21 years of the most important and influential label ever to come out of Scotland and I’m marking it by dipping into my pocket to spend £50 at the Chemikal Undergound Records online shop with the selections being made and shipped to one lucky T(n)VV reader, no matter where they live.

All you have to do is answer a question – and even if you don’t know the answer immediately you’ll find it available after a quick look on the Chem website.

Q : Which two musicians make up the band Aloha Hawaii?

Send your answer to

But be quick about it as entries close at midnight tonight (UK time). The winner will be drawn out of a hat by none other than Stewart Henderson, MD of Chem and of course the bass player with The Delgados back in the days.

And to help you along, I’ve been compiling some Chem playlists and featuring them here. This is the third and last of them:-

You can also download it:-

mp3 : Radio 236 – Chem Underground (Vol 3)

Here’s a list of the songs that make up this particular mix:-

Father’s Eyes – De Rosa
Foxtrot Vandals – Zoey Van Goey
Any Way I Can – Rick Redbeard
The Actress – The Delgados
The First Big Weekend – Arab Strap
Leave You Wanting More – Sluts Of Trust
The Copper Top – Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat
Exits – Aereogramme
Look After Your Wife – Lord Cut Glass
Oh Yeah…You Look Quite Nice – Mother & The Addicts
A-Z And Back Again – Magoo
Trouble – Adrian Crowley

And here’s a promo of one of the above songs:-

Good luck


033052e7bfbd234c9e2abdaa5f2cca0fDisc 8 is English Civil War.

The end of year polls in 1978 had been good to The Clash.  They were still seen as being a band for the people, not willing to compromise or sell-out with the continued non-appearances on the likes of Top of The Pops to promote singles being held up as a particular example.

It was also known that they weren’t keen for singles to be lifted off albums, and indeed the decision by CBS to issue Remote Control off the debut LP had caused huge friction.  But there was hardly an eyebrow raised in surprise when it was revealed that a second single was to be culled from Give Em Enough Rope a full three months after the LP had been released.  Part of this was down to the band not making a fuss – indeed it seemed as if they wanted it released as they felt it was important to bring as much attention as possible to their fears and concerns around the growing rise of a neo-Nazi right-wing in the UK.

English Civil War was a loud and very punky track with a tune that was taken from an old marching song dating back to the American Civil War.  Joe’s new lyrics to the jaunty tune drew attention to the fact that if the rise of the right continued in the way it was threatening to then it would be up those who cared most to fight against it in the streets.  And as if to really drive the message home, the lyrics were printed on the rear of the single which had as its front cover, a still lifted from the animated version of Animal Farm as its front cover.

mp3 : The Clash – English Civil War

The fact that the band could their message across in graphic and musical fashions allayed any overriding concerns that fans were being ripped off – and besides, Joe told everyone that they would make it up to everyone in a special way with the next single.

The b-side was a punky cover of an old reggae tune recorded by The Maytals in 1969 and which came to wider attention when it was included on the soundtrack of the movie The Harder They Come:-

mp3 : The Clash – Pressure Drop

It reached #25 in the singles chart, which was an outstanding achievement for a song that most fans would already have owned. The essay in the booklet is a good one….

ENGLISH CIVIL WAR : Released 23 February 1979 : #25 in the UK singles chart

I bought Give ‘Em Enough Rope in the record department of Rumblelows in Northwich. I’d bought Sandanista a few weeks before, and I was at that stage where you want to hear everything you can. The first three tracks just blew me away – Safe European Home, Tommy Gun and English Civil War. I’d never heard a record which sounded so big and powerful. 

I love English Civil War. It’s a marching song. The intro is all on one chord, then Strummer just screams “Alright!”.  At  14, it sounded fucking incredible – all-guns-blazing rock’n’roll. I’d go round to my mate’s house and put it on and we’d all jump around the bedroom.  It’s the sound of the last gang in town arriving through the speakers.

I think the lyrics are adapted from an old American Civil War song.  I remember singing along to ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again’ but I never really knew what it was about. I just knew it must be about standing up for what you believe in. It really fired up my imagination. Looking back, dancing around that bedroom with my mates to English Civil war was my first experience of finding a community through music, outside of school.  They were a gang, and so were we.

The Clash weren’t just a brilliant rock’n’roll band. they made me realise it was possible to live out my dreams.

Tim Burgess,  The Charlatans




Now you might not believe this, but it is true.

When I was typing out the words and thoughts to accompany the song that made #24 on this chart, I couldn’t remember what it was that had made #23.

But it turns out to be the 1978 song I had in my mind when I was wittering on about scratchy guitars, a tune that made you leap around and sweat profusely while joining in on a chorus to die for and all in the space of something lasting less than 2mins 30 secs in length. (OK….the song is actually 2 mins 43 seconds in length)

Do I really need to say anything else?

mp3 : Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have)?
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Just Lust

Some stats. The single was released in September 1978. That means it’s more than 37 years of age!!!!! (Go back the other way and its unimaginable that in 1979 there would be anyone raving about a ‘minor’ hit song from 1941.)

It was the band’s biggest hit, reaching #12 in the charts.

I’m actually at a loss to work out how Ever Fallen In Love? is only at #23 in the rundown.

I suppose its because I think there are 22 singles better than it…..but even I’m having doubts.





What to make of The Stranglers? The band came to prominence during the first wave of UK punk, but didn’t exactly fit the ‘young, loud and snotty’ mold. Drummer Jet Black adopted a suitable moniker, but he was nearly 40 when the band started releasing records. Singer/guitarist Hugh Cornwell held a university degree in biochemistry and did research in Sweden towards a Ph.D. Bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel was a classically trained guitarist. And what the hell was Dave Greenfield doing onstage behind a fucking Hammond organ? Old, educated, musically adept—plus a Dylan-era keyboard into the mix—no wonder Johnny Rotten sneered them off as “hippies with short hair.”

Live, the band were tremendous, if unfriendly and antagonistic. Burnel was a menacing figure—a muscular black belt lurching around as if he’d jump offstage at a moment’s notice to kick some ass. He had a great sound: a Fender Precision with the tone knob dimed, played with a pick directly over the bridge. This gives the bottom end a nasty growl that typified the ‘Gers early recordings. (Example: ‘Dead Ringer’ from No More Heroes.) Black was an unflashy but perfect time-keeper, comparable to, say, the Bunnymen’s Pete De Freitas. Cornwell did the talking for the band, what little there was. True to punk form he didn’t play extended guitar solos. Untrue to punk form, his songs were filled with tight, well-arranged vocal harmonies. Greenfield’s organ, it must be admitted, provided a signature musicality that distinguished the band from their contemporaries. I always thought he was kind of a prat, though, because in concerts he’d sit a full pint prominently atop his keyboard which he’d ignore until it was time for a complicated organ bit. Then he’d reach for the glass and take a pull to show off that he could play the hard part one-handed. Loser.

The Stranglers got off to a great start: their first five albums all were top 10 UK hits; three went gold and one platinum. They weren’t slowed down by Cornwell’s imprisonment for a drug bust, the whole band’s jailing for inciting a riot in Paris, or repeated accusations of misogyny and violence (Burnel infamously socked Jon Savage during an interview). They began the 80’s as an established post-punk act. Their sound grew more complex, and the group began to experiment with longer tunes with odd time signatures. In fact, their biggest ever single, 1982’s ‘Golden Brown’, is written in waltz time. The song made it all the way to number 2, and was only kept out of the top spot by The Jam’s ‘Town Called Malice’.

The band continued to make great records until…they stopped making great records. I can’t explain it. For no apparent reason, Stranglers music got weaker, sappier, more commercial but less appealing. The energy and aggression dissolved. “European Female”, from the 1983 LP Feline, was the last top 10 single the band wrote. It was also the first song on their new label, Epic. Later songs that did manage to chart couldn’t come close to the quality of the band’s earlier album tracks, or even b-sides. Cornwell hung around for 3 subsequent LPs, then bailed after 1990’s unmemorable 10. Unbelievably, the Stranglers are still a going concern—Wikipedia tells us they’ve released another 7 studio LPs and are actively touring, albeit without Black (now in his late 70’s).

This imaginary compilation focuses on the band’s tenure with United Artists and EMI, from 1977 to 1982. It goes chronologically, taking a song from each of the band’s albums on those labels, with some non-album tracks and a couple of tunes from the later Epic albums for the sake of completion. If I was just picking favorites I might not have made it out of the 70’s. And I’m completely discounting anything the band did after Cornwell left. (The Doors released a couple of albums after Jim Morrison’s death; post-Cornwell Stranglers merit the same level of attention.) So, without further adieu…

1. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)

The band’s first single, from 1977’s Rattus Norvegicus. This is the quintessential Stranglers song: if you don’t like this track you can pretty much skip the rest. Melodic, snarled vocals, tight harmonies, punchy drums, driven by the bass and the ever-present swirling Hammond—this is the band’s blueprint.

2. No More Heroes

Title track from the second LP, also released in 1977. The band were considered a pretty scary bunch, but I always thought their stance was a tongue in cheek act, and that there was a sense of humor behind the angry stares. Dunno, a band that rhymes “heroes” with “Shakespearoes” never struck me as one that took itself too seriously.

3. 5 Minutes

A non-album single from 1978. Lead vocals on this one by Burnel, with nasty lyrics about rape, knives and revenge. (Okay, maybe there was something to the violence accusations, but it’s still a great tune.) At this point, the band still had more good songs than could fit onto their albums.

4. Tank

Leadoff track from 1978’s Black and White LP. Also a b-side to a free single given away with the UK version of the album. (The A-side was a cover of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David tune ‘Walk On By’, a hit for Dionne Warwick in 1964.) Everyone had a song they played before going out for the night, and this was mine. Never mind that it’s about how much fun it would be to drive around in a tank, or the corny artillery explosions—that’s what teenage kicks are all about!

5. The Raven

Another title track, this one from 1979. By now the band is stretching out and flexing their musical muscles; it’s over 5 minutes long and the vocals don’t kick in for a full minute. Atypically for the band, Cornwell gets in a lot of guitar work—some very interesting figures on his battered Telecaster. The song and album loosely implies Norse mythology, and is a precursor of sorts for the group’s subsequent concept LPs.

6. Just Like Nothing On Earth

And the first concept album would be 1981’s The Gospel According to the Meninblack. To be charitable, it was an interesting diversion from their previous work. To be honest, it was half-baked unintelligible sci-fi conspiracy nonsense about some wack-ass alien visitation that influenced Christianity. Okay. No one really got whatever the boys had in mind, but this is a fun song that features all the band’s strengths, with a few weirdo elements (pitched up vocals, mostly) tossed in.

7. Golden Brown

The favorite of many a Stranglers fan. Is it about heroin or a woman? Both, according to Cornwell, who wrote the lyrics. Originally released on 1981’s La Folie, another concept album theoretically about love or, literally, the madness of love. Very few pop songs to compare this one to, by anyone. Still beautiful and unique today.

8. Strange Little Girl

The follow up to ‘Golden Brown’ was actually one of the band’s earliest songs. Stranglers were leaving EMI and owed them a single, so they offered this track, a demo of which EMI had ironically rejected in 1974. Co-written by Hans Warmling, a friend of Cornwell’s from his student days in Sweden and an original member of the band. EMI put it out as a single and as part of a compilation album titled The Collection 1977-1982. Many Strangler’s fans’ own ICAs would likely be drawn from that same collection.

9. Skin Deep

By the time of 1984’s Aural Sculpture, Stranglers’ second LP for Epic, the band could still produce a good single or two, but the rest of the album was filler. It was a toss up between this one and ‘No Mercy’, the other album single. This one has the nicer vocal melody, but either represents which way the band was limping along. (You might have notice I passed right by 1983’s underwhelming Feline without stopping.)

10. Always The Sun

Arguably, this is the last ‘good’ Stranglers tune. Leadoff track and single from the band’s 1986 LP Dreamtime. It’s okay, I guess, but not a patch on tracks from the first 4 LPs that are much better. ‘Goodbye Toulouse’, ‘Nuclear Device’, ‘English Towns’, ‘Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’ all come to mind. Most discouraging (for me anyway) is the once terrifying Burnel playing a muted pump bass throughout, as if the band hired in Adam Clayton for the session. Dreamtime was followed by 1990’s 10, which featured a boring cover version of the 1966 Farfisa number ‘96 Tears’ by ? and the Mysterians as a single, and nothing more of note.

Bonus Tracks

Straighten Out

1977 B-side of the UK-only ‘Something Better Change’ 7”.  Also released as the b-side to the ‘Choosey Susie’ single given away free with Stranglers IV, a compilation LP made for the US market of tracks from The Raven (which didn’t get a US release) and some earlier songs.

Sverige (Jag Är Insnöad På Östfronten)

Swedish release of ‘Sweden (All Quiet on the Eastern Front)’ from Black and White.

N’emmenes Pas Harry

French release of ‘Don’t Bring Harry’, another reference to Heroin, from The Raven.

Old Codger

A weirdo track appearing on the ‘Walk On By’ single. Features some geezer called George Melly and harmonica from Lew Lewis, of Eddie & the Hot Rods, who went on to record on Sandanista! tracks ‘Version City’ and ‘Look Here’.

Looking back on what I wrote, I wonder if TVV’s audience realizes just how unnoticed The Stranglers were in the US. Despite their massive UK and European success, only Dreamtime charted in the States, barely making a scratch at number 172. None of their singles charted at all. To this day, I never once heard a Stranglers song on the radio.


mp3 : The Stranglers – (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
mp3 : The Stranglers – No More Heroes
mp3 : The Stranglers – 5 Minutes
mp3 : The Stranglers – Tank
mp3 : The Stranglers – The Raven
mp3 : The Stranglers – Just Like Nothing On Earth
mp3 : The Stranglers – Golden Brown
mp3 : The Stranglers – Strange Little Girl
mp3 : The Stranglers – Skin Deep
mp3 : The Stranglers – Always The Sun

mp3 : The Stranglers – Straighten Out
mp3 : The Stranglers – Sverige (Jag Är Insnöad På Östfronten)
mp3 : The Stranglers – N’emmenes Pas Harry
mp3 : The Stranglers – Old Codger




There’s been a great level of interest in the competition to win £50 of merchandise from the on-line shop of Chemikal Underground and I’m thrilled, honoured, delighted and excited by the fact that company MD and ex-Delgado, Stewart Henderson, has agreed to make the draw next week.

BUT…..some of you may have submitted an entry but not, as yet, have been put into the hat.

I’ve learned from three different folk over the past 48 hours that e-mails which had been sent to the hotmail address at various times haven’t reached me. I’ve no idea how widespread the problem was – the original emails were never re-directed to spam and none of them had content that would have caused an issue. Indeed, one of them was from someone entering the competition who I happened to bump into the other day. I mentioned that I was surprised he hadn’t entered only be told he had!

(one of the other missing e-mails I now know about was from Italy offering something for use on the blog while the other was someone responding to an e-mail I had sent them….so there’s no obvious rhyme or reason as to why things weren’t getting through)

The thing is, everyone whose name I’ve already put in the hat will have received a reply e-mail from me by now.

If however, you have sent in an e-mail with the answer to the question asking for the names of the members of Aloha Hawaii but haven’t yet heard back from me, then please, please, please re-submit as and when you’re able and certainly no later than 29 February as that is the closing date.

Cheers folks



There was a great deal of hype and expectation around the film adaptation of Absolute Beginners. The first piece of music to be released was the title track, courtesy of David Bowie, which was a #2 hit in April 1986. The film makers said this was just the first of many great bits of music that would make up the soundtrack, pointing out that there were to be new and original compositions by various singers and bands, including The Style Council.

Being a fanatic, I bought the soundtrack on its release as I thought it would be the only way to get my hands on this new TSC song. I was disappointed to find that it was just a new version of the track Everything To Lose that had been on the LP Our Favourite Shop and I felt as if I’d been ripped off as the album was quite expensive at the time of its release with no discounts on offer from any of the chain stores.

I was even more disappointed when two weeks later the track was released as a 45, in both 7″ and 12″ form with a new track available on the b-side. I didn’t buy it at the time but have since picked up a decent enough second-hand copy of the 12″ from which these are taken:-

mp3 : The Style Council – Have You Ever Had It Blue (uncut version)
mp3 : The Style Council – Gave You Ever Had It Blue (cut version)
mp3 : The Style Council – Mr Cool’s Dream

Thankfully, the new song turned out to be a bog standard Mick Talbot instrumental, so I didn’t really miss out on much.

The single reached #14 in the singles chart which was, at that point, the poorest showing by any 45 attributed to The Style Council.

Incidentally, the version which appears on the LP soundtrack is longer still than either of the versions on the single:-

mp3 : The Style Council – Have You Ever Had It Blue (soundtrack version)

While here’s the original from which the single was adapted:-

mp3 : The Style Council – With Everything To Lose


it isn’t as proved by a great bit of detection work by Craig McAllister the blogger behind Plain Or Pan? (and author of the PJ Harvey ICA on these pages just 72 hours ago)

In a posting last December entitled The Steal Council, our Craig demonstrated that debut single Speak Like A Child was awfully similar to a track called Surrender To The Rhythm by 70s pop/rock band Brinsley Schwarz.

mp3 : Brinsley Schwarz – Surrender To The Rhythm

He then pointed out that Have You Ever Had It Blue had an awful lot in common with this…..

mp3 : Harper & Rowe – The Dweller

This dates back to 1967 and is, to quote Craig, a more obscure part of sunshine pop.

His full rather playful piece over at Plain or Pan? can be read here.




The contest to choose the Democratic and Republican nominees for the 2016 Presidential election in the USA is both grotesque and fascinating. The news clips we get here in the UK usually has a reporter talking to camera at the end of a rally in which a politician is waving to a crowd while a well-known pop or rock song plays in the background.

I had thought this was a fairly recent phenomena, dating back to the 90s when Clinton and Blair used their youth to appeal to voters, part of which was about sharing their musical tastes with the electorate. But nope, it goes back way beyond that, to at least another youthful candidate who was trying to barge in on things.

OK, the 60s was an era for mixing pop and politics ( (c) Billy Bragg) with all the protest songs about Vietnam. But I certainly hadn’t known that Frank Sinatra, arguably the biggest singing star on the planet back in 1960, had made a recording endorsing the virtues of a US presidential candidate.

I can’t imagine that too many readers of this blog were around when John Fitzgerald Kennedy burst on to the scene, so it’s hard to really get a proper picture of how much of an impact he actually had.

History has, on the whole, been very kind to JFK. The popular conception we have is of an incredibly charismatic individual blessed a common touch who appealed to all sectors of society, offering a brand and style of politics never seen before. It might then come as a bit of a surprise to learn that he did not have an easy passage to the White House in the 1960 presidential election. Far from it.

That particular presidential contest was extremely close – Kennedy beat his rival Richard Nixon by only 0.2% in the popular vote.

The endorsement of Kennedy by the likes of Sinatra and his buddies in the showbiz world might just have been what helped him stumble over the line as the winner. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it certainly didn’t do him any harm. Here’s what one blogger, at whose place I found said song had to say about it:-

“In 1960, Frank Sinatra was very involved in helping to get John Kennedy elected President. He was an active campaigner for JFK and performed at countless Democratic fundraisers. If you believe the rumors, Sinatra even acted as the middle man between Joe Kennedy and the mob to help deliver the union vote in West Virginia and Chicago. After Kennedy won the election, Sinatra was given the task of personally planning the inauguration gala.”

So it’s hardly surprising that modern-day politicians are keen to get the endorsement of high-profile musicians when they seek public office. Words of support at a concert might just encourage a few more voters to go one way rather than the other, and in a close contest make all the difference. But surely we’ll never get to hear anything as astonishing as today’s offering. It would be like Bono re-writing the lyrics to one of the singalong U2 numbers. Be amazed and bemused and entertained by:

mp3 : Frank Sinatra – High Hopes (JFK version)




The most important and influential record label ever to come out of Scotland has just reached its 21st birthday, (see this posting for more details) and  as mentioned before, I’m currently running a competition to commemorate the fact.

To have a chance of winning £50 worth of music of your choice from the Chemikal Underground on-line shop, then send me the answer to this simple question…

Which two musicians make up the Chem act Aloha Hawaii?

Send your answer to

First name drawn out of the hat after Monday 29 February will win the prize.

There’s a great selection of music to choose from, and to give you a taster, I’ve pulled together yet another podcast that can be listened to here:-

or downloaded as an mp3 file:-

mp3 : Radio 236 – Chem Underground (Volume 2)

Here’s a list of the songs that make up this particular mix:-

Packs Of Three – Arab Strap
Wayward – The Unwinding Hours
Machine Age Dancing – FOUND
No Danger – The Delgados
A Glamour – The Phantom Band
The Rebel On His Own Tonight –  Malcolm Middleton & Alan Bissett
Blue Lead Fences – Loch Lomond
School Disco – bis
Red Orange Green – Emma Pollock
Car Song – RM Hubbert (feat Aidan Moffat)

And here’s a promo of one of the above songs:-


The extensive music collection doesn’t have anything by Mambo Taxi other than their final single released on Clawfist Records in 1993. It was their third 45/EP of that particular year although 1994 would see the release of their only album, although its 13 tracks didn’t feature either of these:-

mp3 : Mambo Taxi – Do You Always Dress Like That In Front Of Other People’s Boyfriends?
mp3 : Mambo Taxi – I Want To Marry A Serial Killer

They were a band that I only ever knew from Jacques the Kipper including an earlier single of theirs on one of his compilation tapes and the reason I bought ‘Dress Like That’ was I thought it and the b-side had cracking titles and it was only £2 for a decent condition second-hand copy. The songs are top stuff with the b-side being akin to one of those mad instrumentals that Blur used to throw at us on their early LPs.

Mambo Taxi weren’t with us for very long, and most commentators of the day described their sound as a mix of garage, punk and pop which on the basis of these two tracks seems accurate enough.



JC writes…….

This is a genuine moment of excitement for me.

In all the years since I first blogged I have aspired to match the quality of writing and/or deliver the breadth of ideas that are constantly on show at Plain Or Pan?, courtesy of the talents of its sole contibutor Phil Spector (although in recent times he has dropped the non-de-plume for the good old fashioned and very Scottish Craig McAllister)

I’m thrilled that he’s come on board with an ICA, and featuring an artist much loved by so many readers. Oh and he supplied today’s unforgetable image too…..


Over to Craig……..

Following a recent post on Plain Or Pan, JC wrote me a lovely and flattering begging letter, asking if I’d contribute a piece on PJ Harvey for The Vinyl Villain. Now, just to qualify, I’m no expert on Polly Jean. I’m a huge fan and I have most of her back catalogue (the odd collaborative effort aside) and while there are other artists that I obsess far more over and go to first when choosing something to play on the rare occasion I have the house to myself, PJ is always somewhere in the background, shuffling up unannounced but always welcome on my iPod during the commute to work, or peeking out at me in-between my George Harrison and Richard Hawley albums. The bulk of her music still thrills and amazes and stands up to repeated listens long after the time of release, which is surely the mark of a true artist.

It’s incredible to think that PJ Harvey has been making records for nigh on a quarter of a century. From the lo-fi scuzz of Dry via the Patti Smith-isms of Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea and the stark, piano-only White Chalk right up to her most recent collection of WW1-themed songs on Let England Shake (not forgettting the one-off single in support of Guantanamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer), she’s one of our most consistent musicians. Daring, unpredictable and true to herself, she’s right up there with the best of ’em.

Excitingly, she has a new LP in the offing. April, I believe. The first fruits are spinning heavily on BBC 6Music every day just now, and they’re sounding terrific. As a primer, JC asked me to collate a compilation for the uninitiated, put together any way I saw fit.

I begin with the caveat that the tracks I’ve chosen today might not necessarily be the ones I’d chose tomorrow, but I’ve chosen one track from each of her 8 studio LPs (excluding the 4 Track Demos stop-gap LP or those collaborative efforts mentioned earlier). Some of the tracks were singles, some were hidden away in the darkest corners of the album from whence they came. All are classic PJH; garagey, bluesy and occasionally down right dirty. There’s the odd bit of cello and throw-away sweary word. But there’s always the voice, her primal moans sexy as hell one moment, skyscrapingly stratospheric the next.

Sheela Na Gig

Sheela Na Gig was PJ’s second single and also appeared on Dry, her debut LP. She sets her stall out early here, singing about ‘child bearing hips‘ and ‘ruby red lips’. Hearing this for the first time as a 21 year old, I had no idea what a Sheela Na Gig was (Google it), so I listened to this thinking “Oh! Aye!” I always had this faint idea from then on in that one day she’d go out with me, until she met that bastard Nick Cave. Oh well, her loss.

50ft Queenie

50 ft Queenie was the lead single from 2nd album Rid Of Me. Rid Of Me is such a quiet record, which has always irked me. For an artist who apparently revels in creating a whirlwind of chaotic noise, the album seemed so quiet and tame by comparison. I’m sure there must be some sort of audiophile reason for it, subsonic frequencies and the likes, but who knows? When you play it next to something like, oh, I dunno, Definitely Maybe (like comparing jam with cheese, I know), PJ’s album sounds limp and flimsy compared to the sonic boom of the monobrowed magpies.

Anyway. 50ft Queenie. The drum track sounds like the Eastenders theme falling down the stairs, a right royal ramalama of tumbling toms and clattering cymbals all underpinned with a bluesy riff and topped off with those sexy/skyscraping moans and screams. “You bend ovah, Casa-nova…” Indeed. Great one note guitar solo too.

I have a clear memory of seeing her perform this in the Barrowlands, wearing a pink feather boa, knee high boots of shiny, shiny leather, a Gretsch Country Gentleman and not much more. A spectacular sight and sound. If you’ve never heard this before, make sure you strap yourself in first.

Come On Billy

Come On Billy can be found on the Mercury-nominated To Bring You My Love LP. Featuring some frantically scrubbed acoustic guitar and see-sawing cello, it’s PJ’s Nick Cave (aye, him again) moment. There’s a terrific, understated string section playing below the whole way through, the first evidence that PJ had more to her arsenal than bent blues notes screaming through a tower of Marshall stacks. I’ve always liked how she hiccups her way through the adlibbed chorus at the end.

The Wind

The Wind (from the Is This Desire? LP) is a slow-burning cracker. For such a slight ‘n skinny woman, PJ’s tune packs more muscle than it has any right to. It‘s her Barry Adamson moment; filmic, bass-heavy and full of brooding menace.

It fades in on a ripple of marimba and a stutter of just-plugged-in guitar, with PJ’s vocal quickly taking centrestage. Whisper-in-your-ear sultriness one moment, understated falsetto the next, it tells the story of St Catherine of Abbotsbury who built a chapel high on a hill near to where PJ lives.

The whole track is carried along by the bassline. When it comes in, after that second ‘noises like the whales’ line, it brings to mind some New York street punk, hands deep in the pockets of his leather bomber jacket, docker’s hat pulled hard and low over his forehead, eyes shifting from left to right and back again, looking to start trouble, looking to avoid trouble, but, looking for trouble.

It’s produced masterfully by Flood who brings an electro wash to the finished result. In fact, it wouldn’t sound out of place on any given recording by Harvey’s fellow West Country contemporaries Tricky and Massive Attack. There’s subtle tingaling percussion, quietly scraping cello and layers of synthetic noise. When the vocals begin their counter-melodies in the chorus, it’s pure Bjork.


Kamikaze is taken from Stories From the City, Stories From The Sea, PJ’s second Mercury-nominated LP. Her most straightforward pop/rock album, most of the tracks had the knack of sounding like Patti Smith on steroids.

Kamikaze is terrific, a down-the-hill-with-no-brakes-on, headlong rush of close-mic’d guitars, polyrhythmic drums and yet more skyscraping hysterics. It’s a close cousin of 50ft Queenie , only with far better production and mastering.

If you’re new to PJ and any of these tracks have so far piqued your curiosity, I’d start with this track’s parent album and take things from there.

Who The Fuck?

Now we’re talking! PJ’s angry. Someone’s pissed her off and she can’t wait to tell us. Coming across like a demented Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, WTF? kicks like an angry mule, a fuzztoned, vocally distorted, brilliant mess of a record.

It’s a sloppy, stroppy, brilliantly sweary track. If you took ten wasps in a jar and stuck them in a food blender with the short-lived RRRRRiot Grrrrrrl movement, it would sound something like this.

The Devil

The White Chalk LP is a difficult listen. Very difficult. I listened to it once then filed it away. For the purposes of this article I dug it out again and spent one dreary afternoon (it’s only about 35 mins long, but honestly, I’d rather stick pencils in my eye than have to listen to it again) waiting patiently until I ‘got it’. I still don’t.

I chose The Devil as it’s the lead track, and from experience, the lead track is usually a statement of intent from the artist. Well, PJ sets her stall out early with this one. The whole album is funereal in pace, delicate, flimsy and abso-fucking-lutely boring. PJ coos and woos and plays her piano with all the deftness of a concert pianist, but damn, there’s nothing there that grabs. No balls-out rockers, no dirty, sweary, innuendo-filled garage band fizzers. Nothing. For all its gossamer-thin lightness, it’s an extremely heavy listen. Maybe you think differently. For me, it’s the one clunker in a stellar back catalogue. And every artist is allowed the occasional clunker, aye?

The Glorious Land

Following the stark, piano-led White Chalk, Let England Shake was PJ’s triumphant return to the guitar. Much of the album is loosely concept, relating to the atrocities of WW1. If this seems a bit heavy, the music therein was often light and airy; gone for the most part were the blooze blunderbuss guitars, replaced with lightly chiming 6 strings, clean and pleasant on the ear. Radio 2 music, even.

The Glorious Land begins with such a guitar, playing atop a rallying military bugle. Without getting too ‘muso’ about it, the chord changes are sublime and the vocals are always to the fore. There’s almost a male/female duet in the verses, between PJ and (I think) a moonlighting Mick Harvey who come across like a 21st century Lee ‘n Nancy on helium, while PJ duets gloriously with herself in the chorus and outro. You might want to discover the rest of this album for yourself. It’s one of her best.

And there you have it, 8 tracks o’ PJ. A cross-album introduction I’d be happy to pass on to anyone with a PJ curiosity.

Craig McAllister

mp3 : PJ Harvey : Sheela Na Gig
mp3 : PJ Harvey : 50ft Queenie
mp3 : PJ Harvey : C’Mon Billy
mp3 : PJ Harvey : The Wind
mp3 : PJ Harvey : Kamikaze
mp3 : PJ Harvey : Who The Fuck?
mp3 : PJ Harvey : The Devil
mp3 : PJ Harvey : The Glorious Land

And here’s a couple of collaborations just so that you ICA purists get your 10 songs:-

mp3 : PJ Harvey and John Parish – Black Hearted Love
mp3 : Desert Sessions feat. Josh Homme & PJ Harvey – Crawl Home



Disc 7 is Tommy Gun.

Most bands put out singles as tasters for upcoming albums but then again The Clash have always been a bit different.

Give Em Enough Rope had been released on 10 November 1978 to a fair amount of critical acclaim even if there were some who remain bemused by the choice of producer in Sandy Pearlman whose main work had been over seven albums by American rockers Blue Oyster Cult.  There was certainly a sharper sound to the band, but many at the time felt this was more likely to each member becoming more proficient the more they played in the live setting and got used to the studio environment.  It would emerge later on that Pearlman had played a significant part in the record trying to raise the instrumentation within the final mix, particularly the drums, as he felt Joe Strummer‘s voice lacked quality and took away something from the songs.

Two weeks after the LP hit the shops, a single was lifted from it:-

mp3 : The Clash – Tommy Gun

It was a song driven along by the ferocious playing of Topper Headon, the rat-a-tat-tat of his drum breaks akin to the sound of machine gun firing.  It was a million miles away from the softer paced approach of previous single (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais and certainly grabbed the attention of those who loved their punk rock raw, hard, explosive and loud as it gave the band their biggest hit to date, taking them into the UK Top 20.

It also contains a fabulous b-side albeit it was one that the punk purists balked it, being a straight-forward love song, albeit played at a high tempo:-

mp3 : The Clash – 1-2 Crush On You

Listening back, it’s clear that this was a band approaching the very top of their game, capable of turning their attention to all sorts of songs and styles.  That’s a b-side which would have sounded great on radio, but its release as a 45 or indeed as an album track would have led to cries of sell-out as the band still needed to maintain punk/new wave credibility at this stage in their career.  Wouldn’t be long though before they could throw off those shackles and become a good old fashioned rock’n’roll band to whom no label could be accurately applied.

Here’s the essay from the box set.

TOMMY GUN : Released 24 November 1978 : #19 in the UK singles chart

I was aware of The Clash as a kid. They were part of the nameless soundtrack to my early life. My mum and dad had these punk compilation tapes they used to play at home and Should I Stay Or Should I Go and London Calling were on there. I didn’t know who the other groups were but I knew The Clash.

As I got more into music I read about them being punk icons, bit they were always appealed more than the Sex Pistols. They wer more intelligent, they had more to say. Tommy Gun evokes that age. It’s a product of the volatile climate of the late 70s – all those references to Baader Meinhoff and The Red Brigade. It’s like a punk adaptation of The Beatles’ Revolution: “Tommy Gun, you ain’t happy less you got on!” Fucking great.

It seems to me they were doing the same thing Rage Against The Machine did later – letting the audience know what’s going on politically, with the band in the position of outlaws spreading the news. The snare drum at the start is fucking great too.

A mate told me a funny story about the ad lib near the end where Strummer sings “OK, so let’s agree about the price, and make it one jet airliner for ten prisoners.” apparently he texted it to a mate who couldn’t figure out what the lyrics were, and the next morning some heavies from M15 turned up on his doorstep demanding yo know what he was up to! That alone proves Tommy Gun is as relevant now as it was back then.

Carl Barat, Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things




Some three months ago, I put together an ICA for Prefab Sprout. It was a bit of a cop-out in that I went for one side of Steve McQueen and then chose another six songs for the other side.

I spotted this morning that someone had left a detailed comment behind which in effect was his own stab at an ICA for the band. I thought it was too good to leave well hidden and so have lifted it out and turned it into a bonus post.

It’s from Gil Gillespie….and as far as I know this is the first ever comment he has ever left behind…..and it’s a big thank you for this…especially for reminding me again of just how great your opening track is:-


1. Green Issac (from Swoon)

Perfect opening announcement, building slowly to a typical Prefab Sprout crescendo. Contains the immaculate line: “But to shine like Joan of Arc, you must be prepared to burn.”

2. Appetite (from Steve McQueen)

What a beautiful song, such poise, such heartbreak, such elegance. Has anyone ever understood melody as subtlety as Paddy McAloon?

3. Bonny (from Steve McQueen)

If you have just split up from your girlfriend and you haven’t slept for 4 days and are in the back of a car going to Cambridge with Patrick Duff from Strangelove who hasn’t slept for about 3 months, this song will make both of you cry.

4. Enchanted (from Langley Park To Memphis)

I reckon this is the band’s most under-rated song. It is also, quite possibly, the happiest song ever recorded. It bounces along with self-assurance, McAloon tumbling lyrics over themselves as he refers to Romeo & Juliet’s warring factions as a crew. Why wasn’t it released as a single?

5. Looking For Atlantis (from Jordan: The Comeback)

I’ve just checked to see where this single got to in the charts when it was released in 1990. Number 51 on the UK Chart. Number 51? That is almost beyond belief. It is an irresistible song with production so lush it takes your breath away. Surely, CBS are at fault for the band’s shockingly poor chart history.


1. Cars and Girls (from From Langley Park to Memphis)

A glistening hub cap of a single, the Springsteen-bating ode to a more sophisticated mindset somehow only reached number 44 in the charts. It really should have sold millions.

2. Wild Horses (from Jordan: The Comeback)

For the pin drop perfection of Thomas Dolby’s production alone, this deserves its place.

3. Desire As (from Steve McQueen)

Heartbreaking, just heartbreaking. Someone on You Tube put it best: ‘Amazing how songs can perfectly express a moment in time, its memories, the exact colours and feelings. Thank you forever, Paddy McAloon. You´re genius.’

4. Real Life (Just Around The Corner) (from NME EP Drastic Plastic)

A strange but typically life-affirming oddity that hints at just how far into the left field they could go if they wanted to. Not too far away from Parisian sophisticates, Phoenix

5. The Golden Calf (from From Langley Park to Memphis)

This is their Crazy Horses, a driving, faux metal guitar anthem complete with McAloon almost doing a Metallica impression.

mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Green Isaac
mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Appetite
mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Bonny
mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Enchanted
mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Looking For Atlantis
mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Cars and Girls
mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Wild Horses
mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Desire As
mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Real Life (Just Around The Corner)
mp3 : Prefab Sprout – The Golden Calf





Today’s offering features a band that seemed to almost appear out of nowhere a couple of years back.

In early-2005, they were touring the UK and appearing at the tiniest of venues such as the Debating Chamber of Glasgow University. Word of mouth got out that as a live act, they were unlike anything that had come along in recent times. Their cartoon video for the single Power Out was on heavy rotation on MTV2. But still they seemed to be something of a mystery….unless of course you were one of those who surfed the internet where you would find thousands of people prepared to say that Arcade Fire were the future of rock’n’roll.

Then came the summer festivals in Europe, Japan and North America. Arcade Fire seemed to be on the bills of just about all of them, and this is where they really grabbed the attention of the casual listener/watcher. The last six months of 2005 saw debut LP Funeral fly off the shelves of record shops everywhere, but particularly in the UK. The round-up of music for the year saw many pundits/writers/columnists list the LP as their favourite of the previous 12 months, thus maintaining a momentum in sales in the all-important pre-Xmas rush.

Suddenly, everyone seemed to believe what the bloggers had been saying for months – Arcade Fire truly were the best and most exciting band in the world. The pressure really was on to deliver a follow-up LP that met these expectations. The band spent most of 2006 locked-up in Montreal writing and recording the songs, and the lack of live appearances and new material only seemed to heighten the expectations amongst fans and critics alike.

Neon Bible came out in the early part of 2007. The reaction was, in my mind, bizarre. To the likes of myself who hadn’t quite picked up on the band in the first weeks of hysteria, it sounded like a great follow-up. Yes, it was far more polished and accomplished than the debut, and it maybe did lean heavily on other influences rather than their own sounds. It certainly wasn’t a clone of Funeral…

And yet, those who were in at the start seemed to turn on the band rather viciously and accuse them of recording something akin to a commercial sell-out. It was almost as if they were jealous that their little secret was now so well-known and proving to be popular. I remember reading one particular critic saying that he could no longer give any time of the day to Arcade Fire now that their LPs were on sale in supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda (the latter being part of the Wal-Mart group), which I really thought was the height of cultural snobbery.

It will be hugely interesting to see what sort of LP is next, and what sort of reaction the band will get. I think their reputation for being such a fantastic live act will ensure the fan base remains high and tickets for shows will be hard to come by (even REM over the past 8-10 years with critically-panned and poor-selling LPs have sold out the arenas and large outdoor shows). Does indie-orchestra have a long-term future?? I think so….

By the time I latched on to Arcade Fire, the early singles had sold out and were out of print. So you’ll need to make do with a lift from the LP:-

mp3 : Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)

Drums, bass, piano, guitars and strings are all at the fore at one point or other during this incredible five and a bit minutes. And then there’s that fabulous sing-a-long chorus. A far better tune than the more lauded Wake Up (although I will admit that the latter is a live tour-de-force)

If, 30 years ago you’d have said that one day I’d be raving about a band like Arcade Fire, I’d have sneered in your face. Back then all that mattered were scratchy guitars, a tune that made you leap around and sweat profusely while shouting along with the chorus on singles lasting no more than 2mins 30 secs in length.

The times they-are-a-changing.

More mutterings about growing old coming your way next week.





The left hand photo was taken when Stephen Clark (born in Glasgow, Scotland on 19 February 1966) was around 21 years old – he’s in the middle flanked by two of his best mates – Gerry on the left and Paul on the right – all clad in identical U2 t-shirts.  One of the very few photos that none of them happen to be holding lager.

The right-hand photo was taken much more recently, and he’s with his son Liam who is resplendent in his Raith Rovers replica strip and Orlando City FC scarf.

I suppose like many other siblings, we weren’t hugely close as we grew up.  The three years age difference felt like a huge gap at times, and it wasn’t really till Stevie reached the age of 18/19 and I’d done my four years at university and was away working in Edinburgh that we really began to bond properly.  By this time, he’d become a dad at the age of 17, devoted to his son (also called Stephen) although he and the kid’s mum were far too young to ever stand a chance of staying together.

In the very early 90s,  he decided that there was little happening for him in his home country and so he upped sticks and moved to seek a better life in the USA, landing in Orlando where he ducked and dived for a bit, doing all sorts of work like cleaning out swimming pools, working in bars and driving distribution trucks, all the while financially looking after his son back in Glasgow.

In due course, he would meet a lovely Welsh lass who was also living and working in Orlando.  Adele had used her nursing qualifications to launch a career in healthcare in the States and they first got together soon after she had arranged for Stevie to be treated in hospital after the daft bugger had done himself an injury playing football.  Romance blossomed and in due course they would end up getting married in 2000.


That’s the Reservoir Jocks on the day of the wedding in Florida. My late brother Davie is on the left and I’m on the right on one of just two occasions that I’ve donned a kilt. Stevie is in the middle flanked by his very bald mate Paul (who you can see with the full head of hair in the U2 photo above) and his son Stephen who by this point in time was 16 years old.

Adele and Stevie now have two incredible kids of their own….one of whom was born a matter of months after Stevie’s first grandchild was born here in Glasgow.

My wee brother has really made a great life for himself, becoming a fairly successful self-employed floor fitter and also obtaining American citizenship. He’s also not changed a bit in all the years….not withstanding the hair loss…..and he’s still the laid-back, easy-going bloke who’ll always put others well before himself at all times. A genuine all-round good guy.

We of course don’t see each other all that often nowadays but we speak plenty enough and all these years on, he’s my best mate and as well as my only surviving brother.   And I can’t quite get to grips with the fact that he turned 50 today.  These are for him, all from bands I know he’s loved over the years:-

mp3 : U2 – Two Hearts Beat As One
mp3 : Del Amitri – Kiss This Thing Goodbye
mp3 : Spear of Destiny – The Wheel
mp3 : Hipsway – The Honeythief
mp3 : Hothouse Flowers – Don’t Go
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes

Have a great day young ‘un.  Hope to see you soon.



The success of Our Favourite Shop made the release of a third single somewhat inevitable, but to be fair to the band they tried to offer fans something a wee bit different.

Which is why album favourite The Lodgers was given a fresh recording while the live sound of the band was captured to a fair degree for the b-sides. All told, 23 minutes of music were made available on the 12″ version of the single which in effect was almost like half-an-LP:-

mp3 : The Style Council – The Lodgers (extended version)
mp3 : The Style Council – The Big Boss Groove (live)
mp3 : The Style Council – Move On Up (live)
mp3 : The Style Council – Money Go Round/Soul Deep/Strength Of Your Nature medley (live)
mp3 : The Style Council – You’re The Best Thing (live)

I was quite excited at the prospect of the release, partly as the band had been an exciting force on the couple of occasions I’d caught them live. Sadly, it all turned out to be a bit flat. The re-worked version of the single wasn’t a patch on the album version while the live tracks, recorded in Liverpool and Manchester, just didn’t seem to capture the energy and force that I’d witnessed in Glasgow.

None of which stopped the single reaching a very respectable #13 in the UK singles charts in September 1985.



Here’s something rather splendid, unusual and rare dragged from the back of the cupboard and given a listen to for the first time in ages.

Sixteen folk are or have been part of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds over the past 33 years (!!) since their inception.  Anita Lane remains the only fully fledged female member although many other women have performed on the various records and as part of the live performances.

She was part of the original Melbourne scene from which Nick et al would emerge – indeed she was the first of his many muses who would and have continually inspired him in many different ways – and in due course she would join and become an important part of The Birthday Party, including songwriting contributions to some of their most popular numbers such as Dead Joe

The title track of the first Bad Seeds album, From Her To Eternity, was attributed to the six members of the group, one of whom was Anita Lane; she left the band almost immediately after the album was recorded, but despite no longer being is a relationship with the singer she remained on good terms with him and the others, contributing lyrics to songs on later albums.

Her own, albeit ultimately low-key and rarely commercially successful solo career, began in 1988 with the release of these four songs on an EP entitled Dirty Sings on Mute Records:-

mp3 : Anita Lane – If I Should Die
mp3 : Anita Lane – I’m A Believer
mp3 : Anita Lane – Lost In Music
mp3 : Anita Lane – Sugar In A Hurricane

Her friends of old helped write the three original songs as well as joining her in the studio. The lead track has Barry Adamson as a co-writer (with whom she would collaborate further in years to come) and is very akin to sort of sound that would propel Julee Cruise to brief fame a couple of years later ; I’m A Believer isn’t the Neil Diamond number but an Anita Lane/Nick Cave composition while the strange and haunting (and Kate Bush inspired?) Sugar Hurricane sees a co-credit for Mick Harvey. All three of them, together with another bad seed – Thomas Wydler – were the backing musicians with Harvey doubling up as producer under the name of Dicky Russcombe.

And yes…..Lost In Music is a cover of the Sister Sledge disco classic. And to my ears, it’s an inspired cover.




The most important and influential record label ever to come out of Scotland has just reached its 21st birthday, (see this posting for more details) and I’m currently running a competition to commemorate the fact.

To have a chance of winning £50 worth of music of your choice from the Chemikal Underground on-line shop, then send me the answer to this simple question…

Which two musicians make up the Chem act Aloha Hawaii?

Send your answer to

First name drawn out of the hat after Monday 29 February will win the prize.

There’s a great selection of music to choose from, and to give you a taster, I’ve pulled together another podcast that can be listened to here:-

or downloaded as an mp3 file:-

mp3 : Radio 236 – Chem Underground (Volume 1)

Here’s a list of the songs that make up this particular mix:-

H.D.B.A. Theme – Human Don’t Be Angry
The Howling – The Phantom Band
Accused of Stealing – The Delgados
Big Blonde – Aidan Moffat & The Best Ofs
It’s The Quick – Miaoux Miaoux
Buckstacy – RM Hubbert
K To Be Lost – Sister Vanilla
Loneliness Shines – Malcolm Middleton
Helps Both Ways – Mogwai
The Shy Retirer (Dirty Hospital Remix) – Arab Strap
Old Ghosts – Emma Pollock

And here’s footage of a live performance of of one of the above tracks:-



It was just a week after the break-up of The Smiths that Johnny Marr penned a tune he quickly sent onto Kirsty MacColl who, at the time, was needing a bit of help overcoming a bout of writer’s block. It turned out to be exactly what she was looking for although it still took a few years, with the addition of lyrics, a bit of melody and a little bit of rap, before it was shaped into the hit single Walking Down Madison.

It reached #23 in the summer of 1991 with Johnny contributing guitar to the recording process. It was released in a number of formats and it is CD2 I’ve turned to today for the fact that it also enables contributions from Ray Davies, Billy Bragg and Johnny Moped.

mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Walking Down Madison (urban mix)
mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Days
mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Darling, Let’s Have Another Baby
mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Walking Down Madison (LP extended version)

The second of the tracks is of course the record company being lazy by including Kirsty’s #12 hit from just two years earlier, the rich and gorgeous take on the song first made famous by The Kinks.

The third of the tracks is a duet with the Bard of Barking which sounds as if it was great fun to make. It’s a cover of a song by the infamously legendary Johnny Moped, a mid 70s pub/punk band considered by many to be pretty talentless in the grand scheme of things, although their number at one point in time did include the man who would become Captain Sensible of The Damned and then later on provide us with a novelty #1 hit single.

Woth mentioning too that Johnny Moped scored a #15 appearance in the 1977 edition of the John Peel Festive Fifty (which that year was NOT a listener’s chart but entirely the choices of the late DJ):-

mp3 : Johnny Moped – Incendiary Device