BURNING BADGERS VINYL (Part 6) : THESE ANIMAL MEN

Burning Badgers Vinyl 6: Too Sussed?  – These Animal Men (1994) (Virgin/Hut Records)

by JC

There’s always a risk when a friend asks you to pick a number….especially when it involves a lucky dip for a piece of vinyl.

I chose #4.  SWC came back and said it was a piece of vinyl called Too Sussed? by These Animal Men.  He also said it was a 5-track EP and would therefore fit in nicely to a run of pieces on EPs that were kept by Tim Badger when it was thought he had sold all of his vinyl.

As it turns out, Discogs has Too Sussed? as an LP and not an EP, albeit it only has five-tracks.  Wikipedia has it as an EP.   I turned to the UK Offical Charts where the piece of vinyl is down in history as coming in at #39, on 2 July 1994, in the album charts,  dropping down to #66 the following week before disappearing from view altogether. It had five tracks on it, and so while it might have been pitched and possibly priced as an EP, the rules of the day that restricted EPs to a maximum of four tracks, would be the reason it went into the albums chart and not the singles chart.

These Animal Men haven’t featured on the blog before for three reasons.  One being that I don’t have any of their stuff and the second being that I think they’re shit.  The third reason is that nobody has previously offered up a guest posting, and if they had done, then reasons one and two become redundant.

TAM, as they will now be referred to from here on in, were, (and the rest of this para is lifted from allmusic), quickly tossed into the “new wave of new wave” revolution, a music scene created mainly by the U.K. press to help publicize a number of young pop-punk revivalists in England circa 1994. Formed in 1993 in Brighton, England, TAM wasted no time in shocking the masses. The group’s first single, “Speeed King,” was a high-octane tribute to amphetamines; the cover even showed a bowl of suspicious white powder and a couple of straws. Comprised of Julian Hewings (vocals, guitar), Patrick Murray (bass), Alex Boag (guitar, vocals), and Stevie Hussey (drums), TAM capitalized on widespread tabloid rumors of the band consisting of drug-addicted bad boys. The banned “Speeed King” even landed them on the legendary Top of the Pops show (on 30 June 1995 as part of the promo efforts for the Too Sussed? EP/LP)

Back to all music….

However, when These Animal Men released their debut album, (Come on Join) The High Society, Oasis had just unleashed Definitely Maybe into a stagnant rock & roll market searching for the Next Big Thing after the death of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Oasis brought guitar pop back onto the British charts and showed the world that England was worth listening to again. The “new wave of new wave” movement was left in the dust, taking These Animal Men and their sordid tales of drugs, booze, and masturbation with them. The group recorded another full-length, Accident & Emergency, and then split up quietly in 1997. Hewings and Boag reunited in Mo Solid Gold.

The TOTP clip is all you need to realise that TAM were all hype and no substance.

#4 was a bad call on my part. Tim Badger’s taste, it is comforting to learn, was far from impeccable.

mp3: These Animal Men – Too Sussed
mp3: These Animal Men – Speeed King
mp3: These Animal Men – Jobs For The Boys
mp3: These Animal Men – Who’s The Daddy Now?
mp3: These Animal Men – You’re Not My Babylon

Oh, and this should be a good test of the point made the other day by anonymous on how we, as a community, tend to react to a piece of music that splits opinion. There’s a PS today……..

JC

SWC adds…….

I have a theory about some of these records in Badgers Box. Some of them I think contain songs that the band Tim was in used to cover from time to time, which is why he might have owned this record. I know that they did a cover of ‘You’re Not My Babylon’ because he told me that once.

Then again, there is a pile of CDs as well and the eighth disc in that pile is the album ‘(Come on) Join The High Society’ by These Animal Men  I listened to that this morning in the car and it’s worse than this EP.

So Badger might have been a closet fan. If he was, he kept it very quiet because TAM were one of those bands that we used to purposely slag off on our old blog. In fact they were on the ‘banned bands list’ alongside such luminaries as Jesus Jones, Molly Half Head, and Knobheads. Bands that we promised to never post any music by, as they were so dreadful.

The exception to the ‘shit ruling’ is track five above, “You’re Not My Babylon”. That is an indie-pop gem. It’s a blistering few minutes of garage racket pop dedicated to John Dillinger. If all their tracks sounded like that, they would have been household names and we’d been on to our third ICA celebrating their work by now. Sadly the rest of their music is about as pleasing as walking on Lego in bare feet and finding a dog turd in the fridge.

TAM split in 1998, they formed various other bands after that, none of which really achieved much. I have no idea what they are doing now. I read somewhere that that chap who called himself ‘Hooligan’ was working as a geography teacher. I think that might be bollocks though.

The only other thing about this band that I think is worthy of raising is that one of the band was a child actor who appeared in Time Bandits, which I happen to think is a great film.

THE CRAP SOUND OF VINYL

There’s a lot wrong with the world just now, so this grumble somehow feels very insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but still……

It’s now seven months since I retired from full-time employment, and with COVID playing havoc with my plans to see the world, I’ve instead stayed at home and devoted time and money to music, all of which has led me to painfully admit my anorak tendencies do actually extend to me being described, accurately, with an awful word.

Collector.

I’ll admit to it if, for no other reason that a chunk of my redundancy payment has been utilised to go out and find vinyl copies of some of my most cherished CDs.  It’s not that I’ve gone really daft as there are some prices I simply won’t pay – the two Paul Quinn & The Independent Group albums being prime examples – but I have been tempted by a few sellers on Discogs to pay decent sums of money for original pressings of albums such as Seamonsters by The Wedding Present, which I only highlight as at £40, it’s the most I’ve ever spent on a second-hand album unseen, trusting the description of the seller – and it proved to be well worth it as it was in Near Mint condition and the sound was way superior to the CD that I’ve had for nearly 30 years.

Talking of TWP – and this where I will finally get to the point highlighted in the title of today’s posting – I’ve long wanted a copy of Bizarro on vinyl, but there’s never really been a copy on-line that fully caught my attention in terms of asking price and condition.  Instead, I ended up picking up a brand-new re-press that was issued for National Album Day on 20 October 2020 at a cost of £20.  It was like the old days as I returned back home from the record shop, the heart beating that little bit quicker and the anticipation levels increasing with every step.  One of my all-time favourite albums…..on vinyl….at last.

It came, like so many others nowadays, shrinkwrapped, which meant that it was only when I took the vinyl out of the inner sleeve did I discover it was a fairly light piece of plastic.  I knew beforehand it wasn’t a heavy 180-gram press but it was still a surprise to find myself holding something so flimsy.

I placed it down carefully on the turntable and lifted the needle into the groove. The opening notes of Brassneck came out of the speakers.  And they came out very quietly.

This couldn’t be right could it?   Vinyl is supposed to be much superior to CD but this was an occasion when I had to turn the volume button up to ensure it could be heard.  There was also a further sense of disappointment as the sounds coming out of the speaker were nothing special – there was certainly no discernable differences in the bass or the treble.  All in all, it felt really cheap, especially when compared to what I has experience from the second-hand copy of Seamonsters.

And it’s not just Bizarro that I’ve had a poor experience with vinyl in recent weeks. Debut by Bjork was another disappointing piece of vinyl that sounded as it had just been transferred straight from the CD rather than from the original masters.  Likewise, the copy of Murder Ballads by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.  Oh, and just after typing all this up, I’ve come on to add that the album I’ve just listened to, Beautiful Ones 1992-2018, a newly released 2 x vinyl LP featuring twenty-one singles by Suede as another example of a record that is a shoddy cut/press requiring the volume button to be turned way up high.

Not every vinyl for CD replacement has turned out that way.  Paul’s Boutique by The Beasties Boys is a Rolls Royce of a cut with all sorts of things being experienced in a new way, and likewise the 3 x LP re-release of OK Computer in which Radiohead seemingly took direct control of the process and ensured the vinyl would benefit from being mastered and pressed to the highest standard.  It’s against the sound of those records that I judge any re-issued vinyl.

It’s not just the re-issues that are causing grief with a number of brand new albums also being poorly pressed, cut, or mastered.  One of my favourite albums of the year is The Prettiest Curse by Hinds but I’ve had to rely on the download copy to put on the i-pod as the vinyl version suffers from what feels like a very muffled sound, with few peaks or troughs when looked at through the Audacity programme which I use to convert vinyl to mp3 format for different purposes, including the blog.

There is, however, one different thing that’s even more annoying, and that’s taking a brand new record out of its shrink-wrap, knowing that this will be its first-ever play, and discovering it hisses, crackles or pops – or possibly even all three.  Such as this:-

mp3: Matt Berninger – Take Me Out Of Town

This is the second track on Side B of the new and very fine album by the frontman of The National.  It’s a beautifully produced record, with the deft touch of Booker T Jones bringing out a real richness in Matt’s voice.  It’s a slow-to-mid-paced album, one in which you get the feeling every single note matters, no matter how far back it has been put in the mix.  There were absolutely no issues when listening to Side A.  I didn’t initially pick anything up when listening to Side B but then again, its first track is one of the louder songs. I was horrified by the introductory crackles for song two, and more so from the fact they were louder at the end of the track.  And yup, they got increasingly worse through tracks 3-5.

I’ve had this happen quite a few times these past few months.  I do now give every brand new record a clean before but it doesn’t really help all that much.  One of the major bugbears is that I have tried to support independent record stores all across the UK in recent months and so a number of the purchases have been made online and delivered by post, meaning I can’t easily return them and so have to accept poorer quality than I wanted.

I did, however, buy the Matt Berninger album from a shop in Glasgow and I’ll be looking to return it for a replacement copy.  Wish me luck!

Incidentally, it’s not just albums I’m finding issues with.  My copy of the new and magnificent Arab Strap 7″ single isn’t all that great in terms of crackling all the way through,  but particularly at the end, and it was bought from what is regarded as Glasgow’s premier record store.  But I’m not taking it back as this particular store had a number of copies in which the sleeve was signed by Aidan and Malcolm – at least I’ve the consolation of it being one of those rare new pieces of vinyl which comes with a download.

I’ll stop there – there’s another post rattling around my head about how different sellers on Discogs choose to grade their vinyl.  I’ve had some very poor experiences on things that were supposed to be Very Good+ that turned out to be almost unplayable.  Having said that, the vast majority of transactions have been very satisfactory, with the occasional real gem landing in my lap from sellers who have been very conservative with their gradings.

Such as the two sides of this 7″:-

mp3: The Fall – Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul
mp3: The Fall – Fantastic Life

or this 12″:-

mp3: Close Lobsters – Let’s Make Some Plans
mp3: Close Lobsters – In Spite Of These Times
mp3: Close Lobsters – Get What They Deserve

Two pieces of vinyl which date from 1981 and 1987 respectively, with neither remotely showing their age in any shape or form, including the wonderfulness of the songs.

JC

YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS. YOUR FANS ARE GONNA HATE IT

I wasn’t sure whether or not to post anything today with the consideration being that it might be beneficial to have the thoughts from yesterday of our anonymous friend remaining to the fore.  In the end, I concluded that most folk who drop in on a regular but not daily basis are quite likely to scroll back a few days, so hopefully, everyone will get the chance to read it.

The title of today’s post is the alleged response of the folk at Fiction Records when Robert Smith presented them with an early rendition of Let’s Go To Bed, the song which really changed the direction of the band and, arguably, enabled them to get onto the path that ensured they would still be making music and selling-out arena/outdoor shows almost 40 years later.

The band’s fourth studio album, Pornography, had been released in May 1982. It was a difficult listen – my initial reaction was that it made the two Joy Division albums sound as upbeat as a Bucks Fizz record – with it later transpiring that the recording sessions had been dominated by in-fighting among the band members, heavy drug use and the frontman dealing with very serious depression that later saw him shutting himself away for an extended period of time among the splendour, beauty and fresh air of the Lake District in north-west England.

It was during this spell that Smith determined he would take the band in a slightly different direction, partly enabled by the fact that bassist Simon Gallup left the line-up, leaving things as just a duo alongside Lol Tolhurst. He set out to write a song that was far removed from the doom and gloom of goth-rock with which he was associated, but he later admitted many years later in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2004 that he was sure it was going to fail.

In the end, it proved only to be a minor hit in the UK, stalling at #44 in November 1982, but that was no bad outcome since, up to that point, none of their songs had gone Top 30 in the singles chart. It turned out, however, that the song became a decent-sized radio hit in the USA with a noticeable change in the type of audiences who were coming along to the live shows, all of which empowered Smith to decide to continue in a similar vein with the next two singles in the UK being The Walk and The Love Cats, which reached #13 and #7 respectively in the summer of 1983, a period which coincided with him moonlighting with The Banshees whose cover of Dear Prudence went to #3, all of which meant he was something of a regular on our TV screens via Top of The Pops etc.

Let’s Go To Bed is a fabulous pop single, complete with the do-do-do-do sing-along bit that must have caused the goths all sorts of nightmares at the time. It also comes with a fantastic b-side which kind of bridges the gap between the old and new of The Cure, with its introductory bass notes, tempo, and instrumentation harking back to A Forest.

And here, from an original piece of plastic dating back to 1983, are the two side of the 12″ single:-

mp3: The Cure – Let’s Go To Bed
mp3: The Cure – Just One Kiss

You can easily find cleaner copies of these tunes in many places but I make no apologies for the hissing and crackling all the way through…at least it doesn’t jump or skip anywhere.

Both of these take me back to the downstairs, alt-disco in the student union building at Strathclyde University – lots of hair-gel, black clothes, a raincoat and non-stop ecstatic dancing.

JC

SAFETY NET

Life, like the video for The Shop Assistants Safety Net, can be a tad blurry around the edges. Now, you might be excused for thinking that this post would be a) about The Shop Assistants or b) about the fantastic pop song Safety Net. I think it fair to say both get but a cursory glance as I attempt, perhaps improbably, to argue TVV as my safety net or more accurately one of my safety nets.

It was many years ago a friend urged me to read TVV and I did. I did so sporadically as life then was more than a little tense. Every now and then I’d poke my nose in and be: transfixed by articles about bands/artists that I had thought most (including myself) had forgotten about; curious of band/artist I had never heard of but probably (based on the article) should have known and liked; and in admiration of numerous articles and ICAs crafted with such care they could have made a respected NME journalist blush with embarrassment.

I’m a clinically diagnosed depressive. Yes. That was an extremely clumsy admission but I just couldn’t find a less clumsy way of stating it. I’ve lived under the cloud since my pre-teen days and have survived the slalom of suicide attempts, suicidal ideation and self-harm; considerably longer than I ever expected … here I am, still. So, what in the name of the wee man has this to do with TVV? Good question.

At a particularly low ebb I began to delve into TVV on a more regular basis. The world, it felt, was falling out from under me and I needed something to tether me, something to offer the slightest chink of positivity on the darkest of days. The details of this issue I won’t go into but, suffice to say, someone attempting to kill you and your partner because you’re gay (as well as a long-standing campaign of other hateful, harmful acts) does, I would argue, have a tendency to put a dampener on things … hello, 21st century! During this time TVV was something of a lifeline. A wonderful distraction that informed and entertained in equal measure but, most importantly, distracted.

A previous foray (some years earlier) into the world of social media and forums (specifically to do with music) had left me despondent and on one infamous occasion, in tears, as my character (for reasons that I have never been able to determine) was mercilessly assassinated online, by a stranger. I wouldn’t ever describe myself as a fragile person but I guess, at times, we all can have our moments. Following this, I stopped using any form of social media. I still don’t use any … except TVV.

Most days I take a peek at TVV and remain in awe of the work that goes into the blog; the thought, the planning, the writing … it seems very much to this bystander to be a full-time job and a job that others too are appreciative of.

It’s a testament to JC, and others that contribute and use the blog, that differences of opinion (never, as far as I have read) descend into personalised diatribes or attacks. Of course, there are differences of opinion, but these seemed to be accepted or responded to through kind, often comedic, retorts.

It can be all too easy to criticize something that I don’t like but I do always try to balance any criticism with positive reinforcement, where appropriate. Sometimes it’s important to let someone know just what a splendid, positive impact they’re having and that’s the point of this comment. JC has provided me with a safety net, a little oasis of calm, and for as long as the blog is here, I’ll pop in, smile, nod approvingly, or, on occasion, disagree with a certain this or that. It’s also important to doff my cap to the friend (you know who you are) who has, through their recommendation, provided the best possible medicine for what ills me.

I have posted this article anonymously on TVV not because I’m in any way ashamed of my illness … I’m absolutely not and speak about it openly with those I know… but because I have no social media footprint and wish to keep it so.

mp3: Shop Assistants – Safety Net
mp3: The Hidden Cameras – Lollipop
mp3: Magnetic Fields – I Thought You Were My Boyfriend

anonymous

JC adds……

The above words came in via the TVV e-mail address, so I know who the author is. I was humbled by the contents of the e-mail and it led to an exchange of correspondence, the result of which brought the three tunes and the image at the head of the posting.

I’ve mentioned this before on numerous occasions. It’s the sense of community that keeps me going on those days when I wonder if I can be bothered after all these years when I feel I have not much left to say that hasn’t already been said. It’s an undeniable fact that this place is all the better from the guest contributions, whether it be from postings and/or the contributions via the ‘Comments’ section.

There was one occasion in the past when a group of us, at my behest, got it very wrong in terms of a response to a posting in connection with a band that wasn’t to my taste. It caused a bit of hurt as the intended humour behind the responses backfired badly – thankfully, the very heartfelt and sheepish apology later offered back was accepted, but I still cringe when I think about it. It was a lesson learned and never since forgotten, and very much a one-off mistake during the past 14 years.

It’s heartening to learn that TVV is doing some good for at least one person out there. That alone, I would say, is enough to inspire all of us.

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Six : BREAKING POINT

Repeat posting alert (in edited form) as I said it all when I included it as part of the 45 45s @ 45 rundown back in 2013.

Paul Quinn was initially the lead singer with the first line-up of Jazzateers, but was relegated to backing vocals while his role was taken on by Graeme Skinner (later to find success with Hipsway) when the material was recorded and released. Then in 1984 came Bourgie Bourgie, an act signed to a major label in the shape of MCA Records and of whom great things were anticipated. Sadly, it only amounted to a couple of majestic singles in Breaking Point and Careless.

Around the same time, Paul recorded some vocals for Orange Juice, and his efforts can be heard on Tongues Begin To Wag, a b-side to the single I Can’t Help Myself as well as Mud In Your Eye, a track on the LP Rip It Up. Oh and he also does some backing vocals (uncredited) on the hit single of that name…..

1985 was a bit of a prolific year for Paul.

There was a solo deal with Swamplands Records which produced two bits of magic. First, there was a duet with Edwyn Collins covering Pale Blue Eyes. Paul sang while Edwyn strummed and plucked his guitar. It’s a song that has been covered by many an artist, but the Quinn/Collins effort is, in my opinion, the definitive version, including that of The Velvet Underground. Then there was a solo single called Ain’t That Always The Way, a song that was also recorded and released as a b-side by Edwyn…

Neither Swamplands single made the charts.

He also recorded One Day, which was a single with Vince Clarke, which was in effect the follow-up to the Top 3 single Never Never by The Assembly (which had featured Fergal Sharkey on vocals). Sadly, it flopped.

Next came the formation of Paul Quinn & The Independent Group on the reincarnated Postcard Records at the beginning of the 1990s. This was a Glasgow super-group of sorts and there would be two ridiculously wonderful albums, accompanied by two ridiculously wonderful singles, but yet again, no commercial success.

Aside from an appearance (on backing vocals and with a writing credit) on the 2001 LP You Can Make It If You Boogie by James Kirk, nothing has been heard from Paul this century with his life seemingly becoming a constant battle against a particularly severe case of Multiple Sclerosis.

I’m not sure why Bourgie Bourgie imploded after just two great singles – whether it was a case of the record company losing faith in the band, or the band just decided they couldn’t continue, I really have no idea.

Breaking Point remains one of my favourite songs of all time, one that should be owned and cherished in millions of households the world over. And if you can’t get a physical copy of the vinyl, then feel free to grab a copy of this hi-res rip

mp3: Bourgie Bourgie – Breaking Point (Extended Version)

It’s not just the stunning vocal performance that makes this such an outstanding record – listen to the fantastic production that sees some great guitar and keyboards work beefed-up by a cello and strings that aren’t a million miles away from the sound that would appear years later on Monkey Gone To Heaven by Pixies. And wouldn’t you know that Breaking Point was a Kingbird Production…..one of the names used by the soon to be famous Ian Broudie……

Oh and finally (as I could go on all day and night about this song, band and singer) Breaking Point was almost the name I took for the blog back in 2006 before settling on The Vinyl Villain on the basis it sounded vaguely superhero-ish, in an anti-establishment sort of guise.

And while I’m here……

mp3: Bourgie Bourgie – Careless (extended version)

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #268 : PEEL SESSIONS

A GUEST POSTING by WEBBIE

of FOOTBALL AND MUSIC and KEEPING IT PEEL fame

JC writes…..

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the death of John Peel, someone who I don’t think needs any introduction.

Webbie, more than any other blogger, has used the anniversary to commemorate the great man, and he dropped me a note a few weeks back asking if I’d consider posting a guest ICA from him. It’s something I’m proud and honoured to do. Here he is to take you through things….

01. Positive Noise – Love Live Property (16th March 1981)

There are a few great lost bands out there, this Glasgow group being one of those. Formed in 1979, released a few singles and albums, a couple of Peel Sessions but they never quite broke through. This song is from their 2nd session, never released anywhere and should be heard everywhere.

02. Cinerama – Health And Efficiency (13th May 2001)

It is inevitible that I would include some of the obvious suspects in this compilation… When you think Peel Session the name of David Gedge would be one of those first that comes to mind. But as you can see not The Wedding Present but one of his side projects. Don’t know why this particular track, maybe just because when those guitars join in it is such a beautiful noise.

03. Nico – Frozen Warnings (11th February 1971)

Technically this was a Top Gear (the radio programme that was) appearance before it became the John Peel show. It is still a session recording though. There’s something about the pairing of the Harmonium and her voice which makes it more haunting.

04. Culture – Two Sevens Clash (22nd November 1988)

One of the many bands that were Peel favourites. Didn’t know this about the song until recently. From Wikipedia; “[the song]…was based on a prediction by Marcus Garvey, who said there would be chaos on July 7, 1977, when the “sevens” met. With its apocalyptic message, the song created a stir in his Caribbean homeland and many Jamaican businesses and schools shuttered their doors for the day.”

05. Pavement – The Classical (21st August 1997)

Forgot what Mark E. Smith said about the band now… This is a cover version that might be better than the original. Not just because it erases the unfortunate lyrics (there’s an article on The Quietus which addresses that: https://thequietus.com/articles/27427-hex-enduction-hour-the-classical-the-fall-racist – I still like to use the greeting “Hey there fuckface” though) But also because Pavement take that raw, slightly chaotic Fall track and make it into a West Coast-California indie sound, which in this case is no bad thing.

06. Cocteau Twins – Peep-Bo (29th August 1984)

Yes another Peel fave. This track has probably been mentioned quite a few times on T(n)VV. Song recorded for the session at the time as Peep-Bo but renamed later as Ivo.

07. The French – The Protons And The Neutrons (20th August 2003)

Included here because is it another that more people should hear. Couldn’t decide between this song or The English Head, another track on that session, Peelie made the decision with his comment after playing the tune.

The French was formed by Darren Hayman, an offshoot from the band Hefner. Like with Mr Gedge above, Haymen is one of the most prolific songwriters out there.

08. Box Of Toys – When Daylight Is Over (Sunset) (24th April 1983)

In the early 1980’s I lived in Liverpool. It was only a few years but what a time to be there. Nearly every pub, club and especially youth centre you walked past you could hear music from a band performing. A couple of years ago on the Keeping It Peel Website I’ve compiled some podcasts which in truth are actually mixtapes.

One of these pods/mixes was a labour of love. It looked at and tracked down some of those Liverpool bands played by Peel. https://keepingitpeel.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/keeping-it-peel-podcast-lost-liverpool-bands/ It was via this project that I rediscovered a band I saw all those years ago. Another lost band which should have had more attention.

09. PJ Harvey – Rid Of Me (1st May 1992)

Another obvious favourite with possibly an obvious song selection, but this one, not a Peel Session in the strictest sense but included because it was performed live. In front of Peel, in his Radio 1 studio in London.

10. Half Man Half Biscuit – Mars Ultras, You’ll Never Make The Station (2nd June 1992)

Couldn’t decide between this and 24 Hour Garage People. Flipped a coin and the song with power drill accompaniment won.

11. Sophisticated Boom Boom – Surrender To Me (28th October 1981)

Yet another lost band. Named after a song by The Shangri-las. This all-girl band from Glasgow were more prolific with Peel Sessions (three) than vinyl releases (none). After they split up formed a new band called His Latest Flame, named after a song by Del Shannon.

12. Melys – Chinese Whispers (20th December 2001)

John Peel, along with TheRobster and his blog Is This The Life? http://isthis-thelife.blogspot.com/ has educated me about Welsh music. There are the familiar names such as SFA, Gorkys, Manics, but there are many others which should get more air time.

Melys are another group that should be as well know as the above. The band recently peformed live at home via Facebook and I asked them which of their many Peel Sessions was their favourite. All of them said their live performance at Peel Acres, which yes, yet again not *technically* a Peel Session but…

13. The Fall – Blindness (7th October 2004)

Taken from the repeat airing of the session. Not the last time he played The Fall but the last time he played this track. As Peelie says at the end; “There’s never been anything like this and there never will be again.”

14. The Rudies – (Top Gear) Session – 23rd November 1970

(Moon Bug / You Make Me So Very Happy / Patches / Oh Me Oh My)

This is a session that it is impossible to select just one of the songs. The entire thing is just perfection, every track is perfection.

15. Shellac – The End Of Radio (Maida Vale 2nd December 2004)

In what was scheduled to be a session to be recorded for John Peel, instead performed live as a tribute.

WEBBIE

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #234: THE PAINTED WORD

Some of the music on the hard drive is a result of the recommendation of others whose tastes I admire. Most of the time, it works out well in that I give the recommendation a listen and finding that I like it, go out and find more of the singer or band’s output, inevitably giving the bank balance a bit of a hit.

The Painted Word, from Glasgow, I knew of from back in the day but I just never took to the music.  Back in 2010, Friends of Rachel Worth, from the Cathedrals of Sound blog, penned an article that led me to go back and re-visit:-

It’s been a while since I did a Bigger Than the Beatles post. This time it is the turn of the Painted Word, the recording name of Alan McCusker – Thompson. In 1986 on mother records (u2’s label) they released I Found Love Today a perfect bit of pop which along with Bourgie Bourgie’s Breaking Point is one of the lost great singles of the 80s. I was going to include it as a monday moment with its repeated refrain of “up the ladder to the roof” but thought I’d post a couple more tracks as well.

Over a 3 year period they released a number of singles/eps and one lp Lovelife which was full of smooth sophisticated pop music with a real classic feel (streets ahead of coffee table dinner party music that people like Simply Red were churning out). I had a couple of the singles but the joys of the Internet meant that I eventually years later managed to track down the lp. Then there was nothing and I just assumed they had been another one lp act lost to whims of a major label.

Then out of the blue in 1995 I stumbled across a newly released 2nd lp, “Universal”. It seemed to disappear as soon as it arrived and now goes for silly money on ebay. The songs are more melancholic and as a whole the LP reminds me a bit of Blue Nile cc Hats.

Since then silence again

So, I went looking for some things and found a place where I could download and listen again to the debut album, Lovelife, that had been released in 1989. Sadly, I found that it still didn’t offer up anything that I felt was essential listening, and indeed I felt it had dated terribly. But I never did delete the songs from the hard drive, and now I’ve come to that point in this alphabetical rundown where their name has been reached. Given that none of the album tracks did it for me, I’ve gone digging for the single so highly thought of by FoRW:-

mp3: The Painted Word – I Found Love Today

It’s better than anything on the debut album, but it still sounds like a cross between late 80s Spandau Ballet mixed in with the Love-era Aztec Camera, with a hint of the then-emerging Deacon Blue…..

It’s the sort of thing I might throw in early on at a Simply Thrilled night to see if it strikes a chord with some of the regulars as sometimes I get surprised by their requests!  But it’s still not quite my cup of Tetley,

JC

BURNING BADGERS VINYL (Part 5) : SNUFF

Burning Badgers Vinyl 5:

Lost EPs : #1 – Do Do Do EP – Snuff (1996) (Deceptive Record BLUFF033)

by SWC

There used to be a pub in Maidstone called the Tut N Shive, which despite being a ridiculous name for a pub, was actually quite a good night out. I first discovered it when I left my usual Friday night haunt The Minstrel to get some chips. I was also looking for a lass I knew, Maya, who for some reason, hadn’t been in the pub that night, despite telling me that she definitely, without question would be. As I walked to the chip shop I heard the strains of ‘Today’ by Smashing Pumpkins blaring out of this pub. The pub used to be called ‘The Barrel’ and was always one of the townie pubs that people who can walk and clap at the same time avoided in case they were burnt at the stake for being a witch.

It turns out the pub had been given a makeover and a new name, the ridiculously named Tut N Shive as I mentioned before, I was drawn to it like a cartoon bear towards a picnic basket. I wandered in and had that strange feeling that I was cheating on a lover, because this was new, exciting and different but it felt wrong. All my friends were back in The Minstrel, and yet here I was sullying myself silly on a dancefloor surrounded by (beautiful) females who I had never ever seen before, listening to music that not only did I like, but was being played by an actual DJ, not just a tape that the landlord had shoved on and you couldn’t hear and people were dancing and having a great time.

About an hour or so later, I staggered back to The Minstrel, without chips, slightly sweatier than before, and a little bit more refreshed, but feeling ever so guilty. On the way home I confided in John, also known as The Love Monster (why? maybe next week). I told him all about the Tut N Shive, the dancefloor, the beautiful people, the music, the slightly cheaper, less watered-down beer that wasn’t Fosters but something called ‘Red Stripe’ from Jamaica. He looked at me, “But we always go to the Minstrel” he said. Silence. All the way home.

The next week, John very reluctantly agrees to come with me to ‘get some chips’ and as we walk down the hill, towards the Tut N Shive, we hear it, the opening strains of ‘Soul Limbo’ by Booker T and the MGs blaring out. John (a huge cricket fan)* looks and me and just grins and we tear into the Tut as we now call it. We never look back and ignore the strained calls from The Ministrel for us to return.

*JC adds….this is an important element of the story; Soul Limbo has, for as long as I can remember, been the theme tune for the coverage of cricket on the BBC

All of which bobbing about brings us to this weeks record pulled from Badger’s Box and like last week I have picked up five records that were released as EP’s and have in the last twenty-five years or so vanished from the public attention.

Badger loved an EP, he also loved cricket, and would tell everyone who was listening why Craig Kieswetter’s 98 not out at Taunton in the 2015 20/20 championship was the greatest single innings of cricket he had ever witnessed. It was pretty brilliant, taking Somerset from 16 for 3 to within two runs of an unlikely victory over West Country rivals Gloucestershire. Sadly the 11th batsmen threw his wicket away and hundreds of fans left disappointed for Kieswetter and he traipsed dejectedly from the crease back to the pavilion, cheered off as a hero but ultimately still a loser.

What Badger didn’t like what stupid dumb ass punk rock with shouty vocals, trombones and drums that sound like they were recorded at the same time as the drummer was being attacked by a hungry bear. Which brings us nicely to Snuff because the first EP I picked out of the box was their 1996 ‘Do Do Do’ EP and the only reason that Badger owned it was because it has a stupid dumb ass punk rock version of ‘Soul Limbo’ on it, complete with trombones, shouty vocals and drums that sound like they were recorded at the same time as the drummer was being attacked by a hungry bear.

Soul Limbo

This is track 3 of a four-track ‘Covers’ EP that was released on Deceptive Records but for obvious reasons its one that got all the radio play (edited of course). It’s a stunning version of a great song, but in this day and age of rock star cricketers like Ben Stokes, I think we should start a campaign for this to be the new theme for Test Match Special on the BBC. I don’t think of Booker T and the MGs anymore when I think of this song I think of Snuff and that is the measure of a great cover version.

(JC interjects….Craig Kieswetter, Ben Stokes, Test Match Special….I fear we may have lost some, if not all, of our German and American readers.  Indeed, many, if not all, of our Scottish readers too).

I love Snuff, I’ve been a big fan ever since the released an EP called Flibbiddydibbiddydob which consisted largely of TV themes and commercials. I love the fact that behind all of their shouty punk rock, they employ a bloke (admittedly the singer’s brother) to play a trombone in the background. They don’t just do the ‘comedy cover versions’ though, (although they are very good at them), their first album ‘Snuff Said…’ released in 1989 is a bonafide punk rock classic, although I accept I might be in a minority in thinking that.

Here are the other three tracks on the ‘Do Do Do’ EP

Standing In the Shadows Of Love – Originally by The Four Tops

This was the lead track and Snuff had a habit covering Four Tops songs, they famously (well in my life anyway) covered ‘Reach Out’ on the aforementioned ‘Flibbiddyibbiddybob’ EP. Again it’s a terrifically shouty couple of minutes with added trombone in all the right places.

I Will Survive – Originally by Gloria Gaynor

I had to do a lot of in depth research on the original, as I’d never heard it before. Gloria Gaynor it turns out was a street cleaner from Hebden Bridge who used to sing this song whilst sweeping the streets of her town on a Sunday morning. A passing music mogul happened to hear her warbling one morning as he did the walk of shame with his pants in his hands and thought it sounded like a good song. He gave it to Snuff to mangle beyond all sanity, with added trombone. Of course, you can’t believe everything that you read on Wikipedia.

It Must Be Boring Being in Snuff – Originally by Wat Tyler

Wat Tyler were another band in that punk rock scene in the early nineties. They got into trouble once or twice for taking the piss out of more famous bands. When Madonna released her ‘naughty coffee table book, ‘Sex’’, Wat Tyler released a similar one called ‘Sexless’ which featured the band in provocative poses, that were almost an exact replica of those in Madonnas book. Which when you consider that Wat Tyler were mostly fat blokes with beards in their late thirties, was a touch of genius (this is genuinely true).

Before that they released the ‘I’m forever blowing Bubbles’ EP. Which featured a hand-drawn cover of a certain dead singer giving oral relief to a chimp. Charming (but also 100% true).

It also contained a wonderful version of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ that I must dig out sometime. I mean that genuinely, far far better than the original, and that one member of Snuff, and two members of Wat Tyler and (I think) one member of Leatherface later went on to form Guns N Wankers with middling commercial success.

SWC

THE MAN WHO DIRECTLY LINKS R.E.M. AND NEW ORDER

I’ve spent some time recently cataloging all the vinyl and CDs sitting around Villain Towers, including those that belong to Rachel, and have used the ‘Collection’ function over at Discogs to create a database. It currently tallies at just under 4,400 separate entries with the number growing every few days as I buy new albums and seek out those bits of vinyl (and occasional CD) where there are holes requiring to be filled.   Oh, and now that I have a wee bit more disposable income for the time being as I eke away at my redundancy payment from a few months back, I’m buying some favourite vinyl to replace what had originally been purchased only on CD.

It was while adding some stuff to the collection function that I was reminded of Scott Litt, the producer best known from his extensive work with R.E.M. in the late 80s/early 90s, had also worked with New Order back in 1989 when he took on the task of re-mixing Run, one of the songs on the album Technique, for its release as a single in the UK.

Run 2, as it became known, featured previously on the blog in February 2018 as part of the series looking at all the New Order singles:-

“Run is one of the most outstanding songs on Technique and rather bravely the band went for an edited single release in due course in which about 45 seconds are chopped off and by editing down the dreamy instrumental finish to the song and replacing it with more of the re-recorded vocal with Barney’s voice given more prominence than the original mix. It’s a decent enough mix and does a job of giving us enough changes to think of it as a new song altogether but it’s not a patch on the original.

The remix was in fact worked on alongside Scott Litt who at that point in time was known for having worked on a couple of LPs by R.E.M. The fact that he would also work on the multi-million sellers Out Of Time and Automatic For The People albums in the 90s and become one of the most talked-about producers of that era was all in the future…..”

mp3: New Order – Run 2

There was also a nod to the fact that Hooky’s basslines could be a factor in making a single a hit or not, and the new mix also brings that more to the fore, as perhaps best be heard in the extended version:-

mp3: New Order – Run 2 (extended version)

Despite all this, the single stalled at #49, which was the worst-performing showing by a New Order 45 in three years. It wasn’t helped by Factory Records electing to only issue it on 12″ vinyl and not pressing and distributing that many copies, possibly as a result of the increasing cash-flow problems they were experiencing and which would later help bring about the demise of the label.

There’s also the issue that, as soon as the single was released, lawyers representing John Denver sued New Order and Factory, claiming that the instrumental section of Run 2 ripped off his composition, Leaving On A Jet Plane. The case was quickly settled out of court, but it did result in Factory never pressing anymore than those original 20,000 copies and never making Run 2 available until 2008 when a deluxe edition of Technique was released and which included the extended version (but not the single version).

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #267 : URUSEI YATSURA

I often take great comfort from the contents of the e-mails which come in with the submission of a guest ICA in that the authors often say that the piece has been some time in the making and it has taken an eternity to finalise.

It’s not just me then……

I first thought about a Urusei Yatsura ICA at least three years ago. About 18 months ago, I started scribbling some things down but then realised I had to pick up more than what I had in the collection to make it credible. I’ve now picked up all three albums and most of the singles, often via Discogs, and there’s no doubt that the first draft would have been lacking.

Oh, and there’s also the fact that my good mate Aldo is a work colleague of Elaine Graham, one of the band-members, and so I feel a wee bit of added pressure as I’m sure he’ll share the contents of this with her.

A very brief bio, adapted from wiki with some additional facts:-

Urusei Yatsura formed in Glasgow in 1993. Founding members Fergus Lawrie and Graham Kemp met whilst attending the University of Glasgow. They recruited Elaine Graham as bassist, and the line-up was completed with the subsequent addition of Elaine’s brother, Ian Graham, on drums.

They took their band name from the manga Urusei Yatsura, written by Rumiko Takahashi, and contributed their first recording, “Guitars Are Boring”, to a compilation album released by the locally based Kazoo Club. This record in turn brought them to the attention of John Peel, who brought them in to do a session in 1994. They would go on to record 4 Peel Sessions in total, as well as appearing on the Evening Session for Steve Lamacq.

Over the years they released three albums: We Are Urusei Yatsura (1996), Slain By Urusei Yatsura (1998) and Everybody Loves Urusei Yatsura (2000). Albums in America and Japan were released under the name of Yatsura for legal reasons. There were also around a dozen commercially available singles, mostly on Che, a London-based indie label. Urusei Yatsura split in June 2001, but three of the members would resurface in 2009 as Project A-Ko with a really good collection of tunes on the album Yoyodyne.

You’ll hear for yourself, but the best (lazy) comparisons for Urusei Yatsura are Pavement, Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. As someone else has said elsewhere on t’internet, the sonic attacks of their songs were like three-minute bolts of lightning, and likewise, their debut album, snapped and crackled in a time where everything Brit-popped.

Here’s your ICA.  I’ve taken the liberty of expanding it to 12 tracks as most of the songs are around the three-minute mark and the normal 10 songs would have been a bit skimpy.

Side A

1. Siamese (single, 1995)

The debut 45 for Che records, an edited version of which would be the opening track on the debut album released the following year. The lyrics set out something of a band manifesto, with the cry of ‘Fuck the system, fuck the system” being followed by the chorus of “Burning down, burning down your soul, we are Yatsura” over a tune that belts along at excessive speed and with intense energy. Oh and then there’s the kicker of the final verse

Modern jet-set pop underground
No more media corporate kowtow
Water pistols taste like plastic
Teenage nightmare hippy children
Take a stand, make a plan
Form a gang, a lo-fi band

Simply thrilling, honeys.

2. Hello Tiger (single, 1998)

The closest the band ever got to commercial success came with this blistering piece of pop, reaching #40 in the singles chart in February 1998. If only the Top of The Pop producers had seen fit to have them on the show that week, who knows what would have happened if the band had been able to reach out to an audience beyond the Evening Session and John Peel?

3. Strategic Hamlets (single, 1997)

The single was released in February 1997, later also appearing as the third track on the 1998 album Slain by Urusei Yatsura, following directly on from Hello Tiger. It’s always been one of my favourite one-two punches on any of the albums I have sitting on the shelves or in the cupboard, and it just makes perfect sense to have the ICA do likewise.

Surely the catchiest anti-war song ever written? You’ll be singing the na-na-na bits to yourself all day long once you’ve heard it….and surely I’m not alone in thinking this would make a great alternative piece of background music for the famous scene in Apocalypse Now where the helicopters attack the defenseless villagers?

4. Louche 33 (single and from Everybody Loves Urusei Yatsura, 2000)

The final album sees the guitars toned down very slightly and the vocals/harmonies brought more to the fore. I’ll be honest, when I first heard this, I was sure that Pavement were back recording again, as Fergus Lawrie certainly seems to be channeling his inner Stephen Malkmus, not to mention some great backing vocals and guitar work.  Or maybe it’s just me…….

5. Nobody Knows We’re Stars (from the Yon Kyoku Iri EP, 1999)

It’s worth mentioning at this juncture that the band were with Che from 1993-1998, before releasing Yon Kyoku, a one-off EP in 1999 for Beggars Banquet, with the final album and two singles coming out on Oni Records, which might well have been their own label as I can’t find anyone else having anything released via that imprint. The melancholic title of this track has an equally melancholic tune to match. Urusei Yatsura were not one-trick ponies.

6. Kernel (single, 1995)

Having opened this ICA with the debut Che single, I’m closing it off with its wonderfully low-fi follow-up that would be later re-recorded in a slightly beefier form for the debut album the following year. It’s chorus of “I don’t wanna be like everyone, I don’t wanna be like anyone” is one that the Manchester racist surely wishes he had come with back in his heyday.

Side B

1. Glo Starz (form Slain by Urusei Yatsura, 1998)

The opening track on the album, whose initial notes via the drumkit always make me think I’m about to hear Fun Boy Three‘s take on Our Lips Are Sealed; but just as I anticipate the synthetic strings, there’s this violent burst of guitars which put a smile on my face as I realise I’ve been caught out again…and then there’s a riff that Thurston Moore would be incredibly proud of. The use of the phrase ‘so shut the fuck up’ is surely the only reason that this wasn’t released as a single.

2. Phasers on Stun (single, 1996)

Released as a single in August 1996, having first been heard on We Are Urusei Yatsura where it segued straight into another song called Sola Kola. The edited version is another great burst of energy, packing loads into its two-minute duration.

3. Eastern Youth (from Everybody Loves Urusei Yatsura, 2000)

A change of tempo and feel with a song that I only knew from the final album but have since learned, from researching a bit to knit together the words to accompany the ICA, that it was the band’s final single in March 2001 just before they called it a day.

4. Kewpies Like Watermelons (single, 1996)

Offered here is the version issued as a 7″ single in April 1996. The opening couple of seconds, which sound as if they have been sampled from an arcade game, or perhaps more likely from one of the episodes of the popular manga TV series after which the band had taken its name weren’t included on the LP version when it came out the following month. Click here if, like me, you had no idea what a kewpie is……

5. Fake Fur (single, June 1997)

I make no apologies whatsoever for the number of singles which have made the cut for the ICA. The band and Che records must have been shaking their heads in disbelief as one tremendous release after another failed to have the impact it should have. This one stalled at #58.

6. Thank You (from Everybody Loves Urusei Yatsura, 2000)

“This is the last song, This is the last song I will ever sing you”

The only way this ICA could ever possibly close. The title of this song and indeed the album maybe give you an indication of how the band members were ollectively tired of working their backsides off for next to no reward. In a parallel universe, they are superstars who sell out stadia year after year after year.

BONUS EP

I finished this up and realised that, even with it being extended to 12 tracks, there were loads that should’ve but didn’t make the cut. I was also determined to give the near-hit a second airing.

A. Hello Tiger (Peel Session)

The single was released on 7″ vinyl as well as 2xCDs, one of which offered up three tracks from a John Peel session, broadcast on 14 August 1997.

B. Silver Krest (one side of a double single with The Delgados, 1996)

It’s no real surprise to find that the band had their followers in Japan. This was first recorded and released in October 1996 as one side of a double-single 7″ (on red vinyl) with The Delgados as part of the Stolen Ecstasy series on the Tokyo-based 100 Guitar Mania Records. It was later re-recorded and issued as the b-side to Fake Fur the following year.

C. Plastic Ashtray (single, 1996)

Another of the classic early singles. There were four in all – Siamese, Kernel, and Kewpies Like Watermelon made the ICA and it would have been criminal not to share this with you. All of them, or versions of them can be found on the debut album We Are Urusei Yatsura.

D. No.1 Cheesecake (from Slain by Urusei Yatsura)

Where other groups will demand that you put your hands in the air and move to the music, our heroes make the request that you dance to the cheesecake. And why wouldn’t you??

JC

AND MY NEXT GUEST IS…

Jonny‘s recent ICA on Sideshows was very timely as it dovetails nicely with a piece that I had written up, just looking for the right time to post.

Gorillaz is one of the many sideshow collaborations involving Damon Albarn. I knew that I hadn’t kept fully up to speed with everything that the virtual band has released over the years, but I was surprised to find that it’s now ten years since I last bought any of their music.

Plastic Beach was the group’s third album, following on from the excellent self-titled debut in 2001 and the 2005 follow-up, Demon Days. It’s an album that leaned very heavily on guest appearances, with no less than ten of its sixteen tracks featuring another well-known name from the worlds of pop, rock, rap and soul music. It’s an album that really did some getting used to as it was different in tone, texture and flow from its predecessors. Even now, it’s one that I really need to be in the right sort of frame and mindset to give it a listen as it demands a degree of undivided attention – for instance, I’ve never been able to sit and listen to it all the way through while travelling on a bus or train; it sort of feels as if the i=pod is on shuffle such is the coming and going of lead singers and the ever-changing genres across the tracks. It’s also a concept album, of sorts, which itself always demand as a level of concentration and buy-in than most.

Looking back at the reviews of the day, there was clearly a lot of love among the critics for the album, welcoming its ambition, diversity and the fact that Albarn & co. weren’t resting on their laurels. There was a divided opinion on whether or not all of the guest contributions worked, but it’s also interesting to note that where there is criticism of the way that say, Snoop Dogg or Lou Reed have contributed, there’s another opinion in another publication which says these are among the best bits of the album.

My favourite moment on comes on track six, when Gruff Rhys and De La Soul combine superbly, surely I’m not alone in wishing they had collaborated previously on a Super Furry Animals album?

mp3: Gorillaz – Superfast Jellyfish (with De La Soul and Gruff Rhys)

Here’s a few more of the guest appearances

mp3: Gorillaz – Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach (with Snoop Dogg)
mp3: Gorillaz – Stylo (with Mos Def featuring Bobby Womack)
mp3: Gorillaz – Some Kind of Nature (featuring Lou Reed)

The guests who I haven’t fetured today include The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Kano, Bashy, Little Dragon, Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, sinfonia ViVA and the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music. Feel more than free to go check them out in the usual places….

JC

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Six : EVER FALLEN IN LOVE…

One of the greatest pop-punk records of all time was written in Edinburgh…..

In November 1977, Buzzcocks were touring the UK. Before a gig at the Clouds (also known as the Cavendish Ballroom) in Edinburgh, they stayed the night. Pete Shelley later recalled:

“We were in the Blenheim Guest House with pints of beer, sitting in the TV room half-watching Guys and Dolls. One of the characters, Adelaide, is saying to Marlon Brando’s character, ‘Wait till you fall in love with someone you shouldn’t have.’ “I thought, ‘fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have?’ Hmm, that’s good.”

The following day he wrote the lyrics of the song, in a van outside the main post office on nearby Waterloo Place. The music followed soon after.

One of Pete Shelley’s greatest attributes as a songwriter was the ability to write about situations that could be taken by every listener as being completely applicable to their own lives. There can’t be any of us out there who could give the answer of ‘No’ to the question. It particularly appealed to my teenage sensations, when the girl(s) of my dreams were way out of my league, preferring the company of those a couple years older or those who weren’t total bookworms. It didn’t help that my tastes in music weren’t universal…..

But as the years have passed and relationships have come and gone, it’s very clear the song can apply at any time in your life and needn’t be about unrequited adolescent relationships that lead to severe bouts of self-pity. It’s also got a tune that is instantly recognisable.

I bought this back in the day in 1978 on 7″ vinyl, the only format it was issued in. I lost it a long ago and have never managed to replace it with a good enough copy without hisses, crackles and the occasional jump….very few of us took good enough care of the single. But, just a few weeks ago, while browsing in a shop in Glasgow, I found a near-mint first-edition copy of Love Bites, (complete with artwork insert) and from that LP, I can offer up both the single and its almost equally-marvellous b-side.

mp3: Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve?)
mp3: Buzzcocks – Just Lust

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 19)

(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville has long been one of my favourites of all the R.E.M. songs, partly as I think they were a band who sounded particularly good when they turned their hands to mid-tempo rock music.  By rights, Man On The Moon should be up there as another favourite, but I’m sorry to say that this is one where the over-exposure kicks in, both from the time it was released as the second single from Automatic For The People in November 1992 and then some seven and-a-bit years later when the Andy Kaufman movie biopic was released (an event either myself or Robster will turn to later in this series). But the real kicker came when a version was released in 2005…..which I’ll reflect on at the end of this posting.

In saying all that, it was a song I felt was a highlight on first hearing the album, a real earworm with its incessantly catchy chorus and its verses with the constant use of “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.”.  Oh, and the promo video is a fantastic piece of film making, albeit it is a bit too literal in places.

I think, at this juncture, it is worth handing over to Mike Mills and an interview he gave to the online NME in November 2017 to mark the 25th Anniversary of the release of the single in which he revealed how a demo called ‘C To D Slide’ nearly remained as an instrumental – until the inspiration of Andy Kauffman and conspiracy theories.

“Bill Berry is still a very a good songwriter. He had a lot of musical ideas, then he and Peter fleshed the rest of it out musically. It was a song that me, Pete and Bill really loved and had musically finished right up to the last day of recording and mixing in Seattle, and we’d been leaning on Michael very heavily for some time trying to finish it. He was like ‘oh, it’s an instrumental’ and we were like ‘it is not an instrumental – you need to finish it because it’s a story that needs to be told. Whatever that story is, you need to tell it’.”

“So Michael worked very hard towards the end and came up with this beautiful lyric that encompasses doubt, belief, transition, conspiracy and truth. Then at the very end of the last day Michael came back and said ‘I’ve got something’. He sang it, we loved it, we put the harmony vocals on it and it was done.

“Andy Kauffman was a performance artist. He wasn’t a comedian, he wasn’t a comic, he was a performance artist. Some of what he did was funny, some of it was annoying, some it was irritating – but it was always provocative. As such, as someone that you couldn’t really pin down in terms of what he was and what he was not. Was he dead? Was he faking?

“He’s the perfect ghost to lead you through this tour of questioning things. Did the moon landing really happen? Is Elvis really dead? He was kind of an ephemeral figure at that point so he was the perfect guy to tie all this stuff together as you journey through childhood and touchstones of life.”

It’s a song that has been written and talked about like no other in the whole REM canon. I think there’s a keyword in all that Mills said and that is ‘transition’. Stipe was now in his early 30s, held up by many, in the American music press in particular, as the most important lyricist of his time and this was his very conscious effort to compose something which acknowledged his days of carefree youth were behind him but while he was prepared to move on, there remained a number of unanswered questions in his head.

Or maybe it should just be taken at face value, with Stipe was simply wanting to pay homage to someone who had given him an enormous amount of pleasure and entertainment as he was growing up.

The Robster has previously pointed out that a single, to qualify for the charts back in 1992, was restricted to a maximum of four formats. There was a 7″ single which offered up an edited version of the album version – its some 33 seconds shorter and the difference comes after the four-minute mark with a few instrumental bars removed:-

mp3: R.E.M. – Man On The Moon (single version)

As with Drive, the 7″ and cassette versions went with a b-side taken from Green, with the CD offering up a cover version

mp3: R.E.M. – Turn You Inside Out
mp3: R.E.M. – Arms Of Love

It’s almost as if Warner Bros. was apologising belatedly for the singles taken from Green by putting some of its better songs as b-sides. The cover in this instance is a Robyn Hitchcock song, a long-time friend of the band who had been part of the line-up at the legendary Borderline Club shows in London in March 1991.

I’m willing to be corrected on this, but from what I can gather from looking things up on t’internet, Robyn Hitchcock didn’t release his own version of Arms of Love until its appeared on the Respect album, which came out in February 1993, a few months after Man On the Moon had been issued as a single. I’m not familiar with the song other than the R.E.M. take which itself is a more than passable acoustic number with a very light production.

The second CD, which again was marketed as the ‘Collectors Edition’, offered up the album version of Man On The Moon along with the cover of Arms of Love, and two ‘Non-LP’ tracks:-

mp3: R.E.M. – Fruity Organ
mp3: R.E.M. – New Orleans Instrumental #2

The former is an instrumental based, you won’t be surprised on a tune played on an electronic organ….one which very early on seems to rip off Hello, I Love You by The Doors before becoming the sort of thing that sounds as if the three musicians in the band were trying to work up something that might have just catch the ear of their lyricist to work his own brand of magic on it. It’s a real oddity among loads of other oddities that have appeared as b-sides over the years – it truly was one for the collectors/completists only.

New Orleans Instrumental #1 made it onto Automatic For The People. The only thing this b-side has in common with the album cut is that it is also an instrumental number written while the band was in the Kingsway Studios in New Orleans in late-February to mid-March 1992 (a session that also saw the earliest work on Drive). It is another totally forgettable effort and the fact it was included as a b-side to what was just the second single from the new album shows how little material was still out there unused.

Finally…..one of the main reasons I find it hard to enjoy Man on the Moon stems from its inclusion on a free CD given away with a particularly loathsome UK tabloid newspaper in July 2005. The CD was issued on the day when the UK was hosting the G8 summit, at Gleneagles, a five-star hotel resort about an hour or so north of Glasgow as part of that paper’s call to ‘Make Poverty History’. I could go on for pages and pages about the irony of such a wretched paper latching on to a people-driven campaign but given it is the biggest selling paper in the country, it’s no surprise that the multinational major record labels were happy to have some of their biggest acts offer up a song, but R.E.M. was by far the biggest name. A live version of Man on The Moon was put forward, recorded in 2004 at a gig in London aimed at raising funds for Oxfam, an occasion when they are, in due course, joined on stage by Chris Martin of Coldplay. You can probably work out just where by the way the crowd goes wild……

mp3: R.E.M (feat. Chris Martin) – Man On The Moon (live)

Once heard, you’ll never forget it. And it’ll put you off the original forever. You’ve been warned.

Apologies for the lengthy nature of this week’s effort.  The series will take a one-week break as there’s a special ICA lined up for next Sunday, after which myself and the Robster will offer up another dual-pronged offering on R.E.M.’s 20th UK single.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #233: P.V.C.2

P.V.C.2 was a Glasgow-based punk band who emerged from the ashes of one-time promising teenybop band Slik who had been seen by many as the next Bay City Rollers.

There had been a #1 single in 1975 but the eponymous debut album the following year sunk without trace. The core of Slik – Midge Ure (vocals, guitar), Kenny Hyslop (drums) and Billy McIsaac (keyboards) – hooked up with Russell Webb (bass) and jumped upon the punk bandwagon, releasing a three-track EP on Zoom Records in August 1977, with the lead track being a Ure/McIssac joint composition:-

mp3: P.V.C.2 – Put You In The Picture

Within a few weeks, Ure had upped sticks for London, to join The Rich Kids, the new band formed by ex-Sex Pistol, Glen Matlock.

Put You In The Picture went with him and became part of the live set of his latest band, eventually being re-recorded to appear on the album, Ghosts of Princes In Towers.

Ure’s departure led to the other members of P.V.C. 2 to bring in Willie Gardner as the replacement and re-naming themselves as Zones, a story that will be told in more depth when this series reached the latter Z.

Let’s be honest. Put You In The Picture might be a tad punk-by-numbers, with more than a nod to the sort of sounds that were being made by The Stranglers, but it’s not a bad listen. It’s hard to believe that it’s Midge Ure on lead vocals mind you…..

This song comes to you courtesy of its inclusion in the Big Gold Dreams 5xCD boxset.  I can’t ever recall hearing it prior to then.

JC

THE BIG HITS…..30 YEARS ON (10)

Thankfully, it was just a four-week month and I’m not going to spare you by keeping to a minimum the mentions of the dross which occupied the top-end of the charts In October 1990, although I have shared at least one shocker of a song at the outset.

Maria McKee spent the first two weeks at #1 with Show Me Heaven, and when it finally dropped down to #2, it was replaced by A Little Time by The Beautiful South, a track which was highlighted last time out in this series. It only managed a one-week stay before it was replaced by The Righteous Brothers with Unchained Melody, a song that had been a hit for them in 1965 but was now being flogged again to the public thanks to its use in the romantic-drama/weepy movie, Ghost.

So, what and who made the breakthrough in the rundown on 7 October?

The highest new entries belonged to New Kids on The Block and Cliff Richard, with the goths then propelling one of their own to a position of #21

More – The Sisters of Mercy

There were many who had long thought The Sisters of Mercy bordered on being overblown, bombastic rock-pomp, and perhaps such concerns were confirmed by the fact that their first offering of the new decade was co-written with Jim Steinmann of Meat Loaf fame.  It filled me with horror reading about the collaboration and it proved to be an all-out assault on the ears.

Slightly further down the charts came the crusties, although, once again, it was an evolving change of sound that was making them increasingly popular

Dance Of The Mad – Pop Will Eat Itself (#32)

I really don’t want to waste time even mentioning any of the others, other than in passing to say that another song from the film Top Gun was shaping up to take over from Maria McKee at the top in due course, while Shakin Stevens achieved his 34th successive Top 75 hit when My Cutie Cutie entered at #75. It proved to be his last non-Xmas themed or re-released hit single, but he’d made a good fist of things in the 80s, spending more than 300 weeks in the charts…which, if you do the math, is the equivalent of six years back-to-back.

14 October 1990.   I’ll mention in passing that the Mancunian Racist saw his Piccadilly Palare enter at #21, the second-highest new entry behind Whitney Houston‘s new effort, I’m Your Baby Tonite.

Of much more interest was the new entry at #20:-

Kinky Afro – The Happy Mondays

The second 45 to be lifted from Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches is arguably the band’s finest ever songs and it would climb to #5 the following week and thus match the showing of Step On; these proved to be the only Top 5 hits the Mondays would enjoy, as little did we know that things were already beginning to unravel.

Another gobby bastard enjoyed a new entry slightly further down the chart:-

Don’t Ask Me – Public Image Limited

The band’s seventh single to crack the Top 40, indicating that PiL were more than a cult act and did resonate occasionally with the great British public.  I don’t think anyone back in 1990 would have imagined that in later years Shaun Ryder and John Lydon would both end up as some of the most popular participants in I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here…….

A lovely slice of dreamy-pop sold enough copies to make it in at #61, and then climbing to #50 the following week:-

We Let The Stars Go Free – Prefab Sprout

Moving on to 21 October.

This was the week The Righteous Brothers began their assault on the charts with a #3 entry the week before it hit the top.  The next five highest new-entries all entered in the 30s…and were courtesy of Roxette, George Michael, Jason Donovan, Poison, and Janet Jackson.  It was a far from vintage week, but if you’ve been following things since the series got underway, it was pretty typical of much of the entire year.

Some dance stuff came in at #41

Aftermath – Nightmares on Wax

This was the first and, as it turned out, only hit single for Nightmares on Wax, the name adopted by a 20-year old Leeds-based DJ, George Evelyn, who would prove to be one of the mainstays of the Ibiza sound throughout the 90s and into the current century.  He’s still going strong today.

The indie-kids and crustys (again) also had something to celebrate this week

Sweetness and Light – Lush (#47)
Until You Find Out – Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (#51)

A new, much-talked-about act from the south-east of England made their first chart appearance in the week of 21 October:-

She’s So High – Blur (#58)

This was the first of what has proved to be 150 weeks in the Top 75 for Blur, which has been achieved with 28 singles. It’s fairly impressive, but let’s face it, it’s not fairly lame when compared with ole’ Shaky.

Finally, here’s some stuff from the singles chart of 28 October.

The title of the highest new entry really could have, and perhaps should have, been the sub-heading for this series

Step Back In Time – Kylie Minogue (#9)

From the days when she wasn’t quite yet the superstar who could be recognised from just her forename. This was the pop princess’s 11th single and it would climb to #4, which was a relative flop given that nine of the previous releases had either been #1 or #2.  The critics began to write her off, the fools that they were!

Slightly further down the charts as a new entry was this:-

Don’t Worry – Kim Appleby (#16)

Don’t Worry was the debut solo single from Kim Appleby just a few months after the sad death of her sister Mel Appleby at the age of 23 after contracting pneumonia while being treated for a rare form of cancer. Mel and Kim had taken the UK charts by storm at the end of the 80s, being part of the hit-making factory that was Stock/Aitken/Waterman, with the poptastic Respectable reaching #1 in 1987. Kim Appleby’s solo career never really quite took off and she later stepped back from recording in the mid-90s, choosing instead to concentrate on writing pop hits for others, which she has done with a reasonable degree of success.

Just one place ahead of Kim in the charts as a new entry this week was a remix of an old favourite of many of us

Close To Me (1990) – The Cure

The new version of the song that had been a hit single in 1985 was there to assist with the release and promotion of Mixed Up, a new compilation of singles and popular songs from the back catalogue that had been given the remix treatment. Worth noting that the remix eventually reached #13 which was eleven places higher than the original had achieved five years earlier.

One of Factory Records hopes for the future sneaked into the single charts this week, with a song that had a misplaced optimistic title:-

My Rising Star – Northside (#33)

The band that so many of the bands from the north-west had been citing as an influence saw them finally making a dent in the public imagination, thanks to a Steve Lillywhite remix of their best-known song:-

There She Goes (1990) – The La’s

In due course, it would make it all the way up to #13, but it remains the only time The La’s got any higher than #43 in the UK singles chart.  Make of that what you will……..

Finally this week, some more songs of interest, and occasional excellence, which stumbled their way into the charts at the lower end of the spectrum in late October 1990, but for the one coming in at #55, it was the beginning of a 13-week stay that would culminate in a top 3 position in early December:-

Can’t Do Nuttin For Ya Man – Public Enemy (#53)
Unbelievable – EMF (#55)
Purity – New Model Army (#61)
Scope – Paris Angels (#75)

I’ll be back again in around four weeks time with a look at the November 1990 charts.

JC
(aged 57 years and 4 months)

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #266 : SIDESHOWS

A GUEST POSTING by JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

So there I was, minding my own business and thinking about bands, when I accidentally fell down the rabbit hole of band members who had side projects. I began listing the ones I liked and realized there are more than enough for a quality ICA–one with some old favorites, hidden gems, and hopefully a song or two no one’s heard before. Of course, it was necessary to impose stiff restrictions: this comp only includes musical projects separate and apart from the musician(s)’s main gig. No prior or subsequent or solo outings. That helped get the numbers down.

I also eliminated some acts because, while they meet the criteria, the music isn’t all that great. For example, two different side projects from Siouxsie & the Banshees fit the bill (The Creatures and The Glove), but those acts just aren’t that listenable. Same thinking behind leaving off The Power Station even though they were extremely eligible. You get the idea.

1. KLARK KENT – Don’t Care.

Klark Kent was the mostly disguised alter ego of Stewart Copeland from The Police. He released an LP of snarky but catchy power-pop before the Cops found megastardom. ‘Don’t Care’ is quintessential new wave, a rockin’ little record I want my jockey to play. Pretty sure Copeland played all the instruments, too.

2. GORILLAZ – Clint Eastwood.

Blur‘s Damon Albarn could have supplied half the tunes on this compilation. In addition to the “virtual band” Gorillaz, he recorded as or with The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Rocket Juice and the Moon, Africa Express, the Heavy Seas, and numerous other solo and collaborative projects outside of his day job. But I really like him as 2-D.

3. EAGLES OF DEATH METAL – Wannabe in L.A.

Like Albarn, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme get around. He’s collaborated with countless acts, notably Them Crooked Vultures with the likes of Dave Grohl and Led Zep icon John Paul Jones. With EoDM he just plays drums, but the band are a blast and this is my favorite song of theirs, from 2008’s Heart On.

4. LOOSE FUR – The Ruling Class.

The good-natured voice of Wilco‘s Jeff Tweedy is instantly recognizable, but this is a true side project that only features Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and Chicago indie legend Jim O’Rourke. This is from their second and, to date, last record Born Again in the USA. That LP was released in 2006. Not sure if there’s anything else forthcoming from Loose Fur.

5. BROKEN BELLS – The High Road.

In which James Mercer, the brains behind The Shins, meets up with Danger Mouse. Like Tweedy (and Albarn), Mercer is instantly recognizable on the mic, but the heavy-duty string section is a departure from his band’s arrangements.

6. TOM TOM CLUB – Genius of Love.

David Byrne got all the attention from Talking Heads because he wrote the lyrics and fronted the band. And was generally a creative genius. But the loveable husband and wife rhythm section Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth had a massive club hit with this number. Still sounds great today almost 40 years later, with the Sweetbreaths (Weymouth’s sisters) on backing vocals.

7. THE SPECIAL GOODNESS – Life Goes By.

Weezer is pretty much all about singer/songwriter/guitarist Rivers Cuomo. But the band was co-founded by drummer Patrick Wilson, who’s been there from the very beginning. Wilson isn’t what you’d call a household name and neither is his band The Special Goodness, with whom he’s released four albums so far. This is from 2003’s Land Air Sea.

8. HINDU LOVE GODS – Raspberry Beret.

It’s Warren Zevon with REM‘s Peter Buck, Bill Berry and Mike Mills, playing a Prince cover. They only released a self-titled LP back in 1990, and a couple of singles including this one.

9. RACONTEURS – Steady, As She Goes.

Even though The White Stripes were flying high in the mid-00’s, winning Grammys for 2003’s Elephant and 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan, Jack White still had things to say. So he connected with Detroit stalwart Brendan Benson (who’s arguably a better songwriter than White) to form Raconteurs, with members of Cincinnati’s Greenhorns. This was the band’s first single and hit.

10. ELECTRONIC – Getting Away With It.

Although Johnny Marr was a free agent in 1989, Bernard Sumner was still throbbing along with New Order. When putting this post together I was surprised to learn that Electronic released three albums. Don’t know if their catalog is any good, but this song’s a winner. (especially, here in its extended from – JC).

BONUS?: Up to you guys and gals. Plenty of bands out there could have been featured; Atoms for Peace, Last Shadow Puppets, Divine Fits, Monsters of Folk among them. I like my 10, but I’m sure I missed a load of songs that I’d like to know about.

JONNY

BURNING BADGERS VINYL (Part 4) : PROLAPSE

Burning Badgers Vinyl 4: Lost Albums 1 – The Italian Flag – Prolapse (1997) (Radar Records)

by SWC

A few pieces ago I mentioned that I once lived with a chap called Irish Mike, who wasn’t actually Irish. Well, here’s why… he was called Irish Mike because he once dated an Irish lass called Orla and went all the way to Ireland to see her one Easter and she dumped him in the bar of her local which was somewhere in the middle of the Dingle Peninsula, about six miles from civilisation and a hundred miles from the ferry port in Dublin. So Mike sits there wondering what to do, he had nowhere to stay and no way of getting back to the ferry port from whence he came. A bloke walks into the bar, who was a little worse for wear, it turns out he’d just won the Irish Lottery, couple of million punts apparently.

Chappie buys drinks for everyone all night and at the end of the evening, gives Mike his car, which was a two-year-old Opal, which Mike, sleeps in that night and then at ten am the next morning drives to the ferry port, extremely hungover (and probably still very over the limit, kids) and was still driving it around in when I knew him. When Mike retold this story in a smoke filled room one miserable November evening, he became forever Irish Mike.

All of which fun and games brings us to this weeks record from Badger Box.

There are a bunch of albums in Badger’s box. I have selected five in particular that I am going to call ‘Lost Albums’ not because they are particular rare or uncommon but because you hardly ever read about them these days.

Number one in this series is The Italian Flag the third and finest album from Leicester’s dual singing, art-rock champions Prolapse.

I thought at first that Badger had somehow managed to get his hand on an Italian version of this album. It is adorned with a sticker that reads ‘Edizione Limitata’, then I realised it was something to do with the title of the record. It’s a lovely thing, this record though, double vinyl, flashy cover, lyrics inside that separate the boy vocals and the girl vocals, brilliant glossy vinyl that actually shines when you play it. It’s marvellous. Again I had no idea that Badger was a fan of the band. Man, I would have loved to gone and seen Prolapse live with Badger.

I saw Prolapse live a couple or three times back in the day, they were shambolic and unpredictable, I loved the way that their male singer, “Scottish Mick” kind of lumbered and raved away, on one side of the stage in a thick (and, often for my fey English ears at least, impenetrable) Scottish accent (I’m one of those idiots who appreciated the subtitles in Trainspotting). Whilst over on the over side, female singer Linda Steelyard stood quite still and sang in this beautiful sweet very English lilt. The pair of them almost trading blows as the bassline rumbled like all good basslines should and the guitars thrashed away majestically.

‘The Italian Flag’ was released back in 1997 on Radar Records and it was probably as close as Prolapse got to breaking through. This was largely due to the pure pop brilliance of the single Autocade which very nearly pushed the band into the Top 40 if memory serves me right (yup, I know what I did there).

mp3: Prolapse – Autocade

But its not just ‘Autocade’, the first four tracks (or side one of the double vinyl) is pretty much flawless, as good a first four tracks on a record that I can think of right now.

mp3 : Prolapse – Slash/Oblique

This is a startling track and perfectly illustrates my earlier claim about Scottish Mick ranting and raving – the way he shouts ‘Alberquerque, Mercatata’ (or whatever it is he shouts) is one of rock’s truly menacing moments.

mp3: Prolapse – Deanshanger

Which probably should have been a massive hit, and probably didn’t get the airplay it needed, largely due to Scottish Mick telling everyone that something, hair, music, clothes, everything ‘was crap’. It is infectiously brilliant, even if it is the sound a middle-aged crisis unfurling on a record right in front of your ears.

mp3: Prolapse – Cacophony No A

If the first two tracks on ‘The Italian Flag’ are angry, shouting ripostes to life and all its problems, Cacophony No A  is almost the complete opposite. Where, Linda Steelyard sounds almost angelic, like an Enya it is ok to like. If that is even possible.

mp3: Prolapse – Killing The Bland

Side A finishes with the single Killing The Bland which was the lead single for the album and was my first introduction to the ban – although I have a 12” in my collection by Prolapse of a single called Flexed that I have no idea where it came from but it predates ‘The Italian Flag’ and which would have been released in my final year as a student. I also seem to remember Drew Barrymore raving about this song in some magazine somewhere.

SWC

JC adds…..

It is indeed the first time Prolapse have featured on this blog…a band that have been recommended to me by a few folk over the years, none more so than Hammy, a very good friend of both myself and Strangeways, but the name has always put me off!! It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, and I’ve now picked up a second-hand copy of The Italian Flag.

SOME GO-BETWEENS TUNES WITH ADDED STRINGS

Week-End is an annual music festival, first held in the German city of Cologne in November 2011. The third edition of the festival, on 11-13 December 2013 attracted a great line-up including Young Marble Giants, The Fall, Grant Hart, and The Pastels.

Robert Forster also performed over that weekend, linking up with the composer and arranger Jherek Bischoff for a unique concert consisting of Go-Betweens songs as performed by a string quartet. Prior to the show, and after a great deal of rehearsing, a number of the songs were recorded in the studio, two of which were subsequently released in 2017 on a 7″ single by Slowboy Records, an independent label based in Dusseldorf.

The credits on the back of the single reveal that Jherek Bischoff, as well as arranging the songs in question, also played bass while a backing vocalist was added to the first of the tracks.

Robert Forster: Guitar, Vox
Jherek Bischoff: Bass, Percussion
Mike Donovan: Backing Vox
Lola Rubin: Violin
Kalliopi Mitropoulou: Violin
Elisa Becker-Voss: Viola
Ruben Palma: Cello

The track to which the backing vocal was added dates from the very early days of the band. Indeed it was just their second-ever single, released in 1979 in Australia on the Able Label and written solely by Robert Forster. The flip side of this delightful and unusual 45, was from much later on, taken from the album Bright Yellow Bright Orange, released on the Melbourne-based Trifekta Records in 2003.

I had no idea that the single was in existence until I saw it while doing some on-line browsing of a record store in Stockholm, Sweden (as you do!!!). It was quickly ordered and arrived safe and sound a few weeks ago, purchased without ever being heard in advance….and as I said, it proved to be quite delightful.

mp3: Robert Forster w/ Jherek Bischoff & String Quartet – People Say
mp3: Robert Forster w/ Jherek Bischoff & String Quartet – In Her Diary

This is exactly why music blogs remain essential in the spotify/streaming age.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 18)

R.E.M. had finally hit the so-called big time with Out Of Time, a largely acoustic album of love-inspired songs that showcased the band’s penchant for melody, harmony and intelligence. So how to follow it up? Why, release one of the most downbeat songs of the band’s career as the lead single to an album about death, of course!

mp3: R.E.M. – Drive

JC and I (and numerous commenters) have mentioned the bizarre habit of releasing the most unlikely or unrepresentative songs as singles that plagued R.E.M. throughout their career. I mean, even their debut single wasn’t the mix they wanted! When I heard Drive, the first taste of the band’s eighth studio album, I was horrified, yet at the same time, not entirely surprised. This was as dark and maudlin as the band had ever sounded. Yet, after a couple listens, it had grown on me hugely.

In spite of its rather gloomy nature, there’s something about Drive that is undeniably catchy. It may be no coincidence that it has been compared to David Essex’s Rock On – the line “Hey kids, rock ‘n’ roll” seems pretty blatant. The truth, however, is that the line was written as a homage to the song Stop It! by Pylon (them again); its entire lyric consists of repetitions of the linesDon’t rock ‘n’ roll, no” and “Hey kids!”

What might also come as a shock is producer Scott Litt’s revelation that Drive’s arrangement was heavily inspired by a band that both Mike Mills and Peter Buck were big fans of – Queen. Yep, THAT Queen. “Queen records, for all their bombast, sounded like each player had a personality,” Litt explained. So, Pylon, David Essex and Queen, then. All of a sudden, Drive becomes one of the most intriguing songs in the R.E.M. canon.

As for those lyrics, well according to Mills: “[it’s] just telling kids to take charge of their own lives. Among other things,” while Buck claimed: “It’s a subtle, political thing. Michael specifically mentions the term ‘bush-whacked’.” He also uses the word “baby” which I’ve always thought is a term you have to be careful of using if you want to be considered a serious songwriter. Maybe Stipe is using it in its more hipster way, where “baby” is everyone rather than the object of one’s affections. That would fit with the song, but I can’t be sure. That aside though, it’s Stipe’s delivery and the rhythm of his vocals that actually make Drive a bonafide pop song, even if it really doesn’t sound like it at first.

With hindsight, it’s easy to understand why Drive was the first choice of single. It certainly introduced the mood of Automatic For The People to audiences, though it remains a mystery why an album whose primary theme is death became one of the decade’s biggest-selling records and the one most people still associate R.E.M. with.

Drive was released in the UK on the 1st October 1992. It entered the charts at #11 in its first week, making it the band’s second-highest position. It dropped the following week and disappeared from the Top 40 altogether before the month was out. In truth most of the sales in that first week was probably due to the plethora of formats and fans like me wanting to own them all.

The 7” and cassette had World Leader Pretend from Green on the flip. Clearly the label was still trying to flog that album to new fans! The standard CD format added the Leonard Cohen cover First We Take Manhattan. This first appeared the previous year on the superb Cohen tribute album ‘I’m Your Fan’. It’s one of the best covers R.E.M. ever did, and arguably one of the best covers of a Leonard Cohen song by anybody (JC adds…..I’ll second that!!!)

For fans, however, the CD single was a tad disappointing as it didn’t contain anything we didn’t already have.

mp3: R.E.M. – World Leader Pretend
mp3: R.E.M. – First We Take Manhattan

The second (so-called “Collector’s Edition”) CD was heaps more interesting. As well as the title track and the Cohen cover were two unreleased songs. It’s A Free World Baby was a song recorded for ‘Out Of Time’, but cast aside. Peter Buck subsequently stated that he cannot understand why they decided not to include it (and Fretless, another song that will be discussed in due course) on ‘Out Of Time’. One theory is that its lyrics never really fit with the album’s overriding theme of love. It’s also a bit quirky in its structure, Mills’ bassline being the dominant instrument. It’s not unlike Belong in my opinion, especially when you get to the uplifting chorus. Maybe that’s why it didn’t get included – two similar songs and Belong was the better fit. Nonetheless, many fans feel this song shouldn’t have been relegated to b-side status, and its subsequent appearances on the soundtracks for Friends and Coneheads further added to our exasperation. And then there’s the use of “baby” again…

mp3: R.E.M. – It’s A Free World, Baby

To round it all off, the second CD also contained Winged Mammal Theme. Now this is one of those R.E.M. b-side instrumentals they often did, only unlike many of the others, this one does deserve at least one listen. It’s like the band is attempting to write their own theme for Batman – it even contains one member (not sure who) singing “Batman” in the background! It’s led by Mills on piano, and while it can’t be said to be any serious attempt at creating an album-worthy song, it’s passable and mildly amusing.

mp3: R.E.M – Winged Mammal Theme

Nerd corner: Finally, my research has revealed that Discogs lists a UK 12” of Drive. There are three reasons why I’m certain no such item exists:

1) I’d have it if it did, and I don’t!
2) I was working in Our Price at the time and made sure a copy of every format was reserved for me!
3) UK singles chart rules permitted a maximum of four formats per single release to be eligible for a placing. With the 7”, cassette and two CDs, a fifth format would have impacted on the chart position as one format would not have been counted.

I therefore conclude that the listed 12” – which purports to contain the same tracks as the standard CD single – was never released in the UK. However, a European release was made on 12”, and I reckon that’s where the confusion lies.

Robster