MY ALL TIME TOP 10 SINGLES : HAND IN GLOVE by THE SMITHS

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The position of this song in the chart down at #7 will come as a shock to many regular readers and to those who have known me for many years. There’s at least one mate who tipped it to be #1….

I was fortunate enough to be around when The Smiths first came to prominence. They remain my all-time favourite band, and I don’t think they will ever lose that particular mantle however long I manage to live.

I was present at their first ever gig in Scotland – at the Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow on Saturday 2nd March 1984. This was a truly astonishing night in a small student-venue that was packed to the rafters. It was very hot, sweaty and tightly-packed and it is probably the nearest I’ve ever came to passing-out at a concert.

The Smiths had not long cracked the Top 20 with their third single What Difference Does It Make?, while their recently-released debut LP had gone Top 10. So they were hardly a secret.

The venue was woefully inadequate for the demand for tickets, and there were dozens of folk outside pleading for the lucky few to sell for way over the cost (which I can’t recall, but was no more than £4 or £5). The level of expectancy was enormous, and the build-up to the band taking the stage bordered on insane hysteria. I’d never experienced anything like it beforehand, and never again since (although the first five minutes down the front of the Morrissey ‘comeback gig’ at the MEN Arena in 2003 came awfully close).

Steven, Johnny, Mike and Andy took to the stage to a crescendo of noise – I was worried that the crowd was so loud that we wouldn’t hear anything above it. The opening notes of Hand In Glove were struck – if anything this only cranked up the atmosphere. The one song that those of us who had been in from the start adored above all else – the song that had been the flop single with the controversial nude male on the sleeve – and the song that seemed more than anything to sum-up what was a truly unique relationship between the band and its fans.

And that is why Hand In Glove is my all time favourite single by my all time favourite band.

And because it is my favourite, I was prepared to pay a fair amount of money to pick up a mint copy of the single on e-bay as a replacement for the one lost all those years ago in Edinburgh. Let’s face it, the b-side, which to my knowledge has never appeared on any subsequent compilation, is every bit as amazing:-

mp3 : The Smiths – Hand In Glove
mp3 : The Smiths – Handsome Devil (live at The Hacienda)

As with The Wedding Present, there would have been multiple entries for The Smiths in this chart were it not for the one single per artist rule that I set. In fact as much as one-quarter of the chart could have been a Morrissey/Marr compilation.

I surprised myself when I identified six other 45s that were even more of a favourite than this.

You’ll soon learn what they are over the coming days, but I suspect that many of you will be beginning to narrow it down pretty accurately.

Enjoy.

MY ALL TIME TOP 10 SINGLES : KENNEDY by THE WEDDING PRESENT

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I came late to The Wedding Present.

I didn’t listen to their early stuff simply because everyone in the press was touting them as the natural successors to the recently disbanded The Smiths, and I just didn’t want to know. I was able to do so, simply because the band got next to no radio play other than late at night, and this was a period of great change in my life when I was never listening to the likes of John Peel.

So, for the best part of four years, my knowledge of the band was restricted to what I read and not what I heard. I do remember being amused that a band from Leeds would release an LP named after the greatest footballer ever to wear the shirt of Manchester United, given the animosity between their fans and those of Leeds United. Still didn’t make me buy it though..

Sometime in 1989, on one Sunday evening, the radio was on as the latest singles chart was being rundown. That was when I first heard a song by The Wedding Present. It was called Kennedy, and it was (as I’ve since discovered from research) a new entry at #33. It was loud, it was frantic, it was joyous and it was something that I immediately fell in love with.

And with that, I became a convert to the church of David Gedge, and I’ve been a faithful member ever since. I’m a regular attendee at the places of worship (ie gigs), and I’ll also contribute as and when required to the coffers (ie records, t-shirts, videos, CDs, etc).

There can’t be all that many indie-bands still going strong 20+ years after their initial formation. OK, so I know that TWP took a short break and turned into Cinerama, and also that for a substantial part of their career they were on major labels such as RCA and Island Records. But you can’t really categorise them as anything other than indie…

There have been 37 singles and 9 original LPs, as well as 15 compilation/live LPs over the years (info correct as at June 2008!!!).

That must be something in the region of 300 songs – and very few of these, even the most obscure of b-sides, have ever been total duffers. They’re also a band with a love for cover versions, with around 50 or so being widely available now thanks to the relatively recent release of all the Peel Sessions in a boxset. And every one of those covers, whether it’s a pop, soul, blues, rock, country or disco classic sounds instinctively like a Wedding Present original.

But I still don’t think they’ve ever bettered the song that first made my ears prick up and listen. Even now, almost 20 years on it remains a live favourite, although David now always follows it up with a slow-tempo number so that the old folk jumping around down the front get their breath back and avoid the risk of a permanent injury. None of us are as young or fit as we once were, and pogo-ing up and down is, at best, achievable for a maximum of 5 minutes at one stretch.

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Kennedy
mp3 : The Wedding Present – One Day All This Will All Be Yours
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Unfaithful
mp3 : The Wedding Present – It’s Not Unusual *

* Yes, the Tom Jones song…..

Incidentally, if this series didn’t have the restriction of one song by one act, there would have been at least another 4 TWP singles right in there…

MY ALL TIME TOP 10 SINGLES : PARTY FEARS TWO by ASSOCIATES

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Dave and The Cat, the two bright lads behind the Jock’n’Roll website came up with the brilliant concept a couple of years back to try and find out what was the best ever Scottish single by asking folk to send in their Top 10s by e-mail.

The idea proved incredibly popular as sad blokes like me sent in lists that made the case for long-forgotten tracks by equally long-forgotten acts. The rules were pretty easy and straightforward – the songs in question had to have been a single and the act had to have been Scottish.

This didn’t stop your humble scribe falling foul of the rules – I was certain that Musette and Drums by The Cocteau Twins had been a single or at the very least part of an EP, and so put it forward within my particular 10. I was completely wrong – it was only ever an LP track, and so I was invited to re-submit.

As for whether an act was Scottish or not, this was entirely down to Dave and The Cat. For instance, Lloyd Cole (born in Derby) was allowed in on the basis that the remainder of the Commotions were Scottish. Rod Stewart (born London) was not allowed in despite most Americans believing he was the most famous Scottish singer on the planet.

Before long, some newspapers and radio stations picked up on what was happening and the boys began to began to be interviewed about things. What seemed to most get the attention of the media was the fact that the song destined to be #1 was wholly unexpected.

I’m not sure if the majority of those who voted in the Jock’n’Roll poll actually chose Party Fears Two as their all time #1 Scottish single. However, I would place a very large wager that maybe as many as 75-80% of voters will have found a spot for it somewhere in their Top 10 thus giving it more than enough votes overall to take the top position.

There’s just something about Associates and Billy MacKenzie that makes people get all nostalgic and proud that they and he came from Scotland. When the band seemingly burst onto the scene out of nowhere in 1982, it was with songs that were genuinely unlike anything else you had ever heard. Even all these years later, the stuff still sounds incredibly vibrant, fresh and unique, and very difficult to categorise. It’s just so much easier to have a listen to the breakthrough single and its b-side (which is a different version from that on the LP Sulk) :-

mp3 : Associates – Party Fears Two
mp3 : Associates – It’s Better This Way

Billy had a mischievous wit and charm that endeared him to his fans. He always seemed to have a twinkle in his eye whenever he was on TV. This was a band that seemingly wanted to put fun back into pop music without diluting its quality. The appearances on Top Of The Pops soon became must see affairs, culminating in one time where Alan Rankine turned up with a chocolate guitar (£2,000 from Harrods) and broke it up into pieces to give to the audience while Billy and the others mimed away trying to avoid getting a fit of the giggles.

And although the band were based out of necessity in London, Billy in particular seemed to love just taking the piss out the capital and talked lovingly of his home country, and in particular his home city of Dundee.

You couldn’t help but like Alan and Billy as people – the fact that they were making incredible music was an amazing bonus.

Having discovered them via the hit singles, it was easy to see by delving into the back catalogue that the poppy stuff wasn’t typical of the band. Where they went from here was always going to be interesting. Sadly, 1982 with its hit singles and the consequent masterpiece LP was the last Associates work that the duo produced.

Alan chose to leave the band but Billy carried on, drafting in other musicians to work alongside.

It’s all too evident more than 25 years later to realise just how integral Alan was to the sound and look of Associates. There was also a particular chemistry between him and Billy that was never ever recaptured in full, despite an awful lot of the post-Sulk recordings being tremendous pieces of work with some amazing vocals from Billy.

January 2007 was the 10th anniversary of the death of Billy Mackenzie, and I paid a long tribute to the man in the pages of this blog. At the time, I said his legacy is a volume of work that has highs and lows, albeit one that is dominated by that 1982/83 era of Sulk. Even if that had been the only LP he had ever made, Billy would still be a legend in pop music. I stand by that statement……

2013 Update

I’ve since been fortunate enough to get myself along to Little League, the club nights organised by John Hunt of Butcher Boy and quite often he brings the five hours of his perfectly constructed set-list to an end with Party Fears Two.  It always fills the floor and it’s quite clear that it is regarded by many whose tastes go beyond mere X-Factor and karaoke type acts as being the greatest and most original single ever to have come out of Scotland.

I’ve also since picked up a 12″ version of the single:-

mp3 : Associates – Party Fears Two (12″ version)

MY ALL TIME TOP 10 SINGLES : SUNKISSED by FRIENDS AGAIN

With apologies to readers of old….

Back in 2008 over at the old place I put together something called 45 45s at 45 in which I listed, in some detail, my all time favourite singles culminating in the #1 being revealed on the day of my 45th birthday. The only rules were that I had to have bought the single on its release and that each act was restricted to a sole appearance in the rundown

I recently went back and had a look at the series and decided that, five and bit years on, the Top 10 hasn’t changed at all. There have been some great 45s released in recent years but they’ve said nothing to me about my life and so haven’t cracked the higher echelons of my personal chart. And so, for the next 2 weeks, partly to allow me to put up a bundle of advance postings while I’m really really busy at work and getting home so late that I’m unable to do much with the blog, I’m re-posting the Top 10 in its entirety.

Which means I must also offer a huge apology to fans of the South-West correspondent as his series goes on hold for 2 weeks….but believe me, his comeback post is an absolute belter.

Anyways as I was saying:-

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I spent four years of my life at University at the start of the 80s. I suppose I did what I was supposed to do in that I ended up with a degree that got me into meaningful employment, but I also was able, to use the ad man’s phrase, live life to the max and broaden my horizons in many aspects of life. Including music.

The band that I most associate with those happy days are in the chart at #10.

Friends Again weren’t around for all that long, forming in 1982 and breaking-up in 1984, having released just a handful of singles and one LP, and never making the breakthrough that so many fans and indeed their major record label expected.

I first came across the band when they played a gig at the Students Union at Strathclyde University. I was immediately grabbed by the sound of the band, and in particular the guitar playing of James Grant and the talents of Paul McGeechan on keyboards. And then there was front-man and vocalist Chris Thompson – cool as fuck was the phrase that came to mind, with a vocal style that was a cross between Motherwell and Memphis. Stuart Kerr on drums and Neil Cunningham on bass were a more than half-decent rhythm section too.

Before long, I was tracking down their singles, as indeed seemed to be just about everyone else I socialised with. Their initial single, Honey At The Core, was released on a local label, and sold in more than enough quantities to entice Phonogram Records to offer the band a deal.

Those of us who had seen the band a few times were delighted with the song chosen for the second single, Sunkissed, as it was always the highlight of the live set. It surely wouldn’t be too long before the boys were regulars on Top of The Pops….

But it flopped. As did a third single called State of Art.

All three singles had been more or less produced by the band themselves, and Phonogram decided that it needed to bring in someone who had a track record in the production stakes. So the boys were teamed up with Bob Sargeant who had worked with the likes of The Beat and Haircut 100, and went to work on the debut LP. The label also brought in Tom Verlaine ex- main man of legendary US art-rockers Television to work with the boys, while also allowing them to produce some stuff themselves. It was all a bit of a recipe for disaster as it turns out…

The early singles and the live performances showed Friends Again as a band who could throw in all sorts of music into the mix and sound fresh. There was some jingly-jangly stuff so reminiscent of the Postcard bands, there was a bit of funk/soul, there were more than a fair amount of country/folk songs with acoustic guitars, and of course there was a bunch of hugely dynamic and catch pop-songs that had so enticed the record label.

Sadly, the LP which emerged blinking into the bright sunlight – Trapped and Unwrapped – spectacularly failed to capture all of this. In this case, it is very easy enough to put the blame on the record label. Three of the twelve songs on the LP were vastly inferior re-recordings – Honey At The Core and Sunkissed, as well as Lucky Star (originally the b-side to Honey At The Core). Many of the other songs, loved and adored in the live setting, seemed stripped of their vitality. The acoustic songs were the only ones that escaped unscathed – proof that this was a record that was quite literally, over-produced. There was even a horn section deployed on some of the songs…

There is no doubt the band were bitterly upset at what was foisted on the record-buying public. Two further singles taken directly from the LP also flopped (the highest chart position reached was a very lowly #60), so the label, in desperation, re-released a remixed version of one of the earlier singles. It also flopped.

The band was very obviously despondent about the ways things had turned out – live shows became less dynamic and they seemed to be going through the motions. The buzz surrounding them had also gone, and where venues had once been packed, they were now half-empty.

I was at the last gig that Friends Again played, although I didn’t know it at the time. It was at a very small students’ union at Bell College in Hamilton, a town some 12 miles south-east of Glasgow, and not that far from where the band members had grown up. It was another lacklustre affair, not helped by a lack of chemistry on stage. Here was a band seriously pissed off with life and seemingly with one another. It might even have been the following day that Friends Again broke up…

James Grant and Paul McGeechan quickly went on to form pop/soul act Love and Money , while Stuart Kerr was soon on TOTP as the stickman in the first version of Texas with their massive hit I Don’t Want A Lover. Neil Cunningham went into artiste management.

Chris Thompson to all intent and purposes became a solo act under the name The Bathers, and ploughed a lone furrow akin to the softer side of Friends Again to much critical acclaim but little commercial success. Interestingly enough, when Love and Money also failed to really hit the big-time, James Grant embarked on a solo-career that was based on acoustic folk/country songs…

There are many hundreds if not thousands of bands with a story that is similar to that of Friends Again. They quickly get a local following that is hyped a little, they soon sign a deal with the devil and then are discarded when success isn’t immediate.

For years, the recordings by Friends Again were very difficult to get – it was mostly just vinyl as Trapped and Unwrapped initially had a limited CD release. And if it was available, it tended to be second-hand, or on import and expensive. But back in 2007 it was given a budget re-release, with the bonus that it contained the original recordings of Honey At The Core and Sunkissed instead of the re-recorded versions which means it’s bit easier to get a hold of the song that is #10 in the rundown:-

mp3 : Friends Again – Sunkissed

And for a bit of fun, here’s the b-side and the 12” extended version as well:-

mp3 : Friends Again – Dealing In Silver
mp3 : Friends Again – Sunkissed (12″)

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 46-50)

Back on 8 October 2011, I started a series called ‘Saturday’s Scottish Single’.  The aim was to feature one 45 or CD single by a Scottish singer or band with the proviso that the 45 or CD single was in the collection. I had got to Part 60-something and as far as Kid Canaveral when the rug was pulled out from under TVV.

I’ll catch up soon enough by featuring 5 or more at a time from the archives..

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(46) Endgames – We Feel Good (Future’s Looking Fine)  b/w Darkness : Mercury Records 7″ (1982)

Read more about Endgames here.

 

(47) Finley Quaye – Your Love Gets Sweeter (The Abbey Road Version) b/w Your Love Gets Sweeter (Album Version) b/w  Everybody Knows b/w Le Saint Des Delinquents : Epic Records : CD Single (1998)

Read more about Finley Quaye here

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(48) Fire Engines –  Big Gold Dream b/w New Thing In Cartons b/w Sympathetic Anaesthetic :  Pop Aural 12″ single (1981)

Read more about Fire Engines here

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(49) Foil – Reviver Gene b/w Sedate Me 13th Hour Recordings CD single (1997)

This is where I get pissed off that the old blog was so unceremoniously removed.  While I can get sight of, and cut’n’paste maybe around one-third of the old posts, it turns out that the ones that mean so much are the ones I can’t track down.  So it is with the original words that accompanied the posting on 14 January 2013.  Words penned by Hugh Duggie, the fromt man of Foil and a dear friend of Jacques the Kipper.

Instead you’ll need to make do with this:-

Foil were a guitar-pop band from West Lothian, Scotland; Their original lineup featured vocalist/guitarist Hugh Duggie, guitarist Colin McInally, bassist Shug Anderson, and drummer Jim Anderson. The group played its first gig at London’s Underworld in February 1996 and were immediately signed by 13th Hour, releasing the single “Reviver Gene” in July; however, the song did not really receive much airplay until its re-release in November 1997. The group’s debut album, Spread It All Around, was released in January 1998. In mid-2000, Foil issued follow-up LP Never Get Hip and broke up not long afterwards.

PS : It’s the November re-release that’s been posted. Cracking indie-rock single that has huge American influences…

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(50) Franz Ferdinand – Darts Of Pleasure b/w Van Tango b/w  Shopping For Blood : Domino CD single (2003)

I still love this debut single.  The b-sides are also hugely enjoyable and less commercial than the stuff that brought them success.

Parts  51-55 next Saturday…..

WHEN BARNEY MET JOHNNY AND THEY TEAMED UP WITH NEIL

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Proof that supergroups sometimes do work:-

mp3 : Electronic – Getting Away With It

The debut single. Hugely anticipated on release it didn’t disappoint.  Reviews were almost universally and deservedly positive:-

NME  :  “The most complete pop record of the week, by an infinite margin… A lovely airy melody drifts in and out of the song; gently weighted with obtuse, lovelorn one-liners… The record somehow manages to be much more than the sum of its parts and stubbornly refuses to give up its element of mystery”

Sounds :  “It’s nothing shocking, nothing that surprising, it’s just that every time you think you’re tired of it you can’t help flipping back the stylus to catch that chorus”.

Over the next decade or so, Electronic would write and record some brilliant dance music with some of the best guitar work that Johnny Marr ever laid down.  But they never again got as close again to the sound of Italian House that was all the rage for a while at the end of the 80s.

The orchestral arrangement came courtesy of Anne Dudley of The Art Of Noise, the full effect of which can be heard on the extended version:-

mp3 : Electronic – Getting Away With It (Extended)

The b-side is total house music and was for a number of years uses as the theme tune for a football highlights programme here in Scotland:-

mp3 : Electronic – Lucky Bag

A #12 hit in the UK, I’d guess that out with New Order this may well have been the biggest selling single ever released on Factory.

Enjoy

BLUE JEANS AND CHINOS; COKE, PEPSI AND OREOS (Part 2)

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Lazy post today.  Words straight from wiki:-

Jonathan Fire*Eater was a New York City-based indie rock band originally from Washington DC. The line-up was Stewart Lupton (vocals), Tom Frank (bass), Paul Maroon (guitar and pedal steel), Matt Barrick (drums), and Walter Martin (organs, keyboards). 

Jonathan Fire*Eater was formed from a childhood band called The Ignobles. All the members of Jonathan Fire*Eater attended high school at the D.C. private school St. Albans School. Lupton, Martin, and Barrick formed the Ignobles in junior high school. Maroon joined as the guitarist and Ryan Cheney signed on as the vocalist. Lupton played bass. In 1993, the members went to college, mostly in New York City, and Jonathan Fire*Eater was formed with Cheney departing and later joining The Ruby Dare and Lupton taking over vocal duties. St. Albans alum Tom Frank joined as a new bassist.

In 1995, they released their eponymous debut on Tucson, Arizona’s Third World Underground Records, which featured “The Silver Surfer”, “Romans & Barbarians”, “Christmas Time, Halloween”, and other tracks. Later that year, a self-titled EP on PCP established their reputation with the frenetic tracks “The Public Hanging of a Movie Star” and “When Prince Was a Kid”.

In 1996, the five-song mini-album Tremble Under Boom Lights was released by the Medicine label, featuring well-produced offers like “The Search for Cherry Red” and “Give Me Daughters”. Reviews were positive, with Allmusic.com describing Tremble as “a ferocious record” despite its “minor flaws.” By this time, the band was receiving considerable media and industry attention. They were courted by Calvin Klein to model and opened for Brit Pop stars Pulp and Blur. As Lupton said in a 1996 New York Times Magazine profile, “Right now the record companies are sort of circling like vultures.”

In early 1997, Jonathan Fire*Eater signed with David Geffen’s nascent DreamWorks music label. Their major label debut, Wolf Songs for Lambs, was released by DreamWorks in 1997 to tepid critical response. Not long after the album’s release, tensions between Lupton and the other members and a general wariness of mainstream success led to the band’s breakup. They played their last show at the Central Park bandshell on July 28, 1998.

Jonathan Fire*Eater was called “most hyped young group that nobody has ever heard of,”

Maroon, Barrick, and Martin later went on to form The Walkmen and Lupton has pursued his music career through his band The Childballads, who put out their debut album in January 2007. The latter has toured with Cat Power and the Kills. In 2009 he released an EP in a new band, The Beatin’s, which he formed with Carole Wagner Greenwood. Entitled “A Little Give And Take,” the limited edition vinyl included Lupton’s poetry and the duo’s art and writing. Tom Frank pursued a career in journalism as T.A. Frank.

Me ?  Well I’ve got a copy of Tremble Under Boom Lights and then a later single entitled When The Curtain Calls For You. There’s some half-decent tunes to be found.  I’m fond of these in particular:-

mp3 : Jonathan Fire*Eater – The Search For Cherry Red

mp3 : Jonathan Fire*Eater – Give Me Daughters

mp3 : Jonathan Fire*Eater – When Prince Was A Kid

Enjoy

IN PRAISE OF EMMA POLLOCK

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Last Friday night I was lucky enough to find myself on the guest list for an event that was part of the 2013 Spree Festival in Paisley, some ten miles south-west of Glasgow.  It was a night put together by Chemikal Underground Records and featured a line-up of Emma Pollock, Miaoux Miaoux and RM Hubbert with all three acts being backed by the talented Cairn String Quartet.  It was an exceptional night in front of a hugely appreciative and attentive audience inside a Spiegeltent (nobody talked while the acts performed – a real rarity) and I’d be hard pushed to say which of the three I most enjoyed – if a gun was held to my head then I’d probably go for the incredibly danceable Miaoux Miaoux whose performance was the most surprising.

But it was great to see Emma Pollock back on a stage again and to hear some new material which hopefully means she will soon be coaxed back into a studio in the not too distant future.  For those of you not in the know, Emma was one-quarter of The Delgados and post break-up has released two excellent LPs full of pop, indie and folk influences as well as involving herself in a number of side-projects with all sorts of talented Scottish musicians.  In addition to her own short set last Friday we were treated to a duet with RM Hubbert, or Hubby as he is being increasingly better known in the music world.

Here’s some examples of Emma’s marvellous songs:-

mp3 : The Delgados – Pull The Wires From The Walls (Peel Session)

mp3 : Emma Pollock – Adrenaline

And while I’m here, there’s a song on which she collaborated with David Gedge:-

mp3 : Cinerama – Ears

But prepare to be blown away by the duet with Hubby which brought down the roof on the Spiegeltent:-

mp3 : RM Hubbert & Emma Pollock – Half Light (live at the Aberfeldy Distillery)

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT….WHAT’S IN YOUR BOX (7)

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Dear Reader how I wanted it to be.I opened the case, stuck it in the player and with my fingers crossed (ever tried putting a CD in player with your fingers crossed, its hard work), I prayed to all of the available deities, supreme beings and immortal overlords/ladies that may or may not exist that are available on a Thursday morning to work their magic. They failed me. Every. Single. One. Even Gavin the God of Biscuits.

This is not, to great regret, Frank Black from the Pixies doing a cover version of the jiggytastic Will Smith classic, Men In Black. I can’t describe how disappointed I was not to hear Frank growl :-

Uh../Here come the Men in Black/It’s the M.I.B.’s, uhh, here come the M.I.B.’s/Here come the Men in Black/ They won’t let you remember/Nah nah nah

What you get instead if Frank singing about” Dinner plates and the shapes of cucumbers” as you would probably expect from Frank Black.

mp3 : Frank Black – Men In Black

About half an hour later I remembered that Frank had a lengthy solo career away from the Pixies (in fact far more prolific as a solo artist) and that this ONLY solo stuff by him that I have. This single came from his third solo album The Cult of Ray. The album was supposedly different from Franks other solo efforts in that it was recorded live but like much of Frank’s other solo efforts, it wasn’t commercially that successful (I’m beginning to see a theme running through this box, critically lauded records, largely ignored by the record buying public) but the stripped down approach did continue through several of his next releases.

You would be a brave person to state that Frank Black solo is better than the Pixies. He isn’t and this single is nowhere as good as the majority of the Pixies back catalogue. It is however a pretty good song and it’s certainly worth four minutes of your life listening to it.

So for the debate – singers who have gone solo that have released records better than they did when they were in a band. Morrissey doesn’t count, his solo records are terrible and deep in your hearts you all know that. It may be the lack of tea but the only one I can think of right now is Sophie Ellis Bextor.  Murder on the Dancefloor was miles better than anything than her band thaudience ever released.

JC adds…..

After all that I wrote yesterday, there’s no way I can accept SWC’s take on Morrissey.  His solo career has had plenty of wonderful moments interspersed with some disappointing material, and I’m happy to argue that Vauxhall and I is up there with The Smiths LPs.

As for any others whose solo material is better than from their band days……that’s a cracking one to ponder.  Off the top of my head I thought of Peter Gabriel and then there’s one of my cult heroes Adam Stafford whose solo stuff is superior and hugely different from his beginnings with Y’All Is Fantasy Island (but that’s an opinion in which I might well be in a minority).  Julian Cope is another worth thinking about……

I had to dig deep for others……Bjork up against Sugarcubes is one worth debating.   Neil Young is worth a shout.  Another one that could be argued is Norman Cook with some thinking Fatboy Slim is superior to The Housemartins (not me though!).  Richard Hawley emerged from Longpigs to great acclaim…

One that I would argue for, perhaps controversially is Paul Haig whose 25 years of solo material far outweighs three singles and an LP by Josef K.

Any thoughts dear readers?

AUTOBIOGRAPHY by MORRISSEY

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Purchased at 6pm last Thursday night, and tucked into straight away.  I managed 300 pages in a marathon session that very night, got through another 50 the following night before heading out to a gig with the final 100 taken early on Saturday morning before the rest of the day was dominated by football.  I’ve now woke up Sunday morning determined to compose my own thoughts all the while making sure I don’t venture to see what others have made of it.

Autobiography by Morrissey is unlike any other book of its type that I’ve come across with its entire contents having no chapters or an index.  A stroke of genius if you ask me given that many a reader would likely have gone straight to the chapters about The Smiths or looked to the back of the book for a name or subject matter and gone straight there.

So everyone has to make a start where it all began, which was Manchester, England on 22 May 1959.  The opening 150 or so pages consist of a fascinating, superbly written account of growing up in a working-class family in a working-class part of a working-class city. Many of the words brought back long-forgotten memories of my own childhood – such as the coal fire and the dangers from it – and it also got me thinking how, in less than half a century, the whole nature of how raising children has changed beyond recognition.

Morrissey’s childhood isn’t dominated solely by his own parents or siblings but by his extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. What stands out by a country mile is just how many strong and resourceful women there were surrounding the young Morrissey and the lack of any obvious male role-models.  He himself hints that this led to a spoiled and somewhat sheltered existence in his formative years.

In many ways this is the best bit of the book, probably in as much that it reveals much more than was previously known and is so expertly crafted that that I had devoured two-thirds of the book in a single sitting late into the night, and indeed the early hours of the following morning , without realising the time.

Morrissey’s account of his self-confessed miserable late-teenage years don’t come across as self-pitying  – yes, he does stray into being a tad pretentious occasionally, but for 99% of the time he is hugely entertaining and more often self-deprecating. We do learn however, that there were a number of tragedies that befell the young Morrissey as he was growing up, with the loss of a number of family members and close friends having a huge impact, so perhaps his morose manner was more justified than you’d previously have imagined.

Johnny Marr bursts onto the scene almost one-third of the way through the book.  The story of The Smiths is handled in not much more than 50 pages, so anyone looking for an in-depth study of what made the band tick or juicy gossip about the sudden and painful break-up will be disappointed.  But Geoff Travis of Rough Trade probably won’t be all that comfortable reading it….and hip fans of The Smiths might be stunned to learn that A-Ha were among the favourite other acts of Morrissey and Marr.

On that first night, I finally put the book down at the first mention of the court case brought against him in 1996 by Mike Joyce.  As I switched the light off, I thought to myself that I was reading a very entertaining and less bitter book than I had imagined.  I was taking some of the things with a pinch of salt….having read many other books about The Smiths and more general books about indie-pop in the 80s, I knew that this book was simply Morrissey’s take on things and wasn’t always the full extent of what had actually taken place or had been the outcome of one action or another.

Picking things up on Friday night after work I was stunned to discover that the court case took up almost as many pages in the book as had the career of The Smiths.  There is real venom within many of these passages, most of it directed at Judge John Weeks, Mike Joyce and his legal representatives (particularly the barrister Nigel Davis) with the occasional swipe at Johnny Marr. Readers are left in doubt that this entire episode has caused Morrissey enormous pain and left him feeling very vulnerable, and not just financially.   Morrissey repeatedly implies that the judge was using the case to even up old scores on behalf of society – and reading the extracts of the summing up and some of the logic applied it is hard not to sympathise with the author.

Some might say that this section of the book is far too long and convoluted and out of sync with the rest of a general autobiography.

But in defence, I’m recalling the approved biography of a politician that I know very well, written in the aftermath of what had been a protracted and messy legal matter (one in which, unlike Morrissey, this politician emerged triumphant) and again a very substantial chunk of the book is dedicated to the legal battles.  It was the one and only time the politician had to fully set the record straight from his point of view and similarly for Morrissey in his autobiography.

I’m not convinced in terms of the court case that Morrissey tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth but it’s certainly how he remembers it and how it all panned out has and continues to have a huge psychological impact on him. Some of the words used by Judge Weeks will haunt Morrissey to his grave….oh and having read this part of the book I think we can all now forever give up on dreaming of a full reunion of The Smiths….

That section over, I headed out to a gig (more on that later in the week) which meant putting the book down just as Morrissey picked himself up by leaving England to live in Los Angeles.  There’s about 25 pages covering the wilderness years with no record deal before the closing 80-odd pages cover from the recording of You Are The Quarry in 2003 right through to a final paragraph describing a scene in December 2011.  It’s a breathless description of seemingly never-ending world tours in which Morrissey finds ever-increasing numbers of new devotees, often in countries where he least expects it (after all, he is a well-know racist….) and muses how as he gets older his audiences at the front of what are often chaotic, energetic and frantic gigs, get younger and younger and younger.

The book also allows Morrissey to take the opportunity to air his views on a whole range of issues but primarily the British monarchy,  Margaret Thatcher and animal rights.  There are references to relationships that he’s had throughout his life but no salacious details are revealed.  Quite a few well-known names are savaged, some more cruelly and viciously than others. And there’s a number of eyebrow-raising moments in a ‘well-I-never’ sort of way, such a the A-ha fandom and that It was John Walters and not John Peel who was the true champion of the early meteoric rise of The Smiths. Oh and Morrissey once seriously thought of fathering a child………….and there’s a genuinely creepy ghost story contained within the pages.

I approached Autobiography with some trepidation as I feared it would simply be 457 pages of Morrissey getting to even-up old scores.  My fears were banished by the beautifully, vivid descriptions of his early life and from then on in I was hooked.  There’s been some controversy over the fact that it’s been published under the canon of Penguin Classics, but for my money that’s just a brilliant bit of marketing, as is the fact it’s been made instantly available in paperback at a very affordable price and not as an expensive hard-back.  This book is filled with humour, love, hate, tenderness and bitterness in the same way as so many of his best lyrics.  It was time that the tale was told and if I may be allowed to quote the Bard of Barking, the boy done good.

mp3 : The Smiths – Reel Around The Fountain (Peel Session)

mp3 : Morrissey –  That’s How People Grow Up

Enjoy

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Parts 41-45)

Back on 8 October 2011, I started a series called ‘Saturday’s Scottish Single’.  The aim was to feature one 45 or CD single by a Scottish singer or band with the proviso that the 45 or CD single was in the collection. I had got to Part 60-something and as far as Kid Canaveral when the rug was pulled out from under TVV.

I’ll catch up soon enough by featuring 5 or more at a time from the archives..

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(41) Dogs Die In Hot Cars – Lounger  b/w Mandarins : V2 Records promo single (2004)

Read more about Dogs Die In Hot Cars here

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(42) Dot Allison – Message Personnel b/w Tomorrow Never Comes b/w Message Personnel (Arab Strap remix) b/w Message Personnel (Death In Vegas remix): Heavenly Records : CD Maxi-Single (1999)

Read more about Dot Allison here

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(43) Dumb Instrument –  Oor Wullie’s Baldy b/w What If Cliff? b/w Reverse The Hearse : Hackpen Records CD (2007)

Dumb Instrument  will always have a special place in my heart for it was their gig on 3 January 2008 at the 13th Note in Glasgow that I finally met Comrade Colin in the flesh.  The bloke who had been the single-biggest inspiration for me starting up a blog has invited me alongs to catch a live set from an act he had included the song ‘Reverse The Hearse’ in his best of run-down for 1997.  As I blogged this next day….

“To be honest, I was initially more excited about finally, after all this time, hooking up with Colin (previous attempts to meet and blether had fallen through) than the gig itself. I’m delighted to reveal ladies and gentlemen, that Colin is indeed a true comrade in arms – every bit as witty, erudite, charming and entertaining in the flesh as he is in print – and I reckon we would have been quite happy just sitting in the bar talking about all sorts of things (but mostly music).”

The gig also turned out to be a hugely enjoyable event and I bought this single on the night.

Dumb Instrument  describe their output as ‘Jakey Rock’ – and state that it fuses the ideals of ‘Jakeys’ and ‘Rock’ into one nice genre which is accessible to all.

Overseas readers might wonder what ‘jakey’ means. Well, it’s a bit of Scottish slang which has two meanings – it is used to describe a down and out homeless person or alternatively a particular type of alcoholic – one who is found wandering the streets drinking anything (including methylated spirits) to put him/her in severe state of inebriation. Oh and they’re often of course also a down and out and/or homeless.

While jakey-rock might sound unappealing, it is most certainly not the case. The band consists of keyboardist Mikey Grant, bassist Kieron Campbell and vocalist Tom Murray.

Without being at all disparaging to the others, it is Tom Murray who holds most attention. He doesn’t sing or rant like a scary drunk. He has a really sweet almost angelic voice. His lyrics are just astonishing. I don’t mean it as an insult to say that he is more a poet than a songwriter – each songs unfolds like a short story. Visually, he looks like a cross between a son of Scottish artist and playwright John Byrne and a cousin of Scotland’s other great bearded bard – Aiden Moffat. 

A few years later I lost my young brother and then my best mate within a short period of time.  My other great cyber-mate, ctel, stepped in and took over the blog on both occasions and there were some amazing guest posts which really meant so much to me at a time of sorrow.  Sadly, most of those posts have been lost forever thanks to the bastards at google.  Comrade Colin’s contribution was Reverse The Hearse by Dumb Instrument.  He knew it would make me smile….

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(44) Eagleowl – Mf : Fife Kills Records CD  (2008)

The Scotsman newpaper has described Eagleowl the soundtrack to the saddest, most beautiful art-house film you’ve never seen. Others have compared to Low, Galaxie 500, Dirty Three, John Cale, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and The Low Anthem. The band members themselves have Bert Jansch, Fairport Convention, Alasdair Roberts, Smog, Broken Records and Withered Hand as influences on the band.

Between 2008 and 2010 they released two EPs and a single, all of which were limited edition releases, although digital versions of the songs can still be purchased . It’s because of that I only made one track from one of the EPs available.

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(45) Edwyn Collins – 50 Shades of Blue (extended version) b/w Kindred Spirit b/w Just Call Her Name b/w Ain’t That Always The Way b/w If Ever You’re Ready b/w 50 Shades of Blue (7″) b/w Judas In Blue Jeans : Demon Records 12″, 7″ and CD single (1989)

Parts 46-50 next Saturday…..

BLUE JEANS AND CHINOS; COKE, PEPSI AND OREOS (Part 1)

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Another, more than likely short-lived series as I’ll get fed up with it quickly.  This one will look at some of my favourite singles from the country which inspired Holly Johnson’s last chart hit back in 1989.  I’m starting off with :-

mp3 : Pavement – Stereo

There’s a lot of folk out there who think Pavement are an American version of The Fall.  Indeed, Mark E Smith went as far as saying that Pavement are a rip-off of his band and that they didn’t have an original idea in their heads.  I get the comparisons to some extent in as far as much of the music released by both bands is quirky but catchy with lyrics that border on the complete nonsensical but somehow make perfect sense.  There’s also the fact that, like The Fall, a lot of folk just ‘don’t get’ Pavement.

Me?  There’s a fair bit of their material that leaves me scratching my hand in bemusement but there was also a number of superb singles that should have cracked the charts instead of floundering away just outside the Top 40.  Part of the reason for this was a stubborness to stay on smaller indie labels throughout their recording career when perhaps a move to a major in the mid 90s might have got them fame and fortune.  But when you read what all the band members have to say about things it’s quite clear that they were very content to remain underground and have a higher degree of artistic freedom.

Stereo is one of their better known singles.  It dates from 1997 and stalled at #48 in the UK singles chart.  It has a sound that was a huge influence on Graham Coxon as can be evidenced from a number of the songs that were issued on 13, the Blur album released in 1999.

Here’s the two tracks that were on the CD single:-

mp3 : Pavement – Westie Can Drum

mp3 : Pavement – Winner Of The

Both of these musically are great throwbacks to the post-punk new wave sounds that came out of America in the late 70s.  I dare anyone to listen and not think of Television.  Two excellent tracks thrown away on a flop single…..

Oh and while I’m here, I may as well shove up Pavement doing a cover of a song by The Fall recorded for session on Radio 1.  It’s a fabulous tribute…..

mp3 : Pavement – The Classical

Enjoy

SHOULD MARK E. SMITH HAVE GIVEN PAUL SIMON A CREDIT FOR THIS?

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There may 50 ways to leave your lover, but there’s seemingly just 15 of them apply when it’s a bloke you’ve to walk out on:-

mp3 : The Fall – 15 Ways

An absolute belter of an indie-pop song from 1994 that really deserved a far higher chart placing than the lowly #65 it staggered to. It’s jaunty as fuck!!!

Mine’s a 10″ clear vinyl effort with two equally tremendous b-sides.

mp3 : The Fall – Hey! Student

mp3 : The Fall – The $500 Bottle Of Wine

Whoever says The Fall are one-dimensional and that MES is just a po-faced northern whinging bastard should listen to these and re-assess….(and yup, I’m looking at you ctel)

Enjoy

I THINK ONE OF MY READERS MIGHT BE ONTO SOMETHING…

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Last week this comment was left behind by Ian Balentine:-

“Theme For Great Cities was totally ripped off for the Radiohead song “Where I End And You Begin” from Hail To The Thief. Not saying that’s a bad song, I just wish they’d give SImple MInds a songwriting credit. Listen side by side and you’ll cringe.”

It’s been a long long while since I listened to Hail To The Thief in its entirety so I fished out the copy from the CD shelves.  Lo and behold……

mp3 : Radiohead – Where I End And You Belong (The Sky Is Falling In)

mp3 : Simple Minds – Theme For Great Cities

I have to add that all these years later I heard lots of cracking things on Hail To The Thief that passed me on its release in 2003. It’s still a bit hit’nmiss in places but there’s a lot more to enjoy about it than I previously recalled. And its opening track is an absolute belter.  Here it is with the other tracks that were on the two CD singles:-

mp3 : Radiohead – 2+2 =5

mp3 : Radiohead – Remyxomatosis (Christian Vogel RMX)

mp3 : Radiohead – There There (first demo)

mp3 : Radiohead – Skttrbrain (Four Tet remix)

mp3 : Radiohead – I Will (Los Angeles version)

Be warned…..there’s loads of electronic noodling on these mixes of tracks that all made the final cut of the LP.  Havingsaid that, the 7 minute plus version of There There is fascinating just to compare it to the later version and mix that was released as a single.

Enjoy

FROM THE SOUTH WEST CORRESPONDENT…WHAT’S IN YOUR BOX (6)

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LOW POP SUICIDE – THE DEATH OF EXCELLENCE

Between 1993 and 1997 the newly formed record label World Domination put a number of decent records (easily the best of the bunch is Carolida by Latimer, try and track that down if you can), the label was formed by a man called Dave Allen. He once played bass in Gang of Four and after leaving them he set out on his own, and formed Low Pop Suicide, with a male called Rick Boston who sang and Jeff Ward who played drums. Unsurprisingly he signed Low Pop Suicide to his own label and put out a couple of records by them. He left the band before this album was made so essentially Low Pop Suicide became a vehicle for Rick Boston to express his teenage angst (aged in his mid to late twenties) and fears.

Sadly, they never set the world on fire. It’s a shame because The Death of Excellence is to be honest a really good record. This album was ignored both critically and commercially and I’d largely forgotten it existed – but after digging it out of the box this morning I have played it twice and will probably give a third spin later on. I wouldn’t say it’s a lost classic or anything but it sits on the right side of decent. They described it, at the time, as sounding like Nine Inch Nails if fronted by Eddie Vedder (stop, come back!) please don’t let put you off. If it was released today, I guess the closest comparison I can find in my own collection is perhaps, the Cold War Kids, or, The Hold Steady its not as poppy (or jolly) but its in that ilk. The guitars are what I would have described in 1995 as ‘spiky’. I think in a post Nirvana world and with Britpop hurdling over the horizon we just didn’t want more of the same.

mp3 : Low Pop Suicide – Suicide Eyes

I’m not sure if World Domination Records are still going, but Low Pop Suicide split in 1996 after the commercial failure of  The Death of Excellence and (partly) because the drummer Jeff Ward committed suicide. Rick Boston is still in the music world he does a lot of work on soundtracks and I think he married one of The Geraldine Fibbers a few years back.

Thanks for reading, see you next week, hopefully with something a bit more jolly.

JC adds….

I can honestly say this is the first time that I’ve ever heard of Low Pop Suicide – given what subsequently happened to their drummer it’s an unfortunate name for the band.  Given how wonderful SWC’s contributions have been (and having had a preview of next week’s post it’s another one a few of you will probably want to comment on…..), I have tracked down thge track he mentioned in his opening para (and it’s another first time appearance on TVV or T(n)VV:-

mp3 : Latimer – Carolida

Enjoy