, and I’ve also lain on a beach throwing my arms above my head while singing along, much to the distress of other holidaymakers who are concerned why a lunatic has been allowed onto an otherwise tranquil Caribbean island.

And given I’m now nearer 60 50 than 40, I guess I will never get that dance. One of life’s few regrets, y’know….

Looking up info on the song, it turns out that it was released as a single in Germany and the USA with four different versions – ‘short’, ‘album’, ‘relentless legs’ and ‘long’ – with the version on the soundtrack being ‘album.’ Just over a year later, it was included on the LP Beaucoup Fish as the closing track – the version being ‘long’ (confusingly, the ‘long’ version is in fact shorter than either the ‘album’ or ‘relentless legs versions.’).

mp3 : Underworld – Moaner (album version)

This post is dedicated to my dear friends Ctelblog from Acid Ted, Drew from Across The Kitchen Table and Swiss Adam who is rummaging around in the Bagging Area.  If only I had got to know them a few decades ago….they would have known where to take me to make my Underworld ambition come true.

JC

ANYONE REMEMBER BRICOLAGE?

My monthly Patreon subscription to the Creeping Bent Organisation has given me all sorts of joy this past year, offering up all sorts of goodies, including exclusive tracks, previously unreleased live recordings, video footage, press cuttings, photographs, prose, poetry, and the occasional nugget from the past which turns out to be completely new to me.

One such instance of the latter is Bricolage, a Glasgow based band who played, recorded and performed in the latter half of the first decade of this century but who completely passed me by, especially given the fact that I should have caught them live a few times given the calibre of acts they were supporting.  In my defence, I was caught up with all sorts of things at work when the band first emerged, while I also spent a spell living in Toronto when I lost touch with the local scene. Here’s their story, lifted from the Patreon site:-

BRICOLAGE : 2005 – 2009

Graham Wann : Vocals & Guitars

Wallace Meek : Vocals & Guitars

Darren Cameron : Bass & Backing Vocals

Colin Kearney : Drums

Bricolage existed in a time period where Glasgow was recalibrating to the feel and vibrations of the Postcard Records label aesthetic, particularly Orange Juice. The scene was alive with groups for whom the art school was a second skin, groups like The 1990s, The Royal We, and Bricolage. The 1990s signed to Rough Trade, The Royal We signed to Domino, and Bricolage signed to Glasgow label The Creeping Bent Organisation.

Bricolage started playing live in some of Glasgow’s seamier environs at the tail-end of 2005, perfecting their louche and stylish uplifting pop prior to releasing their debut single ‘Footsteps’ on Creeping Bent early in 2006 on white vinyl 7”. The world was introduced to Graham Wann’s quivering vocals with ‘Footsteps’ selling 1,000 copies on the day of release before being deleted by Creeping Bent.

By this time the group were fending off offers from major and independent labels, but decided to release a second single, ‘Looting Takes The Waiting Out Of Wanting’, in the summer of 2006 on the Fantastic Plastic label. This was swiftly followed by Creeping Bent signing an agreement with Memphis Industries for an album, largely down to being fans of the label’s artists The Go Team and Field Music. Bricolage chose ex Altered Images guitarist Stephen Lironi to produce the album from which a debut single, ‘The Waltzers’, was released.

The release of ‘The Waltzers’ is where the drama unfolded when Wallace Meek left the group the day the single was released, which resulted in a crisis of confidence within Memphis Industries regarding releasing the album. A decision was taken by the group to continue, and the album was released by Creeping Bent in 2009 to serious critical acclaim.

Bricolage supported an array of artists; Franz Ferdinand, Fire Engines, 1990s, Long Blondes, and even Sun Ra’s Arkestra. The group had a collage-oriented aesthetic, mixing an early Roxy Music / Eno approach mixed with pop art mixed with Iggy’s Berlin period mixed with Postcard Records, resulting in a heady potion. A final single was released in 2009 (‘Turn U Over’), another Graham Wann song, before the group came to natural full stop.

The eponymously titled album has just been re-released, on CD and in download form. by Creeping Bent.  Here are a couple of its highlights:-

mp3: Bricolage – Bayonets
mp3: Bricolage – Turn U Over

If you like what you’re hearing, then feel free to click here, which will link you to the bandcamp page where you can have further listens and maybe spend some cash on a CD or the downloads.

JC

PEEL’S FESTIVE FIFTY : #1 SONG IN 1988

I wasn’t really paying too much attention to music in 1988…..it’s a long and rather dull story that I won’t bore you with. It is related to the backstory of yesterday’s music, which again I didn’t bother going into.

I certainly didn’t listen to John Peel‘s end of year Festive 50 rundown, but looking at it now, I did in fact have a fair few number of the songs as voted in by the readers, thanks in part to the ex-frontman of The Smiths having four entries, but there was also space for the likes of Billy Bragg, New Order, James, The Fall, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and the one emerging band that I did latch onto, Pixies. I would also, later in life, pick up on many other groups that featured in the 88 rundown, not least The Wedding Present.

The thing is, if you had given me an alphabetical rundown of all the songs in the list and asked me to pick out the #1 from that year, I’d have needed maybe 20 or 30 goes to get it.

mp3: The House Of Love – Destroy The Heart

It was an era when being on Creation Records was almost like a badge of honour in the indie-pop world. All the singers and bands got loads of column inches in the UK music papers while never getting a sniff of commercial success, which made them perfect for name-dropping and for casting your votes in the Peel rundown while retaining some street credibility.

I couldn’t tell you exactly when I would first have heard Destroy The Heart, but it would certainly be quite a few years after it reached the heights of #76 in the UK singles chart in August 1988.  I can’t recall it being included on any Jacques the Kipper compilation tapes from which much of my 87-90 gaps were filled in.  It would likely have been heard as background music in a pub, but even then, I wouldn’t have been paying too much attention.

What I do know is that more than a quarter of a century later, I did hear it played at one of the Little League nights in Glasgow, and loving how it sounded. I will have come away from there with a determination to ‘source’ a digital copy for the hard drive.  But that was always, hopefully, always going to be just a temporary measure, and  sure enough I would in due course find a second-hand copy of the single, in 12″ form, before too long.

As you’ll have picked up from listening to the mp3, it isn’t quite a pristine copy, but given I paid a small amount for it, in the era before vinyl became fashionable again, I’m happy enough.

Here’s your b-sides:-

mp3: The House Of Love – Blind
mp3: The House of Love – Mr Jo

The former makes me think of Factory-era James, and so I won’t hear a bad word said about it. The latter, and I apologise to those of you who are diehard fans, is a bit too indie by numbers to really have much lasting appeal.

JC

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Thirty : MONKEY GONE TO HEAVEN

It’s featured before on the blog, with a backstory about how hearing it for the first time in a record shop was a big step in me changing a lot about my life……but that’s not for today.

Playing this 12″ piece of vinyl for the first time in lord knows how long, and certainly for the first time since I got the upgraded turntable and amp just over a year ago, was a real treat as Kim Deal‘s bass, Joey Santiago‘s guitar, David Lovering‘s drums and Black Francis‘ screams combined to make a sound that is beyond my vocabulary to properly do it justice.

It’s a new wave epic, groundbreaking in the way that the harsh, near industrial sounds of the traditional instruments deployed by this particular four-piece combo are enhanced in unimaginable ways by two cellos and two violins.   It still remains one of the few songs that have ever stopped me dead in my tracks on my first listen while I’ve been browsing in a record store, and hearing it played so loudly again today, thanks to Villain Towers, temporarily, having no neighbours, took me back to 1989.

It also has a couple of top-notch b-sides and another which is above average. So here they are, ripped direct and at as high a quality for an mp3 as my equipment will allow:-

mp3: Pixies – Monkey Gone To Heaven
mp3: Pixies – Manta Ray
mp3: Pixies – Weird At My School
mp3: Pixies – Dancing The Manta Ray

Melody Maker, here in the UK, made Monkey Gone To Heaven its #1 single come the end of the year rundown. Rolling Stone, over in the USA, had it at #5, the same position it reached in the John Peel Festive 50, one of five entries from Pixies in that particular rundown. The record buying public weren’t so enamoured, as it only reached #60 in the singles chart

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 13)

Do you remember a few weeks back when I highlighted that The Fall had just one entry in the Peel Festive 60 (as was) of 1982, and that none of the tracks from Hex Enduction Hour had gathered enough votes?  Well, 1983 was significantly better in that both of the year’s 45s, The Man Whose Head Expanded and Kicker Conspiracy, along with its b-side, Wings, were prominent, but pride of place went to a Peel Session version of Eat Y’Self Fitter, the track which had opened the album, Perverted By Language, with it being voted in at #8, headed only by songs from Billy Bragg, The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil and New Order.

MES, however, was disillusioned at Rough Trade, and he began 1984 on the look-out for a new home.  Some major labels were taking notice of the increasingly positive press coming the way of The Fall, and, let’s not pretend otherwise, the addition of an attractive female member made the band a much more marketable proposition.  The music weeklies, in the first week of May 1984, announced that the band had signed a deal with Beggars Banquet, and were currently holed up in a studio with producer John Leckie who had brought success to a number of other bands including Magazine, Simple Minds, XTC, The Skids and Public Image Limited.

One month later, and the first fruits of the new labour were unleashed on the listening public.

mp3: The Fall – Oh! Brother

It was The Fall, but not as we, or indeed anyone, knew them.

It was a pop song, one which would have sat easily alongside those that were being released on a regular basis by Rough Trade.  I’m sure that Geoff Travis would have been scratching his head and wondering just what he had ever done to upset MES to the extent that the thrawn bastard continuously refused to contemplate anything akin to radio friendly songs, only for him to come up with this absolute monster once he’d moved to a major label.

Right away, the music press suggested that it was the pop sensibilities of Brix Smith that had led the band down this particular path. After all, the line-up was still the same as it had been since the departure of Marc Riley, but with the addition of this American guitarist and vocalist who might have been a fan but had not been part of the rough and ready apprenticeship going back what was now six studio albums, an EP, ten singles and many hundreds of gigs in toilets all across the UK and further afield.

But……why let the facts get in the way of a good story?  It turned out that Oh! Brother, or at least a version of it, dated back to 1977/78, and had been resurrected as being a tune that Brix Smith could quickly get to grips with in the live setting and in the studio.   The person who was really most responsible for bringing about this change in sound and dynamics was John Leckie as his production techniques and fingerprints are all over the 45.

Suffice to say, some fans were horrified.  But at the same time, the Leckie name being attached to the band likely opened The Fall up to a whole new audience – I can vouch for that as, not withstanding the home recording of Hex Enduction Hour in advance of the 1982 gig in Glasgow, this was the first single of The Fall that I bought at the time of its actual release.  On 12″ vinyl, and I was completely unaware that this was the first single by the band that had been issued on that format, with everything previous being on 7″ only.  My copy from back in 1984 didn’t survive being constantly played on record players with needles in less than perfect condition, nor a few moves across student and workplace flats across the remainder of the decade.  But I’m pleased to say I’ve since picked up a second-hand copy in decent nick:-

mp3: The Fall – God-Box
mp3: The Fall – Oh! Brother (12″ mix)

God-Box was the first song on which Brix Smith received a writing credit for The Fall. In fact, it goes well beyond that with the lyrics attributed jointly to Mark E Smith and Brix Smith, but with the music and arrangement being solely in the hand of Brix. It was almost as if MES was announcing that she was here to stay, and far from being just a pretty face, was going to bring something concrete and meaningful to bring to the band.

Oh! Brother did what no other previous single had done in that entered the mainstream singles chart at #93. Thanks to it being on a major label, it didn’t qualify for the indie singles chart.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #274: RM HUBBERT

From wiki:

“RM Hubbert (Robert McArthur Hubbert, born 12 May 1974 in Glasgow, Scotland), commonly known as Hubby, is a Scottish guitarist and singer. Best known for his solo work and as a member of Scottish post rock band El Hombre Trajeado, he has been an active member of the Glaswegian DIY music scene since 1991.

Hubbert’s first band was formed in 1991 under the name Me, Hubby & Thom. The band’s drummer, Thom Falls, also played drums for Glasgow band The Blisters, notable as the first band of future Franz Ferdinand guitarist and singer Alex Kapranos.

Kapranos and Hubbert became friends whilst running The Kazoo Club at The 13th Note in Glasgow after the original promoter quit. Hubbert later joined The Blisters on second guitar. He then joined Glaswegian hardcore band Glue in 1992 until the group split in 1995.

El Hombre Trajeado formed in 1995 with Stevie Jones, Ben Jones and Stef Sinclair, releasing three albums; Skipafone (Guided Missile Recordings, GUIDE33CD, 1998), Saccade (Human Condition Records, HCCD0031, 2001) and Shlap (Lost Dog Recordings, ARFF004, 2004) before disbanding in 2005. lthough the band rarely toured, they supported artists such as Nick Cave, Sebadoh, Tortoise, Mike Watt and The Delgados around the UK. They recorded three radio sessions for John Peel on BBC Radio One between 1998 and 2001.

Originally planned as a distraction to take his mind off of the death of his parents, the nine solo guitar pieces that make up Hubbert’s debut album First & Last are based on flamenco structures and techniques, albeit with a modern approach to melody. Hubbert self-released First & Last as a limited edition hand bound book with CD on the DIY label Ubisano in 2009. The release garnered good reviews, leading to the long-running influential Scottish record label Chemikal Underground signing him in late 2010.

Hubbert (credited as Robert Hubbert) also played electric guitar on Alasdair Roberts‘s 2010 album Too Long in This Condition. Chemikal Underground reissued First & Last on 12″ vinyl and CD in early 2011.

Hubbert’s second album for Chemikal Underground, Thirteen Lost & Found (2012), is predominately made up of collaborations with other Scottish musicians such as Aidan Moffat, Emma Pollock and Alasdair Roberts. The album was conceived as a way of reconnecting with old friends whilst getting to know newer ones better. This album also saw Hubbert work again with Alex Kapranos, who acted as producer.

A prolific live performer, Hubbert has toured extensively around the UK and mainland Europe both on his own and in support slots for the likes of Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Twilight Sad, Franz Ferdinand, Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat, King Creosote, Emma Pollock and Thee Silver Mt. Zion.

Thirteen Lost & Found won the Scottish Album of the Year Award in 2013, beating albums by Emeli Sande, Calvin Harris, Django Django and The Twilight Sad amongst others, and picking up the £20,000 prize.

Breaks & Bone, Hubbert’s third solo album – and the first on which he also sings – was released on Chemikal Underground in September 2013. It was shortlisted for the 2014 Scottish Album of the Year Award alongside albums by Biffy Clyro, Chvrches, Mogwai and Boards of Canada amongst others.

Ampersand Extras, consisting of unreleased recordings, b-sides and rarities, was released in September 2014 through Chemikal Underground.

In April 2016, Hubbert released his fifth album for Chemikal Underground, Telling the Trees. Envisaged as a companion piece to Thirteen Lost & Found, Hubbert went about writing and recording Telling the Trees in as opposite a manner as possible. Collaborators were chosen that he did not previously know and the songs were written remotely and in isolation. It was shortlisted for the 2016 Scottish Album of the Year Award alongside Mogwai, Honeyblood, Ela Orleans and the eventual winners, Sacred Paws.

In May 2018 Hubbert released a joint album with long-time friend and collaborator Aidan Moffat titled Here Lies the Body. Its lead single, Cockcrow, featured Siobhan Wilson on vocals along with Moffat. The track was playlisted by BBC 6 Music, as was a further single, Quantum Theory Love Story. Here Lies the Body entered the Scottish Album Chart at number 15and was shortlisted for the 2019 Scottish Album of the Year Award.

Another album quickly followed in December 2019, again alongside Moffat – Ghost Stories for Christmas. This collection of Christmas themed songs entered the UK Record Store Chart at number 1.

Record Store Day 2019 saw the third full-length release with Aidan Moffat within a year, What the Night Bestows Us. Recorded live on tour in England in November 2018, the duo were joined by Jenny Reeve on violin and vocals for a set of stripped back arrangements from the duo’s previous two collaborations.

Cut to Black, the final release by Moffat & Hubbert, was released on 7″ in August 2019. It debuted at number 9 in the UK Vinyl Singles Chart.

JC adds…..

Hubby is, as the wiki page indicates, one of the great stalwarts of the indie (in the truest sense of the word) scene in Scotland, and his unexpected win of the SAY Award in 2013 was immensely popular amongst his peers.  He has never hidden from the fact that he suffers terribly from mental illness, often referring to his difficulties when talking to the media about his music, his achievements and his live shows, all of which are substantial.

He has, unsurprisingly, been very quiet these past 18 months as the world has had to come to terms with all the changes wrought on it by COVID, but there are many of us who really hope that, as things slowly return to a less chaotic situation, RM Hubbert will soon be back doing what he does best.

Here’s a track from the album Thirteen Lost and Found.  Regular visitors will recognise the vocalist:-

mp3: RM Hubbert – Car Song

And here’s a link to his official website, where you can enjoy much more (including a video featuring his and Aidan Moffat’s cover version of Only You by Yazoo)

ALL FOUR SINGLES FROM THE WISHING STONES?

A few months back, I devoted some space to the magnificence of Up The Hill and Down The Slope, a single released by The Loft back in 1985.

Bill Prince, bass player with The Loft, quickly formed a new band which he named The Wishing Stones, seemingly inspired by two diamond-shaped stones set beneath a Devon sea wall. That’s the story told in the booklet accompanying the retrospective C87 box set issued by Cherry Red Records a few years back, which also goes on to state:-

Debut single ‘Beat Girl’, with its classic rolling chord structure, appeared on Jeff Barrett’s Head label and was followed in 1987 by ‘New Ways’ on Sub Aqua (Head renamed after The Monkees representatives threatened to sue). Two final singles ‘Dead Man’s Look’ and ‘The Old Road Out Of Town’ (both 1988) continued their Creedence/Band/Voidoids approach.  The Wishing Stones’ album Wildwood was prepared that same year but after the band acrimoniously split, it was shelved until Barrett received money to set up Heavenly and finally released it in 1991.

Here’s the song from the C87 box set, followed by the other single which came out on the Head label:-

mp3: The Wishing Stones – Beat Girl
mp3: The Wishing Stones – New Ways

While quite derivative of the era, I reckon both are rather catchy and enjoyable.

A wee bit more info about the band.

Bill Prince played guitar and sang. John Niven was on guitar, while the rhythm section consisted of Stuart Garden (bass) and Andrew Kerr (drums).

If the name John Niven seems familiar, then it might well be that you’ve read one of the eight novels he has written since 2008. I’m a huge fan of his, and I particularly recommend his debut effort, Kill Your Friends, which is set against a background of the music industry at the height of Britpop.

But here’s the thing.    Cherry Red Records later issued a further retrospective box set entitled C88 in which the same bio outlined above was reproduced. The song included in the box set, as the 15th track on CD3 is said to be The Old Road Out Of Town (12″ edit). The thing is, it isn’t…..instead it is the other single released on Sub Aqua:-

mp3: The Wishing Stones – Dead Man’s Look

And, try as I can, I’ve been unable to find any song out there called The Old Road Out Of Town. But I did come across something which had a similar sort of title on the Wildwood album:-

mp3: The Wishing Stones – Long Road Out Of Town

Now….who gave this a listen and didn’t immediately think of Lloyd Cole & The Commotions???????

All in all, it’s a wee bit of a mystery. Cherry Red are normally so good at providing the background bio info, and it really does seem very strange that they got the name of the track on the C88 box set wrong.

JC

THE HURTING

I hadn’t spotted till now that that Tears For Fears haven’t ever featured specifically on the blog before, and that this post will provide their first ever entry into the big index.

Today’s effort was inspired by me picking up, at a reasonable price, a second-hand vinyl copy of the 1983 debut album, The Hurting.  It’s a record I bought back in the day, but for whatever reason has been missing from the collection for decades. I might have loaned it to someone and never got it back, but equally, I could have given it away on the basis that I really didn’t take to its follow-up, Songs From The Big Chair (1985) which went in a rather different direction – more bombastic yet more instantly accessible – that didn’t resonate with me at all.  It’s the hit singles from the latter, and in particular Everybody Wants To Rule The World, which are a staple product of shows looking back at the 80s, and it’s a sound which hasn’t aged well at all.

Tears For Fears were not liked by many of the music writers back in 1983, as can be evidenced by this scathing review in the NME:-

“This record and others like it are a terrible, useless sort of art that makes self-pity and futility a commercial proposition, Tears for Fears and their listeners sound like they’ve given up completely, retreating from the practical world into a fantasy. The music is just the sort of doom-laden dross you’d expect from the lyrics: rehashed and reheated hollow doom with a bit of Ultravox here, diluted Joy Division poured everywhere, and the title track sounding suspiciously like one of the old pompous outfits with a welter of mellotrons – Barclay James Harvest per chance?” (Gavin Martin, NME 12 March 1983)

Miaow.

The interesting thing for me is that a new generation of writers, picking up on the 30th Anniversary edition back in 2013, were happy to reflect on it in much the same manner as I had back in the day, albeit I didn’t fully comprehend how deep and dark it really was, subject wise.  In summary, and my recent re-connection with the record confirmed it, this is a work in which quite serious, difficult and often uncomfortably personal subject matters manage to somehow resonate with a willing audience while finding its way into the pop charts as a result of the music, certainly for the songs selected as singles, being so instantly catchy.

There is also a belated recognition that this particular album proved to be a big influence on many who would follow years later.  I’m not all that familiar with the work of Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, but from what I’ve read, it’s almost as if he took the template of The Hurting and made a huge and successful career out of it.

It was certainly a very interesting and enjoyable experience listening to The Hurting in its entirety again after a gap of at least 30 years.  I really can’t hear too many Joy Division comparisons, but there are occasional reminders that Peter Gabriel‘s third solo album from 1980 was a huge influence on the way synth-pop/rock would evolve in the 80s, not least on the opening title track:-

mp3: Tears For Fears – The Hurting

This is followed by two of the hit singles – Mad World (#3) and Pale Shelter (#5) – with the former becoming even more well-known in 2003 when a dark, broody, piano-led ballad version by Gary Jules, from the soundtrack to the film Donnie Darko, went to #1, thanks to the film becoming a success when it was released on DVD two years after it had more or less flopped at the cinema box office.   The original version of Mad World is a tremendously deceptive song – it is packed with the sort of music that gets you throwing shapes on the dance floor but has a lyric that, when you sit down and read/analyse it, is very much a cry for help in coping with a very severe depression and feelings of helplessness.  It’s a genuinely astonishing work of art, all things considered.

mp3 : Tears For Fears – Mad World

Side One of the album closes on a couple of downbeat numbers, as can be evidenced from their titles – Ideas As Opiates, and Memories Fade.   Given that so many debut albums often feature material drawn from personal circumstances, you have to wonder what sort of fucked up life had been endured by songwriter Roland Orzabal, who was just 21 years old when these songs were recorded.  Let’s just say, I reflected on these songs, and indeed many of the others, in a way that I couldn’t possibly have done as a carefree, relatively happy-go-lucky, boy about town in the early 80s.

mp3: Tears For Fears – Memories Fade

The upbeat music which opens side two again acts as something of a disguise for the subject matters at hand in the songs Suffer The Children and Watch Me Bleed.  And again, I found myself wondering why I hadn’t picked up just how dark an album this is.  And then, almost out of the blue, the most instantly accessible, almost disposable track starts to come out of the speakers:-

mp3: Tears For Fears – Change

Another of the hit singles – a #4 hit around the time that the album came out.  I hadn’t actually realised this was the case until doing a bit of fact-checking for this post, and had always assumed Mad World had been the single to promote the album.  Turns out that it had actually been an earlier hit in late 1982, meaning that fans were already on the look-out for Change as its follow-up before a long-player hit the shops.

All of which goes to show that the record label and the duo were pulling a neat trick on the pop world at the time.  The cute one, Curt Smith, was the vocalist and who got most attention.  The first two singles were tailor-made for radio, but then the album, which turns out to be having been written entirely by the other bloke in the band, has loads of tunes that the pop kids wouldn’t enjoy, nor would daytime radio be comfortable playing them.  This is especially the case with its final two songs – The Prisoner and Start Of The Breakdown – with the former sounding like the sort of thing which would bring sleepless nights to the early-teen readers of Smash Hits and then, a few years later, trigger off some sort of psychoticly violent incident that they can’t explain to their despairing parents….or the authorties who have just locked them up.

mp3: Tears For Fears – The Prisoner

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip down memory lane with The Hurting.  It’s an album I liked in 1983, and it’s one I can really better understand and appreciate more in 2021.  But you’ll never convince me that I should be devoting any time to its follow-up.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #295 : SWEDISH GIRLS : A COLLECTION OF NAMES

A GUEST POSTING by MARTIN ELLIOT

(our Swedish Correspondent)

Hi Jim,

The recent name-centered ICA’s gave me the idea of a Swedish Girls ICA – not in the sense the expression Swedish Girls was made world famous in the 50’s and 60’s but songs in Swedish named after girls.

I’ve kept to only songs in Swedish, my apologies for 10 songs with little meaning to the rest of the TVV community, but still. If for no other reason, it amused me putting this collection together, and it was an afternoon’s work rather than 3 months of constant changes.

Swedish Girls, a collection of names.

(Contrary to what you might think, Helene is far from the most common female name in Sweden, it’s Alice and has been so for many years.)

A1 Ebba Grön – Mona Tumbas slim club

Ebba Grön was one of the first Swedish punk bands, and the one that grew biggest. Mona Tumba was the wife of hockey pro, and later golf pro, Sven Tumba and she started her own fitness studio complete with a range of products and video courses. Our version of Jane Fonda. According to Ebba Grön we don’t need her slim club…

A2 Kent – Bianca

Kent, probably the biggest (indie) rock band we had within our borders. They also had quite a following in our Nordic neighbours, especially Norway, but by and large they were a Swedish concern. Lyrics often cryptic and hard to decipher, sometimes labelled emo – I would go for dark.

A3 Reeperbahn – Sång till Helene

Reeperbahn was one of the most important “new wave” bands that surfaced in the wave of music post punk-era. This is an early single, released 1979.

A4 Olle Ljungström – Alice

Olle Ljungström was the singer in Reeperbahn, after the band disbanded he had sorts of a solo career and in the 90’s he released a handful of brilliant records, but then disappeared in drugs, illness and isolation. He had almost recovered, was clean, when he died 2016 with a come-back album almost finished. It was posthumously finalized and released in 2017, so almost 40 years after the previous track here now is Alice, also sung by Olle.

A5 Thåström – Linnea

Joachim Thåström was the singer of Ebba Grön and has since then been in Imperiet (basically an evolution of Ebba Grön) and noise outfit Peace & Love & Pitbulls. Solo I would say he’s our Nick Cave, moving between rock and almost crooning, reading his lyrics more than singing. Always dark, moody. One of the greatest Swedish artists in modern time.

B1 Magnus Carlsson – Elin

Magnus Carlsson is the lead singer of Weeping Willows, band known for making middle aged men cry at their concerts with their 60’s-drenched pop with lyrics brim-full of lonely men and broken hearts. Solo Magnus leans more towards Northern Soul, and I had to include this since as at the time I had just met a woman named Elin – the chorus goes “Elin, you are, you are mine” – I played the song frequently. (She is now Mrs.)

B2 Tant Strul – Rosa

Tant Strul was the female version of Ebba Grön and singer Kajsa Grytt our version of Siouxsie, albeit blond. Apart from their debut album I wouldn’t say their music was punk, but they had the punk DIY attitude and at the time as an all female rock band they likely had to fight a mountain of stupidity from the recording business. Among the best we had at the time, and singer Kajsa is still active as a (very good) solo artist.

B3 Commando M Pigg – L Marlene

New Wave band from Stockholm, started out as Commando Musse Pigg (Commando Mickey Mouse) but the big American movie company didn’t appreciate the connection and they shortened their name to Commando M Pigg, and later just to Commando. Excellent band live, probably my best live experience.

B4 Webstrarna – För guds skull Helene

From their self-released rather quirky debut album. Webstrarna polished their sound moving on but became the band a bit inbetween – too pop for the indie kids and too strange (“left field”?) for the pop kids. They were big fans of Reeperbahn (see track A3).

B5 Anna Järvinen – Lilla Anna

Part Swedish, part Finish, but since she lives and works in Sweden I count her in. Dreamlike, fluffy like white clouds, her music is light, with room for less. Somewhat a lyricist I guess she can be harder to appreciate when you don’t understand the language, but I thought this pretty little piece would make a nice album closer. For the album this is lifted off she also made a cover of Cocteau TwinsFootzepoletic, but the week the album was released the band changed their mind and withdrew their approval of the song so the album got withdrawn – I was lucky to buy it early, so I have the original LP.

I salute those who cared to read this far, and if you even took the step to listen to some of the tracks I hope there were some Swedish Girls to your liking!

Tack och hej,

Martin

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : THE AFFECTIONATE PUNCH

Album: The Affectionate Punch – Associates
Review: NME, 16 August 1980
Author: Paul Morley

RUMOURS have been dripping down from Scotland about a diverse horde of determined post Skids/S. Minds/Scars groups all ready to shift our attention. Positive Noise, Altered Images, Josef K, Orange Juice . . . the newest rumours centred around The Associates, who it seems were refining the vision of Station To Station, who it seems had a singer who sang like that particular Bowie. He wasn’t copying, that’s how he really sang – from deep inside, neo-operatically.

It sounded ponderous, but The Affectionate Punch is too good, too spectacular to be merely the work of yet another group set to make a career out of one of Bowie’s stops. The Associates have further defined Station’s eerie combination of vitality and disorientation, drawn from is melancholia, and share its European feel. It’s a debut almost as sensational as Real Life – The Associates have things in common with Magazine worth talking about.

That European feel for a start, which basically stems from their liberating remoteness from standard r’n’r influences: the logic and out of the blue maturity of their sound: a Kurt Weill caught up with John Barry cabaret tension: and a respect for the irrational.

Billy Mackenzie is vocally reminiscent of Bowie: but Bowie has never sung with so much delightful range and subtlety, never really had to. Mackenzie’s soul singing is in the pained, proud tradition of Holiday and Garland. He’d be comfortable and do a great job singing ‘Windmills Of My Mind’ (he almost does on ‘Even Dogs In The Wild’). An artist at communication, he takes intense care over enunciation – the shape of words and the space between them. His vocals are either a folly or something very special: I reckon a little of the former, a lot of the latter.
The Associates sound is somewhere between evocative Cure and dramatic Magazine: a passionate cabaret soul music, a fulfillment of the European white dance music Bowie was flirting with back then. It is a fabulist (as opposed to surrealist) entertainment vitiated by a cool sense of art.

Billy Mackenzie and Alan Rankine write the music; Mackenzie the words. Rankine appears to play all instruments with remarkable skill except drums (Nigel Glockler). The ten songs are consistently inventive, ironic, irreverent, written with a light sometimes self-mocking restraint, arranged from a post-Eno, point of view.

The opening two songs are immediately impressive: the stylish cynical title track, typically laced with incidental delights; the almost atomised, light-headed ‘Amused As Always’ – Mackenzie’s singing here at is most absorbed and absorbing. The side’s closer, ‘Transport To Central’, forgoes obvious percussion and is formed around bitter, hedonistic guitars. The guitar sound on the LP is of the Manzanera/Levene/Smith line, lyrical, splintered, very anti-formal.

Individually, Mackenzie’s songs don’t say anything in particular (you could say they’re fashionably vague, but I’m not going to). Nervy, inward-looking images are repeated, reviewed, suggesting a feeling or an action, a mood or a moment. Effectively simplistic, songs about chance, confusion, absurdity, failure, suspense, that never degenerate into the precious.

‘A Matter Of Gender’ is a lush example of The Associates’ private desperation and public drama. ‘Even Dogs In The Wild’ is decadent cabaret, feeling for warmth; a typically clipped swing, finger clickings, a lone whistler in the dark. Mackenzie goes right over the top on ‘Would I… Bounce Back’ but still doesn’t seem to be stretching himself; ‘A’ drags out the group’s amoralism from its usual corner.
Don’t look for message or moral – the songs affect a dreamlike incompleteness but are not unprincipled or uncaring. They develop an account of the various mechanisms by which people remain trapped in boredom, abstraction, essence.

With Mackenzie’s obsessive flamboyance, the invariably plangent melodies, the richly fragmented detail of the songs, The Associates are undoubtedly theatrical. But their sense of theatre is natural, even profound, not the usual pop flash-trivia. The Associates are real performers.

At their worst they are engagingly supra-whimsical, at their best they are potently sophisticated and sensitive. Their well-ordered flair and melodrama seems right for the times: decay music.

The Affectionate Punch is a kind of masterpiece.

JC adds…….

It was in 1980, that my tastes began to develop and widen, thanks in part to Joy Division, Magazine, Echo & The Bunnymen and the Bowie of Ashes to Ashes/Fashion/Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), all of which I felt were a cut above the norm, although there was still no question that The Jam were the singularly most important band ever to have graced the planet at any point in musical history.

I’d love to tell you that I raced out the next day after reading this review and bought The Affectionate Punch, but I’d be lying.  It would take me until the following year, when I had started university, and hearing White Car In Germany for the first time that totally stopped me in my tracks, thanks to it being included on a compilation tape made by a new mate I’d met at university that led to me buying a copy of Fourth Drawer Down, the compilation released in late 1981 bringing together all the singles which Alan and Billy had released that particular year.

I’d love to tell you at the purchase of Fourth Drawer Down then led to me going back to the shop to buy the debut album from the previous year, but again I’d be lying.  I’d not too long fallen in love for the first time with someone who I’d been at school with and her musical tastes were very much on the conservative side, and so I was spending money and time trying to get her to appreciate the more pop-orientated elements of my weird vinyl, which meant anything that didn’t chart stood very little chance of being bought.  But as I started to spend more time with my new pals from uni, and she with her new friends at the bank where she had been taken on as a school-leaver, the relationship withered; it broke my heart at the time, but the consolation was that I threw myself deeper than ever into music.

Fourth Drawer Down wasn’t bought until after the Associates had become famous; even then, it was from someone who, having rich parents and a bulky wallet, bought loads of records on a whim and had found that early Associates was nothing like the pop-era Associates of 1982.  He more or less gave it away to me…..

mp3: The Associates – The Affectionate Punch
mp3: The Associates – Amused As Always
mp3: The Associates – Transport To Central
mp3: The Associates – Even Dogs In The Wild

Paul Morley was right to say that The Affectionate Punch is a kind of masterpiece.  It sounded like nothing else back in 1980. Sadly, most folk only know of it through the 1982 remix, released by Warner Brothers after the success of Party Fears Two/Club Country/18 Carat Love Affair/Sulk, in which the songs were given a fairly radical makeover in terms of production and from Billy being asked, nay forced, to re-record some vocals.  It was a fatal mistake as it found no favour with those who had liked The Associates from the outset and, despite the tweaks, it was ignored by those who wanted a repeat of the chart hits.

And, of course, the album has given its name to a Glasgow-based collective who have featured a few times on this blog over the past two years.  Things have been a wee bit quiet of late with the collective, but watch this space for developments…..

JC

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Twenty nine : GOOD SHIPS

It’s a repost from 8 December 2014….one which got no comments, and so I’m not holding my breath today!  The difference being that seven years ago, it was the CD single which was used, while today’s has the recently picked up second-hand vinyl from a charity shop.

“I am of the opinion that When I Was Born For The 7th Time, released by Cornershop back in 1997 is a tremendous record. It is the best known of all the band’s LPs thanks to it having the original version of Brimful of Asha which, thanks to a remix from Norman Cook, stormed to the top of the singles chart.

It was an album which received great acclaim on its initial release but for a time, not long after the remix was such a hit, it did seem that many critics, having watched on as the band moved from cult status into commercial success, felt they could have a bit of a go at Cornershop’s particular mix of pop, dance, funk and politics, underpinned by a sub-continental groove. It certainly caught the band on the hop and caused a bit of a rethink on whether the fame and fortune was really worth the hassle, and it would be five years before the next record was released.

Despite having all the hallmarks of a great single, Brimful of Asha wasn’t selected as the first single from the LP. That honour went to the ridiculously catchy Good Shit. Except that it didn’t quite….everyone involved knew that releasing a song with that title and a chorus of ‘Good Shit’s all around good people’ was doomed to an instant ban. So with the change of one little letter and taking it to the plural:-

mp3 : Cornershop – Good Ships

It still of course for the most part sounds as if nothing has been altered, which is probably why it hardly got any radio play and was the latest in a run of flop 45s.”

Back in December 2014, I featured all four songs on the CD single, and mentioned its third track turned out to be a straight lift of something which would appear unaltered on the LP when it was released some three months later.  I made the observation that, on first listen, it really felt like a tremendous b-side:-

mp3 : Cornershop – Funky Days Are Back Again

I now know, from having the 7″, whose sleeve is at the top of today’s posting, is that it was in fact a double-A side effort.  One which deserved to do a lot better than one miserable week in the charts at #92.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 12)

The summer of 1983.  The Fall are signed to Rough Trade.  Their label mates included The Smiths, Aztec Camera, The Go-Betweens, Jazzateers and Violent Femmes, all of whom were recording and issuing what Mark E Smith regarded as bog-standard tuneful indie-pop, often with jangly guitars at the centre of the sound.  Rough Trade did not feel like a natural home, but hey-ho, a contract is a contract, and a single and album are required by the end of 1983.

The current five-man line-up of MES, Craig Scanlon, Paul Hanley, Steve Hanley and Karl Burns convene in a London studio to record the contractual new single. It’s a song they have played a great deal while touring throughout the previous six months, mainly in Europe, but also over in the USA on the tour when MES had first met Brix Salenger after a gig in Chicago. Brix had followed MES back to England, and as recounted in last week’s tale, the couple had married in July 1983.

It’s a song about football.  A sport which was at something of a low in England (and indeed Scotland) in 1983.  It was often a brutal watch, with skilful players all too often at the mercy of no-nonsense defenders, played in front of hostile and aggressive crowds.  Hooliganism was rife.   Fighting broke out on the terraces, in the surrounding streets, on public transport, at motorway service stations and was often at its worst when English clubs or the England national team played in European competitions.

It was as far from trendy as could be imagined, so there’s no real surprise that MES spent months crafting lyrics which had a go at those in charge of the sport, who were all too often and willing to do it down instead of looking for ways to bring about positive change. Oh, and as a reminder to Rough Trade that music wasn’t and shouldn’t always be instantly accessible and appealing to the masses, he came up with a tune which, for the early verses, leans on that rockabilly rift the band had used to great effect so often, but is mixed in with a degree of brutalism around the chorus and middle section of the song:-

mp3: The Fall – Kicker Conspiracy

It came out in September 1983 as a 2×7″ package with an original track on the b-side of Kicker Conspiracy, with the bonus 7″ having two songs taken from a John Peel session dating back to 1980:-

mp3: The Fall – Wings
mp3: The Fall – Container Drivers (Peel Session)
mp3: The Fall – New Puritan (Peel Session)

The writing credits on Wings are given to the Hanley brothers and MES. It’s one of those tracks which quite likely delighted most long-standing fans, but confirmed the prejudices held by the haters. I’ll hold my hands up…..it’s a song I didn’t discover until many years later and my first thought was that this was the sort of hard-to-take-in music I had experienced at the Glasgow Night Moves gig in April 1982, as mentioned a couple of weeks back. And sure enough, I’ve since been able to check and confirm that it was on the set-list that night, seemingly just the fourth time it had ever been aired. I’ve still never really taken to it……

Kicker Conspiracy reached #5 in the Indie Charts. MES wasn’t happy at how little promotional support was offered, despite it being the first Fall song to have an accompanying video, part of which was filmed at Turf Moor, the home of Burnley FC. He likely had a point in that Rough Trade was devoting resources to the charts and would-be chart bands, and not pressing enough copies of the records by other acts, which is why it is one of the rarer 45s of the era to track down with second-hand copies starting at £30 and going all the way up to £75 for a mint condition offering.

A few postscripts.

There are many fans out there who reckon that the Peel Sessions brought out the best in The Fall, and there’s plenty of evidence to back this up when you listen to the tracks collected on the compilation box set released back in 2005.  Marc Riley, in a radio interview in 1999 had this to say, specifically about the third Peel Session from which Container Drivers and New Puritan are taken:-

“The thing about recording a John Peel session is that you get in the van in the morning, in our case you drive two hundred miles, get out, unload the gear, and record everything in a pretty quick time.  I mean you would do four songs for a session. Now normally, even for band like The Fall, you would have to take two or three days to record four tunes.  In this case you have to get it all done and dusted by ten o’clock at night. So you would get into the studio, wheel everything down into the catacombs in Maida Vale, set up and do the deed. And I remember, I think it was the third session we did, we recorded the first track, made a right old racket, as we did, went in to start listening back to it, make sure we were happy with it, and I turned round to see the producer (John Sparrow), and his pipe had gone out. This is the truth, his pipe had actually gone out and he was asleep.”

As a bonus, here’s the other two tracks from that same session, recorded on 16 September 1980 and first broadcast 24 September 1980:-

mp3: The Fall – Jawbone and The Air-Rifle (Peel Session)
mp3: The Fall – New Face In Hell (Peel Session)

Mark E Smith – vocals; Marc Riley – guitar; Craig Scanlon – guitar; Steve Hanley – bass; Paul Hanley – drums

I made mention last week that Kamera Records had hoped, in late 1982, to issue a 7″ single containing two tracks from the album Room To Live. The label was in its dying days when it arranged for the pressing and issuing of this single in September 1983 only to find itself in a position that it couldn’t afford to do so. My understanding is that just 200 copies ever found their way into some shops, and even then, it was a real peculiarity. It had which had Marquis Cha Cha on its a-side, and Room To Live on its b-side, but the sleeve and the actual info on the vinyl for the b-side states the track is Papal Visit. All of which means I’m not inclined to include it in this series.

Finally, the contractually obligatory album for Rough Trade was also recorded in the summer of 1983. Perverted By Language was released on 5 December 1983 and its credits revealed that The Fall had undergone another line-up change. The five who had made Kicker Conspiracy had been joined, on two of the album tracks, by an additional guitarist and vocalist.

Welcome to The Fall, Brix Smith. Things weren’t quite ever the same after you joined, were they?

JC