GAZING INTO MY CRYSTAL BALL….

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I’ve never shied away from talking up the talent that is Adam Stafford.

The world should by now have taken full notice of the truly magnificent music he has been offering up over the past decade, initially as part of the band Y’All Is Fantasy Island and more recently as a solo performer; but sadly, and despite being feted by just about everyone who is anyone in the Scottish music industry, he is still very much a cult figure.

Things could have changed a bit this time last year when Imaginary Walls Collapse made the 20-strong longlist for the 2014 Scottish Album of The Year (SAY) Award but sadly, and criminally, it fell agonisingly short of the ten that made it onto the shortlist.

But perhaps that is just as well, for I think it will be impossible for any singer or band to pick up the SAY Award more than once (not until it has been going for at least 10-15 years) and I’m willing to say with extreme confidence that Adam Stafford is a great bet to win outright next year.

I make this bold statement not on the back of having secretly invented a time machine that fast forwarded to the 2016 Awards Ceremony but purely on the basis of hearing the first bit of music that will feature on Adam’s next LP – tentatively called Taser Revelations – which is due for release this coming autumn.

Said bit of music is coming out as download single tomorrow (Friday 1 May) via Song, By Toad Records. It is called Atheist Money and it takes everything that was so special and extraordinary with the last LP up to a whole new level.

There’s no way of course that I’m providing a link to an mp3 of the song – instead you can click here to listen on soundcloud and then click here to take yourself over to the Song, By Toad shop where I hope you will give the single your full support.

But as I’ve said before on T(n)VV, hearing the music of Adam Stafford is one thing – seeing him perform on stage is something else altogether and I’m delighted to pass on the news that he is embarking on a small tour of Scotland and England to coincide with the singles release, the dates are:

May 1st – Newport-on-Tay – New Port Sound, Rio Community Centre,
May 2nd – Aberdeen – Cellar 35
May 5th – Stirling – Tollbooth
May 6th – Glasgow – Glad Cafe
May 7th – Leeds – The Fox & Newt
May 8th – London – Disorder at The Old Blue Last
May 10th – Edinburgh – Summerhall, Dissection Room

Go along and be astounded. And remember, buy Atheist Money now so that you can boast to everyone that you were among the first to pick up on it.

In the meantime please enjoy this, a single from 2012 (shared with Rick Redbeard) that was later re-recorded for Imaginary Walls Collapse

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Vanishing Tanks

Enjoy

WHEN ED AND TOM MET BARNEY AND BOBBY

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So I’m guessing that Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands were messing around in the studio of a day, twiddling and fiddling with their knobs in an effort to create some classic new sounds. They’ve gone through their extensive list of contacts for folk to sing lead vocals, but are still on the hunt for that something different. So they get in touch with Bobby Gillespie having worked with him on some recent Primal Scream stuff.

But to their horror, Bobby turns them down. And even worse, he suggests they haul in Bernard Sumner as Bobby has been working with him on some fresh material that New Order are recording….

That’s really a bit unfair. Barney might not possess the greatest vocal talent in the world, but he’s nowhere near as bad as many like to make out.

Whatever the circumstances, and how it came about, I reckon this is a brilliant piece of indie-dance-pop:-

mp3 : The Chemical Brothers – Out Of Control

It’s a song credited to Rowlands/Simons/Sumner, so Barney must have contributed a fair bit to the collaboration. Oh and Bobby does provide some back-up vocals….

This was the third and final single lifted from the truly outstanding LP Surrender, It was released in October 1999 but only reached a rather disappointing #21. But then again, I’m guessing that most folk already had it on the LP as it had already been in the shops for five months. But that meant missing out on a new song and a dapper remix:-

mp3 : The Chemical Brothers – Power Move
mp3 : The Chemical Brothers – Out Of Control (Sasha remix)

Happy Listening. And Dancing.

THE LIFE OF BRIAN

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Adapted from a post over at the old blog.

It was Friend of Rachel Worth through a posting at the now defunct Cathedrals of Sound the other week who led me to dig out a long-forgotten mini-LP from 1992.

It’s best that the story of this artist and his records be told in his own words taken from what was a myspace site:-

“Dublin musician Ken Sweeney recorded two albums, three singles and an EP under the band name Brian between 1989 and 1999.

It all started when a good friend came across a demo of Ken’s song A Million Miles and persuaded him it should be recorded as a single. Taking the example of The Smiths, the blandest name imaginable, Ken joined forces with pal Niall Austin to release the single under the band name Brian.

Moving to London in 1989 just before the record came out, Ken was amazed to hear his non-existent band’s single had been voted number 4 single of the year in Hotpress Magazine’s Critics End Of Year Polls 1989. A second single followed You Don’t Want A Boyfriend (1991) which again did well in Hotpress Polls and led to a deal with London Irish label Setanta Records.

Locations around his home in Ealing, West London like The Western Avenue motorway and Hoover Factory inspired more songs from Ken with these demos released by Setanta Records in 1992 under the title Understand. By which time Niall Austin had left London and exited the band.

UK reviews and press coverage followed. But Ken lost confidence when follow up EP The Planes, his favourite Brian record, died a death. Very miserable in London, he eventually left in 1995 and returned to Ireland where he rediscovered his muse.

Renewing his association with Setanta Records, after about 50 years of studio, producer and publishing disagreements he released his second album Bring Trouble in 1999 with BBC Radio One Single Of The Week, Turn Your Lights On, which became a hit on Irish radio and was nominated Irish Single Of The Year in 1999’s Irish Music Awards alongside acts like U2.

But it wasn’t to be, as generally people preferred Ken’s music to be sad and he decided against further recordings.

Said Ken “When I used to shop for records down at The Tape & Record Exchange in Notting Hill Gate London, it always struck me there are too many bloody albums out there. Don’t add to it unless you’ve got something you really believe in. I’ve been lucky to have a few songs like that go through my hands but not for a long time and I suppose even with some of my favourite artists, you realise they’ve reached a stage where they’re past making their best work. In my case that happened pretty quick.”

I didn’t realise that Understand was a collection of demos for they are quite lovely tunes that evoke memories of some of the slow stuff by The Smiths, mixed with the love-struck lyrics often associated with Paddy McAloon. Oh and a few years later when I heard Ballboy, it reminded me a lot of Brian.

And as much as I’m tempted to shove the whole LP up here for your pleasure, I’ll make do with the two opening singles and the title track:-

mp3 : Brian – Understand
mp3 : Brian – A Million Miles
mp3 : Brian – You Don’t Want A Boyfriend

It was Jacques the Kipper who first brought Brian to my attention all those years ago…..but are there any other fans out there?

TELL ME WHEN THE FUN BEGINS

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Oh, how we can giggle now at the picture sleeves, but did Edwyn Collins ever think his rig-out of jacket, collar and tie, red shorts, white socks and brogues were remotely hip? Or even fey???

Postcard Records had come and gone, but the wish of its founder Alan Horne that all the bands should find fame and fortune with major labels seemed set to come true.

Orange Juice had signed to Polydor Records, but we were all delighted to see that the debut single still had the word POSTCARD printed above the Polydor symbol and indeed the famous drumming kitten was also very prominent on both the sleeve and label. Edwyn, James, Stephen and David hadn’t sold out after all……

But what’s this…a song written by Green/Mitchell/Hodges? Have they recorded a cover or is it some sort of writing team attached to their new home??

mp3 : Orange Juice – L.O.V.E…love

OK, I quickly learned that it was a cover of a song by Al Green, but being the uber-indie post-punk 18 year-old, I didn’t know that at the time (in fact I wasn’t really aware who Al Green was given he’d barely had a hit in the UK).

I wasn’t sure what to make of this record at the time. In fact I was a bit disappointed with it in many ways as it seemed awfully polished. It even had horns on it when all I wanted was guitars. Thankfully, as I aged, so did my tastes improve and while I still won’t place it in all time Top 20 of OJ songs, I do tap my feet, nod my head from side to side and croon along whenever it plays.

Tell you something though, the b-side was an instant smash:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Intuition Told Me (Pt 2)

What wasn’t there to love about a song that contained the lines?

Please, please
Tell me when the fun begins
Please, please
As soon as you stop your whining Jim

And I whined a lot in those days. Still do in fact. And I’m happy to confess that Intuition Told Me (Pt 2) is still a song that I rank among the Top 2 the band ever recorded……and the best one that Edwyn ever wrote for them.

Polydor had high hopes for Orange Juice. I’m guess they were staggered by the fact that it stuck at #65 in the charts on its release in October 1981.

Oh, the sleeves above? The camp one is the 7″ and the other is the 12″. What do you mean you need a better explanation than that??

Here’s the instrumental that was available on the 12″:-

mp3: Orange Juice – Moscow

This was a re-recorded and more polished version of the song that was originally put on the b-side of Falling and Laughing.  It was, at the time, a much sought-after piece of music and one of the reasons I bought the 12″ in the first place!!

NEXT YEAR’S NOSTALGIA FEST (Part 14 of 48)

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There’s a few of the CD86 bands still on the go today but most of them are doing so on the back of having broken up but subsequently reforming for love or money.

Today’s lot are an exception.

The Hit Parade formed in 1984 and while there was a nine-year hiatus between 1994 and 2003, they never ever officially called it a day and are still going strong 31 years on and their story is genuinely fascinating. The band consists of Raymond Watts, Matthew Moffatt and Julian Henry. and part of the reason they have never been commercially successful is down to the fact that all three have enjoyed huge success in other careers – Watts as a musician in Germany with harder-edged goth/rock acts, Henry as one of the UK’s leading lights in PR/media/marketing while Moffatt runs his own film lighting company.

Their first six singles, all recorded on their own JSH label, were released between June 1984 and April 1987.  All of them are no highly collectible and all of them received rave reviews in the UK music papers thanks to them being three-minute jangly dancey indie-pop. The singles were compiled onto an LP in June 1988 entitled With Love From The Hit Parade.

In 1991 the band would release material on three labels – Vinyl Japan and Sarah Records in addition to their own imprint .  By 1994, Julian Henry was working alongside Harvey Williams (who was  mentioned in last week’s feature on Another Sunny Day) while the band were out-of-the-blue enjoying chart success in Japan with a song called Hello Hannah Hello, a track only ever available as an LP track in the UK.

Then came the hiatus – the period coinciding with Henry’s meteoric rise to fame in the PR industry – before in 2003 the re-establishment of JSH Records since when the band had released one single in each of 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2011 and LPs in 2006, 2012 and 2014.

I’m ashamed to say that I know next to nothing about The Hit Parade and the only things I have in the collection are via compilation albums.  So if any T(n)VV reader wants to contribute something more substantial and meaningful than this cut’n’paste effort of mine, then please be my guest.

Here’s the really decent song that appears on CD86:-

mp3 : The Hit Parade – You Didn’t Love Me Then

It was the band’s fourth single and was released in 1985 with this as the b-side:-

mp3 : The Hit Parade – Huevos Mexicanos

Enjoy

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #9 : ALTERED IMAGES

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They began as a post-punk band championed by John Peel and Siousxie Sioux but within a relatively short period of time their move into pure pop music saw them conquer the singles charts before all of a sudden they fell spectacularly out of fashion and breaking up before the lead singer had reached her 22nd birthday after which she moved into acting.

I loved Altered Images.  They were great fun.  And Clare Grogan was, and still is, gorgeous.

The band were mere teenagers when they formed in 1979.  Their first two  singles were released to almost complete indifference in early 1981 but seemingly out of nowhere Happy Birthday hit the #2 spot in the UK on its release in August 1981.  Over the next nine months, they were rarely out of the singles charts thanks to the success of I Could Be Happy and See Those Eyes with Clare’s ‘little-girl on helium’ vocals and persona making them stand out just that bit more than most.

The age-old issue of failing to deliver a decent follow-up LP to the debut in 1982 was a setback and led to two-fifths of the band leaving on less than amicable terms and a whole change in direction in both sound and look. Vveteran producer Mike Chapman was brought in to bring a more polished and mature sound while Clare turned overnight into an Audrey Hepburn lookalike.  It did bring initial success through the outstanding 45 Don’t Talk To Me About Love but it wasn’t sustainable and before 1983 was out the band were no more.

I am proud of the fact that I own every one of the band’s eleven singles in 7″ and 12″ form along with a couple of picture discs having picked them up as a ‘job lot’ on ebay almost ten years ago.  It is tempting to put together a series featuring every single one of those 45s but I fear my love for the band won’t be as well felt among the T(n)VV readership.  But here’s one song that I think will go down well.  It’s the b-side to a November 1981 hit single (the afore-mentioned I Could be Happy) and it illustrates just how much in debt they were to the Banshees and their ilk with the early material:-

mp3 : Altered Images – Insects

Enjoy

SEND ME A LULLABY

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The Cure have released 41 singles going back to Killing An Arab in 1978 right through to The Perfect Boy exactly 30 years later. But I would never have guessed that Lullaby was the one that performed the best in the UK singles chart when it crawled its way up to #5 in 1989.

I would have put a fair amount of money that The Lovecats was the holder of that title, but it only scratched its way to #7 in 1983, although I’m guessing that in terms of actual sales it in fact outsold Lullaby.

And even if you told me that the biggest success wasn’t The Lovecats, I’d have then placed whatever was left of my cash on Friday I’m In Love, but this only swooned its way to #6 in 1992.

So the best performing 45 turns out to be the one about the creepy and haunting tale of an eight-legged creature that frightened Robert Smith is in his nightmares as a youngster. Or, is in fact the song, as has been suggested in some places, really about drug addiction and dependency but written in such a way that it gets past the censors at the BBC for the all important airplay?

Either way, I think its one of the most inventive arrangements to feature on any record by The Cure, and once more I’ve dug out the 12″ single from the cupboard for you all to enjoy once more along with two rather decent b-sides:-

mp3 : The Cure – Lullaby (extended mix)
mp3 : The Cure – Babble
mp3 : The Cure – Out Of Mind

Enjoy

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM #11 – LLOYD COLE & THE COMMOTIONS

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This should have been a relatively easy task.  After all, there are only 3 LPs and 9 singles (all of which were on a studio LP) in the career of Lloyd Cole & The Commotions meaning there were just a little over forty songs to be whipped into the shape of a ten-track imaginary vinyl album.

The problem however, was to not just find the best songs but to segue them into what I consider to be the perfect running order.  The other factor being that the band and the record label were astute at identifying the singles and this compilation was in early danger of just being a collection of 45s for the most part.

In the end, I have selected not my favorite ten tracks but the ten that I feel would make up a perfect album.  Here goes:-

Side One

1. My Bag

In a sense this song is very unrepresentative of the band’s output but it is such a cracking bit of music that it is impossible to ignore.  The intention here is to kick things off with a ridiculously uptempo dance number where the beat is what matters rather than the lyrics.

I was actually going to start things off with the Dancing Mix of this song which extends to over six minutes in length but to be honest, and despite Lawrence Donegan making you think, via his bass playing, that you could easily be listening to something that could be from Michael Jackson in his classic era before he went all crazy on us, the mix has dated appallingly – particularly the drums – while the idea of burying the guitar during the chorus is just so wrong.

2. Rattlesnakes

This is also aimed at keeping listeners on the dance floor, albeit we are now moving into indietracks territory and away from funk/disco.  One of the band’s earliest and best-loved songs, the name-dropping of Eve Marie Saint and Simone de Beauvoir were proof that Mr Cole was a cut above the norm when it came to songwriting.

3. Brand New Friend (long version)

There were many who ridiculed Lloyd for the amount of aforementioned name dropping on the debut album and I’m convinced that the introduction of Jesus into the opening line of the first track off the second LP was him thumbing his nose or flicking the Vs at said critics. This is such a wonderful piece of pop music and it has aged as beautifully and smoothly as a classic malt whisky.  This version is taken from the 12″ single release.

4.  Perfect Skin

It seems strange to have this tucked away in the middle of the album.  The debut single that announced the arrival of a great new band and the opening track of what turned out to be a flawless debut album.  In any other circumstances this would be a stick on for Side One, Track One but as I explained above, I feel the opening of this compilation is best served by My Bag.

This really is an astounding song and the fact that the band did not seek to extend or alter it for the 12″ release of the 45 proves their belief that they obtained sublime perfection at just over three minutes (which makes it a total mystery as to why a total abomination of an extended mix was put on the 12″ of My Bag…. a single I paid 50p for in a charity shop and still felt that I’d been ripped off!!)

5. Forest Fire (extended version)

It would have been so easy for the band to insist that the 45s should all be uptempo numbers and so stand a better chance of daytime radio airings and a high placement in the charts.  The decision to make the second-ever single a slow-tempo ballad with a long outro via a guitar solo was brave and which ultimately backfired as it stalled at #41.

Proof that the lyrics didn’t need name to be dropped in to make the listener sit up and go ‘wow’.  I was madly in love in 1984 and Lloyd perfectly captured how I felt about the woman in question and how she felt about me.  This, together with You’re The Best Thing by The Style Council, always make me think of her and wonder how her life turned out after our very messy and prolonged break-up.  We never ever imagined it that way, maybe we should have paid more attention to the first song on the second side of this LP…

Side Two

1.  Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?

“It’s about being so in love there’s only one way to go – if you get so happy then you’re ready to be heartbroken”.

Lloyd Cole talking to the NME in 1984.  Wise words that, as I said, I should have heeded.

2.  Mister Malcontent

The other day when looking back at Mainstream, I described this song as the Commotions by numbers. This was not intended as an insult….indeed I was trying to achieve the exact opposite.

This is one of THE greatest ‘tracks only ever released on an LP’ of all time (see Age of Consent by New Order as another example).  Friend of Rachel Worth in a comment left behind recently described the version of Mister Malcontent played on the 20th anniversary tour of Rattlesnakes as ‘storming’, a description that was 110% spot-on – bizarre that the best song on the nights turned out not to be on the LP that was being commemorated.  Proof that the Commotions were an incredibly talented group of musicians and not merely a backing band for a talented wordsmith out front.

3.  Big Snake

A mysterious and uneasy lyric.  If taken literally then it appears to condone incest, so I’m sure this is not the case. One alternative explanation, and this would be borne out from some of the material on subsequent solo albums on which he also adopted a third-person narrative, is that this is a song about a man who has hired a prostitute to act out a fantasy.  Either way it is unsettling and creepy….and in most cases would be so disturbing as to border on the unlistenable.  But, the unsettling and uneasy tale gets an equally unsettling and uneasy tune topped off with a wonderful backing lyric from Tracey Thorn.  It’s a million miles away from walking in the pouring rain with Jesus and Jane…..

4.  Four Flights Up

Anyone who ever says Lloyd Cole is just a pretentious and po-faced song writer should be tied to a chair and made to listen to this humorous track from the debut LP.  And it comes with a jaunty, sea-shanty type of tune that makes you want to dance at the indie-disco.

5.  Perfect Blue (alt mix)

I’m killing myself here.  The original version that closed Easy Pieces is a great bit of music.  This alternative version was made available for a compilation LP that was released post-breakup and isn’t as good.  But it is still a strong enough track to close off this particularly imaginary compilation.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – My Bag
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Brand New Friend (long version)
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Skin
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Forest Fire (extended version)
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Mister Malcontent
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Big Snake
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Four Flights Up
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Blue (alt mix)

Enjoy.

I’ll have a look at the extensive solo career over the coming weeks and months.

A MORE THAN REASONABLE DEBUT OFFERING

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The first time I heard Echobelly was back in 1993 via a compilation tape put together by Jacques the Kipper. I was immediately knocked out. It was as if a cracking Smiths tribute band (with added didgeridoo!!) was being fronted by the winner of a Debbie Harry soundalike contest.

mp3 : Echobelly – Bellyache

I immediately set out to track down the debut which wasn’t easy as it was on a  small London indie label – Pandemonium Records – but thankfully the label would re-issue it as an EP in January 1994 with the other three songs all being more than half-decent as well:-

mp3 : Echobelly – Sleeping Hitler
mp3 : Echobelly – Give Her A Gun
mp3 : Echobelly – I Don’t Belong Here

Seems I wasn’t alone in falling for its charms as the band then experienced a bit of a bidding war and they eventually signed to a subsidiary of Epic Records, and enjoyed a hugely successful two-year spell in which they would have two Top 10 LPs and a handful of hit singles.

The mainstays of Echobelly were a bit of an odd couple. Vocalist Sonya Madan was born in India but raised in a strict environment in England (so much so that she didn’t attend her first rock gig until she was at college) while guitarist Glenn Johansson was a Swede whose previous work had including editing porno mags…

Their writing partnership however, worked a treat with many of their songs combining catchy indie pop and intelligent and thought-provoking lyrics that addressed many social issues.  Their biggest hit addressed prostitution and homelessness:-

mp3 : Echobelly – King Of The Kerb

A series of health and legal issues in 1996 halted momentum and although the band returned with a third LP in late 1997, the Britpop-bubble with which they had been lumped in had burst and Echobelly soon became a mere footnote in indie pop history which is a real pity as they were more than half-decent but I don’t think they ever quite matched the brilliance of the debut single.

Enjoy

THIS WAS STUCK TO THE FRONT PAGE OF A MAGAZINE (7)

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Uncut was launched in May 1997 and is still going strong(ish) today albeit it isn’t selling as many issues as it once did – circulation dropped by more than one-third between 2007 and 2013 but it still shifts in excess of 50,000 copies each month.

Although now almost exclusively devoted to music, the magazine initially a chunk of its content devoted to films, TV and books and made no secret that the audience it was catering for was 25-45 year olds. Each month the magazine includes a free CD. The one featured today is from the March 2002 edition. It was plucked at random from a pile sitting on a pile on the floor – at least this one had been opened and listened to. Far too often I’ve taken the CD from a monthly magazine and having looked at who was included and nor bothered with it.

The sub-title to this CD was 17-track to the month’s best music. That didn’t mean however, that it was all new material on the CD as the magazine was more than happy to include tracks from albums that had been newly reissued or remastered – which was certainly the case on a number of these

mp3 : Teenage Fanclub & Jad Fair – Crush On You
mp3 : The Sound – Judgement
mp3 : Eileen Rose – Good Man
mp3 : Ian Dury & The Blockheads – The Ballad of the Sulphate Strangler
mp3 : The Arlenes – Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone
mp3 : Joey Ramone – Maria Bartiromo
mp3 : Willard Grant Conspiracy & Telefunk – Grun Grun
mp3 : Brian Wilson – Love & Mercy (live)
mp3 : Departure Lounge – King Kong Frown
mp3 : Cornershop – Heavy Soup
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Jonny Teardrop
mp3 : Giant Sand – Red Right Hand
mp3 : Morrissey – Late Night, Maudlin Street
mp3 : Free – Fire & Water (live)
mp3 : John Matthias – Three Cord Trick
mp3 : 1 Giant Leap – Racing Away
mp3 : The Rat Pack – Me and My Shadow (live)

My previous comments about free compilation CDs with music papers/magazines never really working out completely are well illustrated here. I may be a fan of some of the acts featured here, but I just never want to listen to anything by Free, even if it was deemed a live classic from when the band were at the peak of their powers back in 1970.

Few things worth mentioning:-

Red Right Hand is a very decent cover of the Nick Cave song
Teenage Club and Jad Fair sound as if they were tailor made for one another
Country/American aficionados are well look after with Eileen Rose, The Arlenes and Willard Grant Conspiracy (warning….the song from the last of these is strange!!)
1 Giant Leap was a concept in which a UK electronica duo (Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman) travelled the world and recorded vocals and music by numerous artists. The song on this particular CD features Horace Andy, Grant Lee Philips, Koalin Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut…..

I’m sure there really is something for everyone on this CD but don’t shoot the messenger for some of the unadulterated pish.

Enjoy

WHERE SNAKES IN THE GRASS ARE ABSOLUTELY FREE

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Formed in 1980, Bow Wow Wow were a band you tended to read far more about than actually get to hear for yourself thanks to the influence that Malcolm McLaren had over them.

Having convinced himself and many others, thanks to the Great Rock’nRoll Swindle that he was the master of hype, the svengali of new wave persuaded the original Ants of Adam & The Ants to form a new group. He told them they’d be famous and rich but he had to have the responsibility of finding the perfect lead singer. Six months later, the then 13-year old Annabella Lwin, daughter of a Burmese father and an English mother, was unveiled as the singer with the claim (true as it turns out!!) that she was discovered in a dry cleaners shop in London after she head been heard singing along to tunes on the radio.

The debut single C30 C60 C90 Go followed in July 1980 and immediately caused an outcry as it actively promoted the use of home taping to save money at a time when the industry was mounting a large awareness campaign against the practice under the slogan ‘Home Taping Is Killing Music’. Despite a lack of promotional support from the record label, the single charted at #34 in the UK, although the two follow-ups stalled outside the Top 50. When McLaren then insisted that the debut LP be released only on cassette this was the last straw for EMI and they let the band go. Cue more publicity……

Within days Bow Wow Wow were signed by RCA and McLaren really went into overdrive with the campaign to gain prominence/notoriety. Word got out that Lwin, who by now was around 14 and a half years of age, would be posing nude for the covers of single and LPs. McLaren argued there was nothing perverse or pornographic about it and that the poses would be similar to famous paintings that hung in art galleries the world over. Cue outrage from the tabloid press who of course fell into McLaren’s perfectly laid trap of getting the band talked about.

Before you knew it, Lwin’s mother had made a complaint to the police that her daughter had been exploited as a minor for immoral purposes. More tabloid media frenzy……

Meanwhile, the singles continued to stall just outside the Top 50….a run that eventually came to a halt in early 1982 when Go Wild In The Country, was issued with the cover being the infamous promised nude shot of Lwin. True enough it was a replica of a famous painting, that of Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe, painted by Edourad Manet in 1863 and which was considered highly immoral at the time. Say what you like about Malcolm McLaren, but he was brilliant at this sort of thing…..

Certain stores refused to display the single on the grounds of indecency and so special plain bags, with the sleeve contained inside, were produced to overcome such problems. Whether the sales were boosted by perverts only interested in the cover we can only speculate, but in reaching #7 it was the biggest hit in the career of Bow Wow Wow.

mp3 : Bow Wow Wow – Go Wild In The Country (12 inch version)
mp3 : Bow Wow Wow – El Boss Dicho!

The band enjoyed some success throughout 1982 but tensions quickly emerged as the outside world focussed almost exclusively on Lwin and the musicians were largely seen as a mere backing band for the vocalist. By September 1983, just a month shy of her 17th birthday, she was ousted from the group who reformed under the name Chiefs Of Relief – an act that had a bit of critical acclaim but no commercial success.

The thing is…..Go Wild In The Country is a cracking bit of music and probably would have been a hit notwithstanding the furore over the cover. Yes, it has dated a bit and can be seen as very much of its time. But its got a memorable and catchy chorus and is a track brimming with energy. And I’m not alone in thinking it wonderful….why else would Mr Gedge have covered it in 1992?

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Go Wild In The Country

Enjoy.

NEXT YEAR’S NOSTALGIA FEST (Part 13 of 48)

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Today’s lot are all the evidence you need to see that the C86 movement was like punk in that it inspired another generation of musicians, many of who came to be seen as representative of the movement even though they had little to do with its origins.

Another Sunny Day didn’t release any music until April 1988.  It’s a cracking name for a band especially when it covers the fact there was just one member, a talented multi-instrumentalist and vocalist called Harvey Williams.

He left college to sign with a then little-known but ambitious label called Sarah Records.  His first release was a flexi single that came free with a fanzine from the record label.  In due course he would record a handful of further single and a sole compilation LP for the label all of which today, like anything that was pressed up by Sarah, command high prices on the second-hand market – especially that very rare flexi/fanzine debut that has fetched as much as £180 on Discogs in recent times.  Just as well then that said song was on CD 86:-

mp3 : Another Sunny Day – Anorak City

It’s a tremendous bit of music albeit, at a juncture of nearly 30 years, it feels atypical of its time and place.  I’ve no doubt that those who were right at the heart of C86 and all that subsequently followed regard Anorak City as one of the most important and influential bits of music ever released. But then again, these are the folk who believe, wrongly, that C86 was the birth of indie pop.

Harvey Williams would later join The Field Mice, Blueboy and Trembling Blue Stars all of which were hugely popular bands on Sarah Records. I suppose that makes him the C86 equivalent of Malcolm Ross who was a member of three bands on Postcard Records…..

Being a flexi single there is no b-side to bring you, but here’s a track that wiki describes as Smiths-esque:-

mp3 : Another Sunny Day – You Should All Be Murdered

Smiths-esque is a bit of an understatement…..and listening to what is a truly outstanding record make me wonder why Moz didn’t pick up the phone to Harvey and ask to work with him after Johnny had upped stick and left his band…..

Enjoy

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #8 : ALOHA HAWAII

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Here’s Aidan Moffat popping up again for the second time in three weeks.

Aloha Hawaii is a collaboration between Aidan and Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai.  Here’s a press release they once put out:-

This the result of at least a decade of (often drunken) planning that has finally come to some form of fruition: to record any kind of sounds that please our four ears whenever we have the time, inspiration and enthusiasm. There is no game-plan, no style, no genre; anything that makes us smile will make it onto our records, which will take the form of sporadic, vinyl-only singles to be released on any record label willing to accommodate us over the next year or two.

There will be no digital formats whatsoever.

This could be a statement about the cheapening of an art-form in a world of disposable download culture or it could simply mean that we’re interminably old-fashioned and hopelessly out of date. We also reserve the right to change our minds.

That was back in September 2008 and it was to help publicise that the debut single was coming out on 10″ vinyl on Chemikal Underground, consisting of three bits of instrumental music with the lead track  quite frankly becoming a huge influence on the likes of Fuck Buttons who have been such trailblazers in the past few years.

mp3 : Aloha Hawaii – Towns On The Moon

This remains the only release that Aloha Hawaii have ever issued.  I guess that Aidan and Stuart took up the option of changing their minds.

Enjoy

 

LARRY AND HARRY

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Nick Cave was a truly creative force in the first decade of the 21st Century releasing an album every 18 months or so with the backing of The Bad Seeds or with the Grinderman offshoot.  It is a body of work that, due to its volume, doesn’t always quite hit the mark in comparison to the material from the 80s and 90s but it is never less than fascinating to listen to, especially in the live setting where he and his band established themselves as one of the must see acts with every tour bringing something different thanks to the revolving door policy of band and tour members.

One of my favourite songs of his is the lead-off single from the 2008 LP:

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig Lazarus Dig!!!

It bounces along a right old pace, paying homage to the sort of more direct tunes that Grinderman had been performing in the previous couple of years – in particular the call and chant nature of the vocal – and has a chorus that was tailor-made for A-listing on daytime radio.  Except, this is Nick Cave and unless he duets with Kylie or Polly then there’s no chance of ever hearing him outside of Radio 6….

Ever wondered what the hell this crazy cut-up vocal is all about?  The great man explained all at the time of its release:-

Ever since I can remember hearing the Lazarus story, when I was a kid, you know, back in church, I was disturbed and worried by it. Traumatized, actually. We are all, of course, in awe of the greatest of Christ’s miracles – raising a man from the dead – but I couldn’t help but wonder how Lazarus felt about it. As a child it gave me the creeps, to be honest.

I’ve taken Lazarus and stuck him in New York City, in order to give the song, a hip, contemporary feel. I was also thinking about Harry Houdini who spent a lot of his life trying to debunk the spiritualists who were cashing in on the bereaved. He believed there was nothing going on beyond the grave. He was the second greatest escapologist, Harry was, Lazarus, of course, being the greatest.

I wanted to create a kind of vehicle, a medium, for Houdini to speak to us if he so desires, you know, from beyond the grave. Sometimes, late at night, if you listen to the song hard enough, you can hear his voice and the sad clanking of his chains. “I don’t know what it is but there is definitely something going on upstairs”, he seems to be saying. It is, most of all, an elegy to the New York City of the 70’s.

So there you have it…………..

Incidentally, the version of the song put on the blog is the limited edition 7″ single version which comes in at some 32 seconds shorter than the album version (that’s the anorak in me coming to the fore I’m sad to say).

Here’s yer b-side:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Accidents Will Happen

NOT a cover of the Elvis Costello classic, although that didn’t stop EC’s folk a few years back issuing me with a dmca notice demanding that the Nick song be taken down (I knew it was from EC’s folk as the other three songs the notice referred to were all from a posting to do with him!!)

Enjoy…as I will Nick Cave when I go see him in Edinburgh at the end of this month.

CAMPFIRE SONGS

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This bit of music sounds as if the makers should come from deep in the heart of Texas, but in fact The Rockingbirds were a London-based outfit formed in 1990.

mp3 : The Rockingbirds – Gradually Learning

They were first signed to Heavenly Records but no mainstream success came from any of their four singles/EPs or their 1992 self-titled debut LP. Some of the band left after this initial burst of activity, but a new line-up inked a deal with Cooking Vinyl and an LP was recorded with Edwyn Collins at the producers desk. But still The Rockingbirds remained too square-dance to be hip and by 1995, they called it a day.

However, there was a very brief reformation in 2008 to play a show celebrating the 18th birthday of their first label and then some more gigs in 2009 to support the re-release of a remastered and extended version of the debut LP.

One of the band members was Andy Hackett who has long been a sidekick of the afore-mentioned Edwyn playing on his records and being part of the various tour bands.

Here’s the other tracks on the CD single:-

mp3 : The Rockingbirds – Where I Belong
mp3 : The Rockingbirds – Love Has Gone And Made A Mess Of Me
mp3 : The Rockingbirds – Gradually Learning (full version)

While here’s another of those early singles on Heavenly – a tribute to a very talented singer-songwriter from Boston who featured just yesterday on T(n)VV:-

mp3 : The Rockingbirds – Jonathan Jonathan
mp3 : The Rockingbirds – Time Drives The Truck
mp3 : The Rockingbirds – Older Guys

The last of these tracks is a cover version of a song by The Flying Burrito Brothers and was co-written by Gram Parsons.  It was also covered, in 1993, by Teenage Fanclub and featured as one of the b-sides to Norman 3:-

mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Older Guys

Enjoy.

PS

Here’s an update on The Rockingbirds as provided by the man who is sitting on the horse on the sleeve of Gradually Learning:-

“Hi, Andy from The Rockingbirds here, just to add we’re still going strong and are currently finishing our 4th album provisionally titled ‘More Rockingbirds’ as we speak. We also released an album called ‘The Return of the Rockingbirds’ a couple of years ago, which like all of our albums is still available.”

I’m off to track down a copy….and hopefully the band will take to the road later on in the year to promote the upcoming 4th album.