SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #341: TEXAS

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Yup.

Texas.

A band that dominated the charts in the late 90s with the #1 albums White On Blonde and The Hush, as well as a ridiculously high number of hit singles.

I don’t have any Texas songs from that era.  All I have, courtesy of its inclusion on the Park Lane Archives compilation that I’ve referred to a few times over the years, is this:-

mp3: Texas – I Don’t Want A Lover (demo)

What many folk don’t realise, or perhaps forget, is that Texas for a long long while were in danger of being cast as one-hit wonders.  I Don’t Want A Lover was the debut single.  It reached #8 at the beginning of 1989.  There would then be another twelve singles, only one of which made the Top 20 (and even that was a cover song!), before they struck gold with Say What You Want in 1997.

The demo of the debut single is all slide guitar and bombastic backing track. The drums, incidentally, are the work of Stuart Kerr who had previously been part of TVV favourites, Friends Again.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #329: GRANT LEE BUFFALO

A GUEST POSTING by HYBRID SOC. PROF

GLB

Something wrong in my stars
Could you look at my charts
Help me healing these scars
Could you learn to read minds
In the case of mine
Do you read in the dark

Second stanza from “Honey Don’t Think”

I’ve hesitated to put this ICA together. Grant Lee Buffalo only recorded 4 long-players and that meant the choices were going to be pretty constrained. On top of that, I was worried I’d want too many songs to come from Jubilee. And then there’s the issue that sometimes I find Grant Lee Phillips a bit twee, more sensitive than some versions of me can tolerate. But when I chanced on Truly, Truly this week and forced iTunes/Music to play “Superslomotion” and “Come to Momma, She Say” before I had to leave the laptop I figured I’d take a stab at it… good band.

I’m pretty sure Fuzzy, their first record, was released when I was still at KZSC and I remember liking the record as a whole more than the individual songs on it. Not much in the way of WOW! but, as a unity, there was a structured feeling. I’m probably wrong but, retrospectively, ’93 has long felt like the apogee of the arc from The Feelies through REM splitting into Nirvana and Uncle Tupelo before the two tendencies interwove as the dominance of guitars at the heart of indie/alt/whatever started its slide into the second and third tiers of music sales. I’m not making an argument the Grant Lee Buffalo tracked that arc – they arrive late in the trajectory and their four records are musically consistent. But they were one of the last bands I remember arriving on that scene and staying with that sound as the scaffolding splintered. Other earlier bands continued the tradition, some – miraculously – to this day (whether through stubbornness or reformation) but as I’ve constructed it for myself, these guys signal something, their appearance marked a transition point.

The reason they land where they do, why the signal something meaningful is because – at their best – they make me sway, shimmy, shimmer and shift… they leave my arms akimbo, head back, soaking in their handsome comfort. Notes are sustained, the sonic terrain is vast, the poetry lyrical but their pacing easily as important as the words themselves, and songs glide and swell generating a cocoon into which I settle and nestle. Grant Lee hits the sweet spot between talk

The reason they land where they do, why the signal something meaningful is because – at their best – they make me sway, shimmy, shimmer and shift… they leave my arms akimbo, head back, soaking in their handsome comfort. Notes are sustained, the sonic terrain is vast, the poetry lyrical but their pacing easily as important as the words themselves, and songs glide and swell generating a cocoon into which I settle and nestle. Grant Lee hits the sweet spot between talk singing and sing talking, there are anthemic guitars, strummed acoustics, organ glissades and drones, subtle feedback and falsettos, pedestrian/walking bass and steady drumming each and all staying out of the way but reinforcing the foundation for the pretty. And all with periodic little hints of deep soul and microscopic elements of almost funk. I find them excellent music to cook to.

Perhaps you have, but I haven’t followed Grant Lee Phillips closely since the band split around the turn of the century but he keeps pumping out music and actively touring the acoustic and singer-songwriter side of the band. I’ve liked, but not liked so much I went out in pursuit of more, a number of the songs I’ve found on best-of lists or in magazine compilations but I think the band had something holistic that grabbed me that ends up missing in the solo work.

In any event, my expectations about what would be on this were not realized. I’ve long found that the ICA format means that some songs that would be on a “best of” rather than a “representative sample that works as an album” collection just don’t make it. The fact that “Truly Truly” and “Everybody Needs a Little Sanctuary” aren’t here and that there’s more Mighty Joe Moon than Jubilee genuinely surprised me but, I tried moving things all around and this simply worked best. Forgive me.

It’s The Life, from Mighty Joe Moon (1994)
Testimony, from Jubilee (1999)
Wish You Well, from Fuzzy (1993)
Arousing Thunder, from Copperopolis (1996)
Honey Don’t Think, from Mighty Joe Moon (1994)
My, My, My, from Jubilee (1999)
Mighty Joe Moon, from Mighty Joe Moon (1994)
SuperSloMotion, from Jubilee (1999)
The Hook, from Fuzzy (1993)
Rock Of Ages, from Mighty Joe Moon (1994)

HSP

 

ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN SINGLES : #005

aka The Vinyl Villain incorporating Sexy Loser

005 – BIG DRAG – ‚I’m A Lonesome Fugitive’ (Unlean Records, ’79)

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Hello friends,

today I have both for you, in fact: a neat song, one I always adored (and will adore) plus this song is being performed by a band I always loved: the mighty Big Drag!

Their output isn’t big really, there are two singles and an album. But each of the three records is a killer, and that’s for sure. Finding something interesting about Big Drag on the internet gives you a hard time, so what I’ll do is I shamelessly copy and paste what their bassist said in an interview some 27 years ago, a time when the band were at their peak by and large. I say ‘peak’, you know what I mean: obviously they never had a platinum album, but 1994/1995 was when the three records came out, so ….

Anyway, here’s what Colin Jones had to say back then:

“They made the little girls dance.” This is what Big Drag bassist Colin Jones suggested be Big Drag’s epitaph, when asked. It fits like a steel condom, too. Ever since they first skulked in from San Antonio a couple of years back, the laconic trio has brought with them hordes of incredibly nubile women, doing up-and-down-and-round-and-round moves that would make Chubby Checker spit green to Big Drag’s garbage-can guitar-pop. “That’s always been my favorite part of Big Drag,” drawls Jones, who started the band in 1991 with singer/guitarist Milton Robichaux and drummer Dillon Phillips, following the demise of Robichaux’s similarly minded Happy Dogs. “Generally, every show we play, the first two or three rows of people in front of the stage are almost all girls. I dunno why, I guess it’s just that danceable beat, that surfy-kinda beat that you can twist to or whatever. (…)”

In my humble opinion, this pretty much sums up all you need to know about Big Drag: the music will do the rest, promised!

Now, the song I went for is, as I said, one I always loved: I’m A Lonesome Fugitive’. Made famous by Merle Haggard back in 1966, but written (for Merle) by Liz and Casey Anderson (don’t tell me this series doesn’t have some educational aspects too!).

I have often wondered why it is that I love this tune so much. I mean, quite obviously I never ran away from the law or similar (which, in rainy Germany, wouldn’t be much romantic in the first place anyway), nor have I ever been much of a desperado. I once tried to be faster on my moped than the blokes from customs when smuggling a carton of cigarettes. Didn’t work out and I had to pay a fortune. Does this make me an outlaw? Probably not. Then again, one doesn’t need an explanation for everything in life, right?

Alright, San Antonio’s finest, friends, with the B-Side of their Gotta Let Me Go – 7” from 1994:

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mp3: Big Drag – I’m A Lonesome Fugitive

Enjoy – and please let me know what you think of it!!

Dirk

 

 

 

 

 

GET SETT GO!

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The thing is……

If you like this month’s hourly mix, then I’ll take credit for being such a great DJ.

If you don’t like it, then you can blame SWC as all the tracks were part of his Top 40 Best of 2022 over at No Badger Required.

mp3: Various – Get Sett Go!

Slowly Seperate – Crows (#18)
Angelica – Wet Leg (#31)
Trouble – The Big Moon (#22)
2-HEH-V – DAMEFRISØR (#1)
Ballerina (Norma) – VEPS (#16)
New York, Paris & London – HighSchool (#10)
Earth Worship – Rubblebucket (#25)
Molly’s Got A Brand New Haircut – Ghostbaby (#37)
Men On The Menu – Flossing (#3)
This New Will – Scattered Ashes (#29)
Second Thought – MEMES (#19)
New England – Kid Kapichi feat.Bob Vylan (#17)
Circumference – Working Men’s Club (#8)
A55  – English Teacher (#13)
The Hard Part – Album Club (#12)
Statuette On The Console – Bodega (#23)
Untethered – PVA (#5)
Qurantine The Sticks – Yard Act

A couple of tracks from the NBR rundown have been left off this mix as they have appeared on previous mixes. Quarantine The Sticks has been included instead of The Overload, which was #6 in the rundown.

The running time is just under 61 minutes.

JC

THE INSANE COST OF SECOND HAND VINYL? (Issue #1)

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A few days back (last Friday to be precise), something came up on a social media feed with the observation that Where’s Me Jumper? was exactly 31 years old.  The post came with an accompanying poster/advert that said ‘debut single and U.K. Tour – 27.1.92″

I’ve previously considered including the song in the Cracking Debut Singles series, but had always been of the belief that the first release from Sultans Of Ping F.C. was the 12″ What About Those Sultans EP! on Fantastic Plastic given that was their only release on that label before their next three singles came out on Divine Records. 

I was intrigued enough to look on Discogs where the information is that What About Those Sultans was a mail order only release, with its A-side made up of three demos dating from April 1990 and the B-side consisting of two cover versions.  It would seem to have been something of an unofficial release, which means that I shouldn’t have baulked at the idea of Where’s Me Jumper? featuring as part of one of my long-running series.

The song, and it’s accompanying b-sides were highlighted preciously on TVV, back in April 2016 as one of the small number of records I owned on 10″ vinyl.  I didn’t buy said record back in 1991, so my copy is second-hand.

I’ve just checked my Discogs history, and it cost me £2 as part of a larger batch of seventeen second-hand records bought at the same time in July 2011 at a cost of £32.25 plus £12 for postage and packaging, which when you add it all up means it was around £2.60 per item.  The cheapest single was £1, while the two most expensive were £3.50.

Given I was on Discogs, I decided to take a look at what the going rate is for Where’s Me Jumper? on vinyl in 2023.

There are two copies of the 7″ version up for sale.  An Italian retailer is asking for 45 euros plus shipping, while a UK retailer wants £60 (which includes shipping) for what is described as Near Mint in terms of the vinyl and the sleeve.

There are four copies of the 12″ version on offer, from sellers located in France, Italy and the UK.  The range is £25 to 58 euro, (all of them are plus postage), with varying descriptions of the quality of the vinyl and sleeve.

There are also four copies of the 10″ listed on Discogs, all from folk in the UK.  The asking prices are, in ascending order, £40, £45, £50 and £59.99, none of which include shipping.

The thing is, while I would be happy enough to be described as a ‘record collector’, I don’t buy (and have never bought) anything with the idea that it might increase in value.

It’s always been about wanting a particular record and being happy enough to pay a price that I think is reasonable and fair.  I’m also someone who, certainly for the time being, doesn’t want to sell anything from the collection, albeit as I get older and with the recognition that I’ve no family to pass the heirlooms on to, that may change at some point, although ideally it would find its way to someone else younger who is prepared to keep and look after it.

I’m genuinely gobsmacked at the asking price for Where’s Me Jumper?  Even the CD version is going for silly money, with the lowest UK price being £9.

All of which has inspired me to begin this new series looking to see if second hand vinyl has really rocketed in recent years, based on what I have paid for things in the past on Discogs.

Here’s the full list of the seventeen purchases from July 2011, complete with what is being asked for today, comparing it with the same condition of vinyl and sleeve as described when I made the purchase, and from a UK seller as that was the location of the 2011 purchases. Where there is more than one option in 2023, I’ve gone with the lowest asking price.

Yello – The Rhythm Devine (7″)   2011 cost £1. 2023 price £4.
Fire Engines – Big Gold Dream (12″) 2011 cost £2.  2023 price £3.99.
Blood Uncles – Let’s Go Crazy (7″)   2011 cost £1.50. 2023 £1.25.
Billy Bragg – She’s Got A New Spell (7″)   2011 cost £1.50.  2023 price £6.50.
Revenge – Slave + Amsterdam (7″) 2011 cost £1.50.  2023 price £4.
The Monochrome Set – The Monochrome Set (7″) 2011 cost £3.50.  2023 price £10.
Primitives – Way Behind Me (7″) 2011 cost £1.50.  2023 price £0.85.
Various – The Fred EP (7″) 2011 cost £3.50.  2023 price £1.90.
Red Guitars – Good Technology (7″) 2011 cost £2.50.  2023 price £2.99.
Martin Stephenson & Daintees – Slow Lovin’ (7″) 2011 cost £1.50.  2023 price £2.49.
Alan Rankine – The World Begins To Look Her Age (7″) 2011 cost £1.50.  2023 price £1.99.
Camper Van Beethoven – Life Is Grand (7″) 2011 cost £2.  2023 price £2.25
Devo – (I Can’t Get Me No) Satisfaction (7″) 2011 cost £2.  2023 price £2.49.
Kiss AMC – A Bit Of…. (7″) 2011 cost £1.  2023 price £0.40
Sultans of Ping F.C – Where’s Me Jumper? (10″) 2011 cost £2.  2023 price £50
Martin Stephenson & Daintees – Crocodile Cryer (12″) 2011 cost £1.50.  2023 price £1.29.
Champion Doug Veitch – Margarita (12″) 2011 cost £2.50. 2023 price £2

That means six items of vinyl are actually available for less than I paid in 2011, although none of them, price wise, are ridiculously cheaper.  Another five haven’t gone up by much in price (less than £1 in each instance).  The other six have at least doubled, and stupidly so in the case of The Sultans Of Ping F.C.

Removing that one item as it skews things so much, then the cost today of obtaining the other sixteen records adds up to £48.39, in comparison to £30.25.  Which equates to an increase of 60%……..and that’s not taking into consideration that posting and packaging would be a lot more expensive, even if by some way of magic they could all be obtained from and sent out by the one seller.

Here’s the 10″ A-side of the valuable piece of vinyl (that has now been given its own ill-fitting plastic sleeve as additional protection):-

mp3 : The Sultans Of Ping F.C. – Where’s Me Jumper?

And your two fun-filled b-sides.

mp3 : The Sultans Of Ping F.C. – I Said I Am I Said
mp3 : The Sultans Of Ping F.C. – Turnip Fish

I think this series might provoke some surprise and outrage…….

JC

THE GIRL WHO RUNS THE BEAT HOTEL

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This is just the third individual appearance on TVV by Biff Bang Pow!

The debut came in August 2015 as the 25th act to be featured in the still-running Saturday’s Scottish Song series.  As I said at the time, some might argue that Biff Bang Pow! were a London band given that was where they were formed, but as they centred around Alan McGhee I decided they merited a place in the series.  It was also the case in August 2015 that the TVV collection contained just one song by the band, courtesy of She Paints being included on the Doing It For The Kids compilation issued by Creation Records.

The most recent appearance was in January 2021, in response to a request from someone I reckon might be the blog’s only reader in Chile.  Ozzy, (or Osvaldo to give him his ‘proper’ name) had e-mailed me asking if I could upload something by Biff Bang Pow! as he’d enjoyed hearing the song Hug Me Honey when he tuned into an online station based in Switzerland. I was happy to do so and revealed that my collection had expanded to five songs in the intervening period since August 2015.

That’s all changed in recent weeks, thanks to my patronage of Last Night From Glasgow, as I received an advance copy of an album about to be reissued after many years of being out of print.

The Girl Who Runs The Beat Hotel was originally released by Creation in March 1987.  It was the band’s second album.  There’s an interesting review/description of it over at the Trouser Press website:-

Poorly produced with thin, shrill sound, The Girl Who Runs the Beat Hotel reveals much stronger, more attractive songwriting. “Someone Stole My Wheels” and “The Happiest Girl in the World” are convincing period pieces colored in with, respectively, prominent organ and female vocals; “Five Minutes in the Life of Greenwood Goulding” uses crazy backwards guitars. Strangely, McGee’s vocals suggest Robert Smith on “Love’s Going Out of Fashion” and Lloyd Cole on “He Don’t Need That Girl.” The melodies and varied arrangements are stylishly appropriate, but the botched mix prevents them from being fully appreciated. The 12-inch of “Love’s Going Out of Fashion” avoids that sonic pothole and includes three atmospheric non-LP tracks.

The LNFG reissue, hopefully, will resolve some of the issues raised in the above review as it has been remastered by the very skilful and talented Paul McGeechan whose name has been mentioned a few times round these parts.  It’s also an expanded version of the album, with four additional tracks that had previously appeared as b-sides from the same period.

I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable a listen the album proved to be.  As much as Alan McGhee would hate anyone to say it, there’s an awful lot of the spiky and tuneful pop sounds of the likes of Josef K, Orange Juice and The Bluebells threatening to break out amidst the artful or psychedelia 60s influenced songs that I was anticipating from what little I knew of their material beforehand. The album arrived as part of the subscription I have with LNFG and it wouldn’t, in normal circumstances, have been something I’d likely have made as a speculative purchase.  I had fully expected that, after one listen, it would have found its way onto the shelf almost in an ‘out of sight’ fashion, but a few weeks on it’s still sitting close to the turntable readily available to be given further spins.

I haven’t quite got round to doing any vinyl rips as yet, so here’s a couple of unmastered tracks, that were also released as singles back in the day:-

mp3 : Biff Bang Pow! – Love’s Going Out Of Fashion
mp3 : Biff Bang Pow! – Someone Stole My Wheels

And here’s the one song I previously knew from the album, courtesy of it being included within the box set Make More Noise – Women In Independent UK Music 1977-1987. The vocals on this one are handled by Christine Wanless (who also co-wrote the song) despite her never seemingly ever being acknowledged as being part of the band.

mp3: Biff Bang Pow! – If I Die

The Girl Who Runs The Beat Motel does come highly recommended.  I’m not sure when the official release date is, but you can pre-order from LNFG by clicking here.

JC

PET SHOP BOY SINGLES (Part Two)

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My huge thanks to those of you who gave such warm welcomes to this new series.   Just to clarify on the Bobby Orlando releases that I mentioned last week but didn’t feature, the 45s will consist only of those had UK releases AND are mentioned on the PSB official website.

Part Two covers October 1985 – September 1986 and the four singles lifted from debut album Please, itself released in March 1986.

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West End Girls was released on 28th October 1985 and went to #1 in the UK in January. It was subsequently #1 in USA, Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand and Norway.

7″

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – A Man Could Get Arrested

Strangely enough, the 12″ contained a shorter version of A Man Could Get Arrested alongside a near 7-minute dance mix of West End Girls.  I’ve long thought this particular b-side is decent enough but has more than a few similarities to Opportunities, which suggests the duo were still trying to find their feet, musically.

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Love Comes Quickly was released on 24th February 1986.  After the success of West End Girls, hopes here high of achieving something similar.  It only reached #19 while New Zealand and Spain were the only countries where it went Top 10. 

7″

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Love Comes Quickly
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – That’s My Impression

This b-side was, as it turned out, ahead of the curve as it offered up a sign of Pet Shop Boys as a club/dance act.  It’s certainly the first time you could link their sound with that of New Order. The song was certainly more than good enough to be included on the debut album, but didn’t make the cut, which I think was a mistake.

A month later, debut album Please entered the chart at #3.  It was the highest new entry that week, and the only two albums above it were Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits (which had been kicking around the top of the album charts for almost a year) and Hits 4, one of those compilation albums that sold in the millions back in the 80s.  

Fun fact 1.  West End Girls was included on Hits 4, which meant the song was on records sitting at #1 and #3 on the album chart.

Fun fact 2.  Please would spend 37 weeks on the album chart.  But it never got higher than its first week position of #3.

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A new version of Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money) was released on 19th May 1986. It was a slightly edited version of that included on Please.   It reached #11 in the UK.

7″

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Was That What It Was

Another quality b-side, if perhaps a bit PSB by numbers, but far superior to what many others were offering as a-sides.

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On 22nd September 1986, a re-recorded version of Suburbia was released.  It reached #8 in the UK.  I won’t say any more as the single was feature on the blog just two weeks ago.  If you want to read more about the release, as well as listening to/downloading the tracks, just click here.

JC

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #340: TEENCANTEEN

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I’ve written previously in the present tense about TeenCanteen.   Now that they are that no longer together as a group, I’ll reproduce those words today in the past tense.

TeenCanteen, aside from having a tremendous name, made tremendous old-fashioned pop music that made you want to just dance and sing along. The band consisted of Carla Easton (lead vocals/keyboards), Sita Pieracinni (vocals/bass), Amanda Williams (vocals/guitar) and Deborah Smith (vocals/drums). Note right away the emphasis on all four members contributing on vocals as that was central to their sound, not just on record but in the live setting.

My mate Aldo was quick to pick up on the group back in 2013 just as they were beginning t9o make a name for themselves across the Glasgow scene.  It took me until late 2014 to catch them at a small venue on the south side of Glasgow not too far from my home, and I found myself highly impressed.

The group was tipped by many for big things.  A debut single via cassette had been followed by a debut single on vinyl, before the then new label, Last Night From Glasgow, released their debut album, Say It All With A Kiss, in 2016 to immense acclaim. In the meantime, Carla Easton, using the name Ette, had written, recorded and released a solo album, Homemade Lemonade, a record which was given an even bigger critical acclaim than that of her band.

In early 2017, TeenCanteen’s profile was growing, and the band were at the heart of putting together a number of multi-band shows for worthy and charitable causes in the city, while also releasing a 10″ EP, from which this is the lead track.

Out of the blue came the news that the group was taking a break.  It had been a meteoric rise and perhaps it was a good idea to take stock.  Only problem is that six years down the line, TeenCanteen still haven’t got back together, albeit Last Night From Glasgow, in 2021, did provide a vinyl release for a series of demos that had been in the vaults.

In the meantime, Carla J Easton, as she was now known, released two further excellent solo albums in 2018 and 2020, while a couple of years she joined forces with Simon Liddell (ex-Frightened Rabbit) to form Poster Paints whose debut album was released last October.  It would appear, therefore, that TeenCanteen will be no more, although nothing formal has ever been announced.

Here’s the a-side of the 7″ single released in 2014:-

mp3: TeenCanteen – You’re Still Mine

JC

PERFECTION

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The first gig I ever went to was, as a 15-year-old, at the Glasgow Apollo in May 1979 when I saw The Police supported by The Cramps.  Doing the maths, that’s forty-four years of watching live music, which means I’ve had the privilege of being entertained by a countless number of singers and bands.

Nothing, however, prepared me for the night of Wednesday 25 January 2023 when The Delgados ended a short five-day comeback tour with a show at Glasgow Barrowlands.

I came away, quite prepared to believe that, no matter what else happens over the next twelve months, I was unlikely to see a better gig this year.  And then I slept on it. And then I spent all of Thursday thinking about it.

I reckon I’ll be unlikely to ever come out of any gig for the rest of my life having been so utterly blown away by what I had witnessed.

I hadn’t quite been prepared for what all unfolded.  Sure, the reviews of the gigs in Brighton, London, Manchester and Sheffield had been universally positive, and having looked at the various set lists, I knew what songs to expect.  But as I said to my gig-going companions, and occasional TVV contributors, Aldo and Comrade Colin as we walked out to the iconic venue located on the eastern edge of the city centre, my worries were that it would turn into a mass community choir event from an over-excited audience.  After all, it had been 18 years since The Delgados had graced a stage in their home city, and there was bound to be a lot of excitement and anticipation to the extent of delirium among the 2,000-strong capacity audience.

We got there early and to our delight, the first person we saw was Stevie (of Charity Chic Music fame) who came and joined us.  Over the next hour and a bit before the band took to the stage, and without us shifting from the spot we had decided upon, we must have met or spotted about a couple of dozen more folk we knew, all of whom mentioned the names of other friends who were also somewhere in the building.  I reckon, if I had been able to freely wander around the cavernous venue, that I’d have bumped into anyone and everyone who is part of the local music scene as performers, promotors, writers or just regular gig-goers.  We were all in this together, awaiting the return of the best and most important indie band to come out of Scotland.

Ten musicians took to the stage – Alun Woodward, Emma Pollock, Paul Savage and Stewart Henderson were joined by a keyboardist, a flautist and a string quartet.  The roars were tumultuous.  And then something quite beautiful happened…….

mp3: The Delgados – Everything Goes Around The Water

The opening notes of the opening song are played on a flute.  The audience responded by falling into a hush.  Alun started singing and the band started playing.  Emma came in, on cue, on co-vocal and the string quartet joined in.  The audience, certainly in the area where we were located, halfway back and in the centre, looked on in awe and with utter respect.  Nobody was singing out loud, and nobody was talking excitedly to the persons in the immediate vicinity.  The song ended and the audience erupted.  Not a word was said from the stage.  It was straight into this:-

mp3: The Delgados – Accused of Stealing

A song which has slow bits, fast bits, quiet bits and loud bits.  A song which openly invites crowd participation of the wrong kind.

It didn’t happen.  Just a few minutes in, and the satisfying feeling that this was going to be something unique, with a band on top form and an audience prepared fully to stand and appreciate what was unfolding in front of them – there proved, all night, to be respect and hush throughout during the slower or more intense songs with releases of energy when the faster indie-classics were aired.

The interaction from the stage was for the most part kept to a minimum.  Alun restricted himself to a just saying ‘thank you’ at the end of any song he’d taken lead vocal on. Emma said a little bit more on maybe five or six occasions, but there was always a real flow and tempo to the set.  Near the end, there was a little bit of back and forth between Alun and Emma as the other musicians were introduced – ‘the people on stage without whom this would have been shite’ – as well as thanks to the folk on sound and lights whose contributions were equally invaluable.

The lack of chat enabled the band to get through 23 songs in not too far short of two hours,  including an encore that was every bit as joyful, classy and perfect as the entire night had been. There had even been a little nod of appreciation midset to Robert Burns, the national bard of Scotland whose birthday is celebrated on the very day The Delgados were at The Barrowlands.

Everything Goes Around The Water
Accused Of Stealing
The Arcane Model
The Actress
I Fought The Angels
Aye Today
Child Killers
Pull The Wires From The Wall
Come Undone
The Drowning Years
Such A Parcel Of Rogues In The Nation/Under Canvas Under Wraps
American Trilogy
Reasons For Silence (Ed’s Song)
The Night Before We Land
The Past That Suits You Best
Everybody Come Down
All You Need Is Hate
If This Is A Plan
 
Encore
 
Monica Webster
Coming In From The Cold
No Danger
Thirteen Gliding Principles
 

Emma mentioned that it wouldn’t be too long before they would be back, perhaps to a certain bandstand in the city; the refurbished Kelvingrove Bandstand in the west end of Glasgow is the venue for a two-week long festival of outdoors gigs in the summer months when it’s supposed to be dry, although seeing The National there a few years ago was on a night when the rain was of biblical proportions.

It was more reasons for smiles, as those words from Emma meant The Delgados weren’t just getting together for this handful of dates and then going back into hibernation or retirement.  And with that, it was time to make an exit from the wonderful old venue, and as I made my way down the stairs, I couldn’t help but going all High Fidelity on myself and thinking where, in the Top 5 of all time Barrowland gigs this would find itself.  By the morning, I was thinking where in the Top 5 of all gigs in any location.

JC

OUT OF THE BLUE?

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August 1980.   Ultravox finally enjoy a hit single.

mp3: Ultravox – Sleepwalk

It was hardly an overnight success.  The band had been in existence since 1975, initially going by the name of Tiger Lily, changing it to Ultravox! in 1976, with the exclamation mark being dropped in 1978.

They were initially signed to Island Records, for whom they recorded three albums and released six singles without getting close to the charts.  They were originally seen as part of the dying punk/emerging new wave movement in the UK, as can be seen from their place in the line-up of the opening day of the Reading Festival in 1978 alongside the likes of The Jam, Penetration and Sham 69.

There was a change in sound with the third album, Systems of Romance, which was released in September 1978, thanks to a greater use of synths.   It’s an album that wasn’t well received at the time, but has since been re-assessed by many critics as one of the records which helped define the electro sounds that began to take root at the end of the decade and into the 80s.

Island Records dropped the group on 31 December 1978 (I’m assuming this was something to do with dates of contracts).  Ultravox managed to self-fund a short tour of America in the early months of 1979, during which more tensions surfaced.  Lead singer John Foxx took his leave of the band in March 1979, as too did guitarist Robin Simon.  To all intent and purposes, it looked to be all over.

Chris Cross, Warren Cann and Billy Currie still had belief that success could be achieved, buoyed partly by the fact that Gary Numan, the newly emerged superstar of synth-pop, was a fan of the band and had recruited Currie to play on his records and as part of the touring band.

Currie was also involved with Visage, through which he met and worked alongside Midge Ure. One thing led to another, and Ure accepted the offer to become lead vocalist and guitarist with a slimmed-down Ultravox.

Record companies were desperate to sign any group that had potential to ride the wave of the new electro sounds, and Ultravox were soon attracting all sorts of A&R reps to their live shows in London.  Chrysalis Records put forward an attractive offer, but it was dependent on the label bosses being convinced there were hit singles in the offing.  The group decided to take a demo of a new song that had been recorded in London across to the Cologne studio of producer Conny Plank.  Some magic was worked and the ‘finished’ version of Sleepwalk was presented to Chrysalis, after which the contract was signed.

Sleepwalk was issued as the band’s debut single for the new label in June 1980.  It proved to be something of a slow burner, taking four weeks to crack the Top 40 where it kicked around for almost two months, defying the normal gravity of chart singles with its weekly positions being 39, 34, 33, 29, 31, 29, 30, indicating a consistent level of sales on a weekly basis without ever really taking off.

The follow-up single, Passing Strangers, turned out to be a disappointing flop, and it took until January 1981, and the release of the title track from the album Vienna, before Ultravox became everything that its members had always believed they could be.

Here’s the b-side to the first hit single.

mp3: Ultravox – Waiting

It’s quite different in tone and style. It’s certainly not easy to dance to.

JC

THE BEST OF SWEDISH MUSIC IN 2022

A GUEST POSTING by MARTIN ELLIOT

(Our Swedish Correspondent)

Hi Jim,

It’s once more into the bleach – my summary of last year in Swedish music. For different reasons, pandemic mostly, some of my usual sources of finding new music were delayed so last year actually saw me discover music that rightly should have been included in my summary already last year. Therefore, this year (to save me from tears) I included a bonus 12″ with overlooked (on my part) Swedish music from 2021. I hope this “deluxe” version of the Swedish Annual is accepted.

2022, side A (a bit more guitars):

A Sunday morning I was offered a free ticket to a small venue the same night with 2 Swedish bands on the bill I had never heard of before. An offer I guess based on limited ticket pre-sale, and as I have been there several times before I’m on their mailing list. Better people come and buy something in the bar at least… First I felt too lazy and was about to skip it, but then I pulled myself together; better alone at a gig than alone at home, so I went there – very luckily since both bands were actually great! Gothenburg based indie kids Beverly Kills were second band out, they played their just released debut Kaleido from start to finish. A great ending to a great evening!
All female indie rockers Sahara Hotnights are back after an 11 years hiatus with an album slightly more pop than usual. The album, Love In Times Of Low Expectations, has received a bit mixed reviews being more low key than what they did 11 years ago. More mature, more self assured, less aggressive. Given a bit of time the album has grown on me, and live they still have great energy on stage.
The new album House is short, it clocks in at about 32 minutes (compare to their Our Ill Wills album that has about 57 minutes on the vinyl!), but it is concentrated and effective. The first single, Sky And I, surfaced by the end of 2021 while the album was released early May. When I first started listening to them, in 2007, they were recording their second album, the just mentioned Our Ill Wills, and I remember reading that they had Disintegration playing on repeat in the studio. I guess it never left the CD player, the influences are still here.
First band out on that Sunday evening, Many Voices Speak is the moniker for singer/songwriter Matilda Mård. In the studio she does almost everything herself but live she brings a small band on stage. Dreamy, guitar based, indie-pop in the veins of Victorialand Cocteaus or maybe Daughter. I really enjoyed her set, and left with both her and Beverly Kill’s albums under my arm.
2022, side B (a bit more electronic):
Last year Göteborgselektronikerna dropped new music pretty much out of nowhere and in September a new album was released. Less obvious in their Kraftwerk influences, more playful and accessible on this their second album.  Very electronic this one.
Third album from Badlands, I had her included also last year with the epic Fantasma I & II. This album, Call To Love, is more dreamy, less darkwave-ish than the last. Still very emotional, this time dealing more with (lost) love than loss of life.
B3 Little Jinder – Joy Division väder. (väder means weather)
Another artist that has “matured” over the last few years and released an album a lot more low key than her previous outings. If the earlier albums have been more of young adult snapchat type lyrics about (lost) love, feeling outkast and alone this new album sees an artist reflecting with some experience on pretty much the same topics. It’s in Swedish so most of you won’t make much of it, but with this track title you might get a knack anyway…
Annika has earlier released material in Swedish under the moniker Säkert! and in English as Hello Saferide, so when she now makes her debut under her real name she does it with one side in Swedish and one in English… Mostly rather quiet songs, especially the Swedish side, lyrically slightly less direct and to the point than earlier. Leaving a bit more to the listener to work out what she is singing about. This track taken from the English side then.
The lost 2021 bonus single-sided 12″:
Linn released her debut full length album in 2021, having released 2 EP’s a few years earlier. Guitar-laden indie I would love to experience live.
They opened up for The Wannadies at a small club gig I attended in April last year, I had never heard them but was impressed and picked up their 2021 debut album from the merch stall afterwards. Quirky indiepop, in Swedish.
Maja has been around the Swedish music scene for some years now, and I have seen her joining First Aid Kit on stage a couple of times. I completely missed the release of her debut album in 2021 until late last year, but have since played the album repeatedly. At times her voice reminds me a lot of Jolene version Dolly Parton. Fragile, angel-like, and just lovable.
With hopes for a better 2023, all the best.

Martin

JC adds..…As I say every single year, I always look forward to Martin’s end of year round-up as there’s inevitably something in there that is of huge appeal, and this year is no different. These tunes are well worth a listen.

BONUS POSTING : A GENIUS IDEA FOR A MUSIC BLOG

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SWC over at No Badger Required is constantly coming up with all sorts of new ideas for postings. He’s already promised there will be ten new series throughout 2023 and that doesn’t include what he’s up to right now.

He mentioned late last week that he was going to attempt to blend the art of the short story with a music blog.  My curiosity was piqued, to say the least.

It was Monday morning when he showed his hand.

…let me introduce something that I probably won’t ever do again – something which I think is a first for a music blog – a murder mystery with musical interludes.   Yes.  You read that right.

There’s been three parts of what is shaping up to be a seven-part thriller.  He’s called it ‘Rearranging the Flowers – A Pointless Whodunnit with musical interludes and 7 chapters’.

We’re already up to Chapter 3.  It’s proving to be a brilliantly bonkers idea and it’s working a treat.  The storyline is shaping up nicely, and the musical interludes have already featured (in order of appearance) Taylor Swift, Whitney, Super Furry Animals, Courteeners, Leatherface, Jamie XX, Arlo Parks, Jamila Woods, Cage The Elephant, Simon and Garfunkel, Rob Dougan, The Libertines, Ride, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and Pulp.

If you go to No Badger Required, you would have to scroll down in order to prevent reading things out of sequence.  So, in the interests of a public service, here’s links to click on.

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

(I’ll continue to add each new chapter as and when they appear).

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7 (the end)

Here’s a couple of appropriate tunes:-

mp3 : New Order – Murder
mp3 : Maximo Park – A Cloud of Mystery

JC

HOWARD DEVOTO : A RE-POST

R-1203000-1401577927-9955I wanted to do a piece on Howard Devoto‘s solo material, but looking back on a previous post from June 2015, I realised I had previously said it all.

But then again, given not everyone who drops in here these days was reading the blog eight years ago, I felt I had nothing to lose from doing it as a re-post.  With the usual apologies to those who remember it well from the first time around (and indeed may have left behind a much welcomed comment).

I DON’T WANT TO TURN AROUND AND FIND I GOT IT WRONG…

One thing I regret about my lifelong addiction to music is that I only picked up on Magazine after the band broke up, and so, until they reformed a few years back, I never got to see them in the flesh.  Part of my ignorance of the band was that I was very much a Buzzcocks boy, and was too stubborn to take notice of those friends who said I should check out the work of the man who was the real inspiration behind the band but who had left before success to pursue his own musical dreams.

So it wasn’t until 1982 that I bought my first Magazine LP – a compilation effort called After The Fact. For weeks, it was the only thing I was listening to….and so the next logical step was to buy all of the band’s back catalogue.

Magazine quickly took their place as one of my all-time favourite bands. And just as I was really getting into the band I became a really happy chappy when I read that Howard Devoto was in the midst of recording a solo LP.

Prior to the album, there was a single – Rainy Season. It wasn’t anything like I expected as it was far lighter and poppier than the stuff that Magazine had done. But, I thought then, and still think today, that it is a fantastic record that really should have cracked the charts.

Then the LP – Jerky Versions Of The Dream – hit the shops.

It was a real let-down. I thought it was a rather limp and dull affair and other than the initial single, nothing really jumped out at me. I probably listened to it no more than three or four times, before loaning it to someone. I never ever asked for its return.

But not long after starting the original blog and re-igniting my passion for vinyl, I found a second-hand vinyl copy while I was living and working in Toronto in the summer of 2007 together with a copy of the follow-up single taken from the album.

I was therefore able to listen to Jerky Versions Of The Dream for the first time in more two decades and was pleased to realise that it is a work that has aged well. I’m not saying it’s a tremendous and ‘must-have’ record, but it is certainly far better than I recall it being back at the time of its release.

It came on the scene just around the same time as a band called The Smiths were emerging while there was also the huge distraction of so many fresh sounding and exciting bands that I was seeing in and around my home city.  I suppose with hindsight that I was comparing it with all of what was going on and feeling it just wasn’t good enough…..but now I’m prepared to admit that Howard’s debut album that came out just at the wrong time in my life to be properly appreciated.

Here’s the two singles in their 12″ glory:-

mp3 : Howard Devoto – Rainy Season (12″ version)
mp3 : Howard Devoto – Cold Imagination (12″ version)

And how about I throw in the b-side to the latter single, simply for the stellar cast that played on it:-

mp3 : Howard Devoto – Out Of Shape With Me

Barry Adamson (bass guitar)
Howard Devoto (guitar & ARP Bass)
Andy Diagram (French horn & trumpet)
Dave Formula (F.S.E. & piano)

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #328: THE DELGADOS (2)

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Tomorrow night at Glasgow Barrowlands, I’m going to be one of a couple of thousand incredibly excited and incredulous fans utterly transfixed by the sight of The Delgados.

It’s been eighteen years since they called it a day, seemingly having decided that raising families, embarking on solo careers, running a record label, producing other musicians’ records, organising cultural festivals to commemorate Glasgow being host city to the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and managing a very busy recording studio was enough to be getting on with.

But, last June, came the news that I, and many other fans had long given up on hearing.  A five-date tour of the UK, taking in Brighton, London, Manchester, Sheffield and Glasgow.  I’m typing this up having read reviews and seen footage of the first three shows, all of which have been incredibly positive.  The photo at the top of this post was taken at the Brighton show by none other than David Gedge who simply said they ‘sound amazing.’

I’ve spent much of the last week refamiliarising myself with the back catalogue of the five albums released between 1996 and 2004, and it feels like the right thing to come up with an ICA to mark the occasion.

The thing is, I’m not going to feature any of the ten songs that Charity Chic included on his Delgados ICA back in September 2018.  The thing is, CC took the interesting approach to have two tracks from the five studio albums in chronological order on both sides of the ICA as it allowed him to demonstrate the band’s evolution, and in doing so he included some of the most obvious choices if you were to canvass the opinions of the fanbase.

I’m going to do it a bit differently, but ensuring that the ICA will be made up (with one exception) from the 21 songs that were played at the comeback gig in Brighton.  The fact that 8 of the t had previously featured on CC’s ICA was not a problem, as I intend to demonstrate.

SIDE A

1. The Arcane Model (Peloton, 1998)

The Delgados had burst on to the scene in 1995, and much of the early material, including most of the debut album Domestiques (1996) was, to use CC’s description, loud and thrashy. They were part of an emerging local scene in which bands like bis and Urusei Yatsura took the influences of the likes of the Pixies, Pavement and Sonic Youth and offered a West of Scotland twist.  It was all quite wonderful at the time, but there was always a nagging doubt of whether it was truly sustainable.

The Delgados got ahead of the curve very early on with their second album.  They chose Tony Doogan, who had worked on many of the early Belle & Sebastian releases to be the producer, and many of the new songs utilised strings, woodwind and piano.  Peloton was the album that really got me on board.  The Arcane Model starts off as almost indie-pop by numbers, but by the time of the first chorus and second verse, we are entering a whole new world.

2. The Light Before We Land (Hate, 2002)

The opening track on the fourth album.   Orchestral pop at its very finest.   No wonder that David Gedge, during his Cinerama phase, asked Emma Pollock to sing on a couple of his songs.

3. Sucrose (Domestiques, 1996)

The only track on this ICA that wasn’t played in Brighton (or indeed London or Manchester) but given the band have said they intend to alternate the sets a little bit, I’m crossing my fingers that they might delight the local audience tomorrow night with this very old favourite that was also released as a single.

4. American Trilogy (The Great Eastern, 2000)

The third album was the one that took the band to new heights in terms of the critics.  It was short-listed for the Mercury Prize and featured very highly on many end of year lists, albeit all the wonderful words that were written didn’t translate into sales, given that The Great Eastern got no higher than #72 in the UK charts.  But it has proven to be one of those ‘word of mouth’ records that has found its way into many a collection over the years.  The band brought in thirteen additional musicians to play on the album…..which leads nicely to….

5. Thirteen Gliding Principles (The Great Eastern, 2000)

This closes the first side of the Great Eastern and is perfectly suited to do similar with the ICA. One of the few Delgados songs in which Alun Woodward and Emma Pollock do call and response vocals, rather than one or the other being the sole lead.  Gear yourself up for how quickly this one comes to an end.

SIDE B

1. Everybody Come Down (Universal Audio, 2005)

What proved to be the final album was a bit of a curveball.   As mentioned above, The Great Eastern and Hate had been full of additional musicians, but there was a conscious decision that the next album had to be stripped back somewhat and so, other than the occasional flourish of a guest keyboard player, it was all the work of Emma, Alun, Stewart Henderson (bass) and Paul Savage (drums).

Everybody Come Down was the comeback single.  It was The Delgados reimagined, with a song that was perfect a dance down at the indie disco.  It even got some exposure on mainstream and daytime radio stations and in a perfect world it would have been a huge hit, much better than the #56 it peaked at.

2. Come Undone (Universal Audio, 2005)

Universal Audio wasn’t all sunshine-pop.  We weren’t to know it at the time that it was to be the last album, but the good news is that Come Undone would prove to be an early indication of how Emma Pollock’s solo albums would sound. (There’s been three so far, with another in the pipeline).

3. Child Killers (Hate, 2002)

At 6:42, this was the longest song the band ever recorded, and not a single second is wasted.  Alun’s vocal style often bordered on fragile, but in a way that perfectly suited the music, as is very much the case on a song that was the centrepiece of Hate.

4. The Actress (Peloton, 1998)

One of my all-time favourites.  As I said at the beginning of the ICA, Peloton was the album with which I first fell in love with The Delgados.  The opening five tracks are stunning – CC had two of them on his ICA, and I’ve added another two to this effort, and combined they just happen to be the four songs from that album the band have included in the set list for the comeback tour.  No wonder I’m excited.

5. Make Your Move (The Great Eastern, 2000)

This closes the Great Eastern.  I’m really hoping the Barrowlands goes silent when this achingly beautiful ballad gets played.  I’ll let you know when I make the time to pen a review……

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (70)

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Oops!!!  I didn’t mean to have such a long gap between Parts 69 and 70 of this occasional series.  It’s been three months……

According to wiki, Sugar were named in a waffle house restaurant in Athens, Georgia when Bob Mould spotted a sugar packet on the table where he and the other two band members were sitting.

It’s a hard one to believe, but there is no doubting that the band came together not long after Bob Mould had been dropped by a record label that was disappointed with the critical and commercial failure of his two solo albums released after the break-up of Hüsker Dü.  He subsequently linked up with David Barbe and Malcolm Travis to form a new alt-rock power-pop influenced trio.

Success came quite quickly.  Their first shows were in 1992, and they were soon signed to Ryodisc in their home country and to Creation Records in the UK.  It was the latter who got the first new material release, a single on CD and 12″ vinyl, in August 1992:-

mp3: Sugar – Changes

The single, released on CD and 12″, didn’t chart, but had received a couple of good write-ups in the UK music papers, some of whose writers were delighted to see Bob Mould making a comeback as the cult of Hüsker Dü hadn’t really dissipated.

A few weeks later, the debut album Copper Blue was released.  The positive critical response was near-universal, and no publication was more excited than the NME which later named it ‘Album of the Year’ for 1992.

Copper Blue did go Top 10 in the UK, but was only in the charts for seven weeks.  The NME accolade didn’t do much for sales, but there was a revival sales-wise when a later single, If I Can’t Change Your Mind, reached the top 30 in January 1993 (another example of how good a year that actually was for music).

The hit single had actually been previously released, in a different form, as one of the three other tracks on Changes:

mp3: Sugar – Needle Hits E
mp3: Sugar – If I Can’t Change Your Mind (solo mix)
mp3: Sugar – Try Again

All told, it made for a very enjoyable debut.  The sticker on my CD cover tells me I paid £3.99 for it…..we really were getting ripped-off price wise thirty-plus years ago.

JC

PET SHOP BOY SINGLES (Part One)

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I genuinely pay close attention to feedback via the comments section, which is why the plan for a new Sunday series looking at selections from the many hundreds of 7″ singles sitting in a very large cupboard space in Villain Towers will now be put to one side.  I’ve already written around a dozen of proposed posts, but I’ll make use of these over the coming weeks and months.

Instead, Sundays are now going to be devoted to the singles released by the Pet Shop Boys

The thing is, if I was to do it at the pace of one single per week, I’ll still be working my way through them well into 2024 and probably have lost all sorts of enthusiasm for getting to the end.  So, what’s going to happen is that the singles will more often than not be broken up on an album-by-album basis, with just a few short facts about each song so as to avoid any one posting becoming too lengthy.  Oh, and for clarification, I’ll only be featuring singles that were released in the UK and are mentioned on the PSB website.

Which means neither of the Bobby Orlando produced singles will feature.  It’s just as easy to quote from the ‘Early Years’ section over at wiki:-

“Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe met in a hi-fi shop on King’s Road in Chelsea, London, in 1981. Tennant had purchased a Korg MS-10 synthesizer which sparked a conversation with Lowe. Discovering that they had a mutual interest in disco and electronic music, they became friends. In particular, the pair had a shared love of two electropop records: Souvenir by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD); and Bedsitter by Soft Cell, which reflected their lifestyles at the time. According to Tennant, he and Lowe would listen to “pioneers of electronic music”, including OMD, Soft Cell, Kraftwerk, the Human League and Depeche Mode.

“The duo began to work together on material, first in Tennant’s flat in Chelsea, then, from 1982, in a small studio in Camden Town. They say that their band name was taken from friends who worked in a pet shop in Ealing and were known as the “pet shop boys”. In August 1983, Tennant, who was an assistant editor at Smash Hits, went to New York to interview Sting. While there, he arranged to meet hi-NRG producer Bobby Orlando and gave him a demo tape containing It’s a Sin and Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money).

“From 1983 to 1984, Orlando recorded 11 tracks with Tennant and Lowe.  In April 1984, the Orlando-produced West End Girls was released, becoming a club hit in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  It was a minor dance hit in Belgium and France, but was only available in the United Kingdom as a 12” import.

“In March 1985, after long negotiations, the Pet Shop Boys cut their contractual ties with Bobby O, with a settlement giving Bobby O significant royalties for future sales. Hiring manager Tom Watkins, they signed with the London-based Parlophone label. In April, Tennant left Smash Hits magazine – where he had progressed to the position of deputy editor – and in July, a new single was released.”

Which takes us to Part One of the series.

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Released on 1st July 1985. It came out on 7″ vinyl as well as two different 12″ versions. 

7″

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of  Money)
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – In The Night

12″ (version 1)

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money) (Dance Mix)

12″ (version 2)

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money) (version Latina)
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Dub For Money)

Produced by J. J. Jeczalik (of Art of Noise) and Nicholas Froome, it was a flop, getting no higher than #116 in the UK charts.

In what would become a feature of PSB singles over the years, the b-side was a song worth listening to.  The version of In The Night that was included on the 7″ could also be found on both of the 12″ releases.

It’s also interesting that, from the outset, the duo were keen to import a Latina element to their sound, something that would really come to the fore a few years later.

JC

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #339: THE SUPERNATURALS

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The Supernaturals are a guitar-based indie pop/rock band from Glasgow. Fronted by singer-songwriter James McColl, they had a five top 40 singles in the late 1990s, as well as two hit albums – It Doesn’t Matter Anymore (1997 – #9) and A Tune A Day (1999 – #21).

The band announced they were taking a break in 2002, shortly after the release of their third album, What We Did Last Summer.  The break lasted ten years, during which time some members became part of other bands.

Their first new music in over a decade appeared in 2015 with the album 360, at which point they began to tour again, including a number of high-profile support slots with Sleeper and Embrace, as well as taking to the stage at various festivals.  They have continued to record and perform, with the album Bird Of Luck being released in 2019.  Most recently, they played a sold-out gig in Glasgow just before Christmas, with a 22-song set that had fans of all ages raving about the show.

I haven’t kept up with the more recent developments, and only have music from the era when they were chart regulars.  Here’s probably their best known song. It reached #23 in the singles chart and has also featured in a number of TV adverts over the years.

mp3: The Supernaturals – Smile

They also were responsible for writing and recording a tune that was something of my theme song back in the day.

mp3: The Supernaturals – I Wasn’t Built To Get Up

I’ve never been a morning person.

JC

THE NEARLY NEW ALBUMS IN VINYL TOWERS (1)

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It’s long been my practice not to post up mp3s of newly released music on the basis that I’d hope the folk who drop by have a preference for purchasing things, whether it’s the physical product or digital copies via places such as bandcamp.

But, there has to come a point in time when a record has been out for long enough to be more closely featured, and that’s really the basis for what is likely to be a very occasional (and by very occasional I mean every three or four months!!!!) series called ‘The Nearly New Albums in Villain Towers’.

First up, from August 2020, is Pop Up Jim Bob by Jim Bob.

The PR blurb from Cherry Records had this to say:-

After a break from writing or recording new musical material of nearly seven years, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine’s former frontman, Jim Bob returns with a smashing new solo record “Pop Up Jim Bob”.

“Pop Up Jim Bob” is a sharp and witty social commentary, full of catchy tracks that will delight Carter USM fans and anyone who loves a great tune.

The music is a return to his honest and intelligent indie-pop-rock. From the frank, dark humoured lyrics of ‘Jo’s Got Papercuts’ (“Jo knows it is what it is now, she knows she can’t dance to The Smiths now”), to the much darker meander of ‘Truce’, Jim provides us with songs of his most unique views on life. Kidstrike! is a lyrically busy snapshot of modern life in London, while ‘#thoughtsandprayers’ is a sardonic number that shines a light on the downtrodden in our society. From TED talks to drinking in the park, Jim’s vivid descriptions of his characters let us in on his world. A place that, deep down, we knew all along – and live every day.

Includes the thrashing thirty-second Punk single 2020 WTF

The first thing to say is Jim Bob still has the same distinctive voice from the Carter USM heydays. The second thing to say is that he hasn’t lost his knack for combining brilliantly constructed lyrics with the catchiest of tunes, fast and slow alike. Jim Bob’s stuff made great sense to the 20/30-something that I was back in the 90s, which was part of the great appeal about his band.  Now that I’m a near 60-something, it’s great to find he’s still very much hitting all my sweet spots.

It’s an album in which almost all the songs could be singled out for the ‘great short stories’ series, some of which will make you laugh out loud, while others will have you choking back snot and tears.

With a running time of a little of thirty-three minutes, it’s an album that doesn’t dream of overstaying its welcome.   After a very short piece of instrumental music, Turn On, Tune In, Pop Up!, the album offers up the sort of string-laden indie-pop that would have me throwing shapes on the dance floor if it got aired:-

mp3: Jim Bob – Jo’s Got Papercuts

Kidstrike! is next up. It’s a three-minute anthem for the disaffected youth, and is followed by Ted TALKS, the most Carter USM-like song on the album, maintaining the fast-paced momentum that’s been on-show so far, with a frightening tale of a middle-aged man who lost his mind and went on a killing spree.

Side one ends with Truce, the longest track on the album at more than five and a half minutes long in which Jim Bob co-narrates, alongside Jen Marco (who also plays guitar as part of the band which was assembled for the album) a Christmas tale of a better world we could, and should, be inhabiting.

Side two, as the press release states, opens with a thirty-second punk single:-

mp3: Jim Bob – 2020 WTF!

It’s followed up with the ridiculously catchy pro-environment number, If It Ain’t Broke, before the album does the first of a couple of handbrake turns.

BIG Boy is a slow number, defiant in nature and driven along by keyboards, including a music-hall turn on the piano near the end.

The next one up is the ‘this would be hilarious if it wasn’t so accurate’ thanks to the poppy/glam rock Barry’s On Safari (In His Safari Suit) bringing forth the life and thoughts of a right-wing prick of a man.

The highlight of the album, certainly from my many listens over the past couple of years is this:-

mp3: Jim Bob – #thoughtsandprayers

It’s a wry and biting commentary on how fucked up the world is in the early part of the 21st century. Thirty years ago, Jim Bob would have screamed this one out with the real possibility of damaging his throat…the restrained delivery in this instance makes it all the more effective and poignant.

There’s one more track to go – You’re Cancelled And We’re Done.  It’s less than two minutes long, and given that much of what has come beforehand has made the listener wonder how best to escape the insanity of the modern world, is it any wonder that Jim Bob goes first-person narrative and informs us that he and his wife are away to hide in the woods.  It’s a beautiful, funny and perfect ending to an album that really deserved much more attention that it got on its release.

JC

SHOUT TO THE TOP

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I knew that I had previously had a series which looked at every 45 ever released by The Style Council, but was quite stunned when a glance at the archives told me it was seven years ago.  As such, I have no qualms about going in for a repeat of sorts; nor do I offer any apologies!

The group’s seventh single was a big hit, peaking at #6 in the charts in October 1984.  It was released on 7″ and 12″ vinyl, and had all the hallmarks of the upbeat and jaunty sound we had by now come to associate with TSC, but this time with added strings.

mp3: The Style Council – Shout To The Top

The reverse of the sleeve indicated a few causes that the band thought were worth drawing attention to:-

– No! To the abolition of the GLC & local councils
– Yes! To the thrill of the romp
– Yes! To the Bengali Workers Association
– Yes! To a nuclear-free world
– Yes! To all involved in animal rights
– Yes! To fanzines
– Yes! To Belief

The single came out in the midst of an ongoing and increasingly embittered national strike by the National Union of Mineworkers.  If really felt as if the UK government, led by the singularly-minded Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, was at war with many of its own residents, particularly those whose traditional industries were closing with no thought or care given as to how these ailing communities could be supported.  Paul Weller made no bones about it, firmly nailing his colours to the mast of those who were on strike.

There’ was no difference in the versions available on 7″ and 12″ and this was the common b-side:-

mp3 : The Style Council – The Ghosts of Dachau

A haunting ballad about the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, it was as far removed from the jauntiness of the a-side as can be imagined.

There were two other tracks on the 12″

mp3 : The Style Council – Shout To The Top (instrumental)
mp3 : The Style Council – The Piccadilly Trail

The latter, I described in January 2016 as being a slow-paced number that was about as dull a b-side as the band had released up to this point in their career. I was taken to task via the comments section by londonlee who very much expressed his love for said b-side.

Shout To The Top has aged very well in terms of its sound.  I’ve been known to air it at Stark’s Park, as part of my efforts to build up the pre-match atmosphere. I’ve also occasionally played this cover version:-

mp3: Fire Island feat. Loleatta Holloway – Shout To The Top (HiFi Sean Mix)

This dates from 2021, and it involved Hifi Sean getting his hands on a tape of a version of a track that had been recorded and released by Fire Island (English house music duo, Pete Heller and Terry Farley) in 1998.

Seemingly, there were no musical parts on the tape which landed in Sean’s hands, only the vocal from soul diva, Loleatta Holloway.  He got to work rewriting the arrangement, and in doing so he created a soulful string-laden groover.

And talking of string-laden groovers, it’s getting close to 3 February 2023, which is the official release date for Happy Ending, the stunning new album from HiFi Sean and David McAlmont.

JC

FAC 10 : UNKNOWN PLEASURES

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The first post on the contents of the Hearing Protection : Factory Records 1978-79 box set, was on 24 March 2022.  I hadn’t intended it taking this long for the series to come to its conclusion, especially as there was only ever going to be ten parts, but having covered all of FAC1 through to FAC9, I didn’t think it would be right to do anything in depth on FAC10 while Joy Division were competing in the ICA World Cup.

FAC10 is in the above picture in the front row on the left-hand side. It is, of course, the album Unknown Pleasures.

I’ve long had a copy of this album, originally released on 15 June 1979. I bought it a few months after it came out, on the back of falling very heavily for the single Transmission.  I haven’t taken good care of it.  The vinyl itself isn’t actually too bad, but the sleeve is bashed, battered and creased, and the edges have splits to the extent that the info is unreadable.  I get quite embarrassed when I look at, with the realisation that I have played loose and free with a wonderful piece of art.

I now have a second copy of Unknown Pleasures, thanks to it being part of the box set that I bought when I visited the Factory Records exhibition that was put on at the Manchester Science and Industry Museum in the latter part of 2021.  It is not a replica of the original album, instead being the reissued and remastered version of the album issued by Warner Bros in 2015.

There is an on-line debate about the merits or otherwise of this particular repress, with many at pains to point out that it is actually a remastered version of something that had originally been remastered in 2007, meaning that the 2015 version was further compressed from digital files.  This has led to accusations that the differences in sound from the original are more than minor, and that the 2015 version is cleaner, punchier and at odds with what Martin Hannett wanted to deliver.

There is no question that the version of the album that came with the box set is different.  For one, it has no clicks or pops in the way that my 1979 pressing has succumbed to.  And yes, I find I do have to play it a little louder than I do with the original pressing, which is maybe the clearest indication that the two pieces of vinyl are far from identical. The thing is, I have ears which are almost 60-years-old and which are well past their best, (thanks, somewhat ironically, as a result of my failure to use hearing protection while DJing or going to gigs), so I’m not really best placed to outline the differences, other than to say that the remastered version feels/sounds as if I’m listening to things via a CD rather than a slab of vinyl.

Unknown Pleasures has become, with the passing of time, one of the most important and influential albums ever released.  I’ll be honest and say that when I bought it, I thought it to be a bit on the ‘meh’ side, as there wasn’t really anything that grabbed me in the same way that Transmission had. My excuse is that I was 16 years of age, and my musical tastes weren’t fully developed.  I won’t waste anyone’s time arguing the merits of its contents or otherwise, other than to say that no music collection, in my opinion, is complete unless you have a copy…..but I suppose I’ve got something of a cheek to say this given I’m someone who has nothing from Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd (among many others) in his own collection.

Here’s four tracks from the remastered album, all recorded at 320 kbps which is as good as I can do for you.  None of them made it to the Joy Division ICA:-

mp3: Joy Division – Day Of The Lords (Outside, Track 2)
mp3: Joy Division – New Dawn Fades (Outside, Track 5)
mp3: Joy Division – Wilderness (Inside, Track 3)
mp3: Joy Division – She’s Lost Control (Inside, Track 1)

JC