SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #192 : LORD CUT-GLASS

From the Chemikal Underground website:-

In 2009 Lord Cut Glass, the alter-ego of our very own Alun Woodward (label boss and ex-Delgado), delivered us an album that had been four years in the making; written, arranged and largely performed by Woodward, the album was a beguilingly eclectic and hugely flamboyant affair.

Sometimes bashful, occasionally imbued with curmudgeonly bluster, and yet always lifted by humorous life learned truisms, Lord Cut-Glass struck a dashing figure of musically inventive bravado. Galloping percussion, waltzes and marches, promenades of male and female harmony: delicate and serene creations punctuated by casual profanity and shot through with brazenly hilarious words-to-the-wise. It was one of a kind and quite brilliant.

That last sentence nails it.  One of a kind and brililant.  An album that never gets boring and throws up something new with every single listen.

Here’s the debut single that was lifted from it:-

mp3 : Lord Cut-Glass – Look After Your Wife

And the animated promo for its equally fabulous follow-up….although it was never given an actual physical release as a single:-

Note the use of the word ‘motherblaster’ in this version (just after the 1:30 mark); it wasn’t the word used on the album version……

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (43)

Today’s featured 7” piece of vinyl was seemingly named as ‘Single of the Week’ in August 1978 within the pages of all four of the main UK music papers – Melody Maker, NME, Record Mirror and Sounds, something I find hard to believe given that the papers projected themselves towards slightly different audiences and it was incredibly rare for all of them to simultaneously champion one band or singer.

But such was the fate of this:-

mp3 : Siouxsie and The Banshees – Hong Kong Garden

In an era when many a new band sounded fresh and exciting, particularly to my teenage ears, there was something about Hong Kong Garden that made it stand out even more so, that, of course being the Oriental sounding opening. The reviews in the music papers, to their credit, did nail things very well, offering the sort of soundbites that could be added to a poster if it was being used to attract further custom:-

“a bright, vivid narrative, power charged by the most original, intoxicating guitar playing heard in a long, long time”.

“strident and powerful with tantalising oriental guitar riffs”.

“ catchy, original….coupled with an irresistible sing-along chorus”.

“I love every second”.

The introductory notes come courtesy of a xylophone. The song had originally been aired on the John Peel Show on Radio 1 some six months earlier, with a quite different sound courtesy of a toy glockenspiel. The drums were also quite different….

mp3 : Siouxsie and The Banshees – Hong Kong Garden (Peel Session)

Ah, the drums. The instrument that played a huge part in making Hong Kong Garden one of the earliest smash hits of the new wave era – it’s #7 placing made it one of the few to go Top Ten in those days. Polydor Records had hooked the band up with an American producer named Bruce Albertine and had hired the expensive Olympic Studios in London for the sessions. The band didn’t like the results and the decision was taken to work with a little-known producer in a tiny basement studio in London. The producer got it done and dusted in two days, concentrating on the drum sound, insisting that Kenny Morris play the bass and snares first of all and then cymbals and tom-toms later on. These were matched up, with a bit of echo added, thus giving the song a bigger, fuller and more ambitious sound, arguably making the first new-wave single that didn’t sound just one step up from a great, live sounding demo.

The producer’s name was Steve Lillywhite and Hong Kong Garden was his first hit in that role….the first of many hundreds.

You can get a real sense of the difference that Lillywhite made by flipping it over to the b-side:-

mp3 : Siouxsie and The Banshees – Voices

This was salvaged from the Olympic Sessions with Bruce Albertine. It is distinctly average……(feel free to differ!!!)

The band would return to the studio with Steve Lillywhite to record debut album The Scream. As it was a separate session, and in a different studio to where they had first worked on the single, the decision was taken to leave Hong Kong Garden off said debut album. An act of artistic merit, but something of a commercial folly.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (42)

I had a quick look on Discogs to see if there were any second-hand copies of today’s debut single, by Wire, up for sale.

There’s loads of them, ranging in price from £50-£350, although the seller who is seeking the highest amount seems a bit ambitious, given that all he/she is offering is the 7” plastic in a generic record company sleeve while others, who are looking for a bit less, do have the single available in the picture sleeve from 1977.

I’m prepared to guess that maybe 15-20 years ago, you could have picked up Mannequin for £25 tops, but such has been the recent explosive growth in the demand for original vinyl from the good old days that sellers are asking a premium and there’s folk out there willing to pay. I sort of get it, but as I get older, it is decreasingly so.

I started this blog 13 years ago, ostensibly to try and post songs that were almost impossible to find, usually consisting of b-sides only issued on vinyl or different mixes of singles, again otherwise not available other than vinyl. Things have been overtaken with just about every singer/band from the punk, post-punk, new wave and 80s era being happy enough for old albums to be re-released, often with additional material, such as demos, b-sides and single mixes, to be tagged on. It’s a clever way to continue to extract money from fans and there’s a certain democratic element to it as it means that fans can complete their collections without having to fork out silly amounts of money.

My best personal take on it is that my hunt for a copy of the debut Orange Juice single slowed down once the tracks were made available via a CD reissue of all the Postcard Records material and it ground to a halt when the vinyl revival saw the price for the original artefact go through the roof. In some ways, getting your hands on original vinyl from the 70s/80s, especially those which weren’t pressed in any significant amounts, has become like collecting pieces of visual art such as paintings or sculptures, where all too often, it is only the moneyed and privileged who can participate.

I’ll now get off my soapbox and return to the business of the day.

Wire weren’t loved by many back in 1977. They were critically lauded in some places but there was little in the way of mass appeal. The debut album, Pink Flag, didn’t chart. It was, in many respects, ahead of its time as there can’t have been many prior LPs that contained 21 songs but with a running time of just over 35 minutes. It was music of a different quality and distinction and although it has retrospectively been lauded as one of the most original pieces of work to emerge out of the UK at any point in time, and has proven to be a huge influence on so many acts who would find fame and fortune in future times, hardly anybody knew it.

I’d be very surprised if the debut single was ever played on mainstream radio, other than by the usual suspect, John Peel:-

mp3 : Wire – Mannequin
mp3 : Wire – Feeling Called Love
mp3 : Wire – 1.2.X.U

More than 40 years on, these three songs still sound fresh, vibrant, edgy and exciting. They also sound familiar as so many bands would appropriate the Wire methodology in later years, often making a fair bit of money in the process.

All the tracks were available on Pink Flag, itself an album that has never been too difficult to find, having had its first re-release on CD in 1987, which also coincided with the label re-issuing it on vinyl. As such, none of the three songs were ever really obscure, and yet you have the situation of the 7” single fetching silly amounts. The original pressing of the album, which although not a great seller would still have found its way into more homes than the debut single, can be got for as ‘little’ as £60 or as much as £450, with the seller advising the vinyl and its sleeve are near-mint. Just as incredibly, a copy of the cassette version from 1977 is also up for grabs….£80 and its all yours with the seller saying “Tape looks in excellent condition, artwork is lovely, very slight corner wear. IS in original case, which is a bit worn, happy to replace with a new one, but it will be all clear, and this one has a black back”

Would it really be any better to hear the songs via these high-priced medium than any other?

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (41)

The Wedding Present released 29 singles and 3 EPs between 1985 and 1997. Today looks back at where it all started and my words below rely very heavily on an interview given by David Gedge to the folk involved with this wonderful piece of the internet

https://gedgesongs.wordpress.com/

It was 1985 and The Wedding Present were in a position to release a debut single. The choice came down to either Go Out and Get ‘Em Boy or Will You Up There. No worries if you don’t recognise the latter, it never got an official release!

The debut single turned out to be quite unlike almost all that would follow. One of the surprising things is that it was a deliberate effort by David Gedge to compose a political song, in this instance as his response to the Falklands conflict of the early 80s which had already inspired Elvis Costello to compose Shipbuilding. I genuinely had no idea about the intention behind the lyric, even though I had seen the words on paper before, assuming that it was another of the tangled lovelorn songs at which he frontman would become famed for over the ensuing decades. David Gedge does admit that the message is a little unfocussed and it’s an approach to song writing that he soon moved away from.

You were a survivor after all; you never even called!
I didn’t expect you to
Now, oh, there’s such a lot you’ve done and you’re only twenty-one
Yes, you’re only twenty-one

Oh, oh, there’s just something, something I noticed
That there’s a whole world out there but it’s shrinking fast
You want to take it all and make it last forever
Or maybe just a lifetime

Now, oh, you’ve gone to fly the flag from some pinprick on the map
Oh, won’t you ever bring it back?
Tonight, when you hold her in your arms and you prove that you’re a man
Oh, well, I hope she understands

Oh, oh, there’s just something, something I noticed
That there’s a whole world out there but it’s shrinking fast
You want to take it all and make it last forever
Or maybe just a lifetime, maybe just a lifetime

Oh, some things just don’t ever go away
Some things, you know, are just here to stay
And in a golden field there is a little girl left with a union jack
And there’s a price to pay, no matter what you say
There is no going back today

And if we’re worlds apart, then I’ve still got a heart
Can you imagine that?
“Another wasted day”, yes, I can hear you say
But I’m afraid it means much more to me than that

There’s also an admission that the music, with an unusual structure and multiple parts, was a tad on the ambitious side, but the defence being that nobody was sure if the first single would prove to be the last, so everyone involved wanted to pack it full of hooks while having a frantic pace that grabbed the listeners attention.

The single came out on Reception Records on 24 May 1985 (slap bang in the middle of my final exams at university, so I can be excused for not paying attention!). The label had been set-up by the band, solely with the intention of getting the single out there and into the shops. Just 500 copies were pressed, but such was the demand that they soon agreed a deal with City Slang, a new label that had been established by NME writer, Neil Taylor who was an early champion of The Weddoes. The second pressing of the single came with different artwork, the results of which had the band recoiling in horror, and determined not to cede control over such things ever again.

The second pressing also sold out quickly and by now the band were getting aired increasingly by John Peel. Rather than have fans shell out huge sums on the second-hand market or more likely relying on copies recorded to a hissy cassette tape, it was decided that all of the songs that comprised the first two singles should be put on a new EP, via Reception Records, which is why most folk (including myself) who have vinyl cuts of the song have achieved it through the Don’t Try and Stop Me, Mother EP.

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Go Out and Get ‘Em Boy!
mp3 : The Wedding Present – (The Moment Before) Everything’s Spoiled Again

I think it’s fair to say that The Weddoes would go on to make better and more polished singles, but as an opener, particularly as it was wholly self-financed, recorded and released, is worthy of being described as cracking.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (40)

When I’m penning a bunch of similarly themed posts, such as this consecutive run of Cracking Debut Singles, the occasional lazy shortcut is needed to save time and energy. Here’s a re-post from September 2014, which was Part 110 in the very long-running series entitled ‘Saturday’s Scottish Single’

“Some of you might think I’m cheating this week, but with a bit of music that is this exceptional, I’m prepared to bend the rules a bit.

This Mortal Coil are NOT a Scottish band and so shouldn’t really be in this alphabetical series.

This Mortal Coil was a project led by Ivo Watts-Russell, co-founder of the 4AD record label. Although Watts-Russell and John Fryer were technically the only two official members, the band’s recorded output featured a large rotating cast of supporting artists, many of whom were signed to, or otherwise associated with 4AD.

One of the label’s earliest signings was Modern English. In 1983, Watts-Russell suggested that they re-record two of their earliest songs, Sixteen Days and Gathering Dust as a medley on the basis that the band was closing its sets with such a medley and the label owner thought it was strong enough to warrant a re-recording. When Modern English rebuffed the idea, Watts-Russell decided to assemble a group of musicians to undertake the task and a 12″ EP, Sixteen Days/Gathering Dust, resulted from the sessions.

Recorded as a B-side for the EP was a cover of Tim Buckley‘s Song to the Siren, performed solely by Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins. Pleased with the results, Watts-Russell decided to make this the A-side of the 7″ single version of the EP.

Cocteau Twins were a Scottish act, and I therefore claiming this version of Song To The Siren as eligible for this series.

mp3 : This Mortal Coil – Song To The Siren

A work of genius. Watts-Russell originally wanted it to be a cappella but ended up including what was a one-take of Guthrie, and I quote ‘leaning against the studio wall bored out of his mind playing these chords’.

Fraser’s vocal was also, quite astonishingly, recorded in one take.”

It is utterly sublime and totally overshadows its largely instrumental reverse side:-

mp3 : This Mortal Coil –Sixteen Days (reprise)

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (39)

The job I was holding down in the first few years of the 21st century involved long hours, a fair bit of travelling and a requirement to drop things/change plans at very short notice. I loved it, but the downside was that there wasn’t a great deal of leisure time and it was a period when, for instance, I was going to very few football games as my Saturdays and Sundays were precious.

One of the few ways I was able to keep up with new music was through flopping down on a couch and turning on the television to browse through the video music channels, more often than not settling on MTV2 which was best for the sort of indie/alternative nonsense that was my forte.

It was via this medium that I came across this piece of music:-

mp3 : The Raveonettes – Attack of The Ghost Riders

The video was something to be behold, being a horror/ghost/revenge story, shot entirely in black and white with the two singers/performers looking as if they had just stepped off the catwalk of some fashion show in a top class European city. I had no idea who The Raveonettes were – my hunch was that they were American, mistly likely from either NYC or LA – but I made a mental note to buy something the next time I was in a shop. Of course, nowadays I could just press a few keys into a search engine to find out more and then a few minutes later place an order which would come to my house or place of work within a couple of days, but this was the prehistoric era back in 2002……

It was a huge surprise to learn that The Raveonettes were from Denmark. It was less of a surprise to learn that this was their debut single that had been lifted from a mini-album that had crept out a few months previously. The biggest surprise, however, was seeing that the band were on Columbia Records, one of the largest multi-national labels on the planet, although I should have realised that no small and independent label would have been able to fund the promo video:-

The single was issued on 7” vinyl and on CD. Here’s the various, and all highly enjoyable, b-sides:-

mp3 : The Raveonettes – Rebel Invasion
mp3 : The Raveonettes – Go Girl Go
mp3 : The Raveonettes – Demon’s Fire

The Raveonettes blend of surf/garage/indie proved to be reasonably popular, slightly above mere cult status but never gaining full commercial acceptance. Columbia let them go in 2005 after two albums, but there have been six records since, initially released on the Canadian-based Vice Records and more recently on their own Beat Dies label. There’s been some more than decent stuff over the years, but nothing has ever quite grabbed me in the same way as the debut.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (13)

The Auteurs broke up in the summer of 1996.

A few months later, the Baader Meinhof LP was released, a period of time wonderfully recalled in the pages of Bad Vibes, including the revelation that someone high up in Virgin Records, the parent label of Hut Records with whom Luke Haines had a contract, sent this in a fax to David Boyd, the head of Hut:-

“I would like to remind you that Virgin Records did not sign Luke Haines to make political statements. He is signed as an entertainer.”

In response, Boyd sanctioned a photo call at the Munich Olympic stadium where, in 1972 at the adjacent Games Village, 13 Israeli athletes had been killed after a terrorist attack. Haines really was testing everyone’s patience and understanding.

The Baader Meinhoff album gets mixed reviews in that it was loved and loathed in equal measures, best summed up by UK broadsheet newspaper The Guardian stating that Haines had wasted some of his best music on an impenetrable subject matter. No single is released to accompany it…. but there was a one-sided etched single given away free with vinyl copies of the album:-

mp3 : Baader Meinhof – I’ve Been A Fool For You

1997 proved to be a quiet year, but it was at this point in time that Haines formally hooked up with John Moore and Sarah Nixey to create Black Box Recorder.

Chrysalis Records signed the band, something which Hut Records seemed OK about, and in 1998 there were two flop singles – Child Psychology and England Made Me – before the release of a poorly selling album, also called England Made Me.

At the same time as this was happening, The Auteurs had come back together again….I’m guessing it was to fulfill a contractual obligation for a fourth album, as the reasons aren’t quite ever explained in Post Everything, the second volume of Haines’s memoirs, published in 2011 and covering the period 1997-2005. There are a number of aborted efforts at getting the recording process going, but eventually, from August – October 1998, things take shape.

The crazy thing is that the subsequent results yielded next to no reviews when the LP, How I Learned To Love The Boot Boys, was released in July 1999, but those who were paying attention, rightly recognised it as a masterpiece, such as this from Michael Hubbard in musicOMH, a London-based online magazine:-

If you’re going to be influenced by the music of decades other than the present one then you may as well allow that music to emphasise your own work rather than making your own music emphasise someone else’s.

Bjorn Again are great, no doubt about it – but they emphasise Abba. Who would they be otherwise? It has, in the recent past, been something of a conundrum; lots of ’70s disco music revivalist tripe has been scribed and has spawned comeback careers for everyone from Martha Wash to Burt Reynolds.

All great stuff – I’m sure the ’70s were fun at the time and Boogie Nights was a refreshing film – but really, mes fruits, this is the ’90s. Why live in the past? Why not just learn from it and improve upon it? The case for evolution has not been stronger since Charlie D popped his clogs and finally we have, in the shape of Luke Haines, a man prepared to lead the fightback.

Haines last graced the Albums shelves with his side project, Black Box Recorder’s England Made Me, which I loved immediately. The atmospherics of that record are transferred to How I Learned To Love The Bootboys and given some spices to further improve the flavour. Haines claims this record to be twelve singles; “maybe not twelve hits”, says the nihilist, but we see – and hear – what he means immediately.

At once a personal album (1967 was the year Haines first looked upon the world) and a fusion of myriad styles (Asti Spumante and Your Gang Our Gang, for instance), there are tracks that remind one of everything from The Sex Pistols to Ziggy Stardust, Gary Numan to Blur, yet I suspect that this eclectic record conjures different bands for each listener, depending on what they’ve heard before. Haines refines Numan’s atmospherics, he plays Johnny Rotten subtlely, he uses one or two Bluresque riffs rather than songloads and everything somehow works. In fact, in works bloody brilliantly.

Although every one of these songs shrieks CLASS!!! at the eardrums, stand-out tracks must surely be Asti Spumante, Your Gang Our Gang, Johnny and the Hurricanes, The Rubettes and title track How I Learned to Love the Bootboys. If you don’t yet own this album then you are missing out. Go buy.

In recent years, more writers haved belatedly heaped praise on the album, especially when it was reissued in 2014 as a 3xCD expanded edition in which the original 12 tracks were joined by an album of b-sides and rarities, along with a live album from November 1999, recorded at the London School of Economics, on the occasion of The Auteurs final UK gig.

There was one single taken from the album, complete with two new b-sides  All three tracks are very listenable:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – The Rubettes
mp3 : The Auteurs – Get Wrecked At Home
mp3 : The Auteurs – Breaking Up

The a-side featured backing vocals from John Moore and Sarah Nixey, thus providing a neat bridge between what had just come to pass and what would prove, the following year, to be the commercial high point of Luke Haines as an entertainer.

I’ve previously said that Black Box Recorder wouldn’t feature as part of this series, and I’m keeping it that way. The series will continue, running through early into the new year, with this idiosyncratic look at the solo career of Luke Haines, very little of which has seen the release of singles or EPs, but something in the region of 12 albums. You’ll be pleased to learn that chaval will be lending his talents to this venture…..

JC

PS : I might be away oh holiday just now, but I was reliably informed that an old friend was intending to come out of the woodwork today.  If my intel is good, then clicking here should do the trick.