ANYONE REMEMBER THIS LOT?

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Sharkboy were a Brighton-based band, much-loved and championed by Brett Anderson.

They initially consisted of Avy (vocals, guitar), Adrian Oxaal (guitar, cello, keyboards), Alan Stirner (guitars, percussion) and Jessica Fischer (bass, cello). They signed to Nude Records with a debut single Crystaline being released in November 1993, after which came Razor in February 1994, Neither single sold well despite some reasonably good press and a series of high-profile support gigs to label mates Suede.

Debut album Matinee flopped after which the band took stock, adding three new members at the expense of one and tried again the following year. Four more non-hit singles and a poorly selling sophomore album, which also included contributions on violin from Dickon Hinchcliffe of Tindersticks, saw them call it a day before 1995 was out.

Adrian Oxall would enjoy success with James whom he joined in 1996, going on to play on three albums – Whiplash, Millionaires and Pleased To Meet You.

The critics likened Sharkboy to Mazzy Star and Drugstore, presumably on the basis of having a breathy female vocalist over tunes that weren’t the most commercial. There’s one single in the collection:-

mp3 : Sharkboy – Razor

Three more oddly compelling tracks on the CD (I’m picking up touches of PJ Harvey and The Auteurs) which, according to the sticker still on the plastic case, cost me 99p:-

mp3 : Sharkboy – Bright Things Lie
mp3 : Sharkboy – Dear Gilda
mp3 : Sharkboy – Show Me Now

Enjoy

THE RETURN OF BUTCHER BOY

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A wee while back I mentioned that while 2016 had for a long time, in musical terms, looked like being the most appalling year imaginable thanks in the main to so many tragic and unexpected deaths, there were some signs of things taking a turn for the better, such as the decision by Arab Strap to temporarily get back together and play some gigs later this year.

There’s also been a lot to get excited about gigs and records wise with the likes of The Just Joans, Ette, Adam Stafford, Emma Pollock, Randolph’s Leap and Teen Canteen all getting me excited at various points in time while a number of old favourites such as Lloyd Cole, Super Furry Animals and Teenage Fanclub have (or are about to) come up trumps in the live setting while I’ve got my hands on tickets to see The Pixies at the Barrowlands later in the year.

And then yesterday afternoon, at 3pm after a marathon session of crucial meetings at work, I sat down for a belated lunch and browsed the little corner of social media that I engage in.  This came up:-

Today is the fifth anniversary of the release of the last Butcher Boy record.  We wanted to mark the occasion, so here is a new song we recorded.

It’s called November 1951, Bad Things Happen When It’s Quiet.

I was stunned.  Only last week I was talking with someone about Butcher Boy bemoaning the fact that we knew the band had been in the studio but there was no indication that anything was going to emerge soon.

But it would seem this has been a bit of a long-term plan with band members kind of sworn to secrecy that the track would appear at this time and in this low-key way.  It certainly grabbed my attention and I reached for the headphones immediately and hit play on the linked video.

My work colleagues in the open plan office must have looked at me with either a degree of curiousity or concern as I’m sure I gasped out loudly within the first few seconds.  And then they must have wondered why it was I got off my chair and went into another meeting room all on my own never taking my eyes away from the small screen.  I certainly was asked if I was OK when I came back into the open plan area some ten minutes later with one person wondering if I’d been given some shock news.

But how do you explain that a band, of whom 99% of my colleagues won’t ever have heard, had just put up a new song online that had not only blown me away with its first few notes but had rendered me speechless on listening to it for the first and then second time back-to-back.

This is a song like nothing else Butcher Boy have before recorded and released. It is haunting, moving, epic and atmospheric.  It is a song on which a number of the band members don’t make an appearance but it is augmented by a number of guest musicians:-

Words and music by Butcher Boy, 2016

Maya Burman-Roy, Alison Eales, Fraser Ford, John Blain Hunt, Findlay Mackinnon, Basil Pieroni, Cat Robertson, Robert Spark

Recorded by Brian McNeill

Second voice – Anna Miles

Additional strings – Jacqui Grant (cello), Kathleen McVey (violin)

Choir – Lindsay McIntyre, Madeleine Schmoll, Maija Sihvola, Hannah Thorley

I’m reliably informed that this is a taster for an EP which is in the pipeline in which there will also be a full band version of the song available.

Can’t wait.

mp3 : Butcher Boy – November 1951, Bad Things Happen When It’s Quiet (strings version)

Enjoy

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #89 : FOIL

A GUEST POSTING FROM JACQUES THE KIPPER

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a kind of sexual manner

I’ll start with an admission. Much as I’ve enjoyed others’ ICAs, and often particularly those that I’d not immediately think that I would, the thought of, however much I like the band in question, spending hours listening to the back catalogue of the likes of It’s Immaterial, Curiosity Killed the Cat or Echo and the Bunnymen, fills me with dread. Look forwards, or possibly sideways is my music philosophy. Sure, I’ll listen to the odd old track here and there but I’m far more interested in what’s new, and I only have so many hours in the day. (At the time of writing for example, I’d recommend the new Pussy Mothers 12”. Brilliant.) I suppose, if honest, I never thought that I’d get round to this.

So why now? Why this one? It came about after a bit of social media banter with my old (though not quite as old as me) friend Hugh on his birthday. I was going to freak him out with some pics of memorabilia from his musical youth, and as part of hunting that out, found my favourite ever music review.

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Our subsequent exchange inspired a bit of nostalgia from friends and musos of then, and some searching out of the songs by friends of now. Generally, the feedback seemed positive and confirmed my thinking that the band of which he had been a member made some damn fine records back in the day.

To exorcise the demons and, let’s be honest, because the back catalogue isn’t of REM proportions and I do dip in and out of it fairly regularly, I’ve set about putting together a set of songs that I think work as an album, albeit clearly a compilation. For those that already know the band, you’ll notice I’ve missed a few of the usual suspects. No worries, they’ll be on the separate limited edition, money spinning Record Store Day khaki coloured vinyl EP, later to be incorporated onto a re-released deluxe version of the album.

I’ve not given you a rundown of the band before, during and after, and barely any detail about chronology or wider societal issues of the time. And for once no sordid tales of sex and drugs, though clearly there is plenty rock ‘n’ roll. The hope is that the music talks (okay, sometimes shouts) for itself. Let’s party like it’s just past 1999.

As the album cover says, I give you Foil and “a kind of sexual manner”…

Side 1

Reviver Gene (original single)

Released more times than an Elvis greatest hits package. This remains for me the definitive version. Drunk and triumphant indeed. Probably the start for most Foil fans. Call me biased – you already have no doubt – but this remains one of my favourite Scottish singles ever. Just saying.

Easy Life And Ignonimy (from Never Got Hip LP)

Moving on to a song that sums up Foil perfectly. Firstly, apparently, they take advice from a broken chair – surely that can be the only reason that the band did not pre-empt Buffy Cluedo in the popular music charts. Secondly, only they would use “ignominy” in a song. With some “celibacy” thrown in for good measure. For that they should be loved forever.

High Wire (from Spread It All Around LP)

Does music get any more joyous than this? They meant it man.

In The Ground (from ‘B-side’ of Reviver Gene CD single)

Where Foil show their tender side. This could meander on for another five minutes and I’d still be nodding my head along appreciatively. Just beautiful.

Superhero No 1 (single)

Spot the Batman riff. Another non-hit single. Sadly. I daresay that this was the moment in 2000 when I realised that they really weren’t destined to be embraced by the musical mainstream. If this failed, it really wasn’t happening. Shame.

Voodoo Autograph (from ‘B side’ of Let It Go Black CD single)

Can I describe this a bit more blues-y? I suppose that I just have. This is one that I really hadn’t listened to for years. Nicely ends the first side I reckon.

Side 2

Let It Go Black (single)

Let’s start side 2 by going back to the very start. A time before Reviver Gene. A time even before young people had beards. Another absolutely cracking song. I guarantee that after listening to this you’ll be singing or humming along to its hook for the rest of the day. I hope also that you’ll be rushing out to purchase the Foil back catalogue.

Weird Kid (from Never Got Hip LP)

Possibly the closest thing I could include that sums up the live experience that were Foil. It was loud, it was fast, there was a fair bit of screaming and even some harmonising. It built fairly quickly to a climax and it almost always came to an abrupt end. Oo-er!

Are You Enemy? (from Spread It All Around LP)

Another song that builds. A gentle and sensitive love song. Sort of.

The World Is Weird (from ‘B side’ of Superhero No 1 CD single)

I always think there’s a bit of Johnny Marr in here. Deliberately included to show that there was so much more to Foil than the Sugar-y reference on the cover. The guest singer is Helen Connolly. Just a gorgeous song.

Claremont Junction Optimist (from Never Got Hip LP)

Talking of gorgeous and, again, musical firsts. Has there ever been a more sexy mention of Staropramen in a song than this? I think not.

Hey You (from ‘B side’ of Reviver Gene re-release CD single)

And so the album ends as it began. With references to getting drunk. Having known Hugh for too many years to mention I can only praise his imagination because I’ve rarely seen an alcoholic beverage cross his lips…

Forget To Breathe (from ‘B side’ of Superhero No 1 CD single)

Oh wait, there’s a secret hidden track. From the acid jazz years. Another side that you probably didn’t know had existed.

And that really is it. The band that I shall never mention again on these pages. Although I am loving the new Hugh stuff so much that I retain the right to rave about that at some point. It really is very different. I might even do a further ICA – in fact, that mention of Curiosity Killed The Cat…

Jacques

BONUS POSTING : THAT SUMMER FEELING

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Just spent two or so hours browsing round Across The Kitchen Table. I did so as part of my efforts to catch up with everyone’s work over the past four months as I’ve been unable to find enough time to read what others are saying while keeping this place going and dealing with work etc. That’s three of the blogs down but many more to go.

Drew is one of the best bloggers out there in terms of the breadth of music on offer. You might not be the biggest fan of the songs he posts one day but rest assured he’ll be along very soon with an absolute belter. He wrote rather wonderfully the other day about this single from 1984:-

mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – That Summer Feeling

It came out in the UK on Rough Trade Records.

I later picked up an alternative, longer and even more languid version of the song courtesy of its inclusion on a sort of best-of compilation:-

mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – That Summer Feeling (alt)

I veer towards the single version in terms of a personal preference but there’s something rather lovely and laidback about the alt version.

Oh and yesterday’s featured Scottish act did a rather lovely cover. There’s a lovely backing vocal courtesy of Norman Blake:-

mp3 : BMX Bandits – That Summer Feeling

Enjoy.

BUZZCOCKS SINGLES 77-80 (Part 1)

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I’ve gone for Buzzcocks to be the next band in the lookback at the singles set of series. Not only are the songs for the most part rather spoecial, but many of the sleeves were among the best designs of the post-punk era.

In the beginning was this.

Spiral Scratch is an EP and the debut release by English punk rock band Buzzcocks. It was released on 29 January 1977, and was the first punk record to be self-released (that is, without the support of an existing record label). It is the third record ever released by a British punk band (preceded only by The Damned’s “New Rose” and the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.”). The EP is the only Buzzcocks studio release to feature original singer Howard Devoto, who left shortly after its release to form one of the first post-punk bands, Magazine.

When reissued in 1979, it reached number 31 in the UK Singles Chart.

According to Devoto, “It took three hours to record the tracks, with another two for mixing.” Produced by Martin Hannett (credited as “Martin Zero”), the music was roughly recorded, insistently repetitive and energetic.

The band had to borrow £500 from their friends and families to pay for the record’s production and manufacture. The EP was released 29 January 1977 on their own New Hormones label. The disc quickly sold out its initial run of 1,000 copies, and went on to sell 16,000 copies, initially by mail order, but also with the help of the Manchester branch of music chain store Virgin but also with the help of the Manchester branch of music chain store Virgin, whose manager took some copies and persuaded other regional branch managers to follow suit.

mp3 : Buzzcocks – Breakdown
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Time’s Up
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Boredom
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Friends Of Mine

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #38 : BMX BANDITS

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I’m doing a direct lift from a posting last December.

Duglas T Stewart is the nearest thing we have in Scotland to a King of Indie Pop. I can do no better than steal these wonderful words penned by Michael Pederson for The Skinny back in 2012:-

Duglas T. Stewart is the founder of BMX Bandits; a pop spokesman for love, magic and fairytales. Whilst BMX Bandits have shared members with many brilliant Glasgow bands (such as Teenage Fanclub, The Vaselines and The Soup Dragons), Duglas T. Stewart has been the effulgent yellow yolk that’s spanned it all. Kurt Cobain claimed on a New York radio show that if he could be in any other band it would be BMX Bandits… and, well, flocks of us convincingly concur.

And if you need more on his band, this the bio from their own website:-

BMX Bandits were formed in 1985 by songwriter and lead vocalist Duglas T Stewart out of the ashes of The Pretty Flowers, a short-lived group that featured Stewart alongside Frances McKee (The Vaselines), Sean Dickson (The Soup Dragons) and Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub).

Their songs mix melodic qualities and humour with, at times, raw and heartbreaking pathos. Stewart has written many of the group’s works solo including ‘Your Class’, ‘The Sailor’s Song’ and ‘Doorways’ but also has collaborated with many of the other members. Stewart’s most regular songwriting partners have been Francis Macdonald, Norman Blake and, more recently, David Scott of The Pearlfishers and original Bandits lead guitarist Jim McCulloch.

Starting with the exuberant E102 in 1986, BMX Bandits released a series of singles on Stephen Pastels’ 53rd & 3rd label, where they were label mates with The Vaselines and Beat Happening. Later they joined Alan McGee’s Creation Records. BMX Bandits released three albums on Creation. The group’s most celebrated song is the autobiographical ‘Serious Drugs’, recorded in 1991 but not released until 1993.

Stewart split with his long term musical partner Francis Macdonald in 2005 but 2006 saw a new wave of live concert activity and the release of My Chain. Stewart’s writing on the album was compared to Brian Wilson, Michel Legrand, Ennio Morricone and even Alan Bennett. The line up was expanded by the arrival of Stewart’s friend David Scott and new female vocalist Rachel Allison. The follow-up, 2007’s Bee Stings, was influenced by classic girl group pop plus the mellow A & M sound of the late 1960s and early 70s.

The band’s most recent album release BMX Bandits In Space (Elefant Records in 2012) was hailed by some critics as their most accomplished release so far, “a stunning, brilliant and beautiful album”. A highly acclaimed feature-length documentary called Serious Drugs – Duglas and the Music of BMX Bandits was premiered in Glasgow in 2011, followed by a series of international festival screening and a DVD release.

The line-up of the group continues to be ever changing with the latest addition to the line up being multi-instrumentalist Chloe Philip (pictured above). Despite all the changes in personnel the heart and soul of the group remains the same, an extended musical family led by the inimitable Duglas.

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve either see Duglas in the flesh, either on stage with his band or more often than not as part of the audience watching singers and bands do their stuff. He’s always been one to champion new and emerging musicians and I imagine many of them get a big kick when he sidles over to them and offers his sage advice. Everyone with any interest at all in the music scene in Scotland knows, respects and loves Duglas T Stewart. Long may he reign.

mp3 : BMX Bandits – Little Hands

A single from 1993, released on Creation Records.

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #88 : HUSKER DU

A GUEST POSTING FROM SWISS ADAM

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Husker Du ‘You Gotta Keep Hanging On’ (An Imaginary Compilation Album)

Husker Du are arguably the most essential band that came out of the USA’s independent punk scene. They wrote the most open, affecting and human songs of that scene, blazed the trail for groups going from an indie (SST) to a major and were determined not to be hemmed in by U.S. hardcore punk’s rules.

They had two natural songwriters, Bob Mould and Grant Hart, who took tunes and cues from the 60’s and married them with punk’s energy, filtered through a wall of distortion pedals and fired themselves into the air, eventually splitting up in horrible circumstances. Like The Smiths, whose story can become overshadowed by the breakup and the court case, Husker Du need to be remembered for their songs and their impact, not for Bob and Grant’s fallout and the ending.

You don’t go to Husker Du for laughs or light relief- what you get is a searing, white light focus on, excuse me here please, the human condition. Bob and Grant both wrote lyrics that were conversational and economic, their hearts on their sleeves, about the real world and the internal emotional world. In a sometimes very masculine world (both 80s America and the punk scene) both writers were grappling with their sexuality (Bob is gay, Grant is bi) and it comes through in their songs. Bob’s guitar playing is a wave of shards of notes and chords, splintering and shattering out of the speakers. Like The Smiths (again) people who cast that band as miserable were missing the point. Husker Du were often an intense listen, sometimes an uneasy listen, but the energy of the music, the tunes coming through the noise, the honesty and empathy of the words and the singing and the direct emotional impact of the tunes hit home hard.

Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton met at college and the surrounding band scene in Minneapolis, formed a trio quickly and slotted into the growing underground scene of gigs, fanzines and community in Reagan’s America. They then burst out of Minneapolis and the hardcore scene, criss-crossing the States touring and recording.

Early singles like Statues show they’d been listening to British post-punk and the album Land Speed Record is a ferocious rush through umpteen songs in two sides of vinyl. By 1983’s Metal Circus they were rejecting hardcore’s conformity lyrically (see Real World) and musically (see It’s Not Funny Anymore and Diane) but could still strip paint where needed.

The big breakthrough came with 1984’s Zen Arcade, a double album and a concept album to the horror of the purist hardcore, recorded and mixed in just 85 hours. Incredibly prolific by this point they followed Zen Arcade with two further albums within the next year, both absolute highpoints and both released in 1985, New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig. You can’t go wrong with either.

Sonically Flip Your Wig is a kinder on the ears. New Day Rising was the last one produced by SST’s in house producer Spot and was recently described by Bob Mould as sounding like a man pressure washing a metal shed. Thin, brittle and trebly. On Flip Your Wig they produced themselves, and Bob had changed guitar pedal, to create a clearer and more accessible sound but no less passionate or committed.

Following this they signed to Warner Brothers and put out 1986’s Candy Apple Grey and then 1987’s Warehouse: Songs and Stories (another double album). Candy Apple Grey is where along with REM alternative rock gets invented- acoustic guitars and organ are added to a slower tempo and introspection. Warehouse is the sound of a band splitting up- it has some good songs, a couple of great ones, but by this point Bob and Grant were at loggerheads, Bob pulling rank and insisting that his songs took up 55% of the album. Drugs and whatever else took their toll, especially on Grant. On the eve of a 1987 tour manager David Savoy took his own life. Bob cancelled some shows without Grant’s knowledge. Everyone walked away not long after.

Picking just ten songs is difficult. In Husker Du tradition this should really be a double and I thought about a ten track Bob Mould Husker Du compilation and a ten track Grant Hart one but that’s just falling into the trap they fell into themselves. I’m sure there’ll be people who would pick a different ten and on another day I might too. It’s testament to the sheer quality and quantity of the group’s back catalogue. So to songs like Real World, New Day Rising, Sorry Somehow, Ice Cold Ice, You Can Live At Home, Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill, Never Talking To You Again, Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely, Too Far Down and I Apologise…. I apologise. Another day, another ICA.

Here goes…..

Eight Miles High – a 1984 single and a cover of 60s group The Byrds, this is essential Husker Du. A searing acid-punk guitar tour de force, Bob tears ferociously through the chords and vocals, Greg and Grant blasting their way through the rhythm. The breakdown section alone is worth the price of entry. This is the cover version against which all other covers must be judged.

Celebrated Summer – one of Bob’s key tunes from New Day Rising, a look back at the summers of youth and the pain that doing so brings and the questioning it provokes. The breakdown and ending with the finger picking on a 12 string acoustic shows them breaking out of the hardcore scene and moving elsewhere.

Something I Learned Today – Zen Arcade’s opener. Double pace drum and bass intro and then whoosh, we’re off. Bob’s lyrics discuss growing up and trust in people (or lack of it).

Green Eyes – from Flip Your Wig, a Grant Hart love song. Grant Hart, a songwriting, singing drummer who grew his hair long, wore love beads and tie dye and drummed barefoot wrote some beautiful love songs.

Makes No Sense At All – a 1985 single and Flip Your Wig track and an out and out pop song. Bob Mould always had melodies buried beneath the noise. More and more the melodies began to break out.

It’s Not Funny Anymore – on Metal Circus Husker Du were making a statement. A seven song ep, with plenty of throat-shredding singing and finger-slicing playing, but here the tempo slows a little, the verse-chorus is potentially radio friendly and Grant shows his pop song influences. For this compilation it was a real toss up between this and Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely, Grant’s kiss off to an ex. It’s Not Funny Makes It because it’s earlier.

Turn On The News – another Grant Hart song, from Zen Arcade this time. A single piano note, a sound collage from the radio and TV news, and then three chords on distorted guitar, Grant bewailing the news cycle and its effects on people.

Divide and Conquer – a Bob Mould masterpiece from Flip Your Wig. The guitar riff is a killer. The band are right on it. The lyrics skewer government, phone tapping, the politics of division and globalisation.

Pink Turns To Blue – another Zen Arcade highlight, recorded in one take. Grant Hart sings of a girl’s drug addiction and subsequent overdose, as pink turns to blue.

Keep Hanging On – there are so many songs I could or maybe should have closed this album with but this one always hits me right there. From Flip You Wig, buried away towards the end of side 2, the guitars are deliciously distorted, Greg’s bass builds, the drums thump and Grant sings his heart out. His voice sounds like he is just about hanging on but ultimately this is uplifting, life affirming stuff.

Only angels have wings, girl
And poets have all the words
The earth belongs to the two of us
And the sky belongs to the birds

You’ve given me so much happiness
That I’ll wrap up and give you this song
You gotta grab it with both hands
You gotta keep hanging on’

SWISS ADAM

LET’S GO TO THE OTHER EXTREME TODAY

I’ve subjected you to a couple of songs these past two days that have extended out to ridiculous amounts of time.  I’ll make it up to y’all by delving into the i-tunes and finding some really short stuff with the qualification that they need to be full songs and not just extracts. Oh and they also need to be of quality:-

mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit – Vatican Broadside
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Old Mother Reagan

Both clock in at just 30 seconds.

mp3 : Wire – Brazil

You’ll need your full powers of concentration to get through its 40 seconds.

mp3 : Elastica – Annie
mp3 : Talulah Gosh – Break Your Face
mp3 : The Style Council – Mick’s Blessings
mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Let Her Go Into The Darkness
mp3 : The Vaccines – Wrecking Bar (Ra Ra Ra)

All at less than 80 seconds.

Enjoy.

AND HERE WAS ME THINKING IT WAS ACTUALLY A CHART HIT….

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If you thought yesterday’s ten minutes plus was an epic, you ain’t seen (or heard) nothing yet.

Unlike Marquee Moon, I can clearly recall hearing Chase by Giorgio Moroder getting played on Radio 1 back in 1979. It was, again, something quite distinctive and catchy, and seemed to be a very strange choice of music for a film theme which, to mt ears back in those days, seemed to be the reserve of classical composers only.

Giorgio Moroder had come to the attention of the wider public over the previous year thanks to his collaborations with Donna Summer who had taken the unofficial title of Queen of Disco thanks to string of hits, the best known of which was I Feel Love. It was something akin to that very track that Alan Parker, the director of Midnight Express, wanted to have appear throughout the film, and so he approached Moroder to ask if he’d compose something for him. And while most of us had the Italian pigeon-holed as a disco hit maker, those in the know were aware that he’d been making music since as far back as 1965 and was a real talent capable of turning his hand to most things.

The piece of music composed in line with Parker’s wishes was, to give its full title, Chase (Theme From Midnight Express), released as a single in  early 1979 on the back of the popular and critical response to the film which picked up a number of awards across the world, despite some saying that the portrayal of Turkey and the people who lived there bordered on racism.

Chase was released in 7″ and 12″ format and played at 45 rpm.  The former lasted 3:30 while the latter lasted 8:26 and was identical to the LP version.  However, a later single-sided version was issued to play at 33 1/3 rpm, which allowed the music to stretch out to a shade over 13 minutes.

Now as the title of the post indicates, I was sure this was a chart hit but it peaked at just #48 in March 1979.  It certainly got a lot of air play at the time but this didn’t lead to any huge amount of sales.  Here’s the full monty:-

mp3 : Giorgio Moroder – Chase

Enjoy

 

AND HERE WAS ME ALWAYS THINKING IT WAS JUST A CULT HIT….

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I don’t think I ever heard Marquee Moon by Television until around 1983 when it was played at one of the downstairs alt-disco at Strathclyde Students Union.  I recall it being one that the cool kids got up and danced to as well as some of the longer-haired hippy types who normally hung around in the hope of some Lynard Skynard or Blue Oyster Cult to which they could play along on air guitar.  That it attracted such a diverse group of dancers was of interest and of course it sounded great blasting out of the speakers.

I know I didn’t ever own a copy of the song until the late 90s when I bought a CD copy of the album of the same name.  It was a song up until then I’d only ever had on a hissy compilation C90 tape that a mate had put together for me back in the mid 80s and I was delighted at long last to have a decent quality copy to enjoy.

It came up on random shuffle the other day and prompted the idea of a posting.  That’s when my little bit of background research revealed that it had come out as a 7″ single in April 1977, entered the charts at #35, dropped out to #41 the week after, climbed back in again to #30 in week three before falling down to #40 and then totally out of the Top 50 after five weeks.  At just a shade under ten minutes in length, it was cut into two parts for the 7″ single and radio play – Part 1 being 3:13 and Part 2 being 6:45.  I’m thinking my hippy colleagues at the student union, if they owned a copy of the 7″, played Part 2 to death…..

In fact the original issue of the single was in 12″ format, which would have been one of the first of its type as it was around ’77 that the 12″ singles, primarily to extend disco numbers, really took off.  Wiki explains that the first 25,000 copies were on 12″ with a stereo version of the song on one side and a mono version on the other and only later copies were made as 7″ singles.

It’s an extraordinary piece of music and it’s quite hard to get your head around the fact that it’s almost 40 years old. It’s a song as the dance floor of the early 80s indicated is one that the post-punks and the guitar purists would like to each claim as their own and there’s not too many tunes out there can do that.  What is clear is that it had a huge influence on the playing and recording of many emerging bands and artists, not least Talking Heads and Elvis Costello

mp3 : Television – Marquee Moon

That’s the full 10:40 version for you folks.

Enjoy.

 

 

BONUS POSTING : A FEW SONGS

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Just under five weeks till I take the trip aross the Atlantic to meet up with some Canadian buddies.  Preparing for the trip with a few new 1-hour compilations for the plane journey. This one, coming in at spot on 59 minutes, was compiled yesterday.

mp3 : Various – Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon

Done so with a touch of a hangover…..but then again it’s not every weekend your football team wins its derby match and stays top of the league.

The Search For Cherry Red – Jonathan Fire*Eater
The Drowners – Suede
I Was A Teenage Armchair Honved Fan – Half Man Half Biscuit
California Uber Alles – Dead Kennedys
Tears In Your Cup – Cats On Fire
What Do You Want From Me? – Monaco
Milkshake – Kelis
Hanging With Howard Marks – Super Furry Animals
King Kunta – Kendrick Lamar
Plenty – The Woodentops
Israel – Siouxie & The Banshees
This Corrosion  – Sisters Of Mercy
Geno – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Rattlesnakes – Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
Electricity – OMD
Hand In Glove – The Smiths

Enjoy. And download till your heart is full….

(Please note, just in case there’s kids around, there’s fair bit of swearing on the Kendrick Lamar track)

TWO SONGS TO KICK-START YOUR MONDAY

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Warning. They’re not for everyone. I won’t be offended if you jog on and come back tomorrow.

mp3 : The Fall – Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul
mp3 : The Fall – Fantastic Life

The two sides of a single from early 1981 and the first ever release on Kamera Records.

Bloody marvellous…..although I didn’t think that at the time. Took me a few more years to ‘get’ The Fall.

B&S ON SUNDAYS (14)

I’ve spent the last three Sundays bemoaning the horrendous drop in quality of the Belle and Sebastian singles/EPs in comparison to what they were producing back when they first appeared on the scene.  Parts 11-13 of this series took in the singles from The Life Pursuit, the LP released in 2006.  Part 14 is going to attempt to wrap up the past decade.

The reason for this is primarily that while singles have been released (as such), they’ve mostly been digital downloads and the idea behind this series was as much to draw attention to b-sides as anything else.

The tour to promote The Life Pursuit was an exhausting one. The first show of the year was in Glasgow on 15 January.  The last was in September in Dublin after almost 90 gigs across the globe, taking in Europe, USA, Australia and Japan, including all sorts of appearances at many of the summer festivals.  It would be four years before the band resurfaced, with the release, in September 2010, of the LP Belle and Sebastian Write About Love, again on Rough Trade. (although in the intervening period, a very welcome release in the shape of  The BBC Sessions, a compilation of unreleased recordings recorded between 1996 and 2001, kept fans happy).

The new album wasn’t preceded by any single. In the end, three tracks could be found outwith the album with Write About Love and I Want The World To Stop issued as digital downloads in October 2010 and February 2011. Then in July 2011, a very low-key and nowadays difficult to find EP was issued on 12″ vinyl by Rough Trade with these four tracks:-

Come On Sister (Tony Doogan Mix)
I Didn’t See It Coming (Richard X Remix)
I Didn’t See It Coming (Cold Cave Remix)
Blue Eyes Of A Millionaire

The last of these was the only new track (although it had been available as a bonus track for those who had bought the download of the album):-

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Blue Eyes Of A Millionaire

It’s a rather lovely little number and a real step up on the b-sides of the modern era.

The next few years were dominated by Stuart Murdoch dedicating himself to God Help The Girl and it wasn’t till January 2015 that new Belle and Sebastian material emerged. By this time, one of the key members, Mick Cooke, whose trumpet playing on the records and in the live setting really helped make things special, had departed the band to spend more time with his young family and do some film composing.

The new material was another LP, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, which was released on Matador Records. No singles were officially lifted from it although three tracks – The Party Line, Nobody’s Empire and Allie – had digital/promo releases. All of the available songs were made commercially available to fans, although you had to shell out for a limited edition, quadruple LP to get some otherwise unavailable extended mixes and these bonus tracks:-

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Born To Act
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Two Birds
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Piggy In The Middle
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – A Politician’s Silence

These would have made a marvellously diverse and entertaining 4-track EP almost up there with some of the really early material, albeit the songs demonstrate just how much Belle and Sebastian have evolved over the best part of 20 years.

And that seems a good way to draw this particular mini-series to an end.  Hope it’s been enjoyable for everyone somewhere along the line.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #37 : THE BLUEBELLS

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The Bluebells were somewhat unfortunate from a critical point of view to be making jangly pop music in Glasgow at the same time as Aztec Camera and Orange Juice in that there was never the same sort of love for them as the Postcard acts.

However, in terms of the record-buying public they were much more succesful than Edwyn & co, landing three Top 40 hit singles in 1984. They enjoyed a very unexpected success many years after they broke up when, in 1993, Young at Heart was used to great effect in a car advert. The song was re-released and quite incredibly spent four weeks at #1.

The individual members of the band have long been an important part of the music scene in Glasgow and across Scotland. It’s not uncommon to bump into one or more of them at a gig or exhibition, particularly something which links back to the 80s, and they are always happy to talk to fans.

They have reformed on an on-off basis in recent years, playing as support act to Edwyn Collins back in 2009 as he made his comeback after illness and then again as part of a festival celebrating Glasgow hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Here’s one of their catchiest songs:-

mp3 : The Bluebells – Cath (extended version)

It was a flop on its original release in 1983, but reached #38 the following year.

Enjoy

JOHNNY AND MARY

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On the face of it, Robert Palmer represented everything that I detested back in 1980 when I was a mere slip of a 17 year-old.

He had been fairly successful with a number of groups and as a solo artist, mostly with stuff that was a variant on R&B, jazz-rock and cod-reggae. He was the sort of radio-friendly singer that punk and then new wave had been sent along to destroy, and quite frankly, I’d probably have been happy to see him retire to his Caribbean hideaway and not bother us anymore.

One day I heard his new single on Radio 1. I was really surprised as it sounded, at first listen, like a glorious bit of electro-pop that was completely different from anything he’d ever released before. It also stood out because in those days very few singers or bands with synthesisers got much in the way of radio attention – a situation that would of course change as the decade progressed.

Intrigued, I decided to buy the single, and after numerous plays, I stuck to my initial view that indeed it was a great bit of work. But as a record in my then collection, it really stood out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Not that I gave a toss, cos I loved it, and looking back now I realise that it was an important record in that it gave me an early appreciation of synth-driven pop music that I would buy so much of in the years ahead.

Oh, and being a really sort of sensitive soul, I also found the lyrics – looking at a marriage or relationship that was on its last legs – very moving. Still do.

As it turns out, I didn’t care all that much for much more of Robert Palmer’s output in the years after this up to his death from a heart attack in 2003, at the age of 54, so this single, which was a hit in the USA but a miss in the UK, remains the only song of his in the collection:-

mp3 : Robert Palmer – Johnny & Mary

You know I’m a sucker for covers, and while this is nothing truly exciting or different, its a fairly faithful interpretation from the year 2000:-

mp3 : Placebo – Johnny & Mary

Enjoy.

ALIVENESS, EXPLORATION, FULFILLMENT, CREATIVITY

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Back in 1993, The Cocteau Twins released the LP Four-Calendar Cafe.  It was a work which horrified many long-term fans given it was a lot lighter and poppier in places than just about anything previously. I can recall some fans being annoyed by the fact that in some of the songs you could make out some of the lyrics being sung by Liz Fraser….although let’s be honest it was hardly the stuff of Kylie or Bananarama.

The lead-off single is one of my favorites :-

mp3 : Cocteau Twins – Bluebeard

The 4AD book from a couple of years ago featured an extensive contribution from Robin Guthrie but not his erstwhile partner of old. It’s now very clear that this was a Liz lyric…aimed squarely at him as he battled the demons of drug and alcohol dependency; the extent of his problems were such that his behaviour drove his partner to undertake psychotherapy in an effort to resolve the underlying issues. A few years later, the band, as well as Liz and Robin’s relationship, dissolved in a very messy way.

In reaching #33, Bluebeard was one of their biggest successes as far as singles. Here’s what was also available on the CD:-

mp3 : Cocteau Twins – Three Swept
mp3 : Cocteau Twins – Ice-Pulse
mp3 : Cocteau Twins – Bluebeard (acoustic version)

Enjoy

AS YOU WALK ON BY… PLEASE KEEP WALKING…

A GUEST POSTING FROM STRANGEWAYS

Northern Portrait sleeves 2

Making The Sundays look prolific, Northern Portrait, from Copenhagen, have released just one LP and three EPs in their nine years. Four more things than I’ll ever release, of course. And – as my internet search has just this moment revealed – you can add a compilation too. So make that five. Ever on the pulse, I’ve learned this collection, called Ta!, was out in 2013 and that it handcuffs together those EPs and assorted odds and ends (including a galloping cover of Cliff Richard’s Some People).

So, what do they sound like? Well, if you’ve not heard them, I’ll leave that up to you. But don’t worry, it’s not Cliff Richard. Have a listen, won’t you, to the title track from the Criminal Art Lovers LP. For me, it’s their best song. It ghosts in – and OK, here’s something of a clue – like the Hand in Glove single. It jangles and chimes. And then, before you know it, Stefan Larsen – from Copenhagen via Carnforth – has elegantly slung you a line about a lazy Tuesday. Explore beyond the songs below, and it’s all headaches and new favourite moments, and dry, smarty-pants lyrics about committing hara-kiri with a teaspoon and running out of clever things to say.

So, to sum up, as no one ever actually says or should write, if you’re fond of a certain celebrated 80s UK guitar band you might find something you like in the songs below.

Alternatively, if you’re fond of a certain celebrated 80s UK guitar band you might find something you hate in the songs below.

But…

…if you still grumble about the demise of Woolworths…

…if you eat foul, girl-scaring, borderline-Fascist liquorice sweets…00

…and, if you only ever really wanted to live inside the film Billy Liar, well, you could do a whole lot worse.

Criminal Art Lovers – from the LP of the same name (2010) And already clumsily summarised above.

The Fallen Aristocracy – from the eponymous EP (2008) Cureish. REMish. Danish.

I Give You Two Seconds To Entertain Me – from the Napoleon Sweetheart EP (2008) Was there ever a brattier song title?

The Operation Worked But The Patient Died – from the Criminal Art Lovers LP (2010) No, it’s not a statement from Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt. But it is a really graceful number.

Some People – B-side to Life Returns to Normal 7″ (2010) Some people, it seems, love to hurt one another. Northern Portrait, though, are not like that at all.

strangeways

JC adds……

All this year that I’ve been gently pestering the extremely shy strangeways to provide a second guest posting after the excellent Tilly and The Wall ICA in July 2015.  The wait has been well worth it…..excellent songs so wonderfully described with fine words.

BETTER THAN THE SONG WHICH BROUGHT THEM FAME

Housemartins-Sheep-34156

The second ever single released by The Housemartins, the fourth-best band in Hull:-

mp3 : The Housemartins – Sheep
mp3 : The Housemartins – Drop Down Dead

Released in March 1986 (fuck me……that’s more than 30 years ago!!!!) this excellent and jaunty bit of music with its attack on those who just conform and never question why, stalled at #56 in the UK singles charts. A couple of months later, the equally jaunty Happy Hour, with its attack on laddism and leeriness, climbed to #3 in the UK charts (thanks in part to an excellent animated promo video which was a bit ground-breaking at the time).

Sheep still sounds great all these years later, as does the b-side which as a tune reminds me in a way of a lighter and more jaunty Boys Dont Cry….(the word jaunty is perfect for The Housemartins).

I had this 7″ single in the collection for a while but like many many others, it was lost in a disastrous moonlit flit from one flat to another in the late 80s. Luckily, I picked up a mint copy of the 12″ a few years back:-

mp3 : The Housemartins – I’ll Be Your Shelter
mp3 : The Housemartins – Anxious
mp3 : The Housemartins – People Get Ready

The first of these is a piano and gospel choir driven cover of a song originally performed by Stax artist Luther Ingram (the sleeve gives credit to The Inspirational Marxist Choir of Grafton Street, East Yorkshire) while the second track is a Housemartins original that many others would have been delighted to have available as a single far less just an extra track on a 12″.

The final song was something that at the time marked out the band as being different from most of their contemporaries – an a capella cover of a much covered track written by Curtis Mayfield that was a hit for The Impressions back in 1965 and is considered to be one of the most politically important songs of all time, raising the profile of the civil rights movement.  The Housemartins did their version for a Radio 1 session. Little did we realise that some six months later another a capella effort would give the band their only #1 hit.

Enjoy.

BONUS POSTING : A FEW SONGS

20 seconds

It’s been a while since I was in the mood to put one of these together. But the sun’s been shining and I’ve gone and booked myself a trip to Toronto next month to meet up with some great friends. Golf and baseball is going to be the agenda of the days.

Have decided that a few new 1-hour compilations will be required for the journey. First one turns out to be a few seconds over the prescribed time limit:-

mp3 : Various – Breaking the Curfew by 20 Seconds

The ideal soundtrack, not just for plane rides but outdoor barbecues and your own private indie-style disco dancing event.

Take The Skinheads Bowling – Camper Van Beethoven
What’s The World – James
Picture This – Blondie
(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville – R.E.M.
Pulling Mussels From The Shell – Squeeze
Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) – Arcade Fire
You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve – Johnny Boy
Can You Forgive Her? – Pet Shop Boys
Michael – Franz Ferdinand
Native Land – Everything But The Girl
Emma’s House – The Field Mice
What – Judy Street
Hang Ten – Soup Dragons
Cattle and Cane – The Go-Betweens
Town Called Malice – The Jam
Pure – The Lightning Seeds
Punka – Kenickie
Everything Flows – Teenage Fanclub

Enjoy. And download till your heart is full….

SUMMER NIGHTS (TELL ME MORE, TELL ME MORE)

IMG_1812

With apologies for those of you dropping in expecting to hear a loving critique of the Travolta/Newton-John duet that spent 183 weeks at #1 and prevented many a post-punk/new wave act reaching the pinnacle.

Summer Nights is the name given to an annual ten-day festival of gigs in Glasgow, with the venue being the quaint Kelvingrove Bandstand, originally constructed in 1924 and then totally refurbished and brought back into use in 2014 after a quarter of century of serious neglect. The concept is sound in that a well-known singer or artist gets to headline their own outdoor gig, coming on just as the sun goes down and the audience can begin to think about removing their sunglasses. The reality, certainly in 2016, was somewhat different.

The weather for the duration was dreadful. It rained a lot and a cold wind blew through the trees that surround this most picturesque of locations just a couple of miles from the city centre. Indeed, the wind was so strong that one gig had to be postponed and rescheduled due to fears that the audience were in danger from flying debris or that the bank of speakers conveying the sound would come crashing down.

The seating at the venue is entirely made up of concrete or wooden benches, every one of which is open to the elements. The venue is pretty and its natural shape and setting make for a decent sound….but it’s not the most comfortable of places. Oh and the beer and drinks are stupidly overpriced too….as indeed are the tickets which are £30-£40 depending on the headline act. It’s a lot to fork out for what, due to curfew issues in a built-up area, will be a 90-minute show with the minimum of lights due to the small size of the stage and a universal sound system whether you’re a smooth yet bland crooner or one of the usually loudest most kick-ass bands to come from these parts .

And yet…..my two appearances at 2016 Summer Nights turned out to be among the best gigs of the year thus far.

The cost of the tickets, combined with uncertainty of the weather, always means that I’ll restrict myself to one visit per year, deciding which of the acts is most attractive. In 2014 it was Teenage Fanclub and last year it was Roddy Frame. This time round I plumped for Super Furry Animals over other options such as Idlewild, Van Morrison, Lloyd Cole, Primal Scream and Will Young. The reasoning being that despite having long loved SFA I had never managed to catch them live in person, watching only on my TV screen as they played some sort of festival or other over the years.

The rain poured down all day but somehow it went off in the evening about an hour before the band took to the stage from where they delivered a ridiculously entertaining and energetic set tinged with the sort of silly humour for which they are famed. I don’t have everything they have ever released but still managed to recognise more than two-thirds of the songs with almost all my favourites receiving an airing:-

Slow Life
(Drawing) Rings Around the World
Do or Die
Ice Hockey Hair
Hello Sunshine
Pan Ddaw’r Wawr
Run! Christian, Run!
Hometown Unicorn
Zoom!
Juxtapozed With U
Bing Bong
The International Language of Screaming
Golden Retriever
Receptacle for the Respectable
Mountain People
The Man Don’t Give A Fuck

The latter was a 12-minute tour de force. Not quite up there with this epic 22:30 live version, recorded at the Hammersmith Apollo and released as a limited edition CD single in 2007:-

mp3 : Super Furry Animals – The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (live)

If I was to slightly whinge about it, then it would be that it was all over too quickly and they didn’t play quite enough songs from Fuzzy Logic…..but I came away feeling very happy about my decision to go with them than any of the others.

The following day, a dreadful storm hit Glasgow, It was widely forecast and indeed had led to the Lloyd Cole gig being cancelled even before the SFA one had taken place. The upshot of all this was that a friend of a friend could no longer use their ticket as they were otherwise engaged the three nights later when it was rescheduled. I was happy to be the late substitute, especially as this was the first ever time I had been at a gig with the friend who had offered the ticket.

It was actually a two-headed monster as it was opened by Justin Currie & The Pallbearers.  The main man, despite not having enjoyed much chart success since his halcyon Del Amitri days, remains a popular draw in his home city. He’s still a thin and handsome chap, but I’m sorry to say too much of his set, which combined band and solo material, came across on the listless side.  One very notable exception being this…the track with which he closed the set and which was the subject of this great guest contribution on this blog back in September 2013:-

mp3 : Justin Currie – No, Surrender

I should say that things weren’t helped by the fact that it was pouring with rain and it was freezing, so much so that I was wearing a long raincoat and a woollen hat, both of which tend to come out of the clothes cupboard in November….not at a time when it should be more akin to t-shirts and shorts.

Lloyd Cole was being backed by The Leopards, a sort of Glasgow supergroup who are often seen playing alongside Vic Godard on his regular forays north of the border. They are the perfect foil for Lloyd nowadays, capable of doing justice to both the jingly-jangly stuff from the Commotions days as well as the harder and edgier stuff from the solo years. This must have been about the 20th time I’d seen Lloyd on stage and he’s never let me down. This was no exception thanks to a show that surprised and delighted, sticking solely to songs from the Commotions era and the first four of his solo albums, all of which are hugely underrated and under-appreciated.

Rattlesnakes
Jennifer She Said
So You’d Like To Save The World
Weeping Wine
No Blue Skies
Everyone’s Complaining
Ice Cream Girl
Downtown
Sweetheart
Brand New Friend
2cv
Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?
Like Lovers Do
Perfect Skin
My Bag
Lost Weekend
Forest Fire
Morning Is Broken

It was a magical night, but one in which we all felt old when Lloyd, for the acoustic 1-2 of chevaux/heartbroken, was joined on stage by his now 23-year old son William. I think all the blokes in the audience took a look at William and yearned for the days when we were that thin and had that fine a head of hair. Gawd only knows what the women were thinking…..

Too many highlights to mention. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about it. Just a pity that I had to go to work the next day as it was the sort of night where you wanted to stay out for hours on end, making the most of the natural high the gig had provided. I’m far too old and sensible and with too many work responsibilities just now to contemplate a hangover. But I found that I couldn’t sleep when I got in, and so amused myself with watching the baseball live from Toronto (five hours behind us) where the Blue Jays wrapped up a perfect evening with a win. Lights went out at 3.15 am and alarm went off four hours later. Can’t really recommend it.

Oh and it turned out my friend also had real trouble sleeping after the gig. It was her first time ever seeing Lloyd Cole but she’s determined it won’t be her last. Seemingly while I was watching the baseball, she was playing his songs and having a wee dance round her living room. As I said, the sort of night where you really didn’t want the music to ever stop.

I’ve no doubt the organisers of Summer Nights are already thinking ahead to 2017 and I’ll do my usual of picking out one of the gigs and getting myself along. But it’ll be hard pushed to better those of this year….even if the sun does the unexpected and beats down on us from on high.

Cheers Mr Cole; and big thanks to the boys in the band, especially Mick Slaven for his amazing lead guitar work all night.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Jennifer She Said
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Downtown

Enjoy