THE JAMES SINGLES (8)

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Brushing off the disappointment at the failure of Sit Down, the band were certain that the single to be released in November 1989 would provide the breakthrough.

A whole album of material had been recorded for Rough Trade and with ‘Madchester’ having gripped the nation, they were being tipped by many as the ‘next big thing’  some six years after forming.  The biggest tour to date was planned and then came the news that Come Home had not only made the Radio 1 daytime playlist but was going to be record of the week on one of the shows.  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, this is James we are talking about – a band for whom everything had seemingly gone wrong ever since their formation.  Rough Trade messed up spectacularly, failing to get enough copies into the hands of radio pluggers to take advantage of the Radio 1 situation, and more crucially, not getting enough copies out into the shops.  The single, on which so many hopes were pinned crawled in at #85.  The problems were exacerbated by the fact that the chart compilers at Music Week made an error in not even listing the single in the rundown……

It really was a crying shame for a track which was so brave and bold and which sounded perfect for the baggy generation while still providing so  much in the way of originality for long-time fans.  The b-sides were also, yet again, marvellous:-

mp3 : James – Come Home (extended)
mp3 : James – Promised Land
mp3 : James – Slow Right Down (demo)
mp3 : James – Come Home (7″ version)

Understandably angry and upset the band demanded and got a meeting with Geoff Travis. While there was some gratitude for the help he had provided in the mess the band had been in after the shambles with Sire, there was little option but to ask to be released from the contract and to buy the recorded album from the label in the hope of it being better promoted. It really was the last throw of the dice…..

THE MOZ SINGLES (Part 3)

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Back in March 1994, Morrissey released what many believe (myself included) to be his best ever solo LP in the shape of Vauxhall And I.

Chock-full of great tunes and witty lyrics, not to mention some of his best ever ballads (and I include his work with The Smiths in that observation), it was preceded a month before its release by The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get – which gave him his first Top 10 single in the UK for 5 years, as well as his only ever entry in the Billboard Hot 100.

And deservedly so, for not only is it one of his best singles, it was accompanied by a couple of more than half-decent b-sides:-

mp3 : Morrissey – The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get
mp3 : Morrissey – Used To Be A Sweet Boy
mp3 : Morrissey – I’d Love To

When the LP hit the shops a month or so later, it was a bit disappointing to initially discover that Used To Be A Sweet Boy was also included among its tracks, meaning only 9 of the songs were entirely new. However, if the quantity was somewhat lacking, fans were more than amply compensated with the quality on offer.

Strangely enough, only one more single was taken from Vauxhall and I and arguably, it was one of its weaker tracks….but that’s for next week.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 86)

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A bio from all music:-

Paul Haig might be best known as the frontman of Scottish post-punk band Josef K, whose lone official record played a major role in the development of the C-86 scene that followed a few years after the group’s disintegration. Haig continued with a number of involvements in the following decades, releasing a number of records on his own in addition to issuing several collaborative efforts. The early-’80s breakup of Josef K also saw him abandon some of the anti-commercial ideals that he previously stood for, as he also aligned himself with a number of musically varied names in the process.

Haig was most prolific in the years immediately following Josef K, releasing a number of singles and full-lengths under his own name as well as Rhythm of Life. Released in 1983, the synth-based The Rhythm of Life (recorded in New York) featured the handiwork of Pere Ubu’s Anton Fier, Parliament/Funkadelic’s Bernie Worrell, and the Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey. Compared to the Human League and the British Electronic Foundation, the record hardly resembled his earlier, frantically guitar-driven work, basing itself in slick pop and alienating many of his fans as a result.

A couple of 1984 singles were recorded with Cabaret Voltaire and Bernard Sumner before Haig teamed up more significantly with ex-Associate and live associate Alan Rankine. A full album was shelved due to label issues, but the recordings that followed were released as 1985’s The Warp of Pure Fun. Stylistically similar to The Rhythm of Life, Rankine remained aboard and added his mastery of electronics and production. Meanwhile, the big band and torch standards curiosity Swing in ’82 was released, which sat in the vault for three years before seeing the light of day. European Sun was issued in 1988, compiling singles and extras spanning six years. The self-funded Chain was recorded during 1988 with Rankine, with Virgin affiliate Circa picking up the recordings, but not releasing them until mid-1989.

Circa put up the money for a follow-up, enlisting the services of Lil’ Louis, Mantronix, and the Chimes. A single from the sessions went nowhere in clubs and on the charts, so the album (Right on Line) was shelved. Crepuscle eventually bought the rights to the record, releasing it in 1993 as Coincidence vs. Fate. Haig began a label of his own called Rhythm of Life, issuing a second installment of Cinematique. He also released a number of posthumous Billy Mackenzie recordings, most notably the collaborative Memory Palace, released in 1999. In 2003 LTM reissued and remastered Coincidence vs. Fate and The Warp of Pure Fun with new liner notes and bonus tracks.

Since when…..(adapted from wiki)

In 2007, Paul Haig’s first single for 14 years, “Reason” (a BBC Radio 2 single of the week), was released and made available via download and on 7-inch vinyl. This was followed soon after by his first new, non-Cinematique release since 1993’s Coincidence Vs Fate, Electronik Audience.

2007 also saw his first live appearance  in many years when he joined Subterraneans onstage at the Billy Mackenzie tribute concert in London.

Yet another new album, Go Out Tonight was released in April 2008. Go Out Tonight saw Haig return to his guitar-roots and tracks such as “Trouble Maker” are very reminiscent of early solo recordings such as “Chance”.

Haig also embarked on his first tour since 1989 when he promoted both old and new tracks in Scotland and selected dates in Nottingham and London in April 2008.

December 2009 saw the release of the critically acclaimed album, Relive, a new studio collection that featured the song Trip Out The Rider, later remixed for a 7″ single release by Lemon Jelly founder Fred Deakin. The track ‘Ambition’ also appeared on the 2011 compilation, After Twilight, issued on LTM Records.

And bringing this totally up to speed…..In October 2013 yet another critically acclaimed album Kube was released showing that after more than 30 years in the music business, Paul Haig still has an uncanny ability to surprise, delight and entertain in equal measures.

There’s so many singles in the cupboard that it was a very tough choice.  In the end, I went for a 7″ in which the A-side was produced jointly by B-Music/Dojo (Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson) while the flip side was a cover of a Suicide song that had Alan Rankine at the helm. It also gives a great indication of how varied Paul’s music can be:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – The Only Truth
mp3 : Paul Haig – Ghost Rider

Enjoy!!!!!

MAYBE

maybeOh come on……after the past two postings you knew this was inevitable (at least Jimdoes did!!).

Sadly, I’ve only one song with that as the precise title:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – Maybe

It’s the rather ordinary and throwaway b-side to a decent single from 2007:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – Reason

If you look up the dictionary definition of ‘maybe’, the word often offered as an alternative is ‘perhaps’.  And there’s one song in the collection with that as its title:-

mp3 : Associates – Perhaps

The title track of the 1985 LP that was the first Associates record released after Alan Rankine had quit.

I genuinely had no idea that when I decided to follow-up McAlmont & Butler with posts entitled ‘No’ and ‘Maybe’ that I’d end up with something that featured both Paul Haig & Billy Mackenzie.  I had absolutely no recollection of that particular Pail Haig b-side until I looked it up.

It makes sense I suppose the to finish it all of with the rather stunning opening track from their on-going collaboration throughout the 90s that received a posthumous release in 1999 as Memory Palace two years after Billy’s tragic suicide:-

mp3 : Haig/Mackenzie – Thunderstorm

PS : You won’t believe whose turn it is to feature in the Scottish Singles feature tomorrow…..who do you think might just come after Pastels in the alphabetical list??????

NO

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A quick count tells me I’ve got 118 tracks in my i-tunes collection that begin with the word ‘No’.  Of these, 115 have at least one more word afterwards, which leaves three as the complete opposite to yesterday’s McAlmont & Butler tune.

mp3 : Associates – No
mp3 : The Rezillos – No
mp3 : The Wedding Present – No

They’re all LP tracks, taken from Sulk (1982), Can’t Stand The Rezillos (1978) and Bizarro (1989) – and all three of them are cracking songs in completely different ways.

Gedgey & Co spoiled what would have been a cracking bit of trivia by placing the track as the third song on the LP…..No is the second song on both of the other LPs.

Enjoy.

YES

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I’m hoping none of you saw the title of today’s posting and thought I was writing about the prog-rockers that so many loved or loathed in the 70s.

Nope.  This is about one of the most incredible sounding singles of the 1990s or indeed any other decade.  It’s a song that I didn’t realise was as brilliant sounding as it was until I heard it played at high volume, over a sensational sound system, at one of the Little League nights in Glasgow.  It is joyous, glorious, anthemic and wonderful to dance to:-

mp3 : McAlmont & Butler – Yes (full version)

It’s the duo’s debut single, released in May 1995 and which went all the way to #8 in the singles chart. To paraphrase S-WC from a few weeks back, I’m shocked that there 7 songs were better than this  in that particular week’s rundown….

Both David McAlmont and Bernard Butler had departed from their previous bands in very bitter circumstances. Butler has since explained how this particular song came about:-

“It was the first piece of music I wrote after I left Suede. I wrote it as an instrumental. Everything was in place, but it didn’t have the voice… Everything I’d done in the past six months had been really dark. I’d come out of a very sad situation and lost a lot of friends, so it was a very liberating song. I met David at the Jazz Café in Camden and said, ‘I’ve got this song, do you want to try it out?’ He came back to me two days later and sang the first verse. He had no second verse, so I just said ‘Sing the first one again’… I wanted it to be like a great piece of ’60s vinyl.”

Sadly, and despite the title of this blog, this is a song I don’t have on vinyl but I do have the 2 x CD singles. The one with the blue sleeve has the full length version of Yes along with these two:-

mp3 : McAlmont & Butler – What’s The Excuse This Time?
mp3 : McAlmont & Butler – Disappointment

The other single had slightly shorter version of Yes (about 53 seconds worth of music was cut out, and I’m guessing this was the version made available to radio stations) and it too had two other songs:-

mp3 : McAlmont & Butler – Yes (edit)
mp3 : McAlmont & Butler – Don’t Call It Soul
mp3 : McAlmont & Butler – How About You?

Put it all together and it is a fairly stunning way to introduce yourself to the record buying public and to stick two fingers up at your former bands….

Enjoy.

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT…THREE SLICES OF PERFECTION

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Last week, JC posted an excellent piece about Manchester which praised the efforts of some of the less well known bands in that particular scene. So I thought as it was still current I would mention one more, they also have a song which I think is a classic.

The Paris Angels were a seven piece band that hailed from Ashton Under Lyme, which I’m told is near Manchester, and they formed in 1989. They quickly got lumped into the Manchester scene and you can understand why. They mixed indie guitars with a ravey electronic sound and sounded heavily influenced by the acid house scene that was massive in Manchester at the time.

The band revolved around Paul ‘wags’ Wagstaff whose Ian Curtis style vocal can be heard on many of their records. Wags went on to feature in Black Grape and the reformed Happy Mondays when the Paris Angels eventually gave up making records (largely because was Virgin was sold to EMI) In 1990 they released the first of todays picks, ‘Perfume (All on You)’ – this combined a sound that many of the also ran Manchester bands like Northside and Rain had been looking for (and ultimately failed to produce). A sound that perhaps combined the bits of Joy Division and New Order that we all loved with that more traditional baggy sound that the Happy Mondays were doing so well.

Now the ‘Madchester’ scene (that is the only time I am typing that) produced some terrific records, ‘Fools Gold’, ‘Wrote For Luck’, ‘Commercial Rain’ to name three brilliant examples but none of them, come anywhere close to this record.

It sums up everything about that era.

Everything.

And if you need more evidence, other than just listening to the bloody record and realising it there and then, there is a video of this song kicking around on You Tube (other less evil streaming services are available). It’s basically the band in what looks like an empty classroom playing this song whilst their mates and a few hangers-on stand around, by the end everyone is dancing. There is a shot about half way through where the camera pans to the face of the female singer (Jane Gill?) and she is just grinning like a loved up Cheshire Cat. She knows that what she is doing as she dances (pretty badly if I’m honest, and that is rich coming from Kermit in a Blender Man) and shakes her maracas (not an euphemism, watch the video, you filthy minded buggers), I know exactly what she is thinking and that is ‘Yes’.

This record peaked at Number 55 in the UK chart. ‘Take 5’ by Northside got to Number 40. ‘The Only Rhyme that bites’ by MC Tunes and 808 State went Top 20 for goodness sake. There is no justice.

mp3 : The Paris Angels – Perfume (Loved Up)

Moving on, and on a similar vein to ‘grunge’, or American alt rock as its properly called.

Like the Manchester scene there were loads of great records from that era that perhaps now define the sound. Most notably Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and Pearl Jam’s dreadful ‘Alive’ (in fact anything by Pearl Jam is dreadful, over rated pile of cock if you ask me), but the one record that should have got the worlds attention and didn’t (apart from Buffalo Tom) was ‘Hyper Enough’ by Superchunk.

Superchunk were formed in 1989 and came from the same town as Ben Folds Five if my memory serves me correctly. The lead singer and main guitarist was one Mac McCaughan and were originally named Chunk (the legend has it that the drummers’s – Chuck Garrison – name was spelt as Chunk Garrison in the phone book and it kind of stuck – brilliant if true).

They were made to change it by the well-known avant jazz band of the same name (yeah, I can’t stop playing avant jazz records by Chunk today) so they added the word ‘Super’. After the release of their first album Mac McCaughan left the band and new vocalist James Wilbur came in – ironically drummer Chuck Garrison left shortly after as well.

In 1995 they released ‘Hyper Enough’ and it perhaps that they released their best moment after the grunge fad had died down that they didn’t achieve the massive success that they deserved. It comes from the album ‘Here’s where the Strings Come In’ which I think is the bands most commercial release, considering their first single was called ‘Slack Motherfucker’ that isn’t hard.

mp3 : Superchunk – Hyper Enough

‘Hyper Enough’ is the sound of band enjoying themselves, it has the catchy riff running through it that gels the song together and it has a vocal yelp that half screams half pleads with you to scream along with it. The band’s website has loads of older Superchunk stuff available for free download if you like what you hear, I’d recommend you pay it a visit.

Finally we come to a band that I have mentioned before, a band that I love and have struggled to pick one song that should have been a springboard to superstardom. This is mainly because every single one of their records should have been a Top 5 hit at the very least and I will not listen to any arguments.  I will literally be here all day if I sit and write about this band, a band so under rated and criminally ignored that you can’t even download their songs on Amazon.

A band that were once described by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth as the Best Band Britain has ever produced (he obviously never heard Leatherface).

A band who once got threatened with legal action by Michael Portillo.

So I’m not going to say anything at all.

Apart from Ladies and Gents, this is ‘Steamroller’ by The Family Cat and it is very nearly seven minutes of absolute perfection. (the link is to the original scratchy vinyl version of Steamroller – I hope its ok, if not comment and I’ll post the CD version which is probably better next week).

mp3 ; The Family Cat – Steamroller

Thanks for reading

S-WC

I STARTED SOMETHING I COULDN’T FINISH

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A few years ago, a couple of folk I knew from the Little League events decided that a night dedicated to The Smiths and Morrissey would be a good idea.   I’ve long-planned to get myself along, but for one reason or other it just never happened until last Friday night when Aldo made sure of it by purchasing a ticket for me in advance.

Even then, I almost never made it along.  I was very tired after a hard few days at work and wasn’t sure if a night in basement venue beneath one of Glasgow’s best pubs was really what I was after.

One of the things I most feared was that it would be a hardcore crowd made up of Morrissey look-a-likes standing around just trying to pose and be noticed.  There were a handful of such creatures, but the vast majority of the 200 souls who were lucky enough to get tickets were there for a great night out on the dancefloor.  I wasted little time joining in despite the fact that I had told Aldo beforehand that in an effort to pace myself I had mentally drawn up a list of songs that were certainties for dancing to and a list (including some of the better-known band and solo material) that were strict no-nos.  I got carried away (as I feared!!) and danced myself dizzy, mostly without the aid of alcohol to throw off any inhibitions as I was very quickly onto bottles of water to stop the dehydration.  

Even when the DJs played non-Moz material I couldn’t drag myself off the floor – not when you get stuff like The Wedding Present, The Cure and Associates thrown in….and as the night went on I knew I’d pay the price the following morning when I’d inevitably wake up with another realisation that I’m not as young or fit as I used to be and that I really out to know better at my age.

And all this despite me leaving more than an hour before the end of the event to catch the last train just after midnight and so missing what  many of the showstoppers that the younger Aldo was able to shake his frame to before the lights came up.

The next Strangeways night will be in August 2014.  Details will be unveiled at this facebook page (where incidentally a photo of my good self taken last Friday night can also be found).

So a huge thanks to Robert, Carlo, Angela and Hugh for a magnificent and memorable evening, made all the more special by the fact that all proceeds, as with all the Strangeways events, went to a local charity with a second charity benefiting from food bank donations on the night.

Sadly, the laptop that was used to supply the tunes for the evening was missing a few of the more obscure b-side cover versions which meant my request for the one that matched my t-shirt couldn’t be realised.  I’ve been promised it will feature next time….so I better get myself along to make sure….and next time I will finish the night along with everyone else.

mp3 : Morrissey – A Song From Under The Floorboards

It’s a good version.  But nothing can ever hope to match the original….

mp3 : Magazine – A Song From Under The Floorboards

Enjoy.

CULT CLASSICS – ‘SHE’S A NURSE…’ by THE RAW HERBS

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Dear JC,

The news that you’ve run out of contributions for your Cult classics feature has finally spurred me into penning a few words (I thought you’d be inundated so I kept putting it off) – I hope you can still find room for it. Keep up the good work!

Misterprime

I first came across The Raw Herbs’ excellent single ‘She’s a Nurse’ on a compilation cassette called ‘Strum ‘n’ Drum’ given away with the short-lived indie magazine ‘Underground’ in, I think, 1987 and it remained, as far as I was concerned, a tantalising one-off until such a time as the internet came along and allowed all of us sad, anoraky types to finally chase down some of our little accumulated musical obsessions.

Apparently this East London band were only with us for a few short years in the late eighties before disappearing, as is the way, into the musical ether, despite having seemingly impeccable indie credentials: their first single, ‘Old Joe’, was a flexi disc and their third, ‘Don’t Bury Me Yet’, cracked the indie top twenty, both were on Manchester’s Medium Cool label. Unfortunately the fourth single – a 12″ entitled ‘The Second Time’ on their own Rooster Records – was also their last and, apart from a Janice Long Session and a few other oddments that you can pick up trawling the net, that’s the band’s whole slim legacy.

That said, all of their releases display in fine style that trademark eighties-indiepop jangle offset perfectly with a beautifully yearning, slightly braying vibrato vocal and occasional touches of harmonica, banjo and fiddle suggesting wider horizons and a possible interest in the country-twang of early ramshackle rock’n’roll.

‘She’s a Nurse…’ was the band’s second single (as more mathematically minded readers may already have deduced) and is narrowly the pick of the bunch, heralded by a propulsive harmonica-led twanging intro and coming on like a less cocksure, more Sarah Records version of the La’s, with vocalist Derek Parker seemingly unable to believe his own good fortune – not only is she a nurse, but “…she’s alright!” The Medium Cool singles were available as downloads on Amazon last time I looked (‘So Wired’, the languid b-side to ‘She’s a Nurse’, makes up a pitch-perfect 7″ package) and recent inclusions on the CD86 (‘He’s Blown In’, a ‘Second Time’ b-side )and ‘Scared To Get Happy’ (‘…Nurse’) compilations would seem to indicate that I’m not the only person who still remembers them.

All that’s needed now is for someone at LTM or Cherry Red to licence the whole catalogue and issue it on one handy-sized CD compilation – that’s an album that I already rank, in imaginary form, in my indiepop Top Ten, along with the likes of ‘Stardust’ by the Sea Urchins, ‘Snowball’ by the Field Mice, ‘Lyceum’ by the Orchids, Another Sunny Day’s ‘London Weekend’ or the Popguns’ ‘Snog.’

mp3 : The Raw Herbs – She’s A Nurse But She’s Alright

JC adds….anyone else that wants to submit a cult single and keep the Moz series at bay is more than welcome to drop me a line.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 85)

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For such an important and influential band, the wiki entry is a bit light:-

The Pastels are an independent music group from Glasgow, formed in 1981. The group consists of Stephen McRobbie (vocals, guitar), Katrina Mitchell (vocals, drum kit), Gerard Love (bass guitar), John Hogarty (guitar), Tom Crossley (flute, keyboards), and Alison Mitchell (trumpet).

Their early records (1982–85) for record labels such as Whaam!, Creation, Rough Trade, and Glass Records, had a raw and immediate sound, melodic and amateur, which seemed at odds with the time. But an emerging fanzine culture identified with the group’s sound and image, and slowly The Pastels started to influence a new wave of groups, which interested the NME and other UK media.

The Pastels’ sound continued to evolve and, although part of the NME’s C86 compilation, in interviews they always sought to distance themselves from both twee and shambling developments.Their debut album, Up for a Bit With The Pastels (Glass, 1987; re-issue Paperhouse, 1991) moved from garage pop-punk through to ballads with synth orch splashes. The follow-up, Sittin’ Pretty (Chapter 22, 1989) was harder but less eclectic. Reports started to appear in the UK music press that the group was splitting up.

Eventually it became clear that a new line-up was configuring around original members, Stephen McRobbie and Annabel Wright (Aggi), now joined by Katrina Mitchell. This line-up is probably the best known of The Pastels’ various phases, and often featured either David Keegan (Shop Assistants) or Gerard Love (Teenage Fanclub) on guitar. They signed with the emerging Domino Records and completed two albums, Mobile Safari (1995) and Illumination (1997), which showed them developing an odd, particular sound – melancholic and awkward, but warm and engaging. A remix set featured My Bloody Valentine, Jim O’Rourke and others on the album, Illuminati (1998).

Their next release is the soundtrack to David Mackenzie’s The Last Great Wilderness (Geographic, 2003), which, made for film or not, is one of the most completely realised Pastels albums. It featured a track recorded in collaboration with Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker. In 2006, The Pastels developed and completed new music for a theatre production by Glasgow based company, 12 Stars. In 2009, The Pastels, in collaboration with Tenniscoats from Tokyo, Japan, released an album called Two Sunsets.

The Pastels featured on the soundtrack for film,The Acid House (1998).

The Pastels now operate their own Geographic Music label through Domino, and are partners in Glasgow’s Monorail Music shop.

On 21 February 2013, the band announced it would release its first album since their 1997 album, Illumination, called Slow Summits. It will be released on 27 May 2013 through Domino.

“Check My Heart”, the first single from Slow Summits was released digitally on 8 April 2013. The song was released physically as a 7″ single on 29 April 2013 with the B-side “Illuminum Song”. Both songs were available digitally on 27 May, upon the full album’s release.

My favourite Pastels single dates back to 1986.  It’s astonishing to think this is not far off being 30 years old.

mp3 : The Pastels – Truck Train Tractor
mp3 : The Pastels – Breaking Lines

I still get a thrill when I walk into Monorail at this venue to buy records and Stephen is working behind the counter. It’s the equivalent of royalty serving you with your milk or bread down the corner shop….

REMEMBERING THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS

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The Psychedelic Furs are about to get a 14-date American tour underway starting tomorrow, so it seems a good time to have a quick look back at their career. I’m going to lazily crib from the bio on their official website:-

If you sit and talk to many of the alternative rock artists dominating today’s music, you’ll find that many of them pay homage to the The Psychedelic Furs. Led by front man and songwriter Richard Butler, the Furs won over fans and critics alike by combining poetic lyrics, innovative rhythms and melodies driven by an aggressive, punk desperation. Through it all, the band scored major hits with “Love My Way,” “Pretty In Pink,” “Heaven,” “The Ghost In You,” and “Heartbreak Beat” in all releasing seven studio albums and spawning several compilations, a boxed set, and a live concert DVD.

The Psychedelic Furs came together in England’s emerging punk scene in 1977 initially consisting of Richard Butler (vocals), Tim Butler (bass guitar), Paul Wilson (drums), Duncan Kilburn (saxophone), and Roger Morris (guitars). By 1979, this line up had expanded to a sextet with Vince Ely replacing Wilson on drums and John Ashton being added on guitar.

The Furs debut, a self-titled album from 1980 was produced by Steve Lillywhite. The LP quickly established the band at radio in Europe and was a top 20 hit in the UK. The album also found success in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand and Australia. The US version of the album was resequenced, yet failed to have as strong a commercial impact.

The Furs did find success in the U.S. with their next release, 1981’s Talk Talk Talk, which saw the band making its debut on the US album charts. In New Zealand, meanwhile, the band became immensely popular, as Talk Talk Talk reached the top ten in the charts, the first in a string of Furs’ albums to chart in the New Zealand Top 10.

In the UK, the album spun off two charting singles, “Dumb Waiters” and the original version of “Pretty in Pink”. The latter song served as inspiration for the 1986 John Hughes film of the same name, and was re-recorded for the film’s platinum-selling soundtrack.

In 1982, the Furs, now a four-piece with the departures of Morris and Kilburn, recorded Forever Now, with producer Todd Rundgren in Woodstock, New York. This album included “Love My Way”, which became yet another UK and US chart hit.

Ely left the band after Forever Now, although he would return for the 1988 single “All That Money Wants” and the 1989 album Book of Days.

The Furs’ 1984 release Mirror Moves was produced by Keith Forsey, and featured the songs “The Ghost in You” and “Heaven”. Both charted in throughout the world, and “Heaven” became the band’s highest charting UK hit at the time. Strangely, however, “Heaven” was never released as a single in the U.S. Instead, Columbia Records opted for “Here Come Cowboys”, despite both international success and heavy MTV airplay for “Heaven”. “Here Come Cowboys” failed to chart, but “The Ghost In You” was a hit single on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

By the mid-80s, the band had become a staple on both U.S. college and modern rock radio stations. Simultaneously, they were experiencing consistent mainstream success, placing several singles in the pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1986, the band recorded a sax-infused version of “Pretty in Pink” for the soundtrack of the film of the same name. Butler later claimed that the success of “Pretty in Pink” caused the band to be pressured into entering the recording studio to record a follow-up release before they were ready. The result was Midnight to Midnight, their biggest Top 40 success to date, but also a more overtly commercial effort than the Furs had ever recorded before. The album also featured the single “Heartbreak Beat”, which became the Psychedelic Furs biggest hit yet on the U.S. Top 40. The album also featured drummer Paul Garisto and sax player Mars Williams, both of whom continue to tour with the band.

In the wake of Midnight To Midnight, the Furs found themselves dissatisfied with their new commercial direction, and subsequently returned to a rawer sound with “All That Money Wants”, a 1988 track especially recorded for a best-of compilation album “All Of This And Nothing”. 1989’s Book of Days and 1991’s World Outside also saw a return to the earlier Furs’ style.

The Furs’ steady chart success continued with three #1 hits on the newly-established U.S. Modern Rock chart between 1988 and 1991. “All That Money Wants” was a #1 hit in 1988, while “House” topped the chart in 1990, and “Until She Comes” was #1 in 1991.

The band went on extended hiatus in the early 1990s, with the Butler brothers going on to create the band “Love Spit Love” along with guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer. Love Spit Love released two albums and enjoyed some chart success as well.

After spending most of the decade apart, the Butlers and Ashton reignited The Psychedelic Furs in 2000, and released a live album Beautiful Chaos: Greatest Hits Live, which also featured a new studio recording, “Alive (For Once In My Lifetime).” A DVD version of the performance included live versions of “Alive” and three other previously unreleased songs: “Anodyne (Better Days),” “Cigarette” and “Wrong Train.” Since then, lead singer Richard Butler has released an eponymous solo album produced by Jon Carin, and has hinted at the possibility of a new Psychedelic Furs album.

These days, the band continues to tour around the world. The current Psychedelic Furs touring lineup remains Richard Butler (vocals), Tim Butler (bass), Rich Good (guitar), Mars Williams (saxophone), Amanda Kramer (keyboards), and Paul Garisto (drums).

I’ve not bought anything in the last 30 years and in the build-up to this feature I did give a spin to each of the first four albums and found that quite a lot of it sounds dated and a bit dull and safe.  I certainly didn’t hear too much of the ‘punk desperation’ mentioned in the bio….and what is now more bleedingly obvious than it was back in the day is just how hard they (and/or their record label) tried to package themselves for the American market.  I found myself wondering why it was that I once thought they were an important part of the alternative music scene in the UK in the early 80s when in fact they were really always a mainstream act bordering on the different.

Having said that, it would be very unfair to completely dismiss them.  There’s actually enough listenable early stuff that could be compiled into one reasonably decent album while some of the singles remain infectiously catchy but I feel if you were to be exposed to them on a very regular basis you would soon get irritated.

Oh and they should never have allowed Pretty In Pink to be re-recorded in such a dreadful and cliche-ridden fashion…the sax all but kills it.  Anyways:-

mp3 : The Psychedelic Furs – Sister Europe (Peel Session)
mp3 : The Psychedelic Furs – Dumb Waiters
mp3 : The Psychedelic Furs – President Gas
mp3 : The Psychedelic Furs – Heartbeat (NY remix)

Be warned, the last of these tracks is more than 8 minutes in length and has a real 80s sounding production….

Enjoy!!

THE JAMES SINGLES (7)

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In the wake of the fiasco surrounding Strip-Mine, the band finally escaped from what had been a disastrous relationship with Sire Records in late 1988.  But they were completely skint although confident of making a success of things thanks to what they believed was really strong material that had been written in the 18 months they had been waiting for Strip-Mine to be released.

To get themselves back on their feet, they borrowed a substantial sum of money from a friendly bank manager which was used to fund the recording and release of a live album.  One Man Clapping was a huge success as far as the indie charts went and re-established James both commercially and critically and ultimately led to Geoff Travis signing them to Rough Trade in early 1989.

The first new single was called Sit Down, released in June 1989.

It was lauded by all, but the label didn’t promote it hard enough to get the critical crossover to mainstream and daytime radio.  That such a tremendous and catchy record had stalled at #77 was nothing short of a disgrace….but of course the situation would be rectified in the not too distant future (although nobody knew that at the time).

I’ve got the 12″ version of the single….and it extends all the way out to eight minutes ending with a bit of a strange reprise in which one of the sound engineers chants the name Lester Piggott over the outro…

mp3 : James – Sit Down (Rough Trade 12″ version)

Three tracks were on the b-side –  Sky Is Falling, a demo that the band had contributed to a compilation LP featuring bands from the Manchester area, live favourite  Goin Away, a two-minute track that was the usual opener to most concerts in 1989 and Sound Investment, a song that could well be taken as an attack on their old record label.  As ever with James, they were prepared to give fans value for money with the quality of songs seemingly tossed away on b-sides:-

mp3 : James – Goin Away
mp3 : James – Sound Investment
mp3 : James – Sky Is Falling

Enjoy!

YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT US

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Placebo are a band that have long divided opinion.  I’m willing to confess that I really like an awful lot of their earlier material and own all three of the albums they released between 1996 and 2000.  I’ve no reason to explain why I stopped paying attention to them other than I was moving away somewhat from the goth/punk/glam concoctions that they were so good at doing and finding myself mellowing out somewhat.

There’s one particular single of theirs that I have a lot of time for and it’s as much for the quality of the b-sides as it is for the greatness of the actual single which has guitar licks that the Wedding Present should sue for:-

mp3 : Placebo – You Don’t Care About Us (radio edit)

A #5 hit in 1998, it was made available on 2 x CDs (as indeed were most singles in that era). The first of them had a more than half-decent Placebo song as its b-side along with a fabulous cover that paid homage the huge influence that Marc Bolan had on Placebo and particularly frontman Brian Molko:-

mp3 : Placebo – Ion
mp3 : Placebo – 20th Century Boy

The second CD could have been a bit of a rip-off as it featured two remixes of an earlier hit single but avoids such an accusation for the simple fact that both of them are very good and different sounding in their own right and indeed one of them, by Les Rhythmes Digitales, is IMHO, THE definitive version of the song:-

mp3 : Placebo – Pure Morning (Les Rhythmes Digitales mix)
mp3 : Placebo – Pure Morning (Howie B mix)

Enjoy

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT….NEW CLASSICS

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Cardiff, Canada and Courtney

First a question – When does a song move from just being a song to qualifying as a classic? Does it have to be a certain age? Or does it just have to be infuriatingly brilliant? I ask because this week I have chosen three songs that are less than three years old, one is less than ten months old and I think all three are already classics in my mind. I know that in ten years’ time just after JC has done his 60 best C60 mixtapes at 60 series, he will revisit ‘Cult Classics’ and some young whippersnapper will pick and post a wonderfully witty tribute to these three songs, so I am getting there first. I am aware that this probably makes me Mystic Meg or something but it’s a stigma I’m willing to bear (oh and Aquarius watch out on your normal walk to work, there will be a stranger bearing bad news, particularly if you work in the public sector).

So let’s start with a blast from the past – well November 2011 at least – and ‘Polymers Are Forever’ by Cardiff’s Future of the Left. Future of the Left formed in 2005 when the much missed McLusky and the not so much missed Jarcrew split and some of its members formed Future of the Left. The driving force behind the band is one Andy ‘Falco’ Falkous, and I do not shrink from this statement, a man who is perhaps the greatest songwriting talent in Britain today. Yes better than Morrissey, and yes even better than Gary Barlow. His lyrics are brilliant, funny, political, polemic and poignant. He has written sings about everyone and everything from Seb Coe to Robocop (Wonderfully called ‘Robocop 4 – fuck off Robocop’) via Kim Kardashian.

In November 2011 they released the track ‘Polymers Are Forever’, which in my mind is the closest thing Future of the Left have ever got to writing and recording a pop song, although they would probably kill me for saying it. This is one of the things I love about Future of the Left, behind all the noise and ferociousness of the lyrics and energy of the guitars there are tunes snapping away. This one has a chorus that includes the words” ba ba ba ba” for christs sake. It is kind of two songs in one this, the first bit is a shouty pop song and then it goes into a beautiful little ode to Polymers. It is also the only song ever written to feature the words ‘Quantum Mechanics’ and for that reason alone, you must own this song.

mp3 : Future of the Left – Polymers Are Forever

It was the taster for the bands second album ‘the plot against common sense’ in which all songs were listed without capital letters, I don’t know why. It comprises 15 tracks and its worth every one of the seven pounds or so that I paid for it. It is a wonderful album and one for me that gets better everytime I play it.

After this the band announced that their next album would be crowdsourced through the website Pledge. After five hours they had enough money to record it. We then saw the release of ‘How to stop your Brain in An Accident’. That too is wonderful.

Next time a short hop into 2012 and to the Canadian rock duo Japandroids. At the end of 2012 when everyone was writing lists of their Top Ten this and that, one song for me stood out – it was in nearly everyones lists (not interestingly the NME’s) – and yet I have never heard of it or of the band that made it. That song was ‘The House that Heaven Built’ by Japandroids. So I checked it out.

Japandroids for those of you who don’t know describe their music as one part classic rock one part punk and claim to be heavily influenced by Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. I was say that they are more than two thirds punk and little under a third classic rock, but I’m a pedantic arse. What they are bloody brilliant. I can’t think of a better place to introduce their music to you if you haven’t heard it than ‘The House That Heaven Built’ – for me its one of the best songs of the last fifteen years. How this hasn’t been a massive hit in the UK I have no idea (actually I have but let’s leave that debate for the Daily Mail Comments Page). It sounds a lot like the early 90s grunge sound that I’ve written about – and if you liked the Buffalo Tom song I wrote about a few weeks ago then you will love this. Simple riffs, massive chorus, repeat until you tired of smiling.

mp3 : Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built

On top of this song Japandroids then released the album ‘Celebration Rock’ an album which Rolling Stone claimed to be ‘One of the Ten Coolest Albums Ever’. Now regular readers will know that I am all over cool and am happy to act as the ‘Spokesperson of cool’ for this blog, and I have to say normally I find Rolling Stone so far up its own arse its shoving tissue up it to blow its nose – but on this occasion they are right. ‘Celebration Rock’ is one cool record. One you need to own if you don’t already. It is already a classic, there I’ve said it. Happy now.

Coming right up to date, earlier on I said that Andy Falkous was the songwriting genius of this generation, well time to meet another one. An Australian one at that. Not sure why that is relevant right now, but bear will me and my closely edited Guardian reading acceptable xenophobia.

Around Christmas 2013 was the first time I heard ‘Avant Gardener’ by Courtney Barnett. It was ‘One of those Moments’. I was running through the streets of Exeter in a pathetic attempt to shed that extra mince pie I had the night before. This came on the Ipod it was on a bunch of songs given to me by a friend. I had to stop, not because I was tired, sweating and looking like a stuck pig, but because of this song. A song that tells the story of a lady who has an anaphylactic panic attack whilst gardening in the sun in the middle of an Australian heatwave (See it was relevant). Lyrically it is wonderful as well, it contains the immortal line “The paramedic thinks I’m clever cos I play guitar, I think she’s clever cos she stops people dying.” Brilliant. It also I think is the only song written to feature the word ‘Pseudoephedrine’.

mp3 : Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

It featured on the EP ‘A Sea of Split Peas’ and got precisely nowhere in the charts. Yet there at the end of year polls it sat, It was song of the year according to Pitchfork, number 6 in the NME Tracks of the Year. It is an incredible record, half sang, half rapped in a lazy, wonky kind of a way that makes you wonder what on earth you have just heard. Now this song is only ten months old but is anyone going to tell me that its not a classic….

S-WC

THE ABSOLUTE GAME

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In 1980, The Skids released The Absolute Game, their third LP.   It’s really some achievement when you consider that on its release, lead singer and main lyricist Richard Jobson was not yet 20 years old while Stuart Adamson, whose guitar playing has rarely sounded better (even when he hit his commercial peak with Big Country) had not long turned 22.

There is a very strong case for Side One of this vinyl artefact to be considered the best single side of an LP ever recorded by a Scottish band.  Three of its tracks were released as singles, although criminally only one of them made the Top 40, while the other two songs could also have been chart hits if the public had been interested.

One of the reasons that the LP didn’t do as well as it should was down to the band’s unwillingness to promote it properly as Jobson and Adamson had fallen out badly by this time.  It was a record that, as I said earlier, had some of the guitarist’s finest ever tunes but with the singer wanting to go in a totally different direction, tensions were high all the way through the recording process.  Virgin Records, in an effort to hold things together, gave the green light for initial copies of the LP to come with a bonus record of songs called Strength Through Joy, a collection that sounded very unlike The Skids but betrayed the sort of style the singer wanted to adopt for the future.

Having said that, there’s a view that musical differences weren’t the main reason for the fall out between the two main men.  Jobson was very much having his head turned by London and was very keen to locate  the band in the capital full-time while Adamson was far too fond of life in Dunfermline to ever agree to that. Nowadays, modern communications, cheap travel etc would make light of such a problem, but in 1980,  having one half of the partnership in London and the other 400 miles away was insurmountable.

The live shows to accompany the release of the album were unhappy affairs and it was no great surprise that Adamson quit not long after, as did Mike Baillie, leaving Jobson and Russell Webb to continue as The Skids. Together they would make one more LP, Joy, released the following year before making a clean breast of things as The Armoury Show.

I thought it would make a great contrast to let you hear all five songs on Side A of the LP along with the 8 tracks that made up Strength Through Joy just to compare and contrast.  It is a really remarkable thing to realise just how young these guys were at the time and the extent of their different talents:-

mp3 : The Skids – Circus Games
mp3 : The Skids – Out Of Town
mp3 : The Skids – Goodbye Civilian
mp3 : The Skids – The Children Saw The Shame
mp3 : The Skids – A Woman In Winter

mp3 : The Skids – An Incident In Algiers
mp3 : The Skids – Grievance
mp3 : The Skids – Strength Through Joy
mp3 : The Skids – Filming Africa
mp3 : The Skids – A Man For All Seasons
mp3 : The Skids – Snakes and Ladders
mp3 : The Skids – Surgical Triumph
mp3 : The Skids – The Bell Jar

Enjoy.