YET ANOTHER WEEK OF REPEAT POSTS : I CAN’T HELP MYSELF

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(Originally posted on the old blog on 24 May 2013)

I’ve a fair few CD singles and a couple of albums released by Gene during their existence, but they were a never a band which grabbed my undivided attention at any time.

For a short time they were hailed as the next great thing by a fair chunk of the UK music press and this is what made me a little wary. But on reflection, I’m more than happy to acknowledge that they released some cracking songs in their time, many of which have aged way better than many of the better known songs by their better known peers from the Britpop era in the late 90s.

If you’re not familiar with too much of their material, it’s well worth picking up the 2001 ‘best of’ compilation As Good As It Gets (released by the major label that they had not long departed from) which brings together most of the 45s and some of their most popular tunes.

You can find on said compilation two of the three tracks I’ve picked out for today.  They were originally part of the band’s second ever single,  released in August 1994, and which made #54 in the UK singles charts.  The last of the flops in some ways as the next ten singles would all make the Top 40.

mp3 : Gene – Be My Light, Be My Guide
mp3 : Gene – This Is Not My Crime
mp3 : Gene – I Can’t Help Myself

It’s the latter of the two b-sides which is included in the ‘best of’ compilation and when you give it a listen, it’s no real surprise. It really is a song wasted as a b-side as it was more than strong enough to be a single release in its own right, but Gene were always a band, similar to The Smiths and Suede, who wanted to make each single something a bit special and so would ensure the b-sides were all killer and no filler.

But as much as I love the original version of I Can’t Help Myself, it can’t hold a candle to a later version recorded for BBC Radio 1 and which came to my attention thanks to its inclusion on a free cassette given away with a monthly music magazine. It would later feature on the 1996 release To See The Lights which consisted of rarities, live tracks and acoustic versions of singles:-

mp3 : Gene – I Can’t Help Myself (Radio 1 Session)

Absolutely gorgeous.

THE MOZ SINGLES (35)

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It was back in 2008/09 that I originally ran with the Moz singles series.  Part 35 featured what was then his most recent 45 and this is what I said

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When he played his live gig at Glasgow earlier this year, Morrissey expressed surprise that his latest single from Years of Refusal had been such a monumental flop.

Peaking at #46, this is the lowest chart placing for any of the 37 solo singles other than Hold On To Your Friends, but given the general decline in sales of singles over the past 15 years, it’s reasonable to assume that Something Is Squeezing My Skull is the poorest selling Morrissey product of all time.

On its own it’s a song that doesn’t deserve such a poor testimonial for it is a reasonable romp of a tune with an amusing enough lyric -and I do find it hard to accept that fans were more driven to purchase the drivel that was Roy’s Keen – but then again given the heinous crimes committed on the b-sides of the 2 x CDs and the 7″ bit of plastic, then SISMS really got all that was coming to it:-

mp3 : Morrissey – Something Is Squeezing My Skull
mp3 : Morrissey – This Charming Man (live)
mp3 : Morrissey – Best Friend On The Payroll (live)
mp3 : Morrissey – I Keep Mine Hidden (live)

I know I’ve harped on about it before in previous parts of this series, but over the years, his various bands have consistently failed to do justice to originals by The Smiths, and I’m guessing that now the whole approach is now to just to bludgeon them to death. Truly awful.

But to be fair they’ve added a bit of spunk to an otherwise ordinary track from the very ordinary Southpaw Grammar LP.

The one saving grace about the single is the artwork. The cover photos are of the great man beside the grave of Johnny Ramone, while the inner sleeves feature two rather nice paintings, one of The Bowery at Night (1895) by William Sontag that is normally on display at the Museum of the City of New York, while the other is of Camden Town Engine Room (1838) by John Cooke Bourne that is normally on display at the National Railway Museum in York, England.

Will this be the last ever single he releases???? Who knows……and I’m guessing that growing numbers of people will be saying ‘who cares?’.

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As it turned out, it wasn’t his last ever single but that’s something I’ll turn to in the future (when all’s well…..)

Happy Listening.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 116)

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From wiki:-

U.N.P.O.C. is the name under which Tom Bauchop of the Fence Collective records. He has released two albums on Domino Records, Fifth Column and the limited edition Live at King Tut’s.

In 2007, his single “Here on my own” was used in both the theatrical trailer and film Hallam Foe, the film going on to win the award for “Best Music” at that year’s Berlin Film Festival. The song was also used to soundtrack the theatrical trailer for the 2007 Golden Horse Film Festival in Taipei, Taiwan.

Discography

Albums : Fifth Column (2003); Live at King Tut’s (2004)

Singles : Amsterdam/Here on My Own (2003)

It turns out that I have two-thirds of the entite U.N.P.O.C. back catalogue. The only thing missing is the live LP which was released in a very limited edition….but bizarrely enough I was at the gig. It took place on 21 December 2003 and was the first proper U.N.P.O.C. gig as part of a Fence Collective evening. It was such a great performance that I bought the album on the night.

This is a cracking single:-

mp3 : U.N.P.O.C. – Amsterdam
mp3 : U.N.P.O.C. – Here On My Own

Enjoy

ANOTHER WEEK OF REPEAT POSTS : HORSIN’ AROUND/BACK TO NATURE

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(Two posts from same day – 12 June 2007 – over on the old blog)

I’m sure I’m not the first blogger of my age to mention how lucky today’s kids are in terms of what they can watch on TV.

In my day, it was three terrestrial channels – BBC1, BBC2 and Scottish Television – and quite frankly, most of the shows aimed at those aged under 12 were crap. Except for Tom & Jerry.

Nowadays, with all sorts of specialised channels on satellite TV, there is a wider choice, and while much of it is probably just as crap, at least they can watch something different all the time.

I just remember every single school holiday being marked on BBC1 with a re-run of two black-and-white TV series. One was called Belle & Sebastian. The other was The White Horses. The former had a really creepy theme tune that was sung in a foreign language, the latter had a theme tune that was ace.

Here’s an abridged extract from wikipedia:-

The White Horses is a 1965 television series co-produced by RTS of Yugoslavia and BR-TV of Germany. It follows the adventures of a teenage girl (played by Helga Anders) who visits a farm, run by her Uncle Dimitri (played by Helmuth Schneider), where white Lipizzaner horses are raised. It is called Počitnice v Lipici in Slovenian and Ferien in Lipizza in German. The series was a cult hit with children and comprised 13 episodes, filmed in black and white.

A dubbed version was broadcast in the United Kingdom in 1968 and repeated for many years afterwards (the dubbed soundtrack has since been lost). The theme tune, credited to “Jacky”, was sung by Jackie Lee. It became a top 10 hit in the UK charts in April 1968. Jackie Lee also had a hit with the theme tune to Rupert (The Bear) in 1970/71.

And guess what:-

mp3 : Jackie Lee – White Horses

And how about a couple of my favourite bands doing cover versions:-

mp3 : The Trash Can Sinatras – White Horses
mp3 : The Wedding Present – White Horses

The former is on the b-side of the 12″ single Circling The Circumference, while the latter can now be found on the recently released Peel Sessions boxset.

Beaver

After the horses earlier in the day, Mrs Villain insisted that I put up her favourite song about animals:-

mp3 : Primus – Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver

Oh and no apologies to any passing perverts who chanced by thinking it was something completely different.

Enjoy

ANOTHER WEEK OF REPEAT POSTS : SING MICHAEL, SING…..

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(Originally posted on the old blog on 28 July 2010)

……………even if it is just as a backing vocalist:-

mp3 : Billy Bragg – You Woke Up My Neighbourhood

Much as I love this song, I really do think it was a peculiar choice for a single. I can only guess that having enjoyed some bona fide chart success back in early 1991 with Sexuality, everyone associated with Billy Bragg, be it his record label and/or management, wanted to maintain the momentum.

The LP Don’t Try This At Home contains a number of potential hit singles, but none of them had an input from what was then the biggest band in the world, and so the gamble taken was to go for a less-obvious track in the hope there would be some crossover into the R.E.M. fanbase.

You Woke Up My Neighbourhood was a flop, stalling at #53. Indeed, the next again single, a re-recorded version of Accident Waiting To Happen, did much better reaching #33.

Looking back it probably made a bit of sense at the time, but this great little piece of country/bluegrass pop should have simply been a great track on a great LP instead of a release which did nothing but undermine Billy’s self-belief in his ability to become a crossover popstar.

For those of you who don’t know, in addition to Michael Stipe providing backing vocals, the talents of Peter Buck were deployed on acoustic guitar and mandolin. Indeed, the R.E.M. guitarist is the co-author of the song…..

Another great star of the alternative American music scene of the early 90s can also be found on the single, with Natalie Merchant being the co-author and lead vocalist on one of the three b-sides:-

mp3 : Billy Bragg – Bread and Circuses

The other two tracks consisted of a Billy Bragg original:-

mp3 : Billy Bragg – Ontario Quebec and Me

and a cover version of a song written by the aunt of Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright :-

mp3 : Billy Bragg – Heart Like A Wheel

Actually, that last sentence doesn’t do justice at all to the lifetime of work by Anna McGarrigle, most of which was performed as part of a duo with her sister Kate McGarrigle (mum of Rufus and Martha) who sadly passed away at the beginning of 2010.

ANOTHER WEEK OF REPEAT POSTS : OH YOU HANDSOME DEVIL….

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(Originally posted on the old blog on 30 June 2011)

Go on. Don’t be ashamed to admit it. The late and great Billy McKenzie was a fine-looking chap. With an amazing voice. Even if most of his lyrics didn’t make sense. As can be heard on the 12″ version of one of the few Associates tracks to crack the charts:-

mp3 : Associates – Club Country (extended)

The fault is, I can find no fault in you
Assault is say it or I’ll say it for you
If we stick around we’re sure to be looked down upon
What better way or should I say?

Alive and kicking

Alive and kicking at the Country Club
We’re old and sickening at the Country Club
A drive from nowhere leaves you in the cold
Refrigeration keeps you young I’m told

Alive and kicking at the Country Club
We’re old and sickening at the Country Club
Your limitations are our every care
Every breath you breathe belongs to… someone there

At all’s two words could they be soldered as one
Therein lies the perfect pseudonym
To think you’ve learned to know someone and find
That you don’t know don’t know them at all

Alive and kicking

Alive and kicking at the Country Club
We’re always sickening at the Country Club
A drive from nowhere leaves you in the cold
Refrigeration keeps you young I’m told

Alive and kicking at the Country Club
We’re old and sickening at the Country Club
Your limitations are our every care
Every breath you breathe belongs to… someone there

Sad to see that you’re suffering
Work hard at being a something
Sad to see that you’re suffering
Work hard at being a something
Sad to see that you’re suffering
Work hard at being a something

Alive and kicking at the Country Club
We’re old and sickening at the Country Club
A drive from nowhere leaves you in the cold
Refrigeration keeps you young I’m told

Alive and kicking at the Country Club
We’re always sickening at the Country Club
Your limitations are our every care
Every breath you breathe belongs to someone there

Quite.

Bonkers but brilliant with a bass-line unlike any other. 6 mins and 57 seconds of perfection. And unbelievable to think that it dates back as long ago as 1982……..and listening to it again earlier today brought back loads of great memories of dancing at Level 8 at the student’s union of Strathclyde University. Where have the years gone????

Here’s yer b-sides:-

mp3 : Associates – A.G. It’s You Again
mp3 : Associates – Ulcragyceptemol

Both are magnificent. The former is a remix of the instrumental track Arrogance Gave Him Up which can be found on the LP Sulk, while the latter has Billy singing, yelling and screaming all sorts of gibberish over a tune that I think would make a tremendous goth anthem……..(ie it reminds me of The Cure)

Oh and here’s something a wee bit different for you:-

mp3 : Associates – Club Country (demo version)

Enjoy.

ANOTHER WEEK OF REPEAT POSTS : ONE OF THE GREAT LOST 45s OF THE ERA

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(Originally posted on the old blog on 17 October 2012)

I’ve mentioned before that for a short while from around late 1985 for maybe around 18 months that music took a bit of a back-seat in my life. I had just graduated from university, gotten my first job and moved to Edinburgh to live. I got a bit entrenched for a while in the world of community theatre and even a bit of stand-up comedy…..writing stuff for others not performing.

So there’s a bit of a hole in the collection from around this era. I’m aware of a fair bit of the stuff thanks in the main to Jacques the Kipper and his endless supply of compilation tapes a few years later, many of which featured songs and bands from my ‘lost’ period.

Today’s Scottish singles isn’t one that JtK brought to my attention. It was only in recent years through the blogging activities did I learn that a number of excellent yet short-lived Scottish bands embraced the DIY ethos much of which would contribute to the C86 movement that totally passed me by at the time.

History doesn’t say record much about The Big Gun. They were from Irvine, a town on the west coast of Scotland some 25 miles south-west of Glasgow. They only ever released one single on their own Hi-Fibre label while one other song was made available via a flexi-disc which had, on the other side, a song by another native of Irvine, a singer-songwriter called Basil Pieroni.

As regular TVV readers will know, Basil is nowadays the guitarist in Butcher Boy and someone I’ve become friends with in recent years. It was through this connection that led me to download some tracks from a posting at the wonderful (but now sadly defunct)  Consolation Prizes blog:-

mp3 : The Big Gun – You’ll Always Give Your Best
mp3 : Basil Pieroni – Don’t Ever Go Away Again

The homemade info that came with the flexidisc has been reproduced above, but in case you can’t read it:-

The Big Gun : Keith Martin (vocals, guitar); Alan Carruthers (guitar); Andy Crone (bass); Andy Kerr (Drums); Andy O’Hagen (additives)

Both tracks recorded early Nov 86 in Glasgow. Photos by Gordon Hay

Hi-Fibre : Fresh, substantial and committed, in this instance, to the provision of free pop. Here, enthusiasts can sample the delights of The Big Gun and Basil Pieroni recorded here for the first time.

Hi – Fibre : Bright, urgent and working through the night to deliver instant classics to the nation; allow no-one to seel you this record. Hi-Fibre – fast, reliable and painfully instinctive

But as I said above, only one proper 45 would appear –  Heard About Love backed with Happens All The Time. Sadly I don’t own a copy. But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I’m been able to convert copies of the tunes as posted on a video channel:-

mp3 : The Big Gun – Heard About Love
mp3 : The Big Gun – Happens All The Time

Have a listen folks…..and discover one of THE great long-lost 45s of Scottish indie-pop.

Oh and the chap Andy O’Hagen on “additives”??

I’m reliably informed it was the tambourine that he was shaking. He grew up to be this awfully talented bloke……

ANOTHER WEEK OF REPEAT POSTS : SCARED HITLESS

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(Originally posted on the old blog on 17 October 2012)

I hope you agree that Scared Hitless is a cracking name for a record label – although it is seemingly a name adopted by many a hapless baseball team.

As far as I know, there were just six singles and one LP ever released via the label:-

FRET 001 : 3 and a half minutes – Peep (1992)
FRET 002 : 3 and a half minutes – Bled Me Dry (1993)
FRET 003 : Veruca Salt – Seether (1994)
FRET 004 : Skyscraper – Never Again (1995)
FRET 005 : Oslo – Talk To Feet (1999)
FRET 006 : Oslo – Skriker (1999)
FRETLP 001 : Oslo – Daylight (1999)

I’ve only one of the above records but it’s an absolute belter:-

mp3 : Veruca Salt – Seether
mp3 : Veruca Salt – All Hail Me

Formed by Nina Gordon and Louise Post as an acoustic duo they soon realised that wasn’t the sort of music they wanted to make and so they enlisted bass player Steve Lack and Jim Shapiro (Nina Gordon’s half-brother) on drums

They released a self-funded demo tape and shopped it to labels while playing a handful of small club shows. The buzz around the band grew furiously, and after only a few live gigs, the band was signed to Minty Fresh Records for whom they released the single Seether which became a huge hit on MTV in the States and ultimately led to Veruca Salt signing a contract with Geffen Records.

The Scared Hitless release of Seether in the UK was June 1994 but after the single had picked up momentum in the USA, it was re-released in the UK on Hi-Rise Recordings in November 1994. I’ve got the 12″ version of this in the cupboard as well:-

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There were two tracks on the b-side taken from a BBC session:-

mp3 : Veruca Salt – Straight
mp3 : Veruca Salt – She’s A Brain

Seether only reached #61 in the UK charts but was hugely popular with listeners of the John Peel Show who voted it in at #3 in the 1994 Festive Fifty .

Happy Listening

THE MOZ SINGLES (34)

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And so we approach the final few entries in the Morrissey series with a look at what I reckon is an underrated single from December 1992.

mp3 : Morrissey – Certain People I Know

In addition to the sleeve of the CD single, I’ve sourced a copy of the promo single with its tribute to the T Rex 45s of the early 70s….indeed Mrs Villain still has a number of these kicking around from her teenage years….and its entirely apt given that the tune is near enough a rip-off Ride A White Swan, a record which peaked at #2 in late 1970.

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I suppose it’s the fact that I’m quite fond of the T Rex singles myself that makes this one of the most enjoyable Morrissey offerings. And while I never bought any T Rex singles as they mostly predated my passion for pop music,I can recall them being played again and again and again on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show (which was always on as I got ready for school) and of course remember seeing Marc Bolan et al perform the hits on Top Of The Pops.

Certain People I Know was the third single to be lifted from the LP Your Arsenal, but it was a full five months after You’re The One For Me Fatty. It was a strange time to issue a single in the midst of all the novelty records that traditionally appear at that time of year, and it was hardly a surprise when it only reached #35, which at the time was the poorest ever performance by a solo single (and it was the 14th in the career).

But there’s one other things to factor in….namely that it was the first Morrissey release since the infamous August 1992 gig known as Madstock when the donning of a Union Jack at his first UK gig in 18 months led to a near riot and the subsequent pillorying of the great man in the NME as an alleged racist.

The fact that the crowd trouble was subsequently found to have little to do with the parading and discarding of the flag was glossed over. The fact that some of the song titles and sentiments were questionable were enough to have the verdict delivered as guilty.

It was a difficult time to be a Morrissey fan, and there’s no doubt it had an effect on the sales of the single. The real irony of course came two years later when having pilloried Morrissey for use of the Union Jack when it was an emblem associated with the far-right extremist parties, the NME couldn’t wait to picture Noel Gallagher with his Union Jack guitar or talk about Geri Halliwell and her Union Jack dress all the while claiming they were triunphs for British music.

Of the two b-sides on the single, one has become a bit of live staple over the years, although the version of Jack The Ripper banged out on stage by his band is often unrecognisable from the original release, while You’ve Had Her is a worthy enough song thanks to a wonderfully short but bittersweet lyric which is dismissive of the blokes who ditch the girl as soon as they’ve had their wicked way….

mp3 : Morrissey – You’ve Had Her
mp3 : Morrissey – Jack The Ripper

The cover shot was taken by one of his oldest friends, Linder Sterling. There’s an unsubstantiated rumour that the sleeve was changed at the last minute, with the word Morrissey written in black ink rather than being spelled out in red, white and blue.

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 115)

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From wiki:-

The Twilight Sad are a Scottish indie rock band, comprising James Graham (vocals), Andy MacFarlane (guitar), and Mark Devine (drums). The band are currently signed to Fat Cat Records and have now released four full-length albums, as well as several EPs and singles.

Their 2007 debut album, Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, drew widespread acclaim from critics, who noted Graham’s thick Scottish accent and MacFarlane’s dense sonic walls of shoegazing guitar and wheezing accordion. The Twilight Sad’s notoriously loud live performances have been described as “completely ear-splitting,”and the band toured for the album across Europe and the United States throughout 2007 and 2008. Sessions inspired by stripped-down and reworked live performances yielded the 2008 mini-album, Here, It Never Snowed. Afterwards It Did.

Their second album, Forget the Night Ahead, marked a shift in the band’s direction; lyrically more personal and musically darker and more streamlined, it was released in 2009 to further acclaim. Recording sessions for the album also produced the mid-2010 release The Wrong Car, which followed the departure of founding bassist Craig Orzel in February 2010. T

The Twilight Sad’s third album, No One Can Ever Know, was released in February 2012 and marked another stylistic shift, with the band citing industrial music and krautrock influences for a darker, sparser sound.The band’s fourth album, entitled Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave, was released just a few days ago on 27th October 2014.

The band describes their sound as “folk with layers of noise,”and music critics have described the band as “perennially unhappy” and “a band that inject some real emotion and dynamic excitement into a comparatively standard template.”

Your humble scribe loves this band and never tires of listening to them or catching them live. The aforementioned 12″ single from 2010 features today, complete with its b-sides containing an otherwise unavailable songs and very different versions thanks to remixes of two of their best-loved tunes:-

mp3 : The Twilight Sad – The Wrong Car
mp3 : The Twilight Sad – Throw Yourself Into The Water Again
mp3 : The Twilight Sad – The Room (Mogwai remix)
mp3 : The Twilight Sad – Reflection Of The Television (Errors remix)

Enjoy.  Can’t believe it is already November and that I’ve now featured 115 different Scottish artists in this series of singles in my ownership.