A HAUNTING TUNE FOR HALLOWEEN

R-701044-1296084424From 1994 in which a lead vocal, a backing vocal, an acoustic guitar and a cello combine to stunning effect:-

mp3 : Kristin Hersh – Your Ghost

It was the debut single from the Throwing Muses main protagonist and she called in a favour from her dear friend Michael Stipe whose band were probably just about the biggest selling on the planet at that particular time.   It’s a song that caught a lot of people by surprise – aficionados of Throwing Muses were astonished at the stripped-back beauty and simplicity of the track while R.E.M.‘s newest batch of fans were left scratching their heads and wondering why Stipe would feature so prominently on a recording by a musician more or less unknown in commercial or mainstream circles.

I was thrilled to pick up a mint copy of the 12″ single in a second-hand store the other week for just £2.  I actually reckon that the person who bought it did so on the basis of the backing vocal in the hope (in vain as it turned out) that Stipe would feature on the other songs.  It certainly appears to be a more or less unplayed piece of plastic.

Three other songs make up this lovely release, one of them being a rather startling cover of a Led Zeppelin track (and as someone who is not a fan of the rock giants I’m prepared to say that Kristin’s version is waaaaay superior!!)

mp3 : Kristin Hersh – The Key
mp3 : Kristin Hersh – Uncle June and Aunt Kiyoti
mp3 : Kristin Hersh – When The Levee Breaks

Oh and the lyrics of the middle song of these three refers geographically to Canada and it was wonderful to hear the province of Nova Scotia being refered to as New Scotland. I often forget just how many people from my wee country made their way to the rugged east coast of Canada to try to carve out a new life for themselves.

Finally…anyone who enjoys autobiographies of any sort really should track down a copy of Paradoxical Undressing, Kristin’s brilliantly-written and very frank, moving, often disturbing and occasionally laugh-out-loud-at-the ridiculousness-of-it-all memoir of a period in her life when she suffering from a debilitating mental illness.

Happy Halloween y’all.

 

A SCOTTISH SUPERGROUP (OF SORTS)

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Duglas T Stewart is the nearest thing we have to pop royalty in Scotland.

Back in 1986, he formed BMX Bandits who are still going strong today. Over the years, Duglas’s band has had almost as many members as have at one time been part of The Fall – the wiki entry on the band has some 25 musicians listed as current or past members.

To be fair, a number of the names were only in the band on a temporary basis, often for a one-off single or as part of a live band for a few shows. Back in 1991, an incredible line-up came together for the recording of what would be the band’s second studio LP and in particular its lead-off single Come Clean which, as the back of the 12″ single says was performed by

Duglas Stewart, Joe McAlinden, Norman Blake, Francis MacDonald, Gordon Keen and Eugene Kelly,

all of whom have, over many many years, been hugely influential in the development of the indie music scene in Scotland as performers, writers and producers amidst a myriad of bands including of course Teenage Fanclub and The Vaselines, but also the lesser known but hugely admired Captain America, Eugenius and Superstar.

Come Clean is a cracking pop song which captures perfectly so much of what was going on musically around these parts in 1991/92 and if it wasn’t for Duglas’s distinctive and unusual vocal style (he’s not the most classical singer you’ll ever hear in your life) then you could have been guessing at a few bands as being behind the songs (no real surprise really given how interchangeable everyone seemed to be).

mp3 : BMX Bandits – Come Clean

The two other tracks on the 12″ contain a song on which Duglas allows someone else to sing (I’m pretty sure its Joe McAlinden) along with a track lifted from the debut album C90 and which remains a live favourite all these years on:-

mp3 : BMX Bandits – Retitled
mp3 : BMX Bandits – Let Mother Nature Be Your Guide

These three tracks appear on one side of the vinyl. Flip it over and you get a tremendous tongue-in-cheek tribute to Madchester and baggy…..or perhaps a sly dig at their good mates Soup Dragons who had abandoned the sort of indie guitar music that had dominated their debut recordings and gone down the route of dance with a touch of the Happy Mondays:-

mp3 : BMX Bandits – Come Clean (Jumping On Someone Else’s Funky Train Mix)

Great fun.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

R-384982-1119452886Magnificent 7?

Surely Some Mistake – there’s only six guys on the cover……

Appearances can be soooooooooooo deceptive.

The band was indeed officially only six-strong in the early days. The seventh bloke to join Madness wouldn’t do until after this single was released, although up until then he had been part of their live shows as backing vocalist and dancer. And indeed would play a huge part in making this single so bloody popular:-

mp3 : Madness – One Step Beyond

It’s a cover of a tune by Prince Buster, a Jamaican ska artist who had enjoyed success back in the 60s. Madness had already paid tribute to him with their debut single The Prince before making sure he got a whole lot of royalties with their follow-up which reached #7 in November 1979.

The key difference between the original and this loving tribute is the addition of the spoken-word intro:-

Hey you,
Don’t watch that, watch this!
This is the heavy heavy monster sound
The nuttiest sound around
So if you’ve come in off the street
And you’re beginning to feel the heat
Well listen Buster
You better start to move your feet
To the rockinest, rock-steady beat
Of Madness
One step beyond!

Performed by Chas Smash and copied by kids in playgrounds all over the UK. With a wonderfully entertaining video to boot, this is the song really got Madness noticed and before long they cemented a place as one of the great British singles acts of the late 20th Century.

Just under a year later, Madness would release a truly astonishing single that remains my particular favourite. A soap-opera in just under three minutes. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Boy and girl have sex…baby gets created. Parents of the boy and girl react with anger and horror…and completely ostracize their own offspring.

Their crime wasn’t to become unexpected parents. Their crime was to create a mixed-race baby…

mp3 : Madness – Embarrassment

Based on a true story. The teenage sister of saxophonist Lee Thomson had a black boyfriend and became pregnant only to be horrofied by the fact that many in her family shunned her. The real life story turns out to have had a happy ending, with the family seeing sense after the baby girl was born. I’m guessing the existence of the song also played its part….

Happy Listening

G’DAY FROM OUR ANZAC CORRESPONDENT : DOOZIES FROM DOWN UNDER (3)

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More Kiwis this week, which I discovered on an Australian TV show, hosted by an American musician.

The show is called ‘rage’, an all-night music video show that has been screening on the ABC (Australia’s public broadcaster) every Friday & Saturday night for the last 27 years.   Most Saturday nights a guest presenter programs it, usually a visiting musician/band, but they’ve also had writers, artists etc (last year for example, just before the federal elections, they had a politician from each of the 3 major parties co-hosting it, which was pretty interesting actually – kinda shed new light on them).

Generally they have a few hours of tracks the host has chosen, with them introducing some of them, then a bunch of videos of their own.  As you can imagine, a great thing to come home to after a night out, when you’re not quite ready for bed yet (or to stay up for if not out-and-about).  Worthwhile checking out the website if you have the time… hmm, seems they’ve changed it a bit (hate that) – used to be able to scroll back over at least the last 15-20 years worth and see who programmed it and what they played, now seems to only go to 2007 (though you can still find earlier playlists with a bit of effort).

Alternatively, think of a band/artist you like who may have toured Australia and type into your search engine of choice: “so-and-so’ programming Rage”  (eg, some folk might be interested to see what the author Irvine Welsh programmed, or what New Order programmed when they hosted it. Many others of note have also been involved over the years, such as Beck, Teenage Fanclub, Sonic Youth, Nick Cave… sorry JC, don’t think Morrissey has… though Henry Rollins did, and you may or may not want to see him explaining why he programmed a Moz song… )

Anyway, back in 2005 Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins was hosting it. He had been in NZ before coming to Australia and was quite taken by this track by The Bads, so decided to play the clip. Really glad he did cos L love it and hope you will too

mp3 : The Bads – Carry The Weight

Cheers, Craig

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE VELVET UNDERGROUND

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I found another selection of what I had previously thought were lost postings from the old blog the other day. They were from the month of April 2011….a time when I needed to take a break from blogging but the wonderful Ctel, along with many other incredible friends from the blogosphere, stepped in and kept things going. I think its a series of postings I will return to at some point, but in the meantime, here’s an adaptation of something I wrote on 1 April 2011. And not as a joke either.

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Strange as it may seem, I wasn’t a fan of The Velvet Underground back in the 80s even though I knew that so much of their sound influenced many of my favourite bands; indeed most of said bands were not slow in putting out cover versions of VU songs.

This attitude was all because of my unwritten rule of thumb that I wasn’t all that interested in listening to old bands, especially those from the generation before mine. It’s also why I don’t ‘get’ The Beatles or Elvis Presley – I’ve never really given them a try. And being a totally inconsistent sod, I shouldn’t have ever given a chance to The Kinks or Johnny Cash – but I did and loved them.

But I was stubborn about VU for decades. Until last year (2010) when I spent all of £3 on a greatest hits CD compilation, I owned nothing of theirs.  Having given the CD a few listens I’m now willing to admit that some of their songs are pretty decent, including this handful:-

mp3 : The Velvet Underground – I’m Waiting For The Man
mp3 : The Velvet Underground – Pale Blue Eyes
mp3 : The Velvet Underground – Rock ‘n’ Roll
mp3 : The Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane
mp3 : The Velvet Underground – Venus In Furs

The 1967 debut LP Velvet Underground & Nico is the original home of both I’m Waiting For The Man and Venus In Furs. I first heard the former as a cover recorded by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark as the b-side to their 1980 single Messages. I liked the cover enough to seek out a mate who had VU records to shove the original on a tape for me. I wasn’t moved enough at the time to fall in love with the song…..but at the same time I didn’t have a real dislike of it. It just sounded a bit dated and one-paced. It was only maybe 5 years later when I started really listening to Jonathan Richman that I realised that the sound, far from being dated was in fact timeless and still worth a listen. But I still didn’t buy any of their releases.

Venus In Furs is another track folk tried to get me to listen to when I was a lot younger. It didn’t do anything for me. But now that my listening tastes have matured, I can see that this is a hugely significant piece of music that has influenced so many, not least Tindersticks, a band I championed many a time over on the old blog.

From the 1969 LP The Velvet Underground there can be no surprise that Pale Blue Eyes gets featured as one of my five songs by the VU  given my love of the cover recorded by Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins. A cover that in my humble opinion is way superior to the original…..

Finally, from the 1970 release Loaded, you will find the tracks Rock’n’Roll and Sweet Jane.

The former is one that I have only recently fallen for. I didn’t know it at all until I picked up the compilation CD…well that is not technically true as I had heard it a few times over the years at various indie-disco or club nights…..but it sort of washed over me.  But hearing it loud on the headphones while sitting on the beach under gloriously clear blue skies changed everything.  Shake your thang hispsters…..and play that air guitar solo!! The latter has an appalling first 17 seconds…..just ignore it and listen to Lou Reed telling you he’s standing on the corner with his suitcase in his hand…….and then take in the remaining near four minutes and accept that it is a wonderful song that I’m ashamed took me far too long to appreciate.

But despite all that I’ve said above in praise of these five songs there’s still too many of the VU songs, certainly on the Very Best Of….CD that still don’t do it for me. But c’mon, I have softened my attitude in recent years and am prepared to acknowledge they deserve their place in the list of important bands that have recorded popular music.

Enjoy.

THE MOZ SINGLES (33)

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I’d be amazed if this, the fourth Morrissey solo single, from back in November 1989 was ever put at the top of any fan’s list as being the best song he’s ever released. In fact, I wouldn’t be slow in calling anyone who said such a thing a big fibber.

It was not at all well received on release….in fact I didn’t buy it right away so confident I was that it wouldn’t be too long before I’d pick it up for pennies in a bargain bin.  And that’s exactly what happened. I think I paid 50p for it in the Cockburn Street branch of Fopp in Edinburgh…if indeed it was as much as that. There were loads of them in the bargain bin.  Now, I see it’s going for £12.99 at an internet site and is labelled as ‘a collectors item’.

mp3 : Morrissey – Ouija Board, Ouija Board
mp3 : Morrissey – Yes, I Am Blind
mp3 : Morrissey – East West

It’s a single rescued by the b-sides, and while Yes, I Am Blind is very much Morrissey-by- numbers, it’s the sort of slow-tempo song he’s done very well throughout his career.

The other track is a cover of a song written by Graham Gouldman (ex 10cc) and was originally the closing track on There’s A Kind Of Hush All Over The World, the 1967 LP by Herman’s Hermits. I remember playing the Morrissey version for the first time, and not realising it was a cover, and thinking that it wasn’t that far removed from some of the later-day songs by The Smiths. A rare example of a half-decent cover by the great man. Although I’ve since found the original and there’s no argument that it’s a tremendous pop song which can’t really be ruined if you stick to a faithful interpretation.

mp3 : Herman’s Hermits – East West

Enjoy

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 114)

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TV21 formed in 1979 in Edinburgh, comprising Ally Palmer (vocals/guitar), Norman Rodgers (guitar/vocals), Neal Baldwin (bass), Dave Hampton (trumpet) and Ian Greig (drums).

Two singles in 1980 were released on their own Powbeat label, at which point Ian Greig was replaced by former Rezillos drummer Ali Paterson. After a further one-off single in early 1981 with Demon records, the band were signed to Deram (which was part of the multinational Decca Records conglomerate) with many comparing their material to The Teardrop Explodes (a very lazy comparison based almost solely on the fact that Reward, with its prominent trumpet part, had been a smash single).

There were great hopes for TV21 and the band were teamed up with a then unknown but much thought of producer in Ian Broudie. The first of the material to emerge from this collaboration was Snakes and Ladders, a single released in May 1981, while its b-side, Artistic License, was produced by James Honeyman-Scott and Martin Chambers of The Pretenders. The single also came with a bonus 7″ single which was co-produced by the band and Troy Tate, who of course was once part of the afore-mentioned Teardrop Explodes.

mp3 : TV21 – Snakes and Ladders
mp3 : TV21 – Artistic License
mp3 : TV21 – Ambition
mp3 : TV21 – Playing With Fire

Despite so many well-kent faces working with the band, the single failed to register with the general public, as indeed was the case with its follow-up Something’s Wrong in October 1981 and the debut LP A Thin Red Line released the following month.

A change of producer followed but the March 1982 release of All Join Hands also flopped. Later that year TV21 opened for The Rolling Stones when the latter had a mini-tour of smaller venues across Scotland (including the Glasgow Apollo where I had got myself a ticket) but instead of building on any new fans picked up from such exposure, the band broke up almost immediately after the tour was completed.

23 years later, and totally out of the blue, TV21 reformed since when they have gigged a fair bit and also recorded and released new material, including the LP Forever 22 in 2009 once again on Powbeat Records (29 years after that last relaese on that very label!!!)

One of their biggest fans is Mike from Manic Pop Thrills. If you click on this link you can more or less get the full story of the band since they got back together.

Enjoy

A FORGOTTEN VICTIM OF THE BRITPOP WARS

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History shows that Country House by Blur beat Roll With It by Oasis to the #1 spot when both singles were released in the same week in August 1995. It also records that in the immediate aftermath, Oasis won the Britop war as the critics adjudged (What’s The Story) Morning Glory as far superior to The Great Escape, a view backed by the general public if sales were anything to go by.

The sad thing of course is that the initial singles battle was fought with two really inferior bits of music, especially when you consider the quality of the follow-ups, neither of which reached #1 despite deserving to do so.

The next single by Oasis was Wonderwall, released on 30 October and considered by many to be as good a song to stall ay #2 as any, and probably the song most associated with the band all these years later

Blur waited a further two weeks before releasing their follow-up and they went with the one truly outstanding track from the parent LP:-

mp3 : Blur – The Universal

It’s a song filled with melancholy and despair. It’s more or less saying, again, that modern life is rubbish and that there’s little chance of that ever-changing. The tune is haunting and moving while the icing on the cake is the truly magnificent video in which the band paid tribute to A Clockwork Orange, a movie which at the time was still impossible to see in the UK as its director, Stanley Kubrick, had had it withdrawn back in 1972 in response to accusations that the film had encouraged copycat acts of violence (the ban wasn’t lifted until after Kubrick’s death in 1999).

It’s a song which, if truth be told, would have been better served by wither being the lead single off the album or else kept off it entirely and released as a stand alone single once the promotional work for the LP had been completed. That way, it might have got what it deserved and not the miserly #5 chart position from where it quickly drifted away while Wonderwall kept selling and selling during a lengthy stay in the charts right up to and beyond Christmas.

The Universal came in 2xCDs, one of which featured four live recordings from a BBC Radio 1 session in September 1995 as part of the promotion of the parent album.

mp3 : Blur – The Universal (live)
mp3 : Blur – Mrs Robinson’s Quango (live)
mp3 : Blur – It Could Be You (live)
mp3 : Blur – Stereotypes (live)

Enjoy.

THE JAMES SINGLES (19)

180648bMarch 1994. The record label, as usual, want to promote an album through lifting a further single from it. The band, conscious of the backlash from fans when this had happened before, are against the idea. But where in the past there would have been an irreparable clash between label and band, this time round a compromise was reached.

It was by now an open secret that during the recording sessions for Laid that much more material had been recorded. Indeed, James had hoped that the fruits of those labours, which were for the most part were well-produced recordings of demos and works-in-progress, would have been released alongside Laid in a limited edition form. In the end, it would be in September 1994, a full year after Laid had been released, that the LP Wah Wah was released.

The March 1994 single provided a taster for Wah Wah as one of its two lead tracks was culled from that material along with a track from Laid:-

mp3 : James – Jam J
mp3 : James – Say Something

Unsurprisingly, the radio stations stuck to the tried and tested and it was Say Something which was given all the prominence.  Jam J didn’t at the time, nor today, strike anyone as an obvious single release……

The single was released as a CD and in cassette form with the CD single having two further bits of music:-

mp3 : James – Assassin
mp3 : James – Say Something (new version)

The former was a more than half-decent new track (albeit one which clocked in at under two minutes and whose storyline would no doubt be greeted with horror by the UK tabloids nowadays leading to an immediate ban across the airwaves) while the latter was exactly as it said on the tin and came in at over a minute longer than the version made available for radio play. At least it wasn’t a crazy dance remix….that came via a second CD and a 12″ single.

I never did get round to buying the second CD of Jam J. It was two remixes of the track by Andy Weatherall in his Sabres of Paradise guise, each clocking in at around 17 minutes in length. I have absolutely no doubt that it is top quality material but I balked at the idea of owning a James song clocking in at that length. Nor was I sold on it when reviews indicated that the remix was ambient music with Tim’s vocals more or less removed altogether. Very much an acquired taste.

The single reached #24 in the UK charts. Little did any of us know that it would be three more years before the next James single.

A READER NEEDS YOUR HELP…

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Hello JC,

Firstly, I’d like to thank you for many hours of music listening and informative post reading over the years. I’ve been using HypeMachine (as MrPharmacist) for what is now getting close to ten years, and you have always been my favourite blogger.

Apologies for never actually commenting on your posts, like many others out there just happy to consume, although wishing I had the drive to apply myself to a similar task.

The reason for this correspondence after all this time. I have a track that I have been listening to for over twenty years now and the tape is pretty much warn out…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kt9I8SjiiLc

I have never been able to ID it. I heard a chill out DJ play it once in a Manchester bar in about 1992 but can’t remember who he said it was. I’m pretty sure they were once on Granada local TV news as well. Could you give it a listen? One Dove meets Cocteau Twins, or it might have just been cash-in Ibiza ambience!

PS. A recently considered top 12 lps from Feb that say something to me about my life as press ganged into on facebook…

1. Belle & Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister
2. The Cure – Pornography
3. The Smiths – Meat is Murder
4. Echo and the Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here
5. Conflict – The Ungovernable Force
6. Various – Dance Craze (Specials et al)
7. Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy
8. The Fall – Bend Sinister
9. Elbow – Leaders Of The Free World
10. LFO – Frequencies
11. Metronomy – English Riviera
12. Happy Mondays – Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out)

Thanks again for all your posts,

All the best,

Sid – DrSidders – Mr. Pharmacist

———————————————————————-

So please dear readers, click on the above youtube link and have a listen.  If you’re able to identify the tune then please share the knowledge with us.

And looking at Sid’s list of 12 albums gives me an excuse to feature  a song from the set I aired at the Strangeways night last Saturday

mp3 : The Smiths – Vicar In A Tutu

Dedicated to this very fine chap who came along dressed perfectly as the said vicar…….

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Other pics, including some of me doing my best to add a touch of John Peel-esque farce* to the night have also been posted on t’internet.  Here’s an example:-

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Quick PS

I ventured along the other night, with Aldo, to see Young Marble Giants at Stereo in Glasgow.  It seemingly was the first time the band had ever played in my home city.

For those of you who don’t know, this is a band which released just one album and a couple of EPs back in 1980 and 1981. The music is quite minimalist and on the quiet side and the songs are on the short side.

So much could have gone wrong at this gig.  Stereo was packed to the rafters so there was probably about 300 folk in the basement space. It was hot and it was sticky.

The band took to the stage at around 8.50 and played a note-perfect set for 50 minutes.  The audience paid rapt attention.  It was the first time I’d ever been at a pop/rock gig where the audience behaved as if it was a classical performance and didn’t speak as the band were playing and furthermore didn’t speak when the band members were talking in-between songs.  Nor did anyone go up to the bar and order drinks and so causing the staff to clank glass or cans or make the till bleep away.  This was all about 300 fans coming along to experience live music in its purest sense and it was quite magical.

So if you were part of that particular audience, a big thank you from this particular fan for making the occasion so wonderful.  It was also very clear that the band really appreciated things….

mp3 : Young Marble Giants – Wurlitzer Jukebox
mp3 : Young Marble Giants – Eating Noddemix

Enjoy

* where the great man occasionally played a record at the wrong speed, I managed to press play on two songs at the same time on the laptop causing all sorts of confusion for a few seconds…….

 

COVERING MARC BOLAN & T-REX

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Don’t know what prompted me to think about this, but I realised not too long ago that I’ve quite a number of Marc Bolan & T Rex cover versions in the collection, most of them having been released as b-sides on various singles. As I’m feeling a bit lazy today, I thought I’d just gather a bunch of them together and offer them up for y0ur listening pleasure:-

mp3 : Department S – Solid Gold Easy Action
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – The Slider
mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Life’s A Gas
mp3 : Altered Images – Jeepster
mp3 : Morrissey – Cosmic Dancer (live)
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Children of The Revolution
mp3 : Placebo – 20th Century Boy

I was the oldest of three boys in my family and therefore didn’t really have anyone to offer guidance on who or what was cool when I was young.  I always imagined that if I had had an older sister then the walls of her bedroom would hve been covered in Bolan paraphenalia and that his songs would be blaring all constantly….just as they did round at my best mate’s house with his two older sisters!

mp3 : T Rex – I Love To Boogie

Enjoy

THE BEST BAND IN THE WORLD IN 1979

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I mentioned a box set by The Clash the other day.  One of the few other box sets I own is Direction, Reaction, Creation which is a 5-disc released in 1996 and offering more than 100 tracks by The Jam.

It also came with lavish packaging and a great booklet which contained summary details of the band’s live performances.  That’s where I’m able to see that, having just got myself at the age 16 to get into the habit of getting to see as many live performances as possible at the Glasgow Apollo (I was still too young to see bands play in pubs or sttudent unions), that I caught The Jam for the first time on Saturday 8 December 1979 during their extensive UK tour to promote Setting Sons (29 gigs in 34 days).  I would also catch the band on the four subsequent times they played the venue before they broke up in 1982.

My love for the band had been re-ignited by the LP All Mod Cons.  I had bought and enjoyed In The City but having been bitterly disappointed by follow-up The Modern World had, in that teenage way where it is so easy to discard something or someone, decided I didn’t really like The Jam.

All Mod Cons was released in November 1978.  But it was during 1979 that The Jam really began to establish themselves as my favourite band on account of an astonishing run of singles:-.

First up in March was this:-

mp3 : The Jam – Strange Town
mp3 : The Jam – The Butterfly Collector

There can be no argument that this was and remains an incredible piece of plastic. The A-side is powerful and fast while the B-side is slow and hanting….but both contain really sad and moving lyrics. The A-side being the tale of someone lost, lonely and alienated having been lured to the capital by the bright lights and promises of streets paved with gold, while the B-side is sorry and lurid tale of a groupie whose best days are behind her, but not that she has cottoned onto that fact. It’s worth remembering that Paul Weller was a musician very much in love with a long-term girlfriend and this was his response to the sorts of offers that seemingly most famous young rock musicians get while they are out on tour.

That #15 hit was followed up in August with this:-

mp3 : The Jam – When You’re Young
mp3 : The Jam – Smithers-Jones

An anthem of and for disaffected youth backed with a bitter tale of middle-aged failure. Is it any wonder that so many discerning teenagers in particular latched onto The Jam and proclaimed them as the greatest, most exciting and most relevant band ever? I was 16 years of age when this single was released…and it just seemed to be the story of my whole existence. And as for the b-side…it was a throwback to some of the earlier and well-received Jam singles as it gave space to Bruce Foxton to sing one of his songs, and this I would argue was his finest in all his time with the band. I was 16 years of age when this b-side was released…and it just seemed to be a well-timed warning not to throw my lot in with any old corporation.

That #17 hit was followed up in December with this:-

mp3 : The Jam – The Eton Rifles
mp3 : The Jam – See-Saw

Personally, I thought the last of them was the weakest of the three, but it did give the band their first Top 10 single at the ninth attempt. Oh and every single afterwards (with the exception of the import-only That’s Entertainment) would also go Top 10.

And it was the NME Single Of The Year for 1979.

At the time of release, many thought that Paul Weller had written an autobiographical song, but in fact it was inspired by a happening from the previous year.

A ‘Right to Work’ march had gone through the town of Slough, an event that wasn’t universally received locally – particularly by a group of well-heeled scholars from the nearby Eton College. The marchers were jeered and ridiculed by the scholars which then developed into a situation of a stand-off between the two sides.

Some of the marchers from an organised far-left political party then led a charge into the scholars and a series of stand-up fights ensued…unfortunately many of the marchers got a kicking as the posh boys from Eton turned out to be younger, fitter and more than capable of looking after themselves. Reports indicated that those who had instigated the fight were the first to flee the scene when they realised they were going to get a hiding, thus some of Weller’s most scathing lines:-

” What a catalyst you turned out to be
Loaded the guns then you run off home for your tea
Left me standing like a guilty schoolboy.”

Paul Weller celebrated his 21st birthday in the calendar year of 1979.  He was an astonishingly prodigious talent.

THE MOZ SINGLES (32)

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When I started out on this quest a few years ago on the old blog  to review every UK single released by Morrissey, I didn’t have all of them in the collection – some 95% of them perhaps, but not all of them. I thought it would be a simple enough task to track down those that were missing.

Wrong.

This one proved a bit awkward unless, at the time  I was prepared to pay over £40 for a copy. (It’s come down in price over the past 5 or so years but would still set you back around £20)

Although I’m a fan of I Just Want To See The Boy Happy (trombone playing on a Morrissey record??? Hurrah!!!) , it was the fourth single lifted from Ringleader of The Tormentors and as far as I was aware, the b-sides only had live versions of old songs. It also was released not long before Xmas 2006 and I’m no different from anyone else in wanting to having other priorities for my pennies and pounds at that time of year. It was sheer stupidity that caused me to overlook the fact that a previously unreleased song was on the CD single…here was me only looking at the two versions of the vinyl.

The three different formats, combined with the new song, and a couple of the best live recordings he’s shoved out, helped generate enough sales to take the single to a more than respectable #16 in the UK charts. But in January 2007, the record label made one final effort to get in some cash with a 12″ picture disc, limited to 1,000 copies, with all the tracks on the different formats brought together. And when I began this series, I was determined to track down an affordable copy of the single, which I did thanks to a seller from Germany.

mp3 : Morrissey – I Just Want To See The Boy Happy
mp3 : Morrissey – Sweetie-Pie
mp3 : Morrissey – I Want The One I Can’t Have (live)
mp3 : Morrissey – Speedway (live)
mp3 : Morrissey – Late Night, Maudlin Street (live)

The previously unreleased song, Sweetie-Pie, is a rather strange-sounding but entrancing track which I reckon should have been included on the LP just because it is so different from the majority of songs he was releasing at the time.

I really do like this version of Speedway, which I reckon is one of the best songs he’s recorded at any point in his career, solo or with his old band, while the performance of Late Night, Maudlin Street is also more than passable (and non-fans can take heart from the fact its a couple of minutes shorter than the original studio version).

I will not pass comment however, on the cover of the song by The Smiths.

All three live tracks were lifted from shows at the Royal Albert Hall in September 2002. These were at a time when he was without any sort of record contract and are reckoned by many to be among some of the best he’s ever played as he was determined to show the London media luvvies that he was still worth writing and talking about……it worked as he was back with a vengeance less than a year later.

As with so many of the other releases at this time, the sleeve photos were taken by celebrated Italian fashion photographer Fabio Lovino.

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 113)

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There will be some, possibly the vast majority of you, looking at the sleeve of single #113 in this series and thinking that I’m having a laugh or taking the piss.

Not at all.

I saw Travis a few times in Glasgow as they made their way up the ladder of the music world. They were an enjoyable indie-rock band who all seemed to be decent guys and nobody would begrudge them having some success. They were best-known for a long time as a band who rehearsed in the daytime in the upstairs part of a famous Glasgow city centre pub that has been a favourite of mine ever since I could legally drink.

They got two big breaks. Firstly, they were taken on as support act to Oasis for an arena tour where their performances were tight, quick and consistent in contrast to what the Mancunians were doing as they showed the first signs of what would be a gradual decline in quality from their first two albums.

Secondly, they got themselves onto the Festival circuit during one of the most miserable summers in living memory and their new song Why Does It Always Rain On Me? became the sing-a-long anthem for the masses and took Travis to a whole new level.

I happen to think that Writing To Reach You is a lovely little song. Yes, it owes an awful lot to Wonderwall by the aforementioned Oasis which in itself is a classic pop song. And I know that in many people’s eyes the rise of Travis led to the later emergence of the likes of Coldplay and Keane but that’s more to do with the music industry than the band itself.

mp3 : Travis – Writing To Reach You
mp3 : Travis – Green Behind The Ears
mp3 : Travis – Only Molly Knows

The single, which reached #14 in the UK charts, was released in March 1999, a couple of months prior to the LP The Man Who which would go on to win the BRIT Award for best album.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM #5 – THE THE

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Most of us who are in our 40s and 50s who retain a love for quality music surely have a bit of a soft spot for Matt Johnson, aka The The.

It would be very tempting to concentrate today’s posting on the 1983 LP Soul Mining. It remains not just my favourite release by The The, mainly because it just perfectly captured my mood at the time of release, but it is also one of my favourite albums of all time.  In some ways it is so good that it casts an almighty shadow over many other excellent work before and since.

It was a really frustrating time being a fan of the band at that time as there was a real unwillingness to tour and a desire by Matt Johnson to spend months and indeed years striving for perfection in the follow-up which eventually saw the light of day in 1986.  By this time,  I was into a new period in my life, post-university and not long into my first job in Edinburgh; Infected (together with The Queen Is Dead) is the LP that I most recall when I think back to those days.

I had become involved in a community drama group, initially as a way to meet folk and try to make new friends in a strange city. It was based in Stockbridge, which for those of you who don’t know Edinburgh, has long had a reputation for being a bit on the bohemian side. The flat I was living in at the time was just around the corner from the theatre, and it just seemed that every night, after rehearsals, a large group of us would end up back in the flat via a couple of hours in the pub, and we’d end up mostly listening to The The, The Smiths and New Order. Many was the morning that I didn’t make it into the office, and when I think back, I’m sometimes bemused that I didn’t lose my job over my behaviour….

Fast forward three years to 1989, and somehow I was still in my job, but had moved on to a more sensible way of living my life, when Mind Bomb hit the shops. The fact that Johnny Marr was now working and recording with Matt made this one of the most eagerly awaited LPs that I can recall. At the time, I was a quite disappointed with it, as it was just too downbeat to be enjoyable, and the tunes weren’t as easy on the ear as those on the previous two albums. But it is a record that I have grown to appreciate more and more with the passing of time, and I’m always happy when one of the tracks comes round via the shuffle on the i-pod.

Johnny Marr and Matt Johnson have each gone on record as saying that their time working, recording and touring together were among the happiest experiences in their musical careers, and proof can be found on the next album, Dusk, which contains some of the best songs Matt has ever penned, both musically and lyrically. Released in 1993, it criminally failed to spawn any huge hit singles, but was a LP that received all sorts of critical acclaim in the popular and specialist music press, and was the biggest-selling in the band’s career. And in Love Is Stronger Than Death, written by Matt as a way of helping himself to get over the tragic loss of his brother, you’ll find what I think is the most gut-wrenchingly beautiful song ever recorded.

I’ve always felt that The The could have really gone massive at this particular time, in the same as R.E.M. had done four or five albums into their career. But Matt chose an entirely different career path. The idea of a touring band was dismissed, and instead, the next project, in 1995, was Hanky Panky, an entire album of cover versions of songs by 50s country & western superstar, Hank Williams. It didn’t work. The record was very poorly received, and I honestly can’t find any way to defend it.

I really thought that was the last I’d ever hear from The The, but then in 2000, the LP Naked Self came out, almost under the radar. If this had been the debut album of some new band, it would have been praised beyond belief. Instead, there was a great deal of indifference, and sadly, a wonderful record was mostly ignored. It was, like all the previous original The The records, packed with thoughtful lyrics on difficult and often contentious issues. They were the thoughts of an angry man, a concerned man, a worried man and a pessimistic man. But it was far from a depressing and doom-laden bit of work.

That remains the last studio album to date but two new songs were added to a 2002 release of a Greatest Hits package.  Since then, Matt Johnson has kept a reasonably low profile concentrating on soundtrack work.  Earlier this year, a 30th Anniversary edition of Soul Mining was released and I intend to ask Santa Claus to bring me a copy later on this year….

I put Matt Johnson up there with Nick Cave, Billy Bragg and Steven Morrissey as the greatest lyricists of my generation. His collection of work over the past 30 plus years has been, for the most part, of the utmost quality. This imaginary LP wasn’t easy to put together:-

Side A

1. I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All Of My Life) (Special Mix)
2. Slow Emotion Replay
3. Infected
4. The Beat(en) Generation
5. Uncertain Smile

Side B

1. This Is The Day
2. Armageddon Days Are Here Again
3. Love Is Stronger Than Death
4. Dogs Of Lust
5. The Mercy Beat

Tracks A1, A5 and B1 are from the era of Soul Mining
Tracks A4 and A5 are from Infected
Tracks A3 and B2 are from Mind Bomb
Tracks A2, B3 and B4 are from Dusk

I feel bad about not including stuff from other albums but these are the ten that run best together.

mp3 : The The – I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All Of My Life) (Special Mix)
mp3 : The The – Slow Emotion Replay
mp3 : The The – Infected (12″ version)
mp3 : The The – The Beat(en) Generation
mp3 : The The – Uncertain Smile
mp3 : The The – This Is The Day (7″ version)
mp3 : The The – Armageddon Days Are Here Again
mp3 : The The – Love Is Stronger Than Death
mp3 : The The – Dogs Of Lust
mp3 : The The – The Mercy Beat

That closing track scared the life out of me upon its release – it was the soundtrack to an impending apocalyptic nightmare.  I hadn’t played it in years until I dug out all the stuff to make up this posting.  I always thought it the perfect ending to the LP Infected and while I can’t believe I didn’t have Perfect close this compilation , the memories invoked by The Mercy Beat, especially coming in late of an evening very drunk and playing it loudly so as to annoy my flatmates and neighbours, mean it has to go in.

Enjoy.