The Shoebox of Delights

Regular readers will remember that some time ago I was given a box of CD’s by my Dad. These were CDs that I left in a box in his house in 1998 when I graduated from university and moved to Devon. Every week I picked one at random and wrote about the music, some of this music was quite good, some was terrible.

Well, brace yourself, because at the weekend, I found another box. It wasn’t at my Dads, it was in my own house. In the loft. There is a story behind this box, if you will indulge me….

Mrs S-WC asked me to go in the loft and move some bits and pieces and to bring down a few other items that we were taking to the charity shop and the tip, domestic life is bliss in S-WC towers. So up in the loft I went, I found the items that were being thrown out, a pink surfboard (not mine or for that matter Mrs S-WC’s), a hoover box full of small pieces of foam (no idea), a piece of spare carpet (not the same colour as the rest of the carpet in the house), and some books, ignored baby toys and clothes for the charity shop. I moved them one by one towards the loft hatch.

Now, all my CDs are loving stored in waterproof, childproof, bombproof, dampproof, and animalproof boxes in the loft, there are quite a few of them (far less than there used to be, but a lot never the less) and I pretty much know what is in each box. Underneath or behind all the stuff that I had just moved was a shoebox, (Duffs Shoes, and for the record I have never owned a pair of Duffs Shoes) inside this shoebox was roughly 35 CD’s.

I scratched my head. Not because I was perplexed but I thought a spider fell on it about ten minutes ago and I’ve been jumping at the slightest itch ever since.  But this was strange…..I went over to the CD boxes, and opened up one of them, and where these CDs should have been were four books. About cats. Now our cat, died about two years ago from Kidney failure, and it was a horrible thing to see and to go through and each of these books was about caring for a terminally ill pussycat. Mrs S-WC took the death of the cat very badly, so I do the right thing, I leave the books where they are and shut the box lid.

But strangely Mrs S-WC chose the CD Box full of the CDs that I have not yet got round to converting to mp3 – she couldn’t have possibly known this, so I take the box downstairs and put it to one side. I make Mrs S-WC a cup of tea and pull a CD out…..

‘The Magic Treehouse’ Ooberman is, as you expect by the name of both the band and the album, a bit twee. They are a band with strong indie, folk and progressive tendencies that sadly split in 2003 after their second album ‘Hey Petrunko!’ failed dismally. I think they might have since reformed but I may wrong in with that.

Their debut album was the ‘The Magic Treehouse’ and the opening line of the entire album is ‘A star in heaven knows my name’ and it kind of sets the tone. If you don’t mind a little (ok a lot) tweeness in your music, then Ooberman are for you. If you own even one Slipknot record then its probably not for you. The Magic Treehouse is so twee it is dressed in pastel colours and wearing sandals.

They hailed from Bradford originally but didn’t really gel as a band until they moved to Liverpool and started releasing records in the late nineties. I first heard Ooberman when I was sitting in an office at work and Jo Whiley played ‘Shorely Wall’. In 1998 it was named Single of the Year by the Times Newspaper. It is that kind of song, catchy, adorably sweet and contains this spoken word bit at the end by Sophie Churney the band’s keyboard player in which I’m pretty sure she is close to tears.

Trust me if you haven’t heard this before it will be all over you from the first second you hear it. Seriously if you don’t think this in an incredible piece of pop music then you were born with something missing.

mp3 : Ooberman – Shorley Wall

I’m guessing that Ooberman’s closest musical peers would be Belle and Sebastian in that they rarely gave interviews and live shows were few and far between – but they kept in touch with their fans through their Internet site and as such grew an audience that were devoted and dedicated. Personally after listening to it I think its sounds like it comes from the same asylum for the musical insane as Gorkys Zygotic Mynci. Either way its all a bit lovely and gorgeous.

mp3 : Ooberman – Sugar Bum
(this was the bands first record released on Graham Coxon‘s Transcopic Label)

mp3 : Ooberman – Blossoms Falling
(The bands first Top 40 record on Independiente)

mp3 : Ooberman – Tears from A Willow
(The follow up single – it reached number 62)

mp3 : Ooberman – Roll Me in Cotton
(A soppy ballad from the album – perhaps the dictionary definition of ‘Twee’)

So – one down 34 to go. Actually 28 to go, 6 were compilation albums from the NME so I’ve put those to one side (one had So Solid Crew on it and we don’t need to hear that). I’ve numbered each one, some are singles, some are albums. Pick me a number folks…………….



A guest contribution from Alex G.  It features a band that I’m proud to say I caught playing live at the Glasgow Apollo when they opened for Roxy Music on the Flesh & Blood tour back in 1980..


Here’s an imaginary album by a band that I might, were I being insultingly reductive, call Toronto’s answer to Talking Heads. Which I just did. Sorry. Of course most people know them as the band who did Echo Beach: one great song, three and a half minutes in the spotlight, then gone. Whatever happened to Martha and the Muffins? All of the following…

This imaginary album Cooling The Medium is a selection from seven LPs, from The One With Echo Beach On It (Metro Music, 1979) to The Kind Of Folky One (Modern Lullaby, 1992). They did release a comeback album in 2010 but I never got into that, and besides, covering these seven albums in ten tracks was hard enough.

Side one

1. Swimming (from This Is The Ice Age, 1981)
2. About Insomnia (from Trance And Dance, 1980)
3. Cooling The Medium (from Mystery Walk, 1984)
4. One Day In Paris (from This Is The Ice Age, 1981)
5. Black Stations / White Stations (from Mystery Walk, 1984)

Side two

1. Was Ezo (from Trance And Dance, 1980)
2. Everybody Has A Place (from Modern Lullaby, 1992)
3. Echo Beach (from Metro Music, 1979)
4. Song In My Head (from The World Is A Ball, 1985)
5. Several Styles Of Blonde Girls Dancing (from Danseparc, 1983)

From the beginning, then… Martha and the Muffins formed in Toronto in 1977 and within a year had settled down to a line-up of Martha Johnson (vocals, keyboards), Mark Gane (guitar), Carl Finkle (bass), Andy Haas (sax), Martha Ladly (backing vocals, keyboards) and Tim Gane (drums). A self-financed 7”, Insect Love, brought them to the attention of Virgin Records, who signed them up to their new DinDisc label and brought them to the UK to cut a debut album Metro Music (Canada 1979, UK release 1980). The first single lifted from the LP was Echo Beach (side 2, track 3).

I nearly didn’t put Echo Beach on this compilation. After all, you already know it, you’ve probably got it, and if you want to hear it, you can just hang around any supermarket with an in-store radio station and it’ll turn up soon enough. But it’s here anyway, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because inevitably nothing else on “Metro Music” really comes close. I was going to use the follow-up single Saigon, but the write-up came down to “it’s pretty good, but it’s not Echo Beach”, so what’s a diligent compiler to do? More importantly, if we’re going to pretend that this could be a proper vinyl album, then let’s face it: there’s no way on Earth that you’d ever do a Martha And The Muffins compilation and NOT put Echo Beach on it. Apart from anything else, it’s just too damn good. So good, in fact, it was very nearly a career killer.

Desperate to cash in, Virgin sent the Muffins on a lengthy promotional tour and then demanded a second album, pronto. Recorded in between live commitments, Trance and Dance (1980) was the typical rush-released follow-up and drew upon songs rejected from the first album, revisited B-sides and a cover of Chris Spedding‘s  Motor Bikin’ which must surely be taken as a joke, albeit a somewhat inscrutable one. Barrel-scraping notwithstanding, I actually think “Trance and Dance” is a stronger album overall, and it’s represented here by two of its singles, both written by Ladly and appearing here in their re-recorded 7” forms.

Lead single About Insomnia (side 1, track 2) features a lyric full of words like “viaduct”, “nonchalant” and “tableaux”, half a verse in French for no discernible reason, a saxophone solo to make your ears bleed (the one on the album version is comparatively well-mannered), and no chorus. Well, there’s something resembling a chorus but they only do it once so I’m not sure it counts. All surprisingly good fun and of course it made no impact whatsoever. Was Ezo (side 2, track 1) delves into Japanese history and revolves around the wonderfully rhyming fact that “Hokkaido / was Ezo”. You will be singing it!

“Was Ezo” was Ladly’s finest moment with the group; shortly afterwards, she quit to pursue other ventures, including a spell working with Peter Saville Associates (the design on the front of the 1981-82 EP by New Order  is hers). Finkle quit too, and fatefully, Jocelyne Lanois became the new bassist. With “Trance And Dance” failing to produce any hits, Virgin’s plan for making a return on their investment was to impose a name producer on the group, but the Muffins chose instead to retreat to Toronto and record with Jocelyne’s brother who owned a little studio there, to which the label responded by slashing their budget.

You wouldn’t know it, though, because the then-unknown Daniel Lanois proved to be hot stuff, and the resulting album This Is The Ice Age (1981) doesn’t sound at all cheap – in fact it’s widely considered to be the Muffins’ magnum opus, and its opening track Swimming (side 1, track 1) is the opening track here. Representative of the more experimental, expansive sound of “Ice Age”, the Mark Gane-sung “Swimming” is undoubtedly one of their finest moments, and set the bar for a trilogy of albums with Lanois at the controls. The intro is supposed to sound like that, by the way.

Also here from that album is the piano ballad One Day In Paris (side 1, track 4), which if I’m honest I’m not that fond of, but a lot of reviews pick it as a highlight, and I need a gentler song at around track 4, so here it is. Were I not sticking to the “ten tracks” restriction, I would certainly have included more from This Is The Ice Age. I know the idea of this series isn’t necessarily a “greatest hits” or “ten very best songs”, but I do wonder whether I’m doing the right thing by leaving out Women Around the World at Work. Oh well…

Fourth LP Danseparc (1983) was the end of the road for Martha and the Muffins as a full band. The “Ice Age” line-up remained largely in place (though Haas dropped out in acrimonious circumstances), but creatively the group was really now Martha Johnson, Mark Gane and Who Cares?. The album wore its transitional nature on its sleeve: shifting away from the new wave whimsy of “Martha and the Muffins”, Mark and Martha had settled on the minimalist moniker “M+M”, and put both the old and new names on the front cover. Showcasing Gane as both vocalist and guitarist, the angular funk of Several Styles Of Blonde Girls Dancing (side 2, track 5) is the album’s longest, grooviest and arguably funniest track (what the hell is going on at 1.58?). And it allows this compilation to start and end with Mark Gane vocals. Which is nice.

The dancier Mystery Walk (1984, under the M+M name) completed the shift to a duo + session players format, and surprisingly enough actually seems to have had the reinvigorating effect Gane and Johnson hoped for, spawning an unexpectedly popular single in Black Stations / White Stations (side 1, track 5). This made it to number 2 on the US dance chart (a song lambasting radio stations for refusing to play black dance records was always going to be more popular in the clubs) and came tantalisingly close to a top 40 placing in the UK (it made #46), making it their second-biggest hit here, although obviously quite a lot smaller than you-know-what. It did somewhat kill its chances of being covered for years to come by making rather a big deal of the fact that “This is 1984!”.

Alas, there was no room on this compilation for other great “Mystery Walk” tracks like the ethereal Garden In The Sky (which I initially pencilled in for the closing track) or the anthemic Rhythm Of Life (on which Lanois gets to deploy his stadium rock tricks), but Cooling The Medium (side 1, track 3), another pop-dance track with just a smidgen of “tribal” flavour, had to go on – if only because it provides the perfect title for the whole collection. And besides, I just really like this song, so there.

With Lanois increasingly in demand elsewhere (his next project was U2‘s The Unforgettable Fire), “Mystery Walk” would be his last collaboration with M+M. The World Is A Ball (1985), largely produced in the UK by David Lord (previous credits: The Korgis, Peter Gabriel, XTC) was a disappointing collection with one spectacular standout, Song In My Head (side 2, track 4). In a world where “Echo Beach” didn’t exist, one could imagine this incredibly catchy pop song being the megahit they would never shake off instead. You’ll hate it, but you’ll have it in your head for the rest of the week.

After six albums in as many years, it took as long again for the seventh to appear. 1992’s Modern Lullaby saw the return of the Martha and the Muffins name, and yet another new sound. Its folk/country leanings may put some people off (it certainly seems to have had that effect at the time), but I genuinely like it. Not as much as Ice Age or Mystery Walk, but… it’s pretty decent. There were no singles released from the album, though videos were made for three songs, including the mellow Everybody Has A Place (side 2, track 2). I think thematically and musically this song sits well next to Echo Beach, and I like the idea of the newest track on the collection leading into the oldest. In fact, were I compiling this album for real, I’d probably do a little crossfade between them. As an aside, the sound of this track and “Modern Lullaby” in general owe a lot to session violinist Stuart Gordon, who died last year. An obituary can be found here:

So there you have it, ten songs from seven albums by Martha and the Muffins, disparate enough for everybody to hate at least one. Ah well, at least it’s got Echo Beach on it.

Alex G

JC adds………….

When this arrived in my inbox the other week I was really interested to download the songs and have a listen.  As I said, I did see the band some 35(!!!!) years ago and remember them being a great live act who were afforded a superb reception from what was a notoriously difficult audience to please.

The other thing that intrigued me was to listen to the Martha Ladly tracks as she, in addition to joining Peter Saville (and that was a new one to me as was the revelation that she was behind a New Order Cover), was to briefly be a member of Associates, a band that is much-loved round these parts and it is her keyboards and backing vocals that are such a major part of the hit single 18-Carat Love Affair.

I’ve had the advantage of listening to the songs for a few days and I’m happy to say that this is a band that deserves a much wider recognition than they have generally been given.  They are far too good and far too talented to be thought of merely as one-hit wonders…..

mp3 : Martha and the Muffins – Swimming
mp3 : Martha and the Muffins – About Insomnia
mp3 : Martha and the Muffins – Cooling The Medium
mp3 : Martha and the Muffins – One Day In Paris
mp3 : Martha and the Muffins – Black Stations/White Stations
mp3 : Martha and the Muffins – Was Ezo
mp3 : Martha and the Muffins – Everybody Has A Place
mp3 : Martha and the Muffins – Echo Beach
mp3 : Martha and the Muffins – Song In My Head
mp3 : Martha and the Muffins – Several Styles Of Blonde Girls Dancing


Although the links to the songs have been removed by now, the original author Alex G (whose place is the esteemed We Will Have Salad) can help out.





I’m assuming that all regular readers will be aware of The Jam and so I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by doing any potted history or bios. Instead, I’m going to use this new series as a way of giving myself a bit of an occasional rest by simply re-producing the sleeve, posting up the tracks and offering small bits of trivia and the occasional alternative version.

The debut single was released on 29 April 1977 and reached #40 in the singles charts, the first of 18 successive chart hits for the band.

It would go onto be re-released as a 7″ single by Polydor Records on three more occasions – in 1980, 1983 and 2002, hitting #40,, #47 and #36 respectively, meaning that its best chart performance was a full 25 years after its initial release.

mp3 : The Jam – In The City
mp3 : The Jam – Takin’ My Love

A live version, recorded at the 100 Club in London on 11 September 1977 was later made available on the live LP Dig The New Breed:-

mp3 : The Jam – In The City (live)

Two other versions on offer today.  The first is an alternative mix (possibly a demo) released as part of the Direction, Reaction Creation box set:-

mp3 : The Jam – In The City (version)

And finally, from a session recorded for John Peel on 26 April 1977 and broadcast six days later:-

mp3 : The Jam – In The City (Peel Session)




Absolutely chuffed that Johnny the Friendly Lawyer has popped up with this particular contribution. He’s another who has contributed to both blogs on numerous occasions offering his views and thoughts on many a posting.  And unusually for an American legal eagle, he’s never once invoiced me!!!

An Imaginary Compilation Album: Colin’s Ecstacy

Of all the UK post-punk bands that should have hit it big in the States but didn’t—The Jam, Elvis Costello, the Bunnymen, Smiths, Magazine, and countless others—Swindon’s XTC are among the most criminally overlooked. Maybe it’s because they stopped touring in 1982, when principal singer-songwriter Andy Partridge was overcome by stage fright. Maybe it’s because they didn’t get the label support they needed from Virgin. Maybe it’s because American radio was then and remains to this day absolute crap. In any event, the reason is NOT because XTC didn’t have the tunes.

And the man responsible for some of the band’s best tunes is founding bassist and co-vocalist Colin Moulding. Partridge fronted the band and wrote the majority of its songs, including some all time classics (‘Senses Working Overtime’, ‘Respectable Street’ and ‘Mayor of Simpleton’ come to mind). But the less quirky, unprepossessing bassist wrote more than his share of classics. This imaginary compilation offers a modicum of recognition to one of the most unsung heroes of the era, Colin Moulding.

Side A

1. Life Begins at the Hop

Although the band had been around for a while and had already released two albums, XTC really clicked into gear when original member Barry Andrews jumped ship to join Robert Fripp and his League of Gentlemen (decamping soon thereafter to form Shriekback). In came guitar wiz/fellow Swindonian Dave Gregory and XTC’s two-guitar, pop-focused sound was nailed down. 1978’s White Music and Go 2 contained several Moulding songs, but nothing that compares to this masterpiece. It was released as a non-album single in 1979 but was included as the lead track on the American version of Drums and Wires, the band’s 3rd LP, but first minus Andrews and plus Gregory. Instantly catchy like all good pop songs, ‘Hop’ is the true beginning of XTC and the perfect re-introduction of Mr. Moulding.

2. Making Plans for Nigel

Another single and the opening track of the UK version of Drums and Wires. One of the band’s best known and loved songs, but what is it about, exactly? Parents planning their child’s future? A comment on English society’s emphasis on steady employment? Never been able to work that out, but I do love this number. Interesting to note that ‘Nigel’, ‘Life Begins at the Hop’ and the Moulding-written ’10 Feet Tall’ were all included on the American release, and were the only singles from the album.

3. Generals and Majors

The lead single from XTC’s 4th release, Black Sea. I was lucky enough to see the band during this tour, in a tiny club in my suburban hometown of Roslyn, Long Island, New York. A true shame that they stopped touring; they were an outstanding live act and were talented enough to play to perfection anything they recorded. (Although I was a tad disappointed to see that the ‘whistling’ on this track is played on a synth!)

4. Love at First Sight

XTC are, for lack of a better word, a singable band. This track, also from Black Sea, only has a few chords but the vocal line is so melodic it makes the song irresistibly catchy. Even the middle eight (“Mouse takes the bait…”), with its standard C-G-A-D progression, sounds fresh with Moulding singing lead, as he does on most (but not all) of the songs he wrote.

5. Ball and Chain

The second single from the band’s 5th LP, English Settlement. XTC have often been called ‘Beatle-esque’ and it’s sort of true with this track, which to my ears bears a passing resemblance to ‘Getting Better’.

Side B

6. English Roundabout

One of the charming things about XTC, for us in the colonies anyway, is how profoundly English they are. Maybe that’s the reason they never made it over here. I don’t know—I hear the opening line “People rushing round with no time to spare” and it reminds me of millions of people, swarming like flies round Waterloo underground. The pace of the song, the intricate guitar figures, the vocal melody—all these show a band at the top of its game. But, soon after this record, Partridge shut down the touring machine, drummer Terry Chambers left, and they lost the plot. It took them years to get it back.

7. Grass

Four years and two more albums to be exact. XTC released Mummer in 1983 and The Big Express in 1984, both of which sank without a trace. ‘Wonderland’ was a Moulding single from Mummer which many people liked (not me). But XTC found their feet again in 1986 with the brilliant, Todd Rundgren-produced Skylarking. Often described as a ‘pastoral’ album, Skylarking is terrific start to finish. Widely considered Partridge’s tour de force, the LP nonetheless contained four great Moulding tunes, including this one, the album’s lead single.

8. The Meeting Place

“And here’s yer other album single”, as our host might say. Little known fact: XTC made headlines with the controversial Partridge tune ‘Dear God.’ It’s a great song with an interesting video to match, but it first came out as the B-side to Moulding’s ‘Grass.’ It was only after U.S. college radio stations picked up on the song that it got its own single release, eventually replacing ‘Mermaid Smiled’ on later pressings of the LP. More trivia: the drummer on Skylarking was Prairie Prince, the original drummer of American corporate rock perpetrators Journey and later a member of art/glam/goof band the Tubes.

9. King For A Day

Second single off Oranges & Lemons, whose title I only recently learned was from an English nursery rhyme. Notice how we’re up to song 9 of the Moulding compilation and seven of the tracks were singles? Not bad for the band’s auxiliary songwriter.

10. One of the Millions

Here we are at the end of the set and I’ve yet to mention how great a bassist Moulding is! If it wasn’t obvious from the previous tracks it should be from this one, on which his melodic, fretless lines are themselves little songs. Had Moulding never written a note or sung a word, XTC wouldn’t have been complete without his exceptional bass-playing. I bought my first bass in 1980 at aged 17, and Moulding quickly became a personal hero, ranked only behind the remarkable Graham Maby (from Joe Jackson’s band) and the all-time best bassist of the era, the Attractions’ Bruce Thomas.

XTC followed Oranges & Lemons with Nonsuch in 1992, then went quiet for seven years, eventually releasing Apple Venus and Wasp Star in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Then they packed it in. Moulding wrote songs for all of the last three albums, but none, I think, that merits inclusion in place of any of my chosen ten. Haven’t a clue as to what Mr. Moulding is up to now.

Bonus Tracks

Indulging their 60’s psychedelia fetish to the extreme, XTC released an excellent EP and LP under the pseudonym The Dukes of Stratosphear.

What In The World??…, written under the name The Red Curtain (Partridge called himself Sir John Johns) appeared on 1985’s 25 O’Clock, his bass front and center in a McCartney/Taxman bounce.

The Dukes returned in 1987 with Psonic Psunspot, on which Moulding/Curtain’s Vanishing Girl appeared. The Dukes’ two releases were later compiled together as Chips from the Chocolate Fireball. This kitschy homage to Barrett-era Pink Floyd, the Beatles and the Beach Boys contains some of the band’s best work and is well worth a listen.


mp3 : XTC – Life Begins At The Hop
mp3 : XTC – Making Plans For Nigel
mp3 : XTC – Generals and Majors
mp3 : XTC – Love At First Sight
mp3 : XTC – Ball and Chain
mp3 : XTC – English Roundabout
mp3 : XTC – Grass
mp3 : XTC – The Meeting Place
mp3 : XTC – King For A Day
mp3 : XTC – One of the Millions
mp3 : Dukes of Stratosphear – What In The World??…
mp3 : Dukes of Stratosphear – Vanishing Girl

JC adds…..

There’s another good friend of mine called John who is also a huge fan of XTC.  He was a very regular contributor to the old blog and one of the annoying things about it being taken down without advance warning a few years back is that almost all the musings of Mr John Greer were lost.  But I was able to salvage his piece on XTC and Dukes of Stratosphear for re-posting in May 2014.  It’s well worth a read:-



My first exposure to Propaganda came one night at the end of an episode of what by then was called Whistle Test, when a memorable pop promo for a song called Dr Mabuse was played out over the credits sometime around early 1984.

It turned out that this was to be the second single released on the ZTT label – the first being the amazingly successful Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. I was immediately captivated by its charms – it was a big booming tune that offered something different each time you played it. Oh and in co-vocalist Susanne Freytag, they had one of the most stunningly gorgeous women in the pop world.

The single was only a minor hit, peaking at #27, and with subsequent FGTH singles also being multi-million sellers, the relatively small ZTT had to put all its eggs into one basket, so Propaganda were left to one side for the best part of 12 months and it was April 1985 before the follow-up single Duel was released.

For the rest of the year, the band enjoyed quite a high-profile, including a number of TV appearances, live gigs and the release of the debut LP A Secret Wish in July 1985. Incidentally, the vinyl and CD versions of the album are very different – they were released some three months apart, and the CD has extended and slightly remixed versions of a number of the tracks.

I loved A Secret Wish. It was the sort of record I had imagined Simple Minds going onto make on the back of their earliest releases instead of gravitating towards the stadium rock behemoths they were becoming. And it was no real surprise that the Propaganda which went out on tour featured the ex-Minds bassist Derek Forbes…..

The debut single offered different versions on the 7″ and 12″. My 7″ copy has long gone – a victim of stupidity when all my 7″ singles were ‘lost’ in Edinburgh in 1986 but I do have the 12″ songs to offer up:-

mp3 : Propaganda – Das Testaments Des Mabuse
mp3 : Propaganda – Femme Fatale

Yup, another 80s band besotted by The Velvet Underground…..

Oh and there’s another version of Dr Mabuse also tucked away on the b-side, but it’s just a bit too industrial for my liking today.




Creation Records thought they were onto a good thing with The Loft. The four piece’s first two singles – Why Does The Rain and Up The Hill and Down The Slope in late 1984 and early 1985 had picked up a fair amount of critical acclaim and sold reasonably well for a purely indie-based label.  Theirs was the sort of music that had mainstream radio chart potential.

But The Loft called it a day in mid 1985 and out of the ashes emerged The Weather Prophets just under a year later with Pete Astor (vocals/guitar) and Dave Morgan (drums) joined by Oisin Little (guitar) and David Goulding (bass).

The debut single, Almost Prayed, wasn’t all that far removed from the sound of The Loft and by the end of the year a second single and a German import LP that had come out on an overseas imprint of Rough Trade Records had seen many tip them for great things in 1987.

By now Alan McGhee had been given money by Warner Brothers to form a new label which he named Elevation Records and its first releases involved The Weather Prophets – two singles (one of which was a re-recording of The Loft’s debut 45) and an album.  But pop music and critical acclaim have always had a fickle relationship and those who had supported the band through the Creation years were disparaging with the Elevation releases although musically there wasn’t much between them.

The band went back to Creation in 1988 and released two more singles and an album which was a little bit rockier than previous efforts but still success eluded them. The band broke up in late 1988 at which point Pete Astor pursued a solo career and Messrs Morgan and Goulding became part of a new alt/country group called The Rockingirds.

The Weather Prophets are still fondly remembered and regarded as one of the ‘should’ve been’ bands of the era and so it is no surprise that they were included on the CD86 double CD. The song was one of the b-sides on their 12″ debut single for Creation back in may 1986:-

mp3 : The Weather Prophets – Like Frankie Lymon

The actual single itself is a belter:-

mp3 : The Weather Prophets – Almost Prayed




SbTR-A-030 Outer Sleeve EX
From the Song, By Toad website:-

Bastard Mountain are: Pete Harvey & Neil Pennycook from Meursault, Jill O’Sullivan from Sparrow & the Workshop, Rob St. John from eagleowl & Meursault, Rory Sutherland from Broken Records & Reuben Taylor from James Yorkston & the Athletes.

Farewell, Bastard Mountain was recorded in October 2012. Jill, Neil and Rob each brought three songs, one to sing themselves, and one each for the other two vocalists to sing. Over the course of a week the group wrote and recorded music to go with these new versions, the result of which is Farewell, Bastard Mountain.

It’s a record full of drones and textures, but not as dark and oppressive as that might lead you to imagine. Instead, the semi-improvised nature, live recording and playfulness of the album gives the record a real lightness and sense of unity, to the extent that the vinyl has been pressed without any track breaks at all, as it all just fits seamlessly together as a single piece of work.

This approach to collaborative music was inspired by the Cold Seeds album we did several years ago with Animal Magic Tricks, King Creosote and Meursault. That album was more ad-hoc, there was no real plan for how it was going to happen, the music was almost entirely improvised and it all sort of fell together by happy accident.

This time around we wanted to reproduce that level of experimentation and excitement, but once the musicians got together it turned into something more like a conventional band. They may not have had much time, but they still rehearsed everything a little and then recorded the bulk of each song live, playing off each other to mitigate the uncertainty of trying to record a song they’d only learned a couple of hours ago.

The results are absolutely beautiful, with new takes on older songs as well as new and previously unheard tunes by all three main songwriters, as well as a first ever officially released song by Rory Sutherland which we all liked so much we’re pushing him to write a solo record as soon as possible.

Tracks written by:
Meadow Ghosts & Palisade: Rob St. John, Drone Armatrading: Rory Sutherland, The Mill, New Boy & Pissing on Bonfires: Neil Pennycook, Swam Like Sharks, Old Habits & My Crime: Jill O’Sullivan, Something On Your Mind: Dino Valenti.

mp3 : Bastard Mountain – Something On Your Mind




Having got to #1 with the Norman Cook remix of Brimful Of Asha back in early 1998 it looked as if Cornershop had a deserved profile after years of toiling in obscurity.

If there was any justice in the world, then this, one of a number of outstanding tracks from the LP When I Was Born For The 7th Time, would have also crashed high into the charts.

Sadly, Sleep On The Left Side stalled at #23, which in my books is enough to keep the band away from those that are listed as ‘one-hit wonders’, but proof that the record-buying public would only embrace the band’s unique mix of indie, dance and Asian music if someone famous like Fatboy Slim put their name to it.

The single is an edited down version of the original track that was on the LP, but it also came with other innovative and wonderful mixes:-

mp3 : Cornershop – Sleep On The Left Side (Radio Edit)
mp3 : Cornershop – Sleep On The Left Side (Ashley Beedle’s Right Hand Radio Edit)
mp3 : Cornershop – Sleep On The Left Side (Les Rythmes Digitales’ Living By Numbers Mix)
mp3 : Cornershop – Sleep On The Left Side (Ashley Beedle’s Right Hand Extended Mix)

New Order fans everywhere will surely adore the LRD mix…….



File under a sad ending to a recording career.

Altered Images had signalled they were calling it a day but ensured that all touring dates would be honoured, including their first ever gigs in North America.  The record label decided it would be fitting to release one last song from Bite and so, in October 1983, this was released on 7″, 12″ and pic disc:-

mp3 : Altered Images – Change Of Heart

It was the third single from the Mike Chapman sessions to be released as a 45 which meant that only Another Lost Look from those sessions hadn’t seen light of day via that format, although you will recall that an alternative version of said song had been put on the b-side of single #9 Love To Stay.  But hang on, what’s this on the b-side of this latest single?

mp3 : Altered Images – Another Lost Look

There was absolutely no incentive to buy this single on 7″.  The two songs had been available for more than four months.  So what about the 12″?

Eh……there’s no extended or dance mix, the b-side is the same….and to rub salt into the wounds the label put the 7″ versions of Happy Birthday and I Could Be Happy onto it.

Absolutely pointless.  So it is no surprise that the single didn’t chart.

And that dear readers, concludes a look back at the ten singles released by Altered Images between March 1981 and October 1983. Collectively, they delivered three Top 10 placings, six Top 40 placings and a total of 60 weeks in the Top 75.

Next up in the singles series…………The Jam.



A very welcome one-off summer special…….

Happy Summer Holidays Mr Vinyl Villain! I’ve been enjoying the Altered Images series and the Devoto “Rainy Season” was good to hear again. I remember being in the front row of an Edinburgh Fringe Show with Claire a few years back (and I still have a lovely signed risque poster). It was called “Lady MacBeth Firmed My Buttocks” and was a delight… however I digress.

I attach a completely unreleased track by The Associates featuring Billy and Alan. It is a cover of Paul Ryan’s song which was a big hit for brother Barry Ryan. Billy loved those kinda “Cabaret” Bacharach style, full-blown songs. On “Eloise” we can hear a young Billy (probably 1979) crooning his way through Rankine’s punky, guitar driven arrangement. Probably recorded at Craighall Studios in Trinity Edinburgh in 1979 with the same unnamed “Cabaret Musicians” responsible for the demos which were released as “Double Hipness” by Virgin in 2000.



mp3 : Associates – Eloise

JC adds…………It’s a long long way from the sounds that became the hits.  As Sid says it is very punky and having been lucky enough to see the Big Gold Dream documentary the other week it is very clear that the boys fitted in perfectly to the scene that was building up in and around the capital city in the late 70s.



The thing is….I need to apologise to everyone for a terrible drop in standards.  And not for the first time.

The thing is, I do my best to provide a daily posting but there is no way I can sit down every 24 hours and type something up.  Things are done in batches, post-dated and the magic of modern technology normally does the rest.

Problem is however, I do make mistakes often through tiredness but nowadays thanks to my advancing years, forgetfulness.  Which is why the songs that should have accompanied the piece on 14 Iced Bears last Sunday were missing.

And the reason it took so long to resolve the issue is that I’ve been away for the past three days with no access to the music files.

Sorry.  But I can’t promise it won’t happen again.  You’ve been warned.

mp3 : 14 Iced Bears – Come Get Me
mp3 : 14 Iced Bears – Sure To See
mp3 : 14 Iced Bears – Unhappy Days



This one comes of my namesake Jim C who has not only been a long-time reader going back to the old blog but an occasional guest contributor:-


Finally after months of procrastination… Here’s my Underworld compilation. I’ve just concentrated on the songs I genuinely love and have loved for years. I’ve seen them live on countless occasions and they never disappoint – I guess that’s influenced most of my choices – the ones I like them to play live. They’ve kind of soundtracked my life since the early 90s and so many of these songs remind me of happy times and friends. It’s incredibly difficult to pick ten songs and then write ten different stories – essentially most of these should all say – ‘This song is euphoric, it makes me smile and I like dancing to it’. My favourite album by them is Dubnobasswithmyheadman – I’m not sure how I’ve managed it but I’ve not included a single track from it – a couple of b-sides and a live version are about as near as I’ve got.

And at 1 hour and 48 minutes long these eleven tracks would have to be split over a double album!


Side A

From “Oblivion With Bells”

This is the Underworld song I play most these days. Dark, brooding – the perfect soundtrack for driving through a city late at night. It wouldn’t have felt out of place on Dubnobasswithmyheadman.

“Dark and Long” B-Side

I always put Underworld on my ipod when I am on my way home drunk. It soundtracks public transport and keeps me awake – and this is always one of the tracks that I go to. I do try and stop myself punching the air when the big chords kick in. Essentially it’s a remix of Dubnobasswithmyheadman opener ‘Dark and Long’ – but it does what all good remixes do and turns it into a completely new track.

Side B

From “Beaucoup Fish”

Side B kicks off with SNAKE! Always shouted by me and my mates when they play it live.

Rez B-Side

This song is euphoric, it makes me smile and I like dancing to it.


The most recent song on the list – a collaboration with DJ Mark Knight. If this is the future direction that Underworld take I’ll be a very happy man. I first heard it on the drive to Glastonbury a few years ago – it set up the weekend quite nicely.

Side C

06 8 BALL
From “The Beach soundtrack”

Another slow one to start side C. This just makes me smile. I wish I’d seen Karl Hyde’s solo shows where he played this – look it up on youtube (but don’t tell JC) it’s great.

From Beaucoup Fish

Tough call – it was either this or Two Months Off – but as much as I love dancing to that, I guess I like this song just a little bit more.

From “Second Toughest In The Infants”

The first of two tracks named after greyhounds (the other one is Born Slippy fact fans). And the only one with what sounds like a helicopter taking off in it.

Side D

From “Bootleg Babies”

A bit of a cheat this one – combining two of their finest records into one with a live version from the “Bootleg Babies” mix – essentially it was the Underworld messageboard putting together a mix of all the best Underworld live tracks to create the ultimate Underworld disc. And this really doesn’t disappoint – it gives a real flavor of what Underworld are like live.

From Beaucoup Fish

JC posted this song recently so I was in two minds about whether to include it – but for me, there isn’t really any other song that could have ended this compilation – it’s almost impossible to follow. They pretty much always played it last as it was guaranteed to get you dancing like a machete and give you whiplash.


Might seem a little obvious but how can you resist those euphoric opening chords? Seeing them a couple of times on their recent tour this song always turned into an enormous celebration for the audience – everyone smiling and hugging. It’s crazy to think that this was a B-side – I bought the original when it came out in 1995 and told everyone I knew that this was the best song EVER. Eighteen months later it got to no2 in the charts on the back of its inclusion on the Trainspotting soundtrack (and because it really is fantastic). It was also the nearest that my wife and I got to having a ‘first dance’ at our wedding!


mp3 : Underworld – Beautiful Burnout
mp3 : Underworld – Dark Train
mp3 : Underworld – Shudder/King Of Snake
mp3 : Underworld – Why Why Why
mp3 : Underworld – Downpipe
mp3 : Underworld – 8 Ball
mp3 : Underworld – Jumbo
mp3 : Underworld – Pearls Girl
mp3 : Underworld – Rez/Cowgirl
mp3 : Underworld – Moaner
mp3 : Underworld – Born Slippy (Nuxx)


It’s not that I’ve stopped reading in recent months but of late I’ve been engrossed in a couple of tremendous sports books and haven’t had time to delve into my extensive collection of those volumes related to music and musicians.

But over in Ireland for my annual long-weekend in mid-July saw me grab my copy of It’s Lovely To Be Here by James Yorkston and give it a re-read in the hours spent on planes, trains and inside terminals.

As the subtitle on the cover indicates the book is , a series of extracts from diaries written while the musician was on various tours. On the surface this might sound a bit dull and monotonous – you know the sort of thing….woke up with hangover, travelled to venue, did sound check, gig was great/mundane/OK/awful* (* delete as appropriate), got drunk afterwards and went to bed after crazy party/realising again how much I miss my family back home* (“delete as appropriate).

But this book is nothing at all like that.

It begins, somewhat very helpfully to anyone who might not know too much about the author,with a 20-page introduction explaining how he became part of the roster of the critically acclaimed and increasingly popular indie-label of Domino Records. There then follows five separate chapters for tours covering 2004-2009 in different parts of the world promoting different records to different audiences.

Much of the content of the diaries seems to centre around James  trying to convince himself that he is as good and talented a performer as everyone else is telling him.  This is not a man who is brimming with the utmost confidence and who seems to be bewildered that he is ‘making it’ as a musician. It’s also very clear from the outset that the author is indeed a true gent from his behaviour towards fellow artistes, including support acts or those above him on the bills and that he is one of life’s genuinely decent blokes in an industry where egos run rampant and you can never really be sure of who your friends really are.

The book is great at reminding anyone who is the slightest bit envious of the rock’n’roll lifestyle that much of it is mundane and repetitive with the added worry of never knowing in advance how well your performance will be received. It’s worth remembering that to musicians this is a job first and foremost…..and I don’t care what anyone says, there are days when nobody wants to go to their work no matter how different or exciting it might seem to most folk.

Other recurring themes are the need to get a decent meal – James is a committed vegan and many a promoter has failed to grasp just what that means – and his feeling that only drink and Valium can get him through the fear of flying. I know all this sounds a bit downbeat and depressing, but at no point does the author seek your sympathy. There’s a great deal of self-deprecating humour in the writing (a trait that he shares with that other T(n)NN hero Malcolm Middleton) and all told you cannot help but feel a lot of warmth and affection for the author….he’s the sort of bloke you’d be proud and honoured to call a mate.

You really don’t need to know anything about the records James Yorkston has released over the years to get something out of this book, and I recommend it highly to all and sundry.

Here’s some songs….

mp3 : James Yorkston & The Athletes – I Spy Dogs
mp3 : James Yorkston & The Athletes – Surf Song
mp3 : James Yorkston & The Athletes – Cheating The Game




The potted histories that I’ve been providing throughout this series come from a combination of personal memories, material I have in a couple of reference books and info that is out there on t’internet. But I’m having problems trying to provide a definitive guide to 14 Iced Bears as there are differing accounts out there and being a Brighton band that I can’t personally recall from the era I can’t pretend that what follows is 100% correct.

They did form in 1985 and there is no doubt that in their initial existence across some seven years that they had an ever-shifting line-up of musicians and were on a number of different labels.  They did however, centre around two principal songwriters in Rob Sekula (vocals) and Kevin Canham (guitars). They were an atypical 80s indie-pop outfit who had a number of devoted followers, particularly in and around their home town which has of course since become home to many talented and influential musicians of different genres but was seen in those days as being ‘not quite London’.   They concentrated on singles for the most part, with Come Get Me, their fourth 45, coming out in April 1988 as one of the earliest Sarah singles and thus now worth a fair bit of money if you’re lucky enough to have an original.

There were five performers on this single with the two main protagonists joined by Steven Ormsby (bass), Graham Durrant (drums) and Susan Freeman (backing vocals).

By the time a self-titled debut LP was released six months later, the band were on a different label with a new bass player and no sign of Susan…..

By 1992 it was all over but they were a band that many later emerging acts on the indie scene frequently name checked as an influence, although whether that was true or was simply the idea of quoting an obscure name in an attempt to be hip is hard to tell.

For a band that sold next to nothing back in the day it was a bit of a surprise that 2010 saw a reunion with a series of gigs, tours and eventually a high-profile slot at the Indietracks Festival in 2012. The following year saw Cherry Red Records release a Hold On Inside, a 2xCD retrospective of their entire back catalogue.

It was the Sarah single that was included on CD86 :-

mp3 : 14 Iced Bears – Come Get Me

It’s a catchy enough bit of music whose chorus will lodge itself into your brain but I’m not convinced that it is a ‘classic’ but that is a matter of personal taste. Here’s the two b-sides to the single:-

mp3 : 14 Iced Bears – Sure To See
mp3 : 14 Iced Bears – Unhappy Days


** links to songs now active….see additional posting on Tuesday 21 July!!


A reader made a passing comment the other week about going out of his/her way to purchase a cassette version of an album simply to pick up an extra otherwise unavailable track. That got me thinking back to late 1984 and the release of The Orange Juice, the fourth* and what turned out to be the final studio album by Orange Juice.

* Yes, I know the sleeve states it was (the third album) but I’m one of those who counts Texas Fever, a mini-LP released earlier in 1984 as an OJ album.

In many ways this was really the first ever Edwyn Collins solo album. By now the band had collapsed within itself and Edwyn only had Zeke Manyika for permanent company and so guest musicians were brought in for the recording sessions, most notably Clare Kenny (ex Amazulu) on bass while legendary dub reggae producer Dennis Bovell, who was behind the desk for the record, added his keyboard skills.

The ten tracks on the album are actually, and this might be sacrilegious on my part, among the best songs that were ever attributed to Orange Juice. Yes, they are a long long way from the rough and ready screechy/jangly guitar indie pop of the Postcard era but there’s a real quality about many of the songs that can be attributed to Edwyn’s continually improving song-writing abilities and quite honestly, if this had been a band’s debut album then the world would have sat up and taken huge notice instead of being dismissed in a whim of huge indifference. By now, Edwyn and Zeke knew that the game was up  and that many at Polydor Records had lost patience with the band but in one last brilliant hurrah they managed to get budgets for promo videos (with What Presence?! being directed by the acclaimed Derek Jarman) and what can only be described as some very tongue-in-cheek television advertising.

They also convinced the label to issue the record on what was then standard vinyl and cassette but that the latter should have the 10-track LP on one side while the other should became home to seven songs in what was described as the original 12” mix format. The outcome, rather unusually, was that the cassette format outsold the vinyl format but overall not in enough quantities to have the album make the UK charts.

And that would have been a total travesty and a thoroughly wretched way for the band’s career to come to a close but thankfully the thirty years since have been very kind to Orange Juice and they are probably better known and certainly better loved and appreciated than they ever were in their heyday.

I’d love to offer all seven tracks as they appeared on the cassette but sadly I don’t have the technology to make the transitions from tape to mp3. But I will take what I have from vinyl and CD and do something:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – I Can’t Help Myself (12” vinyl)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Rip It Up (12” version)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Love Sick (re-recording from Rip It Up single )
mp3 : Orange Juice – Flesh Of My Flesh (12” mix)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Out For The Count (alt mix from Texas Fever sessions)
mp3 : Orange Juice – What Presence?! (12” mix)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Lean Period (12” vinyl dub version)

To be honest, I find this mix of Flesh of My Flesh bordering on the unlistenable thanks to the annoying use of effects and gimmicks that take away any sense of rhythm or tempo. And to be completely honest, even the shortened 7” version of the song is one of my least favourite OJ recordings…..I just could never take to it.

But hey…..dig that extra guitar break instead of the harmonica in the middle of What Presence?! Sheer class…………….

Oh and its a fresh ‘rip’ of I Can’t Help Myself that has eliminated what was a jump when it appeared on the blog previously.



Another very welcome and interesting contribution today, this time courtesy of rhetor (not his/her real name!!),  a resident of Toronto where I spent a very happy four months working on a a secondment back in 2007.

It’s not rhetor’s first contribution to the blog as they explain in this really lovely covering e-mail:-

I am a bit of a long time reader and fan of your blog, and have for many years enjoyed opening every evening’s new column and perusing its song sample. It is a delight, as a Torontonian, to see your unique far-off yet near to home perspective on the musical taste we all too often seem to share. And though you probably do not recall, I have even left the occasional comment or two, entered one of your contests (the draw for Morrissey’s Swords), and even contributed briefly a song and write-up that featured when you were away in Ireland after the death of your brother (the Beloved’s song “Found” from the album “Happiness”).

Actually, as an unhappy anecdote, I must say that I once penned a whole column to contribute to a series you featured a long time ago, where readers wrote about “ten random songs from their iPod shuffle” and what they meant to them, but sadly, just as I clicked send, the laptop froze and I lost everything! I was so disheartened that it took quite the long time, though tempted often, to get around to trying another entry for your consideration and possible inclusion in a series.

I als feel that it is a bit cheeky of me to contribute an entry to your Imaginary Album’s series for The Trashcan Sinatras, as I know that you are indeed a fan too, but also that others in your ken (such as Colin from Fivehungryjoes) are also super-fans, but as I saw that no one had yet tried this exercise of creating the definitive TCS album, and that the long-awaited sixth TCS album is being born in just a month or two, so it would be an ideal time for a bit of a retrospective. So, feel free to include, if you think it might fit, or not, if it is not quite what you see fitting in.  But I do need to say that I love your daily entries, and you must promise never to stop writing, as you can see how much you mean to readers even far-off across the proverbial pond.

So without any futher ado:-

For those not aware, the Trashcan Sinatras (formerly known as The Trash Can Sinatras) are soon to release (in September) their sixth studio album, which those who wish to support, I believe, can still do through the group’s Pledge Music campaign. An ideal time, then, to do a bit of a retrospective of the band in anticipation of the coming but long-awaited treat.

Side A

Track 1: Obscurity Knocks (from the album the album Cake)

As the opening track for the band’s debut album, and the debut single released prior to the album that introduced the band to the world, this is the obvious choice for album opener.

Yes, I say world, because the song did very well not only at home in the band’s hometown of Irvine and environs, but also in the USA college radio circuits, and in my native city of Toronto, Canada, thanks to decently heavy airplay on my then-favourite and must-listen radio station CFNY, and the support of the very thoughtful and influential DJ Alan Cross (if you are not familiar with him in other parts of the world, fans of The Vinyl Villain and his musical tastes may well be interested in googling Alan Cross’s name to find the podcasts of his lengthy series The Ongoing History of New Music).

The pun-filled humility of the title is a hallmark of the band that has not left them to this day, despite the fact that this single may have proved a bit more prophetic than the band would have liked…

Track 2: Earlies (from the album the album I’ve Seen Everything)

The band’s musical and song-writing depth is evident in the fact that this early gem is sung by guitarist John Douglas, not the fabulous lead vocalist Frank Reader. And so many lovely covers of this song have sprung up, including (of course) by Eddi Reader (Frank’s sister and John Douglas’ wife) and more recently by Lotte Kestner. Fine, evocative storytelling here…

Track 3: Oranges and Apples (from the album In the Music)

Not to be confused with Pink Floyd’s 1967 song “Apples and Oranges”, this is nonetheless a tribute from the band to the influential and poetic Syd Barrett, with some of the band’s best dreamy-sounding guitar work, and a return on their most recent album to the delightfully playful lyrics that were a hallmark of the earliest albums…Yes, it’s almost 7 minutes long, but hey, boy, you ain’t heard nothing till you heard it live where it just gets longer and longer…

Track 4: The Sleeping Policeman (from the album A Happy Pocket)

Who else could write a song with a title alluding to a traffic-slowing barrier that then turns out to be ostensibly about North Sea fishing trawlers bringing home their catch, but in fact is more profoundly, as the lyrics tell, about “life and death”?

Track 5: Trouble Sleeping (from the album Weightlifting)

For me, this is the eerie heart of the Weightlifting album. A gentle and beautiful sound, but just under the surface the lyrics tell the story of grisly unsolved murders that took place near the bands hometown…

Side B

Track 6: All the Dark Horses (from the album Weightlifting)

This is the beautiful track that really makes the Weightlifting album (the band’s long-awaited “Comeback Album” after the bankruptcy that followed the collapse of Go! Discs and the end of their recording deal.

It has been used as a TV soundtrack leader on American TV, remixed into a club song and made available through the band’s website, covered by adoring TCS tribute bands, and even released in two versions on the Weightlifting deluxe album (acoustic as well as the radio single version)…but of course nothing beats the original…

Track 7: The Safecracker (from the album A Happy Pocket)

I think many, many fans would have this on their list.

The opening lines, “As fly to tarantula, as jugular to Dracula/ to me in my ford spectacular, you’ll be drawn…” give a feel for what the rest of the Happy Pocket album is like: a highly literate, but tongue-firmly-in-cheek ironic look at a variety of odd characters and personages both real (of the band’s ken) and very hopefully imaginary.

Track 8: The Hairy Years (from the album I’ve Seen Everything)

Again, this is a song that is not likely to have made the cut of every TCS fan out there, but is a personal favourite that just had to make the cut.

I had originally bought the band’s first album, Cake, as a whim upon seeing it in the music shop, as it had a sticker that claimed it was Scotland’s answer to The Smiths (?!) and as it was on the Go! Discs label that was a home for my other current favourites The La’s, Billy Bragg, The Housemartins, and The Beautiful South. I figured I could trust a label that was perspicacious enough to snap up such a collection of great artists, and it turned out to be a wise decision as I loved the album on first hearing, though I really never heard much of The Smiths in their sound.

By the time the second album, ISE, was released I bought it the first day, and was equally impressed on first hearing, though by no track more immediately than The Hairy Years, which seemed to me to be so delicate in the beauty of its harmonies and child-like simplicity of lyrics that covered over some mysteriously dark content, that I recall being afraid to listen to the album too many times, for fear that the first impression would wear out and I might tire of that first feeling…Of course, I never did.

Track 9: The Best Man’s Fall (from the album Cake)

No more need be said to convert casual friends to TCS fans than to quote a few selections of their lyrics. And there are few better or more frequently quoted than these (and looking at them, no wonder that plenty of fine bands overtly cite the Trashcan Sinatras and their lyrics as major influences, not least of which include The Lucksmiths (featured here recently) and the popular and rising Canadian indie band Stars).

could i interest you in a little something special
pay the earth but if you have no money
your attention’ll do
and if you don’t give a damn
you’re welcome to keep it…
the hands of the clock give me a round of applause
for getting out of bed and the scars of the night before
have turned into scabs and still I’m seeing double
and i’m looking twice my age
it’s getting to the stage where
i’m old, not wise, just worried
and stories of rags to riches leave me in stitches
and with a thread that’s hard to follow
you came into my life like a brick through a window
and i cracked a smile

‘Nuff said.

Track 10: Mr. Grisly (the acoustic version taken from the band’s self-produced Radio Sessions: Volume 1 rather than the original b-side from the single for Twisted and Bent):

Another song that is not every fan’s favourite necessarily, and only ever saw light of day as a b-side, but happens to be my own personal TCS #1, so here it is.

I was a genuine life-time highlight when they agreed to play it live in concert at my request, at a small venue in Toronto in 2011 as part of their “all- request private house party” concert series.

Hidden Bonus: Astronomy (acoustic version taken from the band’s self-produced Radio Sessions: Volume 1, rather than the original Japanese-only bonus track from the Weightlifting album).

The beauty speaks for itself, and makes a very lovely surprise closer for this Imaginary Album…

The Almost-Made-Its

Hayfever: This was the band’s second highest charting single, reaching the dizzying heights of #11 on the U.S. Modern Rock charts and a fine pop song it is too. The music video was reviewed somewhat favourably by Beavis and Butthead back in the day, despite their predictable juvenile mocking of the band’s accents!

Ghosts of American Astronauts: As TCS began their career back in the mid-to-late ‘80’s as a covers band, it would have been nice to find space for this gem (a cover of a Mekons song which was never released but made its way to the very scarce CD Zebra of the Family, which the band released as a way to both clear their recording studio closets of some gems and skeletons that somehow never saw the light of day, as well as to raise some much needed funds to help record their fourth album, Weightlifting, after the awful spectre of bankruptcy followed the collapse of their record label, Go! Discs, and the end of their recording deal.

Drunken Chorus: A true gem, and proof of the strength of the band’s depth of songwriting that this only made it as a b-side, or as one of six bonus tracks for the Cake album if you happen to live in Japan. As I indicated above, some of the very best Trashcan songs appear buried on the backs of singles releases! This is the one that the rowdy drunk guy at the back of the concert hall always shouts out for, and sometimes gets…

Wild Mountainside: A lovely ballad about the geography of their home country of Scotland, and one of the better known songs by the band, as it has been covered by John Douglas’ wife Eddi Reader and performed before royalty…

And now, having finished, I feel that all of the other TCS fans out there will begin the howls about what I left out, but let me say, as all of the others who have contributed have said before, that this is an outrageously difficult thing to do, to reduce a band that you love to one album of ten songs, and having come out from the grueling experience, I can only answer the critics by quoting from the delightful lyrics of the TCS song I’m Immortal:-

I took a kick in the confidence, down in the tackle I hurt
I took a shine to your big size tens
now all around the subject I skirt, gingerly, gingerly…



mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – Obscurity Knocks
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – Earlies
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – Oranges and Apples
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – The Sleeping Policeman
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – Trouble Sleeping
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – All The Dark Horses
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – The Safecracker
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – The Hairy Years
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – The Best Man’s Fall
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – Mr Grisly (acoustic)
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – Astronomy (acoustic)


The album Bite had been released in June 1983. While Don’t Talk To Me About Love and Bring Me Closer had signposed the direction that the band were taking I still recall the total shock that greeted the sleeve of the parent LP.  The pixie queen of indie pop music had an amazing new image, one that was clearly based on Audrey Hepburn a la Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  It was an astonishing transformation that was matched by the music on the new record.

There were just eight songs on the album, four of which came from the Mike Chapman sessions dating back to October/December 1982 and four from the work with Toni Visconti in March 1983.  The songs were richly arranged and produced packed with synth strings and backing vocals from top-quality session singers.  It was a tremendously mature piece of work that was as far removed from days of Dead Pop Stars and Insects as could be possibly imagined.   The only thing was, to my ears, that the one obvious single had already been lifted (and been huge smash) and none of the others were likely to have daytime radio DJs falling over themselves to play them.

Bite had gone Top 20 on its release but it hadn’t proved to have any sort of longevity and the sales were far less than the previous two albums.  The label decided to do the traditional thing and go with a third single and so it came to pass that Love To Stay was released in mid July 1983, again on 7″, and 12″ (but this time instead of a pic disc the label went with a poster inside the sleeve:-


mp3 : Altered Images – Love To Stay
mp3 : Altered Images – Another Lost Look (recorded live)

It is one of the band’s finest bits of music and thus one of their best singles but it is so completely out of kilter with many of the other 45s.

The b-side is an alternative version of another of the tracks on Bite and offered a band production on one of the tracks from the Chapman sessions.  From memory, the extended version is just the version found on the album….but I can’t confirm as I can’t find the 12″ version just now.  It’s been filed away in the wrong place and I can’t be arsed looking for it..

mp3 : Altered Images – Love To Stay (extended)

The single spent three weeks in the charts but got no higher than #45 and so brought an end to the run of the Altered Images 45s hitting at least the Top 40.

At the time, I thought that would be the last single lifted from Bite – after all four of the eight tracks had now featured as either an A or B side in a relatively short space of time and the impact of the third single in terms of album sales was negligible.  But I was wrong…..

Tune in next week for the final part of this particular series.




One of my favourite ever opening lines.

I’m not an enormous fan of Pavement – I sometimes think they were just too clever/deliberately obscure to be entirely loveable – but there’s a fair number of their tunes that have found their way onto the i-pod.

For a short while, it did look as if they would enjoy a fair amount of chart success, with the two singles taken from the 1997 LP Brighten The Corners, getting a fair amount of airplay. I was sure this went higher than #48 in the charts, but that’s what the record books tell me:-

mp3 : Pavement – Stereo
mp3 : Pavement – Westie Can Drum
mp3 : Pavement – Winner of The

And no, I haven’t missed out any words on the title of the last track.

Listening to these nowadays, there’s still a lot to enjoy. It is unashamedly indie-pop that can trace its roots back to the 70s and US guitar bands like Television and Blondie. And while his voice does seemingly get on the nerves on a few folk, I quite like the delivery of Stephen Malkmus.

And yes, Graham Coxon was listening to this sort of stuff a lot as well when he was churning out Blur tunes at the end of the 20th Century.





mp3 : Semisonic – Closing Time

I’m posing the question as a number of you were happy enough to come out in admiration for Just Like Fred Astaire when it featured and this, from 1998, is another of my guilty pleasures.

I only own one Semisonic album and it was bought on the back of hearing Closing Time on the radio. It just struck me as one of those great alt rock love songs that don’t come along all that often and it was one of those occasions where the choice of buying a single for £4 or an album for £12 was a no-brainer (and typing that is also an awful reminder of just how much the music industry was prepared to rip us off back in those CD crazy years).

The album was called Feeling Strangely Fine but it didn’t do all that much for me and indeed it has been many years since I’ve played any Semisonic songs other than the featured track. But I’ll throw in the two other songs lifted from it and released as singles:-

mp3 : Semisonic – Singing In My Sleep
mp3 : Semisonic – Secret Smile