A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (14)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON TUESDAY 6 MAY 2008

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If he gets round to reading this, I can hear Jacques the Kipper scream at his PC screen (sorry, make that Mac screen – he’s posh), WWWWHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAATT? Given what I’ve chosen at #14, I don’t think his will be an isolated scream.

Your humble scribe and his long-term musical buddy have very diverse opinions on Simple Minds. Our solution is just to agree to disagree. Maybe it’s something to do with where I was born and bred.

Nowadays, there are all sorts of great venues dotted around the city centre of Glasgow and beyond for bands to pitch up and play. But 30 years ago, it was either the Apollo or a mere handful of pubs – all of whom had a strict door policy. The local evening paper would carry adverts every week for 5 or 6 venues (The Dial Inn and The Burns Howff are two that I seem to recall), but every week it would be the same 5 or 6 acts that appeared – and all of them had long hair and wore either cheese-cloth shirts and flares or tight-fitting t-shirts and leather strides. In short, it was a scene dominated by really awful pub-rock and acts who wanted to be the new Led Zeppelin.

In the pre-Postcard era, it was Simple Minds who stood out from that crowd, for they didn’t rely on loud guitars, screaming vocals and pounding drums – they had a keyboard player!! Someone at school said that they weren’t a new band at all, but instead just the latest line-up of a Glasgow punk act called Johnny And The Self Abusers (astonishing as it may seem, this turned out to be true!!)

The band started to get some local media attention and songs were being played on the local commercial radio station. Then they were signed by a major record label and you could buy their single and LPs in all the local shops. Many of us rushed out and bought these records, and many of us found ourselves bemused.

The first three albums by the band saw a mixture of a few easily accessible pop tunes, but they were buried among a lot of stuff that seemed to verge on the dreaded and awful prog-rock. Nowadays, its easy to look back and see the influences were in fact more European-orientated acts like Kraftwerk and Can, but here in Glasgow very little was known about such bands. The band had a few early stand out tracks – in particular the singles Life In A Day and Chelsea Girl, as well as one particularly infectious track in I Travel that made you want to get on the dance floor and shake your hips. Were discos the real future for Simple Minds??

In 1981, the band moved to Virgin Records who had something of a decent track record making a success of slightly off-kilter new wave bands such as Magazine, XTC, PiL and The Skids. The first release was an LP called Sons and Fascination, the initial copies of which came with a bonus LP called Sister Feelings’ Call (the latter would eventually be released as a stand-alone record).

It was still very much a mix of the pop and the prog, but the pop was pretty sensational. And the prog was somehow different (we would later come to recognise much of it as trance….). The pop meanwhile was aimed very much at the dance floor, but not with a disco beat. It was very similar to records that were coming out of Sheffield by a band called The Human League, and looking back we can see it was the start of a new era and new style of synth-pop that brought us bands such as New Order and Depeche Mode.

The first time I heard the single that I’ve picked at #14 was at a Glasgow city centre disco where ‘alternative’ nights of sorts were held on Sunday evenings. Something came on with a long and attention-grabbing pulsating intro. Then came a vocal that sounded awfully familiar….that can’t be Jim Kerr…surely not….

It was only after it had finished, when I went over to the DJ’s booth to ask, did I find out that it was the forthcoming record by Simple Minds. The DJ had been given an advance copy to try out at the ‘alt’ evening. I’m sure it was played on at least two more occasions that night and filled the (admittedly small) floor each time.

Love Song turned out to be the biggest success for the band up to that point. Before long, the band were aiming for pop success at the expense of everything else, and by the mid 80s they had succeeded, thanks to a world-wide hit with Don’t You Forget About Me. They were now, without any shadow of a doubt, stadium rockers of the corporate kind – hugely popular with the masses. They had even started writing songs such as Waterfront which became the unofficial sing-a-long anthem for Glasgow for a short while. All this might have made the boys rich and popular, but it also made them mundane, mediocre and meaningless.

It was now embarrassing to actually admit you were once a fan. And in some folks eyes, that is still the case.

But I’ll always stand by the majesty of the turn of the decadeand early 80s Simple Minds……

mp3 : Simple Minds – Love Song (extended)
mp3 : Simple Minds – This Earth That You Walk Upon

Bonus song from the punk era:-

mp3 : Johnny And The Self Abusers – Saints and Sinners*

* also the name of a legendary Glasgow venue. It would later change ownership and name and become King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut.

THE £20 CHALLENGE (Week Two)

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JC writes…..

There’s a key reference in this week’s tale which will require a bit of explaining to some of the blog’s overseas readers.  I’ve decided to put that addition in (as well as provide a link to the charity shop from which the CD was purchased), but otherwise what follows comes from the talented fingertips of Badger….

The first text message said:-

‘I’m off to buy your first CD I’ll pop it round your place later’.

I have to admit, I have been worried what exactly SWC would present me with. Since I had ‘the only good idea in my life’ last week, he has been asking me if I like a variety of bands ranging from Nickelback to long lost Oxford Radiohead clones Subcircus. The joy with this challenge is that I could literally get anything. He might try and get something embarrassing but knowing SWC he couldn’t stoop to buying something like Meatloaf or Shania Twain. Hopefully.

The second text message arrives when I am in an important meeting, luckily we are about to stop for what they call a ‘comfort break’. In other words, after an hour in a room everyone needs a piss, a cigarette or just five minutes sanity time. Seriously you know its time for a break when, an annoying man with NHS glasses and lisp says ‘Let’s refill the Reservoir of Knowledge’ – and that happened twenty minutes ago.

The second text message reads thus:-

“She says, It’s not you, it’s me / I need a little time, a little space / A place to find myself again, you know / Oh yeah, I know a goodbye when I hear it/ She smiles but her heart’s already out there/ Walking down the street”.

Obviously it’s a lyric. One that I don’t really recognise, so I scribble it down and phone the wife.

“Why are you quoting Jimmy Nail lyrics at me?” she asks.

“Stupid Boy Project” is my answer;

She sighs and then says “Ain’t No Doubt’ probably his finest moment, Not that there is a great deal of competition, I remember it knocked ‘Abba-esque’ by Erasure off Number One, my boyfriend at the time was a massive Erasure fan, that is why I wasn’t surprised when he left me for the guy who worked at Bovey Bikes”.

This is a true story, before me, my wife was with a chap called Jason, who left her for the bloke she worked with in a bike shop in the small Devon town of Bovey Tracey. They emigrated to Australia about ten years later.

I quickly send SWC a text:-

‘Have you bought me a Jimmy Nail CD? I told you to buy something I might like. I don’t like Jimmy Nail’.

His reply was swift:-

‘What about Auf Wiedersehn Pet?.

I don’t have time to tell him to fuck off as lisp man is calling us back in to discuss ‘Thinking outside the box”.

So it was with some fear that I opened the door to him later that evening, it wasn’t all bad, he’d got caught in a hail storm as he cycled the two miles to my house from his. After I had stopped laughing at his drenched state, I offer him a cup of tea. He then hands me a bag marked ‘Chudleigh Mare & Foal Sanctuary’.

“Thanks” I said and put the bag on the table and return to the kitchen to make the tea. SWC has this bad habit, he kind of makes himself at home at my place – I mean I don’t mind, he is always welcome, but this means he puts the stereo on or helps himself to the biscuits – today he does both – he has three chocolate digestives in his hand when I return carrying the tea, and he has put the stereo on – it’s the CD from the bag.

You will be relieved to know it’s not Jimmy Nail. As fantastic as his 1992 album ‘Growing Up in Public’ no doubt is. I am delighted when track one starts as I don’t hear the croaky vocals of the Geordie Elvis. Of course it’s not, SWC wouldn’t buy Jimmy Nail, he is far too self-conscious for that. “Did you fall for my deliberate bluff?” he said. “Yes I bloody did” I said, removing the chocolate digestives from out of his reach. I also give him the smallest cup of tea, which wipes the smirk off his face.

So what did he buy? Well he did rather well.

He bought me a copy of ‘Star’ by Belly. An album I have never properly owned but always meant to. I think I had a taped copy whilst at University. For those in the dark, Belly were formed by Tanya Donnelly ex of the Throwing Muses and (briefly) The Breeders in 1991 and were a band I saw in Leeds in 1993 on a joint headline tour with Radiohead (which was also, I think, the first time I saw Radiohead, although I seem to remember seeing Suede with them as a support?). Of note in February 2016, they announced that they were reforming with new material.

Their first album ‘Star’ is a stunning record. It has aged very well, full of happy/sad sugar-coated indie pop that has this excellent wooziness running through it. In tracks like ‘Gepetto’, ‘Feed the Tree’ and my personal favourite ‘Slow Dog’ they had three tracks which filled the indie dance floors of my early(ish) 20s.

mp3 : Belly – Gepetto
mp3 : Belly – Feed The Tree
mp3 : Belly – Slow Dog

SWC left about forty minutes later – he handed me the envelope (slightly wet) and the money inside – there is £17.50 in there – which means he paid £1.50 for the CD. Absolute Bargain, I would have paid full price for it to be honest.

Badger

JC addendum

I had a  piece on Belly in the TVV pipeline, but rather than have it come up again soon, I’ll hold it back for a while yet.  In the meantime, here’s a cover version by the band which appeared as a b-side to the single release of Feed The Tree.  One for all aficionados of Walt Disney:

mp3 : Belly – Trust In Me

Enjoy

REFLECTIONS ON GROWING OLD BACK IN THE 90s

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Its 1996 and whispers on the streets are growing louder that an exciting, talented and innovative band calling themselves Belle and Sebastian have emerged from a group of students studying a music course at Stow College in Glasgow. By the time the whispers reach the ears of your humble scribe it is too late to pick up any of the 1000 copies of the debut LP Tigermilk that had been pressed by the college.

It’s hard to imagine in these days of instant access to mp3 files and the revolution these have brought to the music industry but unless you had a copy of the album, or knew someone who had and was prepared to make a cassette tape of it for you, it was near impossible to hear any of those songs.

Luckily enough, the band were snapped up by a new independent label called Jeepster Records which allowed a second LP to be released before 1996 ended and so my first exposure to the band was If You’re Feeling Sinister, one of the most critically lauded records of all time and rightly so.

Every so often in the world of indie/alt music someone comes along and becomes the role model or poster boy/girl for the indie kids the world over, usually for a period of around 4 or 5 years (which is coincidentally the time that a lot of indie kids spend at university or college). These role models capture the hearts and minds of those who are obsessive about their music and link it to every almost every aspect of their lives and the way they lead them. I’d cite, from the time when I became are very serious about my music, folk like Joe Strummer, Morrissey and Michael Stipe fitting that bill at different times. And from 1996 through to the turn of the century it was the turn of B&S frontman Stuart Murdoch to wear that particular crown.

To the late teens and early 20-somethings, being a B&S fan was about much more than the music and to this then 30-something there were times the whole scene got so twee and fanciful that it crossed over into pretentiousness. It was tempting to just reach across to those youngsters sitting near you in a bar, cafe or in a park or on a pavement bench and quietly tell them that reading classic literature and listening to obscure pop music wasn’t their invention….stopped only by the realisation that if someone had done that to me a decade previously when I was wittering on loudly and annoyingly about Wilde, Yeats and Mozza I’d have just looked back at the old codger dishing out the lecture with a sense of pity.

Instead, all I could do was accept that at 33 years old, my youth had gone forever (or so it seemed!).  Should I turn my back on the music and ignore it??  Problem was……..it was far too good for that.

mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – Me & The Major
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – Like Dylan In The Movies
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – Judy and The Dream Of Horses

The band proved none of this was a fluke with an amazing set of EPs released in 1997 and then the equally as good LP The Boy With The Arab Strap.  They’re still going strong today and I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a dancefloor with Stuart Murdoch on quite a few occasions in recent years….with one memorable time being when we were both guests at a mutual friend’s wedding reception and a song by The Go-Betweens began playing…..

But I don’t feature them much around here as any such postings on the old blog caused a lot of issues around dmca notices.  Pity, cos they are rather good.  I’m considering the option of making them the focus of a new Sunday series when I reach the end of the road with The Clash in a few weeks.  Any thoughts?

 

PRINCE : NOT A TRIBUTE, MORE A WORD ASSOCIATION

JC writes…..

I learned of the tragic passing of Prince from a text sent by Jacques the Kipper.  As you’ll know from the Billy Joel ICA, he’s a mate who enjoys a laugh and a wind-up, but given how much love he has for Prince I knew immediately that this particular text wasn’t a prank. Turning the TV to the news channels only confirmed it all.

I could have gone straight to the keyboard and tried to pull together a few words, but I knew they wouldn’t do the occasion justice.  So I asked JtK to consider a piece for the blog.  He’s done a tremendous job…..

PRINCE : NOT A TRIBUTE, MORE A WORD ASSOCIATION

Jacques the Kipper. Tuesday 26 April 2016

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When I penned a very few words about David Bowie‘s musical influence on me, I never imagined that, barely a few weeks later, I’d be commenting similarly on the sudden death of Prince. As an artist, he knew how to surprise but this was unexpected on a whole new level. And desperately sad. Particularly I think for those of us of the same generation. As a result, I’ve found it really hard to put my thoughts in writing. This is my best, admittedly disjointed, effort for now. I’ll warn you that if you want comprehensive, if you want cultural analysis, if you want a detailed discography, then you’re better looking elsewhere. There’s plenty choice, much of it well researched and written. This is definitely not a tribute, more a word association.

Prince Rogers Nelson was born on 7 June 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father was a jazz musician and his mother a singer in his band. Who am I to doubt the legend that Prince taught himself guitar, drums and piano from a very young age. By the age of 10 his parents had split and he was living with his neighbours. In high school, he set up his first band. He released his first album in 1978 and pretty much the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forwarding to his death on 21 April 2016, I experienced a weird run of Prince related coincidences around that date.

Early in the week, an old college friend got a very senior job. This left me, wandering into work a day later, musing to myself how the hell could that have happened, given our collective application to alcohol rather than academia back in the day.

That inspired thoughts of our shared best friend of the time, Dave, who decamped to London, offering me the opportunity to live with him in Catford and, at the time, work with him for a used car dealer. Who knows now how life might have turned out, had I made that move. In fact, it was probably my on-off relationship with Julia Fordham girl that stopped me, not long before she made the local papers by running off with a leading councillor (who at the time was married to the Council Leader). But that’s for another day.

Anyway, as I walked, memories flooded back of one of the few times that I visited Dave in London, so that we could both go see Prince. So much did I want to see him (Prince, not Dave) that I paid (face value) more for a gig ticket than I ever had before; a record that stood for more than 20 years. We sat next to Paula Yates and her pals. That was an experience in itself. They sang and danced. A lot. So did we. Prince was awesome in his high heels. What more do you need to know?

As a quick aside, as I haven’t seen him for so long, I googled Dave when I got into the office. By his own admission to a trade magazine, he now seems to let flats to London gangsters. Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.

The day after, Thursday, again as I wandered in to work, “When Doves Cry” randomly came on the iPod. I never listen to that album, so enjoyed the experience of hearing it for the first time in ages and pondered the coincidence of thinking of Dave just the day before. Who’d have thought, literally a few hours later, I’d have heard the same song several times more on the radio or television.

For me, it was the usual Thursday evening these days, taking my daughter and her pal on the train to fitness training for her football team. Browsing social media, as you do on such trips, I noticed a breaking story that a body had been found at Paisley Park. Many thoughts went through my head – mostly, I’ll admit, to do with crime, drugs or bizarre accidents – but none of them directly associated with Prince himself. I remember wondering if he’d been there at the time and would this mean some gruesome public inquiry that he’d have to participate in with various media implications or accusations of dodgy practices… A few minutes later it became clear that the body might well be Prince himself… Obviously a fake story… Then the confirmation that it was indeed him… Shock… Sadness… Disbelief.

Without seeking to be disrespectful, I can honestly say that I never imagined that I’d hear Aretha Franklin, whom I thought was ‘ancient’ when I was a lad, paying tribute to Prince. That really brought home to me how untimely this was.

The final coincidence of the week was the day after and a pre-planned drink after work, something I very rarely get to do these days. The drink was with a friend, with whom I’d not long back seen Prince. Chatting to him convinced me to put this stuff on paper.

Why Prince actually died will apparently take weeks to be confirmed. No doubt now that we’re past the initial respectful stage, the stories will turn to innuendo and spurious, sordid, suspicious scenarios and circumstances around his death. Already I’ve noticed the lazy journalism linking Prince’s name to Michael Jackson. They are after all both black, successful and died relatively young, so – the story implies – who knows what other characteristics they may have shared.

As you’ll see from the next few paragraphs, I didn’t pore over Prince’s personal life when he was alive. I know comparatively little about him and am happy for it to remain that way, at least until his promised, but now tragically curtailed, memoir is inevitably published. Though not if it’s relying on a ghost writer to fill in the bits he hadn’t “written” yet. For me, it’s mostly been about the music.

I was first introduced to Prince about 1980 by a school friend. While he does inhabit the Internet, he keeps that pretty private, so I’ll respect that and refer to him only as The Friend Formerly Known As. The three albums he shared with me were, to say the least, eye openers. That was as much about the lyrical content as the music. It was all oddly addictive though and, alongside the standards you’d expect me to be listening to at the time – post-punk, sounds of young Scotland, whatever my girlfriend liked – I began to enjoy them more and more, and it didn’t take too long to purchase my own copies. So began a lifelong love.

Just to be clear, there is an anomaly here. I’ve just looked down the list of best selling global music superstars and (ironically for this blog) barring Kanye, there is no-one else in the top 80 or so for whom I can say I own more than, at best an album or two, many no more than a favourite track and most nothing at all. I don’t really do mass success.

I did waver a little in the early days with Purple Rain – both the album and film. It wasn’t that I didn’t secretly love the purple pomposity of it all, it was more Prince was getting just a little too popular for the indie kid I’d increasingly become. The run of singles and albums after that though was undeniably just genius. Parade and Sign o the Times remain among my very favourite albums ever, and depending on the day you ask, Kiss or Sign o the Times could well be my favourite single of all time. There are a raft of singles or album tracks from that period that I still rate as highly as anything in my vast and musically varied collection.

To be clear, unlike Bowie and one or two others, he didn’t really change my musical direction. Consciously anyway. I certainly didn’t rush out and buy lots of obviously Prince related music, though maybe it opened my mind to stuff that I wouldn’t have given a chance to otherwise. Is that why I enjoy the likes of Chaka Khan, Frank Ocean, Destiny’s Child, TLC or even Kendrick Lamar? Looking backward to likely influences on him, I do love Marvin, Al Green, Sly and the Family Stone, Hendrix… But what is Prince related music anyway? There’s funk in there sure, but soul, R&B, jazz, rock, pop, a bit of gospel too over his career. He even brought Kate Bush’s funky side out. And how could we Scots forget what he did to Sheena Easton?! Sugar Walls indeed.

Of course, I loved his androgyny. If you’ve read anything I’ve written before you know that I’m a sucker for that. Was he gay, straight, bisexual? Don’t know. Don’t care. I do know that he “dated” many famous women, much to the fury I’m sure of various macho meatheads.

It’s far too easy to write off his lyrics as pop trash. There’s much wit and wisdom and a fair smattering of politics, amongst the sex talk. I suppose it’s really the stories within so many of the songs that I enjoy. For me, he paints a picture, and usually a pretty damn colourful one.

I’m not going to say anything more about the music. You’ll either love the squealing and the shrieking, the groaning and the grinding, the bass and funky drumming, the inventiveness, the re-styling, or you won’t. That’s fine – each to their own.

As I said above, others will assess his musical and cultural worth far better than me in the many, many articles to be found across the written and virtual press. I do know that, in 39 studio albums, there’s some padding and there’s some I like much more than others. But generally I can switch on Prince at any time, at any point of his career, and bathe in the lovesexiness. Proved to some degree following his death by switching the iPod to random Prince and not feeling the need to fast forward through anything. Indeed, quite the opposite as a few lost gems see the light once more. That to me, personally, is a measure of unrivalled sustained quality.

I’m not really going to comment either on squiggles, slaves and law suits. I can’t deny that the sight in the mid-90s of a multi-millionaire trying to escape a contract just to be allowed to make more multi-millions did grate. But actually, in retrospect, I have to accept that the fight was to some degree worth it in allowing others less fortunate ultimately to benefit from more freedom of contract. In recent times, he’s taken on YouTube and the streaming sites and, largely, won. Hence the comparative lack of material being linked to from social media comments on his death.

The one thing I will agree with most writers on is that he was so unbelievably talented at so many things – multi-musician, singer, producer, arranger, dancer, sex god, though maybe not actor – that he’s probably had less credit over the years than he’s deserved. Certainly I have never seen such an astonishing guitarist. I used to marvel at Hendrix on film, then I saw Prince for real. And then he’d wander over to the piano. Or the drums. Or the various other instruments that he more than mastered.

There can be little doubt that he was a workaholic and a lover of music. If he wasn’t shagging, he was rehearsing, recording or playing live. He is the only musician that I’ve ever seen who can play a minute or so of a song – sometimes less – then just as you’re marveling at how amazing it is, cast it off for something better, then do so again, and again. And you accept it because it’s the only way to hear so much of his canon, but mainly because despite it being a medley and not like it sounds on the record, it is still bloody brilliant.

The worry now has to be that the rumoured hundreds of albums that Prince recorded and kept in the Paisley Park vaults are now cobbled together and the legacy is exploited. For me, though I know others will disagree, he left them in that vault for a reason.

More generally, while his death’s effect on the future of music is, of course, questionable, I can honestly say that there is practically no artist who has given me personally such consistent pleasure over the years. Social media has been awash with musos I like, and not all of whom I’d have associated with a liking of him, saying similar. That’s been oddly pleasing given the stick I took as an indie youth for being a fan. Even Noel Gallagher and Bruce Springsteen have done live tributes in recent days.

I’m not alone in now not daring to mention my other favourites in case somehow I tempt providence. I thought it would be a long time before some musician’s death affected me as much as David Bowie. Actually this is worse. And I can think only of a couple of further artists that I would mourn similarly.

That’s it. The end. Nothing more meaningful to say. JC can honestly pick anything he wants, though don’t be surprised if Prince’s lawyers have it taken down before you’ve listened to it. Starfish and Coffee with the Muppets is still on YouTube whatever.

Actually, talking of coincidences, YouTube and Muppets….over the last few days you may have seen Prince doing Purple Rain at the Super Bowl; Billy Joel was on that bill…

Oh and you might be wondering who now is the band that I’ve paid most to see. Well, after a short break it’s back to being Prince again. Worth every penny.

Shut up already. Damn.

Jacques

JC adds……..As noted above I get to choose the tracks today.  I think they are a match for the quality of Jacques’ contribution..

mp3 : Prince – Controversy
mp3 : Prince & The Revolution – Mountains
mp3 : Prince & The New Power Generation – Money Don’t Matter 2 Night
mp3 : Prince & The New Power Generation – Gett Off (Housestyle)

RIP.

RODDY, EDWYN, MICK AND NORMAN

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It was October 1990 that Roddy Frame last bothered the compilers of the UK singles chart with his bombastic but catchy duet with Mick Jones.  As I mentioned in my ICA effort last August, compiled just after the Boy Wonder had given a tremendous near-homecoming concert at the Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow, there’s a really lovely piano only version out there, available as a b-side to the 1992 single Dream Sweet Dreams, in which the radio-friendly stomp chart is turned into a thing of beauty.

I had reason recently to dig out the original CD single and I re-discovered that in fact it was a decent release on its own as it contained a slight remix of the album version, two live tracks from a gig at the Barrowlands in August 1990 (one of which on the night was totally unexpected) and a radical remix thanks to Fatboy Slim himself.

mp3 : Aztec Camera and Mick Jones – Good Morning Britain (vocal remix)
mp3 : Roddy Frame and Edwyn Collins – Consolation Prize (live)
mp3 : Aztec Camera and Mick Jones – Good Morning Britain (live)
mp3 : Aztec Camera – Good Morning Britain (remixed by Norman Cook)

The lyric was of course a social commentary on life in the UK under a right-wing Tory government with no prospect of things changing but it was kind of lost in the tune that, with the help of Mick Jones, took Aztec Camera into the charts for that one last time in 1990.  This live version demonstrates just how great a song it is….maybe it is time for it to be dusted down and updated to take account of life under David Cameron…

mp3 : Aztec Camera – Good Morning Britain (live at Ronnie Scott’s)

Enjoy.

THE CINERAMA SINGLES (3)

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As mentioned last time out, 1999 was a year in which Cinerama were unable to release anything in the UK. They weren’t total strangers though, as John Peel continued to expresses his support with regular appearances on his show including a live acoustic performance from Peel Acres on 6 May in which two songs were broadcast. This was followed by a Peel Session which aired on 2 November 1999 while the band also played at the DJs 60th birthday party in August with the songs broadcast later in the year.

A single was recorded for the Madrid-based label Elefant Records, and issued via a limited edition 7″ on pink vinyl:-

mp3 : Cinerama – Pacific
mp3 : Cinerama – King’s Cross

By now, the duo of David Gedge and Sally Murrell had expanded into a five-piece band with the addition of Simon Gleave, Terry de Castro and Simon Pearson on guitar, bass and drums respectively.

Pacific is a tremendous, almost long-lost record with a lead vocal from Sally Murrell. It was as far from the sound of The Wedding Present as could be imagined. The Peel listeners loved it enough to vote it in at #13 in the annual Festive Fifty.

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (16)

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Disc 16 is Know Your Rights.

April 1982.  And just when you thought that The Clash were incapable of any new surprises, they hit hard with the release of what turned out to be the first of three singles that would be lifted from Combat Rock.

Maybe they were just fed up of not being able to articulate their message properly with a music press that were no longer fans (for the most part) or maybe it was just a bit of piss-taking from Joe aimed at those who had dismissed This Is Radio Clash as sloganeering even before hearing a single note.  But it takes a big set of balls to scream out that what follows on record is ‘a public service announcement………………..WITH GUITARS!!!!!’

Yup, it’s time to throw away the funk, disco and reggae and get back to some good old-fashioned noise to what is suspiciously akin to a rockabilly beat.  But it was exactly what we were needing.

I’m a big fan of this song, and think it is one of the most underrated of the singles.  It was a throwback to the angry, disenfranchised band of old. It only came out on 7″ vinyl – no extended remixes for this track – and it even had a b-side that name-checked London just like so many songs of old.  The infatuation with America was seemingly over and it made me believe that the forthcoming album was going to be 45 minutes of pent-up aggression unleashed on a listening public.

Got that wrong didn’t I?

mp3 : The Clash – Know Your Rights
mp3 : The Clash – First Night Back In London

Years later, the early versions of the songs that made it onto Combat Rock became available in bootleg form.  It is interesting to hear how the lyric is delivered with a far more cynical rather than angry tone.  It’s also a couple of minutes longer than the version that was eventually publicly issued…

mp3 : The Clash – Know Your Rights (early version)

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS  : Released 23 April 1982 : #43 in the UK singles chart

For me it’s all about the first ten seconds of ‘Know Your Rights’.  The way Mick Jones bashes his guitar  and then Strummer shouts “This is a public service announcement/With guitars!” That’s the whole reason why The Clash existed right there. It’s a massive influence on what we’re going with Radio 4.

As a kid growing up in America, ‘Combat Rock’ was everywhere. MTV had just started and the video for ‘Rock the Casbah’ was on all the time. All the kids at school loved it but ‘Know Your Rights’ was the one for me. It’s the ultimate synthesis of all their influences, from reggae to punk through R&B to soul.  Musically, it sounds really urgent, as if they were keen to tighten things up.

Maybe they were conscious that they’d lost a few people en route with ‘Sandinista’ and wanted ro strip the sound back to bare bones.  The lyrics are spot on: “Murder is a crime/Unless it is done by a politician or an aristocrat”.  Someone could release ‘Know Your Rights’ next week and it would still sound relevant.  It’s timeless.

Anthony Roman, Radio 4

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (15)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON MONDAY 5 MAY 2008

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Oh…..I’m going to be in bother for giving this a chart placing as low as #15. Especially as I’ve used dozens of past postings to tell the world of my adoration for The Jam.

This was the first band that I ever got infatuated with. They were the first band that I ever queued up for tickets overnight, lying on a cold and wet Glasgow pavement in a sleeping bag.

The minute the record shop opened on the day the band released a new single or LP, I was waiting to go in and buy it. My part of the bedroom wall in the room that I shared with my brothers was covered in posters of The Jam.

On day when I saw a friend’s wall had all the picture sleeves from the singles stuck to his bedroom wall, I went home and did the same. My shrine to Buckler, Foxton and Weller had to be better than that of anyone else I knew.

The break-up of the band didn’t send me into a sulk. Instead, I thought this was a chance to watch and enjoy each of their new bands and wait for the inevitable reunion (got that last bit spectacularly wrong, didn’t I???)

Even when The Style Council broke up and interest in The Jam was at a low, I could still be relied to keep talking about them to anyone who was interested. I think it was 1992 when myself and a mate were 40% of the audience at a theatre-show at the Edinburgh Fringe, all about the story behind the formation, success and break-up of The Jam. The other 60% in the audience were Sean Hughes, Phil Jupitus and some mate of theirs who probably worked for Channel 4 or the BBC…

No other band gave me such agony choosing which single to select for inclusion in the run-down. It could easily have been In The City which introduced me to them at an early stage. Or Down In the Tube Station At Midnight, a song that on release I thought would always be my favourite record of all time. Just as equally, Strange Town and When You’re Young are singles that mean so much to me – often because with The Jam, the B-sides were just as good as the single, and this was very much the case with The Butterfly Collector and Smithers-Jones respectively.

In the end, after much agonising, I’ve gone for Going Underground, and I’ve done so because it was the song that allowed me to say, to the watching world and all those who had cast dispersions on the band, YOU WERE WRONG, AND ALL THE TIME I WAS RIGHT.

In 1980, singles didn’t enter the charts at the #1 position. Instead, they came in somewhere in the 20s and that got you onto Top of the Pops. The single would sell well on the back of this TV appearance, would climb a few places and then again the following week into the Top 10. The second TOTP appearance would follow, and if it was different enough from the first one and Radio 1 was still playing it, then the Top 5 and a chance at #1 would follow. It was always a 3-4 week cycle to hit the top slot.

Going Underground broke all the rules of the game. It flew in at #1 and stayed there for three weeks.

Critics of the band said it only did this as the initial copies of the single came with a limited edition live EP, and thus fans rushed out and bought it immediately. The fact that The Jam would repeat the straight in at #1 on two more occasions soon disproved that theory.

Going Underground is my favourite Jam single for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it proved that in March 1980, The Jam were by far and away the biggest and most popular band in the UK – despite which, the band still managed to make long-time fans feel they were still something special.

Secondly, it was an attack on the Thatcher government’s policy of increased spending on nuclear weapons, and as a member of CND (weren’t we all in those days), this song seemed significant in spreading the word to a wide audience.

Thirdly, the B-side was another brilliant Jam song. So brilliant, it was originally intended as a double-A release, only the printing press got it wrong. Allegedly.

Finally, it did in fact come with a great live EP which didn’t bleep-out the swear words on The Modern World……

mp3 : The Jam – Going Underground
mp3 : The Jam – Dreams Of Children
mp3 : The Jam – Away From The Numbers (live)
mp3 : The Jam – The Modern World (live)
mp3 : The Jam – Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (live)

This was another single that I lost in the Edinburgh flit. But it was one that I chased up on e-bay not long after I got the USB Turntable and re-kindled the interest in vinyl.

So why only #15 in this rundown? Well, its just too good to be at #16 or lower…..

NB : This 45 was of course featured just a few months ago in my look back over all the singles ever released by The Jam.  Click here for a reminder.

THE £20 CHALLENGE (Week One)

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JC writes…..

Blogging wise, I haven’t been able to do much this past few weeks for one  reason or another (this week it’s been about looking after some very welcome visitors from Canada). The postings, as is my habit, are all written ages in advance so that I can keep things going in such circumstances. It also meant that I wasn’t reading or replying to e-mails but  this has worked quite well…

Yesterday’s guest blogger was Charity Chic, whom I’m sure you will know, from making your own visits over to his corner of the internet, specialises in writing about music he has mostly picked up from browsing around charity shops.

Today’s guest posting is also about charity shopping and it features the long overdue return, to these pages, of the adventures of S-WC and Badger. So without any further ado……here’s S-WC to set the scene.

The £20 Challenge –Week One (where Badger and S-WC do some sterling work charity but don’t like to talk about it. Much)

What follows is a mostly true account of an actual conversation that Badger had with me last week. I was at work having just got back from my lunch time run. I ambled back to the office to see an obviously excited Badger run up to me. Readers, if you are a Blackadder fan – think of Series 2 when Blackadder needs cash fast to pay off the Bishop of Bath and Wells and Percy decided to turn metal into gold and succeeds in making ‘some green’. He bursts out of the door, massively excited – it was a bit like that.

“You’ll never guess what I’ve just found” he shouts at me – considering he is standing next to me I thought this was rather rude, it may also be because I still had my headphones in – but anyway. I think of a clever answer, largely because it always annoys Badger.

“Erm, you’ve found the chemical formula for the mind altering drug that ITV pumps through the television on to an unsuspecting public that makes them think that Keith Lemon, Ant and Dec and Vernon Kay are talented television presenters?”

He looks at me blankly and then says “no, I mean obviously that would be a wonderful thing to find, largely because I can’t stand Vernon Kay, I mean he is just so plastic. So plastic that I actually think he doesn’t have any genitals…..Erm…No, I found £20”.

I have to say that as an answer that was rather underwhelming. I mean its nice to find £20, its free drinking money or free food or some free music, or in my case, some new toys for my daughter. Oh I say, and start to wander back to my desk. “I found it in a book” he shouts. “In a book that I just bought”. He continues “from a charity shop”. I am suddenly interested.

“Which Book?” I ask.

“It was Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas” came the reply. A high brow choice I thought to myself. It was wedged in the end of Chapter 8 and the start of Chapter 9 apparently. Badger went into shop to drop off some stuff, had a browse found this book that he has wanted to read for ages, bought it, and the rest is history…For those of you who are interested it was the Rycroft Hospice shop on Totnes High Street, you should probably check it out – just in case there are other books in there filled with cash.

I looked at Badger and said – so we are going to the pub then to get pissed on free cash? (Obviously it would take us more than £20 to get pissed, considering its like £4 a pint in Exeter) but it’s early and we could always mug a granddad to get more free cash a bit later.

“No” he said and handed me an A4 envelope, which jingled as he passed it. “We are going to do this instead”.

This ladies and gents is an important moment in history – the very first ‘Excellent Idea’ Badger has ever had. The last time he thought he had an excellent idea we ended up in Rochdale.

Inside the envelope was £19 in cash and a CD by the band Mansun. Badger was bouncing up and down when I pulled the CD out of the envelope.

“Do you need the toilet?” I asked him in my most patronising voice.

“No, no, no…Look he said, I can’t take money from a charity shop and spend it on me, it’s not right. So I thought that we could make it fun”. I looked at him with a sense of dread – “by playing Mansun CD’s” I said raising my eyebrows wisely.

mp3 : Mansun – Stripper Vicar

He sighed. “Every week we buy a CD, until the money runs out, we have to buy them from a charity shop, we can’t spend more than £2 on each CD. I buy your choice – on this occasion Mansun – and you buy mine – so next Tuesday you present me with a CD, and the remaining money – and the CD has to be something that you think that the other person won’t already have. I know you don’t have that Mansun CD because you mentioned it once on one of our cricket trips – that bloke who you hate, Frank, stole your copy when you were DJing somewhere.”

This is a true story. When I was a student, a guy called Frank, who was a dickhead (probably still is) stole my copy of ‘Attack of the Grey Lantern’ along with an Acid Brass CD, ‘Kellys Heroes’ by Black Grape, and ‘Let Me Come Over’ by Buffalo Tom. It wasn’t all bad he dropped my copy of ‘Anarchy’ by Chumbawamba in his rush to get out of the DJ Booth. Strange lad.

So you paid £1 for this CD. Wow. I was genuinely amazed as I had only two days ago considered downloading it – I didn’t. It’s a brilliant idea I said. Does it have to be the same shop every week.

“No, let’s spread the love” he said.

Can I buy you anything, anything at all in the shop, that you won’t already own. Meatloaf, Mantovani, Phil Fucking Collins….I let that hang in the air and then chuck in The Stereophonics, Nickelback, Orson….

“Well, make it something I would enjoy” he said and then his phone rings and he is off back to his desk.

I stood there trying to remember which charity shop I saw the debut album by Moloko in the other week.

So here folks are some tracks from Mansun’s excellent debut album ‘The Attack of the Grey Lantern”. Please enjoy them. I have no idea as I type what Badger will get next week, but he’ll let you all know.

mp3 : Mansun – Egg Shaped Fred
mp3 : Mansun – The Chad Who Loved Me
mp3 : Mansun – Taxloss

S-WC

JC adds…..

I’ve most of the early Mansun singles in the collection.  If any of you like, I could make the b-sides available in a future posting.

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #71 : DWIGHT YOAKAM

A GUEST POSTING FROM CHARITY CHIC

Guitars, Cadillacs and Sad, Sad Music

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If Kayne West and Billy Joel can grace the Imaginary Compilation Album pages I might just about be able to get away with sneaking in a bit of Country.

Do not be put of by the picture of a Man in a Hat – there are hundreds of awful Men in Hats in Country Music. Dwight Yoakam isn’t one of them. I suspect that one of the main reasons he sported a hat was due to his fast receding hair line and there are even pictures out there of him with a Bobby Charltonesque sweep over.

From the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s when most of you were enjoying the great indie music which features on this blog I was pretty much immersed in the flourishing American movement listening to the likes of Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, the Jayhawks and of course Dwight

The majority of this ICA is taken primarily from his first four albums from between 1986 and 1990 when to me he was just about the best artist on the planet. I wouldn’t bother exploring anything after 1993’s This Time as thereafter he faded as badly as Hibs title challenge

Side 1

Track 1 – Honky Tonk Man (from Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc, Etc 1986)

We begin and end with a cover. As soon as you here the first chords of his version of this Johnny Horton classic you just know that you are in for something special

Track 2 – If There Was a Way (from the album of the same name 1990)

The first, but certainly not the last, of the sad songs. Dwight is just standing, alone in this room, surrounded by memories wondering if he can win his love back. Being a Country song, no is the obvious answer

Track 3 – South of Cincinnati (from Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc, Etc 1986)

I’m a sucker for road songs and this is one of many which makes me want to explore the Southern states in some detail

At a cold gray apartment in Chicago, a cigarette drowns inside a glass of gin is up there with the best lines in Country music

Track 4 – It Wont Hurt (from Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc, Etc 1986)

The last number from Guitar, Cadillacs and yet again lost love and strong alcohol are involved

Track 5 –Carmelita (from Flaco Jiminez’ album Partners 1992)

The mighty Flaco Jiminez played accordion on many of Dwight’s greatest somgs and therefore it is only fitting that Dwight return the favour by featuring on Flaco’s album Partners.

I have several versions of Carmelita including the Warren Zevon original but none can hold a candle to Dwight’s version.

Side 2

Track 1 – Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room (She Wore Red Dresses) (from Buenas Noches From a Lonely Room 1998)

Quite simply Dwight’s best song from his third and indeed best album Buenas Noches

She wore red dresses and told such sweet lies

Track 2 – Readin’ Rightin’ Rt 23 (from Hillbilly Deluxe 1987)

The only track I’m featuring the second album

A song highlighting that worldwide issue of folk leaving the country and heading to the city in search of work and longing to get back home

Track 3 – Two Doors Down (from This Time 1993)

It Won’t Hurt updated

Track 4 – Sad Sad Music (from If There Was a Way 1990)

She’s left him again. No drink involved this time just sad, sad music

Track 5 Streets of Bakersfield ( from Buenas Noches From a Lonely Room 1998)

Despite the subject matter an upbeat number to finish of with as Dwight’s version of a Homer Joy song recreates the Bakersfield Sound which sprung up around Bakersfield, California in the 1950’s as a reaction to the slickly produced string orchestra laden Nashville sound. The main protagonists were the sadly recently departed Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. Buck very kindly lends a hand

I hope this helps to convert some non -believers

CC

mp3 : Dwight Yoakam – Honky Tonk Man
mp3 : Dwight Yoakam – If There Was A Way
mp3 : Dwight Yoakam – South of Cincinatti
mp3 : Dwight Yoakam – It Won’t Hurt
mp3 : Flaco Jiminez /Dwight Yoakam – Carmelita

mp3 : Dwight Yoakam – Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room (She Wore Red Dresses)
mp3 : Dwight Yoakam – Readin’ Rightin’ Rt 23
mp3 : Dwight Yoakam – Two Doors Down
mp3 : Dwight Yoakam – Sad Sad Music
mp3 : Dwight Yoakam – Streets of Bakersfield

JC adds…..

And this, dear friends, is why I love this blogging lark.  A great introduction to someone who is a legend in his field but whom I have to admit I own nothing,  Cheers CC.

TALK ABOUT POP’S MUSIC

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Long before the sad and sobering adverts for car insurance, James Osterberg Jr made some very important and very influential records. Particularly two LPs that were released in 1977 – The Idiot and Lust for Life – both partly-written, wholly produced and very heavily influenced by David Bowie.

It was the Bowie connection that led to Mrs V purchasing both albums at the time, and they take a proud place in among the many other bits of plastic that sit within the cupboard just yards from where I’m sitting typing these words.

Its quaint to read the words printed on the back of The Idiot:-

Stereo records give full stereo reproduction when played on a stereo record player. They can be played om most modern mono players fitted with a lightweight tone arm and pick-up head and the sound reproduction will be monoaural. If you have any doubts and wish to avoid damaging your equipment or records, consult your dealer.

Given the prodigious amounts of drugs that were consumed during the course of making these records, I’ve a feeling that Iggy Pop would have been consulting an altogether different type of dealer.

Lust For Life contains one of the greatest songs ever recorded. Fact.

mp3 : Iggy Pop – The Passenger

Hard to believe now that it was passed over as a single and instead relegated to the b-side of Success, which was the only 45 lifted from the LP at the time.

And I wonder how many readers are aware of a very strong Scottish connection with The Passenger…..

Well, the music was written by Ricky Gardiner who first came to prominence in the very early 70s as a founder member of Beggars Opera, a prog rock band from Glasgow (although Gardiner himself was from Edinburgh). They never achieved much as a band, but Gardiner was by the mid 70s part of Bowie’s backing band and part of the entourage that hooked up with Iggy. And its his playing of the distinctive riff that has filled many a floor at an indie disco the world over.

One of the best tracks on The Idiot is this:-

mp3 : Iggy Pop – Nightclubbing

It is highly representative of the dark and raw sound that dominates the LP.

A few years later, Half Man Half Biscuit took the piss out of it somewhat:-

mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit – Seal Clubbing

Sadly however, the The Idiot is an LP that for many has become synomomous with tragedy, thanks to the fact that it was the last record played by Ian Curtis on the night he hanged himself….whether or not it was actually playing as he took his last breath we will never know.

THE CINERAMA SINGLES (2)

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The debut single from July 1988 was followed with the debut album the following month.

Va Va Voom contained 11 songs and sixteen different musicians made some sort of contribution on others. It was a courageous move with cellos, violins, flutes, oboes and trumpets alongside the standard guitar/bass/drums and keys. Emma Pollock was on board again, this time as a co-vocalist to the track Ears which many thought would make a great single.

Instead it was the most radio-friendly number that was selected for release in October 1998:-

mp3 : Cinerama – Dance Girl Dance

This time, it came out as a CD single with two additional and otherwise unavailable b-sides:-

mp3 : Cinerama – Crusoe
mp3 : Cinerama – Model Spy

The first of these is truly extraordinary and one of the strangest things that David Gedge ever recorded. The tune was written by the English composer Robert Mellin as the theme to the TV series Robinson Crusoe which first aired in the UK in the mid 60s but was repeated constantly during school holidays for about a decade. Our songwriting hero took the tune and added lyrics to produce one of his great numbers about being on the wrong side of infidelity.

The second is an instrumental…..and is a tribute, to my ears, to the theme tunes of so many of the classic 60s and 70s cop/spy/mystery shows.

So by the end of the year, Cinerama had announced themselves with 17 distinctive songs quite unlike anything that had come via The Wedding Present. But just as they got ready to build on that success, there were problems with the record label and there wouldn’t be any more music officially released in the UK till early 2000….

TOUCHED BY THE HAND OF GOD

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Well…..that could have been a headline you might well have read when this single was released in mid 1996.

It was a time when the mania and hype around Oasis was at its most ferocious with Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back In Anger having dominated the singles charts like no others in many a long time. Beck had recorded a critically-acclaimed LP entitled Odelay, but the first single lifted from it, Where It’s At, hadn’t done all that well, peaking at #61 in the USA and #35 in the UK.

But Noel Gallagher was a big fan of Beck and he offered to play on and produce a remix of the follow-up single, Devils Haircut. Fair play to the record label, they resisted the temptation to make the most of things by keeping the original version as the lead track with Noel’s remix, along with another remix by Mike Simpson of The Dust Brothers made available as b-sides along with a previously unreleased Beck song.

The Oasis connection worked to some extent in the UK, with the single reaching #22 (which is the third highest single position Beck has achieved over here). But it made no difference at all in the USA with Devils Haircut bellyflopping its way to #94.

mp3 : Beck – Devils Haircut
mp3 : Beck – Devils Haircut (Remix by Noel Gallagher)
mp3 : Beck – Devils Haircut (Groovy Sunday Remix by Mike Simpson)
mp3 : Beck – Trouble All My Days

My own verdict? An excellent pop single on its own. But both remixes do manage to bring something extra along to the song – the extra guitar playing (by Noel Gallagher himself) makes it ideal for your indie discos, while Mike Simpson’s work gives it a touch of soul…..

Enjoy.

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (15)

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Disc 15 is This Is Radio Clash.

By late 1981, The Clash were not getting much positive press in the UK.  This was in part down to the continued backlash against what many critics and journalists considered to be a folly (or even worse a vanity project) of the triple-album but also because the band were no longer as accessible as they had been just five years previous when the debut album and singles had been unleashed.

Word came through that the band were reverting to old practices and releasing a one-off 45 that hadn’t been on any previous albums nor would it feature on any future recordings.  Word then came through that the title of the new 45 was to be This Is Radio Clash, and before anyone had heard a single second of music, it had been dismissed by a number of writers on the title alone on the basis that they’d had enough of the Joe’s sloganeering.

As such, the new single was on a hiding to nothing.  The reviews were mixed to say the least, and there was a further backlash when it was revealed that the 7″ single was the same tune with slightly altered lyrics and the 12″ only had remixes.  As someone wrote at the time, it was as if the band had used up all their creative talent in making Sandanista! and now had the equivalent of writer’s block.

All of which is very unfair on the single.  Yes, it was another surprise in terms of its sound being akin to a dance number that was more funk than punk, but it was far from awful.  Indeed, it is easy to look back now and see that they were laying down a marker for what was to be their next album – the one that really would propel them to fame and fortune in the USA which had been such a goal in recent times.  As one of those new wavers who liked his disco music, I was at the time and have continued ever since to be a fan of this single and can look back with pride that I helped it reach the giddy heights of #47!! Although I have to admit that the 12″ mixes are a bit on the dull side.

mp3 : The Clash – This Is Radio Clash
mp3 : The Clash – Radio Clash
mp3 : The Clash – Outside Broadcast
mp3 : The Clash – Radio 5

Worth noting that at the time of its release, there were only Radios 1,2,3 and 4 broadcasting nationally on the BBC in the UK. Radio 5, which became the news and sports channel, was launched in 1990.

THIS IS RADIO CLASH  : Released 20 November 1981 : #47 in the UK singles chart

The thing with ‘Radio Clash’ is it’s got that great ‘dan-daan-daan-dandaaaah’ introduction, almost as if saying ‘Here comes the villain’, the the riff comes in.  It’s pretty much like listening to the future if you consider what they were doing with sampling and remixing but without all the modern technology.

I wasn’t around for punk but you didn’t have to be to realise it was way ahead of its time. Also, it’ still got the attitude in there, even now, many years on. Joe’s lyrics hit home.  If you compare it to ‘White Riot’, they are so far apart stylistically, and that to me is what makes The Clash great. The mixing of styles, the lack of fear of experimentation, the way they’d get on and make records they wanted to, regardless of what anyone thought.  Not being afraid to try musically different styles has influenced Hard Fi,

I’m from a satellite town where the cultural arena was pretty sparse so The Clash were one of the ways to actually find out about stuff, whether it was dub, ska or Jack Kerouac.  They talked about what was going on in the world, we took that from them, they dealt with global issues but we’ve kept it to a local level. My older brother, Steve, got me into them.  Then I read Nirvana talking about them in interviews, and then Mick produced my first band.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago when he joined us on stage at Brixton Academy and it sums up how so much has changed in the last few years.  You couldn’t ask for any more. When I hear their songs it makes my heart beat faster, and I just want to pick up my guitar and get on stage.

Richard Archer, Hard Fi

(I’m thinking today’s author won’t be too well-known outside of the UK – here’s wiki )

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (16)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON FRIDAY 2 MAY 2008

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This is a record that having been cited by so many as an influence that it’s hard to reconcile it with its flop status here in the UK.

Monkey Gone To Heaven by The Pixies only reached #60 in the UK charts in March 1989, so it was very much an acquired taste. It was my ownership of the 12” single which helped cement my friendship with new work colleague Jacques the Kipper – I happened to mention in the pub one evening not long after he started in the office that it was one of my favourite bits of vinyl, and that’s when we started talking about bands and music. And we haven’t stopped all these years later…

The late 80s weren’t great for me in terms of keeping up with music. No. let me rephrase that – the late 80s weren’t great for me in terms of keeping up with anything.

The student years from 81-85 and the first few years of paid employment were a period of hedonism and a slightly unorthodox lifestyle. Particularly the first two years of employment where I had some money in my pocket. To coin a phrase from Paul Weller, I found myself in a strange town. It was called Edinburgh.

For three years I lived in a series of rented flats (one of which involved a moonlit flit and the loss of some 500 7” singles as recounted elsewhere in this rundown), with a great crowd of friends centred around unemployed actors and performers. Oh a psycho air-stewardess from Canada as a flatmate who once threatened to cut the throat of my wee brother – but that’s another story.

But I got bored with all of this – especially as I seemed to be the only one in the crowd with any money, and the late nights and long drinking sessions were taking a toll on me. That and the boss beginning to run out of patience. So I settled myself down with a steady girlfriend who I married in the Summer of 1988 after a whirlwind romance. Someone whose interest in music was virtually non-existent…..but I felt the change was what I wanted. It was time to put the toys of my youth away forever.

Within a matter of weeks, I was bored rigid. I missed my old mates and my old lifestyle. I missed going to gigs and listening to Radio 1 after 8pm of an evening. It was all soap operas and detective shows in my household. I was in danger of growing old before my time.

I wasn’t reading music papers, and I wasn’t buying anything. I put the turntable and amp under the stairs.

One day, instead of waiting at the stop for 20 minutes for the next bus home, I popped into a well known city centre record shop. Within minutes, a sound was blaring from the speakers which was unlike anything I had ever heard before. A great guitar riff, big powerful drumming and a whiny vocal that was part-spoken, part-sung and part-screamed. And was that some cellos there at the end? Surely not…

The song needed to be bought. So, it was up to the counter to ask the bloke behind the counter who and what was that? The answer, of course, was Monkey Gone To Heaven by The Pixies.

I had no idea who he was talking about. But I bought the single. The first bit of vinyl in at least 9 months since my wedding day. And then went home and pulled out the turntable and amp from under the stairs…

Within a year, I had moved out of the marital home. A few months later I was living with a woman called Rachel, who became my second wife – you may have seen her referred to here and there as Mrs Villain. Crucially, Rachel liked a lot of the music that I loved and was all for going out to gigs rather than get hooked on Eastenders and Taggart. She’s still like that all these years later.

This record is astonishing in its ambition. A long long time before it became fashionable to do so, it was giving warnings about global warming and the destruction of the environment. It had an orchestral part at a time when most bands were beginning again to strip things back to basics. It was a song which sounded indie, but was as far away from the fey and whimsy sound normally associated with the genre as you could imagine. It was a song that could even find favour with the rock fans who got hooked entirely on the solos and performances. It had a vocal that so screamed at you from the speakers, that you feared for the damage being done to the throat of the lead singer.

In short, The Pixies had more or less invented grunge…

mp3 : The Pixies – Monkey Gone To Heaven
mp3 : The Pixies – Manta Ray
mp3 : The Pixies – Weird At My School
mp3 : The Pixies – Dancing The Manta Ray

As I mentioned at the outset, it was a flop, reaching only #60 in the singles chart. But it was #1 single of 1989 in Melody Maker, #5 in Rolling Stone, #22 in NME and #24 in Village Voice.

It was also the record that helped put my life back on the track I should never have left.