THE JAMES SINGLES (10)

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Fontana Records wanted to maintain the momentum of finally getting James into the singles charts.  No sooner had How Was It For You? dropped out of the Top 75 then the next single was lined up for release.

But to long-term fans it all appeared a bit of a con as it was a re-release of Come Home which just seven months earlier had been issued by Rough Trade.

Doubly galling was the news that it would again be subject to all sorts of formatting with a 7″ having a pink sleeve with silver writing, a 12″ having a purple sleeve with silver writing, a 12″ live version having a green sleeve with gold writing, a CD that had a sleeve of orange with silver writing and a cassette which was purple/silver.

The difference in this version of Come Home was that is was mixed with the dance floor in mind with uber-producer Flood brought into oversee things.  And for the real hardcore clubbers, the song was also given to Andrew Weatherall to have a go at……….

The results were a completely different sounding James than before and as far away from the Folklore-era Factory days as could be imagined.  But it worked….thanks in part to the quality of Come Home as a song but also the fact that the re-mixes were right out of the top drawer.

This is a single I have in all the vinyl formats, so here goes with the songs:-

mp3 : James – Come Home (Flood Mix)
mp3 : James – Dreaming Up Tomorrow
mp3 : James – Come Home (extended Flood Mix)
mp3 : James – Fire Away (extended mix)
mp3 : James – Stutter (live)
mp3 : James – Come Home (live)
mp3 : James – Gold Mother (remixed by Warp)*
mp3 : James – Come Home (remix by Weatherall)

The live version of Stutter is taken from the same show as provided the tracks for the b-sides of How Was It For You? The live version of Come Home is from a radio session recorded in April 1990. The two new b-sides are among my favourite James songs – indeed Fire Away has the distinction of being the very first song I ever posted over on the old blog back in September 2006.

The remixes? Everyone of them stunning….with a special mention to the Warp remix of the LP’s title track. Totally unexpected and a real joy.

Despite all this, the single only reached #32….but it was one of those ones that sold for weeks and months afterwards in reasonable numbers as those who frequented the clubs looked to pick up the mixes that DJs were playing up and down the country.

Enjoy

* the previous jumpy version of Goldmother has now been replaced with a fresh recording…..

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT…THE F-WORD

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Tim Badger chose the letter F…

Three of my favourite bands start with the letter F – these are The Family Cat, Four Tet and Fucked Up but the rules state that I can’t post the same band twice, so I have to skip over these bands, so this week I have gone for a bit of electronica, a bit of old school indie and what is definitely my favourite song of the year so far. I also know Tim Badger quite well and he mailed me and said, that the ‘F better contain Weekender by Flowered Up, as it’s the best song by a band beginning with ‘F’ ever’. He’s wrong. As usual. That honour goes to I Want to Know what Love Is?  by Foreigner and secretly you all know that I’m right.

Firstly I want you to have a read of something…. Finished laughing…Good. Now swap the word UB40 for the words Fuck Buttons and this story becomes instantly more believable. I would love to read what happened to Anna Webster’s ears after she attended a Fuck Buttons gig. I can see the quote now ‘I left after 45 minutes because my eardrums had exploded and my bottom lip had come loose from the pounding non stop beat’. By the way I love Fuck Buttons and would probably consider it an honour to have my hearing permanently damaged from one of their live shows.

For those of you who don’t know, Fuck Buttons are two piece from Bristol that formed in 2004 and are heavily influenced by Aphex Twin and Mogwai and you will hear that from the sound that they create, a sound that was once described as something akin to the noise made at the end of the world. If this is true then it is perhaps only fair that their music was chosen to feature in the Opening Ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics. Just before the queen jumped out of the chopper with James Bond, if I remember rightly.

Their third album Slow Focus was released last year and a brief hiatus whilst Ben Power from the band worked on his Blanck Mass side project (also excellent and worthy of your attention). It certainly didn’t disappoint and featured heavily in the end of year music polls that we all find so interesting. I don’t think there is anyone out there right now doing anything as adventurous and as aurally stimulating as Fuck Buttons. In the past they have used old Casio keyboards, power tools and karaoke machines to make music with, who does that! Their sound is difficult to categorise, they make sensual exhilarating and majestic music, lets put it that way. The track I’ve posted The Red Wing starts with a simple percussion beat and then they just add layers and layers to it – you can almost see the percussion shrinking away in the background to a tiny pinprick. Once they described their name as ‘Playful and Abrasive’, that describes the music perfectly.

mp3 : Fuck Buttons – The Red Wing

It’s difficult to follow Fuck Buttons with anything but let’s try some old school indie. I first heard How Do I Exist? by The Frank and Walters when I walking to local shop when I lived in Plumstead.  Regular readers will recall that I was burgled whilst living there and to be honest I didn’t much like the place. I used to get CDs sent to me all the time, my job was to review them and hope so paper published what I thought of them.  I’d been into The Franks when I was younger, but had kind of ignored anything released after the terrible After All record.

So I was sceptical – I’d even pre written the review, ‘It’s the Frank and Walters. Buy something else instead, you won’t regret it’ or something equally rubbish I think I’d written. Then on a stroll down the road to buy some biscuits, listening to a cassette on a Walkman, it came on. A gorgeous string inspired tear stained wonder of a record and then you remembered, that The Franks made great records, records that if you put them all together would soundtrack a very good summer (apart from After All, that is terrible). ‘How Can I Exist?’ is as close to perfection as the Franks ever managed it is bursting with more truly heartfelt emotion than most bands ever manage in their careers, yet it avoids sounding pompous or overblown. It makes me wonder how on earth they managed to fall off the radar when they made records as great as this.

mp3 : The Frank and Walters – How Can I Exist?

Talking of great records, a few weeks ago Future Islands released Seasons (Waiting on You), which is right now holding firm as the best record I have heard this year.  Yup better than Happy by Pharrell Williams.

Just after the release of their fourth album Singles the bad were invited on to the Letterman Show and there they played ‘Seasons’ and delivered a performance so staggering, so jaw droppingly fucking magnificent that all of a sudden a big secret had been let out of the bag.  Put ‘Future Islands Letterman’ into a search engine and you will understand.

Take the singer – Here is this guy with sensible clothes on, a receding hairline and dancing like he is at a wedding and he is delivering absolute pop perfection on a TV PROGRAMME  that doesn’t happen and he doesn’t give a wet one in a spacesuit how uncool he looks because after that we will all look him, dance like him and pretend we can sing like him. He knows that they are destined for big massive epic things, the thing is, he could be you or me (well the chaps among us). What does it sound like? Reader, this is the best song New Order never wrote. If Barney Sumner wrote this in 1987 we would still be talking about it to this day. That’s what it sounds like.

mp3 : Future Islands – Seasons

Next week its the turn of Q,

Oh and I was joking about Foreigner.

S-WC

SIMPLY THRILLED : THE PREPOSTEROUS STORY OF POSTCARD RECORDS by SIMON GODDARD

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All three previous books on pop music written by Simon Goddard have been a delight to read and so I was bursting with excitement and anticipation approaching the release of his endeavours to tell the story of Postcard Records .
As someone who is old-fashioned enough to still want to walk into a shop to buy things rather than go on-line, I set out on a tour of book stores across Glasgow on the supposed day of publication only to find none had been delivered, although very helpfully I was informed some book and record shops were expecting copies in time for Record Store Day on Saturday 19 April.

Sadly, this didn’t prove to be the case.  I could have gone to a personal appearance by the author the following day and picked up a copy but couldn’t reschedule pre-arranged plans.  On Easter Monday the shops were closed, and come Tuesday and Wednesday I was too busy with work to find time to get into the city centre shops.  Thankfully, the late night openings on Thursday allowed me to take care of things. All that pent-up energy waiting to see what was behind the wonderfully designed cover led me to read the first few pages on the train home rather than do the usual thing of getting lost in music.

It was a strange introduction in that a short but informative prologue told the tragic story of Louis Wain, the Victorian and Edwardian era artist whose drumming cat became the symbol adopted by Postcard.  It’s only a short journey from the city centre to my home…just enough time to read the seven-page prologue and whet my appetite for what was to follow.

Over the course of the next two nights, interspersed by a particularly tiring and troublesome day at the office, I devoured the remaining 240 pages of the book.  And I woke up on Saturday morning feeling a bit iffy and sick as if I’d eaten something that was a bit off.

It pains me to say it but Simply Thrilled : The Preposterous Story of Postcard Records was a bit of a let-down. I’m not saying it’s a badly written or boring book – far from it – but the sense of excitement and anticipation of the chase of getting my hands on a copy was far greater than what I felt as I turned its pages.

The fault lies with the way the author has gone about the task.  The publicity material churned out by the publishers says:-

“This is the preposterous true story of Postcard Records, the renegade label which, with its mad DIY ethic, kickstarted the 1980s’ indie music revolution. From its riotous punk origins to the intertwining sagas of Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and cult heroes Josef K, this is how they took on and triumphed over the London ‘music biz’ big boys, against all odds. Acclaimed music writer Simon Goddard has interviewed everyone involved in the making of the legend of Postcard Records. The result is a giddy farce involving backstabbing, ‘Arthur Atrocious’, gluttony, heartbreak, ‘Disco Harry’, cheap speed, ‘Janice Fuck’, disillusion, Victorian lunatics and knickerbocker glories. But it’s also the story of creating something beautiful from nothing, against all the odds.”

Simon Goddard has interviewed everyone and has seemingly taken everything they said at face value and published it.  He himself knows such an approach is risky – in the foreword to the book he says what follows is a fairy-tale and not a documentary. He admits that many people’s recollections contradicted one another while others were distorted for what could be any of a number of reasons.

So what we get is a book which feels too much of an in-joke in which the main protagonists tell the story as they want it to be remembered and which, understandably, puts them in the best possible light.  This book isn’t really the story of Postcard Records – it’s more the like one of those projects in which people are asked to give their memories of a time and a place – in this instance Glasgow in the late 70s and early 80s – for a talented writer to record for posterity. I do admire the tenacity of the author in getting the notoriously reclusive Alan Horne, the brains behind the whole Postcard venture, to speak to him in such depth.

It’s quite clear that Simon and Alan spent countless hours together and there can be no argument that the mogul has a treasure-chest of wonderful anecdotes, many of which are embellished throughout the book.  But such is the size of the shadow cast by Alan Horne that I can’t help but feel that the story would have been better told as an authorized biography of his life and times rather than having others come in and say completely contradictory things and so confuse matters.

In terms of the music, the main focus is on Orange Juice and Josef K which is fair enough given that between them they accounted for around three-quarters of the material released on the label.  And while the chapter on the Go-Betweens is one of the most enjoyable in the book  – Glasgow must have seemed like a strange and alien planet to Grant McLennan and Robert Foster – the dearth of material on Aztec Camera is a bitter disappointment.  They don’t feature until well into the book and there’s not actually all that much said about them.

It’s almost as if this version of the story of Postcard comes to a crashing halt at the time Orange Juice decamped to a major label and Josef K called it quits in the aftermath of one disastrous gig too many in a Glasgow discotheque in August 1981. It certainly reads to me that Roddy Frame was signed to the label only because it allowed it to boast of having a 16-year old wunderkid on the books rather than the label owner actually liking his music.  As such, it is no real surprise that Alan Horne makes no real effort to make a star out of Roddy.

Simon Goddard admits he has written a preposterous tale which means he hasn’t been able to come up with the definitive story of Postcard Records. And therein lies my disappointment in his latest book. In saying all of this, I am glad I bought Simply Thrilled.   It has a number of  very funny and outrageous tales although whether they are true or not is another matter.

It is also a reminder that the Glasgow of the late 70s and early 80s was not the greatest place in the world if you dared to be different and a bit of a dreamer.  It was a conservative city in its outlook and its attitudes and all too often those traits made it a dangerous and frightening place for flamboyant and confrontational characters like Alan Horne and Edwyn Collins.

The book ends at the point in time when Alan Horne  gets the opportunity to set up Swamplands as part of the London Records empire.  How that came about is one of the best and loveliest stories in the entire book….but to say anything more would be to spoil things.

I think I can however, get away with quoting, in full, the afterword:- “So when is your book ending? Just with Postcard? Those were sort of my normal years compared to what came after.  Seriously, the real nuttiness was when I went down to London.  That’s a whole different soap opera of insanity there. Another story. God! That’s a whole other book…”   – ALAN HORNE Here’s hoping.

It’s not that long since I posted all of the Postcard singles on the blog, so today I’ll link in a few alternative takes, all inspired by the book:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Felicity (flexi version)

(recorded April 1979 at an Edinburgh concert on a low-fi cassette by Malcolm Ross; made available on flexidisc with copies of Falling & Laughing as well as various fanzines)

mp3 : Josef K – Heaven Sent

(recorded for a Peel session in June 1981; given a posthumous release as a single in 1987 by which time Paul Haig had re-recorded it in a completely different style at the outset of his solo career. Oh and the tune is also near-identical to that of Turn Away as appears on the Orange Juice LP Rip It Up)

mp3 : Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters (NME Version)

(different mix from the Postcard b-side; made available on C81, a mail order cassette from the NME)

mp3 : Go-Betweens – Your Turn, My Turn

(a song Grant and Robert offered to Postcard for release as a second single on the label but which was turned down flat by Alan Horne)

Enjoy.

THE MOZ SINGLES (Part 7)

suedehead

Released in February 1988, a matter of months after The Smiths had split-up, Suedehead was not only adored by fans but critically acclaimed in the press – unlike many subsequent singles and LPs.

The music on the single, and its additional tracks, was written by Stephen Street, who up to that point in time was known only as a record producer. Street also played bass guitar on the record. Lead guitar duties (as well as keyboards) were undertaken by Vini Reilly, better known as the brains and talent behind cult Factory Records act The Durutti Column, while the drums were pounded by session musician Andrew Paresi (his previous best-known work was with 80s UK pop act Bucks Fizz).

Such is the craft in particular of the hugely talented Reilly that Suedehead could very easily pass as a single by The Smiths, and there’s no doubt that this contributed enormously to Morrissey’s debut single reaching #5 in the UK singles charts – a position much higher than any single released by his former band. (It remained his biggest chart hit in terms of any single until 2004)

The initial critical acclaim continued over the coming weeks and months thanks to the release of debut LP Viva Hate, which also had a number of songs that sounded as if they were the work of his former band. However, some journalists, and indeed fans, took Morrissey to task over some of the lyrical content and subject matters of songs on Viva Hate, and I reckon its fair to say that he was never so widely regarded and loved ever again.

But getting back to Suedehead……It’s a single that still sounds great 26 years after its release, and that’s down to the combination of Morrissey singing as well as he’s ever done, the fact that Vini Reilly chose in effect to pay tribute to Johnny Marr and indeed the musical and production skills of Stephen Street.

If ever Morrissey had any doubts about the break-up of The Smiths, these would surely have been swept aside by the reaction to this single and indeed the b-sides (from the vinyl anyway) which are also among the most popular solo recordings in what is now a very lengthy career. Indeed there are some who say it all went downhill from here…..

mp3 : Morrissey – Suedehead
mp3 : Morrissey – I Know Very Well How I Got My Name
mp3 : Morrissey – Hairdresser On Fire
mp3 : Morrissey – Oh Well, I’ll Never Learn

The first 3 songs are on the 12″ version of the single but the last was exclusive to the CD single.

Oh and the cover star is a very intense (and thin) Morrissey from a photo taken at a London gig by The Smiths back in 1986.

Finally,  here’s a cover version which you will either love or loath:-

mp3 : Vini Reilly – Hairdresser On Fire

Rumour has it that Morrissey, on hearing this, decided on the spot to end his working relationship with Vini….

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 90)

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OK…..it wasn’t really a single release.  But it’s an excuse to feature Paul Quinn for a fourth successive Saturday.

It’s simply a posting of the four tracks that made up the Pregnant With Possibilities EP released on the revived Postcard Records back in 1995, (catalogue number DUBH 952CD).

mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Nectarine No.9 – Tiger Tiger
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – Will I Ever Be Inside Of You
mp3 : Jock Scot & The Nectarine No.9 – Just Another Fucked-Up Little Druggy On The Scene
mp3 : Jock Scot – Grunge Girl Groan

The mighty Quinn’s final release is to be found on this EP, which hit the shops after the release of the two LPs with the Independent Group. In fact, I know that mine was bought from Avalanche Records in Glasgow on 26 June 1995 and it cost me £3.99 as there’s an annoying bar code sticker on the back of the sleeve that I don’t want to remove for fear of damage…

Some of you might not know much about the other artists who feature on the EP.

I’ve cribbed this bio about Jock Scot from elsewhere, as it captures him just about perfectly and also gives you some info about The Nectarine No.9:-

Born 21 September 1952. Leith, Edinburgh.

Jock began his career in the music industry as a renowned supplier of “good vibes”, providing his services to entertainers as diverse as Ian Dury and The Blockheads, The Clash, Blondie, Talking Heads, B52s, Taj Mahal, Dr. Feelgood, Rip Rig and Panic, Neneh Cherry, Viv Stanshall and Wreckless Eric. He rarely let them down, and when he did it was in spectacular fashion.

After waking up in a broom cupboard at the end of a particularly arduous tour, he settled in London at the time the west London scene was wakening up again, centered around a pub in Portobello Road, the Warwick Castle. It was here that Jock started reading his poems to the public, where they were loved by both speed-crazed street sweepers and landed gentry.

Thousands of readings later, in 1993, his first book, “Where Is My Heroine?” was printed and rapidly sold out. It was also around this time he made his first excursions to vinyl and cd, renewing an old acquaintance with Davey Henderson, who he had known from the Edinburgh days, when Henderson was fronting the Fire Engines.

Their first recorded collaboration was on “Going Off Someone” – a track on Henderson’s new band, The Nectarine No.9′s first Postcard e.p., “Unloaded For You”. Subsequently, Scot appeared on their second album “Saint Jack”, and on a Postcard sampler ep, “Pregnant With Possibilities.

The logical outcome was a full length album – “My Personal Culloden”, which was released in May 1997, followed by the release of his first single “Tape Your Head On”, a cover version of a song which originally appeared on his musical cohorts, The Nectarine No.9′s “Saint Jack” album.

I know since then that Jock has released some more material, including 2006′s The Caledonian Blues, recorded with Gareth Sager (ex The Pop Group and Rip, Rig & Panic).

As mentioned above Davey Henderson has been a legendary part of the music scene in Scotland for nigh on three decades. Given his own vocal talents don’t feature on the EP, I thought it only fair to offer up my own favourite Nectarine No.9 song:-

mp3 : The Nectarine No.9 – Don’t Worry Babe, You’re Not The Only One Awake

Enjoy

COMMERCIAL SUICIDE

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After waiting well over a decade to enjoy commercial success, it was a bit of a shock when Pulp embarked on such a high-profile and deliberate fall from grace with their next LP.

The fact speak for themselves – flop albums in 1983, 1987 and 1992 before gaining a degree of popularity in 1994 with His’n’Hers. And then it was 1995 and the release of Different Class which eventually sold over 1.2 million copies in the UK alone – a quite astonishing feat for a band who up until that point had only ever had two Top 40 singles/EPs in their career.

While it is true that Different Class rode in on the tails of the Britpop era that saw pop music become fashionable again and part of everyday culture, it doesn’t detract from the fact that it is a cracking piece of work (albeit not as cracking as His’n’Hers in my humble opinion).

But all was not well in Pulp-land. When they went back into the studio to begin work on the new LP, with all the hopes and expectations of not only the record label but also an adoring public, there was nothing happening. Jarvis Cocker couldn’t come up with any words or tunes, and even more crucially, guitarist, violinist and key member of the band Russell Senior decided to leave.

The band eventually managed to record new material, and the first thing to emerge was the single Help The Aged in November 1997 which was about as far removed from the chant-a-long songs which had led to so many folk embracing the band. At this stage, it might still have been regarded as a one-off Cocker-like prank to choose the most awkward and difficult of the new songs to be the lead-off single, but it became clear in March 1998 with the release of the next single that Pulp were going to lose a lot of mainstream fans and not get many new recruits to replace them:-

mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore
mp3 : Pulp – Ladies’ Man
mp3 : Pulp – The Professional
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (end of the line remix)

This was difficult and uncompromising stuff of the highest or lowest order, depending on your point of view. But it’s too easy to dismiss it as a song about porn…it could easily be interpreted as Jarvis using sex and sexual imagery to attack anyone in power, whether it be the captains of industry in the likes of film, music or newspaper or indeed on politicians who had, for a while, gotten off on Britpop only to walk away when the musicians started dishing out the criticism.

But whatever the intentions behind the song, it remains one of the bleakest and yet most brilliantly subversive bits of music ever to have been played on the radio, climbing to #12 in the UK charts. Hell, it even managed an appearance on Top Of The Pops.

The b-sides were hugely uncompromising and self-mocking and then to top all of that, CD2 had some astonishing remixes to further confuse everyone:-

mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (4 hero remix)
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (Swedish Erotica remix)
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (Stock, Hausen & Walkman’s remix)

Enjoy. I certainly do.

A SECOND CONSECUTIVE APPEARANCE FOR THIS FRENCH CHANTEUSE

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From wiki:-

Air is a music duo from Versailles, France, consisting of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel.

Air’s sound is often referred to as electronica; their form of electronic music was influenced by the synthesizer sounds of the 1970s such as Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, and Francis Lai. Other influences include psychedelic and progressive rock pioneers Pink Floyd; film composer Ennio Morricone; krautrockers Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk; early pioneers of the eurodance electronica subgenre Space; Jean-Jacques Perrey and Claude Perraudin (although there are some echoes of dance music styles in the production); French crooner Serge Gainsbourg (Histoire de Melody Nelson, for example); and soft rock duo The Carpenters (Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, originally by progressive rock band Klaatu for example).

The thing is, if I was to read all of that before hearing any of the music I’d be expecting something bloody awful and unlistenable to the point of being up its own arse. And yet, this 1998 single is pretty irresistible:-

mp3 : Air – Sexy Boy (radio edit)

It was #13 hit here in the UK which remains the highest-placing they’ve managed to achieve. There were three remixes made available:-

mp3 : Air – Sexy Boy (Sex Kino Mix)
mp3 : Air – Sexy Boy (Cassius Radio Mix)
mp3 : Air – Sexy Boy (Etienne de Crecy et Les Flower Pistols Remix)

The first of these is by Beck Hansen, and as you’d expect, is quite idiosyncratic. The others are by well-known French DJs/performers.

There’s one more track available on the single:-

mp3 : Air (avec Francoise Hardy) – Jeanne

That’s two in a row for Ms Hardy following on from yesterday’s appearance with Blur. This song is one that she has been given a writing credit for alongside messrs Godin and Dunckel. It’s quite tasty….

A LA FIN

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May 1994.

Blur had just enjoyed their biggest chart hit to date with Girls & Boys. The song chosen as the follow-up single was a bit of surprise. Instead of taking the easy way out with another upbeat indie-pop number, the boys went for a very sad ballad, complete with lush orchestration and some lyrics that needed subtitles:-

mp3 : Blur – To The End

It climbed to #16 in the charts which was higher than most of the band’s previous eight singles, but was probably something of a disappointment to all concerned at the time. The co-vocal is provided by Laetitia Sadier who was at the time part of the wonderful Stereolab.

The single was released in 2 x CD format, with one of the formats featuring a couple of non-album tracks:-

mp3 : Blur – Threadneedle Street
mp3 : Blur – Got Yer!

Both tracks are perhaps a little bit Blur by numbers, but that doesn’t mean they are dull and boring. Got Yer! in fact must have been a candidate for inclusion on the LP Parklife as one of those odd little tracks that the band were fond of using to break up the pop songs.

Of much more interest was the fact that two versions of the Pet Shop Boys remix of Girls & Boys were made available on the other format:-

mp3 : Blur – Girls & Boys (Pet Shop Boys 7″ remix)
mp3 : Blur – Girls & Boys (Pet Shop Boys 12″ remix)

Some 15 months later, an awful lot of people would find themselves owning a new, longer, lusher and more French version of To The End thanks to its inclusion as one of the tracks on the smash single Country House:-

mp3 : Blur – To The End (comedie)

This time the co-vocal was provided by the iconic chanteuse Francoise Hardy whose recording career stretches back to 1962. She was 50 years of age when she sang alongside Damon Albarn which seemed ancient to me back then.  I’m now nearly 51 years old………………

Enjoy

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT ….JAY TALKIN’

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JC chose the letter J. This was an inspired choice as it reminded me of something that happened a couple of weeks ago.

There are a lot of people that I really don’t like. Phil Collins, CJ from Eggheads, most of the current UK Government to name some people I don’t like but have never met.  However a couple of weeks back whilst sitting in a room for two hours with only an iPod, a copy of the Great Gatsby and the Guardian for company I met a man who within twenty minutes I loathed, and that people I am afraid to say was solely down to his musical tastes, well that and the fact he was a bigoted old fool with a face like Keith Richards scrotum. So what follows is a true story revolving around one artist beginning with J and at the end I add two songs by artists beginning with J on to it to give it some form of meaning.

So I’m in a room, I have to stay there until it is my turn to go into a bigger room and say some stuff. It’s a work thing. I’m reading the Guardian and listening to the iPod (Thirteen by Teenage Fanclub since you ask), no one else is there and its quite nice.

Nothing else happens for the next hour, I change reading material to The Great Gatsby and change music to a random shuffle. Ten minutes later this bloke comes in, so my peace is kind of disturbed as we do that blokie kind of head nod greeting thing we do. Six minutes pass, the music keeps playing I’ve just had Over and Over by Hot Chip.

‘This your paper?’ says the man, unfolding it and starting to read it (straight to the sports pages, just so you know). It is my Guardian, ‘Help yourself ‘ I say and he does. Three minutes pass. ‘Lefty nonsense’ he says throwing it down in a heap on the table. He read two pages of the sport. It was the morning after Chelsea lost to PSG (the first leg) so I think it was a bad performance (I should say, my team, are languishing in mid table obscurity in League One).

‘What you listening to?’. Aah, the question I dread when I have an iPod on. I think I sighed. I probably shouldn’t have done. Right then I was listening to Amethyst Rockstar by up and coming East Coast Rapper Joey Bada$$.

Joey Bada$$ hails from New York and is part of the Pro Era Collective that have been gaining attention in the US for a while. He is 19 years of age and is quite a talent. My knowledge and liking of hip hop is limited. I loved Kendrick Lamar’s last album, think Chuck D is a genius and think Lil’Wayne is over rated, oh and Snoop Dogg fits into the category discussed at the top of the page. For me Joey Bada$$ is one of the most exciting things to happen to hip hop in a long time. I’ve posted ‘Amethyst Rockstar’ for you to make up your own minds about it. He is 19 people, what were you doing when you were 19? I was smoking Marlboro, moaning about student grants, and wearing Levellers T Shirts (mainly), I wasn’t writing songs and lyrics as fantastic as this, oh and having a $ in your name means something in hip hop, I don’t know what I’m 38 years of age, I can just about remember where I left my shoes, but A$AP Fergie, A$AP Rocky and a few others might be able to tell you.

mp3 : Joey BadA$$ – Amethyst Rockstar

Anyway…’Joey Bada$$’ I say to the man,( lets call him Keith). ‘Never heard of him’ came the predictable reply – I should state here, I’m not a musical snob, I’m really not, but he was over 45 had a moustache, I’d bet my house on him not having head of Joey Bada$$. ‘Is it rap music – well rap with a C, as I call it’.

Now as you can imagine it took every strain of my soul not fall about laughing at this wonderfully original joke. I sighed again and did that fake cough/laugh thing we do when want someone to shut the fuck up. ‘Yes, its really rather good’.

His turn to cough. It transpires that according to Keith, all rap music is terrible, going on about bitches and hoes and guns all the time, they promote violence and that is a bad thing, he then uses the N word over and over again like it was going out of fashion. Which is uncomfortable, I think he tried to use it in an ironic way, but white men over 45 with moustaches shouldn’t use it, ever. End of.

He continued, his music tastes were quite eclectic apparently. ‘I love everything from Queen (quote ‘Freddie was a bit of ponce, but you know, good songs’) to Elbow, oh and a band you might not have heard of, Nickelback’. Aarrghhh , please make him leave. I humour him.

‘I’ve never heard of Nickelback, they any good, what do they sound like?’ (correct answer, they sound like the musical equivalent of having your balls kicked by a buffalo. Twice. In quick succession. Whilst the buffalo is wearing concrete shoes.). ‘They rock, big time, they are quite cool’ (are they? Really?).

I genuinely like most music, I have previously bought a Simply Red album (I was thirteen) so I can do mainstream MOR, but I’m was thinking right now that I am willing to bet that he doesn’t own a single rap album, or a single techno album or for that matter anything that isn’t centred around a man singing whilst accompanied by an electric guitar. I was wrong… he went on ‘Adele, I like her, bit fat mind you’. I apologise he likes Adele despite her podgy arms. Lucky her.

Twenty Minutes he’d been in the room I genuinely thought about pretending I had a call on my phone. Then he said that The Great Gatsby was ‘a bit gay’ but I think he’s probably never read it. Then my saviour’s voice came over the speaker, my name was called out. I stood up and then Keith said ‘Nice to meet you’. The pleasure was all mine, Keith.

So, Keith, if you are reading…these two are for you, a little bit of variety….And I don’t want to waffle on about these songs both are great – one features a cover version of a Joni Mitchell record and doesn’t feature guitars, just a piano. The other does contain guitars but has a woman singing who isn’t fat (but she is Welsh). Isn’t she clever.

mp3 : James Blake  – A Case of You

mp3 : The Joy Formidable – The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade

I’ll be in a better mood next week.

S-WC

REMEMBERING XTC

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There’s a terrific little song from the late Ian Dury called There Aint Half Been Some Clever Bastards in which a number of folk from the entertainment industry are given a loving name check. I’d like to think that if anyone was around willing to update the song, they would have a go at including the name of Andy Partridge.

He is of course best known as the guitarist and main songwriter for XTC. However, he’s also recorded songs under a string of aliases and worked with dozens of other acts either as producer, songwriter or performer. Away from music, he’s been an agony-aunt on a Radio 1 show, a panelist on quiz shows and he’s written a series of comedy sketches that have appeared on television in the UK. Oh and in doing some more research, I learned that he’s also had an uncredited one-off appearance as a cricket commentator in the cartoon series Family Guy.

Not bad for a guy who suffered from such appalling stage-fright that he insisted his band give up touring just as they were becoming famous – a decision which in all likelihood cost them a place at the top table of the very best of British pop groups as the opportunities to grow the fan base was limited to radio and the odd TV appearance.

And yet it may have been the ability to concentrate entirely on studio output rather than a live sound that made XTC so special to so many people as they released one excellent album after another over a fifteen-year period up to the early 1990s. And every album produced at least one humdinger of a single, even if many of them failed to trouble the higher echelons of the charts.

They first came to prominence in late 1979 with Making Plans For Nigel, a song on which the lead vocals were taken by bassist Colin Moulding, thus leading many newcomers to thinking that he and not Partridge was the main driving force behind XTC. The two follow-up singles in the early months of 1980, Ten Feet Tall and Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down were Partridge compositions and vocals, but both flopped. At this point in time, it would have been fair to think that the band could have quietly faded away having enjoyed their brief flirt with fame.

But later that year came the release of the LP Black Sea, a truly stunning and wonderful piece of work of which just about any of the 11 tracks could have been a hit single. In the end, four singles were released by Virgin Records, of which the biggest hit was, at long-last, a Partridge number – Sgt Rock (Is Going To Help Me)

With no tours to concern them, the band were soon back at work in the studio with Partridge promising that the next LP would be the one they would be best remembered for. The first taste of what was to come appeared in January 1982, with the release of the single Senses Working Overtime, which went Top 10. The LP followed a month later. Sadly, it didn’t quite live up to Partridge’s pre-release claims.

Maybe the problem was that it was a double LP which was a bit of a rarity in the post-punk days (London Calling notwithstanding), with some songs stretching out to over six minutes in length, which again was unusual for the period in question. The follow-up singles Ball and Chain, and No Thugs In Our House also flopped.

Never slow to cash in on one of their acts having some time in the limelight, Virgin Records put out Waxworks, a collection of singles spanning 1977-1982 just in time for the Xmas market.

The band then recorded and released the LPs Mummer in 1983, The Big Express in 1984 and Skylarking in 1986 to little or no fanfare. But 1987 saw another upturn in their fortunes with the song Dear God, which began life as a b-side but was later resurrected as a single (shades of The Smiths and How Soon Is Now?). This period coincided with MTV in America picking up on the band, and the 1989 double LP Oranges and Lemons, as well the singles King For A Day and The Loving sold as well as anything in their career.

Another double LP, Nonsuch, was released in 1992 at which point in time the band fell out with Virgin Records. As a consequence, it would take until 1999 before the next XTC album came out, although the intervening period was filled with yet more collections of hits and rarities.

I’m a big fan of just about any of the singles XTC released between 1977 and 1992. They were lyrically clever and the tunes were more often than not different from most of the pop fodder that was kicking around. Neither did the band didn’t stick with one particular sound throughout that period in time.

My favourite single of theirs is that top 10 hit from 1982 :-

mp3 : XTC – Senses Working Overtime

I love the really quiet acoustic opening and the gradual build-up in tempo and sound all the way to Andy Partridge calling out 1-2-3-4-5 and then the infectious chorus. There’s just so much to enjoy in this song with all sorts of instrumentation going on in the background. It’s fantastically produced and it has aged magnificently.  Indeed, it’s such a tremendous song that it deserves to feature here on its own and not have any of the other great XTC singles alongside to distract you.

Enjoy.

THE MOZ SINGLES (Part 6)

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Boxers appeared in January 1995, some 10 months after the release of Vauxhall And I, but seven months prior to the issue of Southpaw Grammar. Thankfully, from this listeners’ perspective, it is a song that fits in more with the former than the latter.

The sleeve on the top is the UK release, and the cover star is an American fighter called Billy Conn of the 1930s and 40s, who at one-time was the Light-Heavyweight champion of the world (in an era when just one man held the title at a particular weight, unlike today with its myriad of ‘champs’ recognised by different governing bodies). Apart from appearing on a Morrissey record sleeve, Billy Conn has had several brushes with the performing arts, including appearances on TV and in movies. He was also name-checked in the famous film On The Waterfront

The sleeve underneath is the US version, and shows Morrissey outside an old London training gym. The two b-sides, along with the single itself, would all later find their way onto the compilation LP, World Of Morrissey.

Boxers is one of the stronger Morrissey songs from the era, as is Have-A-Go- Merchant, the b-side on the 7″ single. But the additional track on the 12″ and CD single suffers from really bad saxophone playing from Boz Boorer which has often led me to skip past it when it comes round on the i-pod.

mp3 : Morrissey – Boxers
mp3 : Morrissey – Have-A-Go Merchant
mp3 : Morrissey – Whatever Happens, I Love You

The single peaked at a disappointing, but atypical for the period, #23.

Oh and legend has it that the title of the 7″ b-side was inspired by what Morrissey thought was  this tame cover version:-

mp3 : 10,000 Maniacs – Everyday Is Like Sunday

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 89)

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Over the first two years of my blogging exploits, no-one featured more in the various postings than the mighty Quinn.  He’s been a regular ever since and although I’ve now featured everything possible and had countless repeat postings, I still look forward to writing about him and hoping that every post brings him a new admirer.

His is the great lost voice of a generation. It is a tragedy that he was struck down by a truly debilitating disease that has left him unable to perform. His legacy isn’t substantial in volume, but quality wise, it’s hard to beat.

Alan Horne resurrected Postcard Records in 1992, partly to release some old stuff by Orange Juice, but also to give a home to Paul Quinn & The Independent Group.

This truly was a legendary Glasgow ‘supergroup’ – James Kirk (ex Orange Juice), Campbell Owens (ex Aztec Camera), Blair Cowan (ex Lloyd Cole & The Commotions) and Robert Hodgens (ex Bluebells) were just some of the members, as was Alan Horne himself.

Two albums and a couple of singles was all it amounted to. I once read someone else trying to describe Paul’s voice and they said, add up David Bowie, Bryan Ferry and Edwyn Collins, then divide by three and you get Paul Quinn, with Paul being a better conventional singer than any of them. I couldn’t put it any better….

This was not a band that appeared live too often, but there was a truly unforgettable night at the Glasgow Film Theatre in 1994 when they gave a spellbinding performance to a backdrop of weird and wonderful movie clips by the likes of Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel. One of my favourite concerts/events of all time, it is a tragedy that no-one thought to film it. My old mate Jacques the Kipper was with me, and as he has since said, there are few nights he would ever want to re-live but the GFT gig is one – simply because it could never be repeated. Not close.

mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – Stupid Thing
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – Passing Thought
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – Superstar

The last of these three tracks, taken from a CD single (Postcard DUBH 933) from 1992 is a cover of a song by The Carpenters. Around the same time, and by coincidence, Sonic Youth also covered Superstar and the press raved about them, all the while more or less ignoring Paul Quinn and his mates.

Sometimes I just don’t get it….

COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

Dear VV

1. My last post was on the letter G

2. Using a photo of my backside in a thong.

3. Er thats it.

Jules

From Julian’s Electrical Gramophone

Who would have reckoned that S-WC‘s contribution from earlier this week would have caused such outrage….

Jules‘  tongue is of course very firmly in his cheek. But it does turn out that his most recent posting over at Music From Magazines was solely related to the letter G.  Don’t be afraid to pay him a visit….there’s no picture of his hairy arse in a thong.  Click here

It did get me thinking about the first time that the old blog got a copyright infringement notice.  It was actually quite polite and it came from the good folk who look after Brett Anderson.  I’d just bought a copy of his new single Love Is Dead and how shoved it up for folk to have a listen but with a link to where they could purchase it.  An e-mail arrived a day or so later which said thanks for buying the record but would I please remove the download links as I was breaching copyright.  Naturally, I obliged….after all, I had a disclaimer on the blog saying that if a copyright owner got in touch I would remove any links immediately.

That was back in 2007 and the early days of the blog and at the time that I was quite flattered to have come up on the radar of his record label and/or management – as far as I knew there were not that many folk dropping in on TVV on a regular basis.

Moving forward a couple of years and TVV had achieved a little bit more exposure.  I always knew, from the bitter experiences of many other great bloggers around at the time that the nasty dmca folk would one day come knocking on my door.  When they did, what hurt most of all was the google/blogger policy at the time which was to remove not just the links to the mp3s but also the words which accompanied them.  Later on, the policy was amended so that an ‘offending’ post was re-set to draft allowing the author, having removed the links, to re-post the words. But of course google/blogger would only allow this to happen so often and after repeated offences then close down the blog altogether as they did with TVV in July 2013.  Looking back, the mistake I made was inviting all sorts of guest posts without considering that many of them were featuring singers or bands or labels who were fond of doing the dmca thing.

I haven’t had nearly as many problems since switching to wordpress, but then again the number of daily hits is probably around half of what it was at the peak of TVV, so to some extent I’m back under the radar. And what I’ve also noticed is that rather than bring any offences to the attention of wordpress , the dmca notices are served on my file host which is box.net whose policy is to remove the offending file and inform me by e-mail.  The result of all that means if someone clicks on the link they will find it’s not there….but the words will be.  And if by chance there’s a handful of songs related to the posting but only one of the songs has caused offence then it’s likely the non-offensive numbers will still be there for a reader’s enjoyment.

Much to my surprise, the band that seems to give me more problems than any these days is Belle & Sebastian.  I’ve mentioned this in passing before and it would seem it is probably, in the main, the actions of their US label and operations rather than the folk over here.  Tempting as it is to stick two fingers up to the man, I’m in a good mood as it is the start of a holiday weekend and I’m not at work today or next Monday.  So instead, I will post the 7″ single  which got me the first nasty dmca notice:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Chelsea Girl
mp3 : Simple Minds – Garden of Hate

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Dating all the way back to 1979 and released on Zoom Records, a subsidiary of Arista. For those of you who only know and dislike Simple Minds from their stadium-rock era and chart hits from the mid 80s onwards should give it a listen. You’ll be very surprised at how good they were back in the days…..but that’s a story for a future detailed posting.

I really like the cover of this particular single. It’s by an artist called Thomas Roland Rathmell.

Enjoy

THE JAMES SINGLES (9)

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In late 1989, James moved to Fontana Records which became their fourth home in just six years.

They took with them loads of newly recorded material that would fill an album and provide plenty of b-sides if the demand was there.  The timing was perfect as Madchester really was all the rage and all of the papers and magazines  covering the explosive growth of the movement were convinced James were worthy of attention.

Fontana sniffed money from the association with James but left the band in no doubt that things had to be done differently from the debacle at Sire a few years earlier.  How Was It For You? was identified as having the potential to be a huge hit but the label insisted on the caveat of a more commercial mix than had been brought over from the sessions originally recorded for Rough Trade and that it be released in as many formats as possible to help propel it up the charts.

All of this was done, probably through gritted teeth for most of the band, who over the years had done their best to provide great value for money to their loyal fan base.   Five formats were issued in April 1990 – a 7″ in a blue sleeve with gold writing, a 12″ in a red sleeve with green writing, a 12″ remix in a silver sleeve with blue writing, a CD  in a sandy colour with purple writing and a cassette version.  There was even a promotional box of condoms issued….

It all worked to an extent as the single did reach the Top 40, peaking at #32.  It could have been better if the label hadn’t committed the basic error of filming a promo that was deemed unsuitable for daytime audiences  – the incriminating footage was Tim singing underwater!

I’ve got the 7″ and both 12″ versions in the collection which means I can offer up all the tracks that came with this particular release:-

mp3 : James – How Was It For You? (7″ version)
mp3 : James – Whoops (live)
mp3 : James – How Was It For You? (12″ version)
mp3 : James – Hymn From A Village (live)
mp3 : James – Lazy
mp3 : James – How Was It For You? (band mix)
mp3 : James – Undertaker

The two live tracks are taken from a gig at the Manchester Apollo in December 1989 and were two of the most popular of the back catalogue at the time (still are IMHO). Lazy and Undertaker were part of the previous summer’s recordings, and the fact that neither were deemed good enough to make the cut for the forthcoming LP really raised expectations among fans.

Enjoy.

THE LESSER KNOWN “LLOYD COLE & THE …” BAND

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Lloyd Cole & The Commotions broke up in 1989 after releasing three LPs and something in the region of a dozen singles, many of which were chart hits. Since then, Lloyd has pursued a solo career which has had more critical than commercial acclaim which is a real shame as much of the output he has released over the past 25 years is every bit as good as his better known stuff with his band mates.

But back in 2000, Lloyd teamed up with some younger musicians from New York to form The Negatives. The other musicians in The Negatives were Dave Derby (lead singer and bassist of 90′s Boston-based Dambuilders, a band once decreed by Spin Magazine to be the best “indie band in America.”), Mike Kotch (guitarist with 90s New York band Eve’s Plum), Rafa Maciejak (drummer with 90s New York band Ivy, who in their time toured with Oasis, Edwyn Collins and The Divine Comedy among others) and Jill Sobule (highly regarded and talented singer-songwriter from Denver who I once saw support Billy Bragg at a gig in Edinburgh).

Other contributors on some of the songs included ex-Commotion Neil Clark and Adam Schlesinger of the Fountains Of Wayne, while production duties were largely (but not exclusively) handled by Stephen Street.

Anyways…..it’s clear that was no bunch of rookie or session musicians, and I reckon the results produced, at the time, Lloyd’s most consistent record in terms of quality since Rattlesnakes back in 1984. Its a great collection of songs and the talents of the other musicians more than complement Lloyd’s vocal delivery. I was just sorry that the project proved to be a one-off and also by the fact that it was a very low-key tour that supported the release of the LP (although in saying that, I was lucky enough to be in Dublin one night when The Negatives were in town and managed to blag a ticket).

What I most like about the record is the mixture of styles deployed throughout. There’s some acoustic type stuff that Lloyd would further develop on his  solo albums throughout the subsequent decade, there’s some radio-friendly pop classics that should have been chart hits and there’s even some songs where the band go for a full-out rock assault.

And of course Lloyd’s great lyrics……

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – Past Imperfect
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – What’s Wrong With This Picture?
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – Too Much E

Enjoy.

PS :  I drafted this post weeks ago.  In the interim period I’ve actually had the incredibly good fortune to bump into Lloyd Cole and be introduced to him.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I’ve been a huge fan for years….I still do get star-struck.