ELEVEN BLASTS FOR APOLLO 11

A GUEST POSTING by STRANGEWAYS

A flag flying free in a vacuum…

Fifty years ago this weekend, Apollo 11, having rocketed off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre on July 16th 1969, was approaching destination: Moon.

No real value in me adding to the screeds already written by those with more of a right to do so. Instead, and, aware that there are a million other great songs that could have been chosen, it’s straight into Eleven Blasts for Apollo 11…

Light side

Twenty seconds and counting. T minus 15 seconds, guidance is internal.

1. The Wedding Present: Venus

The opening track from 1996’s Saturnalia LP – whose associated artwork itself pastiches NASA’s logo – kicks us off (albeit toward the wrong celestial body). The Weddoes have a load of space-connected songs to choose from, and this robust zinger is as good as any on getting things off to a flying start.

Twelve, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence starts…..6, 5, 4…

2. The Mekons: Ghosts Of American Astronauts

‘A flag flying free in a vacuum…’ Fragile, otherworldly and quietly cynical, this was an absolute stick-on to make the crew. Indeed, if only one song was permitted on board, this would be the one taking a small step for a giant leap. As an aside: does the intro sound a bit like the opening to ‘Talulah Gosh’?

…3, 2, 1, zero, all engine* running.

3. Ballboy: Essential Wear For Future Trips To Space

From the I Hate Scotland EP, this corking tale of space travel, polar bears and wardrobe tips is greatly elevated by thrilling, somersaulting keyboards. Planning to jet off soon? Essential wear includes: silver gloves, a visor and reflector (for your face).

* Such was the tension that the ordinarily cool-as-a-cucumber NASA Public Affairs Officer Jack King is heard to say all engine running rather than all engines running.

LIFT-OFF! We have a lift-off, 32 minutes past the hour. Lift-off on Apollo 11.

4. Slowdive: Star Roving

The well-loved Slowdive’s re-emergence – after 22 years – could have gone so wrong. But the eponymous 2017 LP, home planet of this triumphant lead-off single, urged fans out from behind the sofa even before its affirmative intro had been spent.

Star Roving popped up on the Fifa 18 soundtrack too. They shot. They scored. One-nil to the resurgent five-a-siders from Reading.

Tower cleared.

5. The Primitives: Spacehead

Despite the temptation to choose Buzz Buzz Buzz (Aldrin), Spacehead, from the superb Lovely (1988) debut LP, was cleared for take-off.

Neil Armstrong reporting their roll and pitch program which puts Apollo 11 on a proper heading.

6. Ash: Girl From Mars

Great single, and a track from the 1977 LP. According to Wikipedia, Girl From Mars has been used as hold-music on NASA’s telephone lines, which sure makes a change from Greensleeves

Dark side

Plus 30 seconds.

7. Moonshake: Gravity

This flickers and strobes and phases, and sounds not unlike Moonshake‘s 1991 influencers and contemporaries My Bloody Valentine.

The First EP, from which Gravity is taken, was even released on Creation too. The two bands were label-mates, then, at ‘round about the time when MBV were putting out the likes of the Tremelo and Glider EPs, and the Loveless album. I admit to knowing nothing more from Moonshake, but I’ve always loved this track.

One Bravo is a abort control mode

8. British Sea Power: Observe The Skies

This twitching, jittering beauty from 2010’s Valhalla Dancehall LP sees the band emerge from the sea to the land… and beyond. Observe The Skies then chops merrily away behind typically elegant BSP words:

‘Let’s watch the nebulae implode,
As dark out of the light unfolds… ’

Altitude’s two miles

9. Heavenly: Space Manatee

With Sarah Records calling it a day in 1995, Heavenly‘s last-ever release was this 1996 7″ single on Wiiija, K or Elefant depending on your earth coordinates at that point.

It’s a fine sign-off: a nice slice of quiet/loud. Space Manatee was backed by a riotous cover of The Jam‘s Art School (alongside the ace Heavenly original You Tore Me Down).

Downrange one mile, altitude three, four miles now. Velocity 2,195 feet per second

10. Billy Bragg: The Space Race Is Over

Reducing our velocity somewhat is this great track from BB’s 1996 (again with 1996) LP William Bloke – one led by a pensive, poignant lyric. Is it about the thundering pace and ill-effects of technology? Is it about being careful what you wish for? The passing of time? Or is it just about the space race being over?

‘Now that the space race is over
It’s been and it’s gone, and I’ll never get to the moon
Now that the space race is over
And I can’t help but feel we’ve all grown up too soon…’

We’re through the region of maximum dynamic pressure now

11. Pixies: The Happening

Another band with a planet-ful of space sounds, this Bossanova cut won the day. But it could have been Planet of Sound, Space (I Believe In), Motorway to Roswell... But The Happening edged it thanks to its dreamy, unusual, relentless coda.

Of course, with its references to roads and the desert, and Area 51, The Happening is actually located here on Earth. That said, its haunting close could easily be the calm, stream-of-consciousness death-throes of a cast-adrift astronaut.

Eight miles downrange, 12 miles high, velocity 4,000 feet per second…

A big thanks to JC for agreeing to this. And I’ll leave him, as he is eminently qualified for the mission, to add a Kid Caneveral track as a bonus.

strangeways

JC adds….

genius idea for a posting, and tempting as it is to add a track as suggested, there’s just something perfect about an 11-song compilation for today. But I am going to add it to the ICA listing over on the right hand side…as #220.

Oh, and what about the specially-created artwork too……loving it!!

THE JOY OF (a mixed) SEX (duet) : Couple #5

Adapted from wiki:-

“Young Hunting” is a traditional folk song that has its origin in Scotland. It can be traced back as far as the 18th century, being the tale of the eponymous protagonist, Young Hunting, who tells a woman, who may have borne him a child, that he is in love with another, more beautiful woman. Despite this, she persuades him to drink until he is drunk, then to come to her bedroom, or at least kiss her farewell. The woman then stabs him to death.

The tormented murderer then throws the body in the river but in doing so is taunted by a bird. She tries to lure the bird down from the tree but it tells her that she will kill it if it comes within reach. When the search for Young Hunting starts, she either denies seeing him or claims that he left earlier, but when Hunting’s remains are found, in order to revoke her guilt, she reveals that she murdered him and is later burned at the stake.

Like most traditional songs, numerous variants of the song exist worldwide, notably under the title of “Henry Lee” and “Love Henry” in the United States.

Nick Cave decided that he’d like to record a version of Henry Lee for inclusion as part of the Bad Seeds‘ ambitious 1996 album Murder Ballads, being a work (almost) entirely devoted to asongs of violent death, most often in tragic circumstances. He recorded a vocal in Australia and brought on board PJ Harvey who recorded her vocal separately in England.

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Henry Lee

The results were astonishing and led to Mute Records demanding it be released as a single, for which this promo was shot:-

The couple, having met, embarked on a short relationship (seemingly just four months in length), the aftermath of which led to Cave composing a number of break-up songs that would appear on his next album The Boatman’s Call – it should be noted, however, that most of the album’s material, including the haunting Into My Arms, deals with the six-year marriage he had enjoyed with Brazilian journalist Viviane Carneiro.

JC

THE JOY OF (a mixed) SEX (duet) : Couple #4

Anyone fancy a little bit of S&M ??????

J’aime l’odeur de ta peau le matin
Elle m’excite et je veux avoir mal
Lit chaud. air froid
Ton regard affam me brûle, et j’ai besoin de sentir plus
Le sang sur tes ongles me fait peur
Mais malgr tout je veux que tu restes
Je suis meurtrie et corche, et je devrais souffrir
Mais tu me retiens et
Tout me paraît bien
Je t’en prie, crois-moi quand je te dis “ne me quitte plus”
Tout ce que je veux faire c’est tre couche tes côts
Ici dans ce lit

I love your flirting
And I love your fingers
And I love your boots
And I love your sigh

I love your murmur
And I love your freckles
And I love the way
You say “goodbye”

I love the smell of your skin, in the morning
It excites me, and I want to feel sore
Warm bed, cold air, your hungry stare
Delights me, and now I need some more

I love your scratches
And I love your teasing
And I love your sweat
And I love your voice

I love your riddles
And I love your shivers
And I love your curl
And I love your toys

And seeing blood on your nails just never fails
To appal me, but i still want you to stay
I’m bruised, I’m cut, it ought to hurt, but
You enthral me, and that makes it okay

And please, just believe me, when I say “don’t ever leave me”
Because lying here beside you, is all I want to do

The smell of your skin, in the morning
Excites me, and I want to feel sore
Warm bed, cold air, your hungry stare
Delights me, and now I need some more

Blood on your nails just never fails
To appal me, but I still want you to stay
I’m bruised I’m cut, it ought to hurt, but
You enthral me, and that makes it okay

I love your stubble
I love your navel
I love your frown
I love your heels

I love your lipstick
I love your biting
I love your tongue
And the way it feels

I love your letters
I love your phone calls
I love your hips
Your naked wrists

I love your stories
I love your sisters
I love your tears
I love your breasts

I love your whispers
I love your dancing
I love your thirst
I love your lies

I love your tantrums
I love your perfume
I love your teeth
Your big surprise

I love your bleeding
I love your mischief
I love your eyes
Those things you said

I love your temper
I love your trembling
I love to lie
Here in your bed

I love your stubble
I love your navel
I love your frown
I love your heels

I love your lipstick
I love your biting
I love your tongue
And the way it feels

I love your letters
I love your phone calls
I love your hips
Your naked wrists

I love your stories
I love your sisters
I love your tears
I love your breasts

I love your whispers
I love your dancing
I love your thirst
I love your lies

I love your tantrums
I love your perfume
I love your teeth
Your big surprise

I love your bleeding
I love your mischief
I love your eyes
Those things you said

I love your temper
I love your trembling
I love to lie
Here in your bed

David Gedge and Emma Pollock have rarely sounded better, on this bonus track on the CD version of the single Kerry Kerry, released in 1998.

mp3 : Cinerama – Love

The song is credited to Gedge/Womack. I’ve never been able to find out why and have long assumed that orchestral intro is sampled from something written by either Bobby or Cecil Womack. Anyone got a definitive answer?

(Just realised that I’ve started and ended this posting with questions!!!!!!)

JC

THE JOY OF (a mixed) SEX (duet) : Couple #3

Tindersticks have long been the masters of the great duet, with the baritone and velvety style of vocalist Stewart Staples just lending itself perfectly to contributions from a wide range of female companions on record. There have been a number of such recordings over the years, most of which have reflected on the inability of couples to get on.

One of their earliest releases, in 1993, was A Marriage Made in Heaven, on which there was a guest appearance from Niki Sin, from the English riot grrrl band Huggy Bear, while a later version of the same song featured the Italian actress Isabella Rossellini.

Carla Togerson, from the American indie-folk band The Walkabouts, was mournful on Travelling Light on the band’s second album released in 1995; the next album (Curtains, 1997) saw American actress Ann Magnuson join in on Buried Bones and then, in 2003, possibly what had been, up to then, the best of the duets thanks to the wry and observant contribution by American vocalist Lhasa de Sela

mp3 : Tindersticks – Sometimes It Hurts

And then in 2016, this appeared on the album The Waiting Room:-

mp3 : Tindersticks  – Hey Lucinda (featuring Lhasa de Sela)

This was something really unexpected as Lhasa had passed away, at the tragically young age of 37, back on New Year’s Day 2010 after a near two-year battle with breast cancer.

Stuart Staples, in an interview in 2016, provided an explanation:-

“When I first wrote the song, I was very excited because I broke a kind of stricture.”

“From ‘Islands in the Stream’ to Lee [Hazlewood] and Nancy [Sinatra], duets have been written the same way. The man sings a bit, the woman sings a bit, they sing the chorus together. In ‘Hey Lucinda,’ the music follows the conversation rather than the conversation being fit into the song structure. I went to Montreal, where Lhasa lived, and sang it with her, and it sounded great, but I was struggling—it was too linear, and when it feels too easy I don’t trust it. Soon after that, Lhasa became ill and we lost her, and I had to put the song away.”

“It took three or four years before I could listen to her music again, but I heard it then as a lost moment between two people rather than the song I’d been struggling with. I was able to feel the music in a very different way. Turns out it just needed a glockenspiel.”

Wow.

JC

THE JOY OF (a mixed) SEX (duet) : Couple #2

Some seven years after bursting onto the scene and being labelled as one of the key members of the ‘shoegazing’ scene, Lush released an album that was a real surprise and delight.

Lovelife hit the shops in March 1996. It came on the back of two ridiculously catchy singles, Single Girl and Ladykillers, that had raised the profile of the band to a new height. It was as indie-pop (of its time) as could be, with catchy choruses and hooks amidst rhythmic guitars that demanded you get on the floor and dance. It would become one of the defining releases of the Britpop era, and unlike many others, it has dated very well. One of its many highlights is this:-

mp3 : Lush (featuring Jarvis Cocker) – Ciao!

This was a time when many scenesters were namechecking Lee Hazelwood as an influence, often mentioning his duets with Nancy Sinatra as being among their favourite songs when they were growing up. Miki Berenyi and Jarvis Cocker really do channel their Nancy and Lee desires with a magnificently bitter song in which the two protagonists are absolutely delighted the relationship is finally over, both wondering why it took them so long and choosing to exit by throwing poisonous barbs at one another before the sign-off:-

Well, I’ve been in heaven since I walked away
I never thought that I could feel as great as I do today
‘Cause you were nothing but a waste of space
And life is wonderful now that I’m over you

It would have made for a great single but maybe Lush were a bit concerned they would be accused of jumping on the Pulp bandwagon as it was the period when the latter were enjoying, (if that’s the right word given what they did next), unprecedented chart success with Top 10 singles and millions of sales for the album Different Class.

As it turned out, when the time came, in 2001, for 4AD to release a ‘Best Of’ for Lush, it was decided to name the album Ciao! and to include it in the tracklisting.

JC

THE JOY OF (a mixed) SEX (duet) : Couple #1

It’s a busy time for me just now, so this week will see five very short posts, all dedicated to bringing you the joy of a mixed-sex duet, the first of which will feature two singers brought together especially for the purpose while the others will see someone come in and guest with the band.

mp3 : Deborah Harry and Iggy Pop – Well, Did You Evah!

A song which was written 80 years ago by Cole Porter, initially for the Broadway musical DuBarry Was a Lady, it is best known from its inclusion in the 1956 hit film High Society, in which it was sung by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

Fast forward to 1990 when the Red Hot Organization, a not-for-profit international organization with the aim of using pop and entertainment to dedicated to fighting AIDS, decided that the first of its efforts should be Red Hot + Blue in which modern-era pop stars did cover versions of Cole Porter songs. It was the a fine idea and for the most part it worked well, with something for everyone within its 20 tracks.

Deborah and Iggy are clearly having a swell and elegant time on this one. It’s fun with a gigantic capital F. The lyrics are reasonably similar to that written all those years by Cole Porter, but there’s a fair amount of hamming improvisation as well that just adds to things, with digs at LA scenesters, a ridiculous amount of flirting between la Harry and le Pop and the final sign-off where the man in the leather trousers is told to sling his hook.

Most of the songs on Red Hot + Blue had specially shot promo videos thus enabling the album to be promoted as a documentary feature on television stations the world over.

This particular promo was the work of Alex Cox, the UK director who had made a name for himself in the 80s initially through the cult classic Repo Man (for which Iggy Pop had supplied the title track) and then at the helm of Sid and Nancy, the biopic that told a version of the tale of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Part 6)

Last week’s posting took us up to April 1981 and Arista Records very belatedly releasing Celebrate despite the fact Simple Minds were now part of Virgin Records and in the studio recording their next album (part of the deal to enable the band to leave Arista was an agreement that the songs from the era of the first three albums stayed behind with the band losing control).

One month later, the first 45 under the new arrangements hit the shops:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – The American
mp3 : Simple Minds – League of Nations

It wasn’t part of the original plan to release anything on Virgin as early as May 1981, but there was a great deal of anger and resentment about what Arista had done in issuing Celebrate, as well as the fear that a further single could be issued at any point in time. It was about drawing attention to the fact Simple Minds had moved on and were, again, exploring and recording slightly different sounds in the studio. The American was one of the earliest tracks to be completed that was felt had some sort of commercial potential and so it came out on 7” and 12” vinyl. The band, however, were still very busy in the studio with new producer Steve Hillage and there was no time available to shoot any promo video, a situation that hindered getting maximum exposure for the new song.

It’s a single I fell in love with immediately. It fitted in perfectly with the increasing popularity in electronica dance here in the UK, and was a piece of music that sounded equally as good coming out of your radio as it did blasting through the speakers at the under-18s disco I frequented at weekends. It’s one that, nowadays, certainly in its 12″ form sounds just a little bit more dated than others – a mix which at the time seemed almost revolutionary now sounds very gimmicky and of its time – and this is perhaps a reflection of it being rushed a bit so as to be in the shops. One of the things I most loved, and still do about it, is Derek Forbes‘ bass playing bring such a tribute to that of Barry Adamson from his Magazine days.

The b-side was a new, near-instrumental number which showed that the band were still capable of making atmospheric almost experimental music amidst the new more pop-orientated approach.

The American didn’t really trouble the charts, reaching only #59.

JC