1982??? YOU ARE JOKING AREN’T YOU???

I actually wrote this ten years ago for the old blog as I was stunned that a full quarter-century had passed since its release.  I resurrected and modified it, again for the old blog, in March 2011 to coincide with the release of a ‘Greatest Hits’ effort and recently found that particular piece of writing among another search of the archives.  One of the most exciting things about the discovery was, unusually, being able to see the handful of comments left behind….including one from the mighty Echorich….which must have been among the first of what have been hundreds of shrewd contributions and observations over the years.  But I’ll get to that in due course.

As I may have said at least twice before…..

…….Scritti Politti, which in effect was really just a vehicle for the talents of Welsh-born singer-songwriter Green Gartside had been kicking around as a band since the late 1970s. Gartside had a reputation in the music press as a left-wing intellectual, which was maintained with the release of the debut single Skank Bloc Bologna which was regarded as a pro-feminist song that attacked the way that much of society expected young women to conform to a lifestyle of dull humdrum work and then raise families.

I never actually liked the debut single and still don’t listen to it much today. If there was ever such a thing as free-form new wave, then this was it. The production values were non-existent, the vocals are lost amidst all sorts of sharp and abrupt changes in rhythm and you couldn’t really dance to it. So I never thought I’d pay much attention to Scritti Politti again.

A couple of years later, I picked up a free cassette with the NME which featured a Scritti Politti song entitled The “Sweetest Girl”. It was absolutely gorgeous and as far removed from Bologna as you could imagine. It’s not quite a ballad, not quite a full-blown radio friendly pop-song. It was driven along sedately by a piano and a drum machine and a fantastic near-falsetto vocal performance by Green.

It was later released as a single on Rough Trade Records and topped the indie charts. I remember buying the single and after listening to the a-side a couple of times flipping it over to something called Lions After Slumber – a funk/rap number that just blew me away. I spent many many hours trying to decipher the lyric……

Into 1982 and another single came out in the summer. It was called Faithless. And it was joyful, soulful and with a hint of gospel. Three completely different song styles, and every one of them on heavy rotation.

And yet another single appeared later in the summer – a double a-side effort entitled Asylums in Jerusalem/Jacques Derrida – this time there were hints of reggae kicking around as well as a more pop-orientated feel. By now, I was itching for the album to appear.

It was a really brave move to call it Songs To Remember as it left Green (as he was by now calling himself) open to ridicule. It turned out not to be an outlandish statement. The track listing was:-

01 : Asylums in Jerusalem
02 : A Slow Soul
03 : Jacques Derrida
04 : Lions After Slumber
05 : Faithless
06 : Sex
07 : Rock-A-Boy Blue
08 : Gettin’ Havin’ & Holdin’
09 : The “Sweetest Girl”

There’s not a bad track on this album. My only gripe at the time was the fact it had only nine songs, of which only four were brand new. The new songs showed further musical talents, especially on the jazz-tinged Rock-A-Boy Blue which featured a lengthy double-bass solo.

I thought I was in a real minority falling in love with Scritti Politti in 1982 as I don’t recall them having any real chart success – certainly none of the singles did anything. So I was surprised to learn in doing a wee bit of research that Songs To Remember sold enough to reach #12 in the UK album charts.

Green was now a man in demand, and he signed a huge deal with Virgin Records. Within two years he was a bona-fide pop star crawling all over the UK and US charts with a succession of pop singles that were typical of that decade – synthesiser-led, big big production sounds and topped-up by expensive videos with Green wearing designer clothes and expensive haircuts. These hit singles, and the subsequent album Cupid & Psyche weren’t all that bad compared to an awful lot of the drivel that dominated the charts at the time, but the joy and beauty of the debut album had been left behind.

My vinyl copy of Songs To Remember was pretty much unplayable by around 1990. The only time I heard any of the songs was when they came up on any compilation cassette tapes that I had made up over the years. It wasn’t until 2001 that I again got to hear all of the album in its glory when it was finally given a long-delayed release on CD. It still sounded incredible and timeless. And………..it came with a lyric booklet, so I quickly discovered that I had gotten about 85% of the words to Lions After Slumber spot-on……

I suppose you all know that Scottish popsters Wet Wet Wet took their band name from a line from the song Gettin’ Havin’ & Holdin’…..well if you didn’t, you know now….

(at this point I posted the vinyl rips of the three singles lifted from the LP – and as mentioned above, there were a handful of comments, including this)

Echorich said

Green Gartside is the epitome of a pop music one off! There is NO ONE remotely like him. Sure he has a bit of a familiar mad genius temperment that we see occasionally in music, but the idea that the same artist wrote songs like Skank Bloc Bologna, Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) and Boom Boom Bap is really quite rare.

The two new songs on the greatest hits collection are pure Scritti, right down to the partnership with David Gamson. They will remind of Cupid and Psyche ’85 but are certainly more mature.

And back to Skank Bloc Bologna, this track, over all others is what comes to mind when anyone mentions Rough Trade Records to me. More than The Smiths, more than The Raincoats, Stiff Little Fingers or Swell Maps.

3:54 AM, March 17, 2011

Seems only right therefore to put a wider selection up today:-

mp3 : Scritti Politti – Skank Bloc Bologna
mp3 : Scritti Politti – Lions After Slumber
mp3 : Scritti Politti – Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)
mp3 : Scritti Politti – The Boom Boom Bap
mp3 : Scritti Politti – A Day Late and A Dollar Short

Thanks Echorich for your unstinting support for so many years now.  This entire post and its songs are dedicated to you.

JC

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #114 : WIRE (2)

Just eight days ago, Mike from Manic Pop Thrills provided an excellent ICA from Wire, concentrating on their 21st Century output. In doing so, he made the observation that an ICA looking at their initial material would need special dispensation as 10 tracks would make for a very short album. He’s right….and so what follows is something fitting onto one side of an old fashioned C90 cassette, drawn entirely from the era of the three albums released in the 70s – Pink Flag (1977), Chairs Missing (1978) and 154 (1979).

Mike’s piece provided a full bio of the band so I’ll just go straight to the music….

1) 12 X U – from Pink Flag
2) Map Ref. 41ºN 93ºW – from 154
3) Practice Makes Perfect – from Chairs Missing
4) Outdoor Miner (single version)
5) Three Girl Rhumba – from Pink Flag
6) The Other Window (Peel Session)
7) 106 Beats That – from Pink Flag
8) Another The Letter – from Chairs Missing
9) On Returning – from 154
10) Dot Dash (single)
11) Different To Me – from Pink Flag
12) I Am The Fly – from Chairs Missing
13) Two People In A Room – from 154
14) Ex Lion Tamer – from Pink Flag
15) A Question of Degree (single)
16) Mannequin – from Pink Flag
17) Blessed State – from 154
18) Feeling Called Love – from Pink Flag
19) Marooned – from Chairs Missing
20) Mr Suit – from Pink Flag

And here’s the evidence that it all adds up to just under 45 minutes:

mp3 : Wire – An Imaginary Compilation Album

JC

BONUS POST : #79…..BUT A GENUINE FIRST

Butcher Boy are coming out of an extended hibernation and are set to release new material and play a live gig as part of Record Store Day 2017.

A new 3-track EP, on 7″ vinyl in a gatefold sleeve, is being issued by Damaged Goods Records.  It will contain the band version of the song that I was able to draw to your attention last August:-

mp3 : Butcher Boy – November 1951, Bad Things Happen When It’s Quiet (strings version)

The other two tracks on the EP are November 1947, Storm Warning In Effect and July 1950, The Captain Is The Whale.  It’s the most ambitious recording the band has undertaken with guest vocalists and a choir joining the regular eight-strong cast.

The details of the supporting gig, at which the new EP will be launched, can be found in the photo at the top of this post.  It is exactly one month today on Saturday 22 April.

As I’ve never been to a show at Govanhill Baths before, it will become the 79th venue I’ve paid money to see a gig at a location in Glasgow, but the first in which the band will be performing, and the audience seated, in what was previously a Victorian-era swimming pool. I’m informed that Butcher Boy will be in the deep end while the 120 seats will look down on them from the shallower parts of the pool.

Tickets for this incredibly unique event can be found at : www.brownpapertickets.com

Can’t wait.

JC

ACTIVE WITH THE ACTIVIST (1)

JC writes

After all these years I now and again find myself struggling for something to write about. It’s one of the reasons I have deployed so many series looking at the singles from a particular group or singer as it provides a bit of discipline as well as taking care of a certain number of postings. They’ve also, for the most part, proved to be popular features with, amongst others, The Jam, The Style Council, James, Altered Images, The Clash, Buzzcocks, Morrissey and The Undertones all being given the treatment while of course I’ve recently started looking at XTC.

It seems natural to turn my attention to albums, especially when the singer or band in question has enjoyed a long career without ever really setting the singles charts on fire all that often or indeed in recent years releasing any 45s in physical or digital form. It won’t be a series that will appear on any given day….it will be sporadic and when the mood takes.

It’s going to kick off with Billy Bragg and I’m delighted to say that the series will benefit greatly thanks to some contributions from Jacques the Kipper. The love for the Bard of Barking was one of the things that really kick-started a friendship that is now heading towards the best part of 30 years and we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy one another’s company at a few of his live gigs in Glasgow and Edinburgh over that time. Some of the pieces in this series may be solo but others will likely involve a joint contribution. I can’t promise it will live up to the quality of Echorich and JTFL’s efforts on NYC but we will give it our best shot.

This journey into sound will begin with Life’s A Riot With Spy vs Spy (1983) and end at last year’s release in tandem with Joe Henry, the well-received Shine a Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad. There will be many stops en route, occasionally including some officially sanctioned live releases, box sets and compilations. I’ll be upfront about it – there might be some stuff missing as I don’t claim to have everything he’s ever released, but I reckon looking at the shelf of vinyl, CDs and the bit of the floor where I keep the box sets, it’s on for something like 23 separate postings, although it might be a couple of these will be amalgamated.

Hope you’re up for it. So here’s part one of ACTIVE WITH THE ACTIVIST.

1983. The year during which I took leave of my teens. A time when, thanks to what was proving to be a highly educational course at University, both in terms of the lectures and the extended social mix of people I now mingled with regularly, I was becoming more acutely aware of what was right and what was wrong with the world.  1983. The year I got active in student politics taking part in my first marches, demonstrations and sit-down protests.

I began it still living at home with my parents and sharing living space with my two young brothers but my sense of adventure was growing and I was feeling confined by immediate surroundings. Looking back now, I realise that I wanted so much to happen but couldn’t quite articulate what it was, why I wanted it and how I was going to achieve it.

In August I moved into my first student flat with two friends. It was the very first time in my life that I had an entire space to call my own. I spread out accordingly, buying more records, books and an increasing number of music papers given that I could now make as much mess as I wanted and never worry about being nagged at, or, even worse, one of my younger brothers chucking something out before I’d finished with it.

I was able to absorb so much more including the increasing number of mentions of a singer called Billy Bragg. I knew he had an album out as I’d seen a few copies of it in a handful of shops in Glasgow but I hadn’t been drawn to give it a listen. Strange as it may seem, the fact it had a budget price was off-putting; my brain associated that sort of offer with poor quality recordings. I was also aware that it was just him and his guitar and quite frankly, the punk wars had been fought to get rid of the likes of those.

One day I saw a photo of Billy Bragg in a music paper. I realised that I had seen him before a few weeks earlier, albeit briefly. He had been playing on the street in Edinburgh during the annual Festival and Fringe but I had hurried past thinking he was just another busker. Looking back, I realised that he actually had attracted a more than decent sized crowd around him on that Edinburgh street but I was too enamoured with trying to find an afternoon show where there was the off-chance of a young actress taking off her clothes as part of the production to have paid him any attention.

The increasing press coverage was always positive. There were mentions of him being the perfect sort of act for the era, an antidote to the increasingly slick production values being deployed. He was then interviewed for a more in-depth feature and right away I could tell that I liked the cut of his jib. He was saying what he wanted to happen, why he wanted it and how he was going to try and achieve it. He talked of a love of The Clash and an admiration of Paul Weller which were other big plusses as far as I was concerned.

It was revealed that he was moving to a new record label with one of the first outcomes being that his debut LP would be re-released and made more widely available. By this time, the first of what would turn out to be a series of Peel Sessions had been recorded; it had been taped by someone who came visiting our flat and he insisted we give it a listen.  It turned out thayt one man and his guitar wasn’t such a bad thing after all and so I ended up getting myself a copy of Life’s A Riot with Spy vs Spy in the months leading up to Xmas 1983.

Once I got over the mistake of playing the first ten seconds at the wrong speed (it was a 45 rpm album!) I found myself warming to it very quickly. It was fairly rough and raw (but not as much as I had thought beforehand it would be) and you certainly couldn’t imagine Billy Bragg being thought of as a talented vocalist. However, punk/ new wave had taught us that it wasn’t about the singing or the playing; the emotion, energy and the attitude were all much more important and it was clear from the outset that this new kid on the block had all of those in abundance.

I wasn’t alone in falling for the record. The music papers fawned over it, particularly the NME which made it #3 album of the year, behind Elvis Costello and Tom Waits and immediately ahead of Soft Cell and Michael Jackson. Billy was soon on TV, appearing on The Tube on Channel 4 , all of which led to this debut LP, recorded at minimal cost and which hadn’t taken off for six months until its re-release, going top 30 in the charts in early 1984.

It’s an album with just seven songs that, between them, come in at under 16 minutes. It contains some of the best things he would ever release and demonstrated that he was someone equally at home writing frank and honest love songs as the political anthems which many in the music press were increasingly saying was his forte and calling in life. It’s an album with probably his best-known and most famous song but that wouldn’t come to pass for a few years yet until it was given the cover treatment by a wonderfully talented and hugely under-appreciated female singer.

The really scary thing is that so little has changed in society since he penned these words:-

Up in the morning and out to school
Mother says there’ll be no work next year
Qualifications once the golden rule
Are now just pieces of paper

Just because you’re better than me
Doesn’t mean I’m lazy
Just because you’re going forwards
Doesn’t mean I’m going backwards

If you look the part you’ll get the job
In last year’s trousers and your old school shoes
The truth is, son, it’s a buyer’s market
They can afford to pick and choose

Just because you’re better than me
Doesn’t mean I’m lazy
Just because I dress like this
Doesn’t mean I’m a communist

The factories are closing and the army’s full
I don’t know what I’m going to do
But I’ve come to see in the Land of the Free
There’s only a future for the chosen few

Just because you’re better than me
Doesn’t mean I’m lazy
Just because you’re going forwards
Doesn’t mean I’m going backwards

At twenty one you’re on top of the scrapheap
At sixteen you were top of the class
All they taught you at school was how to be a good worker
The system has failed you, don’t fail yourself

Just because you’re better than me
Doesn’t mean I’m lazy
Just because you’re going forwards
Doesn’t mean I’m going backwards

mp3 : Billy Bragg – To Have and Have Not
mp3 : Billy Bragg – A New England
mp3 : Billy Bragg – The Busy Girl Buys Beauty

Jacques’ slightly different take:-

Okay, so I’ve read what JC has said. Clearly I’m much younger than him, always have been. At least in my own head. Anyhow I have a completely different perspective on the first Bragg album. Let’s cut to the chase – musically it is RUBBISH.  Lyrically up there with the best, of that I am sure. But musically, it would take him many years to master these songs and sing and play them the way that a better musician would have intended.

But, but, BUT. That is exactly what is so brilliant about this album – the counterpoint of lyrical beauty, anger, humour, love, not to mention the politics, floating above a badly played, not that well recorded, scratchy mess of (simple) chords. Did I mention the awful singing? For me back then the reality of Billy was better than my expectation. Here was a man that sang and played it as badly on record as he did live. And didn’t care.

Listen to the mature manner in which he has reinterpreted these songs over the years. Marvel at what damn fine, all round crooned tunes these now are. I love these reinterpretations. But thank whatever Deity takes your fancy that this was not the way back in 1983. Would he now be the nation’s favourite beardie leftie had he not grabbed us by those proverbial bollocks back then with that squall of noise? I think not.

Nuff said. None of your old man extended play JC article. That’s it. Cheers and goodnight.

JC adds….

If having read that you had this particular image of the two of us in your head….give yourself a pat on the back!!!!!

 

78 AND COUNTING

That above is a replica of the ticket for the first gig I ever went to. There were two support acts – Bobby Henry and The Cramps. It’s coming up for nearly 38 years since that unforgettable and historic night in my life and I only wish I had been the type to have kept a journal of who I’ve seen, and where, ever since.

As it is, I’m going to try from memory to list all the Glasgow venues that I’ve ever paid money to see a singer or group perform. It could very well be exhaustive but there’s also the possibility that folk might mention somewhere in their comments and that’ll jog my memory further. Oh and there’s a reason for this particular posting that will become clear in the next 24-36 hours.

1. Apollo

Legendary venue that began as Green’s Playhouse in 1927, where Mrs JC, as a young teenager, saw David Bowie on the Ziggy Stardust tour in 1972. A year later it changed its name to the Apollo under which banner it operated until 16 June 1985 when The Style Council became the last act to play there. I was at that particular gig but it wasn’t thought at the time that it would be the end as there had been previous false alarms about the venue closing its doors and, besides, where else was there in the city for gigs that could attract 3,500 fans?

The location is now a multiplex cinema.

2. Barrowlands

The best live venue in the world – without question.

Originally opened in 1934 but rebuilt in 1960 after a fire. It was a traditional ballroom rather than a gig venue but Simple Minds had shown what could be possible when they utilised it as a location for filming a promo video and then played live gigs at the end of 1983. The venue, with its 2,100 all-standing capacity quickly became very popular and began to draw events away from the Apollo thus leading to its eventual demise.

3. SECC

Christened ‘the big red shed’ on its opening in 1985 – and the final nail in the coffin of the Apollo. The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre was built as a flexible space to host all sorts of events, including concerts, within a variety of different sized halls. The sound, for years, was absolutely appalling, as the main income was derived from the exhibition and conference market and so the building wasn’t built to the best of specifications for music lovers. I’ve been to all the different halls in the main SECC building over the years but I’ll count it as one location for the purposes of this exercise

4. Clyde Auditorium (The ‘Armadillo’)
5. SSE Hydro

Two purpose-built venues in the grounds of the SECC complex which opened in 1997 and 2013 respectively. The former will always hold special memories as it was where I saw Leonard Cohen for the first and only time back in 2008; the latter I’ve only been to once so far, and it was for a bitterly disappointing gig by Belle and Sebastian in 2015. Hated the experience so much that I’m missing out when Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds play there later in the year.

6. Glasgow University Debating Chamber

One of many student venues I’ve caught bands in over the years. The most recent was a fantastic gig by Belle and Sebastian in 2016. The difference in them playing at this intimate sized venue in comparison to the Hydro is beyond words.

7. Strathclyde Students Union – Level 8
8. Glasgow University Queen Margaret Union
9. Glasgow Technical College Students Union

#7 was where I spent almost every weekend between the ages of 19 and 22. Too many great gigs to single out one above others. #8 was where I first saw The Smiths in 1984. #9 I hadn’t been back to in years until Jacques the Kipper and myself went along to freak out to Carter USM in February 1991.

10. Tiffany’s
11. Plaza Ballroom
12. Maestro’s
13. Henry Afrika’s
14. Soundhaus
15. Barfly
16. The Arches
17. Night Moves (later changed name to Rooftops)

All of the above are no longer with us. Tiffany’s was the choice of venue for bands who couldn’t quite fill the Apollo and was where I saw many up and coming post-punk bands between 1981 (when I was old enough to get in under the licensing laws) and 1987 when it was converted into a casino.

The Plaza was where I first saw a number of bands including New Order, Suede and Blur – it was demolished and turned into flats in 1995. Maestro’s and Henry Afrika’s were discos occasionally used for gigs – can only recall being at them on one occasion and that was to see Tears for Fears and The Wake.

Barfly, I was at once to see Young Knives in 2006. I cannot recall who I saw at Soundhaus but it was to watch a band for whom the bass player was a young relative of a good friend of Mrs V’s.

Night Moves was the venue where bands played midweek as the student unions, for the most part, only hosted live gigs at weekends – my most memorable time at NM was The Fall supported by Cocteau Twins in 1982. It’s still in use but only as Victoria’s nightclub.

The Arches was a superb basement venue deep in the bowels below Glasgow Central station. It was more renowned as a club, and it was drugs-related issues within the club that led to its closure in 2015, but I was lucky enough to see a number of great performances there over the years, including British Sea Power, Lambchop, Frightened Rabbit, Aidan Moffat and Billy Bragg.

18. King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut
19. Broadcast
20. Nice n Sleazys
21. Hug and Pint
22. Academy
23. ABC
24. ABC 2
25. City Halls (both pre and post multi-million £s renovation in 2006)
26. Stereo
27. Mono
28. The Garage (formerly known as Mayfair)
29. CCA
30. Classic Grand
31. Old Fruitmarket
32. 13th Note
33. Platform
34. Old Hairdresser’s
35. Glasgow School of Art
36. Cathouse
37. SWG3
38. Glad Cafe
39. Woodend Tennis Club
40. Flying Duck
41. Oranmor (upstairs)
42. Oranmor (downstairs)
43. Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
44. Strathclyde Suite at GRCH
45. Renfrew Ferry (which despite its name, is a location in Glasgow)
46. St Luke’s
47. St Andrew’s In The Square

All of the above remain in use and all have been visited regularly. I make the distinction at Oranmor and GRCH as the various halls are completely different in layout and atmosphere, and in the case of GCRH, size.

48. Pavilion Theatre
49. Tron Theatre
50. Cottier’s Theatre
51. Citizens’ Theatre
52. Mitchell Theatre
53. Tramway Theatre
54. Glasgow Film Theatre

Turning now to oddities and venues that I’ve only been to either once or twice.

55. Grand Ole Opry (notionally a C&W club; have seen Lloyd Cole and The Twilight Sad on the two occasions I’ve been along)
56. Langside Hall
57. Queen’s Park Bowling Club
58. Hyndland Bowling Club
59. Titwood Bowling Club
60. Offshore Cafe
61. Berkeley Suite
62. Jeffrey Hall, Mitchell Library

(#56 – #62 have all been one-off gigs by Butcher Boy)

63. Buff Club
64. Brel
(Malcolm Middleton/Rick Redbeard/FOUND as Chem Underground triple bill in 2012)
65. Fairfield Club
(Malcolm Middleton/Phantom Band/Strike The Colours/De Rosa as part of Malky’s Burst Noel in 2008)
66. The State Bar
67. Pollokshields Burgh Hall
(LP launch by Wake The President in 2009)
68. Dennistoun New Parish Church
(Admiral Fallow/Rick Redbeard/Kobi Onyame as part of East End Social Duke St Expo in 2014)
69. Everlasting Arms Church
(King Creosote/Alexis Taylor(Hot Chip)/Siobhan Wilson as part of East End Social Duke St Expo in 2014)
70. Kinning Park Complex
(LP launch by Randolph’s Leap in 2014)
71. Glasgow Academical Sports Club
(scene of a momentous Martin Stephenson solo gig)

Some smaller venues that are no longer in existence.

72. Moir Hall
73. The Roxy (has been re-modelled and re-opened as The Hug and Pint)
74. Captain’s Rest
75. Bowler’s Bar

and finally, three outdoor venues

76. Glasgow Green
77. Richmond Park
78. Kelvingrove Bandstand

Proud to say I haven’t been to gigs at any of the three football stadia nor Bellahouston Park, despite it being on my doorstep.

#79 is on its way. Stay Tuned.

mp3 : The Jam – That’s Entertainment (live at Apollo, Glasgow)
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Never Stop (live at Barrowlands, Glasgow)
mp3 : The Smiths – You’ve Got Everything Now (live at Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow)
mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Red Travellin’ Socks (live at Oran Mor, Glasgow)
mp3 : Frightened Rabbit – Keep Yourself Warm (live at Captain’s Rest, Glasgow)

Last of the above features James Graham of The Twilight Sad on backing vocals.

JC

THE NAME OF THIS BAND IS TEENAGE FANCLUB

A GUEST POSTING FROM ANDREA PEVIANI

I’m very proud of the high level of social interaction generated by this little corner of the internet. The decade and a bit since TVV got off the ground has generated tens of thousands of comments and e-mails along with numerous guest contributions. It still humbles me that so many people are willing to contribute to the blog, especially when they do so in response to me asking for something specific.

Today is one of those really special occasions when I’m presented with something that goes well beyond my wildest dreams. It stems from a posting on Facebook by Andrea Peviani, the author of the Conventional Records blog, in which he expressed his joy at seeing one of his favourite bands play a live gig some 170 km from his home town of Lodi, Italy. I asked him if he wanted to offer up a review of the gig and to my delight he said ‘yes’.

What follows is one of the most enjoyable postings I’ve ever had the honour of sharing with you. I’ll open with the words in Andrea’s e-mail before going straight into his memories of the occasion.

———————————

My Captain,

I know one month is a long time… but here I am with my contribution about Teenage Fanclub’s only Italian date!
I hope it’s not too senseless to publish a review about this particular European concert while they’ve already been to Japan, Australia and now they’ve begun the U.S. leg of their tour…

Anyway I had a story to tell, and despite my laziness (and some other minor issues with my home wi-fi…) I’ve completed it.

I thought that some pictures might enhance the visual understanding of what I was talking about. I hope they’re not too many!

Sorry as usual about my poor English… Please edit wherever you find mistakes or words that can be replaced with better expressions.

Thank you about your patience and kindness: when you wrote that comment on Facebook I felt honoured and stimulated… It’s been hard, but now I’m glad you asked!

Best wishes for a great springtime with lots of good records and concerts.
Andrea

A Teenage Fanclub concert in Italy is a precious thing. Last time they came over here was in 2005 and I think there weren’t many other occasions in the years before. For me it was the first time: I remember them since their beginnings and became a fan with Bandwagonesque. Then in the next 10 years I always listened to their records but not with the same passion, and in the early 00s I almost ignored them. It was only in these last 10 years that I completed my collection of their albums, buying all of them whenever I found them used and cheap. Maybe not all of them are masterpieces; anyway, you’re never disappointed. Always the same simple elements, but nobody can put them together with the same freshness and craftsmanship.

Bologna is one of the most rock’n’roll places in Italy (Skank Bloc Bologna anyone?), about 200 Km. south of Milan, so it’s the ideal place to gather people coming from every region of our long and narrow peninsula. But it was the unusual venue that deserves some explanation to non-Italian readers. Bologna’s Teatro Antoniano is the mythical place of the “Zecchino d’Oro”. Let me seek help from Wikipedia:

Zecchino d’Oro (Italian pronunciation: [dzekˈkiːno ˈdɔːro; tsek-]; meaning “Golden Sequin”) is an international children’s song festival that has taken place every year since 1959.  It is broadcast by Rai 1. It was started by Cino Tortorella, and the first two festivals were held in Milan.  In 1961, the festival was taken up by the Antoniano Institute and moved to Bologna. In 2009, Cino Tortorella left Zecchino d’Oro. In 1963, Mariele Ventre, a conductor and director of young performers, created the Piccolo Coro dell’Antoniano Children’s Choir (called Piccolo Coro “Mariele Ventre” dell’Antoniano after her death in 1995, and directed by Sabrina Simoni). From 1976 the festival took on an international perspective – each year seven Italian songs and seven foreign songs are sung by children and voted for by a children’s jury. The winning song is rewarded with the Zecchino d’Oro award.

The golden age of the Zecchino d’Oro was in the 60s and the 70s; this means that for people born in those decades there’s a canon of dozens of children songs whose verses we all can sing from start to end. Shared memories that merge with our love for the songs of Teenage Fanclub. A blurred line between pre-teenage and post-teenage music fandom.

Pre-Teenage Merchandising

Actually the venue was not in the same part of the building where they broadcast the TV Festival every year… the Antoniano Theater is a quite normal theater, so it was a seated situation, not quite right for an indie gig. I was in the second row. Gorgeous view, but unfortunately a poor sound, nobody could really understand why…

Before Teenage Fanclub, we were entertained by a short exhibition by one George Borowski. A heart warming revelation. He may be “just one of their roadies”, but he added some more intimate magic to the evening. A very talented guitar player, he played some fine acoustic songs and connected with the audience with some humble and funny talks about his love for music, supporting his daughter and her band Mora. George said something about the preciousness and value of the time we were investing in that particular evening, going there and listening to this music. Maybe a little too sentimental… but then this small band from Scotland get on stage, play Start Again and the heart fills with gratitude. We’re here. They’re here. Here.

Every song is kinda classic, those from the 90s AND the ones from last year’s album. Unfortunately only two songs from Bandwagonesque, but I’ve seen on Setlists.com that it’s been the same in the whole tour… The core of the concert are their recent tunes and cuts from Grand Prix and Songs from Northern Britain. The presence of Teenage Fanclub on stage is their main strength and weakness. They are far beyond understatement. Sometimes it’s awkward to look at them while they’re fiddling with guitars between songs. Then they start a new song, and everything flows effortlessly, their aged nerds image becomes impossibly cool and you’re reflecting your best self in the perfect songs of this perfect band.

Raymond McGinley was suffering from a bad cold: the amp behind him was covered with rows of paper towels and during the concert he went on exposing the used ones… We all stay seated but you can feel the climax coming: I’m In Love, Star Sign… then it’s The Concept and the whole theater rushes towards the stage. Norman Blake has a wide smile on his face and Gerard Love and Raymond also respond to the deep affection of their crowd. Singing along to that chorus and that guitar coda was something I never want to end; indeed was one of those moments I will keep forever in a corner of your soul.

The first two encores cool down a bit of the atmosphere: of course it was great that they played that Bevis Frond song, but I can’t help thinking what they could have done to me if they played What You Do To Me.  We went into orbit again with Sparky’s Dream, and of course Everything Flows is the perfect ending, another of those transcendental live moments.

After the concert you can feel the sense of harmony and happiness spread all around. A true miracle then happens before my eyes…..

Marco Sanchioni (a friend and a cult Italian indie musician, since late 80s with his band A Number Two, then later as a solo artist) is handed a set list from the stage – and given how few times Teenage Fanclub play in Italy you can realise how significant it is for him to have this piece of paper;  then he looks at the disappointed girl standing beside him and he decides to give the set list to her. I had to immortalize the moment (and the setlist), as an evidence of the “Spirit of Mariele” (the unforgettable director of the Piccolo Coro dell’Antoniano) floating in the air.

Marco Sanchioni and The Gift of the Holy Setlist

The day after the show, Marco was posting on Facebook using the the hashtag I had come up with –  #marielesantasubito (Sanctify Mariele now);  he also told a long tale of how there had been a second miracle that had blessed him.  He had somehow lost his smartphone under the seats at the theatre – all his new songs for his next record were on the smartphone and he was worried; but a man from the theatre had been in contact to say it had been found it, and now Marco was heading back to Bologna to bring it home; it was as if, again, the Spirit of Mariele was protecting everything in the surroundings…

(Saint?) Mariele Ventre

That was the next day.  But let us return to the events after Teenage Fanclub had ended the set.

Outside the Antoniano everybody is joyful and cheerful.. I meet my almost namesake Andrea Pavan, an absolutely amazing friend whose enthusiasm is always contagious.  I join him and a few other friends with the mission of meeting Norman and the others.

The night is not too cold, the company is wonderful… but time moves on and nobody is coming out of the theater. Pavan is scrolling on his iPad literally THOUSANDS of pictures he took over the years: name ANY cult hero from the British and American indie scenes of the last 30 years, he’s got a photograph with them. He’s looking to show us a specific one he took with Norman some years before at a summer festival, while he was involved in some other parallel project.

The roadies start loading the gear on the tour bus. We give a big cheer to George Borowski (for us now The Big Borowski) and he’s even sweeter on the pavement than on stage. He says we can rest assured that Norman and the others will board on this bus… he just doesn’t know when.

He thanks us for the time we spent coming to the show and for waiting to meet the guys.

(In the following weeks we connect with George on Facebook and the young but incredibly knowledgeable Monica Mazzoli has an on-line chat with him about the first song he had played in his acoustic set. She knew it had been an obscure gem she liked from a compilation of the post-punk era, “Perfect Unpop: Peel Show Hits & Long Lost Lo-Fi Favourites Vol. 1 1976-1980”. George then revealed it was a tune he had written in 1978!)

Raymond is the first to come out, but he looks quite tired and ill,; he gives us a half sleepy smile, mutters ‘Hi’ and goes onto on the bus. Gerard is even more awkward, slipping in without a word. It’s embarrassingly late, but Norman hasn’t yet come out… but we are beyond the point of no return, nobody can quit now.

Chiara Busico and Delia Burza have sore feet, but they’ve been stalking major indie stars all over the world, so they just sit down on some doorsteps. Finally he appears, a bottle of beer in one hand and his smartphone pressed to his ear. The situation is so insane that there’s nothing strange anymore with six people staring from a small distance at a guy talking (probably) to his wife thousands of miles away in a foreign country.

When Norman comes over he’s really nice and easy. Pavan has finally found THAT picture and proudly shows it to him, and he seems to remember what Andrea is recollecting. He kindly strikes a pose for pictures with each of us and all together, then he waves goodbye (some of us will see him very soon at Barcelona’s Primavera Festival).

Francesca guide us to the only place still open in Bologna to celebrate with a beer. (Francesca Sara Cauli is one of the best rock photographers around, you can see her stunning pictures of this concert here: http://sentireascoltare.com/concerti/teenage-fanclub-bologna-teatro-antoniano-2017/).

We are six very different people, of different ages. We are serious about our musical passions, connected by similar tastes and similar experiences. We come from various parts of Italy: Bologna, Roma, Firenze, Torino, even Lodi… But tonight we are all just teenagers rejuvenated by the place where our childhood heritage lies and by these Scottish pals that you instantly feel familiar with.

Norman & Andrea Pavan show Norman & Andrea Pavan

Norman & Me

Aged Teenagers

Those raw but warm pictures are memories of this simple but unforgettable night: precious visual souvenirs that I’d like to match with some solid recordings of this band at the peak of its power. I think the moment has come for a live album in their discography (maybe any other date from this tour but this one!). I have a good title: The Name of This Band is Teenage Fanclub.

mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Start Again
mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Don’t Look Back
mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Star Sign

ANDREA

THE XTC SINGLES (Part 3)

Two monumentally good bits of music had failed to provoke any interest in the record buying public. Nor had the debut LP, White Music, exactly set the heather alight.

The good news from the band’s perspective is that they had a record label who believed in their abilities and a number of champions within the music press consistently praising the records and giving positive reviews to the live shows.

It was the record company bosses who suggested that one of the tracks off the debut LP should be re-recorded for release as the third single. The band was teamed up with a different producer – RJ (Mutt) Lange – who at the time was relatively unknown but had some new wave credentials thanks to his work with The Boomtown Rats. As an aside, Lange would in later years become something of an uber-producer and make a fortune from his efforts with the likes of Billy Ocean, Bryan Adams and Shania Twain – but that probably don’t impress you much.

It has to be admitted however, that the results of what proved to be a one-off collaboration with XTC did result in one of the best non-hit singles of the era.

mp3 : XTC – This Is Pop?

It’s a fantastic lyric in which the point is made that, no matter the genre anyone ever tries to shoehorn a song into, if it becomes well-liked and celebrated (as was increasingly happening with punk and new wave) then by definition is has to be pop music being made by a pop band. It’s also a killer tune that somehow, once again, was ignored by mainstream radio on its release in April 1978.

Proof that Mutt Lange helped the band realise their potential can also be found in the two-minute ditty that was recorded for the b-side:-

mp3 : XTC – Heatwave

It’s not a cover of the Martha & the Vandellas song (as would be done by The Jam for the Setting Sons LP in 1979) but a Colin Moulding original which is far too catchy to have been wasted as a b-side. I don’t think I’m alone in reckoning it is similar in places to a big hit single from Elvis Costello & the Attractions.

JC